Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Eight Minutes to Go.

Summer showed up in the city in a big way. The days of infernal subway stops and spontaneous human combustion are here. And it’s not even June. Or not quite yet. But soon enough. One down side of my new, more social life, is that I find myself far from of the air conditioned rooms of our apartment and on the streets of fire. I really have no idea how you normal people do it. My hat is off to you, but mostly just to keep my brains from boiling.

So… what’s up in my world… yes… that is a good question. First of all, it seems as though the real world is going to continue to intrude upon my private universe. Possibly for the rest of the summer. That’s both good and bad news. Good because I suddenly find myself with the financial freedom to do a lot more stuff, but it’s bad because I find myself scrambling for time to get things done.

Of course, this is what most struggling artists do. But it’s new territory for me. My first response to this reduced time frame was to freak out and pout. That got me nowhere. And really, I’m a bit too experienced to let a little thing like time management screw me over. The trick is to prioritize projects and only work on the areas which are truly interesting. That’s easier to say than do. My issue is that during the last five years, I’ve filled folder after folder with ideas which could be intriguing. Add to that the piles of art supplies to do this or that, and things become even more complicated.

In my foolish moments, usually occurring between the hours of 8 AM to 5 PM, I delude myself into thinking that I can do everything. Every good idea is worth pursuing and can be completed using whatever medium piques my interest. Of course, my reality is very different. Most of my ideas are only so-so and were conjured just to get me to a new place to conjure better ideas. They were never meant to become the sole focus of my attention. Most of my delusions as to how well I can use whatever medium at hand to kick serious ass with a current project are equally worthless. I do a handful of things extremely well, the rest… not so much. Sure, better than the stuff you’ll find on an average Google search, but I like to keep the bar a tad higher than that.

With all this in mind, I spent a good chunk of the holiday weekend clearing distractions from my studio. You’d think that would be easy, what with the clarity of my thinking, but no, it was not. The allure of this thing or that thing always trips me up. It’s only when I recall how much horrible nonsense I’ll have to make, I mean years of effort, with some of these materials that I sober up and create two piles: one for the stuff that does exactly what I need it to do and one filled with things which are essentially buyer’s remorse and need to be forgotten.

I’m hoping to enter into this short week with a better focused sense of purpose. If nothing else, I won’t be dabbling with things better left alone. But we’ll have to see how it goes. In theory, I’ll have something interesting to show you next Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All Apologies...

Today was not a day to spend near the old computer. Not with the Empire in town.

Crap! I should have given Lord Vader my resume. I'm hella tight with the Dark Side. Oh well, prolly for the best. There seems to be an awful lot of bureaucracy involved with the Empire. And strangely, a lot of shortsightedness.

Perhaps I would do better with the Bounty Hunters, far more autonomy... But then again, the Rebels seem to wear a lot of orange.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seems it is Tuesday again. Somehow.

Weekends are generally bad for my productivity, what with cleaning, purchasing food and talking to other humans. They really cut into my Me Time. Which means Mondays are all about just getting things moving again. Not always the easiest thing to do. It’s far easier to sit around and eat chips. It takes a concerted effort to throw the real world out the window and get back to my world.

Yesterday was a ball breaker of a Monday. I sat at my desk in a fog. Mostly because my work is going in two directions. The first would be projects which are similar to my books of old. They are projects which are extremely well planned, complicated and time consuming. I know how to do those projects: I put my head down and run at them with all I’ve got for as long as I can… eventually, months in the future, they are suddenly completed and I stumble around for days in a stupor.

Every follower of this blog knows I’m pretty much over that kind of project. I still like my ideas. I still like sitting down to work. But I’m very much over spending literally all my time and energy being that cray cray. I don’t think it’s a model that functions for the kind of independent artist I’ve become.

I think the second direction is a direct reaction to the immensely time consuming projects. In the past month or so and mostly because of the success I’ve had with generating a massive amount of high quality paintings in a freaking hurry, I’ve started a number of projects that come from a very different place. The ideas are still complicated and high concept, because that’s what I do, but the execution is completely new. First, there’s the painting. I can’t believe the speed with which I can work. It’s delightful. I really like the results… and if I don’t, it doesn’t cost me any time to redo things until I do. However, it’s the second facet of these new projects that is most exciting. I think I can sum it up best by saying that I don’t waste creative energy committing every thought and action to paper.

That’s rather strange for me. I’m very good at plotting out where things need to go and how best to get there. I’m good at making the effortful look effortless by putting in a lot of, well, effort. But that is also tiring and boring. Yes, it’s exciting to have a cool idea and develop it, draft after draft, sketch after sketch, but then to sit down and hammer away at the tedious nonsense it takes to make the final product a reality… that’s a killer. Or that process became so over the years.

