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Monday, 2 September 2013

Blog revamp: The beginning

Of a surface for the blog and the post I wanted to write an hour ago but forgot about because I was busy doing nothing useful.

It has occurred to me lately that I might be willing to share this blog. Not with anyone I know, but the anonymous masses of the internets. A boring blog using a very outdated and unmodified template wouldn't do, neither will a blog without any pictures at all. But I've made up my mind to make my own everything and it will be a long while before I'm satisfied with it. I'll get around to toying with the code later, when I can teach myself not to fuck it up too badly before I get started.

There's a bit of something I wanted to get down in writing, though. It started with how I chose the background image I wanted to draw for the blog. Initially, I wanted to do something artistic 

(I remembered! remind me to write about creativity and limitless creativity leading to less creativity, about how the first realisation that you don't know what to do, when given all liberties, comes from the fact that you're now trying to please someone other than yourself.)

and, as I was saying, I came up with this somewhat stupid idea of drawing a brain rhizome, if such a thing could be drawn. One way to go about it would be to draw grass and then start drawing a picture of a brain in the earth under it, somehow turning it into roots (if you were too lazy to look up what a rhizome is, let me simplify it for you: a root). Before I got started with the drawing (which I intended would look like a pencil sketch on paper) I wanted to emulate paper. Old paper, the kind you'd expect to find in a very old book's pages. A bit worn, a bit stained, lived in. I spent  a lot  of time on this background. First tweaking it to look like paper, then to make it look old and stained, then to make it tile nicely, then completely giving up and starting over when I realised symmetry is something you have to build at the beginning. So there's that. However, all the time spent in this background led to an old memory I had. Back in the day when Dexter's Lab was on Cartoon Network, I tried to visualise people as surfaces that could represent them. For whatever reason, the surface was always a smoothed set of wavy ridges, as they'd appear in a rendition made by a 90s computer's graphics. Dexter's surface was a bright but not quite neon (a tad bit cooler and more neutral) shade of purple. It was completely even all over. Mine I always pictured as layers upon layers of scratches, lines, and colourful graffiti in an otherwise flat surface. It was odd thinking of all this as I chose my new surface as the one of an old book's. Just thought I'd leave that out there.

About the creativity thing up there... I don't know how art classes worked anywhere else, but in school1 it started with us having an assignment every week. We'd have a particular technique to use, or a particular thing to draw, or a theme to build upon. It was usually enough guidance to take whatever I was into at the time (celtic knots, faeries, unicorns, the moon and other bits of magic) into something that fit the bill. Sometimes we were given more freedom and we were only told to do something in 3D, or anything with watercolours, or anything that could be shaded with a pencil. Those were harder. The shock of a white piece of paper (or a blank piece of anything I intend to turn into something worth looking at) lies in the fact that I didn't want to waste material and yet didn't know how to go about modifying it for fear of ruining something that was perfect when it was first given to me. Contrast this with the times when  you hand a 5 year old a piece of paper and some coloured crayons and they immediately think of things to draw and get to work before you've even had time to think of what ideas to give them or what to draw yourself as you join them in the activity. This last bit is important because 5 year olds don't have very high expectations from you, me, or anyone. And yet when they present their doodles there is such an amazing amount of detail and storytelling only they can see.... it's astounding. 

I venture a guess: the mental block that comes when you're given total freedom and no instructions other than "be creative" is a symptom of of the fact that you're trying to please an audience and don't know how. Take school, for example. Back then it was easy enough: all you had to do was apply what was just taught and show you've learned what was expected from you. If you're one of the "good" students you learn to know what style each teacher prefers and how to get the top grades (or why you're not getting them). What about life in general, though? That thought gets me worried about everything because... who's the audience? Who are you trying to prove yourself to? What are you trying to prove, exactly? You were given a life in perfect condition, a blank sheet of paper, a empty blog, a piece of clay, a block of wood and... what are you supposed to do with it without wasting it? What are you supposed to do to prove you're not wasting it? What lessons did you learn that you're proud of? How can you convey that to others? Does anything change when you do things just for yourself?

It's somewhere in the description or one of the tabs. This blog is, among other things, my diary. I write it for me, for my peace of mind and stress relief. I go over old posts and correct the spelling and grammar because I'm ashamed of myself for making them. I didn't think of adding anything "attractive" (like pictures, or a better layout) because I was only looking at the content and always look at the blog from blogger anyway. However... what would happen if I wanted an audience? What do the anonymous masses want? Does it matter? My audience is actually much smaller: people who would read this blog. And who would bother reading it, anyway? What kind of person do I want to lure into voyeurism, granting them access to my thoughts, dreams, crises, joys, beliefs and daily life happenings? The truth is... I don't know.

And yet the first thing I did was make a background of an old piece of paper.

(In case you were wondering, I've given up on the idea of drawing anything on the piece of paper. I quite like it as it is. I may try to change it for another piece of paper if I get neurotic about being able to see the edges in the tiling or if it looks like it's not authentic looking enough, but it will most likely stay an old piece of paper. Make of that what you will.)


Interesting experiment idea: sign blank sheets of paper in a way that can't be reproduced (someone's signature, a special stamp), mark them with their names and give school students one a piece. Tell them they must return the same sheet of paper they were given at the end of the year. Count how many are actually given back and study them. How were the sheets lost? How many used them for something? For what? Did anyone return theirs with writing? Were any intact at all? Did anyone put theirs aside where it would be safe only to be returned as it was given? Did anyone give it back turned into origami? What would you do if you were given a sheet of paper to be kept for a period of time with no instruction other than to return it?

I came up with this once when I was in school1. I must have been 12-13, at the most. Back then I figured I'd try to keep the sheet of paper pristine for as long as possible and fail miserably, feeling judged by how well I took care of the sheet of paper. Thinking on it some more just now, it occurs to me I'd like to change my answer. I'd improve the shit out of that piece of paper, even if I don't know how. I would do something worthwhile. I would give that sheet some value it didn't have before that only I could give it. The sheet of paper on its own is worthless, it's what I do with it that counts. 

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