08 April 2012

Read a book

 I want to make a point I don't feel is made often enough in the field of visual art, and I'll hopefully share some of my concerns for a generation that may be reducing it's own potential for imaginative thought. My point is this: for the most part, people do not read enough. In fact, for the most part, people feel it is straight up uncool to read. If you're reading this, you have my respect, and hopefully these are opinions you share with me. I have been in many conversations with people who openly mock my love of reading, especially in the case of a book that has been made into a film:

With a smug expression they will say "who has time to sit and read? a picture's worth a thousand words. oh, and by the way, did you see how cool I was when I used an ancient quote to make a stronger sounding argument? Gee, I'm awesome." Well, I'm afraid to say, despite this petulent fellows hipster shorts, he is right: a picture is worth a thousand words... or so. Except he probably doesn't have a thousand words to put together. What he is missing is this: if you know how to read, and you pick the right words, a word can be worth 10 pictures. Frankly, I find the above attitude destructive to the imagination. The whole point of descriptive language is to condense ideas, to give flow to conception. words are a tool we can use to build universes inside our heads, in fact rational thought is impossible without them. You need words to think, and if you, like me, live to create images, you have to think imaginatively. if you want to bring your imagination to life, you need to transform images, feelings and events inside your brain into tactile, visible things that others can appreciate and comprehend. 

And if you want to take what is in your head and put it on paper- you're welcome to. But you'll only get what's in your head to start with. That's why it is so hard to draw a human being without having one in front of you to reference. If you do not know their anatomy, their forms, their surface reaction to light and their gestures, you will not accurately portray them on the page- instead, you will get this something like this: 


Well, how do you get this stuff in your head? Simple. You study it. "did he say study? Ugh". That's right. you study. And sure, photographic memory is fantastic- but I'm guessing if you're reading this you probably don't have it. So how do you quickly and painlessly remember all this stuff you want to know? You describe it to yourself. You use language to condense visual ideas into concepts that your brain is designed to contain. And where do you learn these words that so elegantly condense imagery into chunks of linguistic goodness? In books. In conversation. In magazines. Your brain is capable of creating images, but as I said, you need that vocabulary in order to make images that are believable and communicative. When you read and you comprehend, you're not seeing words on a page anymore, you're seeing images, hearing sounds and experiencing experiences that the author has captured and presented to you so you can take them, so you can keep them with you and call up those images, those experiences whenever you like, whenever you may need them. It trains you to engage your imagination, to test what you DON'T know so you can strengthen the weaknesses of your own imagination.

Reading exercises your brains ability to construct images and places and people and worlds. Reading is not being encouraged enough in our schools, and it is weakening the imaginations and the curiosity of our youth. The human brain is better at rendering graphics than any computer in the world- if you've ever seen a movie better than your best dream, scarier than your worst nightmare, please drop it's title in the comments below so I can check it out, so i can either be blown away, or email you back to give my sympathies for the poor quality of your dreams.