10. It’s not good enough
9. Who do you think you are? Someone special?
8. No one will buy it
7. It’s not perfect yet.
6. No one will like it.
5. Someone can do it better than I can.
4. I should get a “real job”
3. They will laugh at me
2. They won’t “get it.”
1. I’ll fail
And the One Reason Why (and the ONLY ONE that matters)
1. Because I have to.
I had the opportunity to see the band Jethro Tull in Denver recently at Red Rocks on their 40th anniversary tour of the classic rock album Aqualung. Red Rocks is simply one of the most breathtaking concert venues in the world and it often inspires artists to give incredible performances. If you have never seen the epic film “Under a Blood Red Sky” by U2 you owe it to yourself to get a copy and take in the scenery and ambiance of Red Rocks.
But even a venue as amazing as Red Rocks is, it still has it’s limitations in stirring up a passionate performance from a band that has done the same material on stages the world over for 40 plus years. Let’s do the math shall we? A band like Jethro Tull plays live maybe 150 days a year. And, Ian Anderson, the heart and soul of Jethro Tull, performs the song Aqualung at every show. Without fail. Every single night. For. 40. Years. That’s 6000 times!
(L) Ian Anderson 1975, (R) Anderson 2011
Even the most fervent artist among us might get weary of doing the same song every night for 40 years right? Then again maybe not. Because when Ian Anderson and his band performed Aqualung for the 6000th time at Red Rocks on June 8, 2011, they performed it with every ounce of passion an artist can humanly give an audience. I venture to say they played it MORE passionately than they did some 40 years ago. That’s passion. Passion that both ignites and inspires an audience. So where does passion like that come from?
It comes from being true to yourself as an artist.
It comes from creating from within with freedom and conviction.
It comes from being fearless and unrelenting in your desire to bring your song, painting, poem, novel, or comic to life.
It comes from deep within the very soul of you. When it comes from there, the passion will pour out of you like a surge of boiling hot water spilling over the sides of a kettle on the stove. It cannot be contained. It cannot be harnessed or suppressed. It will flow out of you because it’s the only thing it can do. It has no other choice.
Passion thrives when you feed it truth. It thrives when you create from your authentic self. Even after 40 years. 6000 times.
You can get this awesome Tull Tour T-shirt at http://www.chesterhopkins.co.uk/band/3/jethro-tull/
You know what I mean. That little voice that screams out :
What do you think you’re doing?
You can’t do that.
Nobody will like this.
Even if they did it isn’t right.
It’s not perfect!
You’re Not perfect.
Who do you think you are anyway?
You don’t deserve to create like this!
It’s a dumb idea.
The reader will hate it.
And hate you. And your little dog Toto too!”
Tell me. You’ve been there. Done that. I just did this weekend in creating my weekly sports cartoon that runs in the Chicago Tribune. I thought this is a silly idea. My editors years ago would hate this. The Trib editors won’t like it either. But it’s funny. It made me laugh. So I thought, why not. Draw it and send it with a bunch of other roughs. That way it won’t stand out as like a sore thumb. And so I did.
The e-mail I got back: “We love the baseball mocking Dunn. So let that one rip!”.
Now the next time you hear that little voice inside that beautiful creative head of yours, the voice that sounds like Don Rickles, the one saying to stop the writing, the painting, the poem, the song, the comic, tell it to shut the hell up!
Put up an imaginary sign that says Quiet: Creative Genius at Work!
Because every act of creativity is the act of a genius at work.
Believe it. Live it. Love it. Create Joy!
Wow! Yesterday, Bill Watterson, today Berke Breathed. Cool. Enjoy these links.
Admittedly I was a late comer to the genius of John Kricfalusi and Ren and Stimpy. My renewed interest in animation sparked a sort of reeducation on the art and Kricfalusi’s name kept popping up. It only took about 15 seconds into the intro of the show on DVD to realize I’d been missing something very special. I was always a huge fan of animator Tex Avery and discovering John K’s Ren and Stimpy was like seeing Tex Avery all over again.
While attending last summers Comic-con I sat in on a panel that John K was giving. You can see the same thing I did here on YouTube.
