Sunday, April 20, 2014

Great news!

The other day I contacted (Quite nervously and with much anticipation) the architectural department responsible for assessing and evaluating the hand-in assignments for the applications, and with great relief I was informed that my work had been received and accepted, and that a booklet in which instructions for what happens next had been sent to my address. To put it shortly, I'm up for round 2. 

I haven't actually read the booklet, as it was sent to my parents' address. It's about 30 pages worth of text, but I will summarize it here for anyone interested. In my experience, entrance exams (Especially to art-related educ-... things.) can be quite interesting.

To clarify before I begin; I am applying for all of the three educations in architecture that the finnish universities have to offer. They all share the same application, which means that I am applying to Oulun Yliopisto, Tampereen Teknillinen Yliopisto, and Aalto Yliopisto, all with the same single entrance process and exams. I've set my sights on Aalto, and while it is the most difficult school to get in to, I'd say I've got a good shot at it. But I don't want to speak too much of it before the applications are actually done with and I've got the results on hand.

The entrance exam process is split into three phases. I've already passed phase one, and I didn't want to write about that before because it would have been so embarrassing if I hadn't made it. Absurd, right? Yeah. Pssht. Of course I made it. In it to win it. I haven't been nervous at all. Nope.

Phase one consisted of three separate creative assignments to be handed in. We had a couple months to finish them (About the same time that I read for and wrote my matriculation exams.), and then they were to be sent by mail to be evaluated at Aalto. Phase one was entirely a passed/failed thing, and doesn't contribute to the final score (Phase 1+Phase 2+Points for Matriculation exam.)

The first and second of which were 2 dimensional, i.e. drawn/painted/made/whatever on paper, and were to be based and inspired off two texts. One text was an excerpt from a book by Tove Jansson, the second was a slab of text from a book about Japanese architecture. I don't have a picture of what I did for the Tove Jansson text, but below is my drawing of a Japanese room. 

Quite plain, as you can see. There wasn't a lot of room for creativity in this one. The Tove Jansson text require more metaphorical language, as the assignment was to somehow put the feeling of the rather gloomy text down using a visual medium (Photography, drawing, painting, whatever. It had to be in colour though.). Sadly, I never photographed my painting for that one.

The third assignment was to create a box with adjustable lighting conditions. This was achieved building two "roofs", one set in place, and one on hinges. The set roof was to be pierced with holes in such a way that it creates an interesting scene inside the box. You were also allowed to make holes in the sides of the box, so that some light would enter the box even with the adjustable lid closed. You also had to make a hole into one of the walls from which to see into the box. I quite liked this assignment, as I hadn't really done anything like it before.

As you can see, it's quite plain. I folded the sofa and the television from coloured paper (Crazy origami-skills.), and... Yeah, that's about it. I don't have a picture of it with the lid closed, but there's a hole in the left wall, just out of sight. That hole was supposed to let light into the box in such a way that it looked like the TV was illuminating the room. Which I realize would be pretty strange, as there's no picture... Oh well. But it's simple and I like it. The photo seems to be from when the box was still work-in-progress, as you can see some light is seeping in through the cracks. I fixed it up before I sent it in though.

And that's a picture of the WIP box from the outside. Working in surgical conditions as you can see.

And that's phase one. A link to the full instructions can be found here:

Phase two is a fairly straightforward maths test, based upon skills I should already have (And attested to in the matriculation exam...). It's in a months time, so I've some time to polish my calculator and put on my maths-face. The biggest problem we're faced with is that we aren't allowed to use the same calculators we used in the matriculation exams, because they're too "smart". They simply do too much for the user, and we have to use simpler calculators. Basically the same level you get on your phone's calc, which is miles dumber than the CAS enabled MACHINE that has been writing my exams for the past three years.

Phase three is another creative challenge. Actually, more like 10. Those who pass the maths test are invited to a four day drawing "competition". Putting it simply, that's exactly what it is. This is the most important phase, because it's where you gather most of your points, with which you compete for the limited amount of spots available.

Points are calculated as (Maximums) 3p for Phase 2, 15p for Phase 3, and 12 points for how well you did in the matriculation exams. Additionally, 25% of the spots are distributed to the people who do best in Phase 3, which means you can get accepted purely on the basis of your drawing skills (You still need to achieve like 0.4 (40%) times the average in the maths test, which... is really little.).

The total amount of spots available at the three universities is about 110 per year. According to my approximation, that means only about 10% of the applicants actually get a spot. That's pretty stiff! And less than a third of these people get into Aalto, the toughest and most desired of the three. You can be pretty damn good and still not get a spot at all. According to my calculations, I need to get at least a thirds of the points in Phase 2 and 3 to get in with the results in the m. exams that I'm expecting to get. That leaves me in an okay position. Enough to get in at Oulu and Tampere, but not quite enough for Aalto.

Anyway, one thing at a time. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Phase one was a success, in a months time (Exactly, actually.) I'm doing the maths test.

