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Posts tagged ‘imagination’

Tornado Warnings


She’s one of my favourite living artists.  I’ve known Lynne McIlvride for decades and am honoured to own one of her originals.

I was at the opening of her new show last night http://www.davidkayegallery.com/ and once again I’m struck with the beauty of her work.  As always, I start to wonder why. What is it about this art that hits me so profoundly and more importantly, what is it trying to teach me.

Apart from her being one of the best people I know, her work speaks to me of balance and beauty – often in the midst of chaos.  She mixes found objects with fresh painting, her life 0 the good and the bad is recorded in her work with a courageous honesty that I marvel at, but it mixes with metaphor and symbols, whimsy and heartache.

This is what I love the most; she explores her art and her passions with specific and clear emotional detail while using metaphors that make her work universal.

Her latest series, Stormy weather (seriously, check it out) is all about tornadoes.  She’s put them in their sturdy glass doored boxes so we can view them and their destruction from a safe place, and then she tucks in some supplies to help with the healing after.  My favorite is the one pictured.  It’s a nasty little tornado (in spite of its colors) and Lynne’s given us thread to sew it all back together when the tornado’s done its worst.  No Band-Aids, sturdy and colourful thread.  It’s gonna leave a scar, it will never look the same, but we’re gonna hold it altogether. Another piece has the tornado coming through fabric that’s already patched together…here it comes again.

Sometimes life gets ripped apart, if we face it with integrity and creativity, we can make something beautiful.

Thanks again Lynne.

Check out her web site, she’s great.



Her current show runs to August 25th at the David Kaye Gallery – 1092 Queen St. W. Toronto.   http://www.davidkayegallery.com/

Three me’s

Bryce's Caricature

Bryce’s Caricature

Nadia's Caricature

Nadia’s Caricature

Didi's Caricature

Didi’s Caricature

A few weeks ago some of my students – and former students – were raising money by doing caricatures.  Always being one to support the arts – – – and get a few neato, cool pictures of myself into the bargain, I waited until all of them were free at the same time and got three caricatures done at the same time – how’s that for quality time management.

I LOVE the results.  It’s impossible not to be struck by how different they are.  Three artists drawing the same face at the same time…three totally unique works of art.  Three VERY distinctive impressions of their acting teacher.

EVERYTHING we do is filtered through how we see the world.  No two people are the same and no two perspectives are the same, only you can create the art that’s inside you, you – and your contributions – are irreplaceable.

Check out more art from these awesome artists:

Bryce Jones http://jonesy-orangatangerine.blogspot.com/

Naddya Oluoch-Olunya http://nyargoro.tumblr.com/

Didi, if you can get me your info, I’d love to link to it.

Scarlett O’Hara & Mark Twain – Worry and Time Management.

I’m lazy and smart* the two together have made me an expert on time management – actually worked as a time management expert for a while.  This morning I saw the following picture/caption.

Quote from Dan Zadra - not sure where the art comes from, if you know, please let me know so I can credit it.

Quote from Dan Zadra – not sure where the art comes from, if you know, please let me know so I can credit it.

Made me think about something I wrote a while ago on the subject of worry and time management.

Scarlet O’Hara was one of the best time managers ever! When something was bothering her she was famous for saying “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.  She was also famous for saying “Fiddle Dee Dee”; I have no clue what that was about, but I’ll think about that tomorrow.

I wouldn’t suggest you emulate Scarlet on a lot of issues, she married her sister’s fiancée who she didn’t love, because he was rich and then supported him in his KKK activity (I think it was the same husband – she had four or five) – these are not admirable traits, but she knew how to get things done and not worrying was a BIG part of her system.

Worry takes up a HUGE amount of time and energy and gives us NOTHING in return.



I know, I know, it’s easier said than done, but try pulling a Scarlett and scheduling your worry.  It works, yank out your date book.  Tomorrow – or the next day – between 8:00 and 8:25 can be worry-fret-angst time, right now you’ve got more important things to do and so do I.

Adding in a Fiddle dee dee or two is up to you.  I bet you won’t even be able to remember what you were supposed to worry about by then.

A final word from a nicer person than Scarlet…

“I have spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened.”

Mark Twain

* It’s taken me years to be able to say “I’m smart” without shame.  While we’re letting go of worry, let’s all acknowledge our strengths without shame.

