Gary Larson on the Creative Process


Constraints, even arbitrary ones, are central to the creative process. Constraints force us to consider new alternatives, discard subconscious assumptions, and think outside the box. I've written about this before, but I'll be the first to admit that I lack the gravitas that others might bring to the issue. Gary Larson, for instance, has published 23 books, drawn a cover for the New Yorker, and even has a species of lice named after him. And here's what he says about his art:

Because The Far Side is a vertical, single-panel cartoon, I've rarely had the luxury of being able to draw long things (like whales, snakes, ships, etc.) in an accommodating shape. In general, the perspective has to be from front to rear, as opposed to side to side…
In cartoon strips, you frequently see the latter approach - because the strip lends itself well to horizontal images. In The Far Side... ships come at you head on, classrooms are viewed from either the front or the back, and riding in the car is often seen from the perspective of the backseat looking forward or from the windshield looking inward. I just can't draw a '59 Cadillac in profile. 
I'm saying this because I drew The Far Side for years without truly being cognizant of why I approached it this way. I was just trying to figure out ways to cram things into a little rectangle. It was a friend of mine (also a cartoonist) who pointed out that I had inadvertently developed one or two drawing skills in the process. 
The limitation of space I fought in the beginning ended up being the best drawing instructor I ever had.

From Larson's 1989 The PreHistory of the Far Side. Published without any accompanying cartoons per the artist's wishes.

Stop Reading and Enjoy the Whimsy

 A week ago I was on the playa, amidst a swirl of light, sound, dust, and tutus. Until a week ago, I was a virgin (burner). I am now older, wiser, dustier, and intimately acquainted with what must be one of the most wonderful cultural experiences on the planet. 

This post won't however be another exclamation about the wonder and magic to be had in the desert. When I got into my car two weeks ago I had done my best to remain totally agnostic as to what I would find, and without expectation for what the experience should hold. After all, the epithet "mind blowing" only conveys so much on the umpteenth recital, and the only commonality that people's stories seemed to hold was the utter uniqueness of each person's experience. If I were to offer one piece of advice to virgins out there now, this would be it: be open, be excited. And don't read anything about Burning Man.

This post is instead about the week that has followed.

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Wedding Wonders

CRTVTY has been a bit quiet these past few weeks, but with good reason. On September 30th, five years after the day we met, I married my love and co-conspirator, Tien-Tien. The wedding took place under a sunny sky in Palo Alto, California, and was followed by a beautiful celebration at the CuriOdyssey Museum in San Mateo. And although planning the wedding was far from easy, it turns out that the process involves a lot of creativity, and we actually had a fair amount of fun putting together some of the components. At the top of the list: wedding favors.

That project started when a friend bequeathed us a large supply of 12oz mason jars. The wedding had a bit of a DIY theme already, so we decided that each jar could contain a DIY “kit” for the guest to build and enjoy during the reception. I scoured the ‘tubes for ideas and ended up devising five kits, each with a very different flavor. Although I thought I had designed them with manufacturability (and affordability) in mind, we experienced some NASA-esque budget overruns and *may* have put the staff at the local art supply store through grad school. But with a few late nights and a few capable groomsmen, we got them done. And what a success they were! 

By the end of the reception, the floors were littered with improvised ammunition flung by sturdy little “Wedding-apults”, guests sported classy homemade boutonnières, clandestine alter-egos had been developed to accompany the “DIY-sguise” kits, and the kids were busy engineering architectural marvels with their “Magneto-Stix”. Instructions for each kit included below, with finished and in-progress photos in the gallery above.

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