Saturday, April 21, 2007


I have an annoying habit, annoying to me anyway, of, every time I encounter a creative work that I like, or that I think is good -- a story, a painting, a song -- thinking, "I could do that. Why am I not doing that? I should be doing that."

I've never been a comic book fan, but I found some great erotic comics this week. I guess it's the sex that drew me in enough to really look at them, but the fact that they're so well drawn is what impressed me and held my interest. Well, the sex held my interest, too. Here's a link -- don't click if, for some reason, you don't want to see depictions of sex.

I've been looking at a lot of painting, research for the artist character in my screenplay. Especially Caravaggio and the many painters he influenced in that period and after. The Blanton Museum here in Austin has a great collection of European painting, and it's not crowded, even on "Free Thursdays," so I can really spend time looking at the paintings, something that is pretty much impossible to do at the bigger museums any more.

It's not so much that I think I could ever paint like Caravaggio, but I do think that I could have been a good painter. I think I am that talented, if only I had stuck with it. Maybe so.

Back then, painters learned to paint. They studied for years with experts, studied the materials, craft, techniques. They copied paintings to learn how they were made. When I studied painting at Parsons, we did no such thing. We had one class, two hours a week, on materials and techniques. We learned how to make our own stretchers, prime a canvas with lead white paint, we made paper. We made oil paint and egg tempera. Lots of little crafty projects that we laughed at and considered very passe and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, in our studio classes which were the core of the curriculum, consisting of drawing or painting and critiques, we had philosophical discussions about the meaning of art. We learned how to bullshit. Any instruction in the actual making of art was practically accidental. (An exception was my painting teacher, Regina Granne, who spent some time in the first few weeks teaching us about materials, how to work with oils, how to clean our brushes, etc. She was a figurative painter in a sea of abstractionists whose teachers were the New York School generation.)

It's not that we were discouraged from actually learning to paint. We could do it, but on our own time.

This is one of the most respected art schools in the world, and, if we wanted to take a dump in the corner and call it art, it was fine as long as we could talk about it in the correct vernacular. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. Maybe not.

We in the Fine Arts department looked down on the Illustration majors. They had copped out. We were artists. Looking back, I wonder if, had I chosen to study illustration, I would have learned more.

I've been investigating life drawing groups and classes in Austin, because I have a strong urge to start drawing again. But I worry. After two years of college, studying theater, I decided I needed to study painting because I wanted to be a director and to be a great director I needed to know how to paint. But when I was in art school, I "realized" I actually wanted to be a painter. Painting led me to start playing in a band (we all know how that is), and from there I started composing for experimental theater, which led me to folk music, and then to film. Which is where I am now and trying to stay put.

I know one thing leads to another, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I worry about one thing leading to another so quickly that I never finish anything.

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