This post may seem to come out of left field, but please remember that I teach an entire course on enhancing creative efforts while using KAP principles. So, with that in mind, away we go…
A) “Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?”
Once upon a time, on a show of legends called Norm MacDonald Live (which is now almost impossible to find outside of clips & the first 3 episodes) – there was a bit.
In this bit, the co-host Adam Eget (who often played naive & bounced between Straight Man/Feed & Banana Man/Comic within the Double Act) would ask legendary and/or famous (some infamous) comedians, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
This was almost always met with either : a smile & silence, a hearty laugh & silence (in the case of David Letterman), disgust & silence, or outright anger.
To most, this would seem like a quirky or odd bit that didn’t make much sense.
But, what you were actually witnessing was an unwritten, unspoken, and yet highly sacred taboo being broken.
You don’t ask creative types (especially funny ones) where they get their ideas from.
Once again the question “Why?” comes up.
The answer is, usually, one of three things :
- They don’t know and they don’t want the general public to know that they don’t know.
- They have an inkling of an idea how the process works and they don’t want others to see how mundane it often is : as if you were to burst into the Holiest of Holies only to find a Groucho Marx bobblehead upon the altar.
- They are hip & in-the-know, but they want to keep their Groucho Marx bobbleheads well-secure, for fear that anyone could reverse engineer their thought process, preemptively steal their material & put them out of jobs.
So, in essence : all of the Emperors are naked as jaybirds (as my Great-Grandfather would say) & we’re not supposed to point it out.
B) Steven Pressfield has two amazing books on “artist/writer/creator blocks” – what he terms “Resistance” (these books being : The War of Art & Do The Work!)
Essentially, Resistance is the uncomfortable feeling that we get when we look at a blank piece of paper, canvas, screen, etc and try to figure out how to get an intangible idea from out in The Aether & wrestle/coax/woo it into a tangible existence – one that can be shared with (implanted into) other minds.
Alan Moore (often considered the greatest comic book writer of all time due to works like Watchmen, V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, Batman : The Killing Joke, & legendary runs on both Miracleman & Swamp Thing – the latter where he created one of my favorite characters : John Constantine) has gone on record saying that artistic creation is the closest that we have today to original, communal shamanism.
You dive into the Collective Unconscious (Other World) & bring back a Creative Work (Medicine) that is then (Shared With The Tribe) Published, Stuck In a Gallery, Put Up On The ‘Gram, etc.
When properly done, this is supposed to heal (trigger cathartic moments) within both artist & audience.
Getting back to Steven Pressfield – he talks about how the fear of Resistance pushes us to ignore our creative callings & the ramifications of this. Even going so far as to mention artists/writers who, when faced with an ‘incurable disease’, finally gave in to manifesting a creative project they had been putting off – with the little time they had left. He goes on to talk about how, once that floodgate was opened – it sometimes resulted in physical remission (please note the “sometimes”).
C) “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” – Bob Ross.
If you grew up in the US during the 80’s & 90’s like I did – then you, probably, were brought under the spell of Bob Ross at some point.
Within the space of twenty-something minutes (30 minutes minus commercial breaks) – he would take a blank canvas (often primed with a mixture of medium & white oil paint, or simply clear medium, or sometimes even with a layer of medium/black oil paint and/or black gesso) and with a limited color palette & a soothing ASMR-voice – bring an entire world to life in front of our eyes (with no cuts other than camera changes).
It would look effortless.
However, he would often remind us that this level of Effortless Mastery came from endless repetition & practice.
A lot of times, this was lost on the viewing public.
Bob Ross didn’t sell his paintings (even though he often encouraged the viewers to make a “happy little buck” off of their renditions) & for years after his death – myths and urban legends arose surrounding the rather mysterious & odd lack of work from a very prolific & public artist.
Finally, one person cared enough to track down his work & found all of his paintings located under a single roof.
An almost endless sea of Bob Ross paintings were located within the headquarters of his art supply manufacturing wing.
They weren’t available to the public, because :
a: Bob didn’t believe in selling his work – he sold the materials he used to make them.
b: No one could figure out how to appraise them (for reasons discussed below).
What was really fascinating was – there were dozens of copies of each painting – done with differing levels of precision & skill.
He would practice each painting over and over again – until he could do it ‘right’ (no mistakes – only happy accidents) & make it look effortless within the allotted time frame.
