Writing, designing, drawing , painting, scribbling and doodling open up a world of imagination that is otherwise absent in this world that is bogged down by rationality and pragmatism. The arts – by which I primarily refer to writing and designing and not the performing arts (simply because I have not been deeply involved with them) – have always fascinated. There is an enthusiasm that comes with it in different ways at different times. Recently, I had a dissertation to submit and I seemed to be excited to design the cover page. Thinking up minimalist ideas or making unusual connections to put out something unique is something that drives me. It needs to have colour, imagination, craziness, ingenuity and meaning. It needs to be bizarre yet coherent. It needs to mean something to everyone and yet, there should be something that puzzles the viewer. Such is the beauty of art and writing. So I decided to compile a set of things that only and only an artist can empathise with or relate to. Well, maybe other professionals can, but I’d like to believe that we do it best. Subtitles are a bit of a cliché so I’ll just stick to tiny paragraphs.
To begin with, coffee becomes more important than water itself. Most of our ideas come up when we are half-asleep, in the washroom, while writing an examination or eating a cupcake. When the eureka! moment hits you, you need to work on it at that opportune minute, other wise the energy is lost and the momentum is dead. The only thing that can keep your eyes glued to the screen while you type out your article or draw that illustration is coffee.
Illustrator, Coreldraw and Photoshop are your three lifelines. You cannot live without them and you begin to think of designs by keeping the software in mine. “This can be drawn with that tool. And the little blob on the box can be made to look like the west of Africa using that effect.” It annoys you when people make a fuss about little things that cannot be made on PowerPoint because you know that it would take less than a minute to make it on one of these software. I am not a fan of Coreldraw and it is deeply frustrating when the printer has a tough time opening your Illustrator file. It makes you wonder how they survive. In fact, it makes you question the sheer existence of every human who is able to pass each second without exploring the million possibilities of these software.
You become immune to your teacher’s criticism and to your editor’s sarcastic remarks. It is maddening when they question your uniqueness or mock it. The subjectivity that tags along with the label of art is best seen in these scenarios. Your favourite adjectives are mercilessly chopped off and your elegant font is instantly described as ‘ugly’. Basically, when you put in your sweat and blood into making your masterpiece, it becomes a part of you. If it is critiqued heartlessly, then the author is in agony – well, it is alright to be a bit dramatic. But in the end, the harsh comments push you to bring out something better and your masterpiece becomes an embodiment of art. Might I add, the one thing that every arts student will face is the misuse of the word ‘freedom’. The instructions would say that you are free to write anything or design anything. Nevertheless, when you present your ideas they are placed in some newly developed restrictions which, trust me, were invisible, unseen and mysteriously hidden from the student/employee’s eye.
Artists and writers suffer from a different kind of OCD. ‘Grammar nazis’ – a name that cannot have more truth in it. A wrong spelling, a poorly worded sentence, a bad expression, an ugly expression and a soulless piece is a cause for anxiety, annoyance and frustration. Sometimes it borders with anger and rage. It makes you rethink the kind of people you interact with. How can they make such glaring errors? No, I do not mean this in a condescending tone because I could be on the other side. But, when it happens to you, you will know the feeling. It is akin to that feeling when you see that text on a page is not justified, when the spacing between lines is less than 1.5, when the font used is Comic sans, when the colours are anything but complementing and when designs are evidently horrible. They might as well give you an eyesore which makes you think if the artist was colour blind or inept in the arts. It sounds awfully rude but I guess, here is when we turn into prodigies of our mentors.
The printer turns into your best buddy. He has a better understanding of your educational accomplishments than your parents. He has spent more time with you during your submission times than anyone else. He knows what you are looking for, what you loathe and what gives you a sense of contentment. He strives to either infuriate you or calm you down. But the latter always comes after he gives you a panic attack.
You can no longer see the world in normal ways. If a photograph is pixellated, you know it. If you’re watching a film, you see it as a bunch of cuts and it hampers your proper viewing of it. Bad editing overpowers the content of a piece. When you see a wall hanging, you begin to analyse the fabric and how the bunch of flowers were made on it. You look at a concert ticket and identify the font on it. There is a quarrel in the next door and you wonder if it could be a potential national crisis and your next article (okay, pushed it a bit too far here, it isn’t this bad!). Life is anything but normal and you are viewed as a madcap by people around you. Well, they just need to deal with the right-brained genius. Sorry!
Everything turns into an inspiration for your next piece. It could be the pattern that a railway track follows or a wedding ceremony in a temple. It could be anything and everything under the sun that turns into something of news value or design value for you. It is exciting to try it out when you see it in a new light. The urge to experiment, explore and test the possibility of the idea is incomparable. There’s adrenaline running through you and your mind is racing to make it the best piece ever.
Customers and readers can be irritating at times. Yes, subjectivity again. In an instant, they can say your article or design is bad. You feel like telling them to try making it and putting in the same amount of effort that you did, but you are forced to stop yourself. It can ruin your day and make you question your abilities for a brief moment. And then, you go back to telling yourself that it is a field that invites individual perceptions and you can’t please everyone. Yes, you tend to rationalise bad writing at times. That my friend, is a bad habit. Criticism can be good at times! I must say, if your customer compliments your work, then the story is different. It is heartening. And heartening is definitely an understatement.
Colours, pictures and white space are the rules you live by. Whatever you do, these elements have to be a part of it or seems incomplete. It could be an info graphic for the article or a photograph. It could be the margins on either sides of your text or just that tiny white space in your design that lends it an aesthetic look. And no, by colours I do not mean make everything a rainbow with hues piercing your eyes. I am alluding to that subtle elegance that makes the piece pleasant.
Finally, your parents and your best friends are the best people to turn to when you want positive reviews. They can never criticise what you make simply because they will always be proud of you. There will be rare occasions when they might tell you how terrible it is. It is then when you know that it must be genuinely ugly. Apart from this, they will always be your support, especially when you feel the world is crashing down on you.
So to every artist out there, if you are reading this post, always remember that there is a crazy bunch who is just like you and you are not alone in this world driven by minimal imagination and so-called maximum rationality!