12 February, 2008

The Artful Dodger

Art is a form of creative expression. Art is the process by which an artist externalizes his/her vision, so that he/she may present it to others. It is an artist's job to find a method by which he/she can communicate these visions. A writer forms ideas into words, so that others may read those words and grasp the original ideas. A painter finds ways to manipulate images, shapes, and colors, to represent feelings and inspire emotions. A photographer finds reflections of meaning in naturally existing subjects. A musician manipulates musical tones to affect listeners emotionally. In all forms of art, there is an idea, an expression, and a reaction. Each of these is important.

Personally, I find that I do not lack ideas. But the part of art that I constantly struggle with is expression. Every form of expression I've tried has been insufficient to convey the ideas I want to convey. It's not that these forms are incapable, but that I am incapable of manipulating them in the necessary ways. But what is an artist who cannot create art?

I am a very ordered perfectionist. When thoughts get tangled, I become very distressed, and it's hard for me to tie them back together. Writing is too one-dimensional. You start in one place, and you read until you get to another place. You cannot be in two places at one time, and it takes time to sufficiently enter a place so that you have absorbed all of the necessary details. Creating an image, a picture, helps to alleviate this problem. They say a picture is worth a thousand words - and it's a lot faster to register than a thousand words would be. I think I would have a much easier time forming my ideas if I could draw them out into a visible form. Instead of spending paragraphs describing the appearance of people or places, it would be so much easier to just draw them, so that I can take a single look. I can already see them in my head, so there would be nothing more effective. But the problem is, I can't draw for shit. I can only draw very simple shapes; I don't know how to put lines together to form complex arrangements. If I see something in my mind, I have no way of showing it.

I think the web system of HTML is very fascinating. The idea of things linking together in any kind of way, like a system of cross-references, allows for a very non-linear presentation of information. When I start working out ideas for, say, a story, I tend to put the pieces together in chunks, here and there. And over time, I'll modify those chunks with new ideas. But keeping track of what and where all those chunks are (and go) is daunting, and it discourages me. I think that designating certain places for certain types of information, and then creating visual menus linking to those places in a way that makes sense to how the ideas are organized in the overall plan, could be a vast improvement on the method I have now - which is to just use multiple text documents designating different topics or sections of the story.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is, I have this idea for creating a story that, instead of being a linear cover-to-cover experience, is actually a more visual web-discovery kind of experience. Imagine a fan site based off of a book or movie, where the main page is, say, a map of the land where the story takes place. Then, on the map, there are links to various sections of that land where things happen, like cities, for example. And there are character bios that you can click on with images and descriptions of the characters in the story. Now, imagine that instead of being a supplement to the story, that web-based experience was the actual story itself. You wouldn't necessarily have to read it in a certain order. Granted, the main narrative of the story would still have to be read a certain way for it to make sense, but not all the parts necessarily have to be experienced in the same order. If you're curious what happens here or there, or with this or that character, then check it out! This probably wouldn't work with a traditional narrative, but I'm thinking of a radical new kind of narrative-based experience. It's based off of a fictional world that exists outside of the course of the main narrative. Imagine a Lord of the Rings website with a map of Middle Earth, and you can click on Rivendell and read about what the place is like, its history, character bio for Elrond, and also click a link to parts of the book that recount events that occur in Rivendell.

I think this could possibly be a revolutionary new way to experience entertainment. Not to say that this sort of thing has never been done before, but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that's widely considered as an option when a person sits down and says, I have this cool idea in my head for a story, and I want to tell people about it. I mean, they could put up a website, but it's still bound to not be quite as immersive or as extensive as what I'm imagining in my head.

So is what I'm imagining actually possible to the extent that I'm imagining it? I dunno. The point here is not for me to revolutionize entertainment and give people an entirely new form of experience. If that happens, that's great, but remember, the goal is simply for me to formulate my ideas in a way that feels much more natural to me, and easier, than current conventional methods. I have these ideas in my head, and it's like they exist in different psycho-spacial areas because of where they fit into the grand 3-D (or more) framework of my overall world plan that serves as the backdrop for the story I want to tell. It's like, I think that maybe utilizing the power of hyperlink technology, I can recreate an experience that's one step closer to those neuronets of brainwaves, which means being one step closer to the pure idea that serves as the basis of art, and sacrificing less in the process of expression.

It sounds great, but there's still a lot of expression that needs to be accomplished. There are still lots of words to be written, and, if possible, a lot of pictures that could be drawn. I can work on the words, but I'm having trouble working up any kind of confidence in my non-ability to render visual ideas into visual images.

The worst part is that I can't decide if my inability to work within pre-defined parameters, and my great desire to revolutionize the world, is something deliberate that will someday lead to great innovation, or if it's just another symptom of my failure as a human being.

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