Burn, baby burn

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. I have learned a lot, and things are going well. My quest to stay in California has gone well. I have been promoted twice at my job, and have learned my strengths (I love helping people), and been working on my weaknesses (working in a tech profession with no prior training had and still has a huge learning curve). I have, through it all, embraced a workaholic attitude that has allowed me to survive, and then thrive with what I do.  My wife is also doing well in her career. So in many ways, we have succeeded past those first steps in our brave new world.

And yet, while I am happier than I ever was back east (or as I call it, the Old Country), I still find my life lacking in some ways. I sacrificed my overall health and free time (at first my necessity, now by habit), and I am a chubby dude nowadays, which is still strange since I was once very athletic. Also, bearing more to this blog, my art suffered greatly.

As an artist, if you don’t do art in some way, it comes out in other outlets. In random scribbles. In jokes, and writings and emails. It needs a way out. This can only serve as more like a pressure release, with no direction to it, evaporating into the wind. Now, after such a long time of no direction, I come face to face with the exasperation and fear of trying to create art. It’s like taking a great leap into a chasm. Looking at the chasm brings forth excitement, wonderment, and fear. And if I don’t leap, ultimately disappointment.

The fear of being an artist is sometimes not the fear of can you do the art (though in the beginning that happens after a long hiatus). It’s what may happen if you dedicate yourself to this practice, this craft, this euphoric witchery when it overtakes you. You feel alive, and being alive, truly alive is exciting and scary. Creating art at its finest sweeps you into something you aren’t quite sure you have control of. It’s like you are steering a ship, but the winds of your mind, if you are brave enough to follow, will take you places you never thought possible. And it’s fun. You lose sleep, your heart and mind run like crazy when you try to sleep. Its like you are caught in a great fire that is your spirit raging and lighting your synapses. It makes you young again, that fire. And so, whenever I draw again, I have to ask myself, do I want that? And I must say: Burn baby. Burn.

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The Base of the Pyramid

As I get older, I keep discovering, time and time again, there are no shortcuts to the top. Everything has to be earned, one step at a time. Luck isn’t luck, its more like being prepared and open to opportunities.  The latest learning curve in IT has finally come to the point where I am contributing in a manner that is good. I can do my job, and do it fairly well. I come to the point now where I fork off. Do I want to be an incredible AV technician, or a good AV tech and begin the work that I came here to do, to forge a career in art.

The answer, though it pains me on some level is that I must pursue my art.  I have found though that I must work on some other things at the same time. I must work on my base of my life. I am in short, focused on a pyramid scheme.

1 – Sleep – My sleep habits have been awful. Years of swing shifts, over-working, manic bouts of creativity, worrying about my job followed by mind-numbing apathy have destroyed my sleep, my REM cycle. It leaves me duller intellectually than I should be. It stops my drive and creates an apathy from being dull-minded. To this effect, I am now making myself go to sleep within 30 minutes of the same time every night. The results have been great, except when I veer off. I did so last weekend, but not as much.
I now am sketching more, and completing my tasks I have at hand, unless I am too much on the internet

2 – Basic body maintenance. I need to take care of myself.  I have/had slipped into a dull apathy that includes lack of taking care of basic physical things. No, I’m not some crazy guy with 8 inch fingernails that hasn’t taken bath in weeks. But I can get more haircuts and shave a little more, stuff like that. In short, I was starting to not care as much.  Results have been good. I actually am feeling more human and can carry myself with a bit more pride.

3 – More chores around the house.  Making a list, and checking it twice. Instead of waiting for things to pile up, I am actually giving myself a few tasks a day to conquer.  Results have been good in that I don’t feel like I am being crowded by bills. And my wife is starting to appreciate the extra help.  I feel out of helping except on weekends when I was working 12+ hours a day.  Now I only work 10 hours. (I know, I should cut back more….), so I have less of an excuse.  This does make me feel more like an adult again instead of a vagrant worker.

