Things That Inspire Me

I had written a blog post before showcasing the people and things that inspired my work (here), but I feel the need to update it, for a number of reasons:

1. My art has improved and grown since the last time I made that list, and the things that inspire me now reflect that change.

2. These things that inspire me now continuously make me say “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s the best thing to think when you see someone’s work, I believe, because it not only shows that you are on the lookout for ideas, but you also understand the other artist’s work to such a point that you’re practically on the same emotional wavelength as them. That’s a great thing.

So first, I’m going to share the things that still inspire me that I had shared the last time, and why:

1. Bone, by Jeff Smith.

I’m actually re-reading this series right now. And every time I look at the art, every time, I think to myself, “Jeez, I want to get to a point where I can draw that confidently with a brush” or “Jeez, seeing this makes me want to try harder in drawing nature backgrounds.” But it’s not just the art that inspires me: it’s also the story. How Jeff Smith interweaves the hero’s journey and a return-home story with themes about nature and its underlying oneness with the world. This series is deceptively deep (I say deceptively because on the surface you wouldn’t think this story would talk about nature’s balance or anything like that). AND IT HAS HUMOR. And the humor’s not even forced: it’s character-based and genuinely silly, and that’s almost unheard of in a high-fantasy story.

So I adore Bone and its silliness and its surprisingly deep thoughts, and they always make me want to try and include that in my own work.

2. Paprika, directed by Satoshi Kon

I adore this movie, and in my mind, it makes sense. When I talk to people about this movie, they usually say something like, “I don’t know what I just watched.” I admit, it takes a couple of viewings to fully understand what’s going on. But it’s worth it.

What I love is that yes, there is madness (after all, it’s not every movie where you see a psychologist break into monologue about building a parade with a Triangle Goose Party, a group of fourth graders, and a Panda), but there’s a method to the madness. This story is about how technology that was created to help people understand each other through dreams, is put in the wrong hands and is warped to become a tool of massive destruction. The terrorist misusing the technology causes all kinds of events, from nightmare-induced suicides to mass hallucinations and eventually, a giant gaping hole in the middle of the city that causes nothing but death.

What inspires me, though, is the art, especially with how they present dreams. The dreams in this movie are like dreams in reality: no Freudian undertones. Just scenes playing in the mind that have loose but present connections that leads to the next dream. And the art direction is subtle: dreams are full of vivid color while reality is white-washed and almost bland.

And every time I watch this movie, I notice something new: how Doctor Chiba interacts with Tokita, how the Chairman subtly reveals himself to be the terrorist, the references to old noir films. And of course, I keep thinking, “ALL THE IDEAS. I WANT TO TAKE THEM.”

3. Castle

You know, aside from the fact that it stars Nathan Fillion, my favorite television actor EVER, it has a lot of things I forgot I loved: a good mystery, a story about writers seeking inspiration and finding it in an unlikely place, and an adorable dynamic between the main characters. Seriously, every time Castle teases Beckett or the two buddy cops act with each other, I burst into giggle fits.

The dialogue and the characters are what inspire me more than the set up: when I see the characters on screen teasing each other, I just go, “Dude, that would be a great element to add to my story OH WAIT IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE dammit.” Still, this show inspires me to work on my characters to make them into people I would love to watch, like these guys do here.

4. Tale of Sand by Jim Henson with art by Ramon Perez
I. ADORE. THE. ART. Can I just say that now? I mean jeez, every time I see Ramon Perez’s art, I wanna’ slap the man and steal his talent while he’s still dazed, it’s THAT good.
But combined with Jim Henson’s absolutely ridiculous yet fun screenplay, it’s the most fun romp in comics you could ever have. The art direction is great, too: look at the page spread above, and that’s just from two pages of the book. The other pages have the most fun use of colors I’ve seen in a comic for a while: bursting reds and oranges for outrageous action scenes, watercolor-washed panels alongside graphic panels…really, it’s a visual feast.
And of course, there are silly scenarios spread throughout: how the main character is about to light a cigarette with a random fire he sees in the desert, but then Smokey the Bear charges forward from nowhere and dumps a giant bucket of water on him and the fire; how he them comes across a swimming pool, in the middle of the desert, filled with sharks; how a football team and Arabian soldiers chase after him for ruining their movies, and on and on with the ridiculousness.
The silliness is what gets to me, but it’s mostly the art and how it tells the ridiculousness happening. When I see the football player’s speech balloons read like a playing pattern with X’s and O’s, I just think, “That’s so clever! I wanna’ do that! OH WAIT it’s been done. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?!” And there are so many other instances that make me think that. And every time I read it, something new clicks with me and makes me want to draw.

5. Paper Towns by John Green

I should really cop out and say “All the books written by John Green”, but this one really sticks with me, especially because it was the first ever John Green book I ever read.

It has everything that I love that I realized I forgot I loved in a teen story: pranks, a mystery, hilarious dialogue, a budding novelist trying to make her story, and a fabulous and last-minute road trip. Really, this book made me love Road Trip stories like “Lost at Sea” by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson, or even “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green (ha).

I loved everything about this story, and I really want to re-read it again to enjoy the characters and their adventures throughout Florida and eventually up the east coast to get to Angloe, New York.

