Phillip Hansons The screwed generation, Part III

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When I work, I feel sick to my stomach with thoughts like None of this is any good. It makes no sense. Amen, Louise. Drawing within the lines is for babies; making things add up and be right is for accountants. Proficiency and dexterity are only as good as what you do with them. You have to earn that. Take baby steps. And be happy with baby steps. Do that. However, when you do this, focus, start to feel the sense of possibility in making all these things your own — even when the ideas, tools, and moves come from other artists.

Whenever you make anything, think of yourself as entering a gigantic stadium filled with ideas, avenues, ways, means, and materials. And possibilities. Make these things yours. This is your house now. It is about doing and experience. No one asks what Mozart means. Forget about making things that are understood. Imagination is your creed; sentimentality and lack of feeling your foe.

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All art comes from love — love of doing something. If you work, it will lead to something. I have tried every way in the world to stop work-block or fear of working, of failure. There is only one method that works: work. And keep working. Every artist and writer I know claims to work in their sleep. I do all the time.

Work is the only thing that takes the curse of fear away. An instruction manual for the studio. Just make marks. If you can write, you already know how to draw ; you already have a form of your own, a style of making letters and numbers and special doodles.

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These are forms of drawing, too. How long can your mark go before you seem to need to lift the pencil and make a different mark? Make those marks shorter or longer. Change the ways you make them at all, wrap your fingers in fabric to change your touch, try your other hand to see what it does. All these things are telling you something. Think useful, pleasurable, strange. Hide secrets in your work. Dance with these experiences, collaborate with them. Who cares?

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Carry a sketchbook with you at all times. Cover a one-by-one-foot piece of paper with marks. Way too easy. Think about what shapes, forms, structures, configurations, details, sweeps, buildups, dispersals, and compositions appeal to you. Now do this on another surface, any surface, to know what kind of material appeals to you. Draw on rock, metal, foam-core, coffee cups, labels, the sidewalk, walls, plants, fabric, wood, whatever. Just make marks; decorate these surfaces. All art is a form of decoration.

Next, draw the square foot in front of you. This can be tight, loose, abstract, realistic. It tells you what you missed seeing.


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This will be your first masterpiece. Now draw the same square foot from the other side. For instance, on the subway, while waiting or sitting around, practice drawing your own hands. Lots of hands on the same page, hands over other hands. You can draw other parts of your body that you can see, too. But you have to look and then describe with your pencil or pen what you see. Mirrors are fine, even if you want to draw only where your cheek turns into your mouth. Play with different scales, make things bigger, smaller, twisted.

You are now in possession of ancient secret knowledge. Artistic skill has nothing to do with technical proficiency, mimetic exactitude, or so-called good drawing. For every great artist, there is a different definition of skill. Pollock could not draw realistically, but he made flicking paint at a canvas from above, for a time, the most prized skill in the art world.

What does this mean? An object should express ideas ; art should contain emotions. And these ideas and feelings should be easy to understand — complex or not. These days, an artist might exhibit an all-brown painting with a long wall text informing us that the artist took the canvas to Kosovo near the site of a s Serbian massacre and rubbed dirt on the canvas for two hours while blindfolded to commemorate the killing.

These are just dumb pictures of clouds and have nothing to do with anything. There is a different way.

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In the winter of , Marcel Duchamp, age 29, bought a urinal at J. Fountain is an aesthetic equivalent of the Word made flesh, an object that is also an idea — that anything can be an artwork. Today it is called the most influential artwork of the 20th century. When we see cave paintings, we are seeing one of the most advanced and complex visual operating systems ever devised by our species.

The makers of the work wanted to portray in the real world something they had in their head and make that information readable to others.

It has lasted tens of thousands of years. With that in mind ….

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Exercise: Build a Life Totem Using any material on any surface, make or draw or render a four-foot-tall totem pole of your life. From this totem, we should be able to know something about you other than what you look like or how many siblings you have. Include anything you want: words, letters, maps, photos, objects, signs. This should take no longer than a week. Now show it to someone who does not know you well. Ask them to tell you what it means about your life.

No clues. Listen to what they tell you. Then exaggerate it. Do it again. Do it times or 1, times.