Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Thinking Mind: pt. 1/3

    So I was going to talk about maybe how to draw a hand or animate a character but I stopped and thought, any body can learn all these tricks and become very talented and still be a bad artist...  because the artist would have only been learning how to DO an art form, and not have been learning how to Think about art as a form.

        You have to be able to talk and understand art. I don't want to create super talented robot's if they cannot contribute thoughts through their talents. People and places want thinking artists, and thats exactly what places like pixar look for. They don't want a tool that can animate anything or draw anything. They want someone who can think and bring creativity and judgment. Many sites or blogs just post tip after tip and advice after advice but none I have found actually go as far in helping or challenging one to think. So here I am trying to do the impossible...
       Even if you are not doing art, the ability to think and judge art on your own is huge. You don't want to stand there and get asked, 'So what do you think about this art piece?' And respond, "well um.. like, i think the line is very interesting, yea, and the juxpasition of the white wall is.. like.. very moving..." I would have surely slapped you silly after the first sentence. You need to go deeper than that. You need to know a thing or two about the harmony in aesthetics and have at least a basic REAL understanding on what beauty is. And if you are about to say, 'Danny I know what beauty is. It's something pretty, it's rainbows and the laughter of babies..' get the fuck off my blog.

So I will challenge you to think. Understanding is not the goal, to think about what I am saying and making your own conclusions is the goal. I did the same when reading from Plato to Kant and listening to my teachers. Plato hated artists by the way, who knew?

Now I'm going to get dense fast. There is a lot to say. So bare with me.

-Lets start on judgement-

      You can say, "1+3=4." Thats a logical judgment. It's universal and everyone would come up to the same conclusion if asked to do so. People can buy it when you say, "All roses are flowers." Because it is assumed everyone knows the concept of a flower. That is determinate judgment. But what happens when you make the judgment and say, "The rose is beautiful?" Hmm, Now I would hesitate to say that. To say something is beautiful is a bigger deal than you might think. I'll tell you why. Theres a fancy word for this, it's called subjective universality. When you say something is beautiful, you are saying something subjective BUT you are also generalizing. You didn't say, "I like this." You said, "That is beautiful." You are saying all of humanity would reflect your feelings of pleasure if they were in the same circumstance as you. You are basically trying to say 3+5=8 in feeling terms. and thats a big deal...

-Defining Beauty-
      As an artist you have to have an opinion on this. Philosophers have argued about this for centuries. but right now, I'm going to say the final word based on what I have read and been taught. Thats's right. Just like that.  Feel free to argue with me AFTER you have read what I have to say.

      Beauty CANNOT be based on concepts. Thats means you cannot use a recipe or a checklist to see if something is beautiful or not. If this is true then beauty lies not in the subject, otherwise it would all be based on determinant judgment. The subject/object is only the occasion of the experience. So what the hell is beauty based on? It is Pleasure. I do NOT mean gin and tonic pleasure! That kind of pleasure is external. I mean inside yourself. here's the big sentence: Aesthetic pleasure is reflection. (that is beauty)

b,bb,But DANNY!? what do you mean?

let me clarify...

-What Beauty is not-
      -Beauty is different from things that are 'agreeable.' The agreeable: it is like good beer, always arguable. This has to deal with the senses (touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing) To say, "Sand feels good on your toes." I like my toes in sand, but thats not true for everyone, thus it is only agreeable. Beauty cannot be agreeable.
      -Second, Beauty is different from things that are 'good.' The good: To like something because of it's purpose. for example, "That is a good phone." This one is all about the personal investment. Beauty can not be this. When something is beautiful you are not interested in nothing in particular.

This is basic, But I see a lot of people when they reach this far they come to the conclusion that they will then say something is beautiful when they THINK it is beautiful, that's bad. Because then you are letting taste rule your judgement. If you say something is beautiful based on your taste, then in that sense you are saying taste is universal and we all know that's just crazy talk.

-Separating taste from your Judgement- (Still defining beauty...)
        So if you cannot go off of taste what do you go off of then... lets call it intuition. For example: you and another person are standing in front of a palace. The other says, "pretty isn't it?" When you answer you cannot think why the palace is there, you cannot think of your distaste of the tyrant it houses, you cannot think of what you feel the palace symbolizes and all the hungry poor people outside it's walls. The question was, "Is it pretty?" you understand?
        So being disinterested is a pre-requisite for judgment, you might be biased if you are not. You might not like apples but would you agree that those apples are painted beautifully?

