Friday, November 30, 2018

What Is Art, an article

An article I wrote years ago. The book has not happened yet. This is compressed data from many years of research. 
(“Compleat” is correct. It’s an archaic spelling, alluding to the classic book The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton (it may be too much of an inside joke though...).)

By Eolake Stobblehouse

This is an article which will eventually become a book. It is a long process, and the final result will be much different and longer. I publish this, extremely compressed as it is, in order to get some comments to help with the further work.

This is a book about art.
I am tempted to leave the introduction at simply that statement, for that is the most precise and concise statement of the matter I could make.
However, this would not work , for after all there have been many books on art and there will doubtlessly be many more and how are you to know which kind this is? Some books talk about the history of art, famous artists, media, and so on, some books talk about contemporary trends in specific areas, some books teach techniques and other books wax philosophical.
This is a book of the last kind. It is definitely philosophical in nature, but is perhaps a bit unusual in that its goal is practical: A better understanding for the artist of what is art, and greater ease in his creative work and thus higher quality and quantity in his output.
This book is about art in its broadest possible sense. Not just about "painting" or even "painting, music, and sculpture", but about anything that has an aesthetic purpose whether or not it is normally seen as "art".
I have always regarded myself an artist and I have always striven towards becoming a better artist. This is probably why I have developed theories on the nature of art, in order to become a better artist myself. It never really was my intention to become a scholar or a teacher.
This book is a book written by an artist for artists. I am of course only too happy about anybody who is interested and reads it, but it really is intended for people who want to create and communicate. I don't care whether they are doing it professionally or not, or what medium or themes they work with. Anybody can be an artist, if he considers himself so. Many people consider that living itself can be an art form and certainly living itself as well as a host of activities can be considered in the light of the theories I present here.

Definitions of art
1: Any purposeful human activity that has no practical purpose, i.e. does nothing directly for physical survival, and produces something new.
2: Communication with beauty.
3: Creation wedded to communication.
4: A method of expanding the universe by creating.
5: Creating something that is pleasant, making it easier for people to turn their attention outward.
6: Interesting order.
7: A method of creating life.
Art is a method of coping that spiritual beings use when they are to a greater or lesser degree trapped in a fixed universe, where creation is limited and discredited. A spirit stuck in the unnatural position of not being easily able to create something that others can perceive, can use the method of making facsimiles of his creations in the materials he finds already present and perceivable in the universe he is in. This helps others to get an impression of his creation, and through agreement makes that creation more real.

Architecture of Art, definitions
A central part of this book is the chart I call the "Architecture of Art" (AoA for short). I considered "Anatomy of Art", but I liked better the implication of a structure, or something built, or even the building of something, than that of the practice of taking something apart, which is a quite different activity from what we are talking about here.
In the AoA I have divided art into three different parts or aspects. These three parts are again each divided into three parts. The AoA could be viewed as a structure or machine providing a process reaching from the physical universe into spiritual spheres. Or vice versa.
You could say that it is a blueprint of art as an machine. The lower the level the easier it is taught, observed, evaluated, and corrected. The higher the part, the more slippery it is to pinpoint or evaluate and to handle all in all.
The top of the scale is the reason why art has mystical connotations to many people. It simply cannot be explained easily if it is not perceived directly, since language derives from the physical universe, and the top of the scale is spiritual (and yet still real).
From a spiritual viewpoint the parts are more important the higher you go, and from a materialistic viewpoint the lower parts are more important.

Art consists of: (From the top) Static, Process, and Object.
"Static" consists of: Naturalness, Creatingness, and Wholeness.
"Process" consists of: Motion, Attraction, and Substance.
"Object" consists of: Representation, Association, and Materials.

