Post-Adolescent Idealism (Formalist Art)

Formalism – what is it? Why does it matter?

Formalism is a philosophy of art.

Let’s consider what formalism espouses then – It is centred around the idea that art should be judged and also created so that value can be derived solely from technical elements. Composition, symmetry, line, colour, and depth are all taken into consideration and then used to understand the work. This of course means that the artists personal pedagogy, beliefs, cultural background, and even technique are not relevant to evaluating the work.

Which is odd, because technique is the application of technical elements, but an argument could be made against theatricality then, so I can see why technique would be omitted.

And if you were to ask one of my professors from the University of Alberta, he would tell you that formalist art is the only TRUE way to look at and enjoy art.

His rationale for this belief is that feelings and emotions about art are difficult to assess, while technical aspects of a work can be very easily addressed and help to identify the strengths of a work against other works as well as determine if said artist/art is worthy of a place in art history.

Or if I were to put it another way, he was very quotable and one of his favourite sayings in response to the statement, “but I don’t like that kind of art”, was always the exact same one – “it’s not about what you like, [insert student’s name].”

For a twenty-something going through his post-adolescent idealistic phase, that statement bothered me very deeply at the time. W teh F.


I mean, how could I possibly deal with that? Liking things had proved to be useful in other areas of life, and when it came to what was popular in culture as it related to music, movies, and comic books, what I liked (or rather what youth liked) did matter, because it led to new and significant ideas and interests. Also, I was told that formalist was an aspect of modernism, and we were well into post-modernist thought. It was stupid, to put it bluntly, and seemed regressive.

At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

But like anything in life, looking at a subject with black and white ideals, is a non-answer.

On the other side of the coin was post-modernism, and while I don’t want to get into details of post-modern thought versus modernist thought, I was fortunate to be at a university where there were effectively two tenured heads of the fine art program. One a formalist, and the other a conceptualist.

So what does that have to do with defining formalism? Well, I am getting to the point dear readers.

The idea that art should be purely formal is an absurd notion in an age when we have ease of access to both images and video. And interestingly enough, art that is purely conceptual is also impractical because as the playing field levels in a globalist economy, we are all responsible for our share of entertainment, politics, and environment.

Conveniently for us, that means that a moderate approach is likely the best solution for the time being. A transition from aesthetics or ideology to moderate formalism or as I prefer to call it modern craft is definitely the sandbox we should be playing in right now.

According to Nick Zangwill, who wrote a book called The Metaphysics of Beauty in favour of moderate formalism, all art has aesthetic properties, but not all art is defined by its context.

I can buy that for 5 bucks. There is inflation after all.

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What that means for artists is simply this, you should create art that is well made and which you dedicate considerable time in constructing, whether for volume, quality or a combination of both. Ultimately, it will provide you with expertise and ability. If you choose to seek formal education or not, your art will improve over time, and supply you with the aesthetic needed. As to the contextual claims of personal or cultural narrative, you can decide how important that is to your work.

No one has to be defined by their environment. That is the beauty of modern craft. A theory to support the current generation of artists, but not one to define them with. Though it is only a theory at the moment.

But what do you think? Would you rather your work be purely formalist in nature, purely conceptual? Share this with your peers and join the conversation. Otherwise, I’m out of theories for now. I’ll see you tomorrow with a music review about a band of brothers.


The End of The Rainbow (Evaluate Life)

Well, we have arrived dear readers. It happens today.

Today you make the decision. The important one. The one that will change your life.

Don’t be scared, making decisions comes naturally to all of us. You made the decision to click on the link that led you here in the first place, didn’t you?

And that, my friends, is what life is all about. Making decisions.


But you’ve been putting one of those decisions off haven’t you? That’s right, I know you know which one. It’s okay though, we’ve all been there. But YOU do need to admit to yourself that you’ve been delaying action, and haven’t been addressing the problem at hand. Once you do that, then we can begin the process of changing your life. Now, depending on how much of a delay you’ve made with this decision, you may need to act immediately or spend some time in thought and in evaluation.

Which leads us to the wisest topic o’the day.


It’s time for you to evaluate your life my friends. The last preliminary topic in the Life Hacks series, and a great one at that. But I’m going to give you a summary of this key life skill before we go into more detail.

