The Art of Marc Davis

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Marc Davis seen here doing drawings for Disneyland’s legendary theme park attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean.

“Animation had been done before, but stories were never told.” — Marc Davis

There are pioneers and then there are pioneers like Marc Davis. Not only was he one of the legendary ‘Nine Old Men’ from Walt Disney’s group of founding fathers, he was responsible for earmarking multiple aspects of the studio’s artistry, from character design and animation, to theme park imagineer responsible for the creation of some of Disneyland’s most beloved theme park attractions.

Davis-Maleficent

The stunning power, design and elegance of one of Disney’s greatest villains designed and animated by Marc Davis. From Walt Disney’s 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty.

When I first began my career in animation, Marc Davis instantly became one of my favorites, especially when it came to his drawings. I was always intrigued by the amount of care and poignancy that existed in any work done by him. His artistry was elegant, thoughtful and just so darn beautiful. Davis often proclaimed openly that his friend and legendary animator Milt Kahl was the greatest of all the animators:

“If it wasn’t for Milt, the rest of us would look pretty good.” — Marc Davis

But according to Disney veteran animator Andreas Deja, Kahl was equally impressed by his colleague:

Milt often raved about Marc’s incredible draughtsmanship and his artistry in general.”

Bambi&Thumper

Talk about charm! The most adorable Marc Davis sketches could warm the most steely of hearts. His drawings of Thumper and Bambi showcase the essence of the characters and speak to us even without sound or movement. It was sketches like this that convinced Walt Disney himself to remark, “we have to make him an animator.” He was promptly trained by Frank Thomas and Milt Kahl.

I revered Marc Davis’ artistry so much, that I went to see him in San Francisco’s East Bay, where he was giving a presentation. This was early in my career, and accompanied by my colleague Dice Tsutsumi (co-founder of Tonko House), we drove out to meet this ‘Nine Old Men’ member for the first time. Hearing him speak and seeing the ease with which he drew was both inspiring and frightening. We often found ourselves looking at each other with our jaws dropped in absolute awe.

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Rough animation drawing by Supervising Animator Marc Davis of Maleficent, the evil sorceress from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

4 Artists Paint 1 Tree

During his lecture, Davis presented a little seen short film, “4 Artists Paint 1 Tree.” Featuring artists Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Joshua Meador, Walt Peregoy, it was an intriguing  glimpse of the how truly diverse and devoted animation artists are, and not just during studio hours. To see the film, go here.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be his last public showing, as he would pass away from illness, just a few short months later. As sad as that made me, I will never forget his presence. He embodied everything I hoped I could be as an artist; skilled, diverse, passionate, and completely devoted, but he also emanated something more — a presence of sincerity, kindness and gratitude — qualities that made him as remarkable as his work.

Tinkerbell

Another memorable and charming character created at the hands of Marc Davis. The list of characters he was responsible for both designing AND animating include: Aurora, Maleficent, Cinderella, Thumper, Tinkerbell, Cruella De Vil, and Alice (from Alice in Wonderland.)

During his presentation, he spoke openly about his view of the industry, and even more openly about his respect and love for his old boss, Walt Disney — a father-figure for whom he stayed loyal to for over four decades. I truly wonder if working artists today could ever have that kind of reverence for employers anymore mostly because bosses like Walt, who loved art and his artists as much as he did, are in short supply.

“Everybody here was studying constantly. We had models at the Studio and we’d go over and draw every night. We weren’t making much, because the Studio didn’t have much, but it was a perfect time of many things coming together into one orbit. Walt was the lodestone.” — Marc Davis

Davis described his experience working at the original Disney Studio as a place of true discovery and exploration — a place that cared for the craft and the artists who made it happen. It’s no wonder that the studio contains such a large archive of beautiful work from it’s past — work that will continue to stand the test of time. How many of today’s films do you think you’ll remember even 10 or 20 years from now?

CountryBearJamboree

Country Bear Jamboree, a development Walt Disney himself never got to see come to fruition in his life time. Walt would pass away just three weeks later after being shown Davis’ designs for the Disneyland attraction.

“He laughed and chuckled … as long as you got something to show him — he was happy.” — Marc Davis on Walt Disney, several weeks before Walt’s passing.*

I think that the care that Walt Disney gave to his artists, flowed into his artists’ devotion to him and the craft at his studio. Marc Davis was a perfect example of that.