Here are the basic definitions (from the bottom up).
Object: The part of the work that enters into the physical universe. It is the anchor that connects the creation to reality.
Process: Expanding the spirit, creating awareness of new things.
Static: The idea. The permanent part of the work. Not physical. This part endures as long as there is time. It also reaches far beyond the physical universe.
Materials: Are simply what the word says, the physical tools and things the artist uses in order to get his idea to appear in physical form.
Association: Is what the receiver thinks of, consciously or not, when viewing the work of art. Some associations are sane, like thinking of the smell of roses when seeing a picture of a rose, and some associations are not sane, like feeling a pain in the elbow when seeing a picture of a rose. There are many, many associations for any subject, and some are very personal (and so unpredictable), and some are more universal (belonging to a people or a species), and can be used by the artist.
Representation: The work of art represents an idea in the artist's universe. The more the Object is like the idea the stronger the art.
Substance: The created mass plus related masses (those masses made relevant by association.) A larger work needs great skill and integrity to keep these masses together seamlessly.
Attraction: That which keeps the work of art and those viewing it from blowing apart. (The process would tend to cause that otherwise, since it makes the viewer's universe expand and so push things away.) This is synonymous with "prettiness", and it is an important part of the popularity of a work, but only a smaller part of its overall importance.
Motion: The motion in the work/idea. It is the actual motion of the particles making up the idea, just like the motion of electrons etc. make up matter. Something which is not moving will not be perceived and if there is no motion at all, nothing exists. Motion creates space and time, making communication possible. (The Object does not, of course, have to be in motion for the work or the idea to be.) Both the quality and the quantity of the motion is considered.
Wholeness: The togetherness or the integrity of the work. How well the parts of the work play together in their action. Also the relative lack of superfluous or missing parts.
Creatingness: The amount of creation in the work. How much of it not taken from somewhere else. The power of creation put into it.
Naturalness: To which degree the work and its parts are the artist's own decision and is made from his own necessity. This is the naturalness (for the artist) of the viewpoint from which the artist creates his work.

The Architecture of Art chart is a tool.
It can be used to simply understand art better, but also has a variety of uses beyond that. It can be used as a tool during the whole process of creating a work of art from before the first idea to the last polishing.
It is not a tool of criticism. Criticism is in general a destructive (or at least deconstructive) process, and even though destruction can be good and necessary, the AoA is far too powerful a tool for such use. It is for the use of the artist when evaluating or creating his own work.

The purpose of art
Art has many purposes. The most basic of these, however, is expansion.
Expansion of the spirit by expansion of the universe.
And expansion of the universe by expansion of the spirit.
The universe is built of many layers. The topmost layers are those that can be contacted and perceived by the body's hands and eyes, i.e. crude matter. Under those are the finer sorts of energy, which can be perceived with finer instruments. And beyond those, even finer things, perceivable by even finer instruments, when built, or by the spirit itself. Those finer energies are no less a part of the universe than the cruder ones, and are in fact usually far more influential.
The universe is a solidified form of the collected ideas that the spirits inhabiting it have. The universe (or universes, if you will, for it is a complex thing) is one of the things that monitor the awareness-, happiness-, and activity-level of the spirits in contact with it. The simplest connection is straightforward: the more universe, the higher awareness.
And so, art becomes a method of expanding awareness by creating more of what is.
Any being (spirit, person) can create. (He wouldn't be here, if he didn't continuously create his surroundings.) He often creates for his own amusement in his own universe. And as he is in contact with the universe and other spirits, this has an effect on its own. What makes art a challenge is that in order to have a faster and more effective addition to the mass of ideas that comprises the universe, one must enlist the aid of others. In other words, one much make one's ideas communicate.
When the creation communicates, others want to join in and help create it also, and it gets solid much easier.
The problem, if any, is that pure creation, in the nature of things, is new. As such it is nothing people have ever seen before, so they have no relationship to it, so why have anything to do with it?Much of communication is based on familiarity. A being who is too used to living in a physical body which is not of his own creation is rather tough to reach and responds fast only to communication in the very physical end of things (i.e. food, sex, pain, etc.) Some people are great enough to go beyond that, and can receive communication that is more abstract and less familiar. These people are often an artist's most prized audience. But the point is to make art work effectively you have to combine in an intimate manner two things that natively have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, namely creation and communication. To a human being, they are almost like oil and water, for one requires familiarity and one is, by its very nature unfamiliar. And so we see the skill it takes to make good art.

