Thursday, March 31, 2011

13 Words of Wisdom from Milton Glaser—Part 2

There's so much to learn from "To Inform & Delight: The Work of Milton Glaser" that I broke it down into two posts. Here are 13 more words of wisdom from Glaser:

1. Glaser liked the idea of the title for his book to be "Drawing is Thinking."

2. The truth is , I've been looking for a definition for what art is all my life without fully understanding exactly what it encompasses. But in the course of doing a speech, I looked up several references to what art was and I found one by Horace, who was a critic and poet back in Roman times and he had this great line, "The purpose of art is to inform and delight," and I thought, wow, it can't get much better than that.

3. Ernst H. Gombrich said, "There is no art, only artists." What he meant is that what art is becomes defined generationally; everybody redefines what art is because there's no there there. It is what society determines at any moment in history and the great enemy of art is the institutionalization of belief, like style or like taste. Once that crystallization of belief happens—OK, I got it now!—that becomes a limitation.

4. What I've always hated in my life is the parochialization of art, making it a special activity unrelated to other activities. It finally ends up being an instrument for social enhancement and not what it really is which is an expression of a fundamental instinct of the species.

5. Artists basically create the commonalities, the symbolism, so people feel as though they have some relationship to one another. When people don't feel they have that relationship, they kill each other. That role of providing common ground is absolutely essential to civilization.

6. Withholding, not giving everything, is one of the secrets of design.

7. Stephen Heller, all-around graphics guru, re: Glaser's approach: it's not about design as service, it's about design as cultural value.

8. [When you teach], you teach a way of perceiving the world.

9. No matter what your work, that complete commitment is transformative; it makes you different when you completely commit to what you're doing.

10. I realized [after visiting Italy] that history wasn't the enemy, that you can use anything as raw material to make something. That was a great transformation for me.

11. Be on the side of the light.

Milton Glaser photo by Sam Haskins.

12. Glaser promotes a humanistic philosophy.

13. In NYC, you have these extraordinary strands of differences existing simultaneously and in some curious way, advantageously, towards all of the people who live here. There really is nothing like it. NYC does the job that America's supposed to do. It really takes everybody and, not only accepts them, responds to them. The city is enormously accommodating.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

13 Words of Wisdom from Milton Glaser—Part 1

 "To Inform & Delight: The Work of Milton Glaser" is a fascinating, thought-provoking and incredibly educational documentary. This first-person interview with Milton Glaser is a treat and is a must-view for any artist working in any discipline. Here are the first 13 words of wisdom from the great man and from those who learned at his feet:

1. The core value was always the act of making things and the transformation of an idea that you hold in your mind that becomes real or material. That to me still is the glory of any creative activity.

2. Ralph Caplan, design writer: impressed with Glaser's mixture of talent, play and intelligence

3. I think the idea of movement and the rhythmic response has something to do with the way you draw, the way you make things.

4. Trying to create the same emotional response in graphics that music has on people.

5. Brookie Maxwell, artist and former Glaser student: when you think of the Dylan poster, that really speaks to a generation. That wasn't his generation but he was able to understand what was happening and see what was happening and make work about in response to what was happening. That's very unusual. I see the same thing in the poster for "Angels in America." To take the raw pain of a generation of gay men who were all dying and transform it into a piece of art.

6. I explain to students in terms of understanding communication that the creation of a puzzle is one of the tools that you have to make people understand things. When they activate the mind to try to figure things out the likelihood is that they'll remember it and respond to it more than if they're told something directly.

Re: the simplicity behind the designing of the "I NY" logo: "I" is a word. The heart is a symbol for a feeling and "NY" are initials for a place.

I've made nothing on "I NY" ever. There have been no cash rewards as a consequence of doing it. On the other hand, it really make me feel very, very proud to have taken part in that shift in the city's consciousness from being indifferent to itself to realizing we love this place. 

7. Walter Bernard, New York Magazines first Art Director re: the magazine: our mantra was, "be on the reader's side."

8. Interested in work that doesn't exactly look like it was designed, looks like it just happened. Likes that people have to work to understand what you're showing them.

