Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Imagination is just memory in disguise. by Linda Dorn

Inspiration is the theme given to me for this weeks article. About a month ago I underwent the transition from teaching to full time artist. Sounds easy, going from talking about creating art to making it, yet there I was facing down a blank canvas with a question mark over my head.

I had a lot of ideas, but they all seemed contrived, generic. So I left the house and drew. I found a deer in a petting zoo nearby and visited her everyday until I was seeing and drawing something fresh and full of life. This is how I get my kickstart.

Zoo sketches, and the final illustration:

Drawing in public places like this is also a great opportunity to eavesdrop. Yes, eavesdrop.  Now I know what your thinking. I was also rather horrified when my very brilliant writing teacher made it a regular assignment. Write down word for word what you hear, then create a story from it. Best writing advice I've had so far. 

"Imagination is just memory in disguise", hearing this phrase was almost worth the entire cost of the masters degree. We will draw what we know, what we see, so you better fill your head with rich material. Once I accepted this, I was able to select which memories I chose to fuel my creativity, and weed out the cliches. 

I see so many young artists looking at the popular trends for inspiration. But some of the most innovative artists pull their inspiration from the past. Tim Burton (fellow alumni) was highly inspired by one particular film he saw in film school, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a 1920 German silent horror film. Pendleton Ward's (also fellow alumni) tv series Adventure Time, pulls some bits from the old rubber hose cartoons of the 1940s.

Hitchcock and Terry Gilliam use what we call "creative invention" by juxtaposing two things that do not belong together, something new emerges, and that evokes a story. Hitchcock said "if you take a woman dressed in an elegant cocktail dress, and put her in a uptown party there is no story. Take the same woman in an elegant dress, put her in the stoke hold of a cargo ship, then you raise questions, and you have a story." My mentor, a film production designer showed me a grand secret, if you combine images you can invent something new. It does not work if you just think it through because your mind will organize it in a conventional way. But if you lay out a variety of images in front of you, you can begin to see how you can combine them and create something extraordinary. This is Gilliam's technique, he combines old and new, mixes up architectural styles, genres, it is always exciting and fresh.

So if your looking for inspiration, don't jump on the computer to see what is hot and what is not, as tempting as it is. Consider what you love in this world, bring together all the things that have appealed you and see what could be combined. Go outside, look around, draw. If you look hard enough, you'll see it is rather exciting out there and you'll find something to share.

Linda Dorn is an illustrator and animator living in Southern California. To see more of her work go to

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article! Thank you for the inspiration! ;)