Perhaps one of the most realistic and difficult characters to draw or animate in Disney’s immense archive of animated characters, Aurora must’ve been a tremendous challenge to any animator. In the hands of Marc Davis, she’s animated with technical perfection, exhibiting only her innocence, grace and beauty – the essences of her character.

In 1947, Davis was asked by Disney great Don Graham to take over teaching his drawing class at Chouinard Art Institute. His teachings, and the drawings on the chalk boards, were unique and beautiful. According to Alice Estes,* a student of Davis’:

“He never repeated a single lecture… which was truly amazing! … He drew rapidly on a blackboard and nobody dared erase his sketches.”

Cruella

Concept sketches for Cruella De Vil, a character Marc Davis animated almost single-handed. The devotion to art, whether animation or painting, made Davis a modern day renaissance man.

When Walt Disney began to devote more of his time to the theme parks, he took Marc Davis with him. It was a gain for Disney in one hand but a loss in the other.

Pirates_Dogkey

Concept sketch of one of the most memorable set ups in Disneyland’s infamous Pirates of the Caribbean by Marc Davis.

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Another delightful series of sketches by Davis for another one Walt Disney’s theme park attractions, the musical Tiki Room.

HauntedHouse

Marc Davis was brought over by Walt to help design numerous attractions throughout Disneyland – including the famous Haunted House which was a favorite of mine when I was a kid.

Davis spent 43 years with the Walt Disney Company. A remarkable achievement anyway you look at it. And to the end of his days, he continued to create.

“You can never draw too well … I still draw everyday” — Marc Davis, 1980 in a letter to a fan.*

To date, I’m still inspired by his work and his words. And I do my best to abide by them.  To conclude this tribute to Marc Davis, here’s a sequence of some of my favorites shots done by his magical hands:

Cruella De Vil, one of Disney’s best villains ever, animated with flair and bite by Marc Davis. Mixed in with controlled animation of Roger, Anita and Pongo by friend and colleague Milt Kahl, this sequence makes for beautiful animated magic that has contrast and personality. From Disney’s 1961 classic film, 101 Dalmations based on the children’s novel by Dodie Smith.

*Both quotes are from John Canemaker’s excellent book, Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Check it out here.

The Transcience of Joy and the Joy of Creation

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Two of the greatest animators of all time, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, peruse through their infamous animation book, The Illusion of Life. Few people ever seemed to enjoy their daily jobs and their careers as much as Frank and Ollie did.

“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If the philosophers are right, happiness is a state of mind. You can’t plan for it and you can’t fully bring it back, even in positive memory. It has to be savored during its occurrence, during its moment in the sun. And there’s few joys as momentous and enjoyable as the act of creating something. Getting lost in the making of art is bliss.

The character team of Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas and John Lounsbery created real magic with King Louie, the self-proclaimed king of the jungle. Great art like this only happens when its creators are lost in the magic. From Walt Disney’s Jungle Book.

It’s far too easy to be pulled into the lure of fame or fortune, into that dreaded desire of feeling to be needed and respected – what philosopher Alan Watts calls “unsubstantial promises.” It’s dangerous to be caught up in a world of external rewards.

“The real secret to life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” — Alan Watts

One must move beyond the external circumstances that are beyond one’s control. Happiness, ultimately has to come from within and from the process of doing the work. Nothing’s as secure as that. Nothing’s as comforting.

Marcel Proust, writer of one of the most revered books of our time, In Search for Lost Time, discovered that art may be the single greatest thing that gives meaning to our lives. (Video courtesy of The school of Life)

I remember reading somewhere that the biggest separator from the immensely successful versus the not so successful, is the consistency of putting in the work and time to those parts of the craft or job that are typically the most “boring” — the stuff that nobody wants to do. This is so completely true, both in animation and nearly every other vocation.

It’s what’s often referred to as ‘the grind‘ — that which you have to do, not which you want to do. There aren’t many animators who look forward to spending days and nights re-doing work, cleaning curves, or fixing penetrations. Neither are there many chefs that enjoy meticulously prepping 50lbs of vegetables or athletes that dig riding miles on the stationary bike after the game.  But it’s this part of the process — this seemingly endless labor that’s often viewed as both joyless and unproductive — that make a professional a professional. Pros do what needs to be done. It’s the kind of consistency of action that builds knowledge AND fortitude. It’s the  ability to bear thru the uncomfortable that sets the top people apart from the rest.