I had actually been exposed to Kricfalusi earlier than the Ren and Stimpy stuff. His involvement in the New Adventures of Mighty Mouse back in the 80′s was a springboard for him. I always loved the look and feel of those cartoons. John K’s infulence are all over them. Thankfully they are now available on DVD as well.
What I love most about Kricfalusi is his passionate, undying dedication to preserving the art of animation for future generations. Whatever your opinion of Family Guy or the Simpsons is, the quality of the animation involved is even less appealing than the Hanna Barbara cartoons of the 60′s and 70′s. It’s limited in its scope as well as it’s character design. An entire generation of cartoonists and animators are being influenced by an inferior form of animation. That’s why John K and Ren and Stimpy are so important. Kricfalusi’s blog is a must read for the creative process of character design and the process of squash and stretch animation. For John K it’s all about quality.
These days we are adjusting to a new world. Changes in the way media is consumed is evolving literally by the day. The new Apple iPad is just one example of how quickly the game changes. As creatives we have to continue to find ways to bridge the old disciplines of our art into new packaging and new ways to be seen and heard. It’s just one of many reasons why I consider a guy like Kricfalusi so valuable. He was the first guy to use Flash animation to produce cartoons on the internet.
Five things we can learn from John Kricfalusi
1. Innovation is the key to survival in this current changing job climate. We have to find new ways to keep ourselves relevant. That might mean learning WordPress and starting a blog. Or learning a new discipline like Flash animation or Dreamweaver. Staying on top of the technology is not only interesting but necessary for job survival.
2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Changing Technology doesn’t mean the old ways don’t work. They just need to find the vehicle in technology to keep them relevant.
3. We must all become entrepreneurs. Gone are the days when we worked for somebody else until we retire. For John K this meant starting his wildly popular blog and doing cartoons for the internet. He forged new trails and continues to do so.
4. Stay true to your vision. In Kricfalsui’s case this has actually meant getting fired from his own show. He doesn’t like compromise. No matter the cost.
5. Pay it Forward. Kricfalusi could have thrown in the towel after he was fired from Ren and Stimpy after the first season. Instead he keeps on experimenting on new ways to produce content and help others by passing down his knowledge of animation and cartooning to a new generation on his blog. It’s a very cool thing.
Click on Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy to see what I mean!
Penguins and things
I got the chance to meet Berke Breathed early in my career while visiting a girlfriend of mine who was attending UT Austin. Berke was the second most famous guy on campus at the time just behind this running back named Earl Campbell. Breathed had just published a book of his wildly popular cartoon strip “The Academia Waltz” that he was doing for the Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper.
The thing that struck me most when first meeting Berke was how absolutely accidental the whole cartooning thing was for him. Here I was, doing everything I could to become a cartoonist, drawing constantly, studying the art form and immersing myself in anything that had to do with comics. And there was Berke, doodling these amazingly hilarious strips about college life, seemingly unaware he was creating brilliance along the way, with this “I could really care less about cartoons” kind of attitude. It was, as you can imagine, somewhat maddening. We crossed paths now and then throughout the years but, unfortunately, never became friends.
But his work was another matter. It became, at the time anyway, the ultimate example of a successful comic strip. Millions of adoring fans, millions of dollars in the bank account and millions of cartoonists who wanted to be just like him. The first complete anthology of Bloom County strips is now available, a worthy exploration into, perhaps, the last great social-political cartoon commentator of our time (no offense to Garry Trudeau and Doonesbury). I highly recommend it.
One of the things that has driven me crazy about Breathed is his flippant and canned answers he has given in the numerous interviews he has given during his career. It was if he was running a marketing campaign to spin his career into cutesy, dismissive quotes, with little substance or insight into the real human being who drew penguins with big noses and influenced an entire generation with his own unique brand of humor and satire. Finally someone got it right. Rather than bore you any further with my ramblings into the creative genius of Berke Breathed, I’ll simply point you to this new LA Times interview, where finally, Breathed drops his guard long enough to show us the real and authentic voice behind Bloom County.