Mediums and their basics.
The basic of pictures is the rendition of space.
The basic of sculpture is the rendition of matter.
The basic of music is the control of time.
The basic of stories is the discussion of people.
Some mediums, of course, combines things. Film combines people with space and time.
Architecture is matter and space.
Acting is energy.
The definition of quality is: How well something works according to its purpose.
Quarrels about quality are usually based on (unacknowledged) disagreements about purpose.

Beauty, definition.
1: A natural state of spirit.
2: That quality which makes desirable the existence of something.
3: Pleasantness.
4: Harmony and life.
5: Attraction.

"That's not art!"
A destructive way of critizising art is by the statement "That's not art!"
The intentions of a person making such a statement is to make it cease to exist, either because he is a destructive person or in a destructive mood.
One should realize that fact and ignore it as simply another opinion on the quality of the work and remember that it is a work of art, and that any work of art is better than none.

Destruction of beauty.
One of the basic evil intentions in the universe is the destruction of beauty. This is so basic that possibly all of us have felt it from time to time. Certainly all of us have been affected by it.
It is one of the basic manifestations of the evil and sick soul that he cannot stand beauty.
Since one of the basic ingredients of art is beauty, this intention of course has devastating effects upon an artist's life and work. Much of the hardship and the fighting thrust upon an artist under the disguise of criticism, help, finance, and understanding problems, stems simply from the desire in certain people to destroy beauty. One should realize what it is and not be too discouraged.

The Artwork's force-field.
Any work of art existing in space is built around a forcefield. A forcefield is an energy system with one center and straight lines of force radiating from that. It also has the characteristic of concentric spheres of energy made from standing waves in the forcelines. The spheres of course have the same center as the lines, they are two manifestations of the same thing. And the thing is like a frozen explosion.
You simply arrange the parts and details in the artwork so they are in harmony with the forcefield. The forcefield's center is always in the exact center of the work, e.g. the frame of the painting.
The reason for this is that the explosion is the most well known and real energy manifestation anywhere. It is familiar and so has impact on any kind of living being anywhere. It has always been used in destroying and building things, probably because it is the simplest possible energy manifestation in three-dimensional space. In other words, any strange and unfamiliar phenomenon (which a work of art by its nature is) will still seem real to some degree when it is based on this. There of course is nothing stopping one from disregarding this and compose stuff based on completely different basics, but as long as the universe is basically as it is at the time of this writing, they will probably not communicate well.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Technology and Art

I like technology because it represents control and order in a chaotic universe.

I like art because it represents a finer and more complex control and order in a chaotic universe. 

Both, when successful, are beautiful.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The mind parasite

How do you trap the most powerful being in the world?

In the classic story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, writer Alan Moore has Superman attacked by an alien parasite which attaches to him and puts him a coma, trapped by a dream.
In the dream, Superman is back in his home world Krypton, living a happy life in a world which has not exploded ever (unlike reality, which is why he is exiled here on Earth).

But very gradually, irregularities start kreeping in, and the dream becomes less and less happy. This eventually leads to Superman being able to wake up, freeing himself.

I was thinking: why does the plant not simply make the dream perfect, so he would want to stay there?
Simple: it’s not the plant making the dream after all, it’s Superman’s mind. And he wants to wake up. So he makes the dream unpleasant enough that he *wants* to wake up.

I thought that this explains a lot.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Screenless Leica

Leica M10D. The best damn seventies camera money can buy.

(I’m a little confused though, I’m sure this camera came out like two years ago? At least some M Leica without a screen.)

I can see the appeal of the simplicity. But then you have the downside of the rangefinder, no autofocus, no zooms or long lenses...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A tale of new band names

Deadpool II is funny. Near the beginning there’s a scene where DP (no, not that) is slaughtering a whole steam room full of Asian gangsters. And what music do they pair it with? Metallica? Slayer? Neopunk Deathfok? Drama Mortis? Figurative Blood? Anal Insertion? No... Enya!

... Most of those band names I made up. It’s a hobby.

Damn, now I have to start a band named Anal Insertion.
Or at least write a book named “Anal Insertion European Tour ‘37”. Subtitle: “All I got was this dumb tee-shirt, the band stole all my coke”.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

How we choose


Gain divided by distance or time, compared to gain divided by distance or time. 