9. Thinking and making things mostly I do in the country; assembling things and refining things we do here [in his NYC office.] One is solitary, the other needs interaction.

10. Works that are preconceived tend to go dead, inert…the work that responds to the peculiarities of the moment tend to be more energized.

11. You realize that everything's related its opposite—if there's light, you have to have darkness; truth, there has to be lies. Everything is defined by its opposite. They both require exploration.

12. So much of my work depends on drawing. I think of drawing as my essential resource, that that's where my understanding of form comes from.

13. I am a great believer in drawing as a way to understand the world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

11 Things to Think About from "Comic Book Confidential"

"Comic Book Confidential" clearly beats "Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop" as the weakest artist documentary I've seen to date. "Caveman's" primary shortcoming is its lack in first-person content thereby rendering it weak. "Comic Book" has the actual artists and does little with them except have most of them read the panels from their books! There's lots of graphics and music but comparably little from the artists themselves which is a huge shame considering the impressive list of contributors: Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Jaime Hernandez, Harvey Pekar, William Gaines, Jr., Al Feldstein, Stan Lee, Dan O'Neill, Shary Flenniken, Bill Griffith, Sue Coe and Charles Burns. 

As I said before, despite a documentary's shortcomings, one can still get something of value from it. Here are 11 thoughts I pulled from this film:

1. Eisner: finally, there was a medium that allowed a man with ineptitudes in both fields [writing and drawing] and put them together and come out with an eptitude.

I can deal in two levels, writing and acting. It has a completeness to it.

2. Gaines: people went crazy for the Marx Brothers because had never seen anything like it. That's how MAD [magazine] was received.

3. Kurtzman: I knew exactly what I wanted and did exactly what I wanted so it came out all right.

4. Lee: we tried to have the people talk like real people, to define the characters and have them stay in character, to have stories that, while imaginative, still had some realism, some believability so the readers could relate to and believe in the stories.

5. O'Neill: crawl out there and disrupt the body politic, scramble it.

Re: Disney's lawsuit against him—We started with a hopeless condition. If you're going down in flames, hit something big.

6. Flenniken: able to talk about extreme subjects because the style of the art is innocent and accessible.

7. Griffith: someone has to stand outside the whole thing and look at it and tell you what's going on. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

8. Coe: Art is about hearing information and passing it on, making it accessible to other people. Comics is an inexpensive way to do this. They [corporations? government?] can't control that so much.

9. Burns: [wanted to create a] more personal, internalized horror rather than a physical; a mental horror.

10. Spiegelman re: "Maus": the metaphor was meant to be shucked like a snake skin.

11. Miller: what trying to do recently [the 1980's] is to take the stuff of the old comics and do it in a way that's worth reading for me.

Whatever stories I write have to do with what's going on around me. 1980's America is a silly, frightening place, often silly and frightening at the same time. I hope "The Dark Knight" is silly and frightening at the same time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

13 Things to Think About from "Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop"

The documentary "Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop" is—among all of the artist documentaries I've watched and despite its best efforts—the weakest. The excessive music, especially at the beginning, almost convinced me to stop watching. The biggest drawback is that the artist himself is not interviewed. Hamlin passed away in 1993 and the DVD was released in 2008. Without his presence, the next best option would have been  Hamlin's writings, assuming he had any, which would have given insight into his methods and thinking. Another alternative would have been to interview his contemporaries or people he worked with or associated with in his early years.

Since these documentary staples are absent, the primary interviews are with Hamlin's daughter, Teddy DeWalt; the successor with whom Hamlin worked, David Graue; and Graue's successor, Jack Bender. Their recollections are vivid but limited in comparison to what could have been. 

Surprisingly, the best part of this DVD is one of the extras, Will Eisner's 2001 Comic Con interview. He talked about both Alley Oop and sequential art in general.

