Monday, 30 January 2017

The Arts—a dying art

It's not much of a secret that myself and a conservative backbencher wouldn't see much eye-to-eye but I'll be honest, I'm pretty sure his party are driving a bulldozer through something I rather love.

You're really doing it aren't ya? Shitting all over the arts.
The Guardian reads "Last art history A-level axed after Michael Gove cull of 'soft' subjects" placing the very last straw onto the back of the British hopeful art students, shaking as their knees anticipate the incoming dry grass, whispering threats of death and failure to their now fragile hopes.
It's true that you're never going to walk into Cambridge just because you took an Art History A-Level and it'll likely be more useful you choose a language, so you can order various breads in a French bakery or just wow the average pub-punter with a plethora of foreign curse words. But Art History opens that doorway to creative freedom, the first step to saying "I realise this isn't the most sensible choice, but it's my best choice, it's my preferred choice" it truly is the stepping stone to studying something you love.

This action under our current government isn't something that I wouldn't have anticipated but it seems beyond backwards by all accounts—there is no single living toff that doesn't claim to love Manet and there certainly isn't a single stately home drawing room without some ghastly oil landscape that the owners "just had to buy".

The conservative government no longer need Art History because they have direct access to the museums and have sailed through their private education; so why would they continue something they no longer need?
When part of this countries artistic history belonged to your grandfather, an Art History A-Level seems a little redundant, but lets say you're an average citizen of this country and you want to distinguish your Frued's from your Bacon's where are you going to turn? You're a child of a working class family and your grandparents own little more than their council house and crippling arthritis—there is level of disconnect here, one so obviously displayed by the class differences between our government and the people who will miss out on this now defunct education system.

Some may argue that despite this, the arts have been dying for the longest period anyway; with the world moving away from artistic expression and towards technological advances. I disagree, though it may very well soon by biting the cyanid pill of blind disregard.

From 2003 to 2013, the numbers of students studying the arts in higher education rose by 23% in the UK alone, which is a promising signpost that I'm just chatting on a mouthful of horse manure—but before Theresa May can celebrate a victory of outsmarting a 22 year-old chap, she may want to consider this first. Though I haven't the data to support my argument, I'd strong suggest that the price hikes for higher education post-2013 have damaged the attendance of arts courses heavily. Spending £10,000 to follow your passion seemed like a sharp price to pay, but now once you've scrambled over the fallen pillars of formal arts education and lift yourself to the doors of University, handing over £40,000 to follow that same passion is certainly a harder choice to make.

Sure the passionate and driven will succeed, you may argue, but here is also the problem for that. As the Arts die off, the respect for the arts falls two, chained together at terminal velocity groundward bound. As it was in the past, if you were to create something monumental, something bigger than life, you would christen that precious thing with art, the final finesse. Say perhaps you had the strange idea to make a chapel in Italy, the Sistine Chapel perhaps—a tribute to the lord, how on earth could you dress something so majestic? Art. Metres and metres of art.

It doesn't require a strong argument to convey that the arts don't hold the respect that they once did. There isn't a household within this country  that isn't aware of Leonardo Da Vinci, but should you follow in his footsteps and study as he did—you'd be told about how it's a Micky Mouse degree; "What jobs that gonna get ya then?" – "What's so fine about your art then?" – "Illustration eh? Surely there are only so many children's books?"

Not only have we lost the respect, but also the understanding; for every grandfather can complain until the backs of his teeth are covered in vowels and consonants about the economy and it's failings, but should you ever stir the conversation to the creative field in which you aspire; very quickly you'd be met by more confusion than trying to purchase rare cheese at a Spanish auction house with a German translator and a bag full of toenail clippings.

As The Arts steps into it's coffin, looking back at the world that it once used to enhabit it can vaguely make out the few fighting to lift it back up, the modernists pushing ahead reinforced by a gaggle of DIY punks. There is hope that the creative youth may just be fast enough to see it's frail figure before the casket closes; but let's just hope that one of those is the next Michelangelo, so they can sculpt a new, sexier, more modern figure for the higher authorities to kill once again.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Just the tip: Deadlines

Deadlines, anybody in the creative field will know of them but it seems that for the less experienced they are a daunting weight to uphold.

