1 Day of Art Reflections: Pondering Talent

Editor’s Note: This piece is inspired by ideas brought to light in the author’s mind while reflecting on his participation at 1 Day of Art Copenhagen for (t)here magazine. They are a reflection of these experiences and mean little else. My eternal gratitude goes to Talenthouse, (t)here Magazine, my supporters and Hotel Fox for the opportunity to paint in Copenhagen.

Find your audience (or allow them to find you), that’s all you’re really doing as an artist as I see it. Don’t trust in what people say you’re talented in, trust in what you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you can draw the most perfect head in history, because buyers and appreciators of feet photos won’t give a shit. Finding your audience and porn are what the internet is good for. There are many artists, writers, engineers and scientists who “got found” after they died, because their audience didn’t find them while they were alive. Imagine if they had stopped because they thought that no one cared, then we would know nothing of Syliva Plath, Ludwig Boltzmann, Emily Dickinson, and other great thinkers of recent history. During their lives, they probably didn’t know an audience for their work existed (then or in the future) – or maybe they didn’t care if anyone enjoyed it. That’s what I see Talenthouse and their Creative Invite as being really good for, a way to find and connect with your audience, those people who appreciate what you’re producing. In my case the audience was (t)here magazine. Really it was just a few people, but the Creative Invite made that happen. Motivation feeds creation, and when you know that somebody, somewhere cares about what you’re producing, that simple feeling can energize your mind in unpredictable ways. Connect audience to artists – easy to understand – simple to execute. But does any of this matter if there’s no talent at play to create things? What is talent and how do you harness that wonderful energy?

What is Talent?

Of course, when somebody says something about talent and creating cool things the following thought comes up, “but those people had talent for something, they were bound to be appreciated.” So now you might wonder, “what is talent, do I have it for something?” I can only rely my own experiences on this subject. I’ll switch now to an analogy on head and foot illustrations. See, I have been drawing heads for years now, mainly in class notes, but sometimes also on random pieces of paper at bars or in journals.  There was and at present is no actual reason for these random head illustrations. I just do them because the smooth form of the random, anatomically incorrect head is something I like. However, until 1 Day of Art Copenhagen, I hadn’t found anyone, an audience let’s say, for pictures or illustrations of heads. This screaming head shown here (for example) I drew during a class on colloids sort of pissed off a chemical engineering professor at MSU, but only because he wasn’t the right audience for my work (and I wasn’t the right audience for his lecture). As an artist, there is no ambiguity about it, just do what you love and feel drawn to. That’s it, that’s what talent is. It is simply the motivation to do things other people aren’t motivated to do. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time playing musical instruments like the violin, saxophone, and trumpet, but I’m not a natural talent with these instruments because I’m not really motivated to play them. It’s fun to blow some air and produce some sounds and play with other people, but it’s not like I feel the energy of the world flowing through my body. In fact, I rather liked being the last chair in the band (four years in a row). I simply had no motivation to do more. I’m also not naturally talented as an engineer. Sure it’s fun to learn about materials science and mechanics and I do it well, but I could have studied anything for 10 years and become reasonably well at doing it (like playing the trumpet).

The Talent Myth

Humans like complicated scenarios, so we write a lot about talent and inspiration because we’d like to waste our time talking and discussing a complicated theory for how they relate to one another instead of creating something. Most people feel that they’re not really talented, and therefore, should simply just exist – without pushing themselves to create things that other people are not interested in. However, this is not the only option. Just do what you love and feel drawn to, that’s really all you need to do. Why? Because you’ll be naturally motivated to do it better than anyone else in the whole fucking world. That is actually a very real and distinct advantage you have over everyone else. This is an advantage you have over nearly everyone else in the entire world. Think about that, it’s not a small thing. If you try to trick yourself into being talented in something that you hate, and follow what other people love (as opposed to what you love), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, if you’re a head drawing lover, and you start to draw feet because you think people only like feet pictures, then you’re at a distinct disadvantage if you finally meet a head picture lover. They’ll be totally ignorant of your talent for drawing heads because all you’ll have to show them is a crappy collection of sub-par feet illustrations and maybe some photos.

