Saturday, September 19, 2009

Developing the Art In You!

One of the first things in learning how to draw is to see and evaluate things beyond their superficial layer. Everything visual in nature, as taught by the Post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), is based on a fundamental shape. The shape of an apple, for example, in spite of its bulges and recesses, is based on a sphere. The trunk of a tree, in its simplest form, can be seen as an upright cylinder. An ice cream cone is a combination of an inverted cone and a hemisphere, which represents the single ice cream scoop. The human body can either be constructed as a combination of cylinders or cubes and rectangular planes of varying sizes.

Cezanne was a master of the form. He took special care in constructing an object by bringing it down to its most basic form. According to him, “everything in nature is modeled after the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder”[1]. And it should be in this way that any novice artist must develop his perception.

In developing this acuity, the trainee will include in his exercises portrayals of nothing but the basic shapes. He may begin with a single shape, say of a sphere, filling his entire plate. It may also be enhanced with what he knows about lighting and shading; later, he may include the use of color. The most important thing, however, is that he must recognize and pay his respects to the basic shapes he may identify in everything.

Once the artist has accustomed himself to the basic shapes, it will be time for him to distort them. His next exercises will feature the distortion of these basic forms. By this time, the artist may be apprehensive in disfiguring the shapes he has learned to respect and draw in perfection. His plates, therefore, may show a slight warping of the shapes while largely maintaining their integrity. This is but a normal reaction. And this is how the very trend of how expressionism and the non-objective art of abstraction took shape. The artist may start with a standing cone twisted at its trunk, or a cube that appears to have been mashed by a careless grip.

The importance that this exercise promotes is that of experimentation. In this way, the artist develops a new way of seeing the world. Masters like Cezanne and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) grew out of the convention of merely copying from nature and began putting their creative visions above the obvious. Cezanne, in seeking for his own brand of balanced composition, ventured to distort the shape of an apple [2].

The later phase of an artist’s exercise is to compose his shapes in a shattered formation. While the second phase merely deformed his figures, this last stage requires him to blow apart his image. This is the beginning of the non-objective art of abstraction. In its simplest sense, one of the reasons why we see no figure in an abstract work is that it has been splintered all over the plate leaving the essence of the subject to be felt by the viewer.

For this stage, his illustration plates will attempt to portray figures in their broken state: maybe a cube that had been smashed by a sledge hammer or a sphere demolished into a hemisphere. The artist may reduce a basic shape into smithereens. The challenge here, however, is to retain any idea of the basic form despite the transformation represented. This is not difficult to portray. In real life, we reconstruct with our minds what a broken down wall must have appeared before state we presently perceive it. In this same way, the artist will allow his audience to visually reconstruct his shape, even without the use of a title to guide them.

Work cited:
1. Jeremy Kingston, “Arts and Artists” (Aldus Books: London, 1980), p.103.
2. Ibid., pp.16-17.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Greatest Heroes of Modern Mythology: Zuma

In the 1970's, the Philippine comicbook world was dominated by a fearsome green-skinned snake lord by the name of Zuma. This powerful anti-hero was created by a writer named Jim Fernandez and featured in the beginning pages of Aliwan Komiks, the most popular local comicbook of its time. The story wherein Zuma appeared was entitled "Anak Ni Zuma," or "Zuma's Child," and has been one of the Philippines' longest-running stories to date.

It took a while for readers to realize the significance of the title until the middle part of the story when Zuma's daughter, a pretty girl named Galema, was revealed to have the power to stop him. It was then thought by Zuma's nemesis that the poison she had was potent enough to kill him. Yet when presented the opportunity to finally use the poison against him, he merely slipped into hibernation. He awakes years later to continue his havoc on humanity. The span of his absence, however, nurtured his daughter to full maturity and power to engage her father in fatal combat.

Zuma was a green-skinned demi-god who ruled over serpents, a son of an Aztec god named Kukulkan. Around his neck slung a mutant snake with heads located at both ends of its body. Being half-man and half-deity gave him the immortal and invincible privileges; yet in the stories, he even seemed to possess the nine lives of a cat, in that he slipped past tortuous predicaments without being landed a blow.

Zuma is one character I wish I had the privilege to create. Imagine a green-skinned, g-strung Superman who worked on the side of destruction and mayhem.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boredom: The Lurking Killer

Are you bored? Tired? Slowed down by the pace of a dragging day? Sick and tired of being sick and tired? That's dangerous. And protracted boredom can be deadly. You have heard people exclaim how "bored to death" they are that they feel like "shooting" themselves. The origin and development of this run down, exaggerated statement will surprise you.
        Those who grew up in the 1980's may remember a TV actor and model by the name of Jon-Erik Hexum, whose rise to stardom was ended in a tragic fate of Russian roulette during one of the long intermittent delays that plagued his television series tapings. Early on in the aftermath, fans, co-stars, and the TV crew alike were not ready to believe that Jon-Erik died by his own hands. This is where the incident becomes controversial. Negligence for safety was filed against the studio management of CBS. Years later, his co-stars would continue to point to the gross disregard to in-house safety procedure. But when viewed in the context of boredom, the circumstances surrounding his accident will appear grimly disturbing.
        The production shoots of the television series “Cover Up” at this time was plagued with long periods of intermittent delays, and Jon-Erik rose from a nap he inadvertently took on the on-set bed during one of these “break times.” He was weary and overworked, as were the other cast members and crew, being compelled to stay at the studio for up to 18 hours a day. In his attempt to occupy the complacency, however, he turned to the prop guns they were using on the set. This has been an established fact.
        His favorite was the .44 Magnum designated to the character he played. For some unexplained logic, this gun was left in his possession, ungathered by the props master, even throughout the length of the break time. This gun had ventured with Jon-Erik to his dressing room, twirled around his palm, raised and aimed at just about anything he fancied, much to the ire of co-star Jennifer O’Niell who once fumed over Jon-Erik’s haphazard handling of the prop pistols.
        Now, Jon-Erik reaches once again for its now-familiar grip. He sees the time and realizes the tediousness of nothing to do. In what seems to him as harmless dabbling, he unloads all the blank bullets but one, then locks back the chamber section. He spins it, watching its form blur in speed and progressively regain its details as it slows and stops. If only break time would end as soon as the chamber stops; but it seemed that not a minute had advanced at all! In exasperation, Jon-Erik, for what would be the last time, raises his .44, with the barrel’s firing end at his head. Squeezing the trigger, the studio reverberates with the sound of a gunshot. Amidst black smoke, Jon-Erik was screaming in agony, his head baptized in blood. As people around dashed to his aid, Jon-Erik slips into a coma, from which he will never awake. In the hospital, despite intubation and life support, he was pronounced brain dead after six days.
        Jon-Erik’s death is not merely a lesson on careless recklessness. It reveals the subtle power of boredom and complacency. Management experts understand that a dragging momentum is as much a serious factor into committing fatal errors as the oversights incurred in a headlong scramble. And not only was Jon-Erik a victim of this, as claimed by his co-stars, but the props people as well, as manifested by their deliberate disregard of the studio’s safety protocols. There was, and will be, no logical excuse for anyone in the studio at that time in violating safety standards. This is the nature of a mistake committed out of boredom.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

Coping with the Complication and the Hidden Danger of Boredom and Complacency