The late Carl Sagan was a dedicated pioneer and advocate of exploring the beauty and science of the universe. His book and TV series, Cosmos, both educated and inspired people all around the world.
“Do we want the stars? We can have them. Can we borrow cups of fire from the Sun? We can and must and light the world.” — Ray Bradbury
It’s all too often we get lost in our minds, lost in doubt. We become disoriented scatter brains who can’t seem to either accept or deny that we can’t stay on board all the rules and regulations that our upbringing, formal education and our society has imprinted upon us. We get obsessed with the “how” rather than the who, what or why. Yet, deep inside, we know that those profound questions as to who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re here are far more important than the how, for it drives us to discover and to search for answers and meaning.
As artists, our job is to fight thru all the noise, interference and entanglements so that we can discover the gems underneath the quagmire of information that life throws at us. Thereafter, we must find a way to present our viewpoint and take our stab at new possibilities and alternative solutions.
Referring again to that marvelously prolific writer-imagineer, Ray Bradbury:
“Everywhere we look: problems. Everywhere we further deeply look: solutions. The children of men, the children of time, how can they not be fascinated with these challenges?”
The famous Salvador Dalí Space Elephant sculpture that sits on the south bank of London. Image by © picqero
Dalí was one of the most unique personalities and creative artists in history — he dared to look beyond the obvious into the surreal, into the imaginative.
How exciting it is to be an animation artist today! To be an artist working in a medium where you can still reach out to the masses? The opportunity to sneak in a bit of truth, either in concept or design, with movement or color, to convey an idea NOT in the script designed for the greatest possible corporate/financial gain? The artist always has the opportunity to give as much or little of him/herself into the final creation. It’s here where the magic lies — our contribution via our actions.
The mighty Milt Kahl was always blatantly honest about the industry and was criticized often for his snappy remarks about it:
“We always had our share of crap.” — Milt Kahl
The key is to find ways to work around the not so tasteful or far too commercial, to keep searching for ways to deliver something new, something exciting. And that he did.
The Mad Madam Mim, from Disney’s Sword in the Stone is one of the most exciting and deliciously animated characters ever. Milt Kahl may not have been happy with many aspects of Disney’s lower budgeted feature(s), but he never shortchanged his boss or his audience.
Despite being part of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, directors and writers during the 1930’s to 1960’s were often restricted to producing films on war, gangsters or westerns (now collectively replaced by superhero/science fiction action-adventures, romantic comedies, and yes, animated family features). Yet, these artists found a way to use the genre merely as a backdrop to greater aims and visions — ideas more intimate, interesting and profound were layered deeper into the fabric of the genre and of the medium itself.
John Wayne and Natalie Wood star in John Ford’s grand masterpiece, The Searchers, a film that is so much more than your typical “shoot’em up” western.
The opening shot of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight signaled a new take on Batman. Nolan brought realism (including using NYC as Gotham), concepts of real drama, themes of sacrifice and intense emotion into ‘comic book’ movies.
Forget for a moment, quota, deadlines, and financial consequences. Know that how you spend each day, each moment, matters — that is your life. We must find some purpose behind our actions, ideas and expressions and bring them out. If us artists don’t do it, then who will? Who better to set an example of diving into the unknown, searching for joy, fulfillment and meaning in our everyday existence?
“You’ve got to want to act more than you want to be an actor. You’ve got to want to do whatever you want to do more than to be whatever you want to be… Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey.” — Bradley Whitfield, Emmy-award winning actor from The West Wing.
Normal Rockwell obviously didn’t mind the endless amount of studies and preliminary work that preceded his final execution of the project. Artists must love what they’re doing — every part of it — for results are never guaranteed, nor is positive reception to it. Photo by Bill-Scovill.
To quote one of the greatest art teachers in history, Robert Henri:
“The object of painting a picture is not to make a picture – however unreasonable this may sound. The picture, if a picture results, is a by-product and may be useful, valuable, interesting is a sign of what has past. The object, which is the back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence. In such moments activity is inevitable, and whether this activity is with brush, pen, chisel, or tongue, its results is but a by-product of the state, a trace, the footprint of the state.”
Painting of the beach at Biarritz, by Spanish master, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Art this beautiful only comes about when an artist loses himself in the transience of the moment, into the work.
“These results, however crude, become dear to the artist who made them because they are records of states of being which he has enjoyed and which he would regain. They are likewise interesting to others because they are to some extent readable and reveal the possibilities of a greater existence.”
It is in those above words, he suggests not only the value of the approach an artist must take, but also that, by taking such approach, the by-product, by way of the soul and artistry so invested by the artist, aid in the success of the entire operation — resulting in a product that connects to the unsuspecting, and often unexpectedly large audience (the very goal, ironically, that marketing departments world-wide try so hard to accomplish).
Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson never intended mass market appeal or profits. Even to date, with incredible steadfastness and integrity, he refuses to commercialize and financially profit from his creation (estimated to be worth close to a billion dollars) — much to the chagrin of TV, film and toy manufacturing executives.
Time and time again, we see that art is a brave dive into the unknown. It is only in this way, that we grow, both individually and as a species.
“Imagination is more important then intelligence.” — Albert Einstein.