Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Dragon & the Pearl

For readers of my other blog, specifically regarding this post, the origins of this illustration have a special meaning - it began several years ago as a gift for a friend who died before the illustration was completed. She was just a tiny sketch at the time of Mac's death (in 2009) and I was of two minds about proceeding. To be honest with you, had I any idea of just how much time and work would be entailed, I never would've gone beyond that point.

I always did envision her with scaled skin, but no, she's not just your average reptilian. She's Princess Tatiana Drakkorin, and she and her family have descended from dragons.

Of course, when I started this illustration I was not so informed. I was thinking in terms of a lizard princess. It was only after months and months of staring at that face while I set about creating her elaborate costume that I detected a slight resentment in those eyes. But it wasn't until I began creating a fetus that was to be floating in that glass globe between her claws - isn't it always?- that the reality struck me. The fetus, of course, had a tail... but then it sort of grew wings before my eyes - a recessive feature, apparently, as they wither and fall off shortly after birth - and then two things stuck me: 1) Tatiana is a dragon. 2). The fetus looks fricking ridiculous. Without the fetus, of course, I had a rather meaningless glass globe... but then I had the masterstroke of superimposing a pearl over it. At which point, memories of mythology began reverberating in my skull; specifically Asian mythology, which often mysteriously depicts its dragons with pearls - and rather large pearls, at that. Hence, "The Dragon & the Pearl".

But, my imagination didn't stop there. It occurred to me that she'd make a wonderful character in a children's story I'd started years before. It also occurred to me that she and the House Drakkorin eventually fell on hard times, presumably after this portrait was "painted". That, however, is literally another story!

As for her costume, crown, and jewelry, they are all inventions. As with any created image, one thing informs the other in a sheerly subliminal way (when things are working, that is). Gold is not a metal that attracts me, but Tatiana insisted upon it... Well, that's a dragon for you... and there's no point in arguing with them.

The Russian name of Tatiana came to me as the illustration began to take on a Byzantine feel. I was raised as a child with Russian icons surrounding me... so, as I tend to let my unconscious mind do the walking, this sort of thing is inevitable. My muse, incidentally, pretty much avoided this project after the initial stages, though it did put in a few words near the end... it became just myself wrestling with a rather unruly dragon... the moral of the story being: when dealing with reptilians, watch your step!

Oh yeah, below is that fetus - experimentally dropped into the pearl. It is actually a hologram of an unborn Tatiana, which was apparently created as a gift for her by her Grandmother. Now you know.

For a further exploration of Tatiana - an enlargement of her face, and small excerpt from "her story" - click here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Virtual Reality

I think the thing I sometimes forget most about "virtual reality" is that it is not reality; it is not even a reflection of reality. It is, at the most, a counterfeit reality, in that it presents us with a view of life, but, intrinsically, it has no life. There is no true life force running through the blips and bytes of the world wide web. Your monitor may light up like a candy store but if you reach your hand in there's nothing there. It may as well be an hallucination. You can't even be sure that those false images that fly before your eyes are the same false images others might be seeing; perception, after all, is a relative, subjective collection of sensations. And, computer monitors are a dime a dozen.

Of course, the same may be said of the "official" reality in which you exist... you can see things and touch things, but beyond that, every now and then it might occur to you that you are, for the most part, living in your head. Meanwhile, communication with other entities is almost an unspoken, subliminal "gentlemen's agreement": let's pretend that what we see has meaning... let's pretend that what we see exists. We're, of course, not seeing the exact same thing, but we can assume our differing viewpoints are similar enough, and we can imagine we're sensing and experiencing similar things. There are, after all, other life forces and senses that come into play within a true life experience.

In virtual reality this is not the case. Along with the falseness of the reality presented, everything false follows in its wake... a false sense of identity, a false sense of camaraderie, a false sense of communication... while, in ones actual reality  - "meatspace", that is - very little is happening. Synapses may click and codes may coalesce, but the vitality, passion, desire and communion - that is, the immeasurable phenomena, or noumena, which truly make us human - is never engaged and will never come across. One might be fooled into thinking otherwise, but this is ultimately a spurious experience. Nothing has happened. One has not grown. Nothing has essentially changed. One may as well sit down and do a crossword puzzle.

Virtual reality then, is nothing more than a shallow mental exercise... a false construct, a false life, a video game. What you see is not what you actually get.

Every now and then, however, a light peeks around the perimeter and one has a moment of clarity and disillusionment; and this moment, I guess, is mine. It will mean nothing to you. Your day will not change, nor will mine. You will not know me any better... I will not know you at all. Several minutes from now, I may change my mind. But it will not matter, and "matter" will not come into play.

And so the game(s) continues...