BruceLee_FlagSitup

Bruce Lee doing his famous ‘dragon flag’ sit ups. Lee was only 5′ 8″ and 140 lbs, but hit like a 200lb heavyweight and throw punches as fast as 2/100th’s of a second (standard film shot at 24fps failed to capture his movement). He trained harder and more consistently than any martial artist in his time, throwing an average of 4000 punches and 1000 kicks each and every day. Not bad for a guy considered too small, too skinny and the wrong color.

Because this really hard and boring stuff, this thing that seems to bear no immediate fruit, and is so tedious and not so sexy, is what makes the work good, and in turn, makes you good. Making art is never boring because it’s never easy. Work that’s easy and without challenge isn’t worth doing. 

It’s true – it IS the hard that makes it great. Tom Hanks and Geena Davis star in A League of Their Own, Penny Marshall’s 1992 film about life in America’s first All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

And sometimes in order to have happiness, one must have unhappiness. People get the wrong idea that the “answer” is constant bliss or, at least, constant positivity. But that’s not sustainable nor ideal. Struggle is required for growth, as much as perseverance, as much as getting sufficient rest.

Diego Rivera Mural

I’ve always been blown away by the vast amount of work it takes to produce murals and the power that one feels looking at them. This huge mural, by Diego Rivera, depicts the history of his home country and sits at the Palacio Nacional de Mexico. Making significant art requires significant work.

This explains why so many of the most naturally talented individuals at the start, whether from the arts, music or sports, tend to create nothing and become much less than they could’ve. Most talent is unfortunately wasted. Giving up is always easiest thing to do. If you’re too used to early approval and easy success, subsequent set backs become too unbearable. The real challenge is always from within oneself. And, in the words of martial arts legend and Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba, we need to be reminded of that:

“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.”

External failure forces one to reflect, inspect, inquire and ultimately, start over again. Settling into continued comfort is a dangerous thing. This is the most difficult challenge for the artist. It’s not the external stuff, not even your self-perceived notion that you might not have enough talent. I’ve seen professionals with both limited natural ability and education reach great heights. They made it by overcoming their fears and doubts, and just kept soldiering on. We have to keep challenging ourselves, and as artists, we must keep creating.

SteveBuscemi

Steve Buscemi plays Norther Winslow, a poet who lost both his drive and ability to write because life was just too darn comfortable in the town of Spectre. From Tim Burton’s 2003 magical fairy tale, Big Fish.

Of course, having balance is best. It’s required in our art and in our lives. Formulating a great mixture of trying new things — testing different styles, visiting  strange places, and meeting new people — with the well-earned joys of leisure, full play and rest, is what makes an artist’s life spectacular. It’s why the creative and productive artist is disciplined, so as to ensure that balance exits. Although, it’s much easier to say than do, professionals don’t get too high with success or too low with failure. They just show up, and show up regularly.

“Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” — Woody Allen

In other words, it’s okay not to enjoy the process all the time because you are, after all, human — our strengths and flaws make us who we are and allow us to grow. Sometimes those challenges (and how we respond to them) define us. Artists, like Chuck Close for instance, keep working no matter what.

chuck-close-painting

American artist Chuck Close seen here painting in his wheelchair with paint brush taped to his hands. Despite becoming a quadriplegic as a result of sudden catastrophic spinal artery collapse in 1988, Close fought back to regain partial usage of his limbs and continues to be one of the most productive and successful artists living today. 

So what keeps you creating? What stops you? Whatever you choose to do with your time, know that it all matters. You are the aggregate of all your choices. Personally, I don’t know what boring is because I always have the option to create something. And knowing that, makes me happy.

“I need the enchantment of creative work to help me forget life’s mean pettinesses” — Søren Kierkegaard

The Overuse of Photography (and video)

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The poignant and elegant artistry of Jillian Tamaki does justice to life’s realities without looking exactly like it. From her lovely multi-award winning book, Just One Summer. To see more of the artist’s work, go here.

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.” — Susan Sontag

It’s common for the modern day artists to use photography (or moving photography such as video) to capture reference for use in their own non-photographic art. But photography is an incredibly powerful medium, a beautiful art in it’s own right, with the ability to record, ignite and reinterpret the world around us in a way that we’re often unaware of.

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Susan Sontag’s profound and insightful book On Photography (published in 1977) remains an outstanding discussion on the power and influence of the photographic image that feels particularly profound and prescient today.