6. Steam Powered Giraffe

I love this band. To pieces. I saw them perform live at Youmacon (the main reason that I went to the con to begin with) and just fell in love with them all over again. And after they performed I hugged EVERY. SINGLE. BAND. MEMBER (except for Steve the tech guy. He would have been fun to hug) (Mike the Drummer gave me such a big hug he lifted me off the ground!). And they are the SWEETEST guys you could ever meet. Aside from them putting up with my stuttering and everything because I was giddy to meet them, they were more than happy to talk to their fans. And their fan base is ridiculously loyal (not counting me. Look them up on Tumblr on the “spg” tag, and you will see how devoted their fans are).

But aside from them being the NICEST GUYS EVER, they’re also the most talented I’ve come across in an indie band: Rabbit, one of the performers, not only sings and dances, but she (yes, she. That’s a long story) also does the art and the graphic design. The Spine also sings and performs, and when not on stage, he runs the website for the band. Sam, who is now Hatchworth, played drums and guitar for the band before donning the character of Hatchworth.

Steam Powered Giraffe inspires me with their musical talent, their silliness with their stage presence and their lyrics, their ability to NOT be afraid to do silly things, their kindness, and the devotion they spark from their fans. Every time I listen to their music, the ideas just flow, and that’s the best thing ever.

7. Hocking Hills, Ohio

This is the same area that inspired Jeff Smith with his series Bone. In an interview he said something to the effect of “When you go there, you just get inspired to tell stories because of everything around you,” and it’s true. I’ve been there twice, and every time I come back, I’m bursting with ideas for stories to happen at Old Man’s Cave or Ash Cave, or to include The Devil’s Bathtub as a portal to Hell, or for dragons to be hiding between the trees or in the Rock House.

Unfortunately, I usually travel with my family to here, and they’re not too keen on me stopping every five minutes to draw something idea-inspiring in my sketchbook. Someday, I’ll come back here with just me and my sketchbook and watercolors in tow, so I can take my time and really get to know the place.

8. The people I worked with at Cedar Point

Why yes, there was a night where all the artists of the park got together and pied each other in the face. Why do you ask? Oh, right, the picture above kind of gave it away.

I’m sad that I left the park on the terms that I did. On the other hand, the people I worked with just kept inspiring me to push my limits and try new things as often as I could. Watching my friend Tom made me try to do better at using color and drawing silly poses. Watching my friend Natalie made me want to try new things with drawing action scenes or cute couples. Talking to Derek inspired me to keep being silly and dance as often as I could. Dan continuously makes me jealous of his line quality and his ridiculously deep knowledge of all things nerdy, and how he incorporates that nerdiness into his work. And the first-years this year, from Landon to Jenna to Caleb, made me look at things (and people’s faces) in a new way.

I’m not going to talk about my experience of working there (that’s an entirely different blog post), but the one thing that made me hesitant to leave was the people I worked with. I still keep in touch with them as best as I can, though, and that helps me keep going artistically.

9. The Navajo Nation and her people

I went on this trip two years ago, and I can still remember it like it happened yesterday. It literally changed my life. It’s not easy for me to put it into words, but the best I can say is that the trip, the people I went with and met, the places I saw…they all made me realize how incredibly huge the world really is, and how infinitely small humans are in the grand scheme of things. Our present society now, with laptops and iPads and the Internet and smartphones being able to hold the entire contents of the Library of Alexandria, make us feel powerful when we really aren’t. Going to Navajo Nation opened my eyes and heart to the idea that humans are as much a part of nature as the animals and rocks, and eventually we will die and there WILL not be a legacy of us left behind. What matters is that we live now, because eventually we will die and there will be nothing left to remember us.

That last sentence can be really challenging for me, even in the present day: our society keeps saying that people will leave behind some kind of legacy, whether that’s inventing the iPhone or starting a business or even just raising a family. But you have to remember your own mortality. And that it’s ok to realize that you’re going to die, as long as you live now.

…..Ok, now to move on to other inspirations. I probably have you all thoroughly depressed by now.

10. Nargyle

I have never met this person in real life, but by damn I really want to. Every time I see this person’s art, I just go, “ASDFGHJKL LET ME LOVE YOU (and steal your talent, but mostly love you)!” The way they design their characters and how they draw action and use color just makes me 1. drool, and 2. want to work on my art to get to their level of awesomeness.

Because they are ridiculously awesome.

And last, but INCREDIBLY not least:

11. My former classmates and still awesome friends: Jeff Laclede, Casey Vernon, and Chloe Rose.

Aside from the fact that their work is everything from BADASS to sweet, I still keep in touch with them and they always, ALWAYS, make me inspired to keep drawing. Jeff is already amazing, but he’s always willing to listen to critiques from others. Casey helps me articulate why I make art to begin with. And Chloe not only makes me want to try new styles outside of my comfort zone, but she also puts up with my fangirling and we often just get together on Skype just to say “THE FEEEEELZ.”

All three of them inspire me to keep learning: just because I graduated from school already doesn’t mean I stop becoming a student. Plus, they all make comics, and it feels great to know that I have friends that make the same kind of art that I do. It makes bitching about the low points and screaming with joy about the high points SO much easier when you have someone who knows what you’re talking about with you.

Of course, I come across things every day that makes me go “Why didn’t I think of that?” Or say, “Man, that really makes me want to draw!” I think that’s the most important thing is to know what inspires you and keep those inspirations in your life as long as you can.

Don’t Forget to Be Awesome, and I’ll see you again soon!

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