And that, comrades, was a spontaneous essay I posted yesterday on PMB... it was also taken down less than 24 hours after. But, why(?), you ask... (or don't ask, as the case may be).

It's like this, and hear me out. "Spontaneousness" and the internet - specifically in the form of social networking (and while blogging might fit into this category, emails would not) - make disastrous bedfellows, specifically for the creative person. All varieties of monsters may be spawned and the minute they've been spawned on the web, they often cannot be retracted. Not only that, but, let's say you innocently leave a comment on a blog somewhere - worse still, you make a habit of using your real name - well, presto (!), not only are your words carved in cyber-stone on many programs and blogs, but search engines (such as Google) ensure that they can be read world-wide for eternity. I'm not even going to address all the cyber-piranha that might be interested in such innocuous information - in a cumulative sense - for the purposes of profiling.

The real problem arises, however, and this is why this particular post was moved here, is that many artists, writers, musicians, etc. who use a digital medium for their work - and specifically the same computer to both create and access the internet, are not merely leaving their work exposed to predators, but are possibly endangering their psyches as well.

The fact of the matter is, a creative state is an "altered state". The "you" that is operating in an elevated, muse-orientated mist is not the you who should be social networking 10 minutes later. You are still too vulnerable at this time. The spontaneity that you've brought to your work is not going to translate on the WWW. It will not be well-recieved. Essentially, It will not be "received" at all because your audience, those whom you are attempting to communicate with, are simply not operating on the same level as you are. You may as well be "speaking in tongues". Freshly out of creative work, you're virtually naked and in every sense as vulnerable... In other words you have no business being online. Wait for several hours - until your creative high has dissipated - before you go online and visit your favorite haunts. But, even then, keep this in mind:

The internet's real purpose is to distribute information, sell products, and to entertain. All social interaction is generally of the most superficial kind. Do not go online anticipating high communion... the WWW is certainly not the place to bare your soul, and neither is it a place to safely speak your mind. 

Be forewarned. In many ways, the web is outright bullshit, and in time it will only get worse.

UPDATE: 2 other articles that address this subject and might be of interest: click here and here.

For your listening pleasure:

(My special thanks to Greg at The Daily Grail for this inspired video link...)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Still Life With Artificial Life-Forms

(This is a follow-up post to the post in which I introduced an ALF in fossilized form...)

(Way) back when, that is, when I was in my early 20's... I was walking along the beach one night, when what to my eyes did appear but a tiny blue light in the sand near the receding water's edge. But, what's that (!), I thought as I drew closer; some sort of alien jewel that's just dropped from the sky? (I have always been exceedingly imaginative) Crouching down, I lifted the little thing on a flat shell that was conveniently sitting nearby, and closely inspected it.

It was a transparent, gelatinous, elliptical little blob - a little over an inch in length... the blue light I saw was actually a perfectly designed clump of filaments upon which a blue glow travelled along like electricity on a strange sort of organic circuit. I was absolutely mesmerized; it was simply the most beautiful, magical thing I ever saw.

Years later, when I began creating my mysterious artificial life-forms, it wasn't until I sketched ALF #4 (above and below) that my beach incident came back to me... because, in the last analysis, that little "gooseberry" - what I came to discover was a variety of "comb jelly" - was the major unconscious focal point of my inspiration: recapturing that wonderful enchantment of finding a living creature that is just so amazing that it's almost beyond description.

Were you one of those kids that used to dig in your back yard - or somebody else's back yard - looking for some sort of mysterious treasure? Well, that was me as a child... and the weird thing is, I had no conscious idea of what I was looking for or what I hoped to find... it was almost an instinct... in that, I knew there were mysterious, wonderful things to be found in this life, and I was on some mission to discover them. And, I never lost that child's instinct. Only, instead of becoming an archaeologist or a marine biologist in the real world - which I could've done had I had that option - I did my digging inwardly, searching for imaginal treasures. I guess, at some point, I realized that it wasn't really the official world I was most entranced with... and there was nowhere else I could go apart from an imaginal world... hence, I became the mad artist I am! ;-)

(Pictured at the beginning of the post: another species of ALF (and a detail) in what is more a 2-dimensional diorama than it is a "still life"... I just happen to find the idea of ALF's in "still life" artworks more... well, ironic.)

For those (immortal children) who might be interested, here's a Youtube video of some comb jellies (above). I like this film but I have a different soundtrack going through my head... the same soundtrack that always filters through my head when I'm doing ALF work - my favorite Radiohead tune and, possibly, my favorite tune of all time: "All I Need". I found a Youtube selection for it that I'll post below... mainly because something about the song and the images (from the 1996 French film "Microcosmos") are fitted perfectly together (by J. Tyler Helms), and intimate what moves me most as an artist: the unparalleled (and heart-wrenching) beauty of  minutiae in the natural, organic world.