The Art of Art

The Art of Art

In the rush to embrace the next trend, crown the next genius, and jump on the next bandwagon I think we forget that art is about you.

Or rather You.

Art is a lot of things, so many things that people get years of schooling just to tell others what is ‘good’ art and what is ‘bad’ art but in the end we forget that art is a totally subjective thing and it’s really about you/me/us. Art is powerful when it touches something in us, rouses something in us, makes us think or feel something more than we did before we encountered it. The art that moves us is our business and ours alone when rubber hits road. Sure, we need scholars and critics to let us know things about art we didn’t get on our initial encounter – relevance, meaning, technique, pedigree, importance to a time or movement, etc. – but it’s up to us to decide whether the art means something or not to us. The best thing getting a new opinion on a piece of art – painting, poem, piece of music, story, drawing, or whatever – is that it lets us see the work through new eyes and see if we perhaps missed something that will make the piece more meaningful to us. That’s pretty powerful to be able to do that and again, the real thing to credit is the art itself for having more to reveal.

Now there is certainly ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art because there is a difference between a painting someone took years to conceive and paint and a poem someone wrote on a napkin while at lunch BUT, ahem, BUT that doesn’t mean that those to pieces are not equally powerful, just that how they were created and what went into them was different. What matters in the end is that the work was made with passion and the rest is up to the person that comes into contact with it. I am the most amateur of painters, am self-taught, and I paint what I want to paint and what amuses me. I scoff at the notion of my paintings being ‘art’ but they are, and they are fine AS they are. They are not art meant for the masses, meant to teach, to expand, to tell a story and hang in hallowed halls. No, my paintings are meant for people that appreciate the weird and the silly, the strange and the odd. People that can appreciate that my passion is greater than my skill. And most certainly one of my silly paintings could conceivably touch someone more deeply than a Renoir well, I mean it’s CONCEIVABLE certainly, but let’s not get ridiculous.

Art has a bad tendency to become parody, imitation, and of late cash-cow. Too many times we are seeing stories of people co-opting the art or visions of others only to profit then fall on the old standard that they are just being persecuted for re-purposing art, or for being a maverick, or some other nonsense people make up. The passion that used to fill art, that used to inform and infect and invite seems contrived so many times. Sure, there is ‘commercial’ art, art made for the purpose of drawing in a sale of some sort, and that’s fine, fine because it can still be made passionately, but we’re seeing too much art become commoditized and too many looking to become the next sensation. Without that passion though art loses its power and connection. Art, all art, has value, even if it is simply to the person creating it. Not everyone will connect with everything, that’s the nature of art but who are we to dismiss and denigrate people for not creating art we connect with? There are plenty of things I don’t like but who am I to tell someone they are wrong for liking it? That’s nonsense. Yet…we do that all the time.

Maybe we all need to remember the street level artists of the world who are doing art because they have no choice. Who celebrate every small sale or notice. Maybe we need to remember when we were kids and we sang because we felt the music, wrote stories because the words spoke to us, and we drew because we wanted to put the worlds in our head into reality. Maybe we need to remember what it was like when we listened to ourselves to know what we liked. Maybe we need to remember what it was like to feel the passion first and the rest followed that drive.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves what art means.

Maybe we need to trust what we like and screw everyone else.

Maybe we need to let people do what they love and stop telling them they are awful at it.

Maybe we should be open to talking about what we love, why we love those things, and not feel the need to tell people they are wrong for loving what they do.

Love what you love and that’s all that matters.

The hope is that all our tastes will broaden, will be honed, and will pick up new flavors and interests over time but art is about what we feel and we really need to stop letting other people tell us what we feel. If people want to argue over artistic merit, value, importance, and meaning then let them. That stuff can be fun to get into from time to time. But when we de-value art and the passion of the artist and the appreciator well, then we forgot what art was all about to begin with, didn’t we.

Why We Do It

Every so often I find myself asking – why do I do this?

And sometimes I don’t know.

Sometimes I am just staring up from the bottom of a deep, dark well and I honestly don’t know why I do it. Why I write. Why I paint. Why I draw. Why I take photos. Why I put events together.

Sometimes I just don’t know.

And that’s normal.

And it’s good.

We need to re-examine things from time to time, especially the things we love and are passionate about. Without constant questioning we start to meander and lose sight of what it is that drives us on and fuels us with that passion. There’s a point where you need to ask yourself – why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And why do I do it?

