Claire: Yeah and I’ve noticed that I’ve already learned that lesson before. I mean I learned it in high school. I feel like you know, you just kind of realize oh, yeah, you have your own thing, and I realized that even though I’ve already learned that lesson, it still keeps coming back. And I’m realizing that these lessons in life whether it be this lesson or maybe something else, every phase of our life, it’s something that we can kind of relearn in a new way.
Brian: You know, it reminds me of you know, James Dean before he was famous, he was obsessed with Marlon Brando. And he knew a lot of people who knew Marlon and so if they were at a party and they saw Marlon Brando, he would say, “Well how did he stand and how did he smoke.” He wanted to be Marlon Brando, and he had no idea he was James Dean. And I think that’s the way it is with all of us, we don’t know we’re James Dean and we’re always looking at Marlon Brando going, “If only I could be that guy.” It’s like you’re the coolest guy here!
Jenn: We’re also just attracted to people for their authenticity, right? Like that’s what makes someone compelling is being able to see them and reach them where they are and having that confidence to share that with other people.
Brian: Yeah, we fight against ourselves a lot when we’re creators. We fight against ourselves.
Jenn: It can be so hard to remember, like you are valuable. Like you just see so much amazing stuff and you get so excited and it’s like these waves crash and you have to remember to stand firmly against those waves that keep rolling over you.
Chris: Brian loves when I quote him in his presence.
Brian: Yeah, it’s really fun for me.
Chris: He called me before this recording and was like, “Hey Chris, do you think you could work in one of my quotes to the talk today?”
Claire: That sounds like him.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um….but you know Brian, you said on the Paper Wings podcast, you said, those who get it quickly often don’t get it deeply. So my question for all of you actually is, what’s a specific aspect of your craft that is still a struggle? Something that you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t think you had some talent? You wouldn’t invest so much time and energy! And yet it still feels like wow, like everything I learn about this, I just realize there are infinitely more questions. Every discovery just leads to more awareness of how far I have to go, that kind of thing. Is there anything that comes to mind about your own artistic growth or your growth as a storyteller, your growth as a professional, anything like that?
Brian: I will say that…I guess I don’t think of it the way that you’re phrasing it, but the way that I think of it is that I look for the things that I’m not good at. Because this is what happens, most people are good at something, whatever it is they’re good at and they will lean heavily on that thing to the detriment of other things, right? And if you favor your good leg, you’ll limp. So you have to strengthen the other leg, you have to figure out how to make the other leg work, right? So for me, I’ll say oh, I wish I was better at making compelling characters. Roy Huggins who created the Fugitive television show was really great at that, so I’m obsessed with Roy Huggins and I’m reading about Roy Huggins and I’m watching all his stuff and I’m trying to figure out how he did what he did. But I don’t feel like I’m deficient, I feel like I can do it but there’s something he had that was a special spark that he had and I’m trying to tap into it. So does that make sense?
Chris: Perfect sense. Thoughts on that Jenn and Claire?
Claire: Well I guess I have noticed that when I feel greatly inspired by somebody and I start kind of beating myself up for not being like them, it’s aside that I’m being very inspired by what they’re doing and I always kind of go into this thing where I’m like oh, I wish I could be like them. Like the Charlie Harper thing for example; I discovered Charlie Harper in all his like geometric shapes and colors and everything, kind of like clicking into one another and it was just so inspiring. And so I looked at my stuff and it was messy and sketchy and it was just like, how could I ever get like what he has and I just was kind of like well, I guess he’s just his own thing. Like I’m just totally in awe of it and eventually when I had to do the murals for Rapunzel, like all of that inspiration I had gotten from him kind of started coming through and I started realizing, oh I can kind of interconnect these things and use graphic shapes, and suddenly all that inspiration that I was feeling so inferior to I was able to take it and use it as my own to create the style and look of Rapunzel. So I guess…I don’t know really what I’m saying but for me, in that particular instance it was like it just happened naturally, that something that you really want…maybe it’s not coming like right then, but along down the line, your subconscious and your whole being artistically is working to somehow integrate that later on.
Chris: Oh, that’s great.
Brian: Yeah, and sometimes that takes years, that process I think.
Claire: Yeah and you don’t necessarily know that it’s happening until all of a sudden you look back and you realize wow, I made a lot of progress.
Jenn: I love that, it’s something that I’ve talked to students about a lot, because they’re so worried about style and things like that and trying to figure out how do you end up with a style? It’s like, it does happen in this organic way, it’s the things that you’re looking at, the things that you surround yourself with, the things you learn and pick up from the things that you love. I love that Tangled example because I absolutely love the mural work that you did on Tangled. It’s gorgeous and now hearing you talk about it and where it came from, it’s just so incredible. It’s like you fall in love with this thing and you kind of create this new hybrid that is yours and it’s amazing. I feel like that’s always the best way that it happens, when you’re not trying to force anything, you’re just like surrounded by these things that you love and you’re trying to embrace the parts you really connect with. Like that’s so inspiring, that’s so incredible.
