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It's All About Visual Contrast

What makes Mark Bradford's work work? Zoom in to the micro level, and it is just shapes; tones, colours, edges - anyone can do this and they could be made from anything; pencil, paint, photographs - it almost doesn't matter when your viewing it as a whole piece. Where the piece comes from, how the piece works is by carefully considered and executed contrast. Contrast is simply difference. Difference in complexity. Difference in colour temperature. Difference in smooth or rough. Difference in straight or curved. Difference in crowded or sparse. This list can go on and on... What you are ultimately communicating in a pictorial artwork as the eye moves across it is 'this area is different to th

Filter Out The Passive

In an age of masses of information, filtering has never been more relevant. When you have multitudes of options, what NOT to pick is more important than what you actually do - the choice to not make a choice is also one too.. Filtering is such a massive part of our current society and will only get larger as we continually grow into the 21st century. We already have algorithms that select and filter information relevant to us, the moral and ethical problems facing this is an important question we must answer. As well as the robots, there is also the filtering we do as humans that is far more powerful - but that often goes unused. Before you even reach the point of using that search engine yo

Experimental Processes: Potential VS Opportunity

Very often when you are doing something creative the end result is not known. It is an experiment, an investigation. You use the images and ideas in your head to lead you and fire your engines - along the way you often make many, many new discoveries. Discoveries that in themselves can demand whole new investigations. If you do start that next investigation you trade the potential of your current idea for the opportunity of this new one - it was unavailable and invisible to you before, but not anymore. This is a great dilemma for experimental processes - how do yo know you have reached a dead end, how do you know when to 'give up', how do you know the value of the alternatives over your curr

Your Rich Professional History

As you grow as an artist, or in any professional career, your previous work becomes less and less relevant to your current. You pick and choose and edit your history so only the strong and important pieces are revealed to the current audience. Through your site. Your social feeds. Through what you present to others and edit within yourself. Your history gets richer, and also less. Making it intense, more concentrated. This is the flip side of making large amounts of work and building volume. From the mass of marble you sculpt your career. You separate the wheat from the chaff. Too often we focus on our day-to-day failures and loose sight of our long-term accomplishments. It is important to f

Build Volume: Do A Daily Dispatch

We all tend to overthink as creatives. Is the work good enough, what can I do better, what do other people think, what is my style... Theses questions, and the kinds of thinking they unconsciously engender are toxic to creativity. Instead of performing the act of creation, you procrastinate and worry. And when you do act, you're subconsciously forcing a certain outcome - blinding you view on what you have actually made, closing that door and burning that potential goldmine. Doing dailies, writing a blog post, making a painting every day rids you of this burden. The time limit is beneficial for 2 great reasons Over time it builds huge volume, volume that you can look back on and grow from, th

Digital Painters: Paintings As Distributed Behavior Systems

In programming and algorithmic design there is such a thing as a distributed system. This is a system, a simulation, comprised of many actors which in aggregate form it's behavior. The many actors have local knowledge and simple behaviors that cause ripple effects outwards and to the outside observer produce a certain effect - one that is distributed among the individual actors. Simulation is nuance. And many of these complex systems cannot be understood fully through the code itself - you have to see it, change parameters, and build an intuition from it. It is an understanding brought through action. An understanding that escapes words. It lives in your act and it's immediate effect on the

Know The Important And The Urgent

The accessibility our devices afford us nowadays is a godsend. We can now by and large use and access most of our apps, data and communications even when on the go and in the remote areas. With great power comes great responsiveness... Not only can we have access to the world but the world has access to us. We see an email, an update, an icon of an addictive app and we immediately respond. We make the unimportant urgent. We put other's errands in-front of our own... Often at the expense of the opportunity in front of us. Throwing our priorities out of sync and clouding our direction. Those emails will still be there when you get in in the morning, so spend the evening with your loved ones in

Always Seek To Prove Yourself Wrong

If you are always right, you never learn. Therefore... If you are always wrong you always learn. Breaking down your preconceived models of the world and yourself shows you new paths, better ways to live and expands your options. As an experimental hybrid artist this is the only principle that will always guide me. Often at the outset of a project you will have an idea of how to execute, have an idea of the final product. This is beneficial for producing work to which you already have made - you can do it quicker and easier if you know the way. But if you have not, if you have no experience then your idea is arbitrary. And that is what proving yourself wrong does. It builds experience. Gives

Artistic Alchemy: The Refinement and Growth of Your Artwork

Like alchemy, the artistic process is a kind of cyclical one - with the detritus from your previous work being put back in as material for your current and so on. You must build a great volume of this work, be constantly experimenting and creating under extreme pressure, making demands of yourself in order to level you and your work up. From this volume you cull and refine, trimming the fat and excess, separating the good work from the great. It is a constant waxing and waning process. You generate material so you can then destroy it and in the process find the gems. This works because you very rarely hit a home-run the first time, or second or third. Sometimes you do not even know you have

The Labyrinth of Minutiae

As a creative it is easy to get lost in details... In traditional painting practices of ateliers they are constantly reminded to step back and squint - look for the masses and abstract shapes, look at the bigger picture. This is emphasized to avoid the effect inexperience has in making us focus on what is right in front of us. If you do not know about what you are doing you cannot prioritize and fall into a sequential and fickle process, dabbing at the detail of your attention, beating a piece of dead meat and ultimately going nowhere. You forget the important for the urgent. The same quality of expertise can be seen in software development. Novices will write code in an ad-hoc way, imprompt