Do What You Love

It was always irrelevant to everyone that I drew random heads. However, they made me happy, something about the perfect aerodynamic form that I like, but when I was staring at a blank canvas in the Diamonds room at Hotel Fox in Copenhagen, I realized that I needed to draw a large head. I didn’t ask why, I just did it. That was the starting point for a piece I now call GonzoArt – I. But think about it, if I had stopped drawing heads because I thought I’d never have an audience for them, then at that precise moment in time I would have been fucked – and might have possibly drawn a large boring foot, and the painting would now suck balls.

Talent can be considered inherent, but it’s not something you can quantify and say, this person has talent, they will be an awesome foot illustrator from their birth until their death. It’s just a desire to practice something with more motivation than the majority of the rest of the people in the world. Cameras, pens, video devices, paints, these are just tools you can use, but they should never be the defining factor in whatever it is you produce and then call art.

You are not talented or special. Now that you know you’re not talented you’re free to just go out and do whatever it is that makes you smile inside.

First Thoughts: Back From 1 Day of Art Copenhagen

Editor’s Note: This is just the beginning, 1 Day of Art has unleashed a strange cocktail of awareness in our poor author, and he now walks around calling himself, “The Engineer Formerly Know As” and won’t respond to inquires about F=ma. The authorities have been alerted.

It’s just over a week ago that I jumped on a SwissAir flight to Copenhagen and headed  directly to Hotel Fox to participate in 1 Day of Art for (t)here magazine. The experience was simply amazing, an adventure in the truest sense of the word, and a time I’ll never forget. I had won this trip via a Creative Invite on, the social networking site for all manner of artists and creators. The plan was simple, to fly to Copenhagen to make some art for the magazine within the 24 hour time limit. I stayed in the Diamonds room at Hotel Fox, an establishment where every room in a piece of art, the perfect place to create in. I arrived at the hotel around 4pm, and met up with the (t)here magazine crew around 8pm with the other artists to chose our topics for the 24 hour creation madness. I drew a card from a deck of famous Danish figures, and on the back it said, “Artist’s Choice.” This meant I was free to do whatever I felt was right (or wrong), and I decided to choose nothing, placing my full faith in the process, sure that something coherent and good would create itself. All that was needed was to be the enabler of the energy flow.

I am not a religious man. I like to think of myself as spiritual, and  believe that art is pure energy. Those who know of physics and electricity or have an appreciation for the dangerous forces of Nature can appreciate this analogy; you do not create or destroy matter, and energy can not be dominated, only diverted in one way or another. That’s what painting is for me, my body directing the energy of creation. No God need enter into the equation, because no sane God would have anything to do with such foolishness, but that’s another topic. I got my assignment at 8pm on Friday night, and had till 8pm Saturday to deliver. I stayed out most of Friday night, soaking up Copenhagen and avoiding prostitutes on the street. I crawled out of bed around 10 am and had an amazing breakfast in the hotel lobby. Jason, one of the (t)here magazine crew asked me if I’d started working and I said I was heading out to find some canvases. The night before I’d been given some directions to a store to buy supplies at, and around 11 am I began the hunt. As I was out I pulled out one of my Bratz dolls  (the backup plan) and posed it next to a glass of beer waiting on the street, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I got back to the hotel around 12:30 with three of the most expensive canvases I’ve ever bought. Fine linen things stretched over solid wood frames, perfect for propping up in the hotel bathroom for a proper splatter fest. I had brought a rolling MountainSmith bag filled with creation implements with me to the hotel. Among the mayhem, a set of Manga markers – a Christmas gift from my ex-girlfriend. I’d never really used them before, but knew they’d be essential for the trip. I then removed my T-shirt, assembled paints, and began the process. For the next 4-5 hours I filled each white canvas with color and shapes. I wrote with paint pens, colored with Manga markers, and added layers of latex on top because it felt right and good to do. By 6pm they were done, and I’d documented the whole process with my A900 DSLR. I’m not a dramatic person, and dislike it when people use over-used taglines like, “once in a lifetime” and “life changing” or “turning point.” However, 1 Day of Art Copenhagen feels like a once in a lifetime life changing turning point for me. It was the first time I’d really just sort of let go and executed an art project. For sure, there were many points leading up to this day, but it’s the apex, which we remember and remark upon.