I do it because I love to write. I love to tell stories. I love create worlds and people to fill them. And I love to shine the light on the things people don’t always see. Sometimes these are ugly things but so be it. We need to face the ugly from time to time to appreciate the beautiful when we find it.

I draw because I love it. I am not a good artist but it makes me smile. It lets out my silly side and taps into my creative side. I doodle more than outright draw but that’s what gives me the joy. Sometime quick and dirty and simple. I still prefer pen and paper since I can do things more precisely but I have grown to love drawing on my phone since it’s a quick fix with immediate results. Yeah, I know – typical American.

I paint because I love it. I had wanted to learn to paint for years and was too timid to do it until a friend gave me a starter set for Christmas one year and I have been painting since. About five years now. I am not a good painter, at all, but I have fun, and I think that comes through. I have slowed down for about eighteen different reasons, but really, part of me is still in that – Why Do I Do This phase and looking at a box of twenty paintings makes me question myself, much like looking at a box of unsold books does.

I take photos because I love it. Again, not good, but sometimes, sometimes I am not bad at all. I don’t take photos as much as I would to but I do love it. It’s another way to be creative and to set scenes. I am still too timid to really give myself to it, to go with all of my ideas, but I am trying, inch by inch, to get better and get more of my personality into things.

I do events because I love them. I love putting people together who have similar passions. I love working with people who are still finding themselves, their audience, and their path. I love adding to the culture of Flint, even if but in a small way. And I love creating things that inspire people in some way.

Why Do I Do It?

Because I have to. I do the things I do because it drives me crazy to see how little thought and imagination goes into some of the events I see. It drives me crazy to see how so many always seem to have their hands out waiting for someone to fund them and their convention, hobby, whatever. There’s so much that can be done if people just work together, and in a city like where I live, Flint, we need to work together more than anything. I love this place, as many flaws as it has, and want to help to make it better. Sure, art shows and horror cons don’t do much to change people’s safety, and doesn’t create a future perhaps but it’s only by inspiring people and passing our passions on that we can actively change the future. Without that passion, without a reason to stay, people will leave. And if moving makes you happy, then do it, but sometimes staying means more because you can effect the place you live.

You can change it.

Why do I do what I do?

Because I want the things I do to create my legacy. And hell, even if people forget who the hell I am, at least I want to know that I tried to make a difference. I cared enough to try. And the future is only created moment to moment and if we give up inspiring others, inspiring ourselves then we give up on the future. There is so much indifference and apathy anymore, so much negativity about everything that we have to keep the fires burning for one another because someone has to. I do this stuff because it isn’t about fame, or money, but about trying to make a difference. Heck, we all want to make enough to survive and then some to be silly with but that can’t be what we live for. It can’t or we live for nothing. And it’s easy to forget all that as we struggle day to day and the debt piles up, and the stress compounds, but what the Arts give us, what passion gives us is a way to see past those things and into the future, or the past, or anywhere we want. We do the things we love because we have to, not because we want to, but because we have to. Because not doing them drives us crazy. Not doing them makes us feel as if we are wasting away.

And the only thing that can outlive us is the future and it’s better to help create that future than to help destroy it.

So, take a moment and ask yourself my simple question –

Why Do You Do It?

– c

You Know, Without The Pretense

Oh to live in a world of art without pretension.  A world of writers without grandstanding.  Le sigh.

There is something of a mystery with artsy folk and writers.  There’s a sense of disdain for other people that work in their same trade.  It’s sort of like how petty music people will act when the band they like gets big, or when a punk band gets popular.  It’s the odd sense of entitlement and attitude that is boggling my poor little mind.

Example –

The best example I can give is one that will always drive me crazy and that is photographers.  For some reason the ‘I am a Photographer and you just take pictures’ attitude just won’t die.  I get that there is a difference, a vast difference, between someone like me, who takes pictures for fun, and someone who makes a living at it.  Just as there is a difference between someone who makes a living at it and truly strives to make Art.  And at the bottom of this ladder you have the every day person who has a camera on their phone and use different lens and filter settings to take pics of stuff.  I get that.  What I don’t get is the ridiculous attitude you get from said ‘art’ photogs.  Me, I am a writer.  I am not famous, I am not rich, but I have been writing for twenty years.  I will damn well say I am a writer.  But if someone picks up a pencil today and writes a poem or story and it’s the first thing they have ever written am I going to get angsty about them if they call themselves a writer?  No.  No because the active pursuit of writing makes one a writer.  Thus, the active pursuit of taking photos makes one a photographer.  You can judge skill and talent and all that, sure, that’s fair, but it’s silly to act as if someone who is an amateur is not legit in their pursuit.  You get the same with any art.