You need to start a proper life evaluation by making major decisions in the morning and then divvy up your day based on your productivity habits. Assess your passions at the end of each year, each month, each week, and before you go to bed. If you can do that you’ll focus and delegate out the unnecessary. Flexibility is important too, but if you get stuck try this – pretend you are away from work and/or home for a week, and you only have a few hours to accomplish your tasks.

Now that we’ve got a roadmap, let’s plot the journey rather carefully you creative cuties.

  1. Make major decisions in the morning – Start your day the same way every morning by determining what that first/second/third important task of the day is. Simplify and clarify the actions needed to complete said task(s) and also ask yourself why it’s important to accomplish. If you can figure out how and why to eat the frog, you can get there on your terms.
  2. Assess you passions – How do you feel? What is important to you? Prioritize them accordingly, and then determine if your friends are valuable (supportive or troublemaking), your identity is self-created or defined for you, your emotional output towards life is solid, if your sense of wonder is intact, you make mistakes AND acknowledge them, you take care of your health, have a good family life, and you are truly putting your best foot forward.
  3. Delegate out the unnecessary – Surround yourself with people who are happy, and step back from habits of inaction and uncertainty. When you take on too much, just because, you are limiting yourself. You can share tasks with others and make your own load a little lighter.  Life is full of uncertainty, but it’s up to you to go outside the lines in life’s colouring book.
  4. Flexibility is important – This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but if you truly know your life’s purpose and you have the volition to stick to it, then you must learn to adjust the course as often as necessary to assure your success.
  5. Imagine you have a few precious hours – If time is money, then truly, money is only as good as the time spent. Fortunes can be earned and lost many times over in a lifetime, but life itself is fleeting, so consider that age old problem: what if you only had a day to live, how would you spend it? Then you can decide if that task is leading you towards or away from the point.

Does this seem foreboding and like work. Well I hate to break it to you my dear readers, but if you’ve been following along in the last few months, you’d know that none of the 10 skills I asked you to invest in were going to be simple, but I know you have it in you, because you have a life purpose and a creative fire that needs fuel.

I’m out of theories for now, but be sure to check back tomorrow when I examine something timely and get you thinking about another kind of hidden treasure.


Things Said In Earnest (Meta-Reading)

I’m a big fan of lists, process improvement, discipline, personal development, branding, and having a purpose. These are expressions I’ve honed over years as both an artist and a marketing professional. And wisdom often denotes that if you want to continue to evolve you must change too as other successful people before you have changed.


I do have to say something in earnest though, change is important and while that particular Xzibit meme pokes fun at recursive things, it also manages to be meta about the concept of change. As the old adage goes, the only thing constant is change.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a hint of a vision with you, as it seems I so often do.

But dear readers, you of course know that the much larger purpose of timotheories is digital curating at heart – we focus on cultivating the arts and providing you with positive feedback both on creative work and for creative professionals too…

And it is Wisdom Wednesday after all, so a vision seems appropriate. Where was I? Oh right I have a vision, a pet project, a task I am undertaking myself and which I seriously think all creative types would benefit from pursuing as well.

This project doesn’t have a name just yet, but for now, I’m going to refer to it as meta-reading. I’ve decided to tentatively call the vision as such because I know that I am going to be reading a minimum of one book a month. My rationale about said meta-reading is that I will also be writing about the act of reading, my relationship to the author I’m reading, and how my opinion of them and the work changes over time. I’m following this course because we don’t all consciously consider the act of reading. And we should. Most of us either do it or do not – which would make Yoda proud, but wouldn’t create well-rounded individuals.

So, I want to dedicate at least one post a month to a behemoth of creativity, one who I believe can provide you who some wisdom and help you to grow into the role you were meant to play, that of creative professional. I’ll admit first and foremost that this theory I have, that creativity is attainable by all, is not a new one, and I carry a heavy heart in sharing the knowledge I have gleaned from others and of course that which I personally pass on to you several times a week.

Which I why I’ve decided to start off the project of meta-reading by examines one of my favourite authors of whom I have never read anything by, but whom has been quoted and misquoted so many times in the history of writing since his contributions, and whom has been referenced in popular culture again and again.

