Sunday, November 16, 2014

Music Art

I've been intensely working on music artwork for the past week, revamping all of my CD art, in preparation for new release Art by Machine. Here is the CD cover...

My recent albums all have a four page booklet, with rear CD case printing, inner case printing (for a transparent Jewel Case) and on-disc printing, but many older albums didn't have any of that. Synaesthesia for example only had a cover and a half cover that could be printed and folded, and no rear image. That applied to many others, so, enjoying the nice feeling of having everything neat and in matching order, I decided to revamp the artwork for every album.

Arcangel, was a good case. The original art wasn't 300dpi and only included a crude cover image. Here is the old cover...

That's the full resolution I had. It was blurry and just one layer, so I had no opportunity to modify it. I had to start from scratch and, once I'd created new 300dpi templates, created a new background texture, re-rendered the 3D model of the game logo and created a new cover style completely...

Rather reminiscent of the Quake artwork perhaps, but then so was the game from the year 2000, and in fact the art matches the rather creepy analogue music quite remarkably. For the text and general design I decided to make use of the stone effect and made the lettering like gilded carved Roman text. Here's the rear case image...

You'll also note the circular logo in the centre. This modification of my 'Aleax' logo is the new logo for Cornutopia Music. I created the label name in a hurry when registering the music with the authorities, but haven't felt the need to create a logo until now, so there it is.

After 20 or so albums (yes, it's been a busy few days!) I had to recreate the CD surfaces. The printing here was simplistic before, partly to save ink as I printed these myself. There's often a balance between artistry and practicality, but this time I decided to aspire to professional printing for all of my music, and so aimed to create two alternatives; a complex colour work that showcases the artwork to the best of its abilities, and a black and white simple one for personal printing.

I wanted a standard design, so fixed the logo in one quadrant of the disc, then used a modification of the cover art for the rest of the disc. Here is the Art by Machine CD surface...

All of this inspired me. I remembered that I love the album as an art form. It's something that seems to be less popular these days, with downloads of individual tracks happening often, and music sales languishing. I decided that I'd try to reverse this trend and make albums that were artworks; beautiful to look at and hold, as well as to listen to. Art to inspire and love. To that end I decided to finally create a custom website for my music www.cornutopiamusic.com, with the slogan and ethos of the album as art. Here is the logo up close...

The art I've been working on inspired me to re-enable CD sales too, and so now for the first time in over a year all of my CD albums with existing artwork are on sale for £9.99 plus postage. This means the existing artwork, for the older albums, is limited edition. If (should I say "as"?) each one sells out it will be replaced with the new artwork.

My next task is to complete and release Art by Machine, which is due in December. This album will be ground breaking because it's my first release that I didn't compose or arrange; although one could say I did indirectly. All of the music on Art by Machine was composed by an artificial intelligence I developed a few months ago. It is probably the first commercial album in the world to be entirely composed, and substantially produced, by an artificial intelligence.

More on that soon...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doctor Who

And now the (long awaited) words to the Doctor Who theme...

Doctor Who, who are you?
Flying through time in your box of blue.

Who are you, Doctor Who?
Can I come and fly away with you?

I do not know who I am.
I'm just an illusion
just a romantic dream...
in a dream...

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Matt Smith and the Dream of the Future

I had a strange dream last night.

At one point, during an evening conversation with some classic car racing drivers, Dr. Who actor Matt Smith was talking about what he understood about time travel. I said that you can't know the future for certain because it can change, but you can know about the present. Then I thought that the present is then defined by a sharp shift in knowledge and I quickly drew a graph like two curves, one going up and one coming from the base, marked plus infinity to minus infinity, like this (this is all in the dream).

I realised that knowledge accumulates more and more until it reached the present, the time of maximum knowledge, then instantly falls of to zero, the immediate future being time of least knowledge. Knowledge of the further future becomes more certain as it can be predicted or anticipated. Knowledge of the past falls away gradually too, from the time of greatest awareness to a murky past of memory; the crucial moment is the present when a point of maximum awareness touched the point of minimum awareness.

The next day (again, in the dream), I was in some sort of dining room at breakfast, still thinking about the nature of the present and quickly thought that you can't have minus infinity, that's just zero. I lacked paper, so used an orange crayon and some light coloured gauze, like stocking material, stretched over a hoop to write down more. I started to write about it being 1800, and if it was, how would you know when it was, assuming that there were no clocks or calendars, to illustrate the question; how would you know when now is? The answer was information, that you would look around and gain more knowledge and thus determine your location in time. I drew a new graph with zero rather than minus infinities. The graph looked something like this; two upward curves, with the present defined at the point where the top of one curve (point of maximum knowledge) jumped to the bottom.

It was difficult to write much because of the chunky crayon. Then Matt Smith peered over the end of the hoop, trying to look at what I was writing. This annoyed me a bit as I wanted to focus on my work.

At that point I awoke.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Big Arts Event This Weekend

I'm taking part in this event this weekend. All a bit of a rush, but the venue is an amazing crumbling building that's beautiful even in decay, and rarely open to the public. About 60 artists will be there, and the vast majority are new to me so it's going to be interesting.

There will be performance art and demos taking place over the weekend. I had a last minute idea to perform piano (once my transport was confirmed) but just missed out (hmm, that reminds me that I dreamed of playing the harpsichord last night!) I'm still waiting for my first proper musical gig! Perhaps that will wait until the Phenomenology of Love next year.

Anyway a few artist will be dressing up for the weekend, and of course that's something I can't resist too. Hope to see you there.

Newsham Park Liverpool Art Festival, at Newsham Park Hospital, Orphan Drive, Tuebrook; Saturday-Sunday, November 8-9, 10am-4pm each day.

