- Fine Art
The other night Violet and I watched Pacific Rim – the great big blustery Robots vs. Monsters wanna-be epic from Guillermo Del Toro. It was OK and was exactly what it set out to be: giant human powered robots fighting giant alien monster creatures set to the tone of a bombastically epic musical score with a story as watered down as possible to bolster international appeal, peppered with terrible and predictable dialogue and a generally banal plot all couched in pretty awesome special effects. Ok, so there was that. But my critique of the modern cinematic blockbuster can wait for another day.
Because, really, there was something else that was more notable and I wouldn’t have even noticed if Violet hadn’t pointed it out.
See, there were really only two women in the whole movie (tho that is not what is at issue here). One, the Russian woman, never spoke a word, as far as I can remember, and was only ever dressed in a tight uniform with bright red lipstick like some sort of Robotech hooker. Basically her message to the world is that, if you’re a woman then no matter what you better be looking good. More importantly however, was the other woman – Mako – the co-pilot with the main character, Raleigh. There is this part when she’s finally been given the go ahead by the Commander – who has already referred to her as being a strong ‘girl’ (if he were talking to a male actor he’d say ‘man’ not ‘boy’) – to co-pilot the giant robot suit with him. She walks into the cockpit and Raleigh, the lead guy, says ‘You look good.’
As if ‘looking good’ is her goal – her aim. He didn’t say: I’m glad you’re here. Or: I feel better with you as my co-pilot.
Instead, it’s all about her good looks. As if she is there for his eye candy and his romantic interest. And that is exactly what her role is: she is the romantic interest in the movie. In most movies, any lead woman is inherently the romantic interest (and at the very least endures advances from most men in the film) and thus teaches men across the land that women are there for our attraction, our eye candy, and are just waiting to be noticed for their good looks, other skills being secondary and not worthy of the compliment.
Approach people about this there will be naysaying. No! That’s not true! The woman in Pacific Rim had much more of a role than that! But it will be men who will say that. Women on the other hand… they’ll agree. But many will dismiss it out of hand as one more example of the story that’s told.
Women are taught over and over – in ways subtle and not so subtle – that ‘looking good’ is more important than ‘being smart’ or ‘having courage’ or ‘doing awesome shit’. Women are told at a very young age: “you look so pretty. Look how beautiful you are.” Boys on the other hand are more often complemented on how fast they’re growing, asked about what sports they play, and told they’re looking big and strong. Those are the two primary values we give to each gender as a whole.
Look, Pacific Rim is just one more movie in a long long chain of movies with the Action Hero Good Guy, the eye candy woman who is there to tag along, and a monster/villain/evil/plague/etc to fight that, in the end, HE kills/conquers/etc and is the hero and, in Pacific Rim, he is the one who sends her on her way to, presumably, live while he sacrifices himself.
How rare it would be if we watched HER sacrifice herself so HE can live! It never happens! And don’t be fooled into thinking: well, it’s just a movie. It’s just a story. O, it’s just ‘Hollywood.’
Movies, like music, books, pop culture, and the rest of the media machine are like echo chambers of archetypes. They continue to perpetuate certain myths and stories. As action movies turn more and more into special effects grab bags where a city has to get destroyed in order for us to feel any real emotion and a masculine hero has to save the day, we move farther and farther away from a balanced concept of gender and deeper and deeper into the ‘archetypal’ trope of damsel in distress and the hero who has to save the day.
It’s an old tired story but as long as there’s new youngsters waiting eagerly to plop down their money and go for the ride, there’ll always be a new audience to tell it to and fresh new minds to mold into the dominant storyline: Men = #1, Women = #2.
According to Pacific Rim: it’s OK to have a woman as a co-pilot as long as she is ‘looking good’ and doesn’t muck things up with her emotions.
Note: I’d like to thank Violet for her input on this as a lot of these bits and pieces stemmed from a conversation with her. :)
I spend an enormous amount of time thinking about paintings I want to paint. And not just thinking about them but seeing them, feeling them, considering them. Sometimes they are in my vision when I’m making dinner and I’m chopping a carrot or a stalk of broccoli and I’m seeing this painting. It sort of lingers in the vision – in my mind, in this place between hallucination and imagination…
Small paintings: I make small things like 11×14 and such and they are relatively quick… They are a small facet, an aspect of myself – they are very precise and don’t require as much forethought. They come from drawings and ideas of course, but they don’t have as much going on with them of course. Likewise, they allow depth and scope and that, too, require some consideration – some allowance of what it might be but not like a larger painting. Why? I think in part it’s because if I’m going to invest the time it takes to paint something that’s larger than a couple of feet tall, then there is serious intention… there’s serious consideration about how I am going to spend my time – IS THIS WORTH IT? Do I want to go there?
And once that question is answered….
So I feel it. I envision it. I see it. I love it. All the corners. All the angles. I wrap myself around it – into the dark shadows of it and into the great release. I consider it carefully. I think about the little things… I taste the slight glint of this, the soft arch of that. I want it to be awesome. I want it to speak to my corners, my nuances, my heights and depths. And, in turn, I want it to speak to you and yours.
It’s like… I don’t even know what it’s like. It’s like painting. This is how it is. How it has always been. How I am. I live it, breath it, sleep with it, and awaken again with it. I want it to be something that I will love. I want you to fall in love wit it. I want to not waste my time on it. I want to KNOW it.
And when I really love it – when I’ve made a dozen sketches and another dozen drawings and I’m ready and I’ve considered the parts I don’t know and have given over to the ways that it needs to be even if it’s going to be a lot of work… Then I’m ready to stretch a canvas, then I’m ready to prepare my surface.
