Due to the slow scheduling of the publishing industry, there’s usually a significant interlude between when you finish your book and when the book is released into the wild. Jonathan Lethem calls this “the gulp” — your book no longer belongs to you, but it doesn’t belong to readers yet, either. Add to that gulp the one or two months of intense publicity you have to dedicate to the book post-release, and if you’re not working on something new during that time, you’ve spent a ton of time not working.
I went through a funk after each of my books dropped, because I didn’t start anything new until a month or two after the publicity schedule from the last book wound down. Lucky for me, the questions and the byproducts from the previous book turned into the next book — Blackout‘s leftovers became Steal, and Steal‘s leftovers have turned into what I’m working on now — but each time, it was rough getting back into the swing of things.
There were a lot of ways you could go with the story (What happens when a gift becomes a business? Steal Like An Artist, etc.) but I was thinking mostly about what it means to be a mentor and what it means to be a protege.
Here’s a melancholy clip of Alexander that I thought was too sad in the context to use — he talks about how there’s always “new blood” coming in, and it’s okay to “make a buck” from painting, and how when he’s in heaven it will make him proud to see everyone painting:
And here’s a pic of Bill and Bob from the doc:
I like to think they reconciled before Ross’s death in 1995. (Alexander died two years later.) Maybe they’re up in heaven, painting together. Who knows.
Favorite story I had to cut for time/relevance: Bob Ross struggled so much in the early days that he got his famous perm to try save on haircuts. When his business partners made it his logo, he was stuck with it forever, and he always hated it.
Another interesting tidbit: Bob always had a reference painting off camera in the studio to copy off of — what looks like spontaneity was actually very planned. He was a terrific showman and knew how to play into his image. (I also believe he really, really loved to paint and teach.)
Speaking of showmanship, Patton Oswalt has a really funny skit parodying their different styles—Alexander with his lusty German “ZEE MIGHTY BRUSH!” and Ross’s hippy-ish “happy little trees.”
I’m having a lot of fun making these videos — trying to keep the production fast and dirt simple, using only Keynote for the animations, Garageband for recording the sound, and Quicktime Pro to cut it all together. I like the constraint of those primitive tools.
I’ve been messing around for the past couple of days learning how to do some really rudimentary animation in Keynote, the slideshow program for Mac. (I’ve also been watching a lot of Terry Gilliam, South Park, and Brad Neely.) The result? A little 2-minute video about Picasso, Brancusi, and how to tell if you have a vampire problem in your life.
Here’s video of “Steal Like A Writer,” a talk I gave back in June at Cleveland’s Weapons of Mass Creation festival. It’s sort of a remix of the ideas in Steal Like An Artist geared towards designers, musicians, and anybody who wants to get better at writing. Here’s the original description:
No matter what your discipline, it’s hard to get any good work done without clear, straightforward communication. Simply put, being a good writer makes you better at your job. Using a few school supplies, a little visual thinking, and a whole lot of creative theft, this talk will help get you started on the way towards becoming a wordsmith.
I was so thrilled that my friends and favorite bloggers Maria Popova, Maris Kreizman, and Maud Newton agreed to be part of this panel last week in NYC. It was really really fun, McNally Jackson was packed, and best of all, someone was there filming and has posted a video of the conversation online for your viewing pleasure.
Last week I had the new-to-me-and-slightly-surreal experience of being on three local TV shows — in Phoenix, they did something out of the ordinary: they asked me to draw! The producer found a room with a wall-sized chalkboard, and I talked about Steal Like An Artist while drawing some of the concepts in the book in chalk, and the team later edited the clip and sped up the tape to show me drawing. The effect is really cool: