Reaching for the Transcendent
How does art come to exist? There are often times in the creation of my own artwork and in the study of other artists where the unbiased observer or art critic is able to distill a more resonant meaning or purpose of a given artwork than even the artist themselves can produce or understand. Occasionally, the meaning produced by the observer might paradoxically surpass that which was produced by the original creator. There is typically an unspoken assumption that the creator of a given object knows best the characteristics that define that object because they are the one who brought it into existence, and in doing so must necessarily be aware of every possible characteristic that gives definition to the object. In most circumstances, it seems obvious to assume the predominance of the creator’s voice, but such an assumption relies on an easily deconstructed axiom that a creator is fully aware not only of the total sum of all the forces that created their artwork but also of the forces that created themselves. If the forces of creation within the individual remain alienated from that creator’s awareness, than the idea that the individual is unable to recognize the metaphorical qualities of their own creation is not such an absurd proposition.
The artistic praxis is an expressive attempt to overcome the universal alienation that is fundamental to the phenomenon of being human: the problem of subjects and objects. My claim is not only that the inability to recognize the cause of art’s creation a crucial element of art as a unique expressive medium, but it is also that the maddening feeling of alienation of the subject from objects and other subjects is what makes art possible in the first place. One implication of alienation is that the creator does not necessarily have to function as the most predominant voice within the artwork because artistic creation produces an object in the truest sense, manifesting into the actual world an object that fetishizes (embodies) the inherent alienation between subject and themselves. The artistic object is in some sense sublime because it makes material that which is initially purely cognitive, phenomenological and metaphorical in content. Art practice is merely another one of humanities failed attempts to overcome the problem of subjects and objects, but in these failed attempts, individuals are able to produce things of beauty or creations that resonate with the unconscious.
The artwork identifies the liminal space between subject and object. It is a Pandora’s box, that when opened merely reveals the infinite metaphorical features that comprise it, an infinity that implies the equally real and unreal quality of all things – the petrifying ontological plateau encountered through psychoanalysis, trauma, the death of god, religious experience, etc. – thus calling several preconceptions about meaning and truth into question. The traditional understanding of truth is an ideological misconception that a finite point exists along the infinite continuum of possible objects that can resolve, in itself, the origin, purpose and meaning of all those infinite objects if it is applied correctly by the enlightened individual. Art is a reaction of regurgitation from the subject upon encountering, on some level, the fallibility of this truth concept, a concept which promises to fill the void of objects when it is instinctually understood, especially by contemporary philosopher Slavoj Zizek and other Lacanians, that the object itself, and even the subject, is the void. The meaning of an artwork cannot be claimed by any individual subject – even its creator – because what the art piece is is a complex amalgam of interactions from objects trapped in the signifying web producing a unique sublime object that tries to transcend its object prison. The artistic process is a symbolic one representing the common desire of an individual to understand themselves, to ultimately bridge the gap opened up by ineffable negativity which later produces internal alienation of the subject from themselves.
In order to further this discussion, humor the notion that epistemology can be roughly broken down into three distinct parts: the information which the individual claims to know, the information which the individual claims to not know and, most mysteriously, the information which the individual cannot claim to either know or not know due to their inability to recognize the information or even acknowledge the existence of that information. These distinctions in the features of one’s personal relationship with knowledge are important for developing a coherent sense of self, because, understanding that which is not part of your knowledge system is absolutely essential for determining what is and vice versa, an insight similar to that which is obtained by going through the Hegelian dialectic of negation. For a moment call upon the commonly used icon of the ying and yang. If knowing is positive and not knowing is negative, then one must recognize that the positive element of the binary can only exist because of the negative element from which it is compared against – the positive containing a piece of the negative and the negative a piece of the positive – and it is this mutualistic comparison that imparts the phenomenon of identity onto objects and subjects. If an individual were to define themselves as a scientist, they are capable of doing so because, in their daily life, they do not practice an infinite amount of other professions whether that be accountant, lawyer, banker, etc. The foundational French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan states, “the truth arises from misrecognition,” because only in realizing one’s finite limits through the process of failing to surpass those limits is the individual capable of identifying the abstract boundary lines which defines the psychological perimeter of the self, or the subject as uniquely distinct from surrounding objects. But this binary between knowing and not knowing, which is primarily structured to the unique human phenomenon of spoken and written language, does not include in it the most deceptive, yet most important part of the previously mentioned epistemological triad: that which is unknown due to a complete lack of awareness of that knowledge’s existence.