Not sure what this crap is from, but it's got that sexy slogan
It seems like most people manage to meet deadlines but not all people manage to get there so easily—it's not an uncommon story to hear people working all night the day before to make changes that they don't even remotely support. As I understand them, deadlines are both to be flexible and solid; you must have a final end point but they must be able to bend, to flex, to harmonise along with any changes.

Deadlines are kind of like those bamboo canes every Grandmother has next to her tomatoes. If you are to lay that cane flat you have two obvious end points—a clear start on the left and a finishing point on the right. Without you cutting it down, the cane clearly displays a straight line from start to finish, but with some applied pressure at either end you'll get a little give; a slight bend. The bending of the cane is the changes you'll reach through the project, it's still the same length as before but it's not as direct, meaning you'll need to be flexible to follow the new curves of the project and reach that end point.

Cane analogy over, let's start with some tips because my writing style is about as subtle as post-bender elephants on Parquet flooring.

Tip 1: Organ eyes see those who Organise
So clearly the title is a bit of a piss around; what even are Organ Eyes?
But it's important to organise if you want to be on time with anything, specifically work with a tight deadline—if you can't even find your latest version of that .psd, you're doing something wrong.
Folder structure, version numbers, colour highlighting and sketchbook archiving are all obvious way to keep yourself in control, steering towards that sexy fat cheque baby!

Tip 2: Set up is very important
Often it's said that you can tell how well a project will go from it's first meeting, and although that seems a little pessimistic; first impressions both count and cost. At the start, there are many things you should do, but it's more important that you know what you shouldn't do, here's a quick run down:

  • Do not set prices straight away
  • Do not promise timescales until you know the whole job
  • Do not start without a contract
  • Do not lie about your talents (deadlines are hard enough)

Tip 3: Chip away at it
Don't just look at your work and say, well this could take a month so I'll set the deadline to March 5th—add note to my calendar that it needs to be completed by that date, break it down and chip away at it. Make a range of tasks that add together to completely finish the project.
Initial ideas (4 days) – First draft (3 days) – Feedback (1 day) etc. etc. etc.

My teenage years in a GIF

Tip 4: Know that your end, might not be the end
Once you've sent over that zip file and pleasant invoice asking for your rightful money, it'd seem like you've finished the project, you've met the deadline and you've reached the end. But your end might not the the end end. If it's a print project, it's still got to be printed and you'd be a small fool to think that your client wouldn't want your help overseeing that, if it's a web project it might need fixes, different sizes and every other varient you could ever think of—though for these things, you can totally charge more. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ **money money** $$$

Tip 5: Don't be stingy with time
If you've got the freedom to set a longer deadline, then do it. Perhaps the work might only take you a day, but if you've got the freedom of that whole week take it; it's strange how different things will look when you've had a day or two to ponder over them.

You don't need to be unfaithful and over-charge for time you haven't spent working, but at least you had the freedom to make mistake, the freedom to change and the time to be wrong.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

When is Art, Art?

Recently I've been dabbling with what would otherwise be called art becuase I've got little else to describe it as—but when is Art, Art?

That is Frida you disapproving poopy-head
As I develop as a human, turning more adult by the day, I'm finding myself both understanding art and questioning it more than ever—even partaking in creation of something I'd mildly class as art.
As I walk around a gallery, I find myself looking at artworks that I would have otherwise dismissed; one artist in question going through this internal Walden phenomena is the infamous Rothko.

As a younger male, I used to spit through my teeth at the single colour canvases that could be seen hanging around any particular Tate wall, but now as I think about it a bit more I see them as wonderful things of imagination. Realistically they didn't take great finesse or massive amounts of talent to physically produce but there is something to be said about the contrast of looking directly into a deep blue square, three metres high. For myself, I've starting to look into them as a psychologist might into colour theory, linking the hue to a perceived emotion or feeling.

