Fetishized art

I got into few discussions about art recently. Well, discussion is the wrong way to put when it’s people screaming from the bottom of their lungs and refusing to listen what other people had to say. Art, it makes people mad.

I generally refuse to outright say anything about what I think of art, or what is art. Here, I’ll come out clean; I consider things as art as long as they’re done by artists. If a person who is not an artist, say a movie director, calls his movie as art, he is a stupid director. If a musician calls himself as an artist, I wish him to show his art to me. If he were to put on some music, then I call him a liar. He is producing music he made as a musician.

Not everything is art. Everything doesn’t need to be art in order to be appreciated. Books, films, games, music, plays and advertisement are not art. They are what they are. Writers, directors, coders, musicians, actors and visual designers are not artists. These people are what they are.

It is incredibly insulting to call thing X as art if it’s not. Otherwise you’re showing ignorance.

Then, what DO you regard a art?
you may ask. Read it from above; art is done by artists. But isn’t art all about expressing yourself in various ways? In that case me farting at you because of that comment is a form of art. No, expressing yourself is not art. It is widely believed that all things can be considered art, but in same vain everything could be considered porn.

To make a proper argument we need to forget ifs, coulds, and perhapses. Art is art. Saying that a certain film could be art automatically invalidates the proposition. Are you saying that things can’t be two or more things at the same time? No. Dissecting things into lower categories automatically open this door, and a film can be many things. A book is a labour of the writer, the person who designs the cover, the person who is taking care of the machines that ultimately compile the physical book and the person who edited it. The text itself is made by the writer and the editor/s, and if there has been no editor then there’s something wrong.

Whenever I see a product made by an artist that is not art, I see a pile of scraps. People tend to call themselves artists and this sort of false artist-hood is lifted into an icon status.

I call this the bullshit-hood.

It seems that a lot of people connect art with experience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I find it very laughable that a lot of people start spewing words about being touched, moved and other emotional stuff. If art is supposed to touch you on some emotional level, then I guess punching your nose in is art as well. I mean, you will feel something because of it, right?

But sarcasm aside, art has become a some sort of super-cultural thing in that nothing has value if it’s not considered art, or that if it’s considered art then it’s something you can drool over and feel good about. Art has become intellectual masturbation during the last century and has been passed to current generations. Isn’t it the nature of things such as language to evolve with time? Yes, that would be a valid argument if you didn’t look like an asshat while making that argument. During the 1900’s art itself was expanded in many ways, and because of this certain people managed to put their own twist in there. Perhaps the most robust and stupid example of things going to hell are all the anti-art movements we’ve seen, most prominent being the Dada. I won’t hide my personal dislike when it comes to Dada. [Eww.Edit]

Perhaps nowadays we hare having sort of overt pro-art movement without realizing, where everything, almost literally, needs to be art. You can’t have experiences unless it’s artistic or made through art. When you have not enough words to describe something, it’s called artistic. Everything needs to be creative; art. It’s a fetish, where over a certain limit you can’t seem to enjoy a thing unless you begin to regard it as art. Why not think that thing as something extremely well crafted product aimed to give you the experience? it doesn’t drop it’s value, and if it does, then you have a problem.

I see no reason to hide behind the veil of art. I don’t do art, I’m not an artist of any sorts. I’m a craftsman who really tries to be designer. What I do is not art, and I won’t argue against my customer if he wants to see it as such when I am working. Outside work, outside the field where I don’t need to be the one serving, I will tell this person on my views about art and everyone involved when it comes to my products. Then again, I’ve had many good discussions with my customers on the different views on art, and most of them agree that when thought a little deeper, many things are not art. It’s very easy to throw that term in there and let it sink, but sometimes we just need to stop thinking rather than spewing out opinions we don’t really back. Belittling a well made product by calling it art is something I wish to avoid with my clients, just as I never play Visual Novels.

If you ask a proper designer if design is art, they will grudgingly answer you no. Taking pride on your work is important, but as a customer I wish you’d also recognise the value of their profession.

An artist has the opportunity to live in the artscape where a lot of people want to go into. Art is born from artscape, and artscape thrives on creativity. Still, if you need to consider things that were not made by artists as art, then I guess we all are artist, everything is art from BigMac to the lenses of my glasses. You can’t have double standards.