That’s right, I’m reading a book by one Ernest Hemingway.

He has been called many things, from champ, to papa hemingway, to tiny, but Ernest Hemingway was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. And he lived a very rich life. Unfortunately his depression ended up killing him in the end, but that is not why I want to read one of his books. I want to understand why he influenced pop culture the way he did, and quite frankly I want to gain some wisdom myself.

Which is why my task for you over the next couple of weeks is to join me as I read Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and next month I’ll talk about the book, provide a little background on him and my thoughts, and do it again with another creative type. Sound good friends?

I thought so too.

And that’s all of the theories I’ve got for today. Please subscribe to the blog, leave some comments, and share with your artist loved ones. I’ll be back tomorrow with something timely.


How To Care More, Not Less (How To Douglas mailing list)

I’m a pretty big fan of supporting local events and groups, as I hope you would know by now. But did you know that are key individuals in our communities who actually spend their hard earned “free” time, sharing the catalogue of current local events for us Edmontonians on a regular basis and a lot of us who claim to crave this information don’t even know this content exists?!?!

It’s a shame really.

What do you mean by that Tim, you ask? Well, I will gladly elaborate for you dear readers.

What I mean is that there are legitimate resources in Edmonton that will hook YOU up, with the content YOU want, in order to see the arts YOU care about.

To illustrate this exact point I am going to share with you a very specific resource I learned about over this past summer and have been using to great effect since then.

Word of mouth is an amazing thing.

And I’m going to stop you before you point out a fallacy here. Yes, technically this could qualify as a Wisdom Wednesday post, but I think you will agree with me by the end the story that it makes more way more sense as a Timely Thursday post,. I mention this because you will now know about events happening in the city of Edmonton, this weekend, before we’re done. Anyway, I learned about this resource through a friend of mine who is relatively hooked up in the arts scene himself, but admits, as I do (I probably sound like a broken record at this point, especially to close friends) that it can be incredibly difficult to figure out what to do with your evenings and weekends, in Edmonton, because of the way our organizers organize events.

Without further ado, I present to you How To Douglas.

How To Douglas is a weekly arts events newsletter put together by a gentleman by the name of Douglas Dollars (Stewart).

Before I outline in detail how this wildly useful weekly information station works, I’m going to theorize a bit on the origin of the chosen name How To Douglas, because in doing research for this post I stumbled upon some pretty funny content and I would love to interview Douglas himself to find out if I’m correctly seeing the connection.

Did you know that the Dougie is a style of hip hop dancing that was invented by a rapper of the name Lil’ Wil with the video of his 2007 hit “My Dougie”? Lil’ Wil took his now popular dance name from another rapper by the name of Doug E. Fresh, who had a signature move he used in the 1980s.

Look at the chorus from My Dougie below for more implications.

My Dougie-My Dougie-My Dougie-My Dougie
My Dougie-My Dougie-My Dougie
She Say She Like My Dougie, I’m Fresh
My Dougie, I’m Fresh-My Dougie, I’m Fresh
Yep Flyer Then A Mothafucker

I see what you did there, Douglas. You took something a signifier of cool to represent your newsletter which is about being involved in cool things, and your name is Doug. Clever girl, err I mean boy.

You should check out this link put together by Know Your Meme for more information on the Dougie.

Having shared that tidbit and had some fun, I will admit that Douglas is something of an enigma to me personally, but a number of cool people I know also know him and have him as a friend on Facebook, so I know he is real and not simply a representation of a business model. Though this article might tell you otherwise.

As I mentioned earlier, the How To Douglas newsletter comes out weekly. Every Thursday, like clockwork, it starts with a little note about how Douglas is feeling, his thoughts on the time of year, and an anecdote or two. It’s usually clever, sometimes insightful, and just a little bit silly. The content feels like a loveletter to the arts whenever I read it, which I hope is the intended effect.

And because it comes out on Thursday, the newsletter focuses on events taking place over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday which makes sense given the half life and nature of the content.

If you want to see music, film, art or anything other than a hockey game, inside of a cineplex or a restaurant, How To Douglas feels incredibly refreshing.

But don’t take my word for it. Subscribe and check it out yourself. You just might like it. Comments? Questions? Leave them!