4 – Diet – this has been going not great. But I tasked myself with just writing down what I eat. And truthfully, its very embarrassing. It consists mostly of sugar and high calories. I just got into the habit of wolfing everything down to sate hunger and move to the next project. Acceptable for 19 year old college students. Less so for middle aged adults.  I have noticed I have started eating a bit better these last few days, just because the guilt of writing down all this stuff is disturbing.

5 – Exercise – barely. I’m working my way up this pyramid, I am just starting to exercise. But weighing myself, measurements, and getting tired standing or walking shows its pretty bad. I was once in great shape. Now I’m more like a 265lb egg with man boobs. My only grace is many years of exercise – I know how it works. And what I am doing ain’t it.

6 – My art – oh yeah, that. I have created a sketchbook, and try to do something in it many days, I have some pretty fun ideas, but very little time to execute still. I am still working on eliminating general apathy from sleep deprivation, a little bit of depression (though I won’t admit it from a victim stance, more a fact stance that I need to take care of myself). Some work is being done.  I am for instance writing on this blog and am beginning to re-vamp my website and zazzle store.

7 – I have a list of sites to post to, including this one. I check them off one by one. This has just started.

8 – The pursuit of knowledge. I compiled a short reading list to get started

9 – Training – I still want to do some outside reading and training of my current profession.  It’s a good job, and I don’t want to lose it because of stagnation. I have some more notes, and am looking into pursuing related hobbies like web casting and voice acting.

10. My music – study and play. I love to play and sing. I want to write my songs down and learn some more to break out of stagnation. I do play a fair amount, but I haven’t learned much at last.

11. A big key is stopping my use of the internet for the most part, unless I am looking for inspiration or to produce something. I have become a consumer in entirety, and that needs to change.

I will update a little on this every once in a while. But I want to make this site about art again, about the work, the philosophy and interesting things I learn along the way.  But first thing is first. The base needs to be taken care of.

 

 

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Marketing is not such a dirty word after all.

I have been reading books on voice over acting, as I will be making a foray into the business. It’s something I wanted to do for both some extra cashflow as well as someday doing voices for video games and my own animations.

And I found the common thread that always seems to push through the success stories about those careers I admire. It’s this. Talent isn’t enough. It’s not even the primary factor. It’s professionalism, showing up on time and finishing the job. And event more important, it’s marketing, marketing, marketing!  I see it show up about artists. I see it show up about musicians. I saw how important it is in the insurance industry, and Google has entire seminars about personal branding and perception.

I really used to hate this idea. I used to want people to recognize me for my skill, not what I saw was prostrating, begging for money and attention.  I was wrong, or rather I has come to the conclusion it isn’t begging. You are just letting people know you are out there. And since people are easily distracted by life, or other clients, you have to remind them. As much as possible without being rude.  

This isn’t saying not to learn the craft of what you do. You still have to be good. But what sets you apart is how you present yourself and your company. And you have to take yourself seriously, and not dabble. You have to commit, and commit as much as possible.

So the fine artist in me surrenders. No more closeted primadonna. I just have to work and hit the wall until it falls. And after that keep running to the next wall and hit it again while self-promoting my various goods and skills.

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The pursuit of imperfection

   So now that I have stated my atheist artist manifesto (so to speak), I have now been working on enacting the many worlds theory into my art and manifesting it into the illusory realization of it all.   I first started to take stock of everything I have at my disposal. This can range from research on the internet, the myriad books and pdfs I have at my disposal to both study and be inspired from, as well at software for my spoken poetry, voice acting, music, illustration software, animation and the like. This isn’t easy to do when one works 12 hour work days (counting commute time). Adding in the time I am trying to take doing exercise (when I can muster it), chores, etc I’m only down to a few hours a day. That is if of course I don’t check my email or do more work from home.  Or talk to anyone. Basically, I don’t have much time, and what I want to do would be daunting enough at a full time job. But I must keep on.  I cannot at this point reasonably pursue excellence.  I must at this juncture be satisfied with the pursuit of imperfection.  I must be willing to slog through time constraints, poor knowledge and high learning curves.  I must sometimes be only able to work on things for 30 minutes a day.  Because there simply is no time, save perhaps on weekends. That is if I’m ignoring my wife.   I don’t know what I would do if I had children. I suppose it would be game over and just put my energies into their creative endeavors since I would no longer be able to pursue mine.