And then, maybe then, I’m ready for that first brushstroke.
To be honest, I use a fairly limited palette. It’s pretty much the same colors over and over and over again. I think though that you’ll find that with †fmost artists. We get used to a color scheme. In some ways, this actually makes my work quite consistent – it all fits together. But that’s not why I chose these colors – or have ultimately gravitated to them.
I find that they give me all the other hues that I want. It’s easy to dull a color but it’s not easy – and actually is impossible – to make a color richer. You can’t add more pigment to a paint. So I’ve always felt that it’s best to start with the most saturated colors and then work out from there. Then, along with the super saturated colors, I have a handful of more muted but still rather rich tones.
I never use the ‘hues’ like Cadmium Orange Hue. They’re cheaper because they aren’t made with as much of the pigment – they use stand-ins for the actual pigmentation minerals. With the hues you also won’t ever get the richness or coverage you might want because they tend to be transparent. To me, when I paint with them, they feel weak. I avoid them.
That said, the colors I paint with most are:
Along with those I also use a fair amount of Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid and water. Why use glazing medium instead of water or water instead of glaze?
Paint is a pigment suspended in a polymer medium. Polymer mediums are basically a bunch of carbon chains creating a plastic like substance. Incidentally, your skin is a bunch of carbon chain polymers as well. In the case of paint, however, the pigment of the paint – the cadmium of cadmium red for instance – is suspended in a polymer base. The glaze adds more medium to the paint – more of the binder which the pigment is suspended in. In essence, it stretches the paint. without breaking down the carbon chains thereby creating a more uniform consistency and texture. However, it doesn’t dry as quickly and, if used in a large area, repeated brushing over it can pick it up. Water, on the other hand, breaks down the carbon chains. At times it can give your paints a ‘washed out’ look and make the colors pool since the pigment will tend to attract itself or to sink into the divots of the canvas. At the same time, it is perfectly useful for blending, etc. In fact, I use it more often than glaze since i”m not always looking to thicken my paint so much as get it to a finer consistency and water does that better than glazing medium. In the end, of course, your own practice with both will help you better understand the usefulness of both and, in time, know when you want one over the other.
It’s true: one CAN paint anywhere. And paint anywhere I have: on a board propped up by a chair surrounded by jungle. On a canvas taped to a wall in a downtown studio. Small shared spaces where what I called ‘mine’ was merely the space of the stool, the canvas, and the paint… One CAN paint anywhere in the same way that grass pokes through a crack in the pavement, or there’s a bird’s nest on a telephone pole, a flower in a metal pipe poking out from the ground in the ground.
But, given the choice – and when presented with options – I’ve found certain factors provide a more ideal situation. Here’s a list of some… Your mileage may vary…
– Your light should offer a wide throw and not a specific ‘hot spot’. It’s nice if its on a dimmer switch.
– If you are right-handed, the light should be on your left and if you are left-handed, then it should be on your right – otherwise you will be painting in your own shadow the whole time.
– Likewise, if you are right-handed, your water should be on your right – this makes it easiest for dipping your brush as you don’t have to reach across yourself. (Likewise, if you are left-handed…)
– Full-spectrum lightbulbs are best – like the GE Reveal bulbs. Halogen bulbs don’t work for for painting as their color spectrum is terrible.
– If you do not have any place for your water on the side it should be on, then find a small stand or something as it really should be on the same side as your painting hand.
– It’s best if the speakers for your stereo are behind you but the source should be rather close – so you can change the music easily. By having the music behind you, it can better be part of the environment and not compete with your painting. Besides, you need to be at least 10 feet from the speakers to get a decent sense of space to the sound.
– High ceilings are nice as they give an open sensation, however subtle, to the top of the head. It is also easier to work on larger canvases or raise your easel up. If your ceiling is just average height, don’t worry. It’s not worth knocking a hole in the ceiling.
– It’s nice to have a cat next to you while painting. They are gentle and don’t ask much. Dogs… not so much.
– Organize your paints so that you have drawers for them – so they are accessible but out of the way. Keep the tubes for the painting you are working on in a separate drawer from the others so it’s easiest to get to the ones you need quickly when you want them.
– If you paint with acrylics, the best method of water bucket/palate is to use a bucket for the water along with a large lid that fits on the bucket as your palate. This way, when you’re done painting, you can put the lid on your bucket. The water condenses on the underside of the lid where your paints are and keeps them wet. It’s great for a day or two.
– As for brushes: keep a jar or something with the main brushes you use and then keep all the others in other jars that are out of the way.
– Don’t bother with ‘artist grade’ gesso brushes. That’s bullshit.
– Also, if anyone tries to sell you ‘artist grade’ sandpaper, go to a hardware store. Their sand paper will be exactly the same. (Use the sandpaper to smooth up the gesso on the canvas)
– It’s nice to have good windows in your studio. You want to be able to see outside, have a sense of daylight, etc.
– The studio walls should be white. The reflected light of the walls will affect the coloring of your canvas. If you have colored walls, they will tint your canvas a certain color, especially at night, and it will throw you off. You want all your reflected light to be a neutral white.
– A few plants are nice. Besides adding to the general ambiance, they help to clean the air.
– Get a good easel but not one with too many bells and whistles. Bells and whistles tend to get in the way. Most importantly, your easel should be something you can raise and lower without much fuss.
Finally: just paint. Make art. Just do it. Stop thinking about setting something up that’s ideal. The most important thing is that your water is on the side of your painting hand and that your light is on the opposite side and that your canvas is flat and somewhat vertically oriented in front of you and you have something to sit on, even if it’s just a bucket. Everything else is auxiliary to the main goal: making Art.
So get to it. Go make some art.
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