Eureka!

I’m not sure if this is the “It’s past three in the morning and you’ve gone mad” phase, or “It’s finally clicked” event, but I think I’ve got something important. Probably very basic, but important. Especially in relation to art. It’s one of those “It’s so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it” kind of things that everyone says they would have thought of themselves, but no one did for some reason.

There’s been a great many things I’ve learned at DigiPen in the last year I’ve been there. I’ve put this knowledge to use when working on my own art and working on other pieces of art, and I’ve seen that it’s effective and proper. The latest one is a lovely little critique I left on this piece.

Last night… or tonight. I can’t remember… I was speaking with Mr. Maglot. The problem we both expressed to having was that even though we can learn all this amazing and wonderful knowledge about art, when we draw the drawing just “happens.”

I’ve talked with my friend Ember about art, and he said something that Betty Edwards mentioned in her book that a lot of people experience. When you’re doing art, you lose track of time. You’re making something, then BAM, it’s suddenly hours later and you find yourself with something finished on the page.

The problem Maglot and I were expressing is that during that multi-hour “BAM” that’s occurring, there isn’t much “left brained” or logical thought going on. We go into auto-pilot for drawing, and just draw.

So basically, the situation is thus:
-Art knowledge is awesome and excites and is so very, very useful.
-You can’t actually use any of that information when you’re drawing.

When I was younger, my church would also talk about making your choices before you did them. Being a Mormon, we don’t do things like smoke, drink alcohol or coffee, have premarital sex, kill people (without good reason), and other things some people put as commonplace or acceptable. They taught us at church to already make the choice before the event happens. If you’re never in a situation where someone offers you alcohol, great! You never have a problem. But if you haven’t decided that you won’t actually drink it, you may find yourself trying to decide whether to have some or not during that moment.

It’s very similar to the “say no to drugs” thing, except it explains the principle behind it and says “make your choice” instead of “say no.” Though I guess they did want us to make the no choice anyway. Right, back on subject.

The whole making up your mind beforehand method is actually very effective. And it works with lots of other things, too. Which brings us back to art.

One of the first things they taught us at DigiPen was “WTF.” That means “What’s that for.” Whenever you start a picture, that’s the question you ask yourself.

Something else they mentioned, after giving us all sorts of knowledge about art, is that it’s just a big toolbox, and like any toolbox, there are some tools that are right for the job. You’re not going to be using 50 different tools to change a light bulb. You’re going to want a stepladder, and maybe some heavy rubber gloves if you’re really paranoid. And maybe some sunglasses in case you forgot if the switch is on or not. But you’re not gonna pull out the crescent wrench, and the left-leaning gyroscopic horseshoe tuner, because you don’t really need those. Yeah, they’re useful, but not for this job.

So lemme try and bring this all together in an actual lesson we call the “oh no it’s 4am and I haven’t gone to bed yet” lesson on art.

In order to apply the art knowledge you have into your actual art practice, you must decide before you even start the picture what your goal for that picture is, and what tools you’re going to use to reach that goal.

The choices of what your goals can be is an entirely different discussion.

According to the Modified Bloom’s Taxonomy Accordion Diagram (which I have never mentioned before now but it is a stepladder of learning things) everyone starts out on any given topic as ignorant, and eventually becomes better and more knowledgeable and practiced until they internalize the knowledge and it becomes second nature to them at the top level.

To start, you learn of the existence of the left-leaning gyroscopic horseshoe tuner and all about its greatness. Then you find a situation that’s a good use for it, pull it out of the box, and go… what the heck do I DO with this thing? You stumble around with the knowledge you have, because you know it’s a good tool, and after 10, 50, or a thousand drawings specifically trying to use it, you finally reach the point where you you don’t even have to think about using it because it comes naturally. So you pull it out when you’re changing a light bulb and crank an extra 50 watts out of a 60 watt bulb without even breaking a sweat.

Another thing I’ve learned tonight is that obsession is respectable to limited levels, proportional to the person’s own desire for the subject, until it passes a certain point and the level of respect plummets.

That is: To someone with a Beanie Baby desire level of 5.0, they will respect a Beanie Baby collector’s obsessive tendencies to the level of 8.0. However, the average person has a desire level of 3.3, which only allows them to respect to the level of 6.3. Therefore, the original Beanie Baby collector has a respectable hobby, and the later has an unhealthy obsession.

This principle is why gamers think staying up all night playing games is “cool,” while parents think it is “not cool.” If the parents had a higher desire level for games, they would also see it as “cool,” baring other crazy ideas like “growing boys need plenty of sleep.”

I need to make graphs for this later, and not talk about it at 4am. They would probably help it make more sense. Or not make any sense at all, so I could stop trying to explain it.