Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dragons, Gameplaying and Altruism recently went to a movie about dragons...

In fact the title was 'How To Train Your Dragon' and it was a Pixar release which meant pretty great graphics... 

The story was really good as well, as it was the typical heroes journey, where the main protagonist starts out as a small character that finds himself through his adventures as the story advances. to the movie made me think more about Dragons in particular and how this related back to my previous post on Dungeons and Dragons...  Which was interesting in itself as I am still thinking over how fantasies, sword and sorcery, and role-playing fit within the culture of gaming.  In real life, we live a drab existence, no dragons, no clear cut lines between good and evil, and no real heroes journey...  It's much harder to maintain a value system without the hands on practice that is evident in games.
I believe that games generally do society a favour, by instilling the principles of teamwork using quests with clear cut lines between good and evil for the people that play them.  It's a training ground, essentially, and I am convinced that the explosion of the popularity of gaming is directly related to the fact that they give us a chance to exercise our nobler instincts.  As well as giving us a community of gamers that we can relate to on a more personal level.

Even the sports and racing games can have the same effect, in my opinion, as the same principles apply.  Teamwork, shared hardship, challenging the player's reflexes to train the hand to eye coordination which is hardship and and way to learn. you look at the statistics on the popularity of specific games, you can see that the most popular games are where the player is the 'good' guy with a clearcut enemy to deal with throughout the gameplay.

Games that flop actually don't make this type of distinction, which supports my argument that people generally want to be 'good'.  Games allow people to exercise their altruistic instincts.  And I believe that the more that these instincts are used, the more they expand and strengthen.  So, games help society as they give us a learning experience to exercise our better instincts!  I realize that this runs counter to some of the horror stories about how games are destroying society, but I don't agree with those theories.  Based on my own experiences and what I've seen around me, I think they do the opposite.

In my opinion, we all get a chance to be the white knight and have the gratification of doing good and being appreciated for it by using games as a entertainment method.  Movies don't instill positive values and are soon over, a game can be replayed many times, strengthening the underlying message it gives. Which makes it a much more powerful medium when you think about it...

1.  Dragon Abstract by Teresa Young - Mar. 2010,  2.  Gaia Unmasked by Teresa Young - Jun. 2007,  3.  The Dragon by Teresa Young as Toulouse LeTrek - Mar. 2010,  4.  Speckled by Teresa Young - Dec. 2009.

Monday, March 29, 2010

There's A Sniper On The Bridge

Several boats at low tide, Hall's Harbour, Nov...
On Sunday, as I was driving up the length of Nova Scotia, Canada back to where I live and I had an experience that shocked me.

It highlighted something for me that I knew in theory, but didn't realize emotionally...

There's a major difference between reality and what we see when we are being entertained.

I was driving with a friend, and was in the passenger seat and it was about 7 PM in the evening.  It was still bright daylight, and we were singing along with a CD.
I am one of those odd people that looks up.  Did you ever notice in the movies that noone looks up?

Anyway, I saw a man on the overpass sighting down a rifle right at me!   

I looked up as I saw his movement of the rifle from my passenger over to me...

Since I served five years in the military I am very conversant with the body language of someone sighting through a rifle.  Although I must admit, I don't remember looking down the barrel before!

He was bundled up in a beige winter jacket that was obviously being used to obscure him and what he was doing.  I was initially trying to resolve it into a camera, but I couldn't, faced with my personal experien
ce and artist's eye, it was definitely a rifle.  With a scope.
We went so fast, it was a highway, and by the time we got to the next exit, he would have been gone.  Because two of us saw him, you can't take out two witnesses at once, so that probably saved my life...

What a feeling.  And I play video games, where I am in battles and danger constantly. 

I tend to watch crime shows, and I've always been an action movie fan...

It just wasn't the same.  Yow~ I can't describe the depth of feeling that is there which is in major contrast to the imaginary events...

 The feeling is like a bottom dropping out of what you know is true and everything is up in the air.  You know what is real, and it's not what you thought it was...
New Brunswick Field 1
Very heady stuff.  I wouldn't want to experience it again, that is for sure.  Although, I had that feeling once before, in backwoods New Brunswick

Twenty years ago, my ex husband and I were checking out logging roads trying to find good beaver dams to fish trout from.  He had gotten permission from the landowners who lived out of the area to check out the roads, of course, so it was all in good  fun.  And great fishing, of course!

We had one of those old Ford Broncos, with the locking hubs and four wheel drive capability.  So when we saw the road we wanted, and I jumped out an locked the hubs.  I wasn't hard on the eyes then and whoever lived in the trailer across the road must have seen me...