If a gain is far away (happening to others, perhaps even strangers), or will take long before you see it, it may not be selected over a smaller gain which is closer, happening now, to you. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


Judenhass by Dave Sim. “Jew hatred”. A very brief visual history of the holocaust and beyond. Not only Germany was implicated, by far. A deeply shocking comic, be warned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kevin on the new Canon system

Excellent evaluation (video) of Canon’s new mirrorless system, as it is now in the beginning.

At the moment, I guess Sony and Fuji are ahead. But in 3-5 years I think both Canon and Nikon will have very strong systems. And I really hope that Panasonic and especially Olympus can keep up with sensor, for they have wonderful lenses and even cameras. And I love compact cameras, as I’ve said about 55 times.

I’ll say it again though: I think that for most purposes, full frame is overkill. Too big and heavy gear, too narrow depth of field, and bigger sensor than we need even now, and particularly in the future. I think the rush to full frame is ten years too late, it’s just a fad based on perfectionism and fetishism. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Micro Four Thirds vs Full Frame

Comparison of big prints.

There may be a difference hand-held in super-low light, who knows?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Hard to do...

“Well, how come you only want tomorrow

With it's promise of something hard to do”

- David Bowie, Teenage Wildlife

Isn’t that the truth? The human mind is so effin perverse. 

For one example, I could not go back to film photography even if it was still better quality. It’s just way too much work. And at the same time, digital is almost *too easy*! 

Why do we value anything simply because it’s hard to do? It’s insane, it should be the result which matters. Communication or beauty should be what matters, not the barriers to achieve them. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

September Dawn

... Back in the excellent Photoclub (Naestved, Denmark) I attended as a teen, some were deeply into Ansel Adams’ “Zone System” of exposure. I was a complex system of making sure that your photo had tones all the way from black to white, but still had detail all over. As a major voice in the club said about it: “it can almost make you stop photographing altogether.” (Of course it was much harder to control contrast with film.) 

And indeed I have found it important to remember that as Adams said, the Zone System is a teaching tool, not an artistic tool. Once one has learned to control tones, then one is free to make other choices. For example I have found that sometimes blocks of pure black without detail is much more expressive than the Technically Correct way.
(Granted, I didn’t have much choice in this case, but sometimes I’ve had.)

... Aha, I found some of those pictures where I went Dark:

(Canon 5D2, 24mm F:1.4, set at 8.0 and ISO 640. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New ├╝ber-camera from Denmark

New Danish high-end camera with ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MEGAPIXELS! Phase One IQ4.
This is *twelve* times as much as what I consider enough for 99% of photography. (And for 90%, six is enough.)

In other words, pretty damn specialised equipment. I can’t even imagine who really needs this. I also wonder, how is companies like Phase One and Hasselblad going to distinguish themselves in the future, now that you can already get *superb* professional cameras for two thousand dollars, and theirs cost something like twenty times that. It’s like building cars that can go eight hundred miles an hour. Prestige products. But I guess that some will always have the money, and the desire to have the very best, no matter if that Best is practically useful.

I admit I still feel a strong attraction to superb tools. But this has now entered a sphere so stratespheric that I can’t even imagine anything I could do with it, better than with, say, the new Nikon Z7, or Sony A7RIII.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The tale of the Cosmic Chicken

The cosmic chicken sat. It ruminated. It considered. It decided.

Invitations went out.

“Come see the show. Greatest show ever. The act of creation. Come now, come early, see it all.”

The all came. They all saw.

The chicken concentrated. It thought. It pressed. It clucked. It conceived.

The egg descended slowly. It glowed. It was glorious.

The egg split in two. A gold and a silver. They both cracked open.

Two small chicks, a black and a white, stumbled out onto the plains, parting. Each veered, wobbled, varied their course towards the horizon. They pecked for seeds. They walked on, searching, searching.

Monday, August 27, 2018

New Nikons, mirrorless

So the eagerly and long awaited Nikon mirrorless cameras have arrived.
I must say, so far I’m impressed. I’d expected them to be good of course, but I’d not expected them to be such a leap up in both functionality and image quality. And I’m especially impressed with the price, I’d have thought twice the price to be reasonable, but don’t tell Nikon.
See article and video here.
And an early review on image quality and lenses.
For many years, digital cameras did not have dynamic range (contrast coverage) equal to film. But recently they have surpassed it, and this has fifteen stops of it, which is awesome.
It also has eye-following (of the subject) autofocus, which was the killer app of the recent Sony cameras.
And of course in-camera stabilization, a huge advantage of some mirrorless camera over DSLRs.