So what I have done this week is made a sketch a very broad outline of the epochs of my many worlds.  It is how I envision something from nothing, from singularity to multiplicity. How energy forms, how color is born, and music would light the multiverse. How geometry is formed and through increasing complexity organic structures would prevail.  My method is pseudo science, I admit. It cannot hold a candle to the great complexities of the multiverse. It’s just fantasy, an indulgence on my part. But the structure I have made gives me some clarity and structure from which to base the various epochs of my worlds. 

I also began to experiment with my desire to voice act in some of my work. On the advice of some audio engineers I know I downloaded a software called Audacity, which is simple enough for my to use, if not master. My voices record, but the quality sounds like the bottom of a submarine. My goal of imperfection is once more obtained!

Basically though, do not take my being flippant as not being serious. I will crack open the books and talk to my DJ and Audio engineer friends. I will take my sketches of my geometric worlds and energy drafts, my chibis and demons and angels and mad scientists and fantastical landscapes. But I must make the mistakes, and take my simple works and expound upon them into the complex works that they will give birth to.

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Many Worlds and My Art.

It has been a long time since I posted.  My reasons for the most part are that I was promoted into another job description, and was moved to another division in my workplace, which involved yet another huge learning curve for me.  I work there around 11-12 hours a day learning and doing what I feel needs done.  Through much effort I am now a solid if not star player, although I do have my specialities.  First I have discovered that I like people.  I really do.  I like making them feel comfortable, I like educating them and helping them smile through a long day.  If I could do that more and worry less about the tech aspect, I would be fine with that.  It comes natural to me.   Tech/IT does not, but it is currently the means by which I help people, what I am contracted for.  I have too much pride to be mediocre at it.  So I learn.   I am lucky enough to have some intelligence that allows me to learn what I need to, although I’ve often remarked its more a struggle for me given my proclivities towards the artistic side of things.  I’m an artist and historian trying to fit his round hole mind into a square peg system, and its not always a pretty combination.  But I am getting better at it.  The benefits of struggling a bit allows me to keep my empathy towards my clients – I don’t talk to them in techno-garble speak but I also don’t treat them like idiots either.   Because they aren’t.  They are Googlers for goodness sakes, and quite a group of smart cookies.

I have found though, thank goodness Googlers, while bright and congenenial are human.  While most are either skilled engineers and marketing geniuses, I do have my strengths that they do not share.  This is not to denigrate them, but rather to allow me the shell of some pride so I am not longer so intimidated.  Thank goodness.  The first 6 months to a year I felt like I had the IQ of a slug compared to some of them.  And perhaps I do.  But I need to tell myself at least some sort of lie to carry through and work through it all. Sometimes layered lies to ourselves, when used judiciously can give us the bridge to make things true later on.

Speaking of which – on to my art and some theory.  I have been busily sketching the last few weeks, writing down snippets of song and poetry, and the like.  I feel like I am on to something, something that needed to gel in my mind for a while.  This process was no doubt retarded yet again by my making a living, but we do what we can when we can.

I have been thinking about the many worlds theory in physics, and how it’s allowing me to carry on in my art when before I struggled.   How can I explain how this is helping me? I’ll just dive into it, however clumsily it may sound.   I am an artist.  But I’m also a hard-core atheist.  This means that although I believe strongly in certain things in my heart (the goodness of human beings, their capacity for love and the scientific method, the wonder of the world around me), there are other things I do not.  Like the supernatural, deities, and the like.

But I have found myself in quite a pickle over the years, one that would lead me to a bit of despair.   I absolutely love the idea of magic, of the supernatural, of things that do not exist in our world.  I love the pageantry, the interesting costumes, the ritual, the art and music.   And although I am moved on one level (the craft of it, the emotional element), my intellectual side cannot abide it.  I am many times of two minds.

