Practical Theory. The importance of achieving the seperation of self.
In order to truly be able to grow as an artist and develop our abilities in a meaningful way there are several things to be aware of in terms of mastering the fundamentals and the one that expresses itself most often which in turn illustrates the differences between those who have just started out from those who have established themselves in their own right is the ability to achieve the seperation of self. Which can in essence be understood as, any criticism of my work is not a criticism of me as a person, it is merely a criticism of my ideas as an artist. Repeat that as often as possible until it finally sticks because not only is emotional objectivity one of the ways to finding success as an artist, but its also the only thing that will ever allow you to actually hand your work off to someone else and hear what they have to say without wanting to rip their head off when they go on to mention how someone else did it so much better. Now there are many different levels to this distinction that we have to learn as we go through the different phases of emotional maturation such as the seperation of the ego and the seperation from the thoughts, ideas and expectations of others but in the beginning its better to focus on understanding how the psychological associations that form around the words we use to describe our work can affect us as artists. For instance, any time we refer to a project as our baby we begin to invest feelings of maternal or paternal affection into what is in essence an inanimate object through the principles of embodiment and personification and once this begins to happen its a very slippery slope to follow because whenever a publisher or editor looks at your work and begins making changes, they are in essence making changes to what you have affectionately referred to as your baby. Yeah, follow that thought to its logical conclusion and there's a reason I stopped offering people advice on an individual basis, the reactions that I got were shall we say, less then pleasent. Or to put it more accurately insane frothing at the brain and hungry for my blood levels of unpleasent. Good times, good times. But anyway, when it comes to editing a novel or even a short story, the best way I've ever heard it put is polishing the pearl. Which just makes sense, you polish your work until it shines and people will be even more attracted to it, but if you start making changes to your baby people get this weird look in their eyes like you've just turned into Dr. Frankenstein and start forming lynch mobs while you've gone off to surgically alter someone else's child. This is how to test the viability of an idea by the way, if it can be taken to absurd levels of abstraction and still keep its solemn dignity and meaning intact then you just aren't trying hard enough, satire is the soul of wit and it is one of the few things that can keep an artist humble. Also, absurdity helps to illustrate just how messed up some of the assumptions and limitations we can impress upon ourselves can be when we are just starting out. Take for instance the fire paradox, which involves writing a list about all the things that other people have ever been written about starting with the word fire and then continuing to list off all the things that we can't write about because its all been written about before. Keep going until you reach the point of absurdity and realize that when people say there's no such thing as originality and everything's been written about before, all that they've proved is that they know how to break wind with their face and that just because everything has been written about before, doesn't mean that you yourself have ever written about them. The real thing we all need to watch out for is of course overfamiliarization and market saturation but that's neither here nor there. Now for artists who are first learning how to draw the essential seperation of self works a bit differently then it does for writers because its something that we have to learn how to do when we first start drawing from live models or doing nude studies in order to resolve and affirm our relationship to the subject. Remember when I said that art is a process of emotional maturation? Well Freud would have a field day with this one because in order to not lose sight of ourselves while drawing those things which have the power to excite or frighten us we must come to an understanding with and overcome our initial fears of through understanding the power taboos have over us, also there's other psychological phenomena to be aware of like the chilling effect, the broken window theory, and the big one for artists operant conditioning, so without going too far down that particular rabbit hole the way that creativity helps us learn how to recognize and identify those areas in which we have internalized the expectations of others is whenever we experience fear or hesitation while working with a particular subject. For instance, the first time I ever sat down to learn how to draw the male body I was confronted by the heterosexual attitudes and expectations that had been part of my default environment while growing up and suddenly found myself experiencing a very real threat to my position within society. Not only was I living in a small town at the time and already considered to be an outsider due to the fact that I hadn't been born there but the three primary industries were fishing, logging and construction and if you didn't work in any of them you didn't have a real job as far as anyone else was concerned. A fact that was made even more abundantly clear to me once the town's population started expanding to the point where new communities started to form around different housing developments and started bringing new ideas in while at the same time pushing the old ones out. Which meant we had not only all of the problems that go along with a developing city, but a small town mentality as the political undercurrent infuencing it all. Not exactly the safest environment to be learning how to draw in let me tell you because artists and writers are often only accepted depending on their relationship to the sovereign power but I'll talk about that later. Drawing the female form on the other hand was dangerous and exciting as it meant stealing secret glances at the rest of the world to see if anyone might be watching for potential signs of deviant or subversive behaviour while still exploring the possibilities of curve and form, and from there learning to find the beauty hidden within all women, but drawing men, my mind froze as if some unwritten code about never looking at another man's junk had arrested the process, the idea that if anyone saw me drawing a picture of a nude male body made me hesitate with my hand held just above the paper, part of me knew that the protocol for doing nude studies was to treat the model as being sexless, to simply draw what was there and not to place personal judgments upon them, but another part of me wondered about how working with certain subjects while writing had already affected my attitudes and systems of belief about how I identified with the themes and ideas I was working with. Now, to make an overly complicated dissertation on emotional relativism, post traumatic stress disorder, due representation and revictimization short, as researching the ongoing psychological impact that these have on the psyche in order to understand why those who suffer through them in silence continue to suffer isn't exactly a discussion you can just waltz blithely into, the ability to seperate my self from those same attitudes and expectations and write about them objectively is what allowed me to examine all those old patterns of behaviour and dismantle them. After all they had nothing to do with how I indentified as a person or as an artist, nor were they a realistic representation of the complexities of life and psychosexual development, they were simply a reflection of the identities that had been impressed upon me by a generation of men who were so afraid of being percieved as weak that their hypermasculinity was literally killing their ability to be present and aware of the needs and desires of their partners who they then blamed for being the source of all their frustrations. Talk therapy folks, even if you're just talking to yourself, even if you're just writing down how you think and feel, even if you're the only one who is ever going to read them, the validation and recognition that comes from being able to acknowledge that yes, we've been hurt by others in the past, is an integral part of being able to prevent it from happening again in the future. Also its helps us to dismantle the intertemporal juncture that occurs when our awareness of time shifts and attempts to assign accountability to forces external to ourselves whenever events serve to trigger the thoughts, actions, and emotions associated with a particular event. Have I done crazy amounts of research into human behavioural psychology? Why yes, yes I have, but as a neurodiverse individual that just happens to be my particular fixation so if I have a tendency to go off on strange tangents then I apologize but if sharing even some of the things I've experienced while learning how to be an artist can help just one person find their own way back to their creative selves then there is meaning even in that.
Until next time folks, have a good day.
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2 September 2016 at 12:35:51 MDT
Practical Theory, an artist's guide to understanding the hidden world of art, is a blog in which I'll be discussing all the weird, strange and semi-mystical things I've encountered while researching the emergent principles inherent in the transdisciplinary nature of art. So if you've ever wondered why art works the way it does, or if your just a fan of seeing if words can be weaponized in a way that can make people's head explode, check it out!