Despite the film's shortcomings, I did learn more about the Alley Oop strip than I otherwise would have known. It is possible, moreover, to pull some kernel of truth or inspiration even from a mediocre documentary.  Here are 13 things to think about:

1. Teddy DeWalt re: Hamlin: his standard comment to most young people was, "If a day came when you had to eat or draw, but you could only choose one and you chose to eat, you probably wouldn't have the drive to go on drawing for a lifetime's work."

2. DeWalt re: Hamlin's retirement: he woke up to real life. He had been before—by his own admission—entirely immersed in a fantasy world, in the world of Alley Oop and all those cartoon characters. They were more real to him than his family was or the people around him. He lived them, he ate with them, they talked to him, he dreamed about them.

3. Will Eisner: comics is a literary art form capable of dealing with subject matter deeper than gags and superheroes.

4. To Eisner's memory, "Alley Oop was the first thinking strip, others were gags and jokes. It went beyond Gertie the Dinosaur; it brought us into a prehistoric world. It showed his research, [research] didn't appear prior to that in other strips.

5. Eisner's influences were Popeye, Terry and the Pirates and Krazy Kat. They all showed physical energy without really physically moving. Incredible humor predicated on misuse of the English language.

6. Re: The Spirit—humor's more universal in understanding than a straight, severely told story.

7. "Costumed characters" was the original name for superheroes. The humor came from the action. Eisner was constantly looking for believability because he was telling slice-of-life stories. Most of his ideas came from a Monday morning newspaper story.

8. "Humor is exaggeration. It depends heavily on the reader's perspective."

9. "My ambition was to write a short story [7 page Spirit comics] every day."

10. His experimentation was a result of and the reward for creating novelty. He was in constant pursuit of reader attention.

11. "The early superheroes were done by interchangeable artists over time. The publishers owned everything; the creators had no equity in their work. The daily strip cartoonists hand an identity. Everyone knew who drew what. The name associated with the strip helped sell it to papers. Daily strips became a daily connection, a part of one's life."

12. "You can't grow a strip once it's sold to the paper. It has to continue as it was from the beginning." [Eisner tired of this and gave up on a daily The Spirit 4-panel strip.]

13. "I saw Alley Oop as a young man as an Anderson [Hans Christian Anderson?] story. Continuing children's story; something friendly about that. It wasn't going anywhere; didn't expect it to reach a climax at any point. Just wanted it to be there and see what Alley Oop would do next. It wasn't like the typical adventure strip that reached a climax, where the villain was going to be caught and all was going to be well. Alley Oop was like visiting an ongoing world. Knew he would get out of his dangers and the reader was amused at how he did it. Something neverending bout that strip that didn't appear in others."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

7 Artist Documentaries to Definitely Watch

Watching these 7 artist documentaries will be so inspiring that you'll want to start creating while right in the middle of watching. If you have seen some or all of them, I suggest you watch them again. The nuggets of knowledge shared by these people is worth multiple viewings.

1. "The Line King"

2. "Icons: Frank Miller"

3. "Crumb"

4. "Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics"—see my former post.

5. "The Pixar Story"—see my former post.

6. "Waking Sleeping Beauty"see my former post.

7. "Frazetta: Painting with Fire"—see my former post.

I will be watching two others in the near future—"Comic Book Confidential" and "Cavemen: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop"—and will share in future posts any helpful ideas from those documentaries.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Genre vs. Medium

This issue keeps coming up so I thought I'd throw my opinion in.

Genre: a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content,
technique, or the like

Medium: the material or technique with which an artist works

This CartoonBrew discussion debated the issue and includes a quote from Brad Bird who strongly believes that animation is a medium, not a genre.

Film is the medium through which the genres of westerns, comedies, dramas, fantasy, sci-fi and horror are produced.

Some commentors, however, made an interesting argument: that animation is definitely not a genre, but is a medium within a medium. I think I'm in that camp, too. Especially since there's so many types of animation—stop motion, CG, hand-drawn—it seems most accurate to acknowledge that the medium of film includes animation and the medium of animation subdivides into various methods.

