Monday, June 18, 2012

Artists in caves

Bob Foster writes:
Lately I’ve been reading about the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France where some of the earliest known cave paintings were discovered in 1994. Radiocarbon dating places the creation of this art at 30,000 years ago. The quality of the drawings is amazing and I struggle to understand how such great work could have been done with such skill and beauty and can still be an inspiration to today’s artists everywhere. Where did this ability come from, who did it, and how did they learn to be so good at it?

In the wacky world of animation, when I see all the great art that’s been done and is being done, I ask myself the same question - how could such great work be done with such skill and beauty and continue be an inspiration to today’s artists everywhere? I bet if I tried hard enough I could find a thread between the Chauvet Cave artist and the animation masters we all admire and learn from.

Then I started to wonder what the incentives and rewards were for the cave artist. Was it simply something he had to do, much like a child has to draw on the wall with a crayon? Or was he paid to do it?

I can imagine some knuckle-dragging type suggesting that Chimpy the Cave Artist draw some pictures of the family’s pet Rhinoceros for a bag of clam shells or spearheads. Next thing you know Mr. Knuckledrag is correcting Chimpy’s drawings and insisting that Chimpy do the Rhino drawings faster but for half a bag of clam shells or spearheads, otherwise he’ll hire Trog, the cheap cave artist on the other side of the swamp to do the work.

At that point the reason for doing the art became the payment for doing the art and the payment became a primary motivation. Chimpy the cave artist became an interior decorator.

Sure, whether we write, draw or paint, it’s all art and we’ve learned to do what we do for some form of compensation. But what we do is something we loved to do long before compensation got in the way. We didn’t always do it for the money. We kind of loved doing what we do, just like a kid with crayons. Only now, we use computers and Cintiqs.

But at some point the bins of money that Uncle Knuckledrag makes from that art is out of all proportion to the compensation doled out to the artists who create the work.

What artists do at their end is create art. Not art that was done for compensation but art that was done for the love of it. If Uncle Knuck wants to make a mega-pile of cash from that art and live better than the creator of the art, the least he can do is share.

Then maybe the artists could move into a nicer cave.

Empires have been built on products created by writers and artists but not to the mutual benefit of the writers, artists and Uncle Knuckledrag. While artists are motivated by the love of art, Uncle Knuck is motivated by numbers. The bigger the numbers the more of it he keeps. And if he finds a way to sell the art over and over and over, in various forms and versions, continuing to make silos full of cash, where’s Chimpy’s cut?

Providing a venue for the creation, process and resultant product is not enough. Clams and spearheads don’t go as far as they used to.

Great art that was created 30,000 years ago lives on. Early drawings that attempt to depict motion have been found in Paleolithic cave paintings where animals are shown with multiple legs to convey motion.

Clearly, Chimpy wanted to be a director.


Chris Sobieniak said...

Even more interesting is the paintings on some cave in Spain that is speculated to have came from Neanderthals.

Matthew said...

Art, GOOD work & skilfully doing something, be it creative or's all "hand axes". It’s humanity’s enate taste for virtuoso performances & stand out endeavours by human individuals. It's a signifier of intelligence & cognitive fitness that could potentially lead to quote unquote “success” in some form and is therefore an attractive quality.

Matthew said...

Sorry, I forgot this LINK to a great theoretical explanation of it all.

Floyd Norman said...

As art increasingly becomes ones and zeros, I look forward to the day when we erase the whole damn thing and leave "Uncle Knuckledrag" totally screwed.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I hope for something catastrophic to occur and we have to go back and re-learn this craft again! Lord knows it's going to be a pain!

Anonymous said...

jester:I wonder if Captain Caveman drew them?

BoomCookie said...

Love your article, thanks Bob!!

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