Then who is an artist? Who decides what makes an artist?
I know a slew of people who have a certified paper from an artschool that allows me to call them artists. You may want to call people without education artists, but then again you don’t call your friend a teacher when he teaches you on something. You don’t call your mom an artisan when she weaves you a nice pair of socks.

While this is an extreme way to put it, it’s also completely true; you are not an artist just by someone calling you. You need something more than nice pictures to become an artist. Even artist needs to be schooled, and without a question there is a number of artists that have taught themselves everything they know. Jack Kirby learned everything from the streets by observing the everyday life. The again, Jack Kirby wasn’t an artist, he was a master comic illustrator and a storyteller.

Limitations are your friend

So you’ll make a stool.
As ordered, sure.
And you’re only allowed to use these steel pipes and piece of wood for the seat. You up to that?

But of course. Now let’s sit down and discuss what kind of piece it will be.
No need to, just make the best you can while avoiding anything that’s done before and do something unique. Tootles!
And the customer storms off…

Limitations are a godsend gift to mankind. Without limitations everything would be goalless and lacking in quality. Quality control is the most important limitation we have, as everything else can be traced back to it. The example above is a way how to get yourself in trouble; you have no clear goals or aims, and the end result will end up messy because of this.

A stool made of pipes and piece of wood can look pretty much anything you want it to look. The question always is how to do it. With pipe there’s a lot options; you can cut open the pipe and have curved squares pieces; you can bend it into shape; you can stack them together and so on. The question of course is why you should do it this way. It takes more time to cut the pipe this way rather than cut the pieces from pre-banded metal sheet, for example. The shapes wanted might be much easier to do with any other way with different materials. This is why the right kind of limitations are important; rather than limiting materials or tools, limiting the aims and goals should be the way to go.

Limiting materials is usually way to test how well a person can use his wits and creativity. However, because if this the test is flawed from the very beginning, as creativity isn’t what a craftsman should aim for. For an artist this kind of test would be OK, it’s their bread and butter after all.

Now, imagine the customer coming back and checks the finished stool. Sure, it looks rather unique and certainly there’s no other like it in the world. However, because of the limited material and my own imagination it is not what the customer wanted. There was no quality control, only control of resources, and lousy resources at that.

Lack of resources is not necessarily a bad thing, as too much resources is just as negative as lack of them. When you’re offered too vast resources one becomes blind and can’t really see the trees from the forest. Golden middle road is the best option, as always, with some leeway to either add or deduct needed said resources.

In writing the most important limitation by far is a good editor. You can see from the quality of my writing that I have none, thou one of my friend has said that he would be willing to check these posts if needed. I haven’t really taken on his offer yet. Still, behind every successful and good writer is equally good editor. In most cases even better. You don’t get proper books if you don’t have an editor who is able to weed out all the rot from the living text. Your friend may be able to tell what’s the strongest and the weakest parts of your text, but he can’t really tell you what is needed to make the text stronger and more appealing. That comes with experience as an editor. An experiences editor can make the worst text into a shining example of literature, as well as force the writer grow as a craftsman.

However, writing also requires absolutely insane amounts of work and knowledge outside writing and your own field. It’s never just dependant on the editor.

In music the instruments are naturally one of the limitations. Add too many instruments and you’ll have nothing but cacophony. A kind of editor here is needed as well, who would weed out the bad from the good. Lyrics especially need someone to check through. Usually experienced composers themselves are able to say whether or not their pieces work. They still need to know a lot outside their own field of expertise, just like everyone else.

Every project needs schedules, resources and goals. Without these projects are doomed to fail; they’ll never get finished if there’s no schedule, too much resources cause shifts and changes in their use and the end product will suffer because of this, whereas the lack of resources might make the product far too miniscule in comparison; and goals which are not just the important part but the one that has to be set from the very beginning. A goal is like a shotgun shell, that has multiple goals inside of it. Shoot it at good distance and the pellets will hit the target. Shoot it too far away and the pellets will be spread too thin. Shoot it too close and pellets are far too tight. The project manager has a huge responsibility to keep the goals realistic and within grasp in any project of any scale.

