Web Comics and Artistry

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a Druid (Candidate) in AODA, and as I’ve suggested in person, but never before here online, that a Druid practices druidry in the same way that a carpenter practices carpentry — that is, it’s a practitioner engaged in using a traditional set of tools and techniques that result in skillful actions that produce practiced results — results that become more beautiful with more careful practice.  What the results of druidry are, I’m not really in a position to say, for a variety of reasons, but it definitely is a series of actions and techniques that can be applied with results that gradually become more beautiful and elegant with greater practice.

But, it’s after midnight on a school night, and I’m still working on school stuff.  It’s my custom, when this happens, to check out the web-comics I read regularly, and see if a new set of images and words have been posted (it’s getting to be amazing to see the range of artwork available online, updating so rapidly).

I swear this is related to druidry.  And artistry — another one of those -ry words where intentional, deliberate practice makes results more beautiful.  It’s an elegant suffix in English.  Think of all the -ry words you can: ironmongery, armory, perfumery, forgery, carpentry, calligraphy (that one is a bit of a stretch), joinery, falconry, pottery, and so on…

Which brings me to PvP.  PvP is a cartoon about a bunch of crazy online gaming misfits that work at a magazine.  There’s Brent Sienna, who gets attacked by a panda about every hundredth strip, and Francis the misfit kid who’s done a lot of growing up, and a whole host of other characters that I’ve seen develop and change in the time I’ve been reading the web-comic.  The creator, Scott Kurtz, runs a blog alongside his comic, which has detailed an occasional ongoing challenge in dealing with the National Cartoonists Society.

And that brings me to his entry from a couple of days ago, Layers Upon Layers.  See, I have a number of computer programs that give me the power to draw whatever I’m doing in layers… Brushes happens to be one of my favorites at this, but not because I have layers.  No, just because I like producing quick drawings on my iPhone or iPad).

But until I read Scott Kurtz’s post, I didn’t have any idea how to USE layers in a digital drawing program!  I mean, most of the art I make is actually on small index cards or artists’ collector cards, where if you mis-place the pen on the paper, you start over.  Mistakes are an accepted part of sketch art, and the only layers I have are the pencil marks that gradually become layered over with ink… But that’s not digital layering.  It’s not separating out line art from coloring from text from shading; or background from foreground…

It’s an insight into what my friend C(T)P calls “leveling up,” and what Rufus Opus calls “the initiatory work of the traditional grimoires.” Just by reading Scott Kurtz’s article, I have a new insight into how to use my digital tools to better effect as an artist, just as Scott had the insight himself by looking at someone else’s art.

But the thing that brings it back to druidry, and to artistry in general, is that you have to make the commitment to see the world through an artist’s eyes, or through a druid’s eyes, to get into the correct mindset where Scott’s little bit of color commentary about looking at other artists work flow makes sense.  The vast majority of people just don’t care how the art they look at was made.  It’s funny stories and funny pictures, and that’s enough.  The vistas of potential, and of potency, which underlie these bits of silliness, these fripperies, though… there’s genuine skill in their creation, and the only way to grow in these skills is to a) practice them, and b) seek out others who practice them, and learn from their process as best you can.

Underlying BOTH of those, though, is the even more important quality of longing.  You have to actually want to be an artist, or a carpenter, or a druid, to improve in artistry or carpentry or druidry.   That can’t really be imposed from outside, though.  Either you have to be taught how to turn it on (difficult), or you have to have it spontaneously turn on in the kind of miniature moment of glory we used to call gnosis, or mysterium, or sacrament.  

That hidden quality, that quality of gnosis or curiosity, call it what you will, comes to me more easily with the practices of meditation and ceremony, and I can find my way to them more easily now that I have a more regular, habitual communication with my Muse.  But how to turn it on in others?  How to help others learn to engage?

More than any other quality that one must know to be a learner in the 21st century, I think it’s the ability to turn that key, and be in that state of curiosity and wonder, whenever you want or need to be in that state.

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