You’ve Got it ALL!

WARNING!!! The following is a bit of an excuse killer – at least it has been for me – so if you’re deeply dependent on your excuses, you might want to give this one a pass.

On the weekend I was explaining how the color wheel worked to my ten year old…suddenly it hit me.  There are only three colors…REALLY ONLY THREE…put them together with light and dark and EVERYTHING we see: great art, beautiful vistas, the faces we love.  If we can see it, it’s made up of three colors mixed with light and dark.


Everything works like this.  All great writing comes from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation; every piece of music is made up of the same 12 notes.  The entire known universe (according to my Science Smarty Pants friend Bill) is made up of 18 particle-anitparticle pairings (6 kinds of quarks, 6 kinds of leptons, of which one is the electron, and 6 force carriers)*

One of the great excuses I’ve used for most of my life is that I don’t have enough ______________ I’m quite creative about filling in the blanks in ways that fully justify my excuses.  The reality is that all great art and the universe itself is made up of a very few things.  I need to stop making excuses, I have what I need to create what I want…so do you.

On another note, Bill was also one of my first great writing teachers.  He’s not a writer, but years ago I was complaining that I couldn’t write because of computer problems, he took out a pen and some paper and said “Shakespeare wrote with a quill – if you really want to write, then write.”

The truth is – we have everything we need to make the art or the lives we want.  Stop making excuses, stop seeing what you don’t have and take a tip from the universe…make your masterpiece with what you’ve got – You’ve got it all.

* I have to be honest, I have NO IDEA what he’s talking about, but I trust him – – – he’s a smarty pants.

Breakin’ out with my favourite Ogre

Story telling (animated or otherwise) depends on character arcs.  We’re all on some kind of journey; life is never static (even when we want it to be).  The character arcs we are most drawn to are the ones we need to learn from to help us on our own journeys.

My favourite is Shrek.  I’ll tell you why at the end, but you’ll probably figure it out before then.

Shrek starts his journey as a loner, he’s built some pretty serious walls around himself to keep everyone out . . . quite frankly, from the way the locals treat him, I don’t blame him.  People can be so freakin’ mean sometimes it seems that life would be better without the whole nasty stinkin’ lot of them.

He finishes surrounded by community, married and singing some rather rockin’ karaoke.

It didn’t happen by magic.  He took some very definite steps.  He had his trip forced on him, we don’t have to.  We can make decisions and take action that will take us to real friendships and love before the fairy tale creatures invade our swamps.

Sooooooooooo what did he do and more importantly, what can we do?

He accepted a deeply flawed, irritating, friend – who didn’t judge him.  Let’s face it, Donkey’s irritating, he has no concept of personal boundaries, or social norms and he doesn’t have a clue when he’s not wanted…but he’s a friend.   If you’re looking for a perfect friend/partner/spouse, you’re going to be very lonely.  There’s a difference between dangerous toxic people and people who can drive us crazy at times.  One of them needs to be avoided at all costs, one of them is . . . human (or a Donkey in Shrek’s case).  Some brilliant voice work here by Eddie Murphy By The Way.

He leaves his comfort zone.  Shrek doesn’t go willingly, he’s forced out, but he goes.  He moves into places that are uncomfortable, places he’s avoided in the past.  Do I have to explain this one? Nothing changes if nothing changes.  We can’t grow if we keep doing the same things we’ve been doing all along.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  Get out of your comfort zone.

He wins.  He lands in Duloc just in time for a tournament and he wins (with the help of his irritating friend).  We all have something we’re good at.  Often it’s something we dismiss because it’s so easy . . . for us.  Even small successes will yield amazing results to our self-esteem if we don’t totally dismiss them.

His journey continues and includes some really important points that I’ll come back to at some point, but I want to keep the Blogs short.

Accept people for the deeply and beautifully flawed individuals that they are, while you’re at it accept yourself for the same reasons.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Celebrate small successes.

I grew up feeling deeply alone.  I had very few social skills and suffered from a magical combination of pretention and low self-esteem.  I convinced myself I was happier alone and put a LOT of effort into proving I was right.  It’s taken decades to learn what Shrek learned.  I wish I’d learned it earlier.  I wish for you a whole community of irritating, loving friends . . . are there any other kind?