All that was to define what beauty is NOT. It is not agreeable, not good, not based on taste. Now that we know what it is not... lets get back to the question at hand. "b,bb,But DANNY!? what do you mean?"

-Always remember beauty is based on reflectiveness-
        That means something beautiful prompts the senses AND the intellectual. (There is a fancy term for this too, the Free play of the mental faculties. You don't need to remember that but now you can say you heard it.) So these two parts of your mind, what are they? Imagination and Understanding. these are the two things that need to interact for beauty. When these two parts of the mind harmoniously intereact, that's the pleasure beauty is.
-Imagination- the capacity to make pictures in your head, we all have it. If we didn't, all our senses would be for nothing. Our mind interprets the world we are in through the pictures it makes up. Like my teacher once said, humans experience life through cause and effect... never to see the cause. And imagination doesn't stop there, we also make original pictures in our mind that do not exist externally.
-Understanding- is logic and reason.
Imagination naturally always comes first, but it is subdominant to understanding.  Understanding always comes after we have the data. Imagination makes the picture first, understanding then makes sense of it. Thats a very simple way of understanding the mind.

don't quit yet. confused? good, now comes the juicy point...


this is free play. read it again. I'll wait..     ...when you see something beautiful, your imagination goes wild. at the same time your can't seem to figure out why. You cannot make sense why you feel like this. It's not because it looks pretty, but yet, you cannot seem to find a concept to describe what is happening to your feeling your senses are getting that drives your imagination wild.
Basically, Your subject blows your senses out of the water and make you think at the same time. So when you tell me something is beautiful, you are telling me that my imagination and understanding will be as fucked up as yours if i experience it too.

-That's a basic 18th- pre-modern century way in thinking about beauty. That is my way as well. I will so far as to say this is what beauty is.

You disagree with me? I hope you do. Either way, my goal is accomplished: To at least get you to think about what beauty is and make your own understanding of it. My  way of understanding this is a mix between what I learned about Immanuel Kant and my philosophy teacher, Joseph Tanke. He graduated from Boston University with a P.h.D and is author of a few books. (I hope he doesn't read this and say that I have it all wrong and that I learned nothing haha) If you attend California College of the Arts in San Francisco I strongly recommend his class, he is a great man.

This was only part one people! Two more posts like this to come. I haven't even talked about art or about the artist. Be ready, in three days time to give you a chance to reread this if you want. and comment and tell me what you think, like, danny this was to dense, danny this was ok, danny what the hell are you talking about, danny clarify this part... danny ur a liar...

Until next time
-Daniel Gonzales


  1. Hi Daniel!

    I've read the entry and wanted to share my response. Beauty is representation of ourselves which includes experiences. Every decisive thought evokes an emotional connection.

    It would be difficult for someone to like the way an apple is painted if they do not like apples, that would challenge their understanding of self. True artists wouldn't look at the apple alone but the entirety of what the painting represents and speaks to them. The art must speak a lesson, teaching them a difference in perspectives or challenging the ability to learn a different perspective.

    Many paintings are intended to provoke unwanted emotions through satire or explicit 'in your face' messages - and many people accept lessons in these manners. The challenge to go against ones understanding of self can also be beautiful to those intellectually dedictated and loving of the mind.

    I feel that certain things are universally known regarding beauty too like the principles behind love. We might not all agree on who or what to love. But a painting of two people kissing shown to a couple in love would probably bring out an emotional response deemed beautiful. The author would have then did his/her job to embrace the concept of coupling and romance.

    I really liked the read and enjoyed the philosophical take on beauty. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Good one N. like I said, if you are unable to judge something BECAUSE of your inability to detach yourself, then you cannot really judge the subject at hand. So i feel sorry for the apples if someone happens to hate apples haha

    And the love part, not only does the Concept of love have to be in the painting of two people kissing but it must also please the senses. two rocks painted next to each other and naming that, "two people kissing." would not cut it. you might have the concept down but you also need to carry the weight aesthetically to support your concept. all is one in an art work.

    but like I said, great response.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.