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Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome. And that’s just crazy that you did that so early. I think maybe you and I have something in common, and this is based on something you kind of said there before we started the recording but I spent countless hours alone in my room all the way from middle school all the way up through high school just drawing all the time. And I had some really good art teachers even just in normal public school, although I didn’t have anything like the Saturday program at Art Center, I did have some really good instruction. And there’s something just that when you…it’s the 10,000 hour rule, Malcolm Gladwell talks about when you’re just butt in seat, just drawing away. It’s kind of amazing what you can achieve early on.
Robert: I mean it’s crazy, the whole process of art is obsessiveness. I mean you just have to be crazy about it and force yourself to do these things and then once you thought you’ve hit your breaking point you have to go beyond it and keep pushing because it’s the only way you can get better. The idea of art itself is just insane when you think about it as far as you’ve got to push yourself. And I think that’s why early on in the history of art there were so many crazy artists.
Chris: Oh yeah.
Robert: Not to say that we’re any different now, but I think it’s a little bit more well-controlled now because we understand that factor that you have to force yourself to these extremes in order to become successful in some way or fashion.
Chris: Yeah and I think about this a lot just how bizarre it is that the majority of the most influential artists ever to live, Miles Davis, and Jackson Pollack, Vincent Van Gogh, they all had these chaotic lives and they all died young. And that’s terrible and that’s definitely a fate that I want to avoid.
Robert: Same here.
Chris: But the point being though that yeah, and I guess the reason I think about that so much is in trying to be a good artist and yet at the same time not go there, maintain a balance in