Order Not Chaos

By Wayne Johnson

Twelve years ago I began my first college class as an instructor. It was a scary and exhilarating experience to give my first lecture. I was teaching an Intro to Computer Animation Class in Softimage. The first assignment was to create something like the whale ship from Star Trek V.

One year later I was the head of the program and had a direct hand in guiding the philosophy behind the program. It was my job to unify the ideas being expressed so that the students would know how to use all of their skills to create their unique vision on the screen.

Today I stumbled upon the document I created that all of the students received when entering the program. It was a list of goals:

Master Our Craft
Unify Our Artistic Language
Show A Great Story
Make Our Animations Live Not Just Move
Make Our Animations Cute and Funny
Orient The Viewer
Advance The Plot
Reveal Character

Even thou the two in the middle referenced animation specifically, those goals are the same for me today as they were 12 years ago.

I would like to point out to the artists that I have trained and worked with over the years that these goals should be very much a part of your artistic life.

Mastery of our craft is an ongoing affair. It is a combination of academic study as well as empirical experience. We have to understand and embrace the tools of our time and take into account the world in which we live and the audience in which we speak. There must be a balance of human expression and the technological tools of our trade.

We must also use a medium that is relevant to our day. Following the footsteps of the great wood cut artists or triptych painters is a great exercise but there is no one looking for the expression of truth in those mediums today. Painting (and even photography) in general has become relegated to decoration and is rarely looked at as a means of expressing ideas and emotions to the general viewer.

The dominant form of expression is the moving picture and will be for the foreseeable future. Yes, music and literature still have a hold on a portion of our society but the moving picture is the prime source of expression. It combines all art forms into one pure form of expression that has the ability to communicate and express ideas and passions like no other medium man has used before. It can reach all levels of society and all levels of education and cross even the most diverse cultural barriers. The moving picture has power to shape and change our world in a way we have not yet fathomed.

But it also saddles the artist of this high art form with the responsibility to use it with an understanding that it can change things, for better or worse. We have to understand that our broken humanness has a tendency to express without thinking through the results.

One perfect example in philosophy is the work of Karl Marx. When he was a young boy his family was very religious and his father expected that the family follow every one of the tenants of their faith. However when the family moved to a new town that was dominated by Lutherans, Marx’s father switched faiths because it would be good for business.

Marx was devastated by the sin of his father and set out his life to build a world with no religious ties. But he did not see the possible consequences of this world without a moral foundation. He was driven by his desire to break free from his father’s mistake and build a world that stood apart. Do not artists seek to do the same?And what have been the devastating results of Marx's ideas!

And if we seek to express those truths and emotions without thinking through the possible consequences of those ideas we are not taking responsibility for our expression.

For those that hold a more Post Modern, Existential, Nihilistic view of existence I ask you to seriously explore the logical ends your faith promotes. Belief in random chance and relativistic ideas has only one end, totalitarian oppression of all.

What does my side story of ideas have to do with the list of goals laid out so many years ago? Without a solid truthful foundation of existence, goals and rules have no meaning, no purpose, no point. Art and expression are completely and totally a waste of time in a world that believes there is no creator.

As I come to the end of my twelve years of teaching, I still believe that those goals still must be followed, and that there is a creator who built and orderly world.

Wayne's commentaries can also be found on his site New Discourses On Art.

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