Chris: Right, you see the Charlie Harper spark, when Claire, you pointed out to us, we can see it. But I don’t know if you necessarily look at it and make that association right away because it’s so individual. It’s very interesting that the influence is there and yet it really is authorial.
Jenn: Yeah, it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing his hat or anything. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing a Charlie Harper impression, you know?
Claire: Yeah, yeah.
Brian: Will Heizer said that style happened as a result of how you solve problems, how you specifically solve problems and it sounds to me like Claire, you had a problem to solve. And the style was influenced by someone else, but you were really trying to solve a problem.
Claire: Yeah, and I thought somebody else solved that problem in this way and I could click that in.
Brian: Yeah, exactly, and that’s why people have the styles that they have but Brian Stelfreeze is a comic artist and I read an interview once that he couldn’t draw people. He could draw machinery but he couldn’t draw people. He draws people really well by the way, but there was a time when he couldn’t do it. But he decided…he figured out well, what if I thought of people as machinery (because he could draw machinery). And he did that, and that’s how he learned how to draw people. They don’t look like machines, but it gives him a very distinct style because that’s the way he had to solve that problem.
Claire: Yeah, that’s interesting. I kind of believe that’s why it’s always better to be working on a real project than one that you kind of just made up for yourself that doesn’t mean so much to you, where it’s not a real problem to solve.
Claire: It’s better to be on something where like other people are depending on you to figure this out and it’s in doing that, that’s when you make progress. Because sometimes in studios or things they have…they kind of create these fake projects for interns and I’m always like oh man, it’s kind of a shame. Since it’s a fake project, it doesn’t really feel real.
Chris: Yeah, that’s totally true. There’s something too about there’s like an assumed kind of posture that you are going to seek out the uncomfortable. It’s almost like it’s fuel for your creative fire in a lot of ways. You’re going to lean into that change and into those challenges on purpose. And it’s not even like it’s a choice necessarily you make as it is kind of the general momentum of your artistic development.
Jenn: I really agree with that. I think it ducktails with what Brian was saying about like, you’re kind of aware the things that you…I don’t want to say hide behind, but maybe in some cases, it’s that way. But just the things that come more naturally. If I have a light Saturday and I feel like drawing, there are the things that are easy for me to fall into and then there are the things that I can do to expand myself. And there’s a distinction there, and I do think that some of the more successful people like did go for that expansion, they fight for the uncomfortable thing and I think to have any kind of meaningful momentum or progression, you have to lean into discomfort, right?
Jenn: It’s new territory; it’s outside of your wheelhouse you’ve created for yourself. It’s satisfying, as scary as it is, it’s equally satisfying.
Brian: And what’s interesting about it too is it has its effect on things that you already did well too. It changes those things.
Chris: I’ve had a number of listeners to the podcast write me lately and ask me specifically about this idea of finding your calling. And this is the language, this is the language – I want to find my calling, I’m trying to find my calling, I don’t feel like I’ve found my calling, that kind of thing. When you work, do you feel like you’ve found your calling? Is that a thing? And if so, was there ever a time when you did not feel like you had found your calling, when you felt like you were still seeking that out? What does that mean to you?
Claire: Well, I think that I’ve probably just gotten used to that feeling so far, of just kind of not knowing what’s next and kind of embracing that. And I like that, and there was a point where I saw myself as the visual development artist and I felt like, is this my calling because I don’t want to just be here in this studio for like ages and years and just like be in the same spot forever. Like I want to have something more, so I feel like for me in any case, there’s always been this love/hate relationship with a calling. Like I don’t know if I really want to have something that just I can just sit neatly in and be like oh, this is what I am and I will be this for the rest of my life. There are people that will be that though. I don’t know if that is me, maybe that will change and maybe someday I will find my calling and I’ll be like yes, this is what I am, this is what I want to do. Having said that, there have been times when I just loved what I was doing and working on it but there was something else kind of nagging at me and in particular when I was working on Rapunzel, when I started doing the character research in this sketch book I was doing. I was trying to figure out who she was and how she thought. All of a sudden, like I felt like I discovered this complete other world inside my creativity and inside myself that I loved. And I didn’t know what to do with it and I still don’t know what to do with it, but it just kind of awakened this sense of overarching storytelling that I wanted to be a part of and not just about designing what her dress would look like or how her hair would be. It was more I want to know who the character is and how she’s going to act in the movie and I want to have a say in that, and that has kind of…even though I haven’t been able to continue working in that way of making the journals and stuff for every character that I’ve worked on since. It’s more I see that it opened my eyes to a bigger opportunity for me and that has led me to do my book and books plural and other things that I’m working on too.
Chris: Jenn, what do you think?