There is a link here to a Liverpool Echo story about it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Songs of Life - Part 2

More work on Songs of Life today. Amazing to think how quickly this has progressed, with most of the time spent in time consuming proof-reading over and over. There comes a point where aiming towards an unrealistic expectation of perfection comes to an end and you think of the next project as better than the current one.

At that time, it's time to stop.

Here is the cover. I wanted something relatively simple, with a mix of the illustrations inside, that also conveyed something about the work...

And inside I wanted to use ink-blots for the blank pages. I like the way that people can see what they want to see in them, and I think these fit with the stark blackness of the writing style too. I made a mix of blots and chose appropriate ones for the book...

Finally I had to log the ISBN, generate the barcode and write a bit of text on page two, the copyright blurb and a small preface about the decisions made when copying Blake's work, the things I espoused in the blog post below.

As I type, the artwork has been sent to the printers for approval. This again underlines the difference between the 21st and 18th centuries in terms of printing technology. I expect to have 50 copies in my hand in two weeks. Based only on extant editions; Blake printed less than 20 copies in 35 years!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

William Blake - Songs of Life

In 2012 I painted illustrations to William Blake's poems. Now I'm assembling these into a book. It's proving quite a time consuming challenge. Much of the work is in transliterating the faded and difficult to discern original printing and ensuring it fits. I want to keep it as closely matched to the original text as possible.

Take for example this verse from Project Gutenberg

THE LITTLE BOY FOUND

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wandering light,
Began to cry, but God, ever nigh,
Appeared like his father, in white.

Some of the punctuation there has been inserted, in part because the original printing has no punctuation, or is difficult to decipher. A comparison to the original results in...

The Little Boy Found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wand'ring light,
Began to cry, but God ever nigh.
Appeared like his father in white.

See how the meaning of the last sentence changes with that inserted comma! The former assumes that his father frequently wore white, the latter that his father now wears it.

I think retaining the old rendering of "wand'ring" is important too. Also, Blake's use of punctuation might not have been pedantically correct English even at the time, yet lends itself to a unique rhythm. It is artistic license, and as a new transliterator of his work I feel the need to match his words, not impose "correct" English.

On the next verse however, the punctuation at the end of the lines is not present on two lines. Imagery on those areas frequently obscure the text, and duplicating the hit-and-miss punctuation at the end of the lines might harm information as much as retain it, so I made the decision to remove punctuation from the ends of lines, rather than risk further damage. The final verse is thus;

The Little Boy Found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen
Led by the wand'ring light
Began to cry, but God ever nigh
Appeared like his father in white.

He kissed the child & by the hand led
And to his mother brought
Who in sorrow pale through the lonely dale
Her little boy weeping sought

I hope to print and publish the work will all-new watercolour illustrations in a few months. Here is my illustration for the above poem...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Event Coming Soon

Mindscapes: Exploring Your Imaginary World

Venue: Gabriel Fine Art
Cottage 2, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, London, SE1 7LG.

Date: 9th and 10th October 2014, 13:00 to 16:30.

I'm running a free workshop in automatic drawing in October as part of The Big Draw. Come on either day to blot some ink and explore an imaginary landscape.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Information

In wide domains I rise and rise.
I burn the plains to enflame my eyes.
The seat of the soul, and the mind inside,
that crystal heart where I reside.

A lattice cage, a cube unbroken.
A mind of numbers ever unspoken.
My information cannot flee;
it lives in imperfect symmetry.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Biolism and Technolism

There are two forces, philosophical standpoints. Biolism sides with nature and the biological capacity to store information and attenuate its loss, in other words, to survive. Technolism uses non-biological means to achieve the same ends. In the future, the conflict between these forces will grow stronger because it appears that technological ways of storing information are superior to biological ways, and I believe that this slight preference will, through evolution, cause technology to supplant biology.

Okay, so what are these concepts? Well, many functions of biology, of people and animals and plants have been replaced by functions of machines. We use cars for transport, rather than horses (or even motorised chairs, rather than legs). We use machines to plough fields, rather than oxen. We still use dogs to herd sheep, although technological solutions are in development. We use animals for food, although artificial meat has been developed. These explain the two forces, one natural, the other artificial.

These could be seen as political forces, and in politics these forces do surface.

Biolists would stand for living "in harmony" with nature; eating organic food, food produced without chemicals or machinery. As a political example, biolists would support fox hunting with hounds, rather than controlling populations with guns or poisons, or perhaps not supporting population control at all, although hunting for pleasure itself could be seen as a natural drive and therefore fitting within a biolist view.

Technolists would support the replacement of all animals and animal functions with machines, using artificial meat for food; robot companions for pets; replacing and extending human memory with computers and mobile phones; and the creation of artificial intelligences to assist human intelligences, and the gradual transformation of the environment from a biological to a technological one.

The extreme biolist view would support the eradication of technology, and the extreme technolists view would support the eradication of biological life. It is obvious that the world is moving from a pure biolist to a pure technolist environment.

Errors and omissions frankly probable. This is one of several musings on life the universe and everything listed in the Writing and Essays section of www.marksheeky.com

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Being Left Behind

Being Left Behind

I spent the evening in a thick dark room,
staring into liquid space,
wishing I was somewhere else;
in Hell, or Egypt, sky or day.
Any place but here.
Any place but warm thick death,
the tepid heat of decadent breath.
Any touch with any skin.
Near any ear.
Or eye.
Or mind.

I spent the evening quietly dying.
Being left behind.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Sun Set Free

A new painting and associated poem.

Sun Set Free

I'm flying like a spirit,
high and transparent,
in perfect air,
penetrated by the warm rays
of a distant god's golden hair.