There are many ways I could describe the various colours and compositions he's created, and that's part of the beauty of them. They are ambiguos enough to allow you to reflect your own emotions onto them, read your own meaning but also delve into the viewpoint of Rothko himself.
What I perceive to be art is anything that is made to be art, as there is no real definition for what can or cannot be a piece of art—like many thing in our world, it's merely a battle of personal perspective.

Moving away from Rothko, I have personally been playing around with what I might call Art as I can't for the life of me class it as design; as it hasn't any real purpose of existence other than to be pleasurable for myself. With shapes on the mind, and likely a subconscious craving for simplicity I've been playing around with something I can imagine you might find in the throw away corner of a student exhibition. It's some kind of mixture between a visual balancing act, with shapes leaning on one another inside a corresponding frame and the metaphorical idea of balancing; balancing large above a structure of small, all balanced on the point of a needle.

Above is what I've been working on – or worked on for a couple of hours – which I titled "The Shape of Shapes to Come" a pun at one of my favourite Jazz albums and a prediction of my on-going desire to draw endless shapes. I think subconsciously I was trying to make some kind of hybrid between Columbria record sleeves and the Suprematism movement—both in ethos and aesthetics, rejecting the detailed designs I was working on through the process of creating this.

So the question is When is Art, Art? I don't bloody well know, I'm not an artist.
My best guess is art is art when it's created to be so, defining design as a development upon art; being Art for a purpose. Next time on Walden Wisdom Week we tackle the tricky world of Modern Sculpture!

Friday, 6 January 2017

The power of the Ego

Ego, Ego
I got one, you got one, and now we equal
Sometimes it makes you trip out on your people
Sometimes it has connotations of evil 
Sometimes niggas call on it when they need to 
It's called the ego

Let's start this first by clearing up that I'm not being a racist shite—quoted above are lyrics from the track Ego by A Tribe Called Quest, which you'd likely have already spotted if you're a bit of a hip-hop fan like myself. And if you disagree with me even printing the word, despite me being understanding of it origins, effects and development then maybe you need to listen to some more ATCQ; perhaps I could suggest Midnight Marauders, track five. RIP Phife Diggy, the Trini Gladiator.

So if you are still here (thanks for sticking around) it's been said that I've got an ego. Though I don't completely disagree, I think there isn't just a single ego that carries you between all sections of your life and I highly disagree with what is understood of the term Ego. I've been informed of my ego, but only about design, my passion and my craft—I certainly don't swagger down the street with an ego about my appearance or place in this world. I'm smart enough to realise I'm worth no more than the elite, the government or the homeless.

So what is an Ego? I hear you not asking. Well as I understand it, by the powers of google it's a "person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance" but definition aside it's often pointed at myself in a derogatory manner. I personally think Ego is like religion, it's a single construct used both to offend and lift any particular person. It's a tricky one.

When someone doesn't care much for themselves and is on a path to self-destruct, it wouldn't be uncommon to hear someone say "She needs to boost her ego" but on the same shelf when you see someone proudly exhibiting their work, talking about it with great praise; it's just as common to hear a slightly under-breathe "His ego is bigger than his head". Just as the hateful and the hateless operate differently through religion, the scorned and the supportive illiterate the term ego varyingly also.

Now to bring this back to myself – as I always do with this blog – it has always been reinforced that I myself carry an ego, quite a large one if I'm to believe what I've been told. Though it's not always said to me in full seriousness, I always laugh it off as I don't really care for taking myself too seriously but that still doesn't mean I believe what I'm being told—as I imagine any person with a stinkingly huge ego might also say.

yes, you all know why this is here.
I think instead, I have self-confidence and an attitude of positivity towards my work and that stands out as an ego in an industry drowned in self-doubt and crippling anxiety. If you can imagine everybody looking at their work, feeling as if they've copied someone else or have no worth in the world around them and they look up in contrast to a privileged white boy smiling and being confident about his work; I too can see why I look like such a conceited arsehole—the Donald J Trump of Cumbrian designers, if you will.

I disagree with what I've been told about an ego because, though I hold an understanding of self-worth, I don't believe that alongside every other creative working just as hard as I am, that I am any better than they are. As a person I don't believe that I'm any better than anyone else, but as a creative, I know with certainty that I'm a better creative than any of those who use the term "it'll do" or just blatantly rip off everyone else. If that means I've got a massive ego, then feck it! I've got an ego. I'm perfectly fine either way.