Time to Jet: Paints Packed for Copenhagen

This weekend I’m heading to 1 Day of Art in Copenhagen and I’m sort of freaking out. To recap, I won the 1 Day of Art Creative Invite offered on Talenthouse, sponsored by (t)here magazine and Hotel Fox. The point of the adventure is to create a body of art in 24 hours for the magazine. There are only a few things I know for sure, floating around in my conscious brain, I have a flight to Copenhagen and a confirmation at Hotel Fox, all else is basically a mystery. When I asked what I should bring along, I was informed,

“bring what you need to create.  camera. paint spray paint glue  sticky notes paper sketch books”

Naturally I have most of these things on hand, but shopping for paints is ten time more fun than shopping for shoes, so I headed to the stores to pick up some paints and accessories for the trip, but now my heads are filled with adrenaline and sort of freaking out. You can’t think too much here, because you don’t know what’s coming. What will the Assignment be? We must prepare ourselves for anything, the future is a blank page and I’m walking into it with a curious anticipation I’ve never felt before. I have no game plan when it comes to art. I like the moment of creation to be unconnected from planning and science. I don’t plan out paintings, I don’t imagine how colors should connect with shapes, I just let myself fall into a trance state and let it all flow out. So it’s sort of hard to know what to take along. However, I’ve accepted the flight ticket and will now enjoy the ride.

My take-with list includes:

  • Various tubes of latex paint, rollers, sponge brushes

  • Paint and Manga markers

  • Sony A900, Sony F58 flashes, Orbis ring flash adapter

  • A head full of nervous anticipation

I don’t want to come off as a kindergarten-hack painter in Copenhagen, but I guess the best way to deal with these emotional insecurities is with a healthy cocktail of unearned confidence and a generous quantity of “just be yourself.” I was picked based on the Lazy Art I submitted, so logically I just have to do what I was doing before, and resist the urge to rewatch Basquiat and attempt to play myself off as some nouveau uber-awesome creative artist, because at the end of the day, I’m nothing more glamorous than a Doktor of Science. I should be prepared for anything. However, the airline has a baggage limit, and you’re always improvising with what you have anyways, no matter how much stuff you bring along to an event or setup in a laboratory. Whatever I create at 1 Day of Art it’ll probably have some elements of illustration, painting (color throwing) and writing. I can’t really separate these things, they all come up in the process and it seems like a natural thing to combine  them all. I’m uber excited to see what happens in Copenhagen, a city I’ve never been to and an environment I’ve never experienced before, it’s primed to be an awesome time and I’m still in awe that it’s happening.

Heading to 1 Day of Art in Copenhagen

Strange and interesting opportunities come to those that seek them out. That’s the a sequence of words which come into mine when I pondered the email I had received from Talenthouse, stating in clear and unclutterd language that my Lazy Art submission had won me a trip to Copenhagen to participate in the 1 Day of Art event from (t)here Magazine.

Talenthouse is a social-networking website for creatives. I joined it a year or so ago, and eventually started adding to my online portfolio. It has a slick interface and is designed to be a very socially-oriented website. It’s like Flickr with the visual feeling of DeviantArt and something that no other website I know of offers, the opportunity to submit work to Creative Invites. It’s like this, a company organizes an invite, users submit their work, the sponsor picks the winners, and in my case, it means a flight to Copenhagen and a free license to go crazy creating art for an issue of (t)here magazine.

I submitted three pieces from my Lazy Art collection of 1mx1m paintings. These are graffiti inspired splatter feats of madness I do in my apartment from time to time. I started painting because it’s more fun than playing on Photoshop, and a billion times more interesting than screwing around on Facebook or watching MTV. Getting to do this in Copenhagen is sort of like a weird dream sequence. I don’t know what will happen there, but I’m heading into the future with an open mind and soul filled with desire to experience the unknown.

lazy art number oneThe premise of 1 Day of Art Copenhagen is straight forward. I fly to Copenhagen, there’s a bunch of other artists, photographers, etc. who will be there as well. We blindly pick an editorial assignment, and then have 24 hours to create a body of work on that mysterious subject. Here’s the official out line of events from (t)here magazine:

On October 1, 2010, artists of all disciplines will gather in COPENHAGEN for a one day creative event – 1 DAY OF ART. In this premier (t)here magazine concept – photographers, writers, visual artists, designers, and musicians will participate in an undisclosed editorial assignment. Our participants will gather in one location where they will randomly draw their assigned subject. Their subsequent content must be executed in one day, and executed within the city limits of Copenhagen. All files and relevant materials are due 24 hours later

The results will be published in (t)here Volume 13, due for release in SPRING 2011.

