Monday, September 13, 2010

Musical Interlude - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack

Follow me on this one: in a case of art imitating art imitating art, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is actually a series of comic books (or graphic novels, if you prefer) in which the main character plays in a band. There's much more to them than that, but we'll go with that short explanation for now. The graphic novels inspired a movie directed by the genius, Edgar Wright.  In the film, he had to bring Scott's band, the Sex Bob-omb, to life.  The actors all played their own instruments and sang, and the artist Beck wrote the music for the band.  And that, Gentle Readers, is how we come to today's musical interlude.

This first song by this fictitious, although now somewhat brought to real life, band playing the song called "Garbage Truck" with footage taken directly from the movie.  This song cracked me up, but it also kind of rocked.  And because I just couldn't help myself, I posted a second video from a different, rival band from the film called The Clash at Demonhead.  (There's a lot of focus on the local music scene in the movie.) The song is called "Black Sheep" and it has a retro feel to it. It was recorded by a band called Metric.  The footage for the video was also taken from the movie. YouTube wouldn't let me embed the video, so just click on the picture and it will take you to the video on YouTube.

If you haven't seen the film yet, or read the comic books, I highly recommend both. Especially if you grew up playing video games, since video games are referenced stylistically throughout the story, sometimes just for fun but oftentimes as a metaphor for the challenges Scott faces in his life. There are a few things in the plot I wish weren't there, but for the most part it is good clean fun. And I obviously recommend the soundtrack; everything on it is just fun, good music! If you've seen the film or read the comics, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

IF: Dessert

There is a website called Illustration Friday that, according to the site, serves as a "weekly creative outlet and participatory art exhibit for illustrators and artists of all skill levels... It's a chance to experiment and explore and play with visual art."  Basically how it works is each week a one-word topic is suggested. Participants create an illustration inspired by it, post it to their blog, then link to it on the IF website.

I know the website says it's for artists of all skill levels, both novices and pros alike. I know it says there's no pressure, no judgment. I've stalked this site for a while now and the other artists do seem to be supportive and encouraging of each other when they leave comments.  I know all that, but...

I'm still as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Now there's an image for you.

It's been a long time since I've shown anyone my work. This may seem silly, but drawing this picture, and then posting it online, felt like a big step for me. This week's IF assignment was "dessert".  Having just recently taken a class about body image and intuitive eating, this was the first thing that came to mind. We're so quick to put certain foods off limits, but that only makes us desire them more because they are forbidden. We give food the power over us, and we become even more obsessed.  What did you think of, when you first saw this picture?  Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know.

I miss doing art.  I'm so much happier (and healthier mentally) when I'm drawing and painting on a regular basis.  My heart is so frustrated over the fact that I can't currently get to any of my art supplies. Consequently, the drawing shown above was done on printer paper with a #2 pencil and no pencil sharpener.  Not my first choice for media (printer paper is not very forgiving), but it finally got to the point where I just had to put pencil to paper somehow and start creating again.  Maybe next week I'll at least upgrade to a drawing journal or something, until I can get my little art studio back into a usable state and can access my supplies. There are so many projects I want to work on, but I've got to knock the rust off the ol' gears first. Hopefully these little Illustration Friday challenges will help me do just that.

Because I felt helpless in being unable to get to my art supplies, I actually downloaded the Brushes program to my iPhone. It's an amazing little program, but having never used digital software to create art before (yeah, I'm old school) there's a bit of a learning curve. I actually tried to draw for this assignment using the program, but I felt like I spent the majority of the time adjusting my "brush" width, transparency, color, etc. and then constantly zooming in and out on the page. You can see the sad result of my efforts below.

Even though the software is very intuitive and relatively easy to learn, I don't know if I have the patience for it.  It seems a whole lot easier and quicker to just pick up a pencil that is the color you need, or to use the side of your finger to blend a shadow, then it is to finesse a software tool ad nauseam before you can even begin to draw. I'm guessing the program would be easier to use on a bigger screen, like on the iPad (hint hint - to anyone reading this who may be shopping for my birthday) and maybe once I get the hang of it, and get quicker at it, the results will be more immediate and satisfying, like they are when using real life materials.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll be posting videos to YouTube like this one.  Ha!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Art Is Not Evil

"Art is much less important than life,
but what a poor life without it." ~ Robert Motherwell

I dislike rants. I dislike reading blogs that frequently post rants. But I understand the occasional overwhelming desire to vent, to open your personal door into the blogosphere and scream at the top of your lungs, "This is driving me nuts and I'm not going to take it anymore!"  This would be one of those times. This topic has been simmering in my brain for a while now, and the more I read and encountered online the more it began to churn until it has boiled over.  So... commence rant in three, two, one...

Art is Not Evil
Art, in and of itself, is not evil, but it is powerful.  By "art" I mean all creative expressions: visual arts like painting and sculpture, as well as theater, television, movies, literature, poetry, music, dance, etc.  I really think that Christians, and Americans in general, need to become better educated about the arts and the various languages these mediums use to communicate, such as the splice cuts, extreme close-ups and moving images of a film, or the musical chords and tonality in a score. We need to become media savvy. I also think, as Christians, we need to study both the Bible and history, and learn that artistic ability is a gift from God. We need to recognize how the arts can be used to reflect His truths. In fact, throughout much of history, Christianity was the driving force behind the arts and culture. The church was at the forefront of creative expression and innovation. How did we get it all turned around, and the church is now the last one to the party when it comes to cultural influences and has been relegated to simply reacting to all the evil that is in the arts and touting that it should be avoided at all costs? 
Learn the Language 
The arts are a powerful tool for communication.  They can communicate an idea, a feeling, an emotion, a message. Each artistic branch has its own set of tools to communicate with.  For example, literature is built up with symbolism, allegories, metaphors, foreshadowing, overarching themes, etc. One of the biggest rules in writing is to "show, don't tell" your audience what you want them to know. How do you do that? By the use of these many tools. If you don't understand the devices and how they are used, you won't understand what is being communicated.  The same thing goes for major and minor notes or rhythm in music, or the composition and use of colors in a painting or printed image.  When we don't understand the language of a given artistic medium, then we are more prone to making erroneous assumptions and split-second judgments about the content or message of the piece, which leads to my next point.

