Doing Something New

 

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Gertie the Dinosaur. It’s been over 100 years since Winsor McKay first showed the world his animations. Not only did he create the first animated films, he was able to express movement, life and personality in his creation.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney

We live in a time in art and entertainment, where rehashing the same old stuff over and over again has become the norm. Sequels and reboots of franchises either long forgotten or just recently finished, make their way like fast food stuff from a conveyor belt. The attempts to makeover the same concepts, characters, and worlds with a “twist” tire quickly, and succeed only due its seemingly effective flash and dash afforded by the current advance in digital technology and its exposure to new markets — the young, the foreign and the forgetful.

“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” — Jean Piaget, Psychologist

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Friend and ultra-talented artist, Vincent Nyugen is a gifted concept artist at Blue Sky Studios. His independent work as a writer, children’s book illustrator and here, as mural artist is fun, beautiful and fresh. To see more of Vincent’s work, go here.

Taking chances is not at the heart of modern day business. The very nature of capital ventures is to maximize profits and reduce risks. In art, our concerns are worldly and personal, taking risks is mandatory. In order to find any kind of meaning in our efforts, both physical and emotional, artists need to dig inside, and explore far into the unknown. We need to express our uniqueness and retain that uniqueness in spite of the current environment.

The marvelous Gene Kelly helped bring music and dance to the height of its craft in the all-time classic musical Singin’ In The Rain.

Throughout history, artists have found ways to do new things — hence the word create, rather than say, copy or re-do. That’s what excites us. The challenge then is how do we keep that creative, exploratory spirit in this gentrified and increasingly hurried world that we live in today?

“I wanted to do new things with dance, adapt it to the motion picture medium.” — Gene Kelly

I believe in the youth of our times. I believe that the advent of technology can be used for bettering ourselves, freeing ourselves and bettering our world. There are people NOW that are using their skills and passion to better communication and preserve our environment.

Moom” is the new film from Tonko House founders, Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo. These two former Pixar artists are out there taking the world by storm, tackling worldly issues in refreshingly bold, beautiful and innovative ways. To see more from Tonko House, go here.

But of course, we as human beings will have our battles in our transition from a still-current mindset of scarcity and selfishness. Our species needs to continue evolving, rather than going backwards in time or practice. We need to move past our fears. As creatives, our job is to tell the world about the new ways of living and being by using our literal, visual and musical skills. This has been the responsibility of the artist for ages, since the dawn of man.

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A profound moment from Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s inevitable that when we make discoveries, we move forward.

Directors, painters, writers and performers that have excelled the most have always studied the past and then took society to somewhere new. The great Masaki Kobayashi, for example, was a classically-trained filmmaker who was always trying to find fresh, inventive ways to discuss deep, historical human problems.

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Harakiri. Starring the masterful Tatsuya Nakadai, a rogue samurai comes to tell a tale of woe and renounce the cruelty of the samurai code. Directed by Masaki Kobayashi.

In a scene from his powerful 1962 film about Japanese ritual suicide, Harakiri, a character hopes to attain employment by gaining respect and sympathy by asking a Lord if he could use his courtyard to commit ritual suicide (so as to die with honor rather than face poverty). Unfortunately, his intentions are exposed and, under the circumstance, is forced to kill himself with a bamboo blade. The director then had to find a way of how someone could actually do that:

“I drank sake and was thinking about it all night. At dawn it came to me suddenly that it was impossible for him to stab himself with a bamboo sword. There was only one way to kill himself namely, if the sword were stuck into the tatami mat, and the man threw himself over it.” — Masaki Kobayashi

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A sensational mixed-media piece by NY illustrator and feature film concept artist Robert McKenzie. Robert’s work is dark yet warm, powerful yet articulate. Working with him was a treat, as his heart is as big as his talent. To see more of his lovely work, go here.

After days or even years of struggle artists tend to find solutions that appear to others like flashes of brilliance, as if the whole thing were revealed like an epiphany. No one ever knows the search and internal battles that we, and we alone, must face to solve our problems. At the same time being forced to face something new activates the best of what we have to offer us as artists.

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In director Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or :  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” the marvelous Peter Sellers plays three separate personalities (he was scheduled to play all four leads until he broke his leg and couldn’t get into the airplane cockpit to suit up as the bomber pilot).  Each character represented a unique perspective of events that were to unfold leading up to global nuclear annihilation. Created during a time of great anxiety between America and the former USSR,  Stanley Kubrick’s bold dark-humored masterpiece may be the most daring, farcical and important film he ever made.

Artists are always the most responsible for finding new ways of seeing things, new ways of telling truths and even new ways of having fun with what we’ve got. It needn’t always be so serious. Take the work of a former colleague of mine, Scott Campbell, whose mind and talent is “off the charts” unique and fantastical. Scott remakes the world in his ideal — playful, strange, and deceptively simple.

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Scott Campbell’s magic can bring a smile to anyone’s face. This image, from his awesome book, “The Great Showdowns” is an illustrated gem of the great confrontations from films in the 20th century. If you want to be successful, be true to yourself, like Scott and you’ll be respected (even revered) in your own way. To see more of his genius, go here.

So, to all you young and exciting artists/filmmakers out there, ask yourself what you can bring that might possibly push the boundaries of your craft, of our humanity? What does it mean to be successful? We live in a time, for the first time in our existence, where we believe anything is possible. I like to think that when the challenges of our work get hard, we need to take this question seriously. Only then can we find what drives us to act and to create. Only then can we find real solutions and actually make a difference and not just earn a paycheck or boost corporate earnings. We need to think bigger.

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.” — Marcus Aurelius