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There is no path until you walk it
On Playing the Fool with Ethan Hawke, Jack Kirby and Brian La Rossa
I put all the notes at the top in case you want to just take those and run with it. Chew on them. Brood on them, without any commentary.
“There is no path until you walk it” - Ethan Hawke
I heard the Ethan Hawke quote in a reel. I shared it on Instagram, and a couple of people wrote to tell me how much they loved it. So I looked for the source, which was actually a Ted talk. Here it is:
In the talk, Ethan Hawke equates being creative to playing the fool. We have to give ourselves permission to be creative because no one else will.
“Don’t play the fool” - is a string of words, a sting of words that I have been whipped with often in school. Normally by the English teachers. It was a meaningless phrase that sounded like nonsense words to me, like cussing. More recently I’ve brooded on the meaning of those words, ‘play the fool’. And I’m glad I didn’t know it’s meaning growing up. Or I might have whipped back.
“You know what, Miss Ann Emmanuel or Mr. Macentire, I shall indeed play the fool, because no one else is doing it. And somebody has to do it. At the very least, I have to do it.”
The goal is not to create a compelling image, it’s to craft a compelling universe. - Brian La Rossa
Brian is an Executive Art Director at Scholastic and an Educator at City Collage NY, I’ve not worked with him, but bump into him often on Twitter. Which remains the best place to bump into people you might not otherwise have the chance to bump into.
Brian is addressing illustrators, and talking about the purpose of creating coherence in your illustration style. To think of the work we make as crafting a universe not just an image.
I’m brooding about this idea. In some ways, it’s at odds with the previous quote. Brooding is a way of boiling together seemingly opposing ideas. To get a tasty idea stew!
I think the two ideas cannot exist side by side, but one can exist inside of another.
Either play the fool, inside a compelling universe. Or create a compelling universe by playing the fool.
Keep cheap sheets of paper close to where you work - Jack Kirby
One illustrator who helped build a universe through his ‘foolish pursuit’ was a comic illustrator, writer, and editor, widely regarded as one of the medium's major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators - Jack Kirby.
And he had some actionable advice that you could do right now, and keep doing as a matter of habit.
And that is to:
keep a stack of cheap paper close to where you work.
Do it now!
For playing the fool.
For creating a universe.