Thus, proving to us that his talent was, in fact, a pursued interest (and for the record – he did not rip off Bill Alexander – I have painted many of their individual paintings & they have unique techniques – all of which come from alla prima methods that existed long before either of them).
D) What can we take away from all of this?
a) There is no “magic pencil/program/paintbrush/etc” that will make you a great artisan (auto-tune is still auto-tune). (I have some favorite tools – a Japanese brush pen & a Japanese fountain pen that I enjoy – but, more often than not – I use cheap Sharpie markers & dollar store paints.) Frank Frazetta (legendary illustrator/comic book artist/painter) would go to live figure drawing classes in New York & blow everyone away with his dynamic skills. People would bring in their fancy & expensive compressed charcoals, vine charcoals, Conte crayons, etc to try to rival him. Finally, they would be shocked to find out that he was creating these epic drawings using ordinary # 2 pencil stubs that he would find lying around.
b) “Find Your Note” : Robert Anton Wilson used to tell the story of “Max” – a violinist who would play the same note over & over & over again – ad nauseam. Finally, his wife couldn’t take it anymore & confronted him. “Max”, she yelled, “play something else for God’s sake! Other people play chords, multiple notes, songs, concertos! You just play the same d@mn note morning and f%&$ing night!”
Max just smiled beatifically and said, “They’re searching for it. I’ve found it!”.
Bob Ross used a few, simple techniques over and over again to create almost endless variety.
Jack “The King” Kirby (often considered the greatest comic book artist of all time – who designed some very famous characters : Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The New Gods, etc, etc) did much the same thing – creating very memorable & engaging comics using a few basic principles : dynamic foreshortening, composition & exaggerated poses – over & over again.
So, find what speaks to your Soul, wash, rinse, repeat.
c) Challenge Yourself. You can only find what works for you – by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zones. In school, kids often draw/tag the “Super S” or “Cool S” (Google it – it’s not Superman’s S) on anything & everything. And, even though it’s drawn repeatedly (and practiced to near perfection) – it and almost all artistic endeavors are abandoned once a certain age is reached (usually). However, if a stick figure, a Super S, or imitating a Bob Ross painting sparks something inside & that leads you on a quest for self-discovery, then it’s done its job.
d) “Make Your Mark”. When you’re staring at that blank canvas/paper/screen/etc & anxiety/Resistance starts to form – take its power away by just making a mark. Many writers start out their day by writing gibberish. Some painters get over Resistance by putting a small blob of paint on a blank (sacred) canvas – so, it’s not blank anymore. There are drawing exercises based on building characters/situations from random pencil squiggles (and, since this is written in October – while the infamous Inktober is on – where you commit to a drawing per day using a random prompt – hint, hint). Several cartooning classes start by drawing endless circles to limber both the hand & the Mind. Lynda Barry (author of Making Comics, What It Is, Picture This & Syllabus – all based on her famous art/creativity classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) takes this further by encouraging her students to fill up pages with endless spirals each day. I’m a huge proponent of “absent-minded doodling” – an almost Zen-like technique where you split the mind (put on a low-stakes TV show or podcast in the background & begin doodling – the mind will then be concerned somewhat with the drawing, somewhat with the podcast/show & somewhat with the random thoughts that enter the mind – but, the hand will be moving on an almost subconscious level). That’s a great technique for subconsciously learning things (works great with cooking shows), sparking creative thoughts & allowing new drawing techniques to be discovered.
Don’t wait for inspiration or aim for perfection.
Make mistakes (Happy Accidents).
Give Yourself Permission.
It might just show you how much of your reality you’re responsible for creating.
Or, it might just turn out a cool doodle.
“Keep Going. Keep Playing. Study On This” – Dr. Morris
UNTIL NEXT WEEK…
Same KAP Time. Same KAP Channel.
Paul will be offering 5 classes starting November 15th (all 4 levels of Theurgy & Thaumaturgy and Creative Enhancement) – at a 30% discount per class/level or all together as a bundle. Email Paul for more information or to register.
Paul is also offering all of his pop-up classes (Kuji-In Reality Hacking, The Lazy Jedi’s Guide To The Galaxy, Back To The Present, The Lazy Force Ghost’s Guide To The Multiverse, Cosmic Physical Culture, Surfing The Circuits, The Abundance Sessions, 3 Realm Monte & the upcoming A Walk In The Shade : Practical Shadow Work For The Rest Of Us) ala carte & at a donation-based tuition (take it anytime & pay what you think is acceptable). Email : therevdr23(at)gmail(dot)com for more information & to register.