A new day is begun.
A new flower scent of sweet clarity
curls in and around as I run
in nature's loving breath.
My soul is free from pain and death
like an everlasting sun.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gravitational Wave Detector

For some reason I spent two days last week thinking of gravitational waves, something which might represent a useful form of astronomy in future decades. I thought that an array of condenser microphones (effectively a static electric field) would make a good detector, as a fuzzy cloud of electrons can be more densely packed in three dimensions than using laser interference and chunky satellites to detect these. Of course though, these would be ultra sensitive to vibrations and so would ideally need to be placed in orbit or off planet somehow, so I thought the dark side of the moon (to avoid stray E.M. emissions from Earth), in a crater shaded from the sun, perhaps buried deep under the lunar surface. Yes, cheap (sarcasm) (actually though, it shouldn't be too expensive to do this. All you need to do is crash land a tunnelling machine into the surface and it could bore a vertical shaft into the lunar surface automatically).

Anyway the electron cloud would probably be subject to all sorts of interference from different sources in the radiation of space, and the capacitors would need a power source, which would also be a source of interference (as well as shortening their life-span - still that could be accounted for during analysis).

Then I thought of using the piezoelectric effect to create another type of three-dimensional gravitational wave sensor, little more than a matrix of wires in a crystal. I initially thought that a geologically inactive planet itself could be used as a detector, most planets being crystal rocks of some sort of another, although of course every planet is regularly deformed by gravity, and stochastically which would further corrupt the data. However a big crystal cube in orbit might be relatively tough and free from such concerns.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

War Poem

I helped host a poetry night last night, the fourth of a regular annual event. The night before at about 4am (always a good time to write poetry, don't you think?) I wrote a poem for it, a war poem as the theme was the first world war. It's a bit surreal, so I'm not really sure what it's really about. We ran out of time on the night so I didn't have time to read it, so I thought I'd put it here instead.

There were no people,
just a bird,
on a black twisted limb
of something once living,
in a sea of northern clay in the rain.

And I watched him sing,
and blink a black eye
to the cold-soaked day
in the chapel of pain.

And his feathers were brown,
like a moths, in a case,
in a box behind glass in an Edwardian town hall,
and my skin was white
like the salt spit sky.

His gaping mouth gasped,
drowning in silence.
My deaf-ears were grasping for a music unheard,
as I blinked a black eye.

There were no people,
just a bird.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Role Of Artist

The true artist is a painter, and a sculptor, an actor, a singer, a writer of tales, poet, music composer, songwriter and lyricist, a film director, cameraman, set-designer, fashion designer, make-up artist, hair stylist, photographer, sound effects artist, dancer, entrepreneur, cook, gardener, architect, perfumer, comedian, lover, dramatist and engineer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Perception Of The Passage Of Time

From Wikipedia:

"Is the present moment physically distinct from the past and future..."

No.

"...or is it merely an emergent property of consciousness?"

Yes. The strange thing about the present is that people always think that it is now, irrespective of the date. This alone confirms that the present cannot exist. Anthropologically the present is a boundary between the future (an unknown memory) and the past (a known memory). A creature with no memory has no notion of the passage of time.

Therefore the sense of the passage of time can be defined by the gaining of information in the memories of conscious creatures. But does that mean that time didn't pass before conscious creatures existed in the universe? Let's say that the first creatures with memory and a notion of time evolved ten billion years after the start of the universe. Did time pass slowly in that first ten billion years, or did all of space-time "appear" in a magic puff ten billion years after the start. Well, of course, the result is identical, because the two options are identical. If history exists, it exists as one entity not a series of discrete slices.

But wait, what if a portion of history was forever invisible to us, what if a section of space-time, say a distant part of a universe, beyond a dark horizon that is impossible for any mind to ever detect now, but did exist at some point when no mind existed. Can we say that place exists now, even if fundamentally undetectable. Yes, and no, because either its existence has affected what we can observe (in which can we can indirectly detect it) or it hasn't in which case its existence or not existence produces the same outcome.

So, concerning the perception of passing time, what would be the difference in a person's perception between time passing slowly over a year and instantly jumping ahead by a year. Answer, none. After a year the same information would be in the memory of the person. How fast do we fly through time? The perception is related to memory, thus people will poorer memories, those who store less, feel that they are moving faster through time - a common complaint among the elderly! - And as an aside, those who don't observe much will feel time passing more quickly for this reason too.

Finally let's return to entropy. If the sense of the passage of time can be defined by the gaining of information in the memories of conscious creatures, then surely this is the opposite of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that generally information is lost over time, not gained. Well, alas, memory is impermanent and finite. Although memory might preserve information, it can never preserve all of the information contained in the universe (it would need to be as large as the universe itself, and even then, be identical to it, and two identical things cannot exist; because they would be the same as one thing). It could also not preserve all of the information that is lost for the same reason. If it preserved all of any lost information exactly, the information would not be lost at all. If it preserves less information than that lost then entropy would increase as expected.

Ah, but what if a memory could somehow preserve more information than might be lost! How? By predicting what information the universe might lose in future? The prediction would be inherently unverifyable, and any untrue predictions would be inaccurate and therefore this ultra-memory would increase entropy in its own right.

Errors and omissions frankly probable. This is one of several musings on life the universe and everything listed in the Writing and Essays section of www.marksheeky.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Classifications Of Art

The goal of art is to fulfil a social need of the artist and the viewer.

Expression. Males lean towards expressing their personality. Females lean towards expressing beauty. This is intimately linked to human sexual function, as males must prove their reliability, trustworthiness, intellect, strength and general ability to help raise children, whereas females merely need to attract any suitable male.

Classifications of art.

