Monday, October 26, 2015

Normatively unethical

How will people remember me? How will the people I moved away from remember me? What do people I've lost contact with think of me? Do they? For some reason, it's important for me to know.

It is often said that you should not care about what other people think of you. But I don't think that is true. It's fine and all that you shouldn't base your perception of your own value as a person on the opinions of others. Humans are judgemental, and you need to be able to be proud of yourself without receiving praise or acknowledgement from others. Not everyone knows you, they might be wrong, or simply have a false image of you.

But you should definitely care about what the people who matter to you and those who know you think. Not necessarily about what any one individual will say about you, but the general perception people have of your personality. No one is perfect. If someone has a problem with you, maybe you need to take a step back and think about if, or how, you wronged them. Maybe you didn't, or maybe it's illegitimate critique, but simply considering the possibility can lead to a positive change. Other people will help us improve. People who never hear any legitimate critique, or will not listen to it, will not grow, or develop, as individuals. We will take things to heart, to polish our personalities and become better individuals. The opinions of others are stepping stones, tools we need in order to move forward.

We need to be critical of others, we need to think about the behaviour of others and the ethics behind their actions. And we must take that criticism, and apply it to ourselves. When we do something immoral, it often happens without thought. We might not even realize that what we're doing is wrong. That is why every wrong we see in others we must search for in ourselves. It leads us to both consider what is moral and immoral, and turn an analytical eye upon our own behaviour. Every once in a while, take a moment and think, am I not committing the same mistakes as them? Because we are. We do. We all commit the same mistakes, over and over, and judge each other for the same wrongdoings, over and over. We do it in different ways, but the sins are the same.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

University life

I'm really settling into the rhythm of studying at a university. Things are good! The workload at the moment feels pretty manageable, too. I know I'll have more courses next period, but I do not mind that at all. 

I was afraid I wasn't going to handle this whole "studying on your own"-thing well, because I've always had trouble concentrating when it comes to homework. It's really something I've never been good at. You might say, well, then I'm in the wrong place. Studying at a university takes concentration and above all dedication. But no. It's been just fine. Studying here feels more like my various projects than homework. I've never had any trouble concentrating while drawing, blogging, or playing the Uke, even though these activities fall into the same repetitive sedentary category.

Naturally, concentrating is easy because these are activities I'm interested in. Quite similarly, programming for example isn't so bad, I don't get very distracted. I also know that it's an important skill for an engineer to have. 

Maths here feels dauntingly difficult, in part because I haven't had the slightest bit to do with it for the past year working and conscripted. In part, also, because I realize I've come to a place where everyone is as good, or better, at it than me. Simply feeling intelligent has always been a strong motivator for me, and still is. That pride has definitely taken a hit here at Aalto. But the fact is, you don't get better if you don't challenge yourself. No pain no gain, or whatever.

The situation will even itself out. I've always believed there is a firm baseline for our feelings on the individual level, and the situation I'm in at any time is a temporary swing in the sine-curve of my confidence. I've met people who I legitimately believe will never be happy, whatever happens. I've also met people who seemingly can't be broken. Only something drastic or extreme could change that baseline, and every setback or boost is simply a fluctuation. A mood. It's like the weather. It can vary from one extreme to another, but the climate stays the same.

If you feel struck by this, like you've always been somewhat of a downer, don't let this put you down. There's strong evidence in the case of climate change. 

One thing sure hasn't changed. I still doodle incessantly in my schoolwork. I do all of my coursework on the Surface, and I decided to grab some of those quirky figures off my OneNote pages. My note-taking software doesn't offer too many tools for even the casual artist, but the challenge is naught but refreshing. It also forces you to use no colours, or really strong ones. It makes for interesting drawings!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The importance of artistic confidence

Red and blue ballpoint pens, and a mechanical B pencil.

My style in drawing is very sketchy. I'd take cross-hatching over a smooth gradient any day. I think there is beauty in the natural stroke of pencil on paper. Back before I had found my style, I tried fingers, Q-tips, and even tortillions in order to achieve smoother shading in my very rendered drawings. And sure, there's a place for that, especially in coal and pastel drawings, but I just don't find it especially interesting. Shading isn't supposed to be subtle or discrete, and there is definitely room for artistic boldness.

I tried something different with this drawing. I'm not really diverging from my chosen style, it's more of an experiment. While I don't think it's bad, it's definitely disappointing. First of all, the red lines aren't stylistically consistent. They form round and organic curves around the breast and arm areas, while they become rigid lines on the legs and face. That's one problem.

The biggest problem is that it looks sketchy in a bad way. Sometimes I admire what some people can do with a limited amount of brush strokes. How the pencil just seems to leave a perfect mark all on it's own. Sketching and that sketchy style is really all about achieving as much as possible as simply and easily as possible, and this just isn't doing that. While it's definitely sketchy, it lacks the element of organization that makes it a good kind of sketchy. We're looking for organized chaos, but this is just chaos.

I think a lot of people make a mistake in not allowing their drawings to look chaotic. Many people I know almost seem like they're trying to hide the fact that it takes pencil or ink marks to create a drawing. They draw like they want what they're doing in the painting to be so insignificant, that no one could tell the difference. I advice people not to do that. You don't have to abandon your style, just experiment a bit. Give something stylistically different a proper go. Be bold. You don't have to like your drawings, but be confident when you draw them, because they will be better that way.

Using a tortillion or smoothing over your pencil marks is just like how a beginner artist might draw in what you'd call chicken scratch. Lines that aren't really strokes, just a collection of scratches that together are supposed to represent some form of distinction. Truthfully, a simple, confidently drawn line is so much better. The same principle of confidence can be applied to shading, and gradients. It's nicer to see a confidently drawn but choppier gradient, with the edges of areas of different value visible, than a sheepishly smudged-over smooth gradient.

But these are only the principles behind MY style. You don't have to agree, but don't write off the value of experimenting stylistically. You can learn a lot by putting yourself out of your comfort zone - different styles exercise separate, and perhaps new, artistic subskills that might be bottlenecking your development as an artist.