Now I could take the route of some artists who are atheist, and describe the world around me, the reality of it all, and its beauty.  The problem is for me, scientists do that in many ways.  Also I do not want to parrot a photograph.   I want the feeling of creation, that I am making something up inside me that I can share with others as I in a sense exorcise it from my mind and lay it bare before an audience.  And yet I have always wondered…what is the meaning of my art? Mere artifice?

So, we come back to the the many worlds theory.  Basically in physics, there is a theory that deals with time and dimensions.   As you read about each dimension, it builds in  complexity until you innumerable alternate dimensions with different versions of yourself and everybody. Time is different, energy, everything.   It is very cool, and bery mathematical. But what I take from this information is there are places, just out of reach that have what could be called magic, powerful beings, monsters, spaceships, unusual geometries, versions of me and you that are older, younger, different races, genders, ages, or even don’t exist.  Infinite.  This intrigues me to a huge degree because it could be true. I like things that are true.

I many times don’t necessarily like to call myself an artist.  That is part of what I do, but really what I am is a storyteller.  Right now I am telling you my thoughts, my story.   But I want to tell other stories too.  I sometimes have felt that just drawing or making up things of people that don’t exist or magical things isn’t worth it – because its hollow. pen on paper.  It’s artifice.  I cannot lay claim to supernatural knowledge or some other secret power as some can.  I’m entirely scientific minded in my outlook.  And yet, things inside me move me.  I feel emotion.  I feel like my muse (what I call the part of my creative side that pulls me through to make me do art instead of giving up) has something to say.   It desires universal truths to be told.   Sometimes its figurative, sometimes its words, sometimes its abstract.  How do I consolidate this? An artist, in a sense has to make their art real to them before it can become real to those that look upon it.  As a person, I am a skeptic, a non-believer in myth and lore.  As an artist I specialize in it.

I find that the many worlds theory allows me to make my art, and believe in it. Because if its true, or part of it is, I can tell the truth.  Somewhere out there, in essence, I am telling the story of someone or something that existed.  Of energy that is out there in the form I give it.  And it doesn’t need to be perfect.  Because nothing is.  If I tell the story, and even if it is flawed, somewhere out there, so is the story I narrate, so that’s ok.  Just do the best I can at any moment, and that’s all that is needed.   I can tell the story from my own point of view, which is unlike any others at this place, this universe, this point in time.

I will admit, this whole postulation may be a falsity.  But it makes sense to both my intellect and my artistic soul.  And in order for me to be whole and carry on, the two must work in tandem so I can work on my many stories and universes. And hopefully as I cultivate that believe, I can soon bring you along. And you’ll enjoy what I do, be it patterns, designs, poetry, songs, stories, illustrations, comics and voices.  If I am lucky, I may even be able to move some of you to wonder – to become a bit speechless, to smile or feel tears of joy or sadness of the characters that might existed in other times and places. I will be doing all of these things at one point or another, unwrapping the whole mess and finding the pattern in it if I can.

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Karma can be a peach.

An interesting thing happened the other day.  My former workplace, which I worked at until last year, burnt to a gutted shell of itself through a 15 alarm fire.  A total loss, the fire could be seen from miles away, and smelled of burning ink, chemicals and paper.

I had slightly mixed feelings about this.   Luckily, no employees were hurt (although several fire fighters were injured in the process).  I felt bad that people may lose their jobs. But….(and hereforth are my justifications)…..

I really loathed the place.  In general, people tended to be rather provincial and didn’t seek betterment in education or self-development.  Prejudice was rampant among many. The owners didn’t pay people well, give raises, and had terrible upkeep in the buildings.   It was a gray purgatory that day by day slid into a slow gray hell.  I’ve outlined my story of my uprooting in other entries, so I won’t go further than that.   Suffice to say, my wife and I both couldn’t help but smile a wide smile.   I have several reasons for this seemingly malicious and selfish action.

