Art School Confidential by Daniel Clowes

Don’t have unrealistic expectations. If you wanna make money, you better drop out right now and go to banking school, or web site school, anywhere but art school. And remember, only 1 out of 100 of you will ever make a living as an artist. ~Professor Sandiford, Art School Confidential (played by John Malkovich)

The aforementioned quote from movie, Art School Confidential, had me laughing but remember what Freud said about jokes, there’s a smidgen of truth in them. Talk about artists swimming upstream! It’s no wonder artists struggle both individually and within a community. With the artist’s plight in mind, I couldn’t help but think of depictions of the artist’s temperament. Many adjectives describe artists; genius, edgy, quirky, eccentric, abstract, literal, narrative, conceptual, derivative, and the list goes on. Artists (including art professors and professionals) aren’t spared from stereotypes. I told you the obvious, I know. We’re all subjected to looking at the world through a Gestalt lens to help organize our experiences and knowledge and the art world certainly doesn’t elude categorization (as much as it may want or like to). Music, books, and film have all showcased different impressions of artists, art professors, and professionals. Confinement to the couch the past couple of days had me bundled up and watching movies to pass the time. Woody Allen‘s Vicky Christina Barcelona and Art School Confidential directed by Terry Zwigoff based on Daniel Clowes work provide interpretations and stereotypes of the artist’s mind.

In examining others (whether through real life tales or a fictitious stories), inevitably, we examine ourselves. Who doesn’t? The instances I find myself being judgmental; often times, I either want what is not presently in my life (that which I’m seeing, reading, or listening to – the inevitable act of comparing) or I see aspects of myself I don’t particularly like. In Vicky Christina, Juan Antonio and Maria Elena are a carefree, highly sensitive, romantic, volatile, and poetic couple while Art School Confidential transforms comic book representations of art school archetypes but falls flat. Both are pretty extreme in their depictions. Sadly, I wish Art School Confidential wasn’t made into a film. When brought to life, the characters were just as two-dimensional (if not more) than the actual comic from which they were derived from. Unlike Daniel Clowes other graphic novel film adaptation, Ghostworld; Art School Confidential couldn’t mimic the richness and versimilitude of Enid (main character from Ghostworld). Even the stereotypes seemed over the top but I’m glad I watched it. As for Woody Allen, I hope he knows not all artists look as hot as Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, that drinking and smoking in bars is a ridiculously romanticized view, and artists aren’t all that tortured and polyamorous (well…maybe, in some instances, he may be right). Honestly, I loved Annie Hall way more. Artists and the art world aren’t that inaccessible and exclusive. Far from it! Then again, who wants to watch a movie filled with artists that get along and make a good living (why am I the only one raising my hand here!!).

Yup, that's right, it's YOU!

This is going to be one of those really personal posts. It may or may not have anything to do with art but indirectly, it will. There may be a sprinkling of frustration with a dash of cynicism. Just going to free write and hoping to edit as little as possible. I’m sure there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s a Trompe-l’oeil painted light. I’ll take anything to keep my spirits and motivation going this year!

People have asked what I studied in school or what I’m studying* when I tell them I have an art writing blog. As encouraging and delighted as people get, it’s becoming more and more apparent that I can no longer be a patron of the arts. Sure, I went to art school for a couple of years (a few years after graduating from college and working steadily) and found out it wasn’t the environment for me. I needed more and I wasn’t getting what I needed – critical dialogue and a way to frame my thoughts around art theory and history. I tried to do graphic design and illustration to be ‘practical’ about the arts. None of my logic around studying those disciplines worked. At the moment, I’m about half way done with my post baccalaureate certificate from the UC Berkeley Extension but I’m afraid that hankering for grad school (specifically, environments where I can study Visual Criticism, American Studies (emphasis on Art), Critical Theory and the Arts, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) will persist. Essentially, navigating around where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going has proven to be quite the task. A friend put it best the other day, I’m reaching a crossroads and trying to figure out the best way to be engaged with the things I do while pursuing my passions. Tough, real tough.

Art, well, is the one thing in my life that’s been a constant [insert violin playing here]. It never fails me (unless you count that time in illustration class where a talented albeit crotchety teacher scarred me for life, no, I’m not sharing details) and always forces me to think critically and see how different artists have imbued their experiences and knowledge into their work so I can have a greater understanding of, well, history, politics, sexuality, culture, tradition, and more. Bottom line: I’m really starting to prepare myself financially and emotionally for separation (from corporate life – not anytime in the near future but within the next couple of years – at this point, I’m not sure). Check in with me a year from now to see where I’m at…

Optimism isn’t the problem. It’s being fearless that has me stuck. Talk about going against the grain! I’ve already taken in Buddhist thinking within my (really) Catholic family. I’m a vegetarian (in a Filipino family). I mean, shrimp and a little bit of pork for flavoring doesn’t count as full on meat!! Going back to grad school and studying art when my family thinks I should have children (well, let’s not even get into that one)… 

Yup, I have no choice but to continue telling myself I’m awesome. A good friend told me once, “You’ve got to be your own #1 fan. At least, you’ve got one”. Yet, the way goals and ambitions are looking, I’m gonna need more than just myself.

* For the record, I double majored in Philosophy and Psychology. Yes, I know, my Mom should have just sent me to art school (just like I begged asked her to).