Hopefully this answers some of the questions about my entrance exams. I've explained it so many times in person already, so I thought I might as well write it down here too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oil painting and "talent"

I recently picked up a set of oil-based paint, mainly for the exhibition-related project. This piece was actually the first painting I made using them (and maybe the third oil painting altogether. We really didn't get to do a lot of this in class.), and I think it turned out nice. It's not completely finished yet, I just realized, but I don't have access to it right now, so I'll just have to go ahead and upload it anyway.

There's some work yet to be done on the hands, the waist, his shoulders and eyes... Well, basically everywhere. And his tusks are missing, which is a real mistake. If I finish it, I might upload a quick update, so you can see what was done.

Anyway, so this was among my first dabbles with oil-based paint. I actually felt right at home straight away, it's really easy to work with. It's quite forgiving, as you can easily redo things, just slabbing some paint over it.

I am using quite cheap paint (Actually, the cheapest paint I could find.), and the difference between this and some quality paint I once used back in art class at Arbis (after school.) is that by diluting the quality paint with oil, you could cover a really big area with very little paint. On the other hand, with the cheap paint, mixing it with oil easily diluted the paint, making it thin and reducing the visual thickness. As a result, I use way more of the cheap oil than one would use of the quality oil, to cover the same area. Both were quite easy to work with, though. I suck at mixing values and hues, so the bigger set of different colours I got with the cheap paints is the biggest benefit I felt over the more limited set of quality paints.

As I've always felt, though, the tools are seldomly very important. Sometimes, getting better equipment can help, but this is mostly true with digital art. Photoshop, or some comparable software, can have clear benefits over some cheaper or free counterpart. For example, Photoshop has a WAY more advanced Brush engine than GIMP (Ironically, I never use Photoshop. GIMP and OpenCanvas are my go-to programs for digital art.). Still, you need to have the knowledge to make use of whatever features your digital tools offer.

Low-quality art tablets can also hamper your progress. But getting a new tablet doesn't necessarily make your art any nicer. In the same way, you can create pretty awesome stuff with really cheap, 6-pad watercolours, but you may be able to work much more efficiently with a good advanced set. To sum that up, it's more important to have tools that you're comfortable with rather than expensive, high quality equipment.

In the end, visual artistry is a skill of the mind, not an ability of the hand. You need to think in certain patterns, and see things perhaps differently than others. Some of this can be learned from books for example, there's a lot of theoretic knowledge on what works and looks good (e.g. The golden ratio, colour combos, the rule of thirds and compositional rules.), some of it can be picked up with experience and practice, and a little part of it has to do with... Uh, I don't like to call it this, but talent.

You can become a great artist without talent, and it's not like it's a binary system. Everybody has a bit of it. And even though one may suck at drawing, this person may still have that artistic predisposition that we generally call talent, this person just failed to put in the hours. Because at the end of the day, you have to put in a lot of work to become good at drawing, or painting. You have to practice.

That's why I don't like to talk about talent. It's the practice that makes you good. Some need to practice more, others less, because that's the benefit that "talent" gives you. Almost anyone can train their mind to see things the way an artist does, and anyone can train their hands to make the necessary pencil strokes, just as almost anyone can learn to play an instrument, provided this person puts in the hours and hones his skill long enough.

I don't like to hear that I'm a talented artist. While I know they mean to say that I'm pretty good at drawing, saying someone is talented really just deprecates all the practice and work put into acquiring that skill. Talent is this thing that sort of implies you just magically got good at something.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stress and whats been up

Why haven't I been blogging? For almost 4 months, not a word!

Well, there's no single reason for this, but the biggest reason would be that my schedules tightened up under some formidable pressure. I've been reading for and writing my Matriculation exams, which are now over. This has taken up a lot of my time. What's interesting is how the actual reading hasn't taken that much time, about one to two hours per day, this time in preparation for the exams seem to have occupied a lot more of my life than that. I think it has affected me on a deeper level.

Shaded entirely using the words "LOSER LOSER LOSER...".

While it most definitely hasn't been as dramatic as this drawing would like you to believe, and I think I held up quite well, something strange happened to me last week. I woke up at 7 in the morning, sweating, with this weird, almost panic inducing feeling that I definitely hadn't read enough, but had to get up, quickly pack my lunchbox and go write a test. It made me think a little bit about how the exams and the stress actually affected me.

I've always seen myself as a person who handles stress quite efficiently. And I still do, for that matter. For the most part, I would attribute that to a healthy attitude, and I really think many emotional and psychological problems can be solved with a little bit of attitude adjustment. It doesn't make you immune to the effects of stress, but it's definitely a way of countering stress in the first place.

That didn't quite hold up, though. During this period, I definitely felt the stress in my body, but emotionally I was fine. I make sure to make enough to for myself, I always do. Which I'm sure is why the preparation for the exams took a lot more time than the actual reading.