Here are some more discussions of genre vs. medium:

Keep in mind that some genres are better suited for certain mediums. For example, although I love Japanese animation, I often find myself bored by their feature-length films. Even "Metropolis," which I think is great, put me to sleep BOTH times I saw it in the theater! I was, however, at least able to stay awake during most of it without wishing it would end. On the other hand, films like "Millennium Actress," "Tokyo Godfathers," "Paprika," "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" and "Tekkon Kinkreet," despite their artistic qualities, seemed interminable. I couldn't figure out why.

Then I realized that the Japanese use the medium of animation for any story, not just for stories best suited for that medium. All of the films I mentioned above would have been better served as live-action films. I believe that there's no reason to tell a story in animation unless the medium can enhance the story, like "The Incredibles."

The same is true for novels, plays and movies; some stories work best as novels or as plays or as movies. There are some stories that work well in more than one of these mediums but I think those are rare. I thought "Lord of the Rings" was one of the worst and most boring books I'd ever read but I liked the movies. "Tender Mercies" was, to me, a dull movie; when I learned it began as a play, it suddenly made sense. Plays are about language; movies are about visuals. This is why so many plays transferred to the screen seem claustrophobic and dull; often you can tell that "action" was added to increase the visual interest. With "Tender Mercies," there were numerous shots of Texas vistas but it wasn't sufficient to enhance a small, non-cinematic story.

Basically, choose the best medium within which to create your work.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

10 Things to Think About from "Frazetta—Painting with Fire"

Continuing with my personal obsession with watching documentaries about artists, here are some informational highlights from "Frazetta: Painting with Fire":

1. He's a sportsman. His primary interest is living life and because of that, that's what makes him a great artist.

2. As a result of his athleticism, he knew how muscles work.

3. He can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.

4. He has the eye of a camera mixed with his fantasy imagination.

5. He has vivid images in his head.

6. "If I can see it, I can do it."

7. "Most of the good ones [paintings] were done in one night."

8. He was drained mentally and physically after completing a Conan painting.

9. After suffering multiple strokes, he switched to drawing and painting with the left hand. He was told in rehab, "It's your mind that does it [draws]. Your arm is just an extension of your mind."

10. Ralph Bakshi: "Everything starts here [the mind] and I guess in the heart and in your personality, what kind of person are you. It all has to do with Frank's mental ability as an artist to get that picture made under any conditions which has always been his credo. That's where it begins, everything else is extraneous. You don't draw with your hand, you just don't."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Labrador, Portie, Poodle & Mutt, Attorneys at Law—Treadmill Cartoon

Step 1: Thumbnail

Step 2: Tight rough pencil drawing

Step 3: Clean pencil drawing

Step 4: Final ink and composite

Saturday, March 12, 2011

3 Books for Drawing in Perspective

I had always struggled with perspective, picking up a few bits of knowledge here and there but never fully understanding it. When I finally sat down to focus on it, three books in particular helped me.

First, "How to Create Action, Fantasy and Adventure Comics" by Tom Alvarez.

These two pages in particular sum up the primary perspective rules to remember when you're drawing. Overall, this is a helpful book.

The highlighted notes were a revelation to me and immediately improved my perspective drawing!

Second, "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Again, a book that has numerous kernels of drawing wisdom.

This is the book that taught me what "worm's eye view" and "bird's eye view" were.

The third book is "Perspective" by William F. Powell (a Walter Foster book).

This book simply and clearly explains the many aspects of perspective.

So if you're struggling with perspective, give these books a try!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

12 Insights from "Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics"

Narrated by Ryan Reynolds (soon to be seen in the title role in "Green Lantern"), "Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics" explores the history of the publisher who gave us Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, among others. There are interviews with Neal Adams, Paul Pope, Neil Gaiman, Louise Simonson, Karen Berger and the recently deceased Dwayne McDuffie, among others. It's a fascinating look behind the scenes of the publisher whose characters have endured for over 50 years.

