Art of Life

I suppose I’d liken life to the production of art. In art, you have a certain set of tools to work with, and each toolset has distinctions and limitations. The medium of choice has its own characteristics too. You’re also producing a product that fits within certain expectations. If you don’t do anything, your medium will just sit there – which is true in life. You have to actually go about sketching, painting, sculpting, constructing – whatever.

In my experience, I could simply sit alone in a room and nothing much happened. So in that way, life is not a ride on a track whisking me around, showing me all the wondrous things I should see while I passively sit back and relax. But, there seems to be impulses of inspiration encouraging me to do certain things (just like in art). In some ways I think I can ignore these urges.

An artist shouldn’t necessarily paint over his entire canvas with a splash of maroon simply on a whim. Some impulses should be ignored depending on the selected theme. And art can certainly be frustrating. It often takes years of practice for brush strokes to come across as artistic additions instead of blotchy mistakes. Sometimes the initial vision wasn’t right and you have to repaint or repair.

For example, I initially painted life with dour hues – so now I’m trying to paint the whole thing over with brighter colors. There’s just so much grey and sometimes I need several coats. I try to stay focused on the pretty parts I’ve updated while ignoring the rest. What happened before this point in time? I don’t care, I’ve moved on. That paint’s dried and I can safety paint atop it.

More Whittling

To textually describe what’s in the picture: there’s an arrowhead, cross, spinning-top, teetotum, pawn, abstract pendant, spoon & fork, letter R, tiki statue, and a shovel. Some of the items have walnut oil applied, some have an added coat of beeswax & walnut oil, and some are bare wood (the pawn, spinning-top, and R have the wax while the tiki and shovel are bare).

To make the wax/oil coating, I heated walnut oil over a candle and dropped in some beeswax shavings. When it cooled, it was like lip-balm, so I dipped my finger in and rubbed the wood (beeswax is too hard on its own). I buffed it with a cotton cloth, although I’m not sure that did anything. The walnut oil is straight from the supermarket’s oil section. The reason I’m trying walnut oil as a finish is because it has the potential to dry over time (in a good way) and act as a better coating than something that remains oily (we’ll see).

Rich Whittling

The name of this blog is Whittlin’ Rich yet I haven’t done a lot of whittling. Yes I’ve whittled wood before, but not much. So for whatever reason, I recently took up whittling as a hobby. Here’s a picture displaying my many small projects and the primary tools I’ve been using.

I use basswood since it’s the recommended wood-of-choice for carving. For knives, I use a Morakniv 120 and 122, a BeaverCraft C1M and C2 as well as the tiny C15 — and of course there’s my strop with some polishing compound rubbed into the leather. To carve effectively, you need to strop your blades at the end of each whittlin’ day, in my opinion.

Just to provide some textual detail as to what’s in the picture: there’s a bunch of faces, some full-body figurines made from 1″x 1″ x 6″ blocks (not shown: one of the figurines has another figurine on its back), a small spoon, a carved-out box, my name carved into a block, a minature dumbbell, a wooden knife, an anvil and hammer, a sword, a sword’s handle, and a pine tree. Nothing’s officially “done” since I might go back to add details over time.

It’s been an enjoyable pastime over the last 10 weeks. Lately I’ve been using it as a meditation of sorts, as a way to keep an eye on my thoughts. While whittling, my mind tends to drift down random tangents about whatever so I’m trying to remove focus from those thoughts and remain focused on right-now i.e. whittling.

Crafting Code

Computer programming is the art of organizing instructions. To practice this art, a programmer arranges and tidies code while fixing whatever’s broken. At its start, every program is essentially broken — it doesn’t function properly — in fact it doesn’t do anything at all because there aren’t any instructions yet. So the programmer adds instruction after instruction until the program behaves as expected.

Because a program is a giant list of instructions, the code itself must be organized in an easy-to-understand way. A programmer can get lost in a mishmash of jumbled code and never find a way out. To deal with this inherent complexity, many different styles, languages, libraries, and frameworks exist. Each programmer must find his or her preferred way of organizing instructions, discovering a method that makes the most sense.

