Friday Odds and Ends
This article by Austin Kleon offers some good solid advice. I don’t agree with everything, but it’s an inspiring list he offers, and almost anyone with creative aspirations will find something useful. [link via Cat Garza]
Meanwhile, thanks to writer Matt Cohen for an unexpected shoutout in HuffPost Business earlier this week (and hey, while we’re at it, thanks to another Huffington Post Writer, Kate Kelly, for another shoutout at the beginning of the month). Comics readers are everywhere!
Some of you may have seen the Newsarama report that I helped design the six variant covers for Marvel’s limited series X-Men: First Class adaptation this fall. That was obviously a typo. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I hardly needed help.
And finally, THESE KIDS are clearly ten kinds of wonderful, as are their teacher and her very cool site. Consider swinging by their Kickstarter page and lending your support to make their dream of a printed collection a reality.
Off to Maryland in a couple of days (check out the travel sidebar at right for the updated list of my busy spring schedule). Enjoy the weekend!
Gah, I know Ursula! I just completed a commission for her. Small world.
Out of curiosity, which parts of Kleon’s article did you not agree with? I’d really like to know.
Well, for starters, if nothing is original, at what point in human history was that not true?
Sure, any idea or story can share elements of previous stories, even be built entirely from old parts, but there are times when something comes along that genuinely deserves to be called new. It’s happening all the time in small and big ways.
Einstein built his work on previous research, all scientists do, but who’s to say that the theory of general relativity wasn’t “original” or “new?” Of course it was!
As far as any innovation can be said to be a disobedience against a convention, that which can be said to be original or new is dependent on that which is not. Everything presented to the public builds on the expectations of the recipients. Pure originality is a pretense of control that can’t exist.
Yeah, I also find the “nothing is original” meme irritating. One of the most fascinating and mysterious functions of the human brain is its ability to generate new ideas, and the fact that it does this by analyzing and recombining old ideas shouldn’t detract from our view of this process. Ideas change and evolve over time, and as with any evolutionary process, this will bring continual renewal. Artists who put a lot of effort into developing their ideas, and draw from a wide variety of sources while constantly questioning themselves and striving for self-improvement, will eventually find that they have moved a long way from their influences, at which point the audience will come along and because they can’t easily draw a direct line from this new work to the work that inspired it, they will declare it “original”. Artists who don’t develop their ideas, however, make it much too easy for the audience to trace their origins, so they will seem obviously derivative.
If you frame this argument in terms of genetic evolution, then saying “nothing is original” is like saying that no new species will ever emerge, because they are all just produced by the old ones. People are fooled because it’s a gradual process with no clear boundaries between the old and the new, but all you have to do is look around and see the wealth of species (or ideas) that did not exist in the past to understand what a strangely short-sighted argument it really is.
Thank you, Tim.
Your eloquent explanation should be far more persuasive than my fuzzy misgivings.
Fountain (below) also makes some strong points.
Oh, and I know Ursula too. She was a student at MCAD when I taught the seminar there.
I’d think that what he meant was that nothing is wholly new, that everything is built on something that already exists, whether it’s in nature or is the result of someone else’s work. That’s what I took away. What we produce as artists is, in essence, a mash-up. While the result might be new, in that any given mash up has not been done before, or could not be done by any other individual, we, as humans, simply do not come up with something that is utterly new in and of itself, having no connections to anything previously made. What I figured is that, by accepting that fact, it removes a potential mental block from actually making work instead of just thinking about it, and trying to avoid any kind of repetition.
Yeah, that’s how I usually read that sentiment, and I agree that it can be a healthy thing for a lot of people to read.
There’s just a part of me that’s annoyed when some think they can dismiss at a stroke what I find most interesting about art. I’m not necessarily accusing Austin of that, but the statement tends to rouse the devil’s advocate in me.
OK, I usually try to stay away from stuff like this but I couldn’t help it. I’m going to have to side with Scott on this one. I understand what the writer was trying to get at by saying that all art is just a “mashup” of previous ideas, but this idea doesn’t sit well with me. Essentially, this argument is true at it’s core, but what it does is dismisses the problem by reducing it to absurdity (reductio ad absurdum). True, art is a “mashup” of anything you could experience in reality (other art, people, the natural environment, articles you read etc. etc.), but this “mashup” is an inherent property of the universe. In fact, a person’s internal life could be looked at as a “mashup” of anything and everything that person has experienced. Our earth and all life therein is composed of a “mashup” of numerous elements formed by the explosions of supernovas. The author seems to be saying that we shouldn’t be intimidated by true creative acts because it’s just an absurd “mashup” of all the other shit that’s been done before and all the shit we’ve been exposed to (or selectively expose ourselves to). This type of thinking results in things like “zombie romance novels” and other completely random associations between seemingly unrelated concepts. My argument is that true creativity and innovation requires this and something more; a profound depth of insight. Relativity didn’t come along because Einstein shuffled a deck of ideas and randomly strung them together. And I realize that things like penicillin were discovered by accident, but as they say, “chance favors the prepared mind”.
Yeah, people always say that nothing’s original, that there are only 12 or so different basic stories, etc.
I strongly disagree with that.
It’s true enough if you’re trying to write something with a broad appeal, that speaks to the human experience in general.
If you step outside that commonality paradigm, there are all kinds of new things to discover. It will never be as popular as Macbeth, but so what.
It’s the internet age, small, unique audiences are out there.
[…] to steal like an artist lecture Source: Austin Kleon – via Scott McCloud) ___________________________________ […]