Here are some insights gleaned from the film:

1. Neal Adams: comic books are the dreams and aspirations of human beings. It's the medium.

If you [combine] the best artist in the world and the best writer in the world, they will make the greatest piece of art in the world and you know what you'll call it? You'll call it a comic book.

RE: Frank Miller—He's not afraid. You gotta be kind of punk. You just gotta be punk once and awhile.

We think if the conditions present themselves, we will be the hero of the moment.

2. The characters with longevity often come from a place of oppression, a place of wanting to break out of the world they're in.

3. Vision and risk (this theme has come up in all of the documentaries on which I've commented). In the 1970's, no one thought that a superhero movie could be a blockbuster. But producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind decided to take a chance. Alexander: "I believe it could be very good as a major film if done right." Ilya: "I thought [the actor for Superman] should be an unknown. They all started working on me and commercial side said we need a star. There's a moment when you weaken and I said you might be right and we started looking for a star. Thank God Redford turned it down."

4. Hiring from without can help. In 1977, 28-year-old Jenette Kahn was hired as the first female and youngest publisher of DC. She had no comics experience but also no preconceived notions. She contributed tremendously to the company's new thinking and its modern literary sensibility.

5. Alan Moore: I don't want everybody to agree with me. I just want people to think.

6. Neil Gaiman: For years I had to explain to people that comics is a medium, not a genre. It's an empty bottle and you can put anything you like in that bottle.

Sandman really was a comic I was writing to please myself. I think there's lots of other people who like the same kinds of stuff I like.

7. Karen Berger (DC Editor): If we're really talking about making comics relevant and really treating this like a literary form, you've got to let people create their own work and have a stake in it.

8. Too much darkness. Despite the success of killing (then resurrecting) Superman, it inspired a rash of imitators. Almost every superhero began having the gritty psychological darkness of Watchmen and The Dark Knight. It became hard to tell the difference between the heroes and the villains because the heroes's behavior had become evil instead of morally ambiguous. There was a lack of meaning. Comics became so dark that they lost sight of their core—triumphing over adversity.

9. Mark Waid: Superheroes had become things that fight against things. They don't fight for anything. Waid and Alex Ross, with Kingdom Come, wanted to get away from meaningless, cynical storytelling.

10. Paul Pope: The world needs inspirational and aspirational heroes.

11. Chip Kidd: You've got to make these characters into real people that you care about. If you can do that then if somebody's dangling off the side of a building, it really does upset you.

12. Comics convey the deepest hopes of the generation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

8 Lessons from "Waking Sleeping Beauty"

From left to right: Peter Schneider, Roy E. Disney and Jeffrey Katzenberg

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" is a documentary directed by Disney producer Don Hahn and co-produced with Disney executive Peter Schneider. It focuses primarily the period from the release of "The Fox and the Hound" in 1980 through the release of "The Lion King" in 1994. Disney's animation fortunes began a turnaround starting in 1984 and reached its peak 10 years later.

What makes this documentary so compelling is that most of the major players—Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney, Tom Schumacher and Peter Schneider—were interviewed. The one exception is Frank Wells who died in 1994.

Here are some lessons I gleaned from the film:

1. Don Hahn says early in the film that as a kid, he would make a pilgrimage every four years to the theater to see the latest Disney animated masterpiece. I used to do the same. But once these movies started coming out every year in the theaters and several times per year via video, the animated feature film stopped being special. No longer was there a build up of anticipation and excitement for the next Disney feature; it was it had become commonplace.

2. Bringing outsiders into a company can be a good thing. Roy E. Disney brought in Frank Wells to be President and Chief Operating Officer and Michael Eisner to be Chairman and CEO in an attempt to fend off takeovers and the dismantling of the company. Neither man had animation experience but they had been successful executives in their previous positions. Disney wanted to infuse new life and ideas into the company.

Disney later hired Peter Schneider to be the president of the feature film division. He, too, did not have an animation background; he was from the theater. But he knew he couldn't do worse than "The Black Cauldron" and he said, "You can't fall off the first floor." Schneider dissected the entire animation process and questioned everything, knowing he had 100 days to change the culture before it changed him.