What drives a programmer is the need to repair something that doesn’t work correctly. Whether it’s hours or days, the programmer researches and experiments until a particular problem is resolved. As the programmer grows in experience, a catalog of techniques and solutions accumulate but that doesn’t mean programming gets easier. A programmer simply gravitates toward harder projects and the challenge continues.

Plus, programs are never really complete. Aspects of functionality can be overlooked, tiny mistakes can accumulate over time, larger mistakes can remain hidden until revealed by obscure conditions, or the platform on which the program runs can change and cause errors. And thus programming remains an art whose output only approximates something concrete. What appears as a window is in reality tiny dots dancing across a screen.

Art Project

Being human is not a utilitarian affair. Efficiency would not enhance our situation — we wouldn’t want to race our way to death. Existence is our purpose, but not simply existing nor even longevity. Within each of us is an art-project, it’s part of our individual makeup, we can’t shake it, we are set on a path to implement it the best we can.

We can see the plans for this art-project when we stare vacantly and imagine our ideal life. As artists, it’s our job to craft this vision into actuality. We’re provided some initial materials to work with, such as a body and our surroundings, but even those are up for alteration. And realize, the process is part of the fun, the outcome doesn’t have to be perfect.

Also realize that the world is a shared canvas, we must be respectful of other’s work. Some of us prefer to paint alone whereas others enjoy group projects. Some of us go nuts and get wild whereas others prefer painting serenely. This is just another part of the dynamic we have to work with.

And although this is a shared experience, we mustn’t let others constrain our vision. The boundaries of what’s possible have never been set. What we see today is our starting point, not our limit. And we begin this journey by peering into the mind and studying the picture of our ideal life.

We don’t care about how, that’s not our concern. New ways of doing things come into being all the time. Our job isn’t to invent the tools we use. We simply keep an open mind and stay focused on the goal. We should not attempt to mechanically place each and every stroke. Art requires a certain flow to take hold and guide our hand as we touch brush to canvas.

Achieve this confidence in application through constant visualization of the desired outcome. If the picture becomes so clear we can paint it in our sleep, then certainty of achievement follows. See it before you paint it. Imagine everyday until the image burns so brightly it bursts through and simply must be made.

Mistakenly Made

The biggest mistake I’ve made? Holding the belief that humanity was nothing more than tiny little animals, so fragile that we must horde every scrap of happiness that happens our way, ever subjected to the whims of a chaotic world.

No, we are not animals, each and every one of us is a creator, an artist provided with vision and a palette — this world is our canvas. No one will perfectly depict his vision, but our pastime is to paint, attempting to render our imagination.

Paint splatters, strokes veer off course, light sources flicker, subject-matter comes in and out of view — there are infinite obstacles to perfection. We must not lament this state, but embrace it as part of the artistry of existence.

For so long I perceived this place as a factory for nightmares. It was all that my child-like mind could comprehend, overwhelmed by flashing lights and confused by the cacophony. But it’s a studio of dreams — any dream we dare to imagine.

Consumption of Art

Although I’ve turned into a defender of life, sometimes I feel as though I’m a bit of an apologist, constantly finding excuses for life’s undesirable aspects. I’ve even said how boring life would be without such drama. But you know what, I don’t enjoy drama — I much prefer comedy. I do like romance and adventure, but only when the story isn’t too intense and the outcome is pleasant.

So in that sense, I find actual life kinda shitty. But living in this world appears to be necessary for the creation and consumption of art. And in this context, I define “art” as the expressions of human skill and imagination e.g. movies, books, TV shows, music, culinary arts, video games, gadgets — and this includes all forms of expression: blogs, Reddit comments, YouTube videos, even explicit material.

My life has always centered around the consumption of art — and I typically prefer engaging with art over interacting with “live” people. So it’s within this context that I defend life. I defend it as a canvas on which art is created. I’ve yet to appreciate the beauty in living out a mundane life — for me, living this life has been more of a means to consume art.

It appears that my point is this: I don’t have to like every aspect of life in order to appreciate my overall relationship with life. Life is going to do some freaky nasty things, and I’m not always going to appreciate those things, but that’s fine. I’ll have to deal with some of those things directly, but I guess that’s the cost of having such an amazingly immersive entertainment platform — sometimes it gets nuts in here.