Permission-free delight

Minneapolis Indie Expo 2011

The entire concept of permission in the creation of art brings out some … controversy. It also is a litmus test for who is a good person to work with, and who is not. The people that believe they should give you permission to create what you do are really about preventing creativity as much as possible – usually out of the incorrect belief that by quelling the work of others they can give themselves a competitive edge. While the creative arts is highly competitive, stunting others pretty much never does a damn thing for you. Yet when you encourage others, and point out not what a person does “wrong” but what you believe will make a work strong– you actually give yourself a competitive edge. How? By building allies, and by making yourself an ally. If you set aside the belief that your aesthetic is a stick by which to judge the work of others (it’s not, ever) you can suddenly find your world opening wide to a broad variety of delights. It’s OK to take pleasure in crude drawings, photocopied sheets and handcrafted stories. It’s OK that it’s not “professional.” The low-brow movement is how art in North America keeps its soul; without it, art would be as trapped and disastrous as the Vatican.

drawings and water color by RK Milholland of Something Positive


print from Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square

Today, I went to the Minneapolis Indie Expo and I absolutely loved it. It consisted of web comic artists and zine makers, all of whom work independently. Some make a living at it, some don’t. It became clear to me that quite a few people had traveled some ways to participate in the expo. I went because the artist for my favorite web comic – Something Positive – went. I got some drawings (squee!) including a robot watercolor that made Mike squeal with happy. I also got a kick-ass Dia de los Muertos print from Wapsi Square and got to thank Paul in person for the Fat Chic shout out he gave me yesterday.

Goodies obtained at the indie expo

While there, I discovered the danger and the wonder of such events: lots of super-affordable and accessible art and zines, leading to spending lots of money without really intending to. It was kind of awesome, and I came back with some awesome stuff.

The entire concept of indie art and comics is that you do NOT need to wait for approval. Nobody gave anyone present at the expo permission; each person just went ahead and did what they do. It allowed such wonders into the world as a crocheted UFO complete with a ladder it could let down, a deck of cards with surreal designs printed on each one (I proposed a few meanings, to the amusement of the creator) and some really badass plus-positive art.

It was cool. I would have stayed longer, but I was freezing my tuckus off. I did find myself tweaked that while it was roughly 50/50 in terms of the gender of the artists present, on the panels I attended each had one token female. On one of them, said female openly admitted she elbowed her way onto the panel. That was uncool – not that she had to use chutzpah, that’s normal, but that it was necessary to draw upon it at all. Then again, it was a perfect example of an artist not needing or seeking permission.