Friday, March 13, 2009

... Slow ... Blog ...

“Drawing brings us into a different, a deeper and more fully experienced relation to the object. A good drawing says: "not so fast, buster". We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food. What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn't merely sensational, that doesn't get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn't falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures. In a word, art that is the very opposite of mass media.” - Robert Hughes

After many years of living in the natural splendor of Alaska, I see how gradually inured many people become to not only their surroundings but also the art that’s in their lives. Regardless of how magnificent our environment might be, eventually it takes a lot to get folk’s attention; “oh boy, another moose” (unless it happens to materialize in front of their vehicle); “oh look, the mountains/the aurora/sun is out” etc. Aesthetic anesthesia is the frog in a slowly heated pot of water; eventually we cease to really look and appreciate what becomes mundane, everyday and taken for granted.
That’s what happens to some pieces of art: they become something like trophies, once beautiful animals but now dead and stuck up on a wall, or as the Chinese would say it, the Ch'i drains out (why there is a ceremonial attitude towards the unrolling of works on scrolls – it becomes an event where the viewer is an active participant).

It’s a point of debate in this context whether or not my commercial cartoon work’s temporal nature is an asset or liability; years ago I became resigned to the fleeting nature of appearing in print – ha ha (one hopes), turn the page, and then bang, fish-wrapper. But does a bird-watcher appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a rare specimen any less when it takes flight & disappears?
Sometimes I think the role of the artist (one of many, about as many as there are different kinds of art) is to draw people’s attention to quieter, subtler details that get overlooked and forgotten. Focusing student’s attention on the macro-view of the underside of a leaf, or the delicate tracery of its veins can be a Herculean task in this age where everything is screaming for attention and visual information is processed at exponentially increasing rates of speed. Much as my personal habit is to crank out something on an hourly basis, the “slow art” movement has its appeal, and helps to foster that connection with a carefully studied subject. The Slow Manifesto is something that's like an artistic speed-bump, which I'll give pause to consider, later on sometime, like when a get a sec ok?

I recall recently discovering the potter who had made my favorite coffee mug while at a farmer’s market this past holiday season. I probably came across a little weird, but being consciously aware of “each time my lips touch what her hands had shaped” is a rare connection; the color, shape, heft, size and texture of this vessel which I hold and drink from every single day. Similarly, there are two shrines for me: the outhouse and the refrigerator – both of which represent the highest pantheon of art and images, and usually the all-time funniest cartoons hold the honor. If I have to look at something every day it’d better be good, have some lasting qualities, and only a handful of cartoons have made the cut – some of which I’ve carried from many moves over the years.
One of the advantages of living in a one-room cabin is that I can easily survey all that I own from one vantage point (Lord of My Domain); there isn’t much real estate to display many items, and everything’s vying for shelf-space with thousands of books, CD’s and DVD’s (and cats). Platters, baskets, bowls, sculptures, paintings, prints, posters, photographs, drawings, masks: some are mementos, some have special, deeper meaning because of who made them, some represent, some are just awesome to look at while spinning yarns in my creative cocoon.

Pictured are: painting by Ian Burcroff, platter by Laura Hewitt, mask by Da-ka-xeen Mehner, platter collaboration with Craig Cheledinas,, triptych comic pages by Inari Kylanen (gracing the comic book-wall), one of the few original cartoons I have on display by Jolene Howell, and lastly, the ceramic mug by Sharon Randall.

*Incidentally, there’s a ”slow blogging” movement with it’s own manifesto: and this is an article written by Andrew Sullivan that is a very good summary about blogging from a "pioneer." Presumably it doesn't quite count to type out everything first in a Word document and sit on it for at least a night, but I sure won't Twitter my every passing thought. Guess it's something like manually "uploading" images into my sketchbook for "preview," and using pencil before going to inks...

“Art shouldn't be something that you go quietly into an art gallery and dip your forelock and say 'I have to be very quiet, I'm in here amongst the art.' It's here, art's everywhere. It's how you use your eyes. It's about the enjoyment of visual things. And it's certainly not for any one group of people.” - Ken Done

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