I started taking piano lessons when I was about nine years old. My teacher, Joan, didn't believe in using metronomes and always had long, fancy nails even though pianists aren't supposed to. At some point during the first year of lessons, she told me that music is really all about MATH.
No math = no music. A huge revelation for me as a kid. It's a big truth that's never left me. At first my feelings about it were a little conflicted; it was sort of stressful ("I'm so bad at fractions!"), but realizing that math is the foundation of music (or at least one doorway into building and understanding it) never sucked the romance or beauty out of it. It never made it dry to me. It can be invisible enough that you don't actually NEED to know it or think about it for it to be in there. That lesson primed me to notice as years went by that math and science are built into nature and art and our insides. That the basics of them are intuitive, like rhythm, but the more you know about the math and science of something, the better your music or art or appreciation of those things can be.
Knowing that art is really science has been a solace to me -- art isn't reserved only for a few people who are divinely inspired. It can be orderly: accessed and created systematically. With simple formulas. With a wide variety of tools mixed with individual perspective, personality and tastes to make it seem unique and magical, disguising the numbers in the craft of it.
I shot a set of pictures of Delia
wearing some hot Hello Kitty shorts on Friday night and the photos are all jacked up. I'm a long way from understanding the science of photography; I *like* numbers, but they don't stick in my head very well so even though I've read about how cameras work and how OUR camera works I still don't have it committed to memory or know how to manipulate light and settings quickly to achieve what I want. I have to just walk around and fiddle with things until I mostly-accidentally happen onto something lovely. Most of the good pictures I take are the product of luck and shooting A LOT without fully comprehending what I'm doing. I recognize what looks good and beautiful and erotic to me (or at least halfway decent) and what looks bad to me and have a few basic practices for making the former (especially in the "halfway decent" category) and avoiding the latter, but my technical skills are pretty basic.
All of the pics looked dark to me so I bumped the ISO up to 1000 or 2500, I forget now (hence the graininess) and the speed down to 25 or 30 -- they still looked dark for some reason; I was letting the camera auto-focus (selecting the area to focus on myself with these little movable box thingies; I forget what Nikon calls that function but it didn't seem to be working well on this particular night) and adjust the aperture itself until I decided to do a closeup and switched everything to manual (because it balks when we ask it to autofocus macros); suddenly everything was WAY TOO BRIGHT and I had to change the shutter speed. The only thing I can think of is that the camera wasn't doing a good job of automatically adjusting the aperture and when I switched to manual and adjusted it myself then everything changed. It sucked because we wanted these pics to be bright.
The older I get, the more I see that MOST working artists -- writers, photographers, graphic designers, sculptors, painters, musicians, etc. -- are just people who've chosen
to do that kind of work. That the only thing that sets them apart from the rest of us is the amount of time they put into their art and confidence they have in devoting themselves to it without worrying whether or not a jury of peers think they deserve to make money on it. Very few artists are people who actually possess something innate that the rest of us don't have; most of it is taking the time to learn and apply information that's available to everyone (or anyone with the resources to do a little research) and then investing money in the right tools and lots of time in practicing
. Sometimes I think the most successful artists are the ones who are actually LESS gifted and too stupid/overconfident to recognize that there are other people (usually making zero dollars on their art) who are WAY more talented. Maybe the only way to be a successful "artist" is to NOT be great -- to not complicate shit with too much vision, originality, or diverse techniques and just work from simple formulas to make things that are easily recognizable and accessible to the masses. See also Adaptation.
If your work brings other people pleasure does it really NEED to be super duper excellent?
The older I get, the happier I am with shooting for mediocrity. Even mediocrity requires a lot of hard work (for me, at least). Mediocrity is attainable without being a given; you can stand out and make a decent living in a field simply by being one of the relative few to 1) choose that field, 2) commit to it for a number of years, and 3) make yourself known. All the better if you're willing to take emotional and financial risks and make sacrifices for your work/"art". The happier you are with mediocrity the wider your success. I've slowly shifted my focus of "pride" away from "talent" and pinned it on "work"; you can't be proud of having good taste or being born with certain attributes making you better suited than most to doing one job or another. Those are only things you can be THANKFUL for. The things you can actually be PROUD of are hard work, dedication and defying convention to choose happiness. To call yourself an artist as soon as you choose to be one -- to make it your job -- rather than waiting until you imagine other people think you are good enough to deserve that label. Those are the people I admire more and more, the ones who are brave & devoted enough to create some form of art (even if it's just fair to middlin') and are savvy enough to make it a business.
I used to think having to work hard at something or take a lot of time to make something acceptable was something to be ashamed and embarrassed of. If it wasn't easy it meant I wasn't good at it. Now I realize that's total bullshit (even if I still FEEL that way sometimes). The strategic choices and commitments you make to invest work in things that make you happy, better, more skilled, or even just capable of seeing you should make a different choice (I've always believed that quitting is something to be proud of; that whole "quitters never win" line is such a crock of shit). The time you spend allowing yourself to suck ass -- IMMERSING yourself in sucking ass and slowly filling in the void of your ignorance with knowledge -- just so you can become mediocre at something you love and then keep working to try to improve upon that. Beyond mediocrity there are so few people who are actually able to recognize the difference between mediocrity and greatness, there's no reason to beat yourself up if you're not capable of becoming that elite.
Being a "jack of all trades, master of none" ROCKS. It's fun, it's challenging, and I don't love any one thing enough to give up all the other stuff. So I really have to be satisfied with mediocrity, slow progress, and making balanced choices to devoting little bits of time here and there to different things I love. Like making flash cards to learn photography stuff. You're never too old for flash cards. I'm not, anyway.
I am mediocre at so many things, and have managed to balance (with great mediocrity) such a gigantic shitload of different kinds of work that I deserve to be quite proud of myself and my extraordinary mediocrity. I feel so blessed to be in a position to dabble so widely. Lucky lucky lucky, and proud of myself for creating a notable percentage that luck by my choices. For recognizing my luck and exploiting it to the best of my limited ability.
Some of us are able to do our work just because we're lucky enough to have the resources to buy tools, to live in an environment filled with inspiration and/or to be close to people who make beautiful subjects and do most of the art/work for you.
I love arranging forkfuls of food. Ones where I have the perfect ratio of one thing to the other(s). Mashed potatoes to gravy to meat. Raisins to flakes. Heavens to Betsy. It doesn't have to be fancy, the formula just has to be right. Everything pleasingly arranged in relation to each other. I will never be a good cook because I don't want to practice how to be; that's Delia's thing. It's my job just to love eating, every day, tasting and swallowing over and over and saying thank you, honey.
. And to figure out how to arrange camera settings like food on a fork, adjusting hole-sizes, timing mechanisms, and digitally tweaking things in perfect relation to the kind of light shining on my girlfriend.
Labels: art, beauty standards, food, memories, music, my trans partner, photography, PHOTOS, sex work, values, webwhore insights