3. Bringing outsiders into a company can be a bad thing. Both Katzenberg and Eisner struggled to understand the animation process, like storyboard pitches, since they were accustomed to dealing with scripts. Katzenberg also revealed a lack of understanding of the animation staff when he said he didn't care about the Academy Awards, just the Bank of America awards. It's probably not a good idea to tell a room full of artists-storytellers that the only concern of management is making money.

4. If there's an office, there's politics. When Schneider arrived at the studio, "Oliver & Company" was in production with two directors. Schneider admits that he fired the director who was belligerent towards him and kept the one who sucked up to him. I was struck by Schneider's admission of preference; we're constantly told about the American "meritocracy" in the workplace and how to be worthy of it. So much for that idea!

5. "Nobody knows nothing!" That's a quote from Schneider in reference to Katzenberg thinking "Pocahontas" was going to be a huge hit while having no faith in "The Lion King." There you have it.

6. Ego destroys. There was a continuous power play among Eisner, Katzenberg and Disney regarding credit. I know how important this issue is: I worked as a production assistant for an animator who was obsessed with getting credit because it was denied him by a previous employer. So what did this particular guy do to me and the other production assistant? Had our names removed from a project so he could get credit for…a rabbit voice. Seriously. It wasn't sufficient that he was credited as the production company, producer and maybe even the director. No, he needed credit for making a weird squawking voice over the need to give his staff credit. I learned a lot about how not to treat people from that dude.

But back to Eisner, Katzenberg and Disney—Katzenberg was the media's front man during this peak period and of course, they gave him all of the credit which especially irritated Disney. Wells was the humble one—he kept a piece of paper in his wallet that said "humility is the ultimate virtue"—who balanced the increasingly hostile egos of Eisner, Katzenberg and Disney. Once he died, the balance was completely lost and was never to be regained.

7. Never lobby for a recently deceased guy's job. Katzenberg alleged lobbied hard for Wells job after his untimely death in a helicopter crash. Eisner told Katzenberg that he had originally considered him for the job but had changed his mind. Katzenberg felt he no longer had a future at the company and resigned soon after "The Lion King's" opening. Eisner says in the film that Katzenberg "was a very good executive who just played it wrong. If he'd been happy to stay at the studio, stay at his job, not push everyone against a wall at a moment when someone died, he would've gotten the job if he'd just have the patience to wait." In other words, don't be a pest.

8. What matters most is the work. As Don Hahn says at the end, no one will remember who did what to whom (well, I don't know about that. I still remember who did what to me!) but they will remember the films.

I, for one, hope to have my work remembered fondly like that.

Friday, March 4, 2011

13 Filmmaking Insights from "A Decade Under the Influence"—Part 3

Ellen Burstyn in "A Decade Under the Influence"

1. Jean Renoir—A picture often when it is good, is the result of some inner belief which is so strong that you have to show what you want in spite of a stupid story or difficulty about the commercial side…a picture is a state of mind.

2. William Friedkin—The single defining phrase motivating filmmakers at that time, it was probably moral ambiguity.

3. Robert Towne re: "Shampoo"—Even though the characters were flawed or especially because they were flawed, audiences could identify with them. In the first place, theirs were flaws that either arose from or were victimized by what they perceived to be a very flawed system.

4. Milos Forman re: Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"—The real dangerous evil is always trying to look like an angel. Everything is done in the name of helping you.

5. Robert Towne re: "Jaws"—We've never really gotten around "Jaws." Trouble is a very talented filmmaker [Steven Spielberg] made a very good movie and I won't say that the wrong lessons were learned, the lessons were followed to a fault.

6. Sydney Pollack—So marketing became king; something happened which is that the aggressive lead in this area became the marketing division of the company.

7. Francis Ford Coppola—And the best way they could come up with no risk was to make a movie in exactly the mold of the last one that had been successful with exactly the same stars.