In making the stool there was no goals. There was schedule and there was limited resources. Ok, there was a goal, but the goal and everything else in the project was at odds with each other. Only a crafty project manager would be able to make proper sense of it all and make a stool worth giving away to a customer.

Limiting yourself just the right amount in your daily life is a good idea as well. Going 100% every day isn’t recommended.

What happened to the stool? If you’re interested, I’ll return to that point in six months time.

But have some jazz for now.

The trouble of being your own customer

Being your own customer is a hazardous business. Your customers may have the utmost trust in your skills, but you yourself know what you are not able to do and what you lack. You see the other side of the coin that the customers are never meant to see.

There’s two kinds of mindsets that craftsmen in this situation will have. The first one is that of perfection, where not even the slightest error is tolerated and everything has to be 100% perfect. No less, no more. These minor errors do not really matter when you’re making something for the customer, as the customer won’t be seeing them. As an example from software side would be interesting bugs and coding errors that do not rise during normal gameplay and only are apparent through when looking at the code. However, video game players are known for finding coding errors out and pushing games to their limits. This kind of errors and mistakes do not appear in normal use, if even at all. Another example would be a chair you want to create for yourself. Here the chair would have the greatest carvings and the greatest comfort, but it begs the question whether or not it’s worth it all. However, the craftsman knows the errors he has made, and when you are in the perfectionist mindset you can’t allow yourself to create a product that would have any errors in the making. It’s not only stressful and taxing, but it distracts you from making products that matter, that is products for your actual customers.

The other mindset is that of… well, there really isn’t one proper word, let’s call it good-enough. In this mindset there are room for errors and mistakes, but the overall product excels as well as the perfectionist product, it just might look/sound less attractive. These errors might be called character flaws, if you will. Making a product this way is faster and gives you more time to work on actual customers’ wants and needs, as most of the you can most likely meet your own needs with the same products you’ve made for your customers.

Then we have the third option of being artistic and selfish in your doing. It serves nobody and can be dismissed as it is.

It’s important always to differentiate when you’re working on a product that your customers would want to have, and when you’re creating a product solely to appease your own wants. You can create a perfect chair for yourself, and most likely a lot of your customers would like to have this same chair in their house. Then we all realize that there’s shitloads of chairs out there and designing a new chair, while seen as some sort of epitome of designing, is completely and utterly useless. Chairs and other furniture gets redesigned multiple times per day and every season gets a new set of designs. While variety is important, all of these use the exact same approach as their predecessors, some to a more successful extent and that’s good. Then we have chairs that nobody ever would want.

There are industries that have become selfish. Game industry is infested with people who only want to make games that they want to play. That’s not being your own customer, that’s being artistic. That’s not being a craftsman, that’s being an idiot.

When you’re your own customer, you know your wants and needs very well, and you’re fulfilling those wants and needs. You can still be either artist or craftsman here. You can ignore what you really need and do what you want. Wants and needs do not necessarily meet, and ignoring needs before wants just doesn’t make good service. The Avengers movie met quite well needs and wants, and for me a little bit more because they had Thanos in the mid-credit scene.

If you’re going to be your own customer, remember to look outside the box at yourself. Do not think what you want outside the core idea, but what you need. You can go a long way just with that, and at some point the core idea has encompassed most of the product at such scale that you can listen your wants a little bit. Being your own customer is actually a delicate method of learning to listen and see beyond your actual customers, and failing at it will cause you to waver to the artists’ side, and this has, and always will, deliver products that only the maker wants, never the user. If you waver, the box you made yourself might looks nice, but the box has become something you can’t use.

Approaching artists’ and craftsmens’ difference

I had this discussion few times around with my friend; I should learn to create more attracting pictures outside my own comfort zone. Naturally I joke that I should just draw erotic images for the change of pace, but usually this is just thrown aside that it would be enough to draw naked women. This made me think the difference I myself have as an artist and as an artisan.

Artisan is someone who by the definition has the skill to craft for the customer, someone who knows what works and why. A craftsman has to have some business mind behind it all and respect the customer, as the customer is God; the one we as his servant must please. To be a craftsman is to be a servant. I am here to create these products for you, by your wishes.

An artist approaches his work from his own angle, disregarding everything else. 99% of the images I’ve ever done have been there just to appease my own imagination, my own will and wants. This is how an artist works. They’re selfish beings that can truly blame only themselves when their product, be it painting or game, won’t sell, thus becoming a farce.

