When I was in college, I had a roommate who told me that World of Warcraft starts at level 40. I think he was trying to justify that his Gryphon had to auto travel across the whole world (of warcraft) to get to obscure quests and he had to sit there and stare while the game played itself. He killed a thousand weird pig creatures to level his characters up to where the game apparently started.
This summer has been a lot of waiting and grinding, and I’m hoping that I can get two very complicated paintings to level 40.
The first is an experimental working clock painting. I’ll post about that separately soon. Believe it or not, I started a project that receives hours of work like wells receive wish pennies. I’ve been dreaming of spin off paintings from this project- deer dragons fighting St. George the Wolf- but I’ll have to put them all on my Christmas list. This painting won’t see the light of day until late fall/early winter.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on a less conceptual but more complicated painting of Studebaker Metals. The goal of this painting is to create as dynamic a space as possible. It’s less batman throwing a bunch of complicated weapons at a problem and more superman blowing straight through buildings. The problem, though, is that this painting is difficult in a completely different way than the clock. It’s just…difficult. I know all the steps, I can see the barriers. It’s just a long, hard job.
So, here is where we are. Just for context, I spent ten hours on the figures alone
The figures turned out great, but I need to clean up around them and do some very fine detail work to make them pop a little more. The math is pretty good- the perspective is working, especially in person.
I was at an event last night with my art, and I was talking about how if your art isn’t fun to make, you probably won’t do it. Afterward, I thought through what I meant. People talk about art being fun, or fulfilling, or peaceful. I think that that is a really vague map to how art feels when you make it.
Trying to narrow it down, how of it is like playing World of Warcraft? I play video games unambitiously, so it might be hard for me draw a perfect distinction. For me, playing video games is like sleeping, in that it turns off most of my brain. It gives me a sense of power and achievement and hits pause on my problems.
Art, even when I’m grinding, is a more engaged activity. It’s hard: I get intimidated and shy away from parts of the painting and have to catch myself. I scratches the problem solving itch, but the problems at their worst feel like yawning chasms. It’s dramatic and trying. When I achieve things, though, the feeling of satisfaction is different. I can hold it in my hands and I feel like I’ve made progress on my forever journey towards…something. God? The World’s Greatest Painting? Laser Vision? It’s real though. I start painting immediately after finishing them, and it rarely feels like I’m Sisyphus. I have somewhere I’m going, and meticulous grinding is at times how I get there.
I think that the truth is that there is no level 40 for art. It’s a mountain that yields wildly satisfying views the higher you climb, but the mountain is impossibly tall. You keep leveling and leveling, breakthroughs yielding to challenges yielding to breakthroughs.
All this said, I need to make simpler paintings, full stop. I just need to. There’s got to be a way around the siege that is this clock and this metal shop. They’ll both be great…but at what cost?!?!