Making it real with Shrek

One of the techniques actors generally use (though not all of us) is to create character histories.  Generally there simply aren’t enough real facts about a character to make them real when all we have to work with is the script (or in the case of animation, the script, storyboards and soundtrack).  When we build character histories, our characters come to life, they become a little more real.

One of my favorite characters of all time is Shrek.  When we look at the facts we’re given we find a very two-dimensional character.  For over two decades I’ve been asking students what the “Facts” are about Shrek.  The list is always similar.  This is a story about a isolationist Scottish* Ogre who thinks he’s an onion.  This is NOT a character, it’s a REALLY rough sketch, we have to flesh him out or no one’s going to relate.  There’s no “right” answer, but two of my favorite histories to come out of classes are these:

SHREK HISTORY VERSION 1: As a teenager, he was driven out of Scotland by his fellow ogres who hated him because he was too soft.  He comes to this mythical place where he’s heard everyone is nicer.  They take one look at him and hate him because of the assumptions they make.  He moves to the swamp and tells himself he’s happy there – – – truth is, he’s a lot happier alone than he is being with people who hate him.  As an adolescent, he notices one of the girls in town, the mean girls pick on her and she’s a bit of a social outcast.  He wishes he were brave enough to say something, but he doesn’t.  One day the mean girls in town drag the poor girl out to the swamp, knock on Shrek’s door and leave her there in the mud.  He goes to help her and she FREAKS OUT.  Runs to the mean girls and tells them how awful it was.   They hurl obscenities and rocks at him.  Then she tells her father that “The Ogre tried to touch me.”  Out come the pitchforks and the torches and they try to kill him.  Suddenly, with a bit of imagination, Shrek stops being two-dimensional.  He becomes a person we can relate to.  Seriously, is there anyone out there who hasn’t thought at some point that the world was just too fricken mean and wanted to shut them all out?

SHREK HISTORY VERSION 2: Young Shrek lives in Scotland where he’s totally in love with a very cute Ogress.  One day the entire village is celebrating a great victory.  There’s going to be a huge banquet and fireworks.  Shrek and his main squeeze sneak off to a convenient barn (which happens to be where the fireworks are stored) to get some Ogre love action.  The hilt of his sword sparks on a stone and the entire town, including his honey, is wiped out . . . and it’s his fault.  Now he lives far from Scotland and refuses to have anything to do with friendships or love…everyone he gets close to dies.

Neither history is “right” Shrek is fictional (sorry, you had to hear it eventually).  The object is to create a character who is “real”, to find the humanity in our characters.

In our world, we have a tendency to judge, to look at the surface and decide what’s inside.  Most, if not all, of us work to not judge on issues like race, gender, sexuality etc. but do we make assumptions based on things like posture, grammar, clothing . . . etc.?   When we do that, we turn people into two-dimensional characters. We stop seeing them as real people with real lives.  Do we ever do the same thing to ourselves?

Everyone has a story**, we may not have access to their stories, many people are private about there lives, but when we realize that everyone around us has lived through hard times and great times, failures and successes, our own lives become richer.

I think in the end, we’re all onions . . . just like Shrek.

Check out my next Blog – we’re going to look at how Shrek changed his life in some pretty coolio ways . . . and how we can learn from him.

*Scottish heritage courtesy of Mike Myers 🙂

**A former student of mine says he now uses this as his principle pick up line.  “What’s your story?  Everyone has one.”  He says he gets to know a lot of really great girls this way.  😉

What “Animating Your Life” is all about

Fasten your seat belts, our destination is going to be all over the map and our cruising altitude is going to be whatever works.

ANIMATING YOUR LIFE is going to be about my own interaction with great – and not so great – art.

Working on the premise that if it moves me, then I’m somehow relating to it and if I relate to it, then it must be trying to teach me something, I’m going to look at art and see what it’s trying to teach me.

I chose the title because it has a nice ring to it and because I’ve been working in Animation for over 25 years.  I love it and it’s been good to me, but I’ll be exploring outside the field into anything that grabs my attention.

I’ll also be expanding on some of the material I’m using in class.  I teach Acting in Animation at a number of colleges  in and around Toronto since 1998.  Every year there are a handful of students who ask about course notes – – – here they are – – – sort of.

Enjoy, share your experiences and let me know what you think.

More than anything else, go to art, look at it, enjoy it and when something sticks to you – ask why.  It’s trying to teach you something.


Rob Corbett

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