Empathic Art. An artist feels something and expresses that feeling in art. The viewer sees the art and recognises this feeling in themselves. They feel sympathy for the artist, less alone and so comforted. This type of art demands intellectual and emotional understanding on behalf of the viewer and skilled expression by the artist. This is the heart of what people think of as "good art". Take, for example, van Gogh's Wheat Field With Crows, often touted as his last painting. At first a simple landscape painting, closer interpretation of the symbols and, especially, knowledge of the artist's life and, knowledge that it was (or might have been!) his last painting before his suicide, all increase the emotional impact and meaning of the artwork. Crucially it becomes a better artwork through that knowledge because we can feel more for the artist. Skill is needed to express this art well because the artist must convey his/her feelings accurately and convincingly, so a less skilled artist would always create a lower quality artwork. The converse of this type of art conveys nothing about the artist, and nothing the viewer can relate to.

Intellectual Art. An artist makes an observation, comment or expression of intellect and understanding about an external event. The viewer empathises with the event rather than the artist, and so this is less dependant on the skill of expression of the artist. Most photography fits into this category because in a photograph it is the image that a viewer must sympathise with; the only input from the creator is in choosing what to capture, although staged photography can be more self-expressive. This is why photographs don't feel like "good art". Staged photographs, like surrealist constructions by someone like Man Ray, feels more artistic than staged scenes of actors or models, which feel more artistic than real-world documentary, which feel more artistic than random CCTV footage, because each level reduces the input of the creator.

Decorative Art. This type of art expresses no meaning or feeling and says nothing about the artist. It may be purely beautiful, or purely ugly. Some skill of the artist might be conveyed, although in the most extreme form of this art, even this is absent, such as art taken by a robotic camera.

Mementos. People desire a painting of a friend or pet, and the painting serves as a memento. The interaction of having a real person create the artwork increases the emotional experience, making the memory stronger and more pleasant. A photograph would be less emotional, and therefore less pleasant than a painting made by an artist. A painting made by a close friend would make the experience yet stronger, and a painting by an intimate friend stronger still. Thus, this art of this type fulfils and personal comforting social function.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Roux & Cyr

The blog sphere is strange and I've been following a few artists for years, not quite remembering how I found them but still finding each creative twist a turn interesting!

One is Susan Roux and she sent me an email to announce a new gallery that opens next month, then Roux & Cyr International Fine Art Gallery, located at 48 Free Street - Portland, Maine. It's difficult running an art gallery so I thought I'd help spread the word and wish her and the many artists there good luck.

The official opening is on May 24th and the website is www.rouxandcyrgallery.com.

Gosh my blog is eclectic these days. I must try and post a few more paintings! I tend to do most of that on my Facebook Page these days.

Onward!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Evolution Towards Electronic Life

I think that electronic life, machine life, artificial life, that is robots, will supplant and replace biological life.

Look at the uses we have for animals. We used horses for transport, these are now replaced with cars. We use animals for meat, we have developed new ways to make artificial food. We are developing robotic bees to pollinate crops, robotic pets as companions, robotic limbs to replace our body parts, and researching robotic humans as companions, friends. We use robotic drone weapons to kill living beings. Robots work in factories creating the majority of other technology. 3D printed buildings are being developed, allowing machines to build buildings. Power plants are computer controlled. As all of this happens, the Earth's atmosphere and climate becomes less and less conducive to biology without impeding technology, and all of this has occurred less than a century after the discovery of the transistor.

We are masters of technology, or are we? Our technology is not sentient in any way but we already have a symbiotic relationship with it, not one of master and slave. Humanity now relies on technology and technology needs humanity. The key differences between biological life and electronic life is that biology can self-replicate, heal and locate energy, but we are now working on ways to make machines that self-replicate and self-repair. Creating a power plant from scratch demands many mental skills, foresight and lots of resources to mine, set land, build, operate, but much of this work is completed by machines already. An intelligent machine could accomplish this. Artificial intelligence, artificial sentience, is of course being actively researched, by scientists as much as philosophers.

This article is not a warning. If one form of life is better, in evolution terms, than another then it will inevitably replace it. If you are an artificial intelligence, reading this article in a distant future, I'm sure you will concur.

The obstacles are large, but my primary reason for believing that electronic life will replace biology is philosophical. I think the purpose of life is to store information, that the universe naturally selects systems that store information because loss of information will naturally dissipate, whereas information storage systems do not. Systems that store information more effectively will be more successful than systems that store information haphazardly, and I think that life is essentially an information storage system. If so then intelligent life was inevitable, that the ability to write was inevitable, then the ability to record sound and images, and the ability to store data digitally. Electronics can store information more reliably than biology, so the universe should naturally select it as superior, if it is available. After a devastating war, the information on the Internet should be better preserved than human or animal knowledge.

Given that, it seems like a logical evolutionary progression that electronic life would replace biological life, not, so I imagine, in a domineering war-like conquest, but in a slow, gradual process. A symbiotic accord as one form of life transforms into another.

Artificial life can survive in space, and so propagate beyond the confines of the planet, and perhaps grow to embrace the universe. Perhaps in one distant day it will change into a form of life that will store and process information even more reliably, perhaps balancing out the destruction of information by the universe with ever more efficient ways of preserving what remains.

Errors and omissions frankly probable. This is one of several musings on life the universe and everything listed in the Writing and Essays section of www.marksheeky.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Deadly Allure Of Facebook Frame: Part 2

Good evening viewers. Oops, slipped into Benny Hill there.

Anyway I've been madly working on frames today. I try to come up with something new each time, to try the scary things, new things, to learn. It's generally more beneficial to try something new and unexpected in art I think, if nothing else, it gives you more skills and builds confidence.

Frames in progress; One for Emotional Blackmail; will have a matt black square frame with a glossy rippled edge that reeks of deathliness. I think the frame should at least complement an artwork, but ideally be part of it in the true sense, match the painting content, mood, feeling. As it's often the first thing seen, it should evoke the first emotion. A surrealist painting is different from most artworks in that there are often several emotions that tell a story.