Take the words of Maria Popova (author of the insightful and extraordinary blog Brain Pickings) on her reflection of Susan Sontag’s excellent book On Photography:

“Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera … this aggression precipitates a kind of social media violence of self-assertion — a forcible framing of our identity for presentation, for idealization, for currency in an economy of envy.” — Maria Popova

Maria Popova’s blog post goes into wonderful analysis and explanation of the concepts and implications of the camera discussed in Sontag’s book that doesn’t need to be repeated here. But what we, as artists, must be aware of is that this overwhelming phenomena — the domination of photographic images which has heavily affected how we live and how we see ourselves and each other in society — has also altered who we are at the core as painters, animators and filmmakers, and in turn how we’re interpreting or reinterpreting nature in our own separate creations.

benedict-cumberbatch-motion-capture

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch in a motion-capture suit during his performance for Smaug in the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series. Is this the future of animation? Will animators become merely technicians to clean up actors’ performances rather than create them? Although this is now common-place in game and VFX applications, I have personally seen motion-capture data successfully applied to cartoon designs.

There are some artists out there that really stand by the total devotion and usage of photography and video to copy or create their art. Others are less excited about giving up their visual artistry to the whims of the camera, and prefer, almost 100% of the time, to take their inspiration from the source directly — i.e. from nature and from their own minds. There are others still, like myself, who believe that photographic reference has its usefulness, when used for the appropriate material, to aid in the research needed for full out exploration, and ultimately, inspiration. At the very least it gets the animator off and out of his seat and into feeling the action. What it shouldn’t be is something that acts solely as ‘THE’ source to be thoughtlessly duplicated. My own biased opinion is that such approach is not only unauthentic, but lazy and ultimately, pointless.

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Live reference photostats for Walt Disney’s 1961 animated classic, 101 Dalmations. Disney animators always had the reference they needed for their characters. Here, you can see how legendary animator Marc Davis reinterprets the action depicted by live actors, Mary Wickes and Betty Lou Gerson.

Why not duplicate if you can achieve acceptable or even moderately successful results? Firstly, because of the concept of dilution — much like photocopying a photocopy — it degrades the image and thus degrades the experience, and thereby culminating into an inferior result. Secondly, it aids in shutting off our creative instincts, to expound, distort and reinterpret data in a new and more creative fashion. There is much more to art than what is merely and objectively seen and dutifully duplicated.

GulliversTravels

The rather dated effects of rotoscope, as seen here in Fleischer studios 1939 animated show, Gulliver’s Travels. Although the technology is much improved now, both rotoscope and pure motion-capture has its limitations — namely the lack of graphic artistry and interest. Even the best motion-captured data needs to be heavily tweaked and polished by hand, in order for it to look half respectable.

Furthermore, there’s distortion of the experience by any optical device — what you captured isn’t reality — because all fully realized experience is beyond mere sight and sound. You can easily test this yourself. For example, take the activity of looking at the changing of colors of leaves on a cool autumn day – the tremendous beauty of the sunlight piercing thru the half-worn leaves, into near translucent wonder, flickering in the wind, complemented by its siblings still dancing in the air. I did this just this past fall — seeing how amazing it looked and felt — I took out the smartphone and tried, mightily I add, to capture the experience. I couldn’t. In fact, I failed miserably despite numerous attempts, changing camera settings and angles of view.

AnselAdams_Dunes

The majestic photography of Ansel Adams is known to capture nature’s magnanimous beauty, but it’s still a creative choice, one carefully selected and uniquely interpreted by the artist.

It’s common for captured images to feel dull, diluted, flat, and practically lifeless in comparison to real live experience. It’s not surprising that photography itself is an art and craft, one requiring great skill and experience to master, in order to capture just a sliver of that beauty in celluloid or digital form. But even in the hands of a master photographer, the photograph will never be more than an interpretation, for reality could never be captured — its experience, unique to a specific time and place,  has passed. Beyond the limited field of vision, life and nature can rarely come close to being duplicated in art, either on film or in paint.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” — Andrew Wyeth

In order for artists to get as close as possible to the source in their work, we must keep this dilution of the direct experience to a minimum. So, for painters and animators alike, copying too closely from photographed sources is much like making a poor copy of a poor copy. The age old advice of ‘drawing from life’ is not just an issue of artistic snobbery.

