Some of you will know that I run a podcast for creative writer’s called ‘The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt’. Occasionally I interview a guest on the podcast, and whilst most of them are writers, one of my favourite interviews was with the artist and former Disney animator Claire Keane, you can find her website here.
In our interview I spoke to Claire about some important issues that overlap the worlds of art and literature. Here are just three of the issues that we found were important to both of us when we spoke.
Be observant, record faithfully
Part of Claire’s training involved an insistence on drawing what was observed. She was encouraged to present what was there as faithfully as possible, not a stylised version. Sometimes as writers it behoves us to observe what is around us, to notice the detail and reproduce it. The attention to detail that was part of Claire’s training should also be a good habit for us too because an authentic description of character and setting is more likely to attract the reader.
2. Observation and authenticity
Connected to this, we talked about the need that Claire felt to really understand her characters. She felt that this was essential to her art. As writers we should also seek authenticity in the presentation of character and setting. Claire gave a great example of this from the work that she did at Disney on the character Rapunzel from the film Tangled.
When Claire worked at Disney, she was asked to do some mural designs for Rapunzel’s tower for the film. She tried to create these murals, but somehow they weren’t working. It was only when she eventually started to think about the life that Rapunzel would be living in her tower, what her daily activities would be, that she found she could understand Rapunzel’s character and therefore understand what kind of murals she would create. And what would Rapunzel’s activities be day by day? It all came down to jobs around the house, reading, cooking and knitting! But because these felt like authentic activities for the character, Claire was able to finally understand something of the character.
To illustrate this, I’d invite you to watch this two minute YouTube clip from the film Tangled. As you watch it, try to look at the detail of Rapunzel’s space, especially the murals, and think about how the authenticity of the environment and Rapunzel’s activities complement her true character The clip is here.
Sometimes the story comes when you're not looking
The quest for authenticity is a shared pursuit for writers and artists. Often the prize comes only when we stop searching for it intently, and start simply enjoying our lives and enriching ourselves with experiences. From this well of experience comes the artistic honesty and insight that we need to create something authentic. For Claire, going to the cinema to see the film Lost in Translation helped to unlock the way in which the interior life of a character can be presented in a compelling fashion.
The same principle applies to us as writing, what do you do to recharge, live life, and absorb experiences that will help you to create the great work that is within you? For Christians I think this process can and should include spiritual practices: prayer, retreat, service; and these things complement the good habit of observing the details of the life God has given us.