In further introspection, during the last week before the exhibition I was a part of (Which I actually haven't written about on the blog... I'll have to update you guys on that in a future entry. An exhibition with my classmates.), when I basically worked all day after school for a week straight, I felt the effects of stress much more keenly on an emotional level, because then I literally had no time left over for anything else. No free time in the evenings to wind down, which turns out is pretty important. It's not like I lost my ability to function properly, the inevitable venting was just a lot more compressed and intense.

Anyway, during these last few weeks, it seems the stress also affected my needs. Rather than blogging, or going to the gym, which is another thing I stopped doing during this time, I spent my time with simpler pleasures. Socializing, time with my girlfriend, or just doing pointless shit on my PC. I didn't have the need to be creative, to blog, or to spend time at the gym, I needed a solid base of entertainment to counteract the stress and time spent reading. I couldn't do everything, and I accepted that.

Under normal circumstances, these things would have bothered me. Not keeping up with my routines, like my gym "schedule" and updating my blog, these things would have bothered me. But sorry readers, during these last months, I haven't even thought about blogging. I haven't had time. I guess that's just proof blogging is a real hurri-sport :P I mean, when you have too much time on your hands, you need to occupy yourself with SOMETHING, right.

Anyway, that's all for now. While I feel that I've written a lot more about my personal life than is traditional for this blog, I don't feel I've written quite enough yet. These are interesting times, and I figured I would also let you readers take part of my university applications.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Musings on modern feminism

I have some commentary on what feminism has become today. Or the things it has become, as it is clearly a quite split and general agenda at this point. Feminism doesn't so much strive for a single goal as it is a collection of ideals and a fight towards what is simply a better state of being. Having achieved so much already, though, I don't think some of the methods of feminism today are wise or even logical. Standing on the barricades isn't going to work anymore.

The trend of change needs to make a transition from conscious to unconscious. Instead of fighting for rights, etc., where great strides have been made, we have to focus on the way we raise the next generations. Our children will need to be more respectful, and not share the conservative ideals that serve as the biggest hindrance to e.g. equality in the workplace, home and so on. There are some basic things today that prevent equality between the genders (Speaking on a general level, of course.), and these hindrances are written in our schoolbooks, the curriculum, and the minds of most everyone who grew up... Well, ever. Even the bible is sexist.

These sexist subtleties are what cause the disparity between how we view men and women. They create the stereotypes, which effect our behavior. What I mean by that can be illustrated with an example. The world is getting more equal every day. Thus, older books contain more sexist material. Be it ideas or values, or sexist rhetoric, it affects the way we think. The sexism affects us whether we want it to, or not. And so female acceptance of what is indeed an unadvantaged position is born. We need to be more conscious of how the traces we leave affect those who come after us.

In a perfect world, every school book, every educational film, everything, would be remade to be completely gender neutral. And it's not just about literature and written word. We have to get rid of all the underhand jabs that the female gender has to take. The sexism of the everyday. Same goes in the LGBT-cause. The only thing that fights progress is the fact that the generations alive today were taught to hate certain things, taught by the books they read and the conservative ideals passed on from grandparents to parents to children. Taught by the very language we speak. It all comes from a more sexist place, a world that doesn't exist anymore. A heritage that affects us whether we like it or not.

While that is perhaps not a feasible outcome, or even desired (Not everything can be perfectly gender neutral.), some things can be done, which leads me to what was actually going to be the first paragraph in this blog entry;

So the other day I listened to a debate, and saw a couple short films. One on the radio (YLE), the other on a paid TV-channel.

As you can probably tell by me writing this in the first place, things escalated quite severely. I don't even have time to write about the short films, the particular chain of thought that I've been writing about just turned out to be way too long. Anyhow, what set of this whole entry was that one of the members of the debate pointed out that women have no good word for their reproductive organs. It's okay for a child to talk about snoppar, which is dicks in swedish, but it's not okay to talk about fittor (vaginas). In fact, there isn't really a good word for it in swedish. The debater went on to use the word Snippa, which is actually a pretty good word.

The problem is, though, when I was 5, I probably had no idea there was such a word, and I'm not sure many girls did either. In fact, when I was 5, Snippa wasn't even a word. It was accepted into Svenska Akademiens Ordlista in 2006. The debater and I wonder, did most of the young girls get slapped when they spoke of their genitals? Because besides snippa, I really can't think of another Swedish word for vaginas that isn't considered naughty. Boys talk about dicks all their lives, but women only learn the proper terminology once they have sex-education in school.

And it's the small things such as this that together constitute the biggest obstacles that feminism faces today, and cause the predisposed, everyday sexism that no one really seems to pay much attention to, but it's also is what makes all the difference.

Sadly, the drawing is completely unrelated. I wish I had something more fitting to show, but alas. It's a far since evenings sketchings, which I'd crammed in somewhere inbetween reading for my matriculation exams, which are now fortunately over. I don't think I realized how much pressure the exams put on me. While I believe I also handled that stress quite alright, it may have affected me in more ways than I felt. But as I am now planning on giving writing on a regular basis another go, I'll save that bit for a future entry, this one is long enough as it is.