The Path Is The Destination

March 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

A metaphor for painting, from the film Down By Law by Jim Jarmusch (1986.) Roberto Begnini draws a “bella finestra” (beautiful window) on their prison cell wall while John Lurie looks on. When he has drawn his window, Begnini asks Lurie, “Do you say, in English, ‘I look AT the window, or do you say, ‘I look OUT the window?'” Lurie replies, “In this case, Bob, you’d say “I look AT the window.”

Jim Jarmusch and Tom Waits

Jarmusch, comments on his film, “Down By Law.”

“For me filmmaking, although its very difficult, and it kicks your ass and it’s incredibly hard – you know it’s just as hard to make a bad film as it is a good film; it’s just hard to make a film – but it comes from a place of joy, not of trying to change the world, or express something really deep inside you; it’s more just trying to follow your instincts, things that are moving to you; and to me those are most often mundane ridiculous things, small things, you know, not big dramatic things. It’s really interesting to me, I’ve read reviews and even occasionally, like, dissertations on some of my films that really surprise me because they find all kinds of things that are connected, that are referenced, and half of them I never consciously thought of. So whether those things are in there on a subconscious level, or whether you’re not conscious on any level of them but they somehow wind up in there, is really fascinating.

People think that when you make a film everything that you do is planned, and maybe there are some films made that way. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for story-boarding every single shot in the film but I think you’ll find that most filmmakers, certainly since the 60s, probably don’t use that rigorous structure at all. And I certainly don’t. I consider the script to be a kind of blueprint, and it gives you the shape of the house you’re going to build but it doesn’t really tell you where all the windows are, or what the décor is, or what color the paint on the wall is. You know, it’s kind of a vague idea of the story… I like to have a story that is my departure point, and I try to follow its structure, but also the film has to grow while you make it, or, for me, there’s no point in making it. And, you know, a lot things happen by accident, or things happen by mistake, or the weather interferes so a scene ends up being shot in the rain that wasn’t in the script. Someone improvises some dialogue that you weren’t expecting that is stronger than what you might have had in the script; and all these things kind of combine to make the final film. So it is interesting that, you know, things you think that were planned in a film, often some moments, the most beautiful moments in films, may have happened completely by accident or even by mistake.

One reason that I don’t look at my films again once they’re finished is because I’ve already learned from them what I’m going to learn and by watching them over them again doesn’t teach me anything. There’s a quote by the French poet Paul Valery; he said, ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’ You could edit a film for the rest of your life and still keep changing it and changing it, but at a certain point it leaves your hands and you send it off to military school, or whatever; it’s gone, it’s on its own, you know. You kick it out of the house and it’s gone, and it has to live in the world itself. I have a personal motto that it’s hard to get lost if you don’t know where you’re going. I really believe that intuition is the real guide. Therefore to me my work as a filmmaker is a process and there is no destination; it’s like the Buddhist saying, the path is the destination. I really feel that way. I loved it when they asked Kurosawa, when he was in his eighties, when would he stop making films, and he said, ‘as soon as I figure out how to do it.’

It’s very hard to say specific things you learn from each particular film, but the experience of making films is the end result. And the film itself is something you kind of leave in your wake as the result of the process.”  (From the  DVD release of Down By Law.)


To a Young Poet

March 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

from Virginia Woolf:

“… All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts in another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments. I am talking nonsense, I know. What I mean is, summon all your courage, exert all your vigilance, invoke all the gifts that Nature has been induced to bestow. Then let your rhythmical sense wind itself in and out among men and women, omnibuses, sparrows — whatever come along the street — until it has strung them together in one harmonious whole.That perhaps is your task — to find the relation between things that seem incompatible yet have a mysterious affinity, to absorb every experience that comes your way fearlessly and saturate it completely so that your poem is a whole, not a fragment; to re-think human life into poetry and so give us tragedy again and comedy by means of characters not spun out at length in the novelist’s way, but condensed and synthesised in the poet’s way-that is what we look to you to do now.”

The Three Dimensions of Color

March 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Goethe’s color wheel

The color-wheel. What would painters do without it’s simple graphic display of basic color theory? An intuitive leap by none other than Sir Isaac Newton brought the color-wheel into being, and some form of it has underpinned the teaching of color theory ever since. Today it seems that a cottage industry of color-wheel bashing has sprung up, coinciding, I suspect, with the explosion of How-To art books and blogs. If you want to sell something, first create a “New! Improved!” alternative.

There are blogs on color theory which denigrate the color-wheel model as an obsolete product of the Enlightenment that no longer matches what we now know about color perception. Never mind that the “newer, simpler” explanations they offer inevitably fall back on the basic tropes of the color wheel to discuss important concepts, such as complements being “across the wheel.”  One notable book published a few years ago, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, is petulant about the supposed failure of traditional color theory and uses that as a pretext for page after page of reproductions, printed in fugitive dyes, showing what actually happens when you mix this pigment with that pigment. Most art students will have discovered these anomalies in the color palette within their first two years of study. Everything that happens on the palette can be traced back to the basic theories of the color circle. If you locate the relative position on the wheel of any two colors, with respect to their hue, temperature, and intensity, and draw a line between them you can easily see why two particular pigments produce the color qualities they do. It’s a simple equation of distance.

The color-wheel model persists because it contains the most useful information in the smallest package. It’s not perfect – lacking a third dimension it can only demonstrate two properties of color, hue and intensity – but basic color-wheel concepts still hold true. The only failure is forgetting to bring theory back to practice. No amount of color theory can substitute for familiarity with the palette.

A 3-dimensional model of color movement: the Munsell color tree

For a clear, concise demonstration of color mixing for painters check out this video by Robert Gamblin, the founder of Gamblin Colors. Using a computer animated 3-D model patterned on the Munsell color system, Gamblin shows the interrelationship of the three main properties of color: hue, value, and intensity by linking them to the three dimensions of “color space.”

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