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I’d planned 2014 as a time of change. The expected change didn’t come about after a run-in with UK customs, but the unexpected change has worked wonders.

2013 was a pretty tough year. Some of this stemmed from inadequate housing and a general sense of alienation; but I’ve dealt with both before. The real killer was my failure to replicate the modest success I’d had selling work in Sydney. After three years I can say it plainly: as much as I like Melbourne, Melbourne doesn’t like my art. It’s worth noting the art in question improved a lot in those three years and moreover diversified, but that still wasn’t good enough. I made a grand total of one local sale (Dystopia) and two interstate (Shepherd and Aeolius). It’s also worth noting I never asked much – $50 to $100 was the norm for prints or ink drawings, some of which took several days – but local viewers were more inclined to give other artists $3000 for black circles clumsily daubed on blank canvasses. There’s a lesson for you here: technique (which I’m still working on) and dedication (which I have in abundance) counts less than canny politics. Reading the fine print, ie. wall text, will reveal those seemingly clumsy black circles are in fact a brilliant commentary on the evils of imperialism, stolen children, genocide, ecological xenophobia, blah blah, ad nauseum, directed at a comfortably affluent, fashionably guilt-ridden, unimaginative white middle class. This is not a revisionist rant; I'm just asking how black circles can undo past injustices, or how they add anything to their creators’ written words. At least I know I’m not alone; a recent London show called “Australia,” which displayed this sort of thing in abundance, met with universal scorn from critics – kinder assessments used words like “clumsy” and “provincial” while one likened a work called “Sydney Sun” to a “cascade of diarrhea.”

Towards the end I no longer felt angry or frustrated so much as tired and resigned. The increasingly absurdist works in the “In Extremis” series were my main creative response. My move was my main practical one. Hobart’s a very different place to any city on the mainland; first impressions from the air were one of spectacular natural landmarks and smaller-scale development. Landing confirmed a lot that I’d heard; the “For Lease” signs on empty buildings bespoke a weak economy and the frequent backpacker hostels one largely reliant on tourism. It seems less a state capital than a country town at times; most venues are shut well before midnight and most streets are empty well before then. More positively, housing is cheap, traffic jams are nonexistent and the people have been helpful and friendly. It’s far less cosmopolitan than most large English-speaking cities, but that’s not necessarily bad in an increasingly homogenised world.

More positively again, I’ve got the best room I’ve had in my life; and with fewer outside distractions I’ve been getting a lot done. The cooler climate is a plus – it makes concentration easier and reduces the strain on my laptop as well. I started out by colouring two of the many detailed drawings done in 2013, almost none of which I’ve posted; but I wasn’t too keen on the results. Something always gets lost in the process, and the potential of the drawings themselves is never fully realised. The frustration prompted me to get back into digital painting – what began as an experiment (Consortium Fireshark) turned out better than expected, and from there I’ve steadily improved. The 40 vehicle concepts refined throughout 2013 have made the process easier, and I’ve saved myself a lot of time by dropping textures over block colours instead of painting them by hand. The textures themselves are mostly taken from photos of Melbourne’s industrial zones.

This stuff won’t be to everyone’ tastes, but it marks a real technical breakthrough – for the first time I feel I’m working with Photoshop instead of struggling against it. The process is also a lot faster, which won’t hurt when it comes to commissions. I’m currently trying to decide between focusing on vehicles (as was the plan for this year) or experimenting further in both style and subject matter.

I’d lastly like to thank everyone who has offered me support. It’s meant a lot over the past year and has helped to keep me motivated. I’ve now got internet at home for the first time since 2012, so correspondence will be easier. I’ve sure got some catching up to do…

Thanks for your time, and good luck this year,

  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: Gibraltar (Royal Marines)
  • Reading: Coldbrook (Tim Lebbon)
  • Watching: Damn fine local scenery...
  • Playing: N/A
  • Eating: Basic rations
  • Drinking: Coffee
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JTHMFrAeK Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Good to hear you've managed to find yourself a cooler room, though as a Canadian, it is difficult to gauge what an Australian would consider cool! Ha ha!
Ah yes, isn't it always a pleasure, dealing with artholes? I had a teacher in college who discounted comic books as art, but believed found art to be perfectly acceptable. I did a presentation on what inspired me as an artist once. Apparently it scared her.
MightyBOBcnc Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
It's way too late at night (or too early in the morning) for me to come up with something intelligent to say so my symbolic post is: "jflaxman ftw."  It embodies the deeper something something about how I like jflaxman and something.
jflaxman Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2014
First up, I'm sorry about the late reply.

