I’m kinda indifferent about going back to Richmond for a bit after school, but if there’s one thing I’m looking forward too, it’s finally being around a lot more of my artistic friends again.
Just being around a bunch of creative who each think differently from you does wonders for getting you to look at the world differently. I’d highly recommend it.
On Working Outside of a Creative Vacuum
Time for some more freewriting blogging, folks.
I’m always trying to learn more about the things I’m interested in. Games, movies, cartoons, writing, etc, and over the years, one of the biggest things I’ve taken aware from it is the importance of knowing where you come from.
My personal advice to my creative readers out there is to know your roots. Always always know your roots, and more importantly learn to respect your roots. Many things work in a cyclical fashion, and naturally that means all things inform themselves. This isn’t supposed to be a soul crushing “nothing is original” thing, but honestly, don’t ever act like you have nothing to learn from anything that’s come before you.
This has become more evident to me as I not only take in more media in my personal “research” but also in my many media studies throughout my education. I’ve taken many courses about specific topics and genres, mainly so I can expose myself to an element of something I knew little about going in. So far, the most influencial one has been the course I took on Western films. I went in having the most basic understanding and interest in what Westerns were doing, and even though I’m no expert, I can tell you now I came out with a newfound respect for what the Western is and represents (one of the most important reasons being that along with jazz, it’s one of the only wholly culturally American inventions).
Let’s talk about the Western for a second. I think that the Western and its visual tropes are probably some of the most easily identified registers in American media. From games such as Red Dead Redemption, to the use of the Wild West world in The LEGO Movie, to everytime you see that corny Fistful of Dollars reference in every cartoon you’ve ever watched. But as much as I see a lot of this stuff employed, many times its become very clear to me it comes from a place of little to no knowledge about Western films as a whole. I’m not saying you can’t do that Fistful of Dollars joke if you haven’t actually seen that movie or whatever, but I’ve seen way too many movies and games that tout themselves as modern Westerns, but only go as deep as the “bang bang cowboys and indians” faceoffs. And half the time it’s just an aping of the epic and beautiful Good, Bad, and the Ugly which is distinctly not even American and acts more as a weird subversion of the genre (seriously, no one’s even speaking english in that film, it’s dubbed).
Truth be told to it, the best Westerns and the most iconic ones are truly thoughtful films, celebrating the triumph of the human spirit and a call to humanity in constant struggle with the call of the wild. If you’re interested in film or utilizing the “wild west” as a setting and you haven’t even seen a John Ford film, turn around and fix that immediately. You don’t gotta copy the best and original stuff to get it right, but these sorts of things are classics and literally genre defining for very good reasons.
And this goes for anything, really. Familiarize yourself with classic cartoons that helped establish the rules of how to create visually appealing animation. Play some old Nintendo and PC games once in a while and figure out why it is something like Mario Bros or Zelda not only set the standard but hold up to this day. There’s a good reason why people say Watchmen is the most accomplished graphic novel of its generation.
And even then, don’t just stop at the classics. Learn from those who came before you. By looking closely at the work at the works of two of my favorite artists, James Kochalka and KC Green, I’ve figured out how to maximize my minimalistic artstyle— well, I still have a lot to learn, but those are just some of the things that have had a huge effect on some of my recent work,
Plus, never discount your own cultural heritage as well. As an african american, I’m actively interested in learning more about black artists and black people involved in the games industry.
We always have a lot to learn from those who came before us. It’s really easy to always think you’re the first to do something or assuming is always enough, but never forget that you’re rarely if ever the first to do something. Understanding those roots and respecting where they come from will not only broaden your horizons and enrich your life, but will ensure you craft things with heart, life, and a sense of history, rather than a fleeting existence within the rushed cultural frame it exists in.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, so don’t force yourself to work in one.
When I feel sad or lazy, I try to draw. If I can’t draw, I just try to create. Sometimes that means writing down ideas on the back of a receipt in my pocket. Sometimes that means lying in bed and brainstorming ideas to get up ASAP and make something.
I get sad, anxious, and a little depressed a lot, and I have a lot of close friends who come to me and ask “what should I do?” or “what do you do when you’re sad?” My first answer is always drawing.
We take a lot from this world and consume stuff super rapidly. I think it’s only fair we try and throw some of that energy back sometimes, create something to put back into the world. Not to be remembered and not to be successful, but to make the world a more interesting place and to share what we have with others.
Just thinking out loud, and I thought I’d just share it here instead of tweeting it in little slips like I usually do.
Let’s Talk About Television
Hey-o, friends. I felt like writing a casual post and since I usually do lists, I’ma write one right now. Plus, I’m in a weird mood, and I always seem to post something when I feel that way. So I just wanna make some quick comments about some of the TV shows I’ve been watching recently, as a lot of them have been resonating pretty damn close to me lately.
Meh, whatever. I’m sure only like a few of you care anyway, so let’s carry on with my stupid blog post!
Yeah, still watching, yeah, it’s still good. Adventure Time is in a weird place right now where it’s kinda hit the “Springfield” point of the show. You know, like how for the Simpsons where there’s a point episodes just stop being about the Simpsons and everyone else in Springfield? Well, Adventure Time is there now, and the world they’ve built as well as their storytelling style supports that really strongly. Also that freakin Lemonhope episode, what the hell was that?! (In a good way!)
So Dan Harmon wasn’t on Community last season. And it suuucked. But now he’s back. And it’s really goooooood. …again. Plus with Chevy Chase and Don Glover leaving this season, the two characters were written off in beautiful really thoughtful ways, especially after the way they just kinda phased Pierce out last season. This show just represents for me a new era of audiences being smart enough to keep a smart show smart. Plus really human. A lot of the episodes lately about coping with moving on and figuring out identity have been hitting a little too close to home for me. I’m not the person who cries at emotional stuff in media, but when I do, it’s damned good. And Community has come really close recently.
RICK & MORTY
Speaking of Dan Harmon, I’ve finally caught back up on Rick & Morty, and hot damn, it’s good. Truth be told, the first two episodes didn’t really hook me and I walked away from it after that. I liked the character of Rick a lot, but the show felt too much like that weird “adult primetime” shit that the 90’s was full of. I’ll tell you what though, once it picks up steam, it earns its place in the pantheon of awesome cartoons. Go watch it sometime.
I’ve made my thoughts on Steven Universe well known before, and I’m happy to see the show is still continuing on strong. I’ve heard complaints from people that a lot of the episodes aren’t Gem-centric enough, but I think its still doing great. When was the last time you saw a cartoon where three women were given such well rounded and actually fun personalities? Plus, I can totally get down with the positive vibe the show promotes. Steven’s a goofball, but the show celebrates that— and not in that bullshit “oh be weird and unique” way. Steven’s a happy dude and the people around him pick up on that.
COMEDY BANG! BANG!
Hey, they put up a new season of Comedy Bang Bang on Netflix! Go watch it. It’s really really funny. Go watch it. A large chunk of it is improvised really really well. Go watch it. It has Reggie Watts on it. Go watch it. Did I mention it’s made by the same folks who make Between Two Ferns? Goooooo watch it.
That’s all I really feel like writing about tonight. At least as far as the stuff I’m watching right now that I’m really thinking about. There’s a handful of other stuff too, of course, both good (I’m rewatching some Simpsons on the side, and that show still holds up extremely well) and the alright and not so good (watched the recent season of Archer on Netflix, it’s good, but I can’t get as excited for it as everyone else does past season one— the first was good, it’s just ~alright~ after that).
Oh and feel free to shoot me some questions in my inbox or something. I haven’t really answered any in a while and that’s kinda fun to do.