LucianFreud

Lucian Freud’s paintings carry an intensity and authenticity that is completely unique to both his experience and his interpretation of his models. He was also known to come physically and uncomfortably close, sometimes within inches, to his subjects, peering intensely to gauge what was in front of him, as he pondered how to best capture what he saw and felt.

As to our second point, we must also remember that art was always meant to be an interpretation of life, ideas, and visions. To merely copy exactly the colors, light  or movement as objectively and coldly as possible is NOT art, and it’s not surprising that those who try to approach art this way, produce not things of beauty but stale, lifeless widgets of hurried, impersonal and thoughtless reproduction. Art is a very personal thing, an introspective interpretation of our universe, shared with the rest of the world. There is no such thing as objectivity in art.

My old friend and colleague Graham Annable (Oscar-nominated co-director of Box Trolls) made a huge name for himself with his outstandingly funny animated comic strip, Grickle. Graham’s work stretches the limits of space and time to play on the psyche of his characters and his audience.  He is, in my opinion, one of the funniest guys on the internet. To witness more of Graham’s genius, visit here.

So, in summary, use caution when using photographic reference, and try to keep in mind that it’s just that, reference. Copying is great for learning, but to blindly copy, is not creation, and thus, not art.

“Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.” — Paul Cezanne

R & R

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Elias Koteas plays Monsieur Gateau, the blind clockmaker who created a backwards-ticking clock to commemorate the loss of his son during the war. From David Fincher’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

During this most recent holiday season,  I took a turn towards a purposeful and disciplined reprieve from work — teaching, painting, drawing, animating, and even the writing of this blog were all put on hiatus. (My apologies to readers expecting a post last week!) It wasn’t easy. At the start of this new year, I acted upon a ‘never done before’ fasting experiment — a 36 hour period of time where I refrained myself from any sort of consumption, including food, drink (except a bit of lemon water for the electrolytes) or any sort of exposure to digital media such as TV, radio, computers or smartphones. I also took a vow of silence for the entire period — I didn’t speak a single word to anyone.

Despite the short duration of the fast, the experience, to say the least, was enlightening. The day, which always seems too short, seemed long. The mind and body had all the time and space in the world with ample opportunity to reflect and respond to each thought or sensation. Each event took its sweet time and, during the last minutes of the fasting period as hunger beckoned and energy levels began to wilt, the minute hand of the clock appeared to move like molasses. The entire day felt meditative, slow, experiential and whole — a rich visceral journey all on its own.

“A particularly significant example of brain against body, or measures against matter, is urban man’s total slavery to clocks. A clock is a convenient device for arranging to meet a friend, or for helping people to do things together, although things of this kind happened long before they were invented.” — Alan Watts

Moved by this outcome, I thought more deeply about what Einstein stated — mainly that the sensation of time is relative, a phenomenon often referred to as time dilation.

Interstellar

Anne Hathaway hurries her mission in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, a film whose take on time dilation, black holes and space travel, were all topics subject to scrutiny due its efforts to examine bigger issues — issues yet to be resolved by our current knowledge of the universe.

In the theory of relativity, time dilation is a difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers either moving relative to each other or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses. This special relativity shows that time slows down for anything moving, including people. In other words, two seemingly identical events, would give altered results or experience due to one’s relative positioning.

Herein lies the implication (and dangers) about our way of life; that perhaps our frantic experience of life is entirely due to our frantic choices and interpretation of our world. We don’t know what slowing down is, because we’re too busy to notice and hence experience — i.e. we’re unable to gauge what the real speed of our lives truly is because everything’s going so fast almost all of the time. So we keep stepping on the gas, asking more and more of ourselves each day, without rest, without reprieve. We chalk it up to being productive, growing up, being responsible, displaying mettle — all at the sacrifice of other things that are just as important to ourselves, such as rest, play, love, friendship, and of course, personal health. It’s not surprising that burn out, as well as mental and physical disease, are now common place even among wealthy, materially-advantaged societies where sustenance, time and peace should be in surplus. The human body, despite being in it’s most updated form, isn’t designed to operate at such speeds for such prolonged periods of time. We are not machines.

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.” — Lao Tzu

The temptation of glory and achievement is a lure most artists are too ashamed to admit to, but it’s there. I witnessed it throughout my career, and even within me. Only by stepping away from the vacuum of our expectant and constantly busy, ever-to-be-producing, high-tech universe, can one gain a clearer and healthier perspective. My fasting experience was just another stark awakening of that reality. If, like me, you were born in an era and locale where radio and television (and for some of you, the internet) was already in place, it’s unlikely that you know what it means to be devoid of this bombardment of technology and it’s dirtier derivatives — advertising and propaganda — that has altered our very perception of time and reality itself.

