Chuck Redux stumbled upon the blog of Jen Myers, a professional designer/writer/speaker/teacher, and a post she wrote recently titled "The Chuck Jones School of Creativity". In her post, Ms. Myers writes about how she came to understand and nurture her own creativity as she read Chuck's autobiography, "Chuck Amuck." Her perspective is one well-worth sharing and so we've posted a bit of it with a link at the end to the rest of her story on her own website. Enjoy!
When I was a teenager, after I had completed the mandatory girl career aspiration phase of marine biologist, I determined I wanted to grow up to be an animated cartoonist. It seemed to be the natural fruition of my interest in sketching, my attraction to the bright and frenetic and my affinity for philosophical anarchy. I studied the limited number of films I had access to, planned to go to art school and thought that, since Disney was likely out of my reach, I would shoot for a job at one of the smaller network studios.
I am not an animator now. I didn't even come close. I decided not to go to art school, with the help of stunningly nonsensical logic along the lines of "I'm not good enough" (isn't that what you go to school to fix?), and thus began an almost comical progression of educational and professional missteps, false starts, backtracks and strange, unforeseen successes. I managed to stumble into a job I love but which is very unlike the one I first anticipated.
At least, it is superficially. As a web and interface designer, I'm not drawing cartoons. But I am creating things, and creativity draws both inspiration and instruction from a variety of sources. There are still lessons I learned from cartoons that I apply to my life and work now - especially as it concerns the creator who me want to make them in the first place.
I have a theory that Chuck Jones is the most well-known and yet most overlooked creator of the twentieth century. Everyone knows what he made, but not many people know he made it. Which is a shame, because beyond his legacy as the artist/director who made some of Warner Brothers' most famous characters and short films during the 1930s-60s, he was also an astute observer of human character, a learned storyteller and one hell of a writer. Most notably, he knew how describe and explain his process of creation. This is very rare, and equally valuable to someone else learning the process. His two autobiographies/drawing manuals are treasure troves of stories, advice and guidance on how to be creative. Which, as I've discovered, you can be no matter what you do.
START ANYWHERE AND STICK WITH IT
... my first instructor at Chouinard Art Institute, like Nicolaides at the Art Students League, greeted his beginning classes with the following grim edict: "All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." ¹
More than ten years after I more or less gave up on being an artist, I started drawing again. It was, in a word, demoralizing. Whatever skill I once had has most certainly fled with disuse, and I'm essentially a beginner again. There's an impulse to repeat history and declare I'm simply "not good enough" as a precursor to quitting.
But I think often about this anecdote. It's not truly grim, even if you're just starting out. In fact, when you're just starting out, it's liberating. It takes away the pressure of being judged. It's okay if you create something bad. It's okay if you create many things bad. You need to get it all out.
And it leads you into the next lesson - you need to keep doing it, over and over again, until it is good.
To continue reading, click on The Chuck Jones School of Creativity, it will open in a new window.