Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Through the Desert

I have been reading Gustav Janouch’s Conversations with Kafka. Janouch’s father worked in the same building as Kafka and would find reasons to go talk to him. On one of these occasions Janouch found Kafka drawing, he asked to see the drawing and Kafka swiftly destroyed the paper. This happened a few times before Kafka relented and showed Janouch his scribbles, and they were scribbles. Janouch asked him if he had ever taken any classes and Kafka said no. Kafka had wanted to find his own way of rendering things. He used the metaphor of the Exodus saying that he was still in Egyptian bondage and had yet to cross the Red sea. Janouch responded that after the Red sea is the desert and Kafka said, “Yes, in the Bible and everywhere else.”
I love this metaphor especially in regards to creative work. I’ve watched so many people who wanted to be some sort of creative abandon it because of that desert. Okay, backstory for those who haven’t seen The Ten Commandments: Moses secures the Jews’ freedom from Egypt and parts the Red sea so they can cross to the promised land. Unfortunately there is forty years of desert on the other side. It was a long movie. The important take away here is that they do finally make it to the promised land, it just takes way more work than they thought it would. There is plenty of thought that it would have been better just to stay in Egypt.
For a creative just starting out things are nice. They are in a world of enthusiasm and promise. Whatever the goal is, whether monetary success or critical accolade or even just satisfying a personal need, at this point it seems closer than ever. If they can just get over that sea, by some Moses-sized miracle, then they can make it. So they put in the work with confidence and learn what they need to learn then find themselves with that miracle (this being that they are actually any good at it) and find only forty years of work ahead of them with no clue that the promise will be fulfilled.
The old joke is that it takes ten years to become an overnight success. And for artists who want that overnight success, those ten years can be incredibly daunting. Who knows, if Kafka had not died so young perhaps we would have been talking about his paintings and considered The Trial and The Metamorphosis to be footnotes of his career.
When they say one must suffer for their art, I think this is what they really mean. I don’t think you have to go without meals, although that may be a byproduct of spending so much work with little return for so long, or have awful relationships (unless you are Taylor Swift) you just have to spend forty years in the desert of your art.


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With Art

by Vernon Ray Jackson


Approach it first with new eyes.

As a virgin, paying sharp attention

without full understanding.

Take in each new detail

and be honest in your reaction.

Take what you have already

and mix it with the new intelligence.

Acknowledge that that you miss much

and misunderstand more.


Initiated, approach again.

Use your new understanding

to sense what you could not before.

Honor your previous view

even if you dispute it.

Look deeper than you could before,

notice its spirit.

By now you realize that there is still more

that you can’t yet access.


Once a connoisseur approach again.

Resist the urge to tear at the flaws

you’ve been trained to spot.

Forgive them, and your past self.

Your purpose isn’t to destroy.

It is embodied for you now.

Teach others how to know its layers.


Finally approach it as an artist.

Abandon understanding for utility,

enjoyment for growth.

See it at the level of its creator.

Be its creator yourself.

Take what lessons it has for you

and discard those not for you.

Don’t spend any more time

with it than serves you.

Art decays and must be constantly remade.

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I’m an art collector. I guess that would be the easiest way to blanket explain my many hobbies. There is plenty of discussion about whether a thing is art or not. The trouble with this is it makes ART a medal you hang on the things you like. It’s fine to have such a thing. Such medals are important to help us sort through the pile of stuff vying for out interest. This creates the need for taste makers (or as @howardtayler recently put it signal boosters) or more classically, critics. But the critic’s job isn’t to tell people whether a given thing is art or not. It is their job to tell us whether it is good art. You see making the word art mean whether something is good or not moves it a slot up in the language and leaves a void where art used to be. Once we make “art” the medal that we hang on . . . pieces, things, stuff . . . we then have to struggle to find a word to fill that void. So know that when I say art I use it in the broadest sense.

Anyway, yesterday I was long overdue to go grocery shopping. I had been down to ramen noodles and costco chilli. It was also my birthday so I was in the mood for something fun. I’m very impulsive (just part of the whole ADD thing) and so largely everything I wanted I already owned. I’m also suffering from a bulk of stuff at the moment and I’m trying to reduce. Still something fun and new is what a birthday is for, so I had to look a little while. I was also a little low on cash because of the Girl Genius kickstarter. (I’ll do more on kickstarter in general another day.)


That is where this set caught my eye. I have a lot of Legos. I really should start a Lego photo comic just for fun. My large amount of legos can sometimes lessen my desire to buy more. Plus sometimes Legos can be expensive, and the cheaper sets can sometimes seem a little spare. This one was $12 and it was a fantastic deal because it is a great set. First off you get SuperMan and Zod. Usually these sets have a major character paired with a grunt, often a nameless grunt. You usually have to buy the big, major battle, 50–100 dollar set to get the major villain in a property. Second it comes with a sweet car. I think this is my favorite Lego car since the Knight Bus from Harry Potter. I think this car is going to get the honor of not being dismantled and sorted. (Which I do with most of my sets.) Zod has taste.

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