Heading into chapter 3 of Jeff Goins' Real Artists Don't Starve and I've hit big trouble. Specifically, in this axiom of the New Renaissance: “The Starving Artist believes talent is enough. The Thriving Artist apprentices under a master.”
It's not that I think I'm so smart and talented that I'm done learning – quite the opposite. I love learning. I'd have stayed in college and collected more degrees if I could've afforded it. I have a lot of respect for teachers. I'll learn just about anything a person is willing to teach. I'd love to apprentice.
Unfortunately most of my heroes are dead.
C.S. Lewis – Christian fantasy writer whose work has made it to film (posthumously, but still). Solid mythology and theology, and beautifully clear writing. If only I could learn such clear-mindedness.
J. R. R. Tolkien – Christian, epic fantasy writer, fantastic films from his works, yes, but what I really want to know about is being a linguist and (IIRC) mapmaker. I so want to create languages and realistic maps of my worlds. There is no telling how long it would take me to gain even a shadow of his mastery of worldbuilding and more importantly, culture-building.
Walt Disney – holy cow, y'all. Inventor, artist, voice actor, showman – if there was an occasion, he rose to it. If there was a need, he threw himself in and filled it. If there was a problem, he dug in until it was solved. He had grand visions and he saw them through. If I could learn one thing from that incredible man... who am I kidding, I'd be happy to fetch coffee and doughnuts for him every two minutes if it meant I could hear him just talk about how he kept going in the face of so many setbacks and how he brought people around to help him achieve so much.
Steve Jobs – The iPad changed my life. I had always wanted a “computer book” like Penny had in the Inspector Gadget cartoon (and now you know far too much about me and my childhood) and the iPad was everything I thought it would be. Apple is now getting too fiddly for me, and drifting wide from the simple unbreakable elegance of Jobs' vision. He was the visionary of my generation. I want to know if it's possible to duplicate the “reality distortion field” he was rumored to have, because that would be a cool superpower.
By the way, all these great masters and many more are featured in the book. I was so excited to read a few stories about them I hadn't come across before, and see how lessons could be drawn from their lives that I could apply to my own.
For living masters, I greatly admire the imagination and attention to detail of Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda, who may or may not be competitors in the realm of anime feature films in Japan. Their work is thematically and stylistically very different, but they both have such an incredible grasp of the universal and the specific of human nature. The movies are for Japanese audiences, but they translate so well. (Though Ponyo makes more sense with the sound off. I have no idea what Ponyo's dad was muttering about and his explanations were clear as mud).
Anyway, unless something significant changes around here, I'm not going to get an apprenticeship with any masters of animation in Japan. And it's not likely that I'll come in contact with any in America either - John Lasseter comes to mind. He's done so much amazing work with Disney and Pixar, and pulled them both free of the muck of formulaic storytelling while still delivering stories that have that universal and specific magic in them. I can see where he's learned from Miyazaki there. Probably the thing I'd have to be most concerned about if I did have a chance to learn directly from him is how to not just copy how he does things but to also remain my own person with my own vision, too.
To be honest I'd have that problem with any master. I really do have a ton of respect for teachers, despite a few who seemed to try really hard to disillusion me. And I can see how special it is when someone who's achieved mastery in their chosen arena takes the time to teach someone, because teaching is the most time-consuming, frustrating, crazy-making thing there is. If the precious gift of their time, attention, and interest was directed toward me, of all people, I don't know what I'd do.
I guess I could write some non-stalkerish letters to people I admire who may actually write back. And finishing one of these ambitious projects would be good, so... back to the grind!
There is much more to say about the book, so come back tomorrow, and if you want to enter to win a copy for yourself, just leave a comment on any post in this series. For instance, I'd like to know who your heroes are. Who would you love to learn from, and what do you want to know?
Artist, writer, creator of stuff. I just want to build worlds for you to escape to.