Take Your Choice Away

Decision making is difficult. It is difficult because it forces you to make a choice, to have to actively think - do it too much in a day and you get decision fatigue. It is why leadership is so difficult. It is why it is easier to stay in your current job than reach for the next. It is why being a successful creative is such a challenge. When you look at the choices you face as a creative it can be incredibly daunting - at times you can choose to do almost anything. So how do you pick correctly? How do you pick professionally? This is what fundamentally separates pros from novices... This is what good direction, either from up above or from yourself does; it takes the choice away, it either

Turtle Graphics

In graphics programming for creative applications you put words to actions. You pass an instruction to the computer to draw a shape in a certain place and colour it a certain way. Obviously there is a whole lot more complexity to this but the crux have essentially not changed since this: And that is because it is how programming works as a whole. You pass instructions in and in return the computer performs an action. As an artist however - this is not how you perform an action. Take drawing a line; you have an idea of where you'd like to put it, how hard to press, the materials involved - and along the way through drawing it you may decide to go completely the other direction, perhaps acting

We Adapt

We adapt, and by extension, so do our tools, our technology. Humankind has developed ways to reach far underwater, into space and live within the harshest conditions. The thinking that went behind these astounding feats, the tools that we developed to fit them like a glove, were conceived and built when we encountered those problems - an ad-hoc, evolutionary process. These could not have been done unless we had that challenge, those questions put to us. Born out of conflict and challenge. Environment shapes our tools. So what happens when we sit back? When we replace meaning with convenience? When our environment is a sedentary one, our tools are shaped by it, just like under any other condi

An Aerial View Of Your Life's Work

Digital libraries of images have replaced our old ways of accessing previously hidden and exclusive material. The internet has decentralized paintings, taking away much of their rarity and adding to their presence - a fascinating dichotomy of both dis-empowering and empowering the physical by the virtual. This now forces galleries to become something different to what they once were. Before, they were vaults for precious resources - now they are places to experience, they must provide that special something an image of an artwork on the internet cannot. An ambience, a show, a unique event - the gallery has evolved.. And in turn the way in which we see the images it houses physically and onli

The Future is Full of Wicked Problems: Artists are the answer

In the future artists will solve the world's 'wicked' problems. In the future everyone will be an artist. On the flip side of the nebulous, highfalutin and inaccessible practices of fine artists is a determination to work in the face the unknown, to solve unsolved problems. It is solving these problems for which we do not know the answer to that will become our main vocation in the future as we head towards automation and abundance. Everyone's main vocation will be an artist. Hard Facts and Blurred Creativity Seth Godin in this amazing talk argues that we as people need to learn more dynamic problem solving skills and less rote routines and facts. Highlighting the importance of taking the pa

To Gain Freedom Is To Gain Simplicity

"For me, to gain freedom is to gain simplicity. So, in the end, a line, a color is all that’s needed to create a painting." - Joan Miro When I first saw that quote in the Joan Miro Museum in Barcelona I couldn't stop thinking about it.. I thought of how true it was and of how difficult it was - to gain simplicity. When creating we often name, categorize, expound; through attempting to communicate or rationalize creative works and processes we end up needlessly complicating them - often obstructing the path to real understanding. By attempting to understand, we prevent ourselves from it. Additions are useful and are needed to understand and to teach and to transfer knowledge - this is true an

Pictures Behind Glass

Digital images are pictures behind glass. Because of this they feel lifeless and dead, different from the material, physical images made with traditional mediums. But why is this? It is because sight is a kind of extension of touch, we don't just see things but also see our relationship to those things. When images become simply light they amputate this awareness, and with it, our spatial, tactile and bodily modes of understanding. It is a simple and superficial change yet, by flattening images and propelling them away virtually, a profound disconnect is imbued in them. If instead we think not of computers as they are today, but instead think about moving from static mediums such as writing

Mediums Of Thought

Creation and putting something into the world, be it a painting, written essay, music - is not just art, not just a piece, but a platform within which to think. And to think new thoughts.. I have already talked about how creation breeds creativity and this is the practical essence of it. What using the computer as a means of production essentially inhibits is the use of it as a tool for thought. You close the feedback loop between the material and your brain - in turn severely inhibiting new thoughts. This model, of the computer participating in creation, is vital to artistic and scientific practice, where the outcome is not known and instead the process is the focus. It is only when bringin

Focus on the Process, Not the Product

In traditional production practices you know what you are aiming for. The scope is defined by the end product or result. The journey to that end has discrete steps, a pipeline, which over time gets clearer and clearer, optimized for the ideal balance between time, effort and quality. In art, and very similarly in science, the outcome is not known. It has a high chance of failure, of missing the mark, of wasting time and uncertainty runs through the whole ordeal. Very often you find yourself with an end result severely (or pleasantly) different from the one you set out to create. By focusing instead on process rather than product we can gain objectivity and creative freedom; the best features

How to Stop Worrying And Make Some Art: The 3 Pillars Of Being An Artist

Being an artist is not easy. You create something with an uncertain outcome. There is much risk involved and you're out of your comfort zone. Not to mention the doubts; about your direction, your 'style', your career, your decisions - those alone are so mentally exhausting and useless you will end up never enjoying a single moment of your time spent as an artist. Instead running to the hills away from it. It doesn't have to be that way... Here are my 3 pillars I use to remove the fatigue, fear and fretting - how to stop worrying and make some art! 1 - Creation: Of course one needs to create in order to make art, everyone knows this. What I am talking about is creation breeding creativity. Yo

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