Tuesday, May 15

The power of passion

A boy came to his father and said, "When I grow up I want to be an artist." The father answered, "Pick one son, you can't do both." The father, obviously an artist himself, understood the basic premise that maintaining creative passion requires a child-like perspective. Picasso famously stated, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." 

Some psychologists suggest that as adults we retain many of the insecurities we had when we were twelve years-old and that remembering this insight will allow us to feel equal to all regardless of social status. In a similar vein some suggest the passions we had as twelve year-olds are the most telling about our personalities. I'm not sure about the scientific credibility of this idea but it is an interesting exercise. It certainly can give insight into our current passions. Most likely we are simply culling through our memories and remembering the ones that really excited us. But the result is the same; a treasure trove of seething enthusiasm.

Intrigued by the idea of recovering my youthful zeal I decided to put The Subterranean to the test and excavate for its cultural roots. At age ten I was given an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories. I was enthralled by the hyper-rationality of the detective which was amplified by my fascination with books such as the Tom Swift series (which focused on futuristic, weird science). I remember spinning yarns for my best friend Dan Stark about how my dad worked at a secret laboratory. I knew Dan didn't believe me. I didn't expect him to. I suppose it was an early example of my storytelling compulsions manifesting themselves. Dan and I spent countless hours in our basement drawing on a huge blackboard my dad scavenged from his lab (he was actually a scientist. He just didn't work at a secret lab). I drew schematic versions of a hybrid machine that could fly and go underwater. It was a lot like Supercar I suppose but my vehicle was definitely a precursor to the Sandhog with its low-tech, kludged together design.

I was a big fan of comic books, of course, especially pulp-like offerings such as John Carter of Mars that blended weird science and proto-steam punk. It should be no surprise that I loved Batman comics and his fingerprints are all over The Subterranean. They both have an affinity for rationality, have no super powers but their wits, and both work best at night.

Pablo Picasso made another interesting observation, "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal". Which is a funny way of putting it but concisely sums up the fusion of cultural elements of successful popular fiction. If you have a creative project that needs more depth take a trip down memory lane and excavate the passions you held as a fifth-grader.

Brad Teare May 2012

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