This rises a question; can an artists be his own customer? The answer is simple no; you won’t make a living like that.

Thinking back to my own works as an artist, there’s a lot of them. There’s even more in the trash, and then insane amount of images that I’ve completely forgot, as one of my friend keeps reminding me to tease me at worst of times. I’m my hardest critic, and usually this is the point where people talk. It’s completely upside down to demand the highest possible quality from myself, but that’s almost impossible considering that I am not a perfectionist, so somehow it all falls on its face.

There’s nice amount of crafts that I’ve done as well during my active years. However, unlike into my drawings I’ve usually given more than 70% of my effort, sometimes pushing myself so hard that my arms have lost all of their strength. Here I am my hardest critic as well, but at least this time I have a reason; the customer doesn’t want to buy half-assed knives or crooked tables. A sandblasted stone tablet has to be the finest quality, otherwise I’m wasting both my own and customers’ time.

This is the difference between good artists and bad artists. Good artists know that they’re full of crap and usually have a real job to keep their artistic drives afloat. A bad artist basically does the opposite, trying to shove their own to the customers and barely keeping themselves alive. The image of starving artist is ideal to some, but nobody should really live like that. You could call most of modern design students as starving artists anyway, or most culture students anyway.

A good artisan keeps his artistic side always in good condition. A craftsman can’t really work properly without artistic touch, but that touch needs to be in leash and working for the customer. You can’t really understand shapes and forms without certain vision that can’t really be understood otherwise but as “artistic vision.” For example, certain shape in a knife is there for a functional reason, but some shapes are there just for the looks and design choices.

Personally, I’ve chosen to allow myself to become an artist in print material and all that. I’m not really interested to serve the public even if I have more than adequate potential and skills for that. The way I draw and what I draw exists simply to please my own ends. This attitude I have towards my own drawings and such is perhaps the main reason I rarely develop any more; I have no reason to become better than I already am. I’d rather spent that training time in the workshop polishing my skills at welding or in making a steel box. There’s a reason to become better at steelcraft.

Then why I don’t want to polish my skills as an artist, so I could call myself a craftsman in arts’ side as well?

Perhaps it has something to do with my own space, that drawing and such is a place where I can go by myself and fall into my own world without thinking much about the outside world. This kind of model of working doesn’t suit for customer service at all, and you’d better imagine it.

So, imagine that people want artists to work in the entertainment industry. These artists would do something that would entertain themselves and nothing more. They’d build more and more fame on their work that they made for themselves. Basically, the industry would be full of artists who stroke their trophy works. This time it’s almost real, and all those cigars aren’t just cigars.

Now, if craftsmen were to work in the entertainment industry, always finding ways to entertain you, the customer, rather than themselves. Wouldn’t that be better for all? The craftsmen would get their money and customer would get their products. The craftsman might even even do few of his own works if all things go well. A craftsman has that chance; the chance to do whatever he wants at times if all goes well. An artists has no such option.

Then why stay as artist? Because artists are selfish, that’s why. A craftsmen may be selfish, but only few times here and there.

Perhaps this will encourage few artists to become a craftsman instead. I’ll be using my own artistic side in crafts more, if applicable as well.

Casting hot liquids

Casting is a process where a substance is given a form via a mold. We could divide casting into two very rough categories; one which destroys the mold, and one which the mold is not destroyed. I’ll be talking about two basic level casting processes, the evaporative casting and sand casting, to give you a peek behind the curtains what goes on in industries at large. The two examples are a form of metal casting.

Low level casting can be easily done with sand casting sand, which is a combination of fine sand, oil and clay kind of substance. The sand is rather crumbly at first, but after giving it some pressure, like forming a fist around it, makes the sand malleable much like Playdough. With this sand you can do open casting, sand casting, evaporative casting and few other casting methods I won’t go into. It’s relatively cheap material as 95% of the sand can be used again after the casting has done. This is because the liquid metal burns the sand around the mold. The sand becomes hard, black and can’t be used again because it has lost its malleable properties.

Evaporative casting is rather inefficient method of casting. In the process a prototype is made of easily flammable and quick burning substance, which serves as a reverse mold of sorts. The details in the mold is preserved in the cast, so one should always take care that the surface of the mold is as desired.