Einstein

Einstein was more than just a genius of science, but a deep and moral thinker. His theories reach far beyond E = mc 2.

Looking back into history, it’s not hard to realize that the fasting experience I had was likely common place. Any journey from one town to another likely took days if not weeks. People lived far away from one another. Food was carefully rationed and human contact would often be absent (or dangerous). The hunger for sustenance and connection must’ve been a regular experience in such time of minimal technological advances — which is to say during most of man’s 10,000* plus years of existence. We had to be self-sustaining, self-aware and mindful of our immediate environment just to survive.

lawrenceofarabia

Image from David Lean’s epic masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia. In ancient times and remote lands, if human contact was friendly, it was to be cherished.

As profound as this information was when it came to light, what’s interesting from an artistic point of view is that during the entire fasting period, in almost no time at all, the urge to create and the surge of ideas and visions that you strive so hard to get during “regular” time, becomes easy and bountiful. I broke my rule of not working slightly by writing some of those thoughts down on some tiny post-it notes. It’s true, that like in relationships, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Absence creates a void, and even creative voids find ways to fill themselves. Absence from our hectic world, helps us live and perform better in it. Leaving things alone, including leaving ourselves alone, is sometimes the best solution to life’s problems.

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” — Henry David Thoreau

I attended a discussion on marine ecology once, and it was shown how in one particular part of the ocean, where the coral reef was dead, it took as little as 3 years for the coral to come back fully healthy once the region was locked off and completely restricted from any human traffic and interference. It was previously estimated that it would take at least 15-20 years for any such recovery to occur.

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Warming of the ocean temperatures leads to bleaching of the coral reefs and the death of many species.

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A healthy coral reef is beaming with color, beauty and life. Sometimes it’s best just to leave things alone, for nature has a way of maintaining and healing itself.

Unfortunately, in today’s corporate-industrial age, rest and relaxation are probably the least appreciated and acted upon concepts. There may be ample play (for a price), but not absence from activity. People, both single and attached, run around from event to event, errand to errand, obligation after obligation, chasing the clock. There’s hardly a moment to breathe, hardly a moment for rest or recovery of the mind, body or spirit. There’s certainly little time for reflection.

As artists, this status quo is unacceptable. Our work is dependent on a mind, body and soul that is fresh, open and responsive to the world around us. How could we ever describe our impressions of it if our minds are locked into a loop of deadened, repetitive and worn-out thinking? Formula movies anyone? Or that same old burger marketed with trendy “ethnic” hot sauce? A sick and exhausted system is incapable of new interpretation or insight. The health of an artist is a necessity. R & R isn’t just a fancy acronym for temporary remission from the “grind” but a requirement for creative output.

“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” — Benjamin Franklin

For many people, audio-visual indulgence, such as gaming, television, or film, is their form of R & R, so it may seem ironic, given that artists in this field work largely in entertainment, that this form of interruption isn’t the hiatus that it could be. As visual artists, we have to go elsewhere.

WoodyAllenJazz

Prolific director/screenwriter/actor, Woody Allen, is an equally accomplished musician. This physical and ever-present medium of activity allows him to become the filmmaker he is, by taking him as far away from his visual craft as possible, while at the same time fulfilling his need for physical expression and his love of jazz.

In conclusion, let me add that this subject felt important to discuss precisely because I’m also a victim of the system — I stand guilty of being a card-carrying member of this dominant mindset of constant “busyness” for far too long. As artists, the pertinent point to remember is that because the creative process can’t be forced (despite the discipline required to attain greater heights of expression and understanding), the artist must make a habit of rest. We must set aside time and space for ourselves, as human beings. The world, your art, your mind and body, and everyone you’re in contact with, will thank you for it. Healthy, sustainable efficiency comes from balance and effectiveness, not endless preoccupation with profit, production, and activity.

“A cheerful frame of mind, reinforced by relaxation… is the medicine that puts all ghosts of fear on the run.” — George Matthew Adams
* Modern human existence dates back approximately 12,000 years as marked by the advent of agriculture. Humanoids have been around statistically for over 1,000,000 years.