Diary of a Geek Dad: Artful Relationship

February 9, 2016, Author: Dan Moore

Welcome to another edition of Diary of a Geek Dad. To kick things off, let me say that baby’s first Christmas was a success. We had very little crying on the day, even managing to get her off for a half hour nap. The crackers didn’t scare her, and while she clearly had no idea why the house was suddenly filled with new stuff, she was very happy the whole time.

I think future Christmases will prove much more fun than the first, just because she will understand what is happening more and we can do things like put a glass of milk and cookie (or mince pie) out for Santa. It was fun though, and I can’t wait for next year…

So, what have I been thinking about over the last couple of months? Well, the thing about this series, and I found, being a dad, is that you are constantly thinking about the future. I think about what my daughter is going to be like in just a few months time, in a few years time, when she is a stroppy teenager, and I try to plan out the key points of what needs to be taught to her, trying to work the best way to do so…

Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy this process, it’s a fun thought experiment but is ultimately a bit fruitless because I know the actual situation that will arise will be completely different from what I have come up with my head. That, plus there is so much to the world, it’s tough to know what to teach her about and what to let her discover on her own. There are things I was never taught about when I was a kid that I will definitely show her though, and one of these is, quite simply, art.

I am not a good artist, by any stretch. My creativity comes from my ability to write and, even though I have been doing it for years, off and on, I know I am still not considered a particularly good writer either. I have made my peace with it, but if you think otherwise I thank you. When it comes to drawing, I am shockingly bad. I tried to pay attention in art class, doing my best, but my brain simply isn’t wired to take pride in my artistic endeavours if it doesn’t look exactly like the image and/or style I am trying to ape.

I am a bit like Emmett at the start of The Lego Movie. Must. Follow. Instructions. Another thing I made my peace with this a long time ago. This part of the reason I now have a small collection of Lego Star Wars models, rather than the massive tub of loose bricks I used to have. All of this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate good art, and I have come to realise what I like when it comes to art.

I have a similar cheesy grin too!

I have a similar cheesy grin too!

My best friend is a professional artist, and he is amazing. I have watched him grow up and his art change with him and it has been great to watch. My daughter, I hope, will take inspiration from him and do something creative with her life, not just end up with a desk job she fell into. To be fair, she might want to do that, and if she does I will not stop her, but I hope she will take a more creative and artistic path.

The problem I have is teaching her about art. Writing, playing and talking about games means I am exposed to a lot of amazing artwork, and I love the art style of many sci-fi and fantasy movies, but because I am a rubbish artist and I have really bad impostor syndrome, I feel I am a massive hypocrite for even attempting to critique it.

I went to Paris with my wife a couple of years ago and we saw the Mona Lisa. She asked me what I thought and I my response was it is the reason professional art critics are arseholes. To me, it was just a portrait of a lady, well made, but not this all knowing piece of priceless work that art critics the world over have lorded for so long.

That is my opinion on one piece, but it’s the damn Mona Lisa, if I can’t look at that and go “that’s a great piece of art”, then surely I have no business talking about the subject, especially if I can’t draw. Recently though, I have come to a bit of a understanding with myself.

This is not all its cracked up to be...

This is not all its cracked up to be…

As I say, my opinion on one of the world’s greatest paintings is just that – my opinion. So I don’t particularly like it, who cares? it’s not like I am ever going to be able to own it so I am not bothered. So what I need to teach my daughter is what I like when it comes to art. The aforementioned best friends work is, admittedly, a little bias, so that isn’t what I am talking about. It’s the other art, the games, comics and movies that I need to teach her about, and let her decide for herself what she is into.

I like art that is… clean, I suppose that’s the best way to describe it. Clearly depicted, good lines, cool poses that sort of thing. As an example, I love the art of the new Transformers comics, but hate the original 1980’s comic art. It is the same for Marvel/DC comics, if the artist in question is a little ‘rough and ready’ then I have a tough time getting into the book, no matter how good the story arc.

When it comes to movies, sci-fi is more my jam than anything else. A good depiction of crazy future tech really gets me, so movies like Minority Report and Jupiter Ascending are really sweet in terms of visuals. I also kinda like the ‘dirty’ technology represented by movies like Aliens and the original Terminator.

In games, I have a somewhat broader scope. It’s strange to say, but due to the very nature of the medium the art style of a game only counts to part of it, and a relatively small part in my eyes. The act of playing becomes far more important, and yes, visuals are important in that but I love the art in Wind Waker just as much as the attempt at photo realism that is Heavy Rain.

No arguments about kid Link vs adult Link please!

No arguments about kid Link vs. adult Link please!

This is because the visuals complement the other aspects to make a compelling whole. It is kind of the same with movies, but I find passively watching a movie lets me notice the art of the visuals more than when I engage with playing a game. I think this might be because my brain is also having to concentrate on making the controller do things to get the game to respond.

When reviewing games I have to make the conscious decision to look at the art style/visuals and analyse them so that I can give my honest opinion on it where required, but if I was playing a game not for review, as I did recently with Ori and the Blind Forest, I can lose myself and get sucked into the world. Some say that if a game can do that then it is doing something right, and I have to agree.

These are the types of art I like. It’s not a bad thing, and I am no hypocrite for saying that one thing is bad to me over another, the whole world does it too. This revelation has given me a new perspective on the subject, and I fully intend to teach my kid about art. She might not like what I like, and that is something to be encouraged, because that will give us something to talk about and discuss, and those are the conversations I am really looking forward to with my daughter.

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