The Pit and The Pen
Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle
Scratching at the imaginary pages in my head for page art, purely superfluous stuff, I found myself thinking about previous ideas thrown into my work that could be relegated to filler but matter to me as it made the thing whole. At this point and time I have already suffered for my work enough to love the strife and in that knowledge I am going to explore this for this blog.
"Does it really need this stuff?"
Yes. And no. That's the same struggle every time. Practical versus functional, intention versus ego. Why make more work for yourself? If we didn't have catchy covers would books be nothing more than creative manuals? We wouldn't have each other to constantly recall that we should never judge them if it weren't for cover art, and if I have to admit it, I have always been a sucker for great and bad cover art. Be it movie-box art, comics, album art; a flashy cover can make the difference. So why not inside the pages? I can't help but feel my work is incomplete without some art attached to it. Call it padding, but as the creator, most of my work lives and breathes fully alive inside my head. Releasing it to the page changes nothing.
Internal page art comes with limitations.
For most readers, page art is merely something setting up a separation in ideas, chapters, or simple reference. Budget doesn't come to mind as you thumb through and one of these landmarks in the walls of text makes it easier to navigate. But I can tell you budget is part of it. Some printers put constraints on file size or whether your work can or should be black and white, the format has to work too. An artist like myself almost always wants to include art, so I have to minimize my grand pursuits to fit the medium. Page art then becomes a new playground to maximize the effect with as little information as possible. Earlier attempts to make this compromise were more of a challenge than they appear to be. I found myself beginning with clipart and using simple shapes like collages. Given the monochromatic of black and white print, layers were pressed for style.
The first time I published for print (by my lonesome) was in The Road to Folk Utopia Love and Relationships. I had been asked through the years if I ever intended to publish my poetry or create an artbook, which I was never a fan of language arts in school, so no, I had never intended on such an effort. Something changed though, I don't honestly know when or how but I needed to say more, make more, be more than just some guy who painted and blurted out words with flow. Back to the subject of page art, I couldn't justify, at the time, in that transitional moment, announcing myself as a writer. Believe it or not, I am more humble than these titles, not condemning other writers and artists, but the fire and brimstone my grandfather preached didn't accept the egotist, though it takes some gusto to funnel god.
"Two efforts, one pen. So many pages!"
As I learned to love writing as much as I did sketching and toiling on blank pages during studio time, I also became better at the monochrome needed for page art. These images are in print within my books. When I began this post, I decided to share them in an order of progression that makes sense to me as to why page art is a must for my work. I also wanted to justify to myself why I am beating my head against the artistic wall for ideas to compliment Everison. When I hear someone say , "my mind is a blank." I ache. Sometimes my attic is too cluttered with ideas, I wish for a blank page. The simple thing is to open a new page, start sketching, bring forth your tools and let them carry you forward. But when something like a book evolves over time, the things that fill the pages are often not compatible with a single frame of representative info. No matter how poignant.
Back to necessary.
I find that my work is incomplete without some personal flare. And somehow that feels like I am demeaning myself to admit it. The expression of an idea can and does take many forms, in most of my formative years, it was imagery and sound that defined my message in the purest form. Today the accumulation of words that I have put to story far exceeds my library of art. I have allowed myself to transition into a more versatile creative whole. And like I said earlier, the evolution was something I would not have considered a goal but was as natural as going from blonde to darker hair before grey. I simply got better at telling my story in the medium I was rehearsing, results be damned, and let myself do so, no matter the doubt.
These inserts were and are as important as my deeper and more considered work. Each black and white attempt held a hint, a seed of growth and a personal opinion I needed to inject for the alien landscape of writing to feel like home as well. No one would have doubted me becoming an artist, they may measure the value of that work in whatever terms made them accept or reject it, but few would say I hadn't earned it. To accredit myself with stories that came from that same imaginative place, I can't help but tether them to the same person because that's where they exist, wholly and real. Just like this blog, I need to connect with the person across from me, be it table or internet, in a way that I know is genuine to myself. I can't do that in better ways than I do on pages I once knew to be empty and ready to accept my craft.
Once I found confidence in the work, I found coherence in the art too.
Marketing is not a friendly thing. Though that could very well be someone's art, their niche, their GameStop moment, but I don't particularly enjoy it. I string together ideas like they belong in the same color. When a medium changes my simplistic understanding as writing has, I find color to be a much more nuanced value. Selling work is a lot like this, trading integrity to eat is a performance artform. The pit in my stomach often eats itself before I give in to completion. The pen starts to look a lot like a tanto blade. The narrative dictates the mood, the direction, need for that thing to be worth the risk. All living in a time where we have complicated language beyond definition straining artistic credulity.
The more developed the concept, the greater need for the message to be clear and in tune with our suspension of disbelief. To claim myself artist and author I have to live up to both standards simultaneously while not endangering the integrity of either. These simple inserts help me stay true to myself. They are as much part of the story as any iconography in symbolism. If it weren't for the Bible, the Last Supper by Leonardo would be an odd choice in seating. These works once published reflect back on me no matter the critic or the audience. In that personal description I have used in the past, of simple complexity, be honest with yourself and your craft. Being an artist was never free.
"Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
The burden of proof that is art will always condemn an artist to time. One may exist to be cherished and troubled like Van Gogh or ridiculed and wrought with the wrong-sided beliefs of Lovecraft. Their craft lent to generations to weigh and measure them for the value of not only their work but for their ideas and where those ideas were born from. It is easy to parody one's self in all of this creativity. I would argue that at most times it is hard to ignore such a subtle birth.
These selected parts, pages from my published works may not make up the breadth of them, but they represent the growth. Per volume each feels as appropriate now as they did then, though they may not have the same quality. I'm progressing through a myth, as my therapist once coyly stated to me. Thank you for the opportunity to progress with you all as well.