Sand casting is similar to evaporative casting, but the prototype is made of wood or other similar substance. The key difference to evaporative casting is that the prototype is not lost and can be used again and again for molds. Sand casting is superior method evaporative casting in almost every regard, especially if one wishes to mass produce a certain shape. Sand casting preserves the details on the prototype much like evaporative casting. However, due to the nature of sand, both of these methods are usable only on objects that have no escape corners.

The both methods of casting have nearly identical preparations. The casting case comes in two parts; upper half and lower half. The lower half is first filled with sand casting sand, which is stamped down with a hammer or similar tool to ensure that it forms a tight base. Depending on the size of the prototype the caster has to leave some space to the upper level of the lower case, as the middle line of the prototype has to correspond with the joint line of the casting cases. With evaporative casting the upper part is the put on and the prototype is covered with the sand to the uppper limit. Of course, a sprue has to be left either next to the prototype or on top of the prototype for the metal to run into.
In sand casting before attaching the upper half, the prototype is removed and the surface of the sand is covered in any powdery material of sorts. Talc or the like should be enough in a hurry. Then, the prototype is put back and covered in sand again with the sprue. After stamping the sand down, the halves are separated once again so that the caster can remove the prototype from the now-formed mold. The halves then are attached to each other and fastened for casting process.
I was going to post a reference drawing, but google has so many good examples that it wouldn’t served a purpose.

The casting process itself is quick and rather safe. The desired metal, in this case aluminium (Al) is heated up enough so that it turns into a bright liquid. Personally I prefer brass and copper over aluminium due the two being much heavier and thus they fill the cavities of the mold with more confidence. Aluminium barely has weight to burn through evaporative casting, and even then the temperature of the metal is the key.

Naturally, this is a hazardous operation. Liquid metal is a toy to plaid with. The temperatures with metal casting range from 650°C all the way several thousands. It burns through clothing and can cause extremely severe burns on the skin, and can even melt Terminators. Certain safety procedures are a must in any case. Safety shoes, inflammable clothing, inflammable gloves and safety visor. Minimum. With caution there’s no danger, and the only truly random factor is the occasional splashes from the liquid metal if colder temperatures are introduced. For example, adding more material to the already heated metal can cause a splash effect in the material is not preheated. In a small kiln there are possibilities of splashes simply due to cooler air introduced to the surface.

The process of casting itself is straightforward; pour the liquid metal in. This can be divided into two parts again. The first small pour is to give the metal some leeway. In evaporative casting this first pour is to burn parts of the prototype. In sand casting it is to drive out some of the excess gases. Very soon after (in matter of one or two seconds) the rest of the liquid metal is poured into the sprue all the way to the top of the sprue. Then the wait game begins and we can start to wonder whether or not the casting was successful.

In evaporative casting the prototype is now lost and the metal has taken its place in the sand. Depending on luck, the cast can have bits and pieces of the burned prototype, bubbles or the metal hasn’t burned all the way through. In sand casting the same things may happen, except the prototype burning. However, the metal might have only gone halfway through for some reasons like pressure, underheated metal or gas pockets that have no way to escape.

The excess metal is then poured out into an open mold.

The lump at the very end of the video is mass of impurities. You’re supposed to take those out of the liquid metal before casting anything, not after

The cast is then allowed to cool down on its own, as quick temperature changes may actually break the cast metal. There are occasions where the metal may be cooled down, but it includes risks. After some 15~30 minutes or more, the cast metal is taken from the sand. The cast metal is then handled with various operations, starting with the removal of the sprue’s residual shape, cleaning, grinding, sanding, and polishing. Not in this order in some cases.

With these casting methods we can create many products from medals and plaques to basic knife shapes and rough jewellery. For example, the plaques in old buildings are sand cast or done with with similar casting method.

If you stop thinking for a second how many different casting methods there are the answer is in hundreds. Most of them are separated by the cast material or slight difference in methods. Take look around your house you’ll most likely see at least ten objects that have been manufactured in some sort of casting process, may it be actual casting or molding. The frames of your monitor, the keyboard, the mouse your hand lays on, the CD cases, game console shells and so on.
It’s literally everywhere.