There is this crazy pretension about the arts that kills me.  I get that we’re all competing in the same way anyone that creates a ‘product’ is competing but that there is such a vast chasm between artists breaks my heart.  All of us were just starting out at one point so why the ire?

What’s the drama?

Competition.  Pure and simple.  The American culture isn’t as interest in Art or the arts as it has been, not in the traditional sense anyway, so there are less dollars spent on art in general.  And when less is spent it makes the market way too crowded for the ‘amateurs’.  I get that.  I do.  I can see where it’d be frustrating if you’ve been learning and honing your craft, your skill, your talent, for years, even decades, and yet someone comes along who does something that to you is amateurish and they make money it.  I get that.  The thing is though that we’re biased.  All of us.  Maybe that guy that just took a picture with his really nice camera phone just happened to take a really nice picture.  Maybe the guy that wrote that poem on a napkin just wrote a really damn good piece.  What we miss, we artists, is that some people have that spark in them, that artistic bend, and it’s always there, always, they just never pursued it until later in life.  Maybe they had this gift and just never followed it.




There is so much needless greed and angst in the arts and I hate it.  Times are hard, for everyone, and if you make your living in the arts it isn’t getting any easier but the heck of it has always been that artists have to work harder and be more driven than other people.  Why?  Because we generally work alone, we don’t get many accolades, and when we do our jobs right people don’t think about us at all.  Art is meant to take you out of the moment, to take you to a different place, even if it is just a place of inner peace.  That is why art is so transcendent.  When we get petty and bicker, and fight, and fill our lives with pretension and self aggrandizement then we start losing the very reasons we should be doing the art, and that’s to express ourselves.  We need to get over judging who is a ‘real’ artist and applaud when someone makes something full of passion that touches us, or someone else.

You know why people don’t connect with art anymore?

Because we took art away from the people.

We made art about ourselves, the artists. We throw ourselves lavish parties to extol how wonderful we are and how magnificent our art is.  We put outlandish prices on our art because we have a false sense of entitlement.  We charge people to come to openings or shows because we want to nickel and dime them to death.  We lost the people when we started telling them they didn’t understand our art, that they were not smart enough to get it.  In essence, we lost the public when we told them that we were too good for them. We have only ourselves to blame.

It’s time to make art about the people again.

And you know what, if it takes a guy that picks up a camera phone, or a pencil and napkin, or fingerpaints and a piece of cardboard to bring the people back to art then so be it.  I am willing to keep working my butt off to create things I love and believe in and am willing to keep working to make my art relevant to other people.  I have an ego just like everyone else but you know what, I can put it aside long enough to see that I am not the only writer, am not the best writer, but that I can still rock some faces when I put my mind to it.


New Art and Another Fun Event is Over

The year is winding down and as it does, so do the events I am in. This past weekend I did the second Books and Authors event put on by Leon & Lulu’s down in Clawson, Michigan. Leon & Lulu’s is a fun and funky furniture and knick knack store set up in an old roller rink. It’s hard to sum up what they sell exactly other than to say…a little of everything. This year’s event was another well run machine with even more authors than last year (double I think) and just as much energy. I only sold a couple books but it’s hard to complain when there’s free snacks, energetics staff and authors surrounding you, and you get to sit on a terribly comfy couch all day. I spent most of the day chilling on the couch with the lady but managed to snap a few fun pics of the store. You’ll also find my newest painting. Acrylic on canvas and such.

Guerilla Art Show/The Art of 625

I have lived at 625 in downtown Flint for nearly five years now and I don’t know if I will ever know how deeply this place has affected me. It is here where I put together my second and third book, where I got published in Bare Bone and in Cthulhu Sex, and it is here where I began painting. To honor the creative spirit that this old building has had on its many tenants, past and present, we put together an art show/rummage sale with some of the current and former tenants. It wasn’t as all-encompassing as I would have hoped but it was a fun turn out and a fun show. It also turned out to be the last Guerilla Art Show here before an established and respected alternative art gallery makes this address their home in the Fall. I sold a few Meep books, and sold four pieces of art – even big old Pete Anders, who I had held onto for so long. Here are a few pics.