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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An interest in the comic anthology

Since the last months of 2014, I had become increasingly disenchanted with the prospect of making video games, even as I kept defending video games as an art form (a stance I maintain to this day). As my time in my art course progressed, I kept scrambling to search for new ways to express myself creatively, while simultaneously trying to defend my method of creativity to the death.

As I was tidying up my room, I found some early examples of my creative writing. Although they were quite crude compared to my later writings, they did inspire me to look back, and think of another way of exercising creative writing and preserving my creative ideas, so I came to ask myself: instead of creating video games as part of my own video game development team, what if I started up my own anthology comic book?

Think about it for a moment. The video games industry places a lot of limits on how its writers can express themselves, as in it has to work within the context of a video game. I fear that my ideas would wind up being either rejected or butchered if I worked with the video games industry. If I started a new path writing for my own anthology comic book, I could do whatever I wanted. All I would need is a penciller to render my stories in visual form, which I will admit is something I’m not good at.

The way I would consider writing an anthology comic book is to have, at a minimum, four stories in one book, although sometimes, it would be three stories, with one story being split into two parts. This format, in theory, would allow me to create whatever I wanted with very little format/genre-specific limitations.

Even though I covered comic books in my previous Creative iMedia course, I still admit don’t know enough about the format professionally. Before I boldly go into this new pathway, I think the first thing I should do is to do plenty of research. I definitely need to get college out of the way before I can go all the way with this. However, I can’t slack off forever. I have to start planning this as soon as possible, and that means even less emphasis being put on journalistic writing.

I’ve only considered this format for over a day, but already I see that there could be a lot of potential in this direction. With enough research and planning, the comic anthology direction could be even greater than I ever thought possible.

Why video games are an art form

child of light

If video games couldn’t be art, then this wouldn’t be possible.

The late Roger Ebert once described video games as an non-artistic medium incomparable to other art forms, such as film and music. In 2006, he once stated that video games “don’t explore the meaning of human beings as other art forms do”. Of course, he would later retract everything he said about video games being non-artistic, if mainly because it made him look foolish. Still, however, there are those who make the case that video games cannot be art because of the client-based nature of the industry.

I believe that those who don’t think video games can be art are ignoring a fundamental truth about video games. Video games can be an art form because nowadays, making them invariably involves a level of creative expression. Of course, since the programming and gameplay side isn’t very artistic on its own, the key to games being art lies in how it can immerse you in a universe that isn’t yours. For this, you absolutely need plot, characters, music and visuals to be treated just as well as the actual gameplay.

One of the reasons why I love video games is because you can create stories and characters that, for some reason, you simply can’t tell in movies, TV shows, or in the art world (you can probably tell them in graphic novels, but I digress). For me, this is where the artistic expression lies, along with the story, and this happens in a lot of video games (even if many of those games happen to come from Japan). Yes, I’m aware that games aren’t supposed to be totally about story, but there are games that do this right. Child of Light is a very good example of an artistic game, complete with sublimely creative visuals and writing that befits the game’s overall style perfectly. Dragon’s Crown is another heavily artistic game, if mainly on the visual side of things (FYI: Dragon’s Crown happens to be one of my all time favourite games).

What I’m trying to say here is that video games offer an opportunity for creative expression that would virtually go to waste in almost any other medium. If we go around thinking that video games can only ever be a commercial product, then we limit our creative ambitions in every possible way, and when we limit those creative ambitions in the pursuit of making money, we end up risking a major setback for the idea of video games as an art form, dooming video games to a status that prevents them from being taken seriously as a form of human culture.

The idea that video games can’t be artistic because of the nature of the industry is something that is making me highly sceptical of the video games industry as a viable creative path, but I don’t want to have to give up just because of what I’m seeing as the doomed, pessimistic ravings of the closed-minded. I might be somewhat biased on this subject, but in the end, I believe that a larger emphasis on creative expression is just what the video games industry needs. After all, we’re living an age where many games just copy each other to leech off the success of more successful titles, and where some of the hottest-selling franchises of the time make a cash cow sequel every year, while doing almost nothing new.

To me, this is a sign that game developers don’t see any value in the potential for creative expression present in video games, and unless something changes, I worry that the games industry might degenerate to the point that creative expression isn’t valued at all. It’d be as though the games industry would go back to the 1970’s, when video games really were just high-end toys.

Why advertising is not a good outlet for creativity

mars bar truck

Although this truck looks pretty sweet.

During my first two years in college, I quickly fell into the impression that my Creative iMedia course was mainly about advertising, which was a big problem considering that I had far greater ambitions in mind. As the course came to a close, I learned that, while it is possible to be somewhat creative in the field of advertising, you cannot fully exercise creativity in the world of advertising.

Some people might be willing to challenge this statement, saying that advertisements can be creative, but keep in mind that advertising is a client-based industry, and in a client-based industry, you have to make whatever the client wants you to make. Advertising cannot be an outlet for creativity because the people making advertisements can only make something that relates to a product.

Let’s not forget that advertising has only one purpose, to convince you to buy a product that you otherwise wouldn’t even think about. Even though many advertisements are completely stupid, they’re apparently doing their job, and very few of them can really be considered creative. The cold hard truth is that advertising exists only as a means of inserting an idea into people’s heads. In fact, the reason why they usually aim for the dumbest possible audience is because it’s easier to sell them something.

media brainwashing

This perfectly illustrates my point.

Besides, advertising was never what I wanted to do. It’s not something that you would want to do anyway. It’s something that you have to do if you want to make your brand name visible to the public. I view advertisement only as a means to an end. Whether or not you can be creative with it depends on the industry. The problem here is that many industries still aren’t very creative with ads, mainly because if you’re creating an ad, you have to work within the boundaries the client has set for you.

I only want to be a part of an industry that would nurture my creativity without trying to systematically destroy it. Therefore, a client-based industry would not be suitable for me. I’m continuing my search for the most ideal industry for this purpose, but if I’ve learned anything from college, it’s that I should chart my own path to success, and I simply doubt that this can be done with advertising.