Dull Salt and Dim Light
Here's an example of someone making an erroneous assumption about a piece of art. As most of you already know, I am an avid fan of the TV show LOST. The LOST writers used a lot of Biblical references and symbolism, as well as Biblical themes such as redemption, sacrificing self to serve others, etc. in the telling of their story and, for the most part, they presented these Christian messages in a positive light. However, I recently saw an online discussion where a commenter said, in regards to the Christian themes in LOST, "The Bible plus anything equals heresy." Umm...okay. As a statement that's true, but as a Christian, that's really the choice you want to make? That's going to be your reaction to a hit show that is watched by millions of people across the country and overseas? You are going to isolate yourself completely from the culture and miss out on an opportunity to share about your faith? LOST is not a replacement for the Bible by any means, and I don't think any of the writers implied or intended it to be. But rather, what a wonderful opportunity to start a discussion about morality with fellow LOST fans, who wouldn't be open to talking about the Bible or spiritual topics otherwise
There's nothing that annoys me more than the automatic fearful reaction some Christians have towards books, films, music, etc. They instantly condemn it without truly taking the time to investigate the medium and educate themselves about the material. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, but so many of us have trouble finding that balance, and I think it comes from a place of fear and lack of confidence in our faith. How are we to be salt and light to the world, when we are so far removed from it, or afraid to engage it?  We have crippled ourselves and made us and our message irrelevant. If people, and Christians specifically, had a better understanding of things such as symbolism, and understood the artistic tools used to convey an idea, and were taught how to read properly with deductive reasoning skills then they wouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction to every little thing that appears to threaten their faith. 

My favorite book contains murder, witches, burning children alive, adultery, lying, incest and war. What is your initial reaction to that? As a Christian, would you tell me not to read it?  What if I told you it's the Bible?  Yes, the Bible actually has all those horrible things in it, and more. However, it doesn't glorify those things, but shows good and evil in its proper light.We can't judge a book by it's cover. It isn't simply about content but about the application and the deeper message. When the apostle Paul was in Athens, he was educated about the mythical stories, art and culture of the people there, and used quotes from their own poets to reason with them. A modern literary work of tragedy, full of murder and lies, even if it is not overtly "Christian" in nature, can still be used to teach things such as ideas have consequences, and all sin leads to death. We can and should engage our gray matter and actually reason through things, including the arts.  The bottom line is, it's all about education and discernment, so that we can be more effective messengers.
Our Creative Creator
God is creative. It is part of the nature of God. The Bible starts out with telling us that He created and it was good. Look at the amazing and beautiful assortment of flowers, of creatures, etc. that he created. Being creative is a reflection of our Creator. We are made in His image, and our creativity and ability to create is a reflection of that image. There is no such thing as secular art and sacred art. All beauty is God's beauty. All truth is God's Truth. Now whether the author or artist wants to acknowledge or celebrate that is another matter entirely. Many Christians complain about the current state of movies or literature or what is being offered on television, but few offer an alternative, especially an alternative that is relevant to the culture we live in (instead of works that just preach to the choir, without reaching a new audience). We need to encourage and support Christians that choose to enter an artistic field. Instead of shunning Hollywood, we need to support those Christians willing to go into that environment and create a piece of quality art that reflects and celebrates God's Truth.  Let's take back the arts! Even if we're not the artists, we need to do our part too. Let's not be afraid to use the brains God gave us and educate ourselves, reason through the things that the arts and current culture present to us, and with discernment, engage our culture!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Musical Interlude - Whipped Cream

No need to prepare the preparations, the new Ludo album is here and it is a-maz-ing! I dare say it is their best album yet. In listening to it, I feel such a kinship with the band members. It's like they crawled inside my head and wrote a soundtrack for what they found there (although I'll admit I don't think my imagination and dreams are as witty as they are).  In my final post celebrating their new album release, I was going to tell you my initial thoughts about it and give you a taste for what it's like. But why re-create (or in this case, re-write) the wheel when it's already been done?  Instead, go read this article which describes the album per-fect-ly. Here's my favorite quote:

"The product of brave choices and skilled execution by the band, 'Prepare the Preparations' is funny, fantastical, epic, intimate, heartfelt, haunting and unapologetically nerdy. It’s an incredibly entertaining album with no reservations that is 100-percent Ludo."

Below are the videos for the first single off the new album: "Whipped Cream".  Similar to their song "Go-Getter Greg", this song pokes fun at the creepy guys with the cheesy pick-up lines. This isn't my favorite song (although it is hard to pick a favorite on this album, since they are all so different) but this the only one they've made a video for so far.  In fact, they've made two videos. The band likes to make their own homemade videos (just search for "The Ludo Video Thing" on YouTube and you'll see what I mean).  So I've posted both the studio version of the music video and their homemade version.  They're both funny, but I think I like their homemade one better. Enjoy!