We drove back into the forest for forty minutes, didn't find the fishing spot and came back out...  When we came to within a mile of the main road, there were three trees freshly cut down across the road!  And it was dusk and I had the weird feeling we were being watched very, very closely. 

My ex was a very smart man.  And very savy in the ways of the world, he got me to scoot over into the drivers seat, leave the engine running as he jumped out to move the trees off the road.  He grabbed his rifle from the backseat as well.. Smart man...

As he walked past the truck, he lifted the rifle in the air as if in salute and waved at me...  After that, the watched feeling disappeared, he moved the trees and we carried on our merry way.

I think I've had enough drama in my life now...  Maybe I'll watch more cheerful TV shows now.

It would be interesting to hear if anyone else had a weird experience like that, please comment if you have a story to tell! 

Wikipedia - 1,3, 4, and 5.  2. Toulouse and Nina Munteanu at Barrington Bay, NS,  6.  The Trickster by Teresa Young - Feb. 2009.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ruminations About Skies

Have you ever thought about skies and how they represent so many things to the human psyche?

Even an alien landscape with a sky unlike anything in nature will activate hidden emotional associations for most people...

An artist will be aware of this on a conscious or unconscious level and use this to their advantage when creating an image.  It is a very effective mechanism for reaching people non-verbally and it is the inherent symbolism that allows it to work.

A wintry sky will feel cold and unwelcoming to the viewer, even if the other elements in the image are beautiful and stimulating. 

It can evoke a loneliness, a feeling expressed very effectively with minimal subjects within an image.

This is because that over the years, the sky has developed a symbolism in art and literature that it is pretty well impossible to separate it from. 

This is something that an artist has to think about in a conscious way.  If they are trying to project a certain emotional impression in a piece, they can totally destroy the desired mood by putting the sky into the wrong cast and activating subtle emotional associations.

A wide open sky will elicit many emotional reactions and associations to the audience, that it is one of the most powerful symbols that is guaranteed to have a sure-fire impact.
Think about it, a windy sky will give a feeling of lonely, endless vistas that leaves the viewer with a wistfulness. 

A photo taken of the from above will actually make the audience think they are looking at water...
Years ago, trying to capture this effect, I took a photograph from the top of a mountain in the interior of British Columbia, a place called Mount Lolo.  The photograph was showing something I had seen previously when I was in the air force and serving at a radar station on Mount Lolo. 

You literally felt that you could sail away over the clouds in the sky, they looked so much like water... 

It had a freedom to it that stuck in my mind for years, a strong symbolism that I felt compelled to travel back to capture after the fact.  This watery sky was so strong in my mind, that it lasted, and I think it might qualify as a type of universal symbol that can bridge language boundries.

1.  Photo by Teresa Young - near Mill Village, NS,  2. Alien Rotations by Teresa Young, April 2001,  3.  From the top of Mt. Lolo - Teresa Young, 1997,  4. Mahone Bay, Teresa Young, 2009,  5. Edmonton Sky by Rick LeBlanc,  4. From the top of Mt. Lolo - Teresa Young, 1997.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reminiscing About Dungeons and Dragons

The Gesture
by Teresa Young

Tiger Tracks
by Teresa Young
I am always mulling over how the world works in general terms as it's quite an interesting subject... 

Lately, I've been thinking about my world and how it has changed since I was a kid, and one major way that it has changed is in how I play games...

When I was small, we read books, watched a bit of TV, socialized by playing cops and robbers, or other such simplistic role playing games
Those games were pretty good, but you needed an excellent imagination to fill in the blanks, or you quickly ran out of ideas.

Blue Mushrooms
by Teresa Young
When I was older, something called Dungeons and Dragons was invented and I was one of those geeky teenagers that went with others of my kind to play in garages and basements.  (Still with the imaginary role playing; we filled in the blanks in our heads!) 

It was great fun, and it's interesting to see what subsequently developed out of it with computers and the gaming industry.

It was very different then, with the speed of the computers and gaming units, we moved at a snails pace of progress on our quests as we had to meet with the other nerds to play, so it took time.  I remember that I had one character that lasted about nine months, and it was slow going because we used hexagonal dice with drawn out dungeons and a physical dungeon master (one of your buddies) overseeing  your progress on quest(s). 

We moved our little metal markers on a graph physically using the dice rolls to determine characteristics and movement, and your character was restricted to progressing when you could get together to play.  Not to mention battles and outcomes!

Queen of Thorns
by Teresa Young
The person that had the most work was the dungeon master, he actually drew out the dungeons in coloured pencil and felt pens on large graph paper sheets and put it up in front of himself so that the players couldn't see it.  As we all rolled our progress with dice he'd have to physically chart it on his graphs in order for us to move along. He had books to refer to for characteristics of monsters and characters and with status ranges that could be represented by the dice rolls.  There were also ranges and guidelines for battling, leveling and rewards, it was pretty involved.

