The trial of producing a huge art project

For past six months, I’ve been working myself to the bone in producing what is perhaps my biggest art project yet. Simply put it, its a series of books (which I call “visual art albums”) that deal with aspects of Christianity through a more surreal prism of thought. I originally conceived it as a project about world beliefs in general, but I encountered several problems during the research phase of the project, and thus I changed the overall theme of the project.

A lot of my time has been devoted to finishing the project that I started, and so I’d like tonight’s post to talk about what goes on behind the scenes, and offer some insight into the project’s concept, creation, and production.

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Book III (The Houses of God), shown being produced during today’s sessions.

The project was originally titled “Visions”, then I changed the name of the project to “In the Valley of the Shadow of Faith”, and that name ran until last week, when I decided to change its named to “The Shadow Bible” (I name I chose for when it becomes a published book). I have made nine A2 folders, each of which are meant to contain 11 artworks, along with text and additional embellishments across 48 pages per book (as a whole book, this would be 432 pages long). I made it this way because I thought there would be nine units in the second year of my art course. This was eventually proven wrong. There were eight units, and only one could accommodate my project, so I’ve been working on the whole project alongside the other assignments. As you could imagine, it’s been a living hell managing all this.

Much of the project was conceived a few months before production actually started. In May 2015, I began to plan out my ideas, and August, I began making the book folders. Meanwhile, the planning phase of the project, wherein I would organize my various ideas and concepts for the project (at least by name), continued until November. I produced the artwork starting as early as September, but did this sporadically until November 17th, when I began producing artworks almost every day until February 4th, when I had finished all the artworks relevant to the project. The week before was when I finished the first book (or rather the eighth in chronological order), and from then on I began focusing on the books.

Today, I’m on what could be considered the final stages of the project. I had finished all 99 artworks, and so all that’s left is to finish the books, writing for each one along the way. I made the actual artworks as drawings and paintings, experimenting with various mediums. The books are each made using 24 sheets of tropical paper (except for one book which uses metallic paper), with each side displaying either an artwork, the text to go with the artwork, or anything else that I use to fill the remaining pages. The artwork is stuck down to the pages using double-sided tape, and since one roll runs out after around two and a half books, I had to buy it in bulk. Each book can take up to a total 12 hours to produce (which is why I split off production into separate sessions, each lasting up to four hours). The text is written using pencils, and exhibits a style of writing that doesn’t adhere any current precepts of creative writing (mainly because I don’t know any).

For the books, I want to convey narrative with a lyrical style of writing. This is in part due to the fact that I derived the concept of the project from music albums and the booklets that come with them (particularly vinyl records, and especially Christian Death LP’s). In fact, the writing in the project was influenced by the music I listen to on a daily basis. Sadly, this is not a collaborative effort, so I’ve had to do all the production and writing by myself, and I have until May to complete it. I’m on track, but it’s been a long and exhausting road to get to where I am now. It’s also been quite an expensive project. The amount of A2 card I need to finish the project has so far costed me a total of £120, with other costs being incurred in buying new pencils and replacing any paints that have run out. I’d say the project has so far cost me upwards of £300 to produce. Considering that I have no income, I’m lucky that I’m able to afford everything.

Producing “The Shadow Bible” has been quite a trying part of my life, but I feel that the experience has been a test of character. In my opinion, some of my best artworks have emerged from the sessions, and it’s on this project that I’ve actually started visualizing what I might want to produce in my later years. There’s also the prospect of releasing this whole project as a published book (which, according to one of my lecturers, it is entirely possible to do). That sounds like the most exciting prospect in years. I don’t know when it’ll happen, but if it works, who knows what could happen.

Until I start university, I’m certain that this is the hardest project I’ve ever done, but when it’s done, it’ll be one of the most satisfying things I’ve done yet, mainly because of the sheer ambition and scope of the project. Throughout the project, I felt like I was making something nobody else had done before (then again, I’m sure most people have more sense), and I think that’s been keeping me going all this time, that and the fact that I was making something I truly wanted to for the first time in many years. For all its ups and downs, I have high hopes for the project, and if given the chance, I’d do it again (though, hopefully, it’d be a lot shorter).

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A problem of panic

panic

“Panic” by Liu Baomin (2008)

Have you ever had a problem where you know something is going to happen, and you visualize the worst possible outcome? I’ve had this happen before the Christmas holidays were over, due to having a lot college work and doing a lot of other stuff in the background, combined with contracting norovirus last week (trust me, it was a really nasty stomach virus for all concerned). All that while trying to enjoy the holidays pretty much led me to doing almost nothing related to college work, so I wound up panicking more than I should.

