The View from Lobeville: Inspiration

May 20, 2007 1:36 pm

What inspires you?

This question is heard quite often. People may see your photographs, drawings, or rendered images and be sincerely interested in how your creative process works. Others may not be able to think of anything else to ask and don't want to let an embarrassing silence hang in the air after viewing "Penguins Playing Poker." Still others ask the question in a rhetorical sense as a way to start a commentary on inspiration. As you no doubt just figured out, I'm using the latter approach. So if you were preparing a ten minutes speech in response to that single sentence paragraph above…well, forget it.

But if someone else wants you to actually answer the question then be aware that there are three - and only three! - ways in which to respond.

First, you can try the obnoxious approach. Chop down those chumps that dare bother you while "pondering the mixtures of emotional texture that resonate in post-modern society," that is, napping. Respond with something along the lines of "If you have to ask, you'll never understand."

This first approach works best with raised eyebrow and slightly Slavic accent. If the question asker responds back with anything that includes the word "idiot," don't take the bait! Simply raise the other eyebrow. (Note: make sure the first eyebrow is lowered before using the second eyebrow rise. Otherwise you'll just look like you had one too many Botox injections.)

The second type of response is to dazzle and confuse them with humor. Say that you get your ideas from "a warehouse in Cleveland," or a "little old lady in Duluth." The specifics don't matter as long as you reference a Midwestern American town that is on the Federal Comedic, Humorous and Silly Place Name List.

To do otherwise, for instance by claiming that "my ideas are all from movie studios in Hollywood," or "I borrow liberally from magazines published in New York City" simply misses the point. Worse, if it happens that you actually do get ideas from Hollywood movies then while the questioner will be amused as they slap you with an injunction against "Spider-ish Man," there won't be much for you to smile about while waiting in a holding cell before your arraignment.

The third response to an inspiration question can be short or long and convoluted but boils down to a single idea: "life." You get your ideas from all the things going on around you, whether this entails your close knit family, your deep concerns over troubled spots in the world, or your bitterness at losing a huge pot to a flightless bird from Antarctica who did not have that second king when the hand was dealt and you know had to be cheating but it's not like you can frisk the bird without security tossing you out onto the street where your lucky pen gets run over by a semi making the night run to Reno.

This third response is best done…okay, let me point out, that there was a second penguin standing behind the first with an iPod and mirrored sunglasses. Now if that isn't suspicious -


Anyhoo, the third response to the inspiration questions is best done with the minimum of verbiage. Don't worry about bringing together all of your actual inspirations into a single well crafted sentence. The trick here: it doesn't matter what you say as long as you say it in a profound manner.

I recommend that as soon as you are asked the question, look away from the person, stare for a few seconds with a frown, then sigh, perhaps add the slightest twitch of a wry smile. Don't look back at them! Simply say a short phrase using some sort of European accent and then slowly walk away.

Another tip: a pipe helps add to the impressiveness of this method. But make sure it is a tobacco pipe even if it isn't actually lit. One of those bubble making pipes…not so impressive.

Let's bring it all together with an example. You're at the art gallery standing next to your latest masterpiece, "Waiting for Slow Browser to Load Images," when someone saunters up and asks the question, "Hey, Artistic Person, what's your inspiration?"

Turn slowly to face them. Remove the pipe from your mouth, breath in deeply…hold it, hold it…exhale…No you fool not with a loud whoosh!...slowly…yes, slowly exhale. Now, look away from the them…your eyes will seem to focus on some middle distance….No! Don't focus on that woman, geeze we're in public!…there, that direction, good, good…

Now say something like:

"I am inspired by the annual poodle migration. The great herds of poodles…"

"Pancakes. Are they truly the ambrosia of the gods? That inspires me."

"Life. Death. Life after death. Death before life. Life then death then life and back to death again. Life and death having lunch at Morton's and arguing over how to split the bill."

Finally let me add some tips to help make your inspiration answering experience even better.

* If you can do a European accent while answering then go for it. But if your "Swedish" sounds more "Czech" by the end of a sentence after traveling through Klingon and the guttural noise of a beached Minke whale, well, perhaps you should skip the accent thing.

* Always speak with absolute and full authority. After all, if you say you are inspired by the Great Sentient-Wallet Rebellion of 2311 who is there to doubt you? Okay, but other than those with a command of facts and an understanding of logic?

* Beware of neurobiologists who specialize in cognition. Keep them off balance with a few phrases like "cultural memetics integrated with Parietal functionality," "parallel synapse firing which creates an ur-conscious net," and that old standby, "oh, is that medical school accredited now?"

* And most importantly, if the question on inspiration is asked in a shocked tone, along with expressions like "sick" and "if that isn't illegal it should be," then don't stop to answer. Quickly head for the exit and the nearest border. I believe there are several penguins who will hire someone to drive them to poker tournaments no questions asked.

The View from Lobeville
by Contributing Columnist Ron Kollgard [AnteriorLobe]
A personal commentary about the critical, the important, and other stuff.
Ron is also a member of the Renderosity Comics Team. Be sure to catch his weekly comic strip, "Non-Canonical" among the other fine works of our hard-working cartoonists.

May 21, 2007

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Article Comments

nickcharles ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 26 May 2007

Thanks, Ron, for the inspirational commentary on the question of inspiration! LOL..."Waiting for Slow Browser to Load Images"...I could fill my gallery with imitations of that one ;) And...I could surely use a picture of "Penguins Playing Poker" next to my "Dogs Shooting Pool" :) In the meantime, I'll have to put away my bubble-making pipe...