Monday, May 27, 2019

Looking back to grow your art forward.

Generations of young people grew up watching classic animation. Not just Disney. It was the shorts of MGM and especially Warner Bros that did more than entertain us, first at the theaters, and then for decades on TV.

This article arrived on my social media feed. "How Classic Cartoons Created a Culturally Literate Generation" by Annie Holmquist. It reminded me of how much we all learned from the pop culture we enjoyed.

We laughed at these adventures, but we weren't just being amused by visual gags and engaging characters. We were getting introduced to cultural touchstones. For many of us, these cartoons became our foundation in classical music and literature. Not that we noticed at the time, but the seeds were planted. When we encountered these touchstones again in school or at cultural events, we were already inclined to enjoy them... and maybe even more curious to learn about them.

These cartoons encouraged us to look back. They sparked an appreciation for source material. They showed us that creativity is layered, and can go deeper than our first experience with it, when it's built on a strong foundation.

Today we train our sights on what's in the present. We are satisfied with shallow roots. We miss out on the chance to grow in deeper soil.

Inspiration doesn't just come from Instagram.

Classic cartoons demonstrate that it's more instructive to seek out what inspired past creators. Pop culture is fun and often ephemeral. When entertainment is based on cultural literacy, it can resonate. The creative view going forward is better, and more inspiring, standing on the shoulders of giants from the past.

A good way to learn to look back is to ask artists you admire which artists inspired them. A good source for finding books about classic artists of illustration, animation and comic art are the Artists Monograph (books about individual artists) shelves at SNB and titles on the on the website. Over the years, I've seen how the leading contemporary artists get excited sharing the names of artists from the past who inspired them. The best artists are always growing. One of the best ways to study and get inspired is to look back.

Here are some You Tube clips showing the links between cultural touchstones and WB cartoons.

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