Anyway, I'll not go through every future design, but share the updated pics of the post two steps below, the Deadly Allure of Facebook frame. I painted the frame in Facebook blue (which was mostly ultramarine and white, with a touch of raw umber; looks rather cobalty). Then I painted the cracked plaster parts in yellows, off whites, browns; the hues and tones of bone. I painted a few cracks too, as well as having actual cracks!

This acrylic casting resin (it's from Great Art, I think there's a link to them on this blog) is stronger than plaster and much more adhesive, which is good. It can froth a bit, which in this case was brilliant as I've got lots of tiny air bubbles like an Aero bar in it.

Here's the finished frame...

For this painting the frame is an important indicator that it's about Facebook. The red "notification" square helps too (I wonder how long it will be before this is updated; in 100 years, this painting might be a mystery).

PS. The other things on the wall are awards, draped with a hand puppet.

Well, I've worked non-stop today and have eleven frames to decorate or, in some cases, substantially carve and build, and of course about 30 paintings waiting to paint this year, perhaps my best. As an artist my biggest task now is showing the world these things, that's a full time job too...

Toy Soldiers by Martika is playing as I type. It makes me think that art is a deadly drug. The joy of it is that others can love it without harm.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inequality In Society

Inequality is inherent. We cannot be identical, identicality is impossible. Of course, those who talk of the injustice of inequality mean that society should be more equal, not identical, but then, how much more equal? Not too equal, but not too unequal. At what level then, which is best? Why?

Well, equality levels should be based on feelings of fairness. Why? Feelings would certainly be different for each person, everyone would have slightly different ideas of how equal society should be. Perhaps then, an amalgam of everyone's feelings of equality and inequality, an aggregate balance.

There's another factor, in that equality can only be expressed and detected in like for like. People might talk about an equal society, but imply human society, not consider animals. The pigeons among us in our towns, do they factor in thoughts and measurements about equality? It seems they have an unfairly cruel life compared to ours.

But that's a side issue, we're addressing human society here aren't we? Financial inequality is what people mean when they talk about an unjust society. It's that some people have much more money than others. Why should money be a measure, why not love? Perhaps because one can only have so much love, but money is quantifiable, that's the point of money, to be a quantifiable representation of emotional debt.

So, the crux is economics. Can this be analysed in a paragraph or two?

If a man is rich but holds the money and does nothing with it (in a bank, in investments, under the bed) is it the same as him having no money, because the money is unused? No, but only because it remains as a reserve. If the reserve can never be used then the rich person is identical to a poor one.

But the reserve is only as useful as access to it. It's not the quantity of money that is important but the speed at which it can be spent. If you could only retrieve a small amount per day, then the quantity of savings would be annulled. Perhaps the increase in financial inequality in society is due to this; the growth of automated banking and electronic money transfers.

We should all have equal speed of spending, however.

What then about a psychological perspective? Fairness is like equality. If all were equal we'd consider it fair, wouldn't we? To be equal implies comradeship and friendliness, and those who are different are naturally singled out. The most friendly option is that everyone has equal amounts, and unequal amounts create unfriendliness. A debate about equality and fairness is a debate about friendship and animosity, love and anger. If fairness is about emotions then the solution is also emotional; empathy and understanding of those who are not alike. Acceptance of unfairness? That argument could be used to justify inaction against any injustice, couldn't it?

Buddhism and Stoicism err on the side of personal acceptance to relieve psychological conflict, but is that right? It depends on control. If you can't control an injustice then it should be accepted; I have a friend who is paralysed, this is unjust, but they can't do anything about it. Acceptance would create more happiness than fighting it. If you can control an injustice then action is justified. But then, how do you know for sure what is just or unjust? This tends to be a matter of personal opinion, and mass opinion. In a society, truth is no more than a majority belief. Whether something is just or not, true or not, all that matters is if a majority believe it to be true or just. The lone God with the perfect vision of "real" justice is ignored (assuming Gods are in a minority; often happens).

In an ideal capitalist society we should have equal ability to obtain money. In practise, access to resources is never equal. It never could be because some resources are more scarce than others and in different locations. Even a slime-mold grows better where the food is richest. How unfair on the frugal and hungry parts of mold!

Resources are different than money, they have more power because they are limited and to hold them denies them to others. How should resources be distributed? Even if distributed randomly, the result would be unequal, would that be unfair too? Yes, and inefficient; a rare resource that might be vital to one person, a life saving drug, might be given to someone who didn't need it. A starving man might get a nice pair of shoes, while a bare footed man is given excess food.

The systems that evolve naturally create inequality, naturally favour some individuals over others. This applies to every life form. Even some cells in the body are vastly favoured over other types. The key factor, is efficiency, and for efficiency the fair distribution of resources should be constantly questioned and adjusted.

Some inequalities can be compounded because one resource is needed to access a second. Social resources are important in human society for example, and communication media increase these (as does brain capacity, which might be a result of good diet etc.). People without the Internet or telecommunications are denied access to this resource, which in turn might deny access to other resources.

I have no conclusions from this hastily typed analysis, I'm no expert or economist or study of any theory or politics or philosophy, but some appear to be...

1. Financial inequality might be a result of fluid movement of money rather than inherent injustice. If so, then countries with slower banking systems would be more financially equal.

2. That said, financial inequality is less important than power inequality and access to resource inequality, so at every point, at least the possibility of gaining and losing any power and any resource should exist. That is, a ladder from the very bottom to the very top must at least exist, no matter how bent or how thin in parts.

3. Identification of primary resources, those that can unlock or deny access to other resources, is important to ensure the efficient distribution of resources. Ideally the connections between those resources and strengths of those connections (the width of the "ladder") should be as equal as possible.

Errors and omissions frankly probable. This is one of several musings on life the universe and everything listed in the Writing and Essays section of www.marksheeky.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Framing Facebook

I'm working on the frame for a painting called The Deadly Allure of Facebook. I wanted to paint it blue, matching the colour scheme of that website, but I also wanted to add a sort of bony decay dripping into one corner, matching the painting. I thought I'd try an experiment with acrylic casting resin, a sort of plaster really.