I think the naming though, Z6 and Z7, is not of the same high standard! They are obviously at total effect of Sony here, naming the cameras practically the same as the Sonys which have been eating into their marketshare. Also, why still the taste-free names? Why not. Uhm, “Nikon Killroy 1” or “Nikon Calypso Dancemaster” or “Nikon Taserface K”, just to go wide.

As old readers know well, being mainly a street photographer, I’m a big fan of compact cameras, and for years I’ve thought that full-frame cameras are just too big and heavy. Well this is still so, even though the body in the new Nikon Z system is much smaller. But: for special projects demanding extreme image quality, I could actually imagine myself using this system.

As I’d predicted here, they have indeed made a brand new mount (for the first time ever! Due to Nikon’s same-mount promise), and an adapter for legacy lenses. But I thought it could really not be any different, they could not take advantage of mirrorless design without getting a shorter lens-to-sensor distance, or faster lenses without the bigger mouth. They have great flexibility for the future with this new mount.

I hope they will go beyond the current fetish for big and heavy “ultimate” lenses, and also make some compact ones. Leica M lenses have always been amazing, and are also very small, so surely it can be done now with computer design.

Look at this dynamic range!
Copyright Ross Harvey, see article

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Is sex important?

Many people, to my surprise actually, seem to have the misunderstanding that because I ran a nudie site, I am more into sex than most people. In fact I’m virtually asexual in practice.

 I consider sexuality a powerful force, sure. But hell, so is sugar! It does not mean it is important, only that it is strongly addictive.

 For me, beauty, spirit, philosophy, art, are *much* more important than sex.


Art, simplicity or complexity?

I’ve been back and forth in the past about whether art, in the widest sense, should be about simplicity or complexity. I more and more realise that it really has to be both. If too simple, it has no power. You can’t make a picture with four pixels. But if too complex, it does not communicate. The receiver can’t take in millions of elements at once.

 It seems to me the most powerful formula is a simple core for quick communication, and added, more subtle complexity for deeper power, to be revealed with time and attention.

Running Yellow Man, Stobblehouse

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Iain M. Banks on FS and hell

“I think a lot of people are frightened of technology and frightened of change, and the way to deal with something you're frightened of is to make fun of it. That's why science fiction fans are dismissed as geeks and nerds.”

 - Iain M. Banks

 Do read this interview, it’s very interesting if you’re interested in SF and culture and literature.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Survival or life?

What is more important, survival or living?

 What is more important, achieving joy or avoiding pain?

 These are only easy questions in the abstract.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Anger and Terry Pratchett

In the foreword to A Slip Of The Keyboard by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman talks about how Terry, who usually seemed jolly and mellow, was nothing of the kind, he had tonnes and tonnes of anger.
And Terry loved his anger, and claimed that it was the driving force behind his creative output, such as their wonderful collaborative book, the very funny Good Omens.

I hate to disagree with a genius like Terry Pratchett, but I must. While it is fantastic to be able to turn around your anger and seemingly having it contribute to powerful creative output, I think it’s a bad metaphysical mistake to *venerate* it and to think it’s a positive force. It is not. Everything is better without anger (or fear, which is below anger). Anger is rigid. You can work well *despite* anger, not because of it.

Admittedly, Anger is not something one gets rid of in a hearbeat. It takes long work. But a good start is recognizing it for what it is.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling

I really like the SF novel Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling. It beautifully and interestingly dramatises a theme I have not read in any other book: the conflict and contrast between wisdom and (over-)carefulness of old age and the beautiful raw life-force of youth (“holy fire”). 
How often do you seen an entirely fresh theme in a book?!

And it is powerfully described in the same character, a very old woman, Mia, who in the late 21st century gets a radical new medical treatment which rejuvenates her to an apparent age of twenty. 

And the dense culture of the late twenty-first he describes is delightful.