These funny little books with no colour illustrations were ordered by snail mail and were obviously mimeographed in somebodies basement as well!  It was like a cottage industry in the seventies, and our parents were scandalized and debated how healthy D and D was for their kids.  Citing lack of exercise and how it could lead into going into cults or believing in the occult, it was the big ogre of many PTA groups!

It's pretty funny as I've heard the same hoopla come out multiple times over the years as each new generation of gaming formats developed.  And as far as I've seen, everyone has survived, especially the youth, and we don't seem to be any the worst for it.

Now I guess I'll go see what I have in my library of games I can play... HehHeh!

Art Images by Teresa Young:
1. Tiger Tracks - March 2004,   2. The Gesture - June 2007,  3. Blue Mushrooms - January 2002,  4. Queen of Thorns - August 2008.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beauty In The Face Of Age

Having started my art career with portraiture, I'm constantly fascinated by the faces of the people around me...

And seeing faces age and change as people grow older is quite interesting in itself...

It's almost like our lives get written to our features like a computer writing something to a disk...

The old saying goes that the eyes are the windows into the soul, but ironically enough, the eyes themselves are the one thing in our features that stays constant as we age... 

As any portraitist can tell you, the eyes are always drawn the same size and the face grows around it. Which is why our eyes start out looking pretty large in proportion to our face and then smaller when we are in our late childhood and finally, our adult sized eyes are small in comparison to the facial structure around it.
But it's the rest of the face that's really interesting...

The eyes might have 'it'... but the rest of the face tells a story! 
If you frown a lot, you will develop deep lines going from your nose down to the corners of your lips, and they will look different than the wrinkles that you get if you laugh a lot.  (I know they shouldn't as they are in almost the same spot as laugh lines, but there it is.  They look different as an end result!)

Frowners also have wrinkles in the centre of their face just between their eyebrows, which makes them look stern and tightened up like a bowstring ready to shoot...

People that laugh a lot tend to wrinkle differently, more like they are still laughing somehow.  Their faces can be just as wrinkled as the frowners, but the lines have a softness that is hard to quantify.
But if someone is perpetually sad, they seem to still get the frown style of wrinkles, but it's a softer look, like sadness itself... 

There's almost poetry or a different style of beauty in how wrinkles form...

They are actually something that can be quite beautiful, if you are aware of beauty in the form of lines and patterns.

 Not to mention the fact that wrinkles are much like accents around a subject!

 They can sharpen and highlight features, and can truly bring to the forefront beauty that can't be seen in a smooth face.

Over the years, I've drawn hundreds of faces.  The ones I remember aren't young, but older, more defined...  And the more defined the face, the more challenging it is to capture.

But it's not just me, throughout the centuries artists have always been fascinated by the beauty of the older face. There are good reasons for this, an older face is unique. The lines are different in every person, much like a fingerprint, no two people are alike. Because we all have different lives and experiences, our faces age differently.

Sadly, as I look around at our media and culture I see beauty represented as being typified by only the young face...  And I find this pretty strange because of the demographic of our population!

A large proportion of our population now is older as the baby boomers head towards retirement.

That means we have a unique opportunity to celebrate the beauty of aging by changing our cultural definitions of beauty.  Maybe we all need to be artists in some small way so that we can see it.

Just think 'Beauty in the Face of Age'!

Photos and images by Teresa Young:
1.  Playing Dominoes with Fred Ervine,  2. CloseUp-Portrait Of Diehl Children-Nov. 2009,  3. Grief For A Small Boy - Nov. 1997,  4. Eileens Eyes-Nov. 2009,  5. Daryls Frown - Nov. 2009,  6. Eileens Smile-Nov. 2009, 7. Barb McLean-Dec.2009,  8. Unnamed Abstract-Dec.2009,  9. Unnamed Surreal - May 1998.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ask, And You Shall Receive...An Answer!

It's funny how life happens... 

Yesterday, I went out for the day with my writer friend, Nina and my sister to tour around and take a look at the scenery of Nova Scotia.  It was a lot of fun, and quite visually beautiful!  Since it is spring out here, the rivers are mostly open and quite high, so we saw a lot of drowned trees and river rapids on our drive.  There is a feeling of excitement and rebirth to spring that is unique to this season and very distinct in different places.  In the Maritimes, it is all about melting and things getting going again... Rebirth;-)

That was wonderful, and of course, we got lost because we set out to do so.  And I was driving, so that virtually guaranteed it!  When we ended up on secondary road going along a river we stopped and asked this sweet older lady for directions.  Just to get our bearings so we didn't end up in Yarmouth by mistake.