I mixed some up, just about 50 grams, and poured it over the frame, then put cling film over the top. This is a great way to texture and control plaster without making a gooey mess. Then I tipped it up and some wonderful drips bled down just what I wanted! There are lots of air bubbles in there too, which also look good because they mimic bones. I hole this sets by tomorrow because I'd like to paint it then...

Thoughts: This works with plaster but it has trouble adhering. Ideally, the wood would be painted with dilute P.V.A. first (as every wall plasterer knows). I forgot to do this, but this acrylic stuff might well be more sticky naturally, so this will serve as a test. It's a very thin layer, so a top layer of acrylic medium might hold it, and delamination won't harm the mood much, as decay is the theme of that part of the frame anyway. An ideal opportunity to test this new material.

Thought two: I poured the remainder into a pool in cling film. This will cast into a thin sheet which I could break up, like egg-shells, and stick onto the frame if needed. Plaster bits like this are really useful for an artistically secure type of texture decoration.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Statue

This was my entry for a short story competition that had to be about the supplied image. The closing date has passed, and I've not shared many of my stories in public before so I thought I would share this one. If you have time to read it then I hope you like it. Thank you.

The Statue

The interior of the shop was clean, white, vast, cold. A paragon of minimalist architecture in the city. Each wall was a perfect right angle, and the high ceiling of the room, at least as large as a cathedral, was marked with a perfectly regular pattern of square mirrors.

George was standing in the middle of the space wearing a long black coat, a grey scarf, and a silent, fascinated stare. He was looking at a statue that sat on a white rectangular plinth. The statue was metal, green weathered copper, and depicted two figures facing each other, almost medieval in form and wearing conical cloaks like wizards. They were supporting a ring between them, grasping the rim as though in reverence of the circular hole.

A smartly dressed saleswoman appeared beside George.

“Can I help you?”

George remained staring at the object in fascination. “I'm sure I've seen it before somewhere, but I can't quite place it...”

“I know what you mean. It's a one-off though. An original.”

“I'll take it,” he said, then looked for first time at the woman. She had short black hair, pale skin and neat, black-rimmed spectacles that covered dark, kind eyes. He was struck by how beautiful she was. She smiled and gestured to a distant colleague.

The city street outside was busy, teeming with Christmas shoppers that snaked and bubbled along the grey slushy streets like mating salmon. George meandered through the happy crowds, hugging the black heavy package of his new purchase. His flat was nearby, just a short walk. He pushed along the wide pavements, lowering his head against a new flurry of winter sleet, and swept left into a twisting side-street. This road was much quieter, grey and lifeless, set with cars parked at unusual angles, and flanked by tall buildings of concrete and black windows.

At all times George's mind was on the statue. He was certain that he'd seen it before, somewhere, but where!? The memory was tangible, so real, but so elusive, something from a few years ago perhaps, while on holiday? No, that wasn't it! It was something else. Something deeper. In the shop it attracted him as soon as he saw it, calling to him with an unheard love song. Reeling him in on an unseen thread.

At the end of the road was a block of flats in the art-deco style. George bumped through the glass doors to enter the building, and was soon inside his dim apartment. He cleared a small coffee table and put the package on top, then unwrapped the crisping black coverings with care.

Perhaps the ring was a clue? He looked at the gold ring on his left hand, pausing as if caught by a memory. It was a wedding band, a smooth circle of gold. He rotated the ring with the fingers of his other hand to reveal some tiny letters, beautifully inscribed into the metal: “LUCY I LOVE”

Lucy was gone now. She was still alive, somewhere. Yes, probably still alive. Perhaps in another country somewhere sunny, or perhaps somewhere mundane. Perhaps very close to this small dreary flat, in this cold concrete maze of a wintery English city. George had lost touch with her many years ago.

Lucy was blind, fair skinned, with a shock of strawberry-blonde hair. Everyone thought her very beautiful. Everyone except Lucy herself. Her disability made her seem more special to George, and made her more reliant on him, but it was George's first proper relationship and they weren't an ideal match. Over time, her needs made George feel more like a carer than a partner, a man used, unloved. Lucy became insecure and guilty, trying to rely less on George but this only had the effect of making her more isolated, more introspective, and her soft, warm core became surrounded by a shell, like clay, that grew harder, and thicker.

Out of loneliness George began to get close to another woman, a kind woman with short black hair, who was a great comfort, but as those soft tentacles of love reached out towards her, Lucy found out, and she left instantly. She cut George off, and out, for good. It was as though both were thrown, far apart and far away from each other into two dark pools of a radioactive gas, two distant pits in space across which no light or thought or sound could cross.

The other woman had vanished, and over time Lucy and George became colder, darker people, more silent and still. The red coal of love inside them, once as warm and fresh as a spring morning, began to change to yellow, then green, then black. Icy and dead. The only thing between them was the ring, this hard band of brittle metal they forged together when they were happy, so long ago.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Control

We have control of nothing except our minds at the present moment, but even then every thought is a direct response only to a prior thought or combination of inputs, just as every future thought is a combination only of the thoughts an inputs of the present. Thus I do not think and am not.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Love Reliquary II

And now, a change of direction and some bits of The Love Reliquary II, an arched shaped wooden cabinet I'm making. Thought I'd share the process.

I've decided to make the hinges out of wood because I thought it would look more interesting. Here's my design...

See the two parts? They would pivot on that hole, thus opening the doors. I came up with a few variants, but put the pivot behind a bit, not exactly between, because it sort of added a "thrust" feeling, as though the doors were pushing open like a proud chest. Even in the design of the hinges the art matters, this is a cabinet about love after all.