To be honest, this is balls to the wall scary for me because I don’t have any clue what’s coming, and I run the risk of making a fool of myself on the world stage. It’s also barrel-of-monkies fun, the type of trip I was born to go on. When fear and the thought of falling on my face creep up my spine, I look inward to setting my mind. I look at it like mountaineering. No sane person can head into the mountains without thinking they could die. Or, I think that’s the only responsible way to mountaineer. This sort of mindset keeps your senses alert and sharp, even when you’ve been out for 10 hours and your legs are shaking on the rock edge of a long ridge. You keep going because there’s no other option, and that’s my mindset for Copenhagen, head into the adventure without much of a plan, but all the disrespect for failure my sarcastic personality can muster.

There are a few things – philosophies if you will, that work for me in life. It starts with accepting that I may die on each mountaineering trip, welcoming that I’ll probably fail at whatever I start out doing, and believing that that inevitable failure means absolutely nothing. This method has served me well so far in life. It means I’ll try nearly anything, including walking into a cloud of tear gas, just to see what it will feel like (it’s like cooking too many onions in a kitchen with the window closed) and even if I do screw up along the way, I’m not blocked from going forward and living an interesting life. I know this comes off as sounding a little arrogant, but I’m a vented Doktor of Science, and assure you that I’m the first to admit when I’m spewing nonsense from my lips.

I would like to officially thank Talenthouse(t)here Magazine, and Hotel Fox for making this adventure possible. I don’t know what will happen next, but my senses are alert, and I’m geared in the head to find out what will materialize from this interesting course of events.

Lazy Art IV

Lazy Art IV (my last painting) is a combination abstract splatter and writing I did one fine Sunday this summer instead of heading to Art Basel. I like the chaos of colors mixed with the consusion of words, so I tapped off a few areas and added text I had worked up while brainstorming about the ArtMord concept. KusntDeath is sort of a mix of themes from Fight Club and Jean-Michel Basquiat with a little Hunter S. Thompson and Beethoven thrown into the mix. It’s a 1×1m canvas and done on the cheap with latex paints and sponge brushes and a roller. Don’t ask me technical questions like what texture I used or the philosophy behind my brush strokes, because I’m the last person to anything about such topics. I paint because something is unhinged inside my head and some comfort comes from mixing random colors together. I would like to be one of those methodic painters who looks for the perfect color, mixes their own paints and has a vision in mind before putting brush to canvas, but that’s not what I’m into at the moment. My painting style is born of sketching in math class and manipulating colors and tones in Photoshop to mimic the feeling of graffiti I see on the streets of Berlin, Zurich, and Detroit.

The Process

At one time when I started experimenting with painting I had the idea to sketch out and color the painting concepts with manga markers. This failed horribly because without the large canvas in front of me I just don’t have the drive to create that sort of color and structure combinations that sort of explode from my brain when actually painting. Still, it’s nice to experiment, so this time I had a large sketch/art book with me and I used it to try out the roller and paint splatters alongside painting the actual canvas. This worked out extremely well, because I had the freedom to quickly try some color combinations and then jump back to the canvas and go crazy. Like always, I was painting in the “winter garden” room of my apartment. Plastic lined the floor and walls and I had near-total freedom to throw paint around without the worry of needing to repaint my white walls later on. I guess I could also easily dispose of a body with a turkey cutter a-la that scene in Snatch like a London gangster. But I’m a calm and non-violent person, so I’ll stick to throwing paint. Blood splatters don’t interest me.

The Fear

I’d like to be clear on this point, I love painting large canvases with random colors for the experience. I liken it to multi-pitch sport climbing routes, writing, or to mountaineering. I like starting with a blank page, and being scared that it will look worse when I’m finished. It’s like looking up a long rock ridge and your mind telling you to turn back. It urges you to return to the false safety of organized society and sends fear waves up your spine as you jump over crevasse openings. Ignore the fear, that premonition of failure and demise. It’s just your natural response to doing something dangerous, either in the world or in your mind. I don’t think of conquering fear, I like to walk along side it like old friends. We trade words back and forth before I jump off the platform of a rope park or let my feet dance over the edge of rock ridges.