She got to talking with us and invited us to stop by her house for tea after we finished our photo session.  We decided to take her up on it and after we got there, Marion and Sonny (the lady and her husband) treated us to an impromptu lesson on the history of that particular area of Nova Scotia.  It was very fascinating and entertaining as they both had a great sense of humour and loved their home and province with a passion;-)
As we had tea, we found out that Marion had taken some art lessons and was interested in painting as a hobby.  An interest in art was pretty obvious as she had a few nice paintings on her walls that she had done in her classes.

So we started talking about art and painting and I had my earlier blogpost question answered, even though I wasn't really consciously seeking the answer!

Because Marion was literally 'taught' to paint with what I thought was a very strange process...  Her instructor premixed her paints for her and then had her follow along on her paintings basically by watching him paint and try to ape his movements on her canvas.

With this method of 'teaching', she ended up with paintings to put on her walls, but no personal skills to create more.  Wow.  I was horrified...

  No grasp on colour theory, no grasp on composition, no practice in drawing or the creation of forms to simulate the appearance of three dimensions using light and shadows, and no way to move forward to paint for her own enjoyment! 
So she has paintings on her walls she can look at, to say to her friends and family, 'I can paint.'...  But when she tried to paint for herself, she was frustrated to no end. 

It really took the enjoyment out of it, I could see that.  So here we have a woman that would love to paint, but can't as she found herself frustrated and unable to because of the way she was 'taught'.

New Brunswick Farm
by Teresa Young
What is teaching?  To me, it's about seeing what your student(s) want, where they are at and where they want to go... The focus for me is on them, not on me. 

I already know how to paint, I don't have anything to prove.  So if I'm teaching, I would like to pass on the craft and skills so that person can go away and stand on their own...  What I would really like to pass on is a love of art for it's own sake, allowing that person to reach for their own unique form of expression, enriching the art world for all of us, eventually...
Cat's Emotions
by Teresa Young
I must admit that over the years, I've taught a few people to sketch, and a few people to paint, but nothing really major as I've focused a lot of my time on survival and working in IT.  --> But in IT, I spent a lot of time teaching many different people how to do things, passing on knowledge to strengthen my teammates and allow them to reach their own potentials...  I'm a good teacher, so maybe my training in art can allow me to teach what I know as a painter in a useful and clear manner.

I'm thinking now that what I was speculating about in my last post was more to do with how things are taught, not whether the information itself was a waste...

I think teaching anything should include a shift of focus to the student, rather than concentration on the teacher.  Or else it won't work, as I so eloquently saw with poor Marion yesterday...  The end result is that you could literally turn someone off art, without really meaning to.

Getting back to artistic training and how it relates to my unique style, what I think now is that without training in composition, my art wouldn't work as it does.  And without colour theory, it wouldn't be beautiful and resonate as a major art form...

So in the final analysis, I believe my art training was not wasted.  And that makes me really happy!

Photos and art images by Teresa Young:
1. & 2. River near LaHave - March 2010,  3. Stained glass window in LaHave Bakery - March ,  4. & 5.  An artists tools - March 2010,  6. New Brunswick Farm - August 1985,  7. Cat Dreams - January 2000.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Too Much Information Prevent Unique Individual Expression?

I went through a somewhat traditional gamit when I was learning to express myself as an artist, I started drawing at a young age, found I had a talent for realism and portraiture, and then focused myself on learning how to draw from life...  I went out and took lessons, looked into reference materials on how to do different things and learned the proper ways to execute a portrait, draw a still life, paint a landscape, use of different media for art...  In other words, I relied heavily on input from authority figures on my subject of interest, art, and pretty well took it as gospel.

When we look through art history at people that never followed any type of traditionalized art training they are often called 'primitive' artists.  What this means is that they weren't influenced by any one art school or artist in particular and their personal style evolved in isolation.  There are many pros and cons to this approach, one of the pros being the art is new and distinct unto itself.  One of the downsides is that often the composition of their pieces are off kilter in some subtle or even a major way, and it can be uncomfortable for the viewer.  But in a way, that's pretty cool as well, because if it disturbs you, it can reach you as nothing else can!
All of this verbal meandering has a point to it, as I'm edging towards a personal philosophy about artistic expression that I've been forming for myself over the last couple of decades...

When I was fourteen years old, I changed the style of my paper works by trying something new.  Basically, I left my own comfort zone and reached for a different style of self expression.  I must admit I was probably influenced by Dali and Gervasio Gallardo, but I was trying to develop something more personalized in the process. In light of my favourite artists, and for the lack of better categorization, I called my new stuff surreals...