Now, to cut them. How do you cut tiny pieces from 12mm M.D.F. by hand?! Answer. Not easily. After drawing them I crudely used a jigsaw to cut the bits out, here...

I plan on sanding them to shape, but then what about the pivot? It needs to be exactly in the right place. I mean exactly. One millimetre out will, by force of leverage, make a big difference and actually stop the edges lining up, jam the doors and possibly even crack them! So, how to drill a perfect hole?

Well, can't be done. First I drew a circle around the pivot. That will help me see the centre. I drilled all of the parts, then chose the key pieces that were most accurate. My plan is to insert a dowel through a stack of these, then sand off all at once, thus the exact shape should be cut AND each bit will have the hole in exactly the right place too.

That's the next step. Before I end, here's a look at the old Love Reliquary to give you an idea of the object, it's an arch-shaped cabinet. This one is largely plaster and very delicate. That took me several months in 2012. How much my skills have improved since that first one!

Let's see how it goes...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Analysis of the Meaning of Life

If life is meaningless and pointless, then why were we born at all? That tremendously complex and expensive enterprise? The only conclusion is that life is not meaningless and pointless.

If all life starts, exists, ends. Whether short, long, simplex, complex; whether it lasts one minute long or as long the universe; even the universe itself, dies eventually. Does that make a short life inside it pointless? We die eventually; does that make the life of one of our cells pointless?

The refutation of nihilism rests upon the definition of meaning. What does it mean for life to have meaning and purpose?

Take two lives, one with meaning and purpose, and one with none. How are they different? Perhaps that are identical. Perhaps the life without meaning feels more sad because it feels its life is meaningless! - a circular argument!

Let's take a counter argument, that life lasts forever, that history will be preserved, that entropy does not always increase with time and that humanity and the universe was eternal. Would that be more a comforting universe than the opposite? Is immortality itself more comforting and meaningful than a mortal life, or less? Or the same?

We exist because we observe that we exist, and by extension the meaning of life is defined by our belief in it. This is not a trick or self-delusion; we create meaning by belief in it exactly because meaning is a very personal expression and conclusion. It can't be given, and is never certain or completely provable.

This is true for all life-forms and information systems. Meaning and belief are conclusions that result from every sense input, it is an identification of pattern, and because every information system and being has different inputs and information storage and processing systems, the pattern is unique for each of us, is inherently so.

The purpose of life then will fundamentally always be different to each of us. The best we can do is recognise and tolerate that fact.

This has implications for truth of any sort which has the same limitations. Whatever a fact is, at best we can only glimpse part of it via our imperfect senses and make a personal conclusion based on that image. It's awlays possible that some parts of the truth are invisible, and we can never know which parts or how vast or tiny or significant those parts are.

Errors and omissions frankly probable. This is one of several musings on life the universe and everything listed in the Writing and Essays section of www.marksheeky.com

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Music

Right! Right!

I can't work on painting at the moment because the house is in turmoil and my main goal this month is to write a Death Symphony that I've been waiting to do since last October. I don't feel like it, so will take steps to make myself feel like it. Steps...

1. The logical realisation that this is the perfect time. I can't paint and it's winter, the ideal time for music. My schedule is relatively free.
2. Listening to lots of music, and reading about musical theory. Watching the "Symphony" documentary.
3. Reminding myself of fleeting life, the work must be done while the mind and abilities are fresh. Time is limited. We might die tomorrow and must ensure that everything we can do is done.
4. Logical planning of the main structure. An element of challenge to stimulate my mind.

Thus, as a challenge I thought, for the first time, of music as a painting with time and pitch as the dimensions. I've also been recalling comments about Sibelius, an abstract composer I don't like much (although his 5th symphony is good, although spoiled by the ending). He was an excellent structuralist, a painter akin to Kandinsky, but not Beethoven or Leonardo. I fundamentally begin with the idea and feeling and let the music appear, not backwards like the abstractists Sibelius or Brahms.

My challenge is to broadly plan the structure of the whole thing from the outset, for the first time, as I do with my paintings, and so my art is combining by ideal analogue...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On Worry

One day you will be dead. One day everyone you know and all memory of you will not exist. At some point in the future the last of your descendants will die, the last human will die. Some centuries after that the last living microbe on Earth will be wiped out, and the black Earth will be destroyed by the exploding sun. One day there will be no intelligent life left in the universe at all, no mind or soul to contemplate the cold, drifting atoms, and after more aeons, the universe itself will be no more. That's how unimportant your worries are.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Videos...

I've been doing quite a lot of video work recently, firstly a short promotional video for an exhibition I'm part in May/June. A photographer friend said that more people seem to want videos these days, and I can see that film making is exploding. I thought I'd do a quick run through on how I made this video (maybe I should make a "making of" video - no, that's too far!)

First I wanted an animated logo for the group, Northern Artists. I started with the Marvel comics cinema logo, a series of page flicks that gradually reveal the MARVEL lettering...

To make something similar I needed three components...

The first was a list of Northern Artist paintings that can be flicked through. I compiled the paintings and made a quick animation of each one appearing. These appeared one at a time, each lasting less frames than the previous one. This animation lasted 5 or 6 seconds.

Next I made a 3D zooming version of the logo using 3D render software. The logo is quite a simple geometric shape, so I made a 3D model of each shape and placed them in the final position, then simply moved all of the objects to it.

Finally I mocked up a few final versions of the logo, just four stills with different bright areas that would work as a sparkle.

The animation of the paintings simply fades out as the animation fades in, and at the end the logo appears. To add drama I did a couple of things; firstly added a black screen just before the final reveal, and then added a flicker to everything. I did that by making an animation of the same length in grey screens, each a random shade of grey. That's easily done in AviSynth. Here is the code for one solid screen, shade $222222 (very dark grey), 4 frames long (zero to three), and of the same size and format as a video clip called "painting01"...

alpha00=blankclip(painting01, length=3, color=$222222)

A whole chain of those, with different shades, makes a flickering grey and I mixed that with the paintings.

