Friday, November 09, 2007

More Existential Crises

Continuing the theme of turmoil and existential crisis, at least to the extent that I ever do it, I finally signed up for the drawing class that I've been telling myself I was going to sign up for. Over time, I've figured out that theatre is the field I ought to be in, and design seems to be the specialty that works for me. I've been getting a little annoyed with lighting design, though. The problem is that I can spend all kinds of time giving a script a close reading and figuring out how to reinforce that story with my lighting, but it pretty much always ends up being a warm wash and a cool wash and some saturated washes from the top, back, and/or sides. It's a rewarding process to light a show, but I want to do more than just reinforce the work of the other designers and the director of a show. I also don't think that my finished product is that different from what I'd create if I read the script a couple times and called it a day. Since I'm going to do the research one way or the other, I think I want to do something with a larger role in the production and where the research time will make more of a difference.

Which brings me to sets. The problem with sets is that right now I really only have the skills to build a fairly basic, non-structural set and then not paint it. I haven't done any scenic painting and since I seem to have a skin contact sensitivity to latex, I can't learn it any time soon. I hate painting anyway, so this is not such a bad thing, but if I can't just build a set myself I need to be able to express what it should look like. Which means I need to know what it should look like. I like to think I'm a pretty good draftsman, but I can't freehand draw to save my life. Let's not talk about other skills in fine arts right now. So I can read a script, research the script, production, etc., and visualize a set. Great. But I can't show anyone else what I want it to look like. How to build it, yeah, maybe. But not what it looks like.

It's bothered me for a while that I can't do renderings to present a lighting design, but at the level of theatre where I've been doing design work it hasn't really been a problem. With sets, though, I think that not only do I need to be able to do a rendering to present to other people, I need to be able to do a rendering to present to me. Theatrical design is visual, and it's hard to think about something visual that I can't actually see. To some extent, I can get around this with tools like SketchUp, but I'd rather be able to do it without a computer to distract me, at least at the initial stages. So all that brings me back to drawing.

I've had two drawing classes now. I'll be taking that class two evenings a week through the end of the month, and most likely for the first half of next month before going away to Lake Tahoe. I should try to draw some landscapes out there. It's a life drawing class, which means drawing a model doing short poses - usually around five or ten minutes, sometimes as much as twenty minutes or as few as two. My instinct is to look for the strongest parts of the outline and start there, but the technique that the teacher is teaching is to draw parts of the body, mostly by apparent mass. So an oval for a head, a column for a neck, etc. He tries to ignore anatomy, which is impossible for me to some extent because with all the dance training I can already name most of the muscles, at least by group, and I have a hard time seeing an arm without seeing it motivated by delts, traps, and lats. But I feel like I've been doing a lot better trying to do his way, and I can already see my sense of proportion improving. I think that working with a person rather than objects is a good way to learn this because since objects are inorganic shapes, in general, I could probably get away with reinforcing all kinds of bad habits just drawing them. It might make me a better freehand draftsman, but there are computers, or, failing that, rulers, protractors, compasses, etc., so I don't really need to be a good freehand draftsman.

Anyway, when I get back from Tahoe in January, I'll need to figure out about some next steps, and get back to trying to land design jobs. Between all the recent drama and the fact that I've been working a ton and making enough to zero out my credit card and buy new sports toys, I've been getting off track a little. But taking this class seems to be a really good step.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Four Months On the Wagon

I've been having liver issues lately. They showed up in an elevated enzyme level four months ago, give or take, and my doctor told me to stop drinking alcohol. So I did.

At the time, I was seeing a girl who drinks very little due to an exceptionally low tolerance. Although a lot of her stories involve drinking. All that's another story, and unlikely to show up here. Because of the amount of time I was spending with her, though, it wasn't all that frustrating at first not to be able to drink. I was a little annoyed because I do enjoy drinking, but whatever.

As the weeks wore on, I noticed subtler ways that I'm used to using alcohol, other than going to bars with my friends. Wine with dinner from time to time, for example. It also made it impossible to have a "because it's Friday" drink, which is something I do when my schedule is very busy so that there's a definite point at which the week ends and the weekend begins, even if I'm working through the weekend anyway. Sometimes a "because it's Friday" drink happens on Saturday, or I'll go to the bar across the street from my building, have one with a hamburger, and then go home and sleep for a call the next day. The point is that it's my statement to myself that I'm through another week, and it marks time without me having to actually take real time off. If there's no victory dance, was there really a victory?

The summer's relationship went the way of every other summer relationship I've had, and I started going out more with my other friends again. New York is a very bar-oriented city, probably because nobody has room in their apartment to have more than one friend over at a time. I can, and have been, going to bars and not drinking alcohol. It's incredibly irritating. There are a lot of things that I enjoy much more when I'm sober, but bars are not one of those things. They're loud and smell funny. That applies to my friends too, by the end of the night. If I've been pacing them, I'm also loud, don't notice the smell, and everything's funny. If I'm not, I usually go home early.

One might expect that going home early gives me the opportunity to ride my bikes more. But the truth is that when I'm planning to do something in the morning, I only spent about as much time in the bar the previous night as if I have been these past few months when I'm planning to do something the next day. I just have more fun.

I found myself thinking the other day about college. I think that in the entire course of college, I could count the number of alcoholic drinks I had on one hand. It didn't stop me from going out then, either. At the time, though, I mostly went dancing if I went out, and I still don't drink when I do that. As far as socializing, I think I was generally pretty bad at it. Or pretty good at it and felt like I was bad at it. Whatever. In any case, I don't think that I've come to believe that I need booze as a social lubricant. I think that I pretty much always did.

In any case, I'm off the wagon now. Or soon, anyway. I talked to my GI doctor yesterday and he says I can drink again, socially (I think that's a really bad description of a degree of drinking. A person could socially get drunk seven nights a week and I'd say that would destroy their liver, those of their friends, and easily constitute an addiction.) I'm also switching to a different NSAID. And I called my health insurance company to find out what the deal is with physical therapy - I can go see one for an evaluation and it'll be covered, and depending on the results of the evaluation, PT may be as well. Of course, in six weeks I'm going to Lake Tahoe and if this year's like last, I'll probably only have one or two drinks the whole month I'm there.

I suppose after this whole ordeal I've come to the conclusion that I like alcohol, but I can also stop if I have a reason to. I'm not going to say that I can stop any time I want to, because I didn't want to and it's a cliche line for an alcoholic. Also that even inexpensive non-prescription non-narcotic anti-inflammatories can have some scary side effects. If that's what's been causing all this.