Language is a useful tool to humans because it allows the individual to more coherently navigate the perplexing epistemological soup of knowing and not knowing, but this system itself has limits that it cannot overcome on its own and said limit manifests in the form of the unknown unknown. It is impossible to logically or rationally convey an idea to another individual – or even form that idea within the mind in the first place – without the use of the logic of language, and yet humans experience so many things on a daily basis, both internally and externally, that can only be described as ineffable. The unspeakable nature of these moments is shared whether they take on the form of religious experience, artistic inspiration or psychotic delusion. Despite their traditionally absurd features, these kinds of experience, at least phenomenologically, belong to the same status of reality of normal experience or of an even higher order, if the individual is being honest about their experience. If such a predicament is truly the case, with what method then are humans able to confront the unapproachable parts of their existence, that are fundamental in constructing the psyche, without the most reasonable, logical method of linguistic analysis? My simple answer to this question is art.
The dimensional plane that transcends the limit of language and thought is the third part of epistemology and can only be communicated with through artistic praxis. There is no requirement to think with logic or declaration when creating art, especially in particularly expressive media like action painting and performance art, which means that the subject can temporarily immerse themselves in an experience that is partially capable of transcending the logic of language, a feature of human existence that paradoxically both elevates progress but binds the soul. Art allows the subject to briefly liberate itself from the structural frameworks that prevents its unification with that which escapes it, the sublime. Each and every individual tries to reach for the sublime in their daily lives and each and every one continues to approach it while ultimately missing it. Why is this the case? The sublime would not be identified as such if it were within the reach of human hands which means its most crucial feature is the inability to understand it. When one thinks they have reached, the illusion of truth shatters and that individual realizes that what one thought was a finish line is merely another starting line. Art must fail, but that in that failure is the art.
A box of uncooked elbow macaroni and a bottle of Elmer’s glue sat in my scrawny seven-year-old hands: this is where it all began. On a Sunday afternoon in a matter of hours, those pieces of pasta transformed into a scene beneath the rooftop of a Payless shoebox. Nothing gave me greater excitement as a child than to have the word “project” leave my teacher’s mouth. Dioramas and papier-mâché and scrapbooks and spray paint; I had the chance to pour my tiny, little heart into every craft and creation.
Construction paper and macaroni warriors turned into something more the day I walked through the doorway of Room 303. Mr. Sacco, an exuberant teacher filled with a passion for art, opened up to me a world of acrylics, oils, charcoals and pens. I was able to transform my affinity for projects into action here. Day by day, as my age and shoe size grew, so too did my love for the colors and shadows that appeared on a canvas. Galaxies swirled under my brush, speckled with constellations of watercolors. Chameleons perched upon a branch of colored pencil, concealed by the emerald leaves of the Amazon. Fantasy worlds could come to life in a single stroke
Now here we are today - a girl lost in the turbulent days of college. School and part-time jobs and homework and… a pandemic? Some days are repetitive and draining, but there are others of immense joy. And it’s not a coincidence that those days are usually the ones filled with art. When I sketch or paint, I get to travel back to the quiet, coolness of Room 303 or to the safe, serenity of my kitchen table at home. Through art, I forget the humdrum of reality.
How lucky am I to have found something so special? But really, how lucky am I to have people in my life that keep me going at it? I owe it to my mom and dad who’ve saved every one of my hodge-podged “beauties” from kindergarten and beyond. Thank you to my childhood art teachers who have shown me the way. My closest friends and the strangers on the street who support me with kind words and through my art business - they mean everything. And here’s to you. I hope you discover your own spark. Whether it be through chess matches or film photography, the stock market or knitting that scarf - I hope you too can find an escape and make it your own!
