Aug 192013


Auberge Ferme, July 2013

Afternoon in Peyégas, France

“I cannot draw”. You get to hear this quite often when you talk to friends or strangers about drawing and sketching. Of course, they all know how to use a pencil, and how to draw a line. But what they think they see is not what they get on the paper. Often, they expect a photographic copy of a particular object, appearing on paper; dimensions right, perspective correct, details there, colors properly set.

I usually tell them that (maybe) what they get on paper is exactly what they see. Quite often, it is code. And some details popping out of the code.

Code: The way I see a dog

dog coded

Normally, in everyday life, we tend to see the world around us through a code filter. We do not have to look into a dog`s look in all detail, analyze its fur, its eye colors, the proportions of the legs, the length of the tongue, in order to ”see” a dog. The photographic copy arriving from our eyes, through an ingeniously wired apparatus made of biomolecules, is processed, compared with existing shortcuts, codes, and moved forward, allowing us to “see” a dog, and a tree, and houses, cars. It is quite a computing effort that happens there, and basically, in everyday life, we move through a world of code that we create, constantly.

So basically, when drawing, we face the challenge not to draw the lines of the code, but to pass by the code, maybe coming up with a “different” code. We want to make sure that we look closer. A dog’s nose is not a black nob. It comes with a structure, turtle leather like. It might be bright and reflecting the light if wet, it might come in shades of brown… And, on the other hand, we might want to make sure that we do not get lost in details, when leaving the world of code. Thus, it is always a good idea to search for the “dominant” lines (or contrasts or shapes or colors) within a scene: Going from big to small.

A simple trick in order to see less through code is to simply cut a view into areas of similar brightness, to search for parallel lines, or to search for repeating geometric forms, like triangles.

Thus, for me, sketching is seeing, through a different algorithm. Trying to go beyond the code of things that I trained my brain to see. Seeing, for instance, can mean that  grass is not green, but comes in shades of blue, or red. It might mean that details that I “see” are actually not really there; they hide in shadow or missing contrast. Sometimes, seeing means realizing that things are not really visible, even if you “see” them.

Creating perfumes is comparable; you have to learn smelling the world again, trying to see behind the code of things smelling, going beyond the memories of things smelled in the past, and leaving concepts and constructs. I guess this is true for all art.

When I started sketching, I was always very worried about the result not reflecting my expectations and not reflecting reality. I guess I learned that it does not matter and that reality does not really exist for us, mostly. We live in a prison of code, and we can only break out in singular moments trying to see behind the code. And whenever we paint and sketch and draw and write and compose: this creative cut might be a little singular moment where there is the opportunity to leave the code.

Sketching the farmhouse in France, an auberge ferme (a farm with 3 guest rooms, offering bed and food and the natural environment of a French farm, and the company of a couple working on their dream), after arriving later in the afternoon, was such a singular moment. I was sort of tired, after a day on the bike. The farm was on top of a pretty high hill, very isolated, with no other house in the area, with the farm house overlooking a pasture that was laid out like an amphitheater, encircled by dark fir trees, the farm still  in bright sunlight, but the shadows growing longer and longer.

I loved the light in this particular moment, me sitting in the shadow opposite the farmhouse. There was the warmth of the day, the tranquility of the location, the brightness that was so special, the sound of the uncounted insects dancing in the afternoon sun. The peace of knowing that there is the bed up there promising relaxation after a sportive day, and the feeling of being welcome. I looked into this scene and tried to “see” the light for an hour.

– Andy Tauer

 Posted by on August 19, 2013
Aug 062013


Last night, I met with Jonathan Kirkscey, who’s been composing the score for ONLY CHILD, the second feature film in the Woman’s Picture series.

We sat out on my front porch smoking before we went in to place some of his latest cues, talking about the old analog vs. digital thing. I’d just made the short below with Savannah Bearden, a frequent collaborator, on my iphone, and was telling Jonathan that just three years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do anything this way. Now, you can film on your iphone, as we did, edit it there, and post it online without ever leaving the device. Back then, you needed all kinds of things from all kinds of places and people. Making a film was a bread crumb trail of intermediaries, each morsel requiring complex and often protracted interpersonal negotiations and compromises. A feature film remains that complex, circuitous trail.

About every week I hear a filmmaker complaining about the shrinking screen, and/or the horrors of digital imagery. It’s just not the same, they say. Movies aren’t meant to be watched on phones and laptops. They’re meant to be experienced in a theater, with an audience. Digital photography will never be an acceptable replacement for film – for any number of reasons, depending on who’s talking. It reminds me of a time ten years or so ago when almost every musician I talked to had something to say about digital recording. Everyone, it seemed, was rushing out to buy used tube amps and beaten up Wurlitzers, stocking up for the coming digital apocalypse.

Me, I roll my eyes. Inwardly, natch. I’ve watched more movies on laptops, ipads, and iphones than on movie screens – how they were meant to be seen and otherwise. My cinematic exposure exceeds the movie theater – thankfully, as I’m more likely to see the majority of the content I prefer on Netflix than at the local cineplex, where “pre-awareness” is now a prerequisite for screening, viewing, and evaluating content. And at this point, technology has reached a place where it’s often hard to distinguish analog from digital – to those for whom such a distinction isn’t beside the point of storytelling. The distinctions have gradually eroded, all but in the mind of these filmmakers.

I told Jonathan that, aside from the liberating aspects of filming on an iphone (no intermediaries, higher serendipity factors), it’s good practice, an ideal sketchbook for a filmmaker to work out ideas. Generally, a filmmaker learns filmmaking by doing. That can mean that if you’re only doing feature films – and even some shorts – there’s more waiting than learning. Add to this the reality that when the stakes are higher and the time greatly restricted, as on the average feature film shoot, you are less likely to take serious risks, to step outside of tried and true perimeters. Growth is seriously circumscribed and highly relative. Limiting your experience to feature filmmaking is a bit like Jonathan, a cellist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, restricting his rehearsal time to live performances. For a musician in his position, that would be totally unacceptable, but for most filmmakers it’s the standard.

Filming the way Savannah and I did is also, for this filmmaker, a lot more relaxed, and often more fulfilling. I don’t have to run my ideas past fifteen different people. The stakes aren’t that high. Mistakes are instructive rather than fatal. The time between concept and execution significantly shrinks, which can loosen up all kinds of inhibiting factors which are part and parcel of the filmmaking experience most of the time. I can’t think of a feature film I’ve worked on where allowing the spirit of Chaplin and Keaton to overtake me and stab toward full fruition would have been an option. Chaplin and Keaton might be rolling over in their graves – but what of it?

 Posted by on August 6, 2013