Thursday, December 31, 2020

Art therapy for the 2020 blues

Finally, episode 47 of my video journal is one for the history books. The last upload for 2020. It's 9:37, the clock is ticking fast now.

This process of creating video content is truly challenging.

I have an idea that I want to share, I have a vague impression in my mind, I know enough about the tools I have at my disposal to figure out how to combine the pieces into a whole that approximates my vision for the piece, and I have the time to devote to the project.

I really enjoy the work, and sometimes I feel that I have come fairly close to producing something that I like, at least in some respects.

The interesting thing is that every episode is built with content layer upon layer, upon layer, all created to some extent by me, or at least content that I select for inclusion. Sometimes, as here, my contribution is small compared to the work of others that I have sampled and mixed into the ultimate end product. Yet the soundtrack, the images, and the video clips are included, sequenced, and presented in a way that is unique. 

The only thing that is all mine, for which I am solely responsible, beyond the editing, is the narrative that seeks to bind the overall experience.

In this case, the biggest challenge was creating a narrative that conveyed the message I was striving to share. As the layers accumulate, each editing step adds an element of structure that, as the work progresses, creates a larger and larger shape that becomes less and less malleable.

The fear that wells up, is that there may not be a path through the content for a coherent narrative that conveys my intended message.

The thing that makes the challenge really exquisite is that while the vision for the ultimate message is constant, the narrative remains vague.

There are drafts of bits and pieces, outlines, snippets, that I create as the work progresses, that guide the editing, but, no final narrative that I know will work.

An easier path would be to write the narrative as I would with a paper, or an essay.

The reason I don't do that, is that reading a prepared script destroys the most important aspect of the narrative. When I have tried that, it ends up sounding stilted, like a middling high schooler reading a composition in the classroom.

The approach I used for this episode is to record the narrative once the editing is almost done.

I try to imagine that the camera I am speaking to is you, the viewer, and that we are having a conversation. 

While doing that, I need to make eye contact with you, to look you in the eye, not with so much intensity as to be unsettling, but with enough engagement with you that you will stay with me until my message is complete.

While striving to do that magic trick, I need to avoid hemming and hah-ing, and repetitive annoying speech mannerisms that is a large part of how we humans, who aren't network news anchors, tend to communicate with each other.

Finally, exspecially with the topic of this episode, how do I not come off as someone whose only incentive is to show off an art collectiion in a self-aggrandizing, pompous way.

The cumulative effect of doing this kind of creative work is that the fear of failure grows within me with each step I take. Every time I return to editing, I come to the keyboard with a feeling that I have missed the mark, that I will hate the thing that I thought was more or less allright when I last stepped away. 

Fortunately, so far, it's never quite as bad as I fear.

Then the tweaking continues, and the clips that I cut litter the virtual cutting room floor, and pile up as the episode progresses and approaches its final shape.

I hope I have achieved something close to what I was seeking.

Happy new year to all of you. Soon time to pop the cork on the bubbly!

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Hovering Thoughts by Spence, Sarabande by Joel Cummins, Night Snow and Hopeful Freedom by Asher Fulero, all made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

It's 9:49. I made it.


Steve Williams said...

Art therapy -- what a wonderful concept to embrace in your video and a gift to watch on this first day of 2021.

This video may be the finest you've produced. Subject, concept, visualization, presentation, and editing are all strong. As I read the text in this post I was reminded of how difficult it is to achieve any of these things, let alone all of them. Well done David.

Like you, art plays a large role in my life -- as therapy, for escape and solace, and to quicken my spirit as I connect to things that transcend my day-to-day existence. And while the appreciation of artwork is an important component, don't forget that you're creating art as well with your ideas, words, and pictures that come together on the blog and in your videos.

I've been sitting this morning pondering the idea of learning to draw. Again. I've tried in the past but lacked the patience and persistence to continue on until I gained some modicum of expertise. I recognize the power that observation and creation have in my life, mostly now with a camera, but there is something different with drawing. Another form of art therapy perhaps.

Thank you again for stimulating ideas with your video. And best wishes to you, Suaan, and the rest of your family for a fine 2021.

David Masse said...

Steve that means so much coming from you.

Drawing is pure art. Drawings that are terrible tend to be those that are trying too hard to represent the thing that you see, or the literal message you hope to convey.

I have to say that my opinion in this is very suspect, because I can't draw. I have watched artists at work, and there is a completely different approach that they seem to take. They deal in volumes, complex shades of colour resulting from mixing the paint that mimics the light whose reflection defines the scene that the eye sees. The risk you take is not progressing to the point where you can live with the result.

I read a quote from Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract painter, who basically invented the process of dripping and swirling and literally throwing and flicking paint at massive canvases. He had abandoned a work that was in process, saying that "it is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take..."

People are fond of criticizing abstract work as something that "even I could do".

We have a painting hanging on the wall adjacent to a small abstract work we bought from an art dealer in West Palm Beach a few years back, purportedly painted by a French painter. I think it cost $20. Above it hangs a similarly sized work, in a similar vivid palette. If I asked you whether you thought they were by the same artist, the odds are you would readily agree.

The fact is that the second work is by our granddaughter, executed in daycare when she was just over a year old. I think it's funny.

The fact is though, that great abstract works can be breathtakingly beautiful. They can tell a coherent story, like a fine symphony of line, colour and shape.

I'll bet that learning to draw is certainly therapeutic, as long as it is approached with an open mind in a spirit of exploration, leaving objectives and strategies behind. Take a drawing course, learn to draw humans. Go to a second-hand book store and pick up a book on anatomy.

But who am I to give advice. I should shut up and work on my novel.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.