My Journey as an Illustrator
I really did not begin art until late in high school. It has only been a few years since I began taking this seriously. I can even remember the exact moment I first began drawing. I wish I had an amazing story to follow this, like something of a grand moment from which I suddenly had a new found passion for art. But not really. I had floated through many different things, music, ballet, theater, sports- and was not particularly good at anything. I was in my choral class, and had some spare time at the end before heading out to my next class. I had an old sketchbook in my backpack and suddenly thought about what would happen if I suddenly dedicated myself to this, and began doodling on the risers. I still have that same drawing in my storage shelf somewhere at home, although it definitely does not look as good as I remember it. From that moment on, I began filling sketchbook after sketchbook with drawing.
Within the same year, my art teacher took notice of the doodles I would draw in class, and encouraged me to submit my work out there. It is rare for an artist to never be critical of their own work, but the moment when I finally began to believe in myself a little was when a rather ugly work of mine (surprisingly!) won an award at a regional competition. Although I still insist it was the ugliest thing I had ever made (my high school art teacher still insists differently) It was the first time I had really actually won an award for anything. At this point, I thought, maybe I could get somewhere with this!
I joined my high school’s art endorsement, which was a focused visual arts track at my school for high school students, founded our school’s first art club, and involved myself as much as I could with studying art and art history at school and beyond the campus. Before graduating high school, my art teacher had given me a painting of his as a reward for all my work, and as a token of his appreciation. It is still one of my most cherished possessions.
Since going to university, life has been a whole different arena. A former architecture student, I once again realized my love for art after my first year.
Look at all that…architecture on the wall!
I would go to the MFA in Boston a couple times a week, to practice drawing and study the paintings there. As well, I got the opportunity to spend a month in Japan with my university’s art professor learning more graphic modes of work, and once I got back, began to take on some commissions, both personal and professional, for the first time. Sample Illustrations from Japan
As I began to build a portfolio of my art, my art professor at Northeastern had suggested that I apply abroad for a recent program at my university to attend Central Saint Martins, an arts and fashion school in London. I had gotten rejected on my first attempt, from which I redid my entire portfolio, and then got accepted!. Since then, I have gotten accepted on three separate occasions (as a result of having to reapply because of COVID).
Now, after almost two years of delays and rejections, I am currently in London! I have already been practicing a bit with some drawing and digital illustration since getting here, and although I am a bit nervous, I am very excited to begin at CSM this coming fall. Recent sample illustrations
I am very excited as well to share my more recent work for The Cubby, and hope to include more things on my online store soon. It has been a wild ride, but thank you all for your support! I hope to continue to create even greater things for the future!
My name is Gabriela Lehmann Rodriguez. I am one of the student artists who are a part of the Cubby website, working with a wide range of mediums from watercolors, to oil paints and digital illustration. I go to Northeastern University for animation and fine art, however currently, I am in London studying at a atelier and getting ready to begin my academic year in Central Saint Martins.
These past few months have been a new way of learning for me, and I am definitely not used to it. Once I improve more, I definitely would like to incorporate some of what I have learned into my own work.
Some of the cast drawings I have finished
How to Prepare for a Job in Creative Industries
So you love being creative and know you don’t want a conventional job but aren't sure where to start. Whether you’re an art major or you love making creative projects on the side, there is a place for you in the creative industry. You just have to know where to look and how to prepare. Many people think the only jobs for creative people are in the visual arts, but that’s not true. More jobs are popping up in creative advertising, marketing, and fashion industries that require a love of art and a creative mindset.
How do you prepare for these industries now?
Establish a Network
While it might sound obvious, who you know can be very important in many creative industries, especially if you are looking into the music and entertainment industries. The first place to establish a connection is by tapping into your school's alumni network. If you have a designated alumni portal, then definitely start there. However if your school does not provide a specific alumni portal, the next best place to look is Linkedin. Search your school then go to alumni, and then filter by profession and location.
It can be scary to direct message and connect with people you have never met. However, most alumni are super willing to help out! Here’s a sample script of what you can say:
“Hi _____ My name is ______ and I am a current __________ (class year) at _________ (school). I see that you work at _________ as a ________. If you have 15 minutes, I would love to hop on a call to learn more about your career path and experiences in __________ industry.”
Connecting with alumni can be extremely illuminating to learn how how someone can go from your school to that particular industry. More often than not, alums will go out of their way to help you either at their company, or will refer you to a company or person that they have connections with (but never lead with asking for this because you will not come across as genuinely interested!).