I tried to chuck everything I thought I knew about art and rules of engagement and cleared my mind and went for it! Probably, after years of rigidity to get things just so, I wasn't truly able to do that, and the final result was a mishmash of everything under the surface of my consciousness. While I was only partially successful in what I set out to accomplish, it was a start into an evolution, and over the course of many decades, I did develop my own distinct style!

It's my belief that if you don't leave your comfort zone and push the envelope, art can become a chore and no longer have the life and passion we need to nuture ourselves as artists...  Not to mention that it can really contribute to some interesting new developments in art if enough of us do this.

Over time, I've revisited this idea over and over, and it's taken a bit of a different turn for me.  If I needed to shuck what I knew in order to develop a different style of self expression, did I really need all that training in the first place? 

Which brings me back to the primitive style of artist... Perhaps in many cases we are interfering with something unique and valuable on it's own when we introduce a training path for artistic expression.  Couldn't we be delaying or preventing the invention of some of our own more unique styles and genres by directing them into a path where teachers tell them how things work?  A lot of abstract styles are about pushing the boundries and crossing borders. If the artist isn't aware of the borders and boundries, he/she might never even visit that territory!  They might develop something unique on their own that is highly personal and distinct within itself.  If you look back at history a bit,  it seems to me that unique genres used to pop up much more regularly.  The communication network around the world was a lot less efficient and more people were discovering their artistic expression in isolation from their peers.

Thinking that over, I think that we might be exacerbating this process by the introduction of so many sources of input, IE: television, computers, the internet... 
On the other hand, maybe not.  It might just create new art forms as an end result, as there is so much information out there the confusion tends to drown out the component messages.  It's hard to treat what's on your screen at any particular moment as the last word on how you can approach doing something when there are literally dozens and dozens of dissenting opinions on it. 

This can apply to just about everything, actually!  Say you do a search on something you want to do using Google...  The search results will rank the data returned for you (thanks Google!) but it's using numbers, not any specific criteria of qualification.  So if you pore through those results, you'll be looking at a gamut of answers.  I sometimes find that figuring things out for myself ends up being less of a headache and I go that route!

My writer friend and I have many discussions on art, it's a somewhat hot topic for us and the ideas we end up bandying about can be way out there.  I'm leaning towards the idea that most of us crave artistic expression and the introduction of rules and criteria can interfere with personal artistic expression for the everyday soul...  Maybe if you don't have to make what you draw/paint look like something, you'll enjoy it more and continue doing it when you're an adult.  Why does art have to be an achievement instead of a passion? 
Personally, when I tried going my own way with art, I found that I did it more often. I had been subject to painter's block sporadically for years and found that pursuing a new direction definitely alleviated that problem.  On top of that, it was very freeing to finally be at the helm of my own personal expression journey, and it created many new ideas of where I wanted to go with it. 

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Still Life Sketch - 1980,  2. Portrait of a Boy -  November 1997,  3. Cats Emotions - August 1998,  4. Rebecca's Gaze - February 2004,  5. Closeup - Fields Of Flurry - January 2010,  6. Emergence - September 1998.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Do Our Experiences Shape Our World View?

I've often wondered about that old saw about 'seeing the world through the eyes of an artist'.

Over the years, I've heard many variations on that particular theme in popular culture:

- Life through the eyes of a child.
- Approaching life with the 'engineering mindset'.
- A writer's take on the world.
- A mother's viewpoint...

And so on... Which leads me to wonder, how much do our experiences really shape our world view?

I have a fleeting image of individuals who change hats to change their viewpoint... IE: I'm looking at this as techie or now I'll check it out as a mother!

How many times does that average person change their hat in the course of a day? It would certainly be challenging to quantify. And your control group would have to be very perceptive and honest in order to make the study relevent. If it could even be done...

Coming back to the artist, how does that artist express/communicate his vision of the world in his work if he also has many other 'personas' or worldviews? Could be an interesting direction to pursue if you had a sense of humour I would think...
I have a writer friend who is fascinated with personal expression and how the artist can speak for their generation on some level. There's been a lot of debate on the artists role in society and their voice in a culture. She even postulates that it is the artists responsibility to publish their views in order to express that 'piece of our culture'.

I don't know about that, but I'm a firm believer in variations in order to create a broader, more balanced view of things. 
Maybe our own hat changing trick is designed to do just that, balance us out so that we don't stagnate or go crazy!

With that in mind, I'm going to go change hats and take a look around...

Images by Teresa Young:
Enhanced by Zemanta