So, instead of using that kind of method yet again, I invent an idea and develop it in my head. Then, when I sit down to work, I think of what I need or want to do and then I knock it out. That’s pretty weird. Weirder still is what happens next, when the piece is done, I get up and do something else, perhaps even something non-art related. And somehow this strange, freeform, organic mess works. I mean, yes, I have a clear vision of what I’m doing and years of experience producing images which do whatever the hell I want them to, but it’s still strange to have a completely new method of going about things. No that’s not quite it, a new and functional way of going about things. 

You can find the evidence of this new working method on Instagram at #thehauntingoftimothydecker or at my website. I started a webcomic that is updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Which means three days a week, I sit down and conjure a new comic, image and text, out of thin air. Yeah, I have sort of an idea of what I want or need to say for my narrative, but really, I’m as surprised by what comes out as anyone else. And that is delightful. It’s as close to improvised art as I can imagine. Jazz meets gestural painting.

And there are a few other projects in the mix which are equally odd and lovely… but it’s not time to talk about them yet. But let’s just say, it’s been ages since my studio was awash in as many ideas and crap as it is now. Good things usually happen when I have a lot of bits of paper taped to my walls.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Simplification, Again.

Back in the ink days, the mantra was: Focus, Simplify, Produce. Mostly because of the enormous amount of time and effort it took to get something done. The focus part was clear, to hell with any other creative endeavor. There was the work at hand and nothing else. In fact, that meant the real world was something to be ignored as well. The simplify part was born of two facts, I had to work with the cheapest materials possible because there was no money to buy fancy supplies, and… the work had to reproduce well, and the more complex the image, the harder that is to do. And then the produce part, which is pretty self-explanatory.

For five years, that mantra worked like a charm. But when the opportunities grew smaller, as well as the funding for my yearlong projects, it began to fail. I couldn’t quite focus anymore. I kept looking for new directions for my work, trying to shoehorn my way into any and every genre possible. The more I tried new things, the less likely I was to find myself getting anything done. And of course, trying new things meant complications as far as my materials went. What was good for small drawings for esoteric picture books wasn’t really good for this or for that. In order to attempt new projects, I needed new stuff. Yet none of my explorations or new art supplies seemed to help me get anything done, which led to less production.

I was trying too hard to be someone other than myself and it was a mistake. Not that being me was the ticket to fame and fortune. The publishing industry is an irrational place. Odds are that we’d all be better off if we didn’t deal with it.

Anyway, I have a new mantra: Bring the A Game and have Fun.

Which is very strange. I’m not used to it. Like being able to stomp out of the house after an hour or two of painting and know, not only have I accomplished something, but that I am now out and about. Like the sun is shining and I’m wandering through the city, untroubled that by being there, I’m screwing my creative self over by not getting things done.

But let’s look at this new mantra a bit. The A Game thing is something I’ve been talking about for a while. Now, I’d like to think that you are all very talented peopled. As I like of myself as being very talented. That said, I know that for myself, there’s the stuff at which I actually have A Game talent and there’s stuff that I’m occasionally good at. The trick is knowing that the A Game talent is what matters and deserves the time and attention and that anything else is interesting to mess around with from time to time but is essentially a distraction.

Like pen and ink. I can do it. At the drop of a hat. And at I high level of competence. But it’s not the A Game, not anymore, and it hasn’t been for years. So, when I get something in my head that says, this would look wonderful in ink, so why not set aside 6 hours a day for the next week and make it… I realize that I’m doing some useless thinking. Yes, if I put all that time and effort into an ink drawing, it would look pretty cool; but it wouldn’t do much to serve the projects I want to work on or enable me to live the life I want. The same thing can be said for a lot of the media I’ve experimented with over the years. Yes, I can do some cool stuff with that crap, but not much and not consistently and not in a way that would allow me to stay sane.

I’ve found something quite functional with the acrylic paint on paper. It’s like my A Game on speed.

And then there’s the fun portion of the mantra. This gets back to my “Why did you do that? Because.” logic. There is no way to explain fun. It either happens or it doesn’t. When what I do creatively is fun, I crank out a lot of stuff. When it’s not fun, I tend to let it peter out. Except when I’m foolish and I confuse making cashpie with doing something fun. At which point, the drudgery can last a long time before losing steam.

Bring the A Game and have Fun.

So strange. And yet, it works. My work is improving daily. In leaps and bounds. I hadn’t expected that. Nor had I expected it to happen so naturally and so quickly. That’s the only way I can explain the piles of paintings and the desire to do more. Any other explanation would be a silly invention.