Anyway, it turns out there’s a word for what had happened to me. This mental and emotional habit is known as “catastrophizing”, where you habitually imagine the worst possible scenario for a situation that your mind is imagining to be far worse than it might actually be. It certainly sounds like something that’s happened with me. In fact, I can’t help but think that this problem occurs quite often with people aged between 16 and 25, especially in the context of a school, college or university setting, where looming assignment deadlines have people panicking over whether or not the tutors will have their asses on a platter for not doing the work on time. And then there’s the problem I frequently suffer – fearing that I haven’t done enough work at all, which debatably could be far worse.

Clearly there’s one thing those situations have in common. When we catastrophize, we are responding to what we don’t understand yet, and we ruminate on that constantly, which does nothing other than make an already tense mental situation worse, to the point that, in my case, it can lead to a somewhat brief, depressing inertia until I eventually start overworking myself to the point of exhaustion, followed by further inertia. It’s really depressing, but after the day passes, we get over it as though the panic never existed. In my case, when I started college again, I found out that much of the stress was caused by me as a result of having skipped a lot of time recovering from my holiday illness. After that, I felt relaxed enough to get back on my feet and start working again.

And there’s where the panic stops. As my experience has taught me, panic is immediately vanquished by confidence and experience, and I think this is true with most of us as well. We tend not to realize just how much we’ve been panicking and how it has affected our judgement until it’s too late. Too often we allow ourselves to be gripped by panic without even knowing it, and in my case, it kind of spoke to me about how little confidence I had in my own work, which isn’t too surprising because I’m presently working a huge major project in college as we speak. However, as this panic is slowly being replaced by confidence and vision, I find myself aware of my catastrophising tendencies, and able to overcome that panic, at least for now.

Back to art?

During the new term, I’ve been wrapping my head around what to do in September. Then, while I was in bed on Thursday night (this was not a dream, for I wasn’t sleeping yet), I got the idea that I have plenty of ideas that could be wasted if I didn’t act soon. That’s why I’m considering giving art another chance.

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Pictured: An awesome example of art.

The reason why I abandoned the art path two years ago was because I was heavily disillusioned with my A-level Art course. In that course, I was stuck with a brief that I didn’t like, but I had to do everything according to it. It’s like this with the Creative iMedia course as well, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, because I can work around it.

That’s why I want to be careful with this. I don’t want to make the mistake of rushing to judgement, so I want to look at certain art courses. Of course, they may have a brief in mind, but I’m hoping I can find one that’s lenient enough to allow me to allow me to make as many or as little art pieces as I want.

Keep in mind that this is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t done art as a course in two years. I probably don’t even know how it will even turn out. All I really care about is rekindling a passion for art, which is required if I plan to do anything creative in the future.

Is it really worth it?

Over the past two months, one thing that became a thorny issue in my life is the Welsh language. Because I live in Wales, I’m surrounded by it, but I’ve never spoken a word of Welsh, or any other foreign language for that matter. In college, that might be about to change.

In my course, I have to do an abominable subject called the Welsh Baccalaureate. The lecturer kept on defaulting on various aspects of the unit, and worst of all, began endorsing the “Learndirect Welsh language course”. This secondary course is being implemented because apparently the powers that be have decided that anyone doing Welsh Bac to learn basic Welsh words.

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Pictured: Something infuriating

I didn’t know what it was yet, but naturally, when it was announced in November, I was royally pissed off. To me, it was Wales trying to force it’s language down my throat. I never wanted anything to do with the Welsh language when I was a kid, and now that I’m almost twenty, they’ve decided to try and make me learn the language.

Of course, I did go on a blazing rant in class when it was announced, but not only did that not change the lecturers mind, I actually wound up feeling incredibly depressed because I felt like I had just alienated myself from my classmates. Thankfully, everything is still good between me and my classmates, but I still stand by my convictions. I felt that, by participating in that program (which I’m being made to do anyway), I would be allowing Welsh nationalists to have an unwanted influence over my life by giving them what they want.

Before you get the wrong idea, I’ve got nothing against the Welsh language. In fact, I’m fine with people learning the language, but only if they do so on their own free will. I believe that you shouldn’t have to learn the Welsh language if you don’t want to. To put it bluntly, I have to oppose that program because I believe in free choice, something the Welsh government obviously doesn’t believe in.