Secondly, thanks for your support (it's too late/to early for me to wax lyrical right now). This year's been going very well - I hope some of my luck goes your way!
MightyBOBcnc Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2014
Thanks! I could use some.
TheInventor200 Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Any other time you'll see me stating "all art is art", but...there's an exception.
Three scratches on a white canvas doesn't count.

Your art piece shouldn't be a statement of what you believe through your wall text alone. The art itself needs to show that. The art itself is why people (hopefully) came there. Your wall text is supposed to deepen or add to it. Art is supposed to communicate an idea, or get a reaction, etc. What the hell am I supposed to get from three scratches??

"You obviously don't have a higher appreciation for art...!"

Or you're a lazy ass who doesn't appreciate art even as he makes it. If you put three scratches into canvas and call it a day, then that says that you don't like your own art. You're not willing to put effort into it at all. You don't care.

That's why I love your art, jflaxman. You put so much thought into the different aspects of it.
jflaxman Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
Thanks! I couldn't agree with you more, especially when you say creating minimalist art reveals a lack of appreciation for art in general. It's a real cop-out - at best it might be fun, but I'll never rate it as highly as work that requires real discipline and gets an artist's point across without a long ream of text.

I've always admired traditional painting, and my own attempts at it have greatly increased my respect for people who can pull it off. Trying to pass minimalist art or hipster statements (eg. "This is a shy apple getting waxed for its first outing" written on a blank red canvas) as fine art has always rubbed me up the wrong way; Dali and Goya could have easily replicated the hipster statements, but I doubt the shy apple brigade could match the work of Dali and Goya. I'm fine with this if they admit it, but claiming their work's "just as valid" is a lazy way of avoiding commitment and covering deficiencies.

It's also demoralising for those who really want to commit themselves to visual literacy - a process much like learning a language, and one I'm still working on - and those who really want to teach it. If some students will get higher marks for plastering banknotes over themselves, why should others aim for anything more? I got over this a long time ago and am happy to just do my thing, but when I hear about art students who just really, truly, want to draw well being actively discouraged by teachers steeped in postmodern/relativist theory I can't help feeling sorry for them. I've now seen two former girlfriends - once both more talented than me - give up on art in disgust (they liked mythology and fantasy more than random paint splashes). These days I'd rather call myself an illustrator than an artist, and that's the way I plan to go as talent means more in that industry.

I've definitely made an effort and at last I feel it's paying off. Thanks for your encouragement - you, and others like you, have been of great help over the years.

Anyway, I'd better go. Thanks for sharing your thoughts once again!
killerweinerdog Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
I'l try not to bash anyone too hard here, but I myself am kinda...puzzled by the uprise of the whole "black splotches etc." craze. I know that it's mostly about symbolism, but I don't see how one can make a work of art successful on symbolism alone.
jflaxman Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
I'm right with you there! Symbolism can be effective, but we can hardly call it "symbolism" when a work's so abstract it could be taken to mean anything without a long tract of wall text. Art should be a universal language (though some people will always be able to interpret it more clearly due to past experience and/or cultural connections) and when artists have to use words to explain themselves, the pictures often seem redundant - especially when they're minimalist works. The wall text also only caters to those who speak the artists' language, limiting their audience, which goes against every ideal these ostensibly broad-minded people claim to uphold.

I often use long descriptions myself, but they're meant to complement my work, not justify its existence. The biggest difference between a lot of the abstract work in Melbourne and kindergarten finger paintings is the high and mighty sermonising artists attach to the former - you could do the same with the latter and few would know the difference.
killerweinerdog Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
Indeed. I'm not much of an art critique expert, but I feel that a quality of a good work of art is if an outside viewer with no prior knowledge of the artist determine  what a picture is about without a wall of text to describe it, not counting the name of the piece. 
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