First of all, I feel a certain amount of vengeance.  I am still angry, I admit it.  And I take a bit of satisfaction in knowing that I and probably a fair portion of others treated poorly in that environment could see the place go down and not have to lift a finger to do it.  Although I never dreamed of it, it kind of feels like a dream come true.   The only thing better would be if the fire marshal found out something nefarious was going on by the owner.   I personally don’t believe that though.  I’m guessing something negligent happened, as it wasn’t a realm of natural evil, it was a realm of nowhere, or despair.  I doubt they would have the imagination.

Secondly, I feel relief.   If we would have stayed in our jobs, we would have, to put it bluntly, been boned.  People told us to be grateful for our old jobs.  Being treated poorly and paid poorly was ok as long as we had a job, we were told.  Some people got angry and wouldn’t speak to us when we made our break.  Some laughed at our foolishness.  And now, if we would have stayed, we would have been miserable and without jobs. We would have been in big trouble.  In contrast we currently both have employment.  I work at Google, and it doesn’t get much better than that.  My wife has a good temp job. We are making inroads in the area.

Thirdly, I feel a sense of karma.  I don’t believe in such things, mind you.  But I have a sense that the house of my employers have abused so many people over the years that finally something snapped, their luck ran out.   I feel a similar sense of karma in that I have through very hard work, been able to last in this beautiful place in a great work environment.

Fourth, it ends a chapter, or perhaps a book in my life.  I am currently in training for a new position at Google, as well as picking up long term freelance work for a local company.  And then this happens.  It feels like a dovetail at something significant.  Through this fire, it creates a bullet through another reason for me to go back to PA.  I wouldn’t have a job if I went back there.

Fifth, to those people who may have lost employment through this event….I think it may be a blessing in disguise.  I think things may seem dark, but the chains that this company put around me, how they almost convinced me that I had no self worth, the gloom that settled over my smile, I know it the pall that this company shed was not just on me.   This event may force those out of fear and self-doubt into finding something that is better, something that they can believe in.  Although it can be extremely hard, breaking away is worth it.  I would say to them that they can find self-worth and hope if they get beyond the psychic walls erected by our fears.

Do it! Use this employment tragedy to be rid of your shackles once and for all.

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My relationship with books….its complicated

I have to admit it.  Over the last few years, my relationship with books has changed.  There was a time which I would literally (pun intended) find almost every book, and if I could afford it, and buy it at any flea market/yard sale I could find.  And it would be mine, all mine! For years and years my passionate relationship with books continued by the boxload, unabated and wild.

That started to change a a few years ago, when I realized I had almost every book I could want, and then some.   I then started looking at books differently.  At first I began to question, do I need new books?  For a while I convinced myself that the books needed to be protected, given a good home, so they wouldn’t be neglected.  I hate to see books with broken spines, torn or crumpled pages, mold, sun bleached, etc.  As time went by with my book orphanage I acquired so many books that I realized I wouldn’t be able to read all  my books in several lifetimes.  This made more a bit uncomfortable to ponder that thought.

I came to the conclusion that there is really no greater abuse to a book than a book never read.  It is better to have it read and worn out than never read.  I started to make a pact that I wasn’t going to by any more books, unless I read at least as many as I bought.  At first, this goal was a more paper tiger.  As time went by though I learned more and more restrained, and now I am enforcing this rule upon myself.

The next step in my relationship with books became the thought: would someone else enjoy this book more than I?  I began to picture people taking great pleasure in this new knowledge they would get from the book that I sought out.  If I buy a book, I find myself now thinking of who could enjoy them as gifts.  Or not having an immediate person in mind, if I bought the books and loaned them to others. 

Thus, I now take pleasure in the books, but isn’t with the wild abandon I used to.  Now it’s just a generalized warmth I get in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, someday will most likely pick up the book (or e book/pdf, etc.) that will make them happy.  

I hope this doesn’t make me less of a bibliophile for this change in thought.  If it does, I hope at the very least it makes me a better human.Image

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