Chuck Jones: A Character Study

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“The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.”

If you grew up around a TV set of any kind, chances are you know the name Chuck Jones. At the very least, you would be hard pressed to find anyone over the age of 5 who does not know about his animations. Jones created more than just cartoons, he created characters that lived and interacted vibrantly on screens across the nation. From Wile E. Coyote to Marvin the Martian, I’d be willing to bet that most people could list more Looney Tunes characters than current working Senators, probably with warmer feelings to boot.

I bring this up today because I recently enjoyed a brief but inspiring video about Chuck Jones by Tony Zhou from “Every Frame A Painting,” a fantastic youtube channel devoted to the analysis of film form. In this video, Zhou looks at the formulas behind the characters, jokes, and animations that Chuck Jones and the team at Warner Brothers crafted so masterfully throughout the “Golden Age of Animation.” It’s a nice analysis of method and a worthwhile watch for any creative trying to craft a personal “voice.” How did Chuck Jones create such vivid characters? The magic, it seems, is in the details.

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Practice makes…

Perfect, better, or worse?

Ever heard of “Imposter Syndrome?” Chances are, if you have ever tried to create anything, you’ve asked the question, “Is my work really worth anyone’s attention?” The ultimate irony here is that the pursuit of your craft, no matter how long or successful, often does not provide reassurance. Self-doubt is one of the hardest obstacles for many artists to reconcile with but it is a crucial part of any creative process.

One of the least glamorous pieces of this process tends to walk hand-in-hand with self-doubt. The day-in-day-out task of practice can be as inspirational as it is frustrating because it demands continuous battle against doubt. Craft cannot hope to improve without it and art of any kind is a constant pursuit of different perspectives, stronger techniques, or consistency of product. The act of practicing requires an awareness of many things; personal aspirations, a continuously honest assessment of ability, and effective techniques for development. Fledgling students and veterans alike often struggle with the frustrating plateaus of development but true masters of their craft all share a common trait: a mastery of practice.

In the interest of exploring how some of the greatest creative minds have dealt with this very issue I recently turned to the musings and curation of Maria Popova, founder of the ever inspirational blog, Brain Pickings.

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You’re a failure

From coloring in or outside the lines to screaming a favorite Disney tune in your prettiest tutu, most of us develop a creative interest at a young age. It’s unabashed, filled with mere curiosity, and there’s no thought of critique. That comes later. With the right combination of opportunity and support (or lack-there-of) some people build upon this natural curiosity and choose to pursue their creativity in a professional sense. Their perceived success or failure is often dependent upon the path they follow, wherever it leads. Some choose traditional institutional study while others follow a more personal path. No matter what level of talent, exposure, or achievement an artist strives for everyone universally deals with a cycle of absorption, introspection, creation, and then exposition. The public reaction to that final step can play a huge role in a person’s development as an artist and some can come to rely too heavily on finding that approval.

Bad critiques can push someone to work harder, reinforce someone’s belief that they are doing something unique, or fatally cripple someone’s artistic confidence. The reaction to critique in many ways defines an artist whether that’s an immediate effect or a lasting impact viewed through hindsight. Creativity can be one of the most gratifying and simultaneously delicate facets of the human experience. It’s rewarding on any level from that notebook doodle to winning an award but the study for some can be an emotional or even existential rollercoaster.

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Practice Balance: A talk with Composer/Sound Designer Richard Gould

Richard Gould

Meet Richard Gould. Richard is a composer, sound designer, and voice actor for film, video games and interactive media and currently juggles freelance projects while working in sound editorial for Bay Area post-production company Skywalker Sound. His portfolio includes projects ranging from last year’s Blue Sky Studios release “The Peanuts Movie” to Adventure Time’s “BMO Snaps” for iOS to a host of independent documentaries, animations, and short films. Even a brief look at his credits & awards page will give you an idea, not only of the caliber of his work but also of the scope.

Richard graciously agreed to submit to Practice Positive’s first interview and I took the opportunity to ask him about something he is very good at; producing content and completing work. Below you’ll find our conversation about sound and music for film, creative process, and productivity in the face of a wide variety of projects.

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Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Dr. Robert Waldinger’s recent TED talk filmed in November of 2015 has been popping up all over the internet and reveals some surprisingly obvious, yet very crucial scientific findings relating personal relationships to general happiness and overall health. The “good life” is apparently, “…built with good relationships.”

As his video went viral, Dr. Waldinger retreated to a silent three week meditation that he described as being, “all about giving me a better look at what’s going on—grounding myself.” A Harvard psychiatrist, Zen priest, and psychoanalyst, Dr. Waldinger is also the fourth director of the 75 year long program known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Since the beginning of the inquiry, researchers have tracked year by year the physical and mental health of its subjects in the contexts of their home and work lives in an attempt to find the ingredients for a healthy and meaningful life. This is an extraordinary feat that has created and will continue to create a wealth of data to fuel research into psychiatric and physical health for generations.

This now viral video marks a transition of sorts for the study. As the initial study draws to a close, a 2nd generation study is ramping up in its place involving the over 2000 children of the original 724 subjects. Dr. Waldinger presents a very pointed discovery that he and his colleagues have learned so far from this extensive study. A good, full, and happy life depends heavily upon rich personal relationships and not upon fame, fortune, or professional success. Yes, it’s an old idea but now there is medical, psychiatric, and even socio-economic data to back it up.

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An Introduction

Hello. My name is Zach.

I tend to identify as a musician. I play mandolin and synthesizer, compose music whenever I can summon enough inspiration, and on any given day I could be listening to albums by My Bloody Valentine, Taylor Swift, or Charles Mingus. I am a home-body. I swing from extreme comfort to extreme discomfort in social situations and I value and depend upon my friendships more than some might fully realize. I will often dwell on personal mistakes and wish to change this. I am ecstatically engaged to Kimber, my very patient and supportive fiancee, however I have been struggling for some time to find a healthy life balance amongst the fairly universal (albeit often exaggerated) stresses of being a pointlessly terrified 20-something.

I hope for “Positive Practice” to become an open conversation about creativity, happiness, and balance. There are a lot of artists out there, all with very personal and varied takes on success, failure, artistic integrity, and the creative process. Some artists live and breathe creative passion and know nothing else, some burn out on self pity, some enjoy their art as weekend warriors, while still others function happily as professional artisans. Attitude seems to play a major role in creative practice so if only for my own personal growth I will begin compiling articles, videos, and interviews in the hopes of fostering creative positivity. Perhaps we can help each other find support, inspiration, and comfort in our shared creative development.

Let us never forget that often our greatest successes rise from a string of failures. No one is perfect and everyone can improve. I hope to speak with creatives about their best failures, how they foster positive relationships and attitudes, and their processes for honing their craft. I plan to check in regularly with personal media and will welcome criticism and discussion. At the very least I would like this blog to be a resource to aspiring artists looking for insight, inspiration, and creative support. I’d like to begin to Practice Positive whenever possible.