I like to stand above a blank canvas and ponder the next step. The mind tells me to not even start, exit the room and go back to my computer and watch something on MTV. I say, “fuck you, I’ll take my chances.” Fear is a suggestion, something built into the DNA to protect foolish people from hurting themselves physically or emotionally. Don’t take it too seriously. The fear crops up in many places and sometimes unannounced. It might be there when you ask a girl out, do a presentation, climb a new route, jump out of a plane, apply for a new job or walk into a room full of people you’ve never met before. I paint because of the desire for a little adrenaline rush on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or just to see what come from it. Why did you take the picture? Becasue I wanted to see what it would look like.

ArtCast Painting – Lazy Art III

lazy_art_iiiMy experiments in Lazy Art paintings and ArtCasting are continuing (the first being Lazy Art II), we’ll call this one Lazy Art III. for the ArtCast I used more music from Kevin Mcleod, an original lazy artist would have picked something besides the Danse Macabre, but to be honest it’s the type of music with those specific rythems which play in my head, and moves in perfect time with my emotions, perfectly describing the mood in my head when I start mixing paint and get ready for an episode of splattering a nice boring white canvas with color. So, from a documentary perspectives, it seeme like I should maintain that authenticity for the audience. This piece of Lazy Art has influences from Zurich Graffiti, specifically the combination of abstract flow set against bits of rectangular geometry. The geometric patterns were planned to a certain extent, I put down some tape and then removed it before the final splatter fest. Amazingly, the ceiling of my apartment is not covered with small dots of green, red, and matte gold.

As a Photoshop-trained painter, I’m still slightly annoyed at the idea that I can’t add a levels and curves adjustment layer set to my Lazy Art while painting. My eyes naturally want to start adding a bit of smart sharpening, push the overall exposure, and increase the dark tone levels to get the colors my mind wants to see. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I do these manipulations on the final image take with my Minolta 7D and Sony macro lens. I do some adjustments in Photoshop, then tweak the final exposure in Adobe Lightroom before exporting to Flickr. Is the painting the final product, or simply a template? The next step is to rent a Sony A900 and photograph my Lazy Art experiments with my 50mm tack-sharp macro lens. Then I’ll have a nice 24 megapixel image with fantastic sharpness and dynamic range to work with. From there I’ll have total control over color, saturation, and sharpness, but with the basic chaos of abstract painting. Printing would naturally be done on canvas or Hahnemühle German Etching Paper. Does this kill the idea of a real painting? The type where everything is done on the canvas, you know, like in real photography where everything is done in-camera without post-processing manipulation? Fortunately, I could care less what it means. I hunt colors and abstract images in my head and on the streets I walk in the world. The process of getting the perfect abstract shape-color combination is irrelevant.

Artcast Experiment – Lazy Art II

Lazy_Art_III love photography, I love Photoshop, I love the freedom to create and define a vision from my head. But there’s always that separation, that feeling of disconnection between the tool (cameras, lenses, lights, computers) and the vision (the one from my head). So it was logical step to say, screw it one day. At a shop in Zurich I found 1×1 meter square canvases and at the home improvement store I found latex paint for less than 7 CHF per 500 ml. I few more franks went to brushes and plastic to cover a room of my Winterthur apartment and protect my security deposit. I traded my Wacom tablet and Photoshop for the ability to splatter paint as I pleased without the “undo” button.

Music stopped in the background and I realized why artists go mad…because, what’s more frustrating than painting a black stroke when in your head you know it should’ve been green? NOTHING! Nothing compares to the idea that you start with a pure white nothingness and from nothing, without barely a forethought or premonition comes, something. That something is undefined and unknowable and abstract and everything that a fool can hope for when the mind is empty.

I documented the evolution of my Lazy Art with my Minolta 7D and a Sony 50mm macro lens. Lighting provided via a Sunpak 383 in a small Alzo softbox. The result is an Artcast, an experiment in communicating and showing the evolution of the vision from the first to last color addition. Music brings the madness, and this addition seemed appropriate.