As I see it, then only things that are truly right, truly factual are the results of science and mathematics—the rest are opinions, view points and prejudices. I realise that's a bit of a hard line to draw but in the case of an ego; it truly is little more than an opinion whether you hold one, don't hold one or whether it really even exists. Find your own truths and always ask why; and perhaps the idea of whether I'm truly egotistical or proud will seem a little more obvious.

I am with out doubt almost certainly the best ramen making designer though. Just saying.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Scandinavian Modernist Design + Chair = British Staple?

From the land of mispronounced words came a chair so modernist it was just strange enough to be iconic—IKEA's Poäng Chair (ee-key-yah's po-eng ch-air)

If the image you are seeing above this confuses you, then I can only assume you are not British or perhaps you are of poor sight with a crippling hatred for the Swede's. It's the Poäng chair, the chair that every grandparent has fallen off at least once and the chair that every northern child has inherited at some point of their life.

As I read on the IKEA website, it informs me that the chair was "actually the creation of Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura" and that despite being the crowning jewel in westernised Scandinavian design, it's not really from Sweden, or Finland or anywhere that fiercely adopts umlauts. With a cultural heritage that any xenophobe would likely claim to be harming his national pride and curves that would blend behind any cheese-plant in the Eames living room it's a real puzzle how this chair has become more common in British homes than hand knitted tea-cosies.

If you are not British, those ugly hats are tea-cosies.
The Poäng is the national 'spare chair', routinely slid from one room to the next when your Aunt turns up unexpectedly, for a cup of tea and a chat about the terrible things her neighbour did this week. It's the cheaper option to buying another matching sofa chair to your three-piece and it's just about bouncy enough to be a meditative rocking chair for the lower middle class. It's a mixture between exclaiming the value of aesthetics but also gripping at value for money, like any smart home owner.

On all accounts this chair shouldn't be as popular as it is, it's a strange modernist piece of furniture that has somehow engrains itself between BBC Two and Shortbread biscuits. In a shop where everything is as cheaper and utilitarian as possible, the Poäng would seem like the last choice for any standard British household.

Nobody picks the Poäng because it suit all their other steam bent wood items, and unlike most other items in IKEA I doubt you'd pick up one of these chairs because "we could really do with one of these". Even it's display is bizarre, next to all the chairs that you can sit in and pretend that you own is a glass chamber with some strange hydraulic testing machine operating perpetually. 

Though I can't explain it, and I'm not sure if you could explain it either; if you check every room in your childhood home, somehow, somewhere there will be one of those comfy bastard hiding in the corner. Both camouflaging into the fabric of the house but also standing out worse than a full car paint job, rolling through the station of Royal Tumbridge Wells. I don't know why but they are always there, haunting our home with comfort through modernism.

I theorise that this chair has risen to these heights of fame and existence because it's IKEA's odd one out, their trouble child. As a young adult there is nothing more exciting than visiting the Swedish land of dreams but as a grown adult, you go there once a year by necessity, not choice. I assume that trawling around the shop, you'll see horrendously useful shelves, very reasonably priced bed and very very small bathroom displays but hidding away in the corner; whispering sweet nothings into your ear is this maverick, this bizarre chair, locked away in a glass prison. It's a bad boy, the chair equivalent of motorcycle gang and it's just so enticing. 

If you forever live around these clean, modern, simple furniture items—the devilish bad boy that is the Poäng is a tasty alternative. You plunge into your darker, more artistic side to buy this chair, you get it home, sink into it and realise that it's great. It's so great that it doesn't matter that it doesn't suit your decor and it's got nothing in common with your china collection, it's that little bit of spice you desire to see each evening; breaking aware from the conformity of your 'useful' furniture.

The Poäng is a chair in lingerie, it's a spicy, sexy alternative to your life as you know it. Also, it's also really, really comfortable. So that could be why it's really popular, I don't know! I was too lazy to do real research into this.
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