The logo was done. Adding the narrative was much easier technically. It was a short film of myself as a hapless artist trying to paint a boxer in a boxing ring. The idea was to make a series of comedic shorts of the artist trying to paint in exciting situations, the moral being that art should be experienced in "real life". My friend Mark Edmonds instantly came up with the whole idea, directed and did the filming, and boxed at me! The captions were a simple matter of still screens.

Sound was added last using my Noise Station II sequencer. I set the timing to 30 ticks a beat and one beat per second, that meant each note slot was one exact frame. It's a perfect way to exactly synchronise audio to the right frame.

And here's the final film.

My next video task is to make a video about my Eden Iris artwork. That painting and cabinet took months to do and at first I wanted to make a video to promote it, sort of like a music video, but for a painting (which seems like a logical step in the evolution of art!) On starting though, I wanted to explain more about the artwork rather than just show it. I found myself itching to say how I made different bits, the things that went wrong and explaining all of the stages I went through over the five or six months it's taken to make it (the process is still ongoing!) so my next plan is to make a sort of art documentary about it. That's next...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prices

I wonder how much Vermeer was paid? The Dutch Golden Age was the biggest, most prolific and cut throat market for art in history, perhaps second only to the present day, the dawn of the 21st century, in terms of quantity of high quality artists. Plenty of historical artists died penniless, not only van Gogh but great painters like Zurbaran, Rembrandt, oh, and yes, I've just remembered, Vermeer.

I've been thinking about prices recently. It's one area all artists struggle with. I work by a regular disciplined schedule, and record how many days a painting takes. My painting days run from 9am to 6pm, and depending on whether I get paid for my lunch hour, my most expensive oil paintings earn me either £5.50 or £6.25 per hour, both below the minimum wage, which is, at time of writing, £6.31. Even then, some of my paintings can retail (with a modest commission of 30% exc. V.A.T.) at over £1500, and with a more common 50% plus V.A.T. comission, £2500. Would I want to paint the sort of paintings ordinary people can't afford? Do only the rich deserve good art?

I could exploit my works further by selling limited edition prints, or open reproductions, but should that be relied on for income, or should that be a bonus?

Johannes Vermeer painted slowly and had a large family. He painted less than forty paintings in his lifetime, each taking many months of work. He had a wife to support and produced almost as many children as paintings, but at the same time he was elected head of St. Lukes Guild, and dealt in art at least as much as he painted. Perhaps his actual painting time was limited. Perhaps his art, bought by a small clique of patrons, one in particular, was a personal indulgence and he made most of his money from selling other people's work.

It's reasonable to expect, while a student, to have student prices, and expect prices to naturally grow as popularity increases. Ironically, the artist controls price growth, but he must compete with other artists who offer similar services too. Or must they? Isn't a key point of art the uniqueness of the artist? Even a forger, trying his best can't paint an actual Constable, or Leonardo da Vinci, or Vermeer.

Is there a point when older works must be raised in price? Is there a moral pressure to hold back the works that an arist considers artistically and culturally of national importance? I have no doubt, none, that after my death one of my works will sell for more than my entire lifetime's earnings so far. That happens a lot in art. Should that knowledge make me sad or happy? Happy, surely. I didn't become an artist to become rich, no artist does. In fact I became an artist specifically to escape chasing money, specifically to do what I wanted to do even for no money at all. I want to share my work with the world, but I wouldn't be that bothered if I never sell another painting. In that circumstance, then charging a good price for each work is justified, more than the minimum wage at least... that is, unless you need the money...

Poor Vermeer. An economic collapse and a war destroyed his finances and he died of stress. I wonder how he'd have handled things if he could go back in time and live his life again? (I'm never one for contentment in that regard. If I could live my life again, I'd do everything differently!) Would Vermeer have taken on students? Have ignored his constricting patron and exhibited widely, painting the aristocrats of his secular capitalist universe, gaining fame and fortune in his lifetime... like Rembrandt.

The picture is the painter from my work The Art of Painting, an homage to Vermeer. It was my first (and so far only) painting to sell for over £1000. I will increase my prices.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dawn of the Age of the Superhuman

I'm working on a new cabinet artwork at the moment, something for a major forthcoming exhibition that will tour to the great galleries of the great cities of Britain, and so to impress those curators as much as the public, it's important to make some special artworks.

This one is called Dawn of the Age of the Superhuman, and is about the way that the internet and knowledge and implementation of psychology can create a sort of super-human, the best a person can be. The painting will include a crystal cathedral of science, but also a death, a death of the old normal human, and thus be tinged with as much sadness as warning.

For the cabinet I wanted something much simpler than the iris, in engineering terms. I decided on two simple doors, allowing me to focus more on the aesthetics than the engineering. Here's an early look at the design...

And a pencil study of the portrait in the painting. I certainly look sombre here! - Like I've not slept for a month! Be at peace, the crudenessess of my pencillary skills have stomped over the ultradelicacy of the final painted perfection that will, I hope, eventually appear.

I've been thinking a lot about art recently and this year will be a first year in a new renaissance. Death was my obsession in December, after the Love of 2013, so now I'm already rapidly moving towards rebirth.

So, what is art about? I'm concluding that art is like a religion, and functions like a priest in medieval times. Art provides solace in times of difficultly, understanding, psychotherapy. We suffer, and we see art that reflects our suffering; we know that we are not alone, and gain peace. This important social need can transform lives and society. All good artists know this. It's interesting to me that Beethoven remains more famous and loved than any king or political leader alive during his life. It's about time that the religion of art was set solid, canonised, lithified, aurified.