Build A Portfolio
Even if you don’t think you have much to present or display in terms of work, build a portfolio anyway! Throwing together a simple site that you can attach to your job applications and emails goes a long way. Maybe you’re really proud of the work you did for your last internship. Or you made a cool video for class that you want to share. Even the smallest of projects and designs can give potential employers a good idea of who you are and how you might fit into their company! “Taking the time to write and illustrate even one experience shows how invested you could be in their company
Sites to try:
If you have an Adobe account, they provide you with your own portfolio website!
Again, this one sounds obvious but is so important. Applying to the creative industries can be extremely daunting as they are so highly sought after, but neglecting to start the process won’t get you anywhere. One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve ever received has been to just “make shit.” Like all the time.
If you’re passionate about making and editing videos then start a YouTube channel. Maybe you’re a photographer and you get your friends to help you create a project you’ve been wanting to do for a while. If you’re super into graphic design, make a zine! Collaborating with people at school, (even if you go to a school in a remote place or a school that may not have a focus in the arts) can be a really good way to figure out what kinds of creative work you like to do. Once you know what you like doing, it will make looking for jobs a lot easier.
Know Where to Look
Okay so you’re at the point where you know what you want to do but are not sure where to look. Hopefully these sites can help.
Best site for jobs in the entertainment industry:
Best site for jobs in Media/ Other creative industries:
Best site for jobs at startups:
Other common job platforms:
Linkedin, Glassdoor, Indeed, Google, Twitter
Go Easy on Yourself
Having a really hard time figuring out where to apply? Tired of getting rejected from different jobs? Don’t beat yourself up over it. The creative industries are incredibly hard to break into, so you’re not in this alone. Just keep creating and keep pushing for what you want. Even the largest of names started small!
Art Exercises to Stir Creativity
Stuck on what to create or looking for ways to challenge yourself creatively? Look no further! We’ve put together some some cool and spunky art exercises to challenge your artistic self. Try out some of these trends, techniques, and exercises to see what happens!
The only time spilling your coffee is a good thing
Coffee Art by Maria Aristidou
There are really only two steps to this one:
- Spill Coffee
- Go Nuts
You can try a couple of things to achieve some cool art. You can try tracing out the outline of the spill and turning it into something (kinda like how you can make clouds into shapes and things). You can also use the coffee spill as a background for another completely different piece. With a completely different outcome with every pour, this experimental exercise is great to let loose and see what happens!
Mini Canvas Collage
Your own mini gallery
You can really shift the guidelines of this idea. The gist is:
- Get numerous small canvases/sticky notes/small cuts of paper
- Set a timer that goes off every 15/30 seconds (or whatever time you want)
- Don’t think, just create!
In the end, you’ll have a collection of mini pieces that can fit together as a larger piece, a collage, a mini gallery, or whatever you want. The point is to not think and just draw whatever. Overthinking tends to lead to potential roadblocks. It’s similar to writer’s block, where a way to overcome it is by writing and not thinking about mistakes or logic. There’s time to be the writer, and time to be the editor, but not both at the same time.
A fun take on the classic symmetric butterfly from kindergarten
A symmetric painting collection by my roommate and I (Available on The Cubby!)
This one has a similar feel to the coffee spill, except instead of spilling coffee, you can take two canvases, pieces of paper, or fold a piece of paper (I mean you can try folding a canvas in half) with dripped paint to creative symmetric squished art. From there, you can let the paint dry and use that as a base for a creation, landscape, or anything you want. If the fold works well enough, that right there can be your art! It’s a great way to try out art styles where you’re not in complete control of what will happen!
Change Your Canvas
Art doesn’t just belong on paper
Sometimes it just takes a new perspective for new creations. Instead of trying to change your technique or common style of art, try creating on new, uncommon places. Some examples can be on a:
- Paper Towel Roll
- Door (if you have a door in your house you can use)
Look around you. The world is your canvas to innovate and spread passion, creativity, and uniqueness. Don’t let limitations hold you back from achieving greatness, or finding new ways of doing things. Hopefully these tips and exercises help you find new ways of doing what you love!