No risk. There can't be art without risk. It's like saying there's no sex and expect there to be children.

The "m" that had always stood for "movies" now stood for "money."

8. Paul Schrader—Audiences were slowly educated to believe that good movies make money on opening weekend and bad movies don't.

9. Pollack—MTV started to happen and there was an impatience for linear narrative. You wanted to jump everything and get to the high points and make everything a collection of high points. Why sit through the valleys? Let's just do peaks!

10. Ellen Burstyn—Audiences enjoy movies. And if they can't get high-quality, they'll enjoy whatever they can get.

11. Robert Altman—They're [movie studios] in the hands of these guys who run these corporations and they don't care if it's a movie or a ski.

12. Burstyn—Thank God for the independent film movement because that's re-enlivening the art of cinema…There's an artist at work there. To me that's what cinema should be, it should be one of the ways the artist expresses to the culture what's going on with everybody.

There has to be the personal statement otherwise the culture's going unrepresented on a deep level.

13. Friedkin—That's the thrill of filmmaking to me, the thrill of failure, potential failure. "This may not work."

" Yeah, but if it does work, it's gonna be terrific."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lost the Desire to Work on Your Project? 5 Steps for Reigniting Your Creative Fire

I date all of my drawings and files. The last day I worked on my animatic was Feb. 22; before that, Feb. 2. That's a TWENTY DAY gap of work on what is supposed to be my life's passion.

What happened?

The fire of creative desire burned out.


The usual: self-doubt, self-criticism, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc.

But I reignited the fire. And if you find yourself in the same situation, here's what you can do to reignite yours:

1. Truthfully recognize how you're feeling
Your loss of interest in your project will probably manifest as a desire to do everything except work on your project. You'll find yourself cleaning, walking around your home pointlessly, reading, watching t.v. (this is a BIG one!) cooking, eating…like I said, EVERYTHING except drawing, animating or writing. You're not being lazy. You're not even really procrastinating. You're acting out a psychological block that's preventing you from putting your butt in your seat and cranking out your creations. So the first step is to recognize that your interest has waned. The second step is to NOT beat yourself up over it.

2. Go with how you're feeling…briefly
Initially, don't fight the feeling. It'll just make you feel worse about yourself, like you're neglecting your project. Instead, allow yourself to focus on—and even enjoy—the non-project activities you find yourself wanting to do. Your mind will appreciate the change and it could ultimately help your project. You'll be pleasantly surprised how you'll get new story and character ideas or will solve old storytelling problems when you're not as focused on it.

3. Immerse yourself in inspiration
Inundate yourself with those things that inspired you in the first place. For example, during the course of a four-day weekend, I watched three movies. Two in particular—"Social Network" and "Toy Story 3"—were exceptional. The third, "The American," was not as good but it had such beautiful scenery (Italy!) that I'm keeping the DVD to paint from it. Watching (good) movies reminds me why I love films so much, especially creating films and stories. 

Go to a museum…or look at museum collections online. Open up an art book and flip through it. Expose yourself to as much inspirational beauty you can find.

4. Meditate on your goal
Turn off the t.v.,  the music, the video games. Sit quietly with a pen and paper and meditate on your goal. Ask yourself, "Why am I doing this project? What about it appeals to me? Why do I think it's important to share this particular story with the world? And when can I realistically complete it?" Write down the answers to these questions so you can refer to them if you lose the fire again. Once you answer these questions, you'll find yourself reinvigorated. You'll be reminded of the reason for the passion you lost and it will return with a rush, smacking you in the head and pushing you back to work!

Once you've gone through all of these steps, you'll be ready to get back to work! Put aside all of the earlier distractions recognizing that working on your project is what you were meant to do. Pull out all of the tools and resources you need to get back to work. For example, I had to watch my animatic again to refamiliarize myself with what I'd done, it had been so long! It was fun to see what I had accomplished and what I'm intending to do in the future. 

Hopefully you'll have happen to you what happened to me: you'll fall in love all over again with your project…and it will feel GREAT!