It’s not entirely my fault. When I was a kid, I spent the formative years of my childhood in America. Most people I know in Wales probably went to school learning both Welsh and English. I, however, did not. I learned to talk in America, but the time I spent there created a massive language barrier between me and the Welsh language. Also, I was raised with an American mindset, so the Welsh language, to me, ended up becoming part of the culture shock I felt while settling back into Wales.

When they first tried to teach Welsh to me in 2005 (back in Pembroke Dock), I didn’t like the lessons. They must have thought that an autistic boy like me wouldn’t cope in Welsh class, because in secondary school, they left Welsh out of my timetable, while everyone else did Welsh.

Yes, the Welsh language is a part of the country’s heritage, but I think that the task of preserving it shouldn’t be handled by people who just want an excuse to be major assholes to the rest of us. I just hope that the Welsh language doesn’t became so prominent that I’d have to move to America just to get a job.

The moral of the story is this: where and how you were raised as a kid will have a profound effect on your world view when you’re older.

The quest for popularity is a farce

Lately, I’ve realized that there’s really no point in trying to be popular. I found this out as I went to a Christmas party, and the nightclub atmosphere was just too overpowering for me to do or say anything that I really wanted to. I quickly realized that the nightclub scene wasn’t right, and came to a conclusion that if that’s a means of attaining popularity, then something definitely felt wrong.

Yes, I actually went and pursued popularity at the start of the college year (some three months ago), and I thought I was on the right path in life. But, when I though of it, I was very insecure about my own social abilities. It wasn’t until some time after I started hanging around with my own classmates that I gained some perspective. I became much happier hanging around my classmates than attempting to pursue popularity.

By the end of September, I was willing to do anything and everything to try and make sure my name was in lights, but I got so caught up in the idea of popularity that I lost perspective of what actually mattered. What would I have to prove if I were popular anyway?

It’s not my fault. A lot of us are given the illusion of popularity from the media, but what they don’t tell you is that popularity is more work than it sounds. You can’t find time for everyone.

I soon learned that as people get older, popularity becomes less of a concern. I then wondered why young people try to be popular. Perhaps it’s just a part of a young person’s development, or perhaps it’s the promise of acceptance. I don’t think anyone really knows why.

Now I’ve come to view the mythical quest for popularity as basically a farce, because to be popular, you’d have to deny your confidence in who you are. Besides, why would I really need to be popular? I like being unique, and I’m much happier hanging around with friends who I know understand me.

If only more people thought this way, and then maybe we’d be satisfied with who we are. I think I can manage this kind of life, as long as I don’t go and ruin it all.

Why I actually can’t wait to go back to college

On Tuesday, I’ll be heading to college for another 9 and a half months, and I actually can’t wait for it.

You’d think that I wouldn’t want to go back to college, but it’s different to the “back to school jitters” of the old days, because I actually chose to go back there. Besides, I have big plans for the next year, but I’m not going to say anything right now.

Besides, I’m hoping that I can actually get something of a job. Hopefully not too full-on but still.

I think I’ll have a bit of fun in college. I think I’ve mastered college life good enough to handle at least one more year, and I actually liked life in college.

And hey, I should be able to get a few fresh ideas for new topics during my time in college.

Why I am not an animator

I want to explain what I would want to do (or not do in this case) when making games in a team. One thing I pride myself on is ideas. I consider myself an ideas man, as in a person who comes up with ideas, and can at least try to illustrate them. I also like panning out my vision for what a world would look like.

That’s what I would do. One thing I don’t want to get into is animation. In college, I learned why I don’t.

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Whatever that is, it’s not mine, but it looks damn good.

In my course, there is a unit on animation where you use Adobe Flash. I always hated that idea, mainly because I’ve historically had a bad experience with Flash. In this regard, this is mainly because I never used it very often. Sure, in college I got better at it, but it doesn’t make up for what a grueling process it is.

For me, it’s a matter of trying not to make it look too cheaply done, which is hard considering that I only had 3-4 months to finish this unit. The problem here is that this is just one of 8 units, all of which are handled separately by two different tutors, and panned out over 9 months.

Realistically speaking, good animation takes months, maybe even years to finish. This course on the other hand, asks a noob like me to make a 30-second short animation within only 4 months. That seems like an unbearable task for someone with little discernible experience.

Not to mention, ideas for me take time to form. One time, I had to make a flip book showing a sporting activity, and I failed because I couldn’t come up with something in 20 minutes (I’m sure it was 20).

To make a long story short, if I were in a game development team, I’d more or less be the creative head, the engine that drives much of the ideas, much like the lead singer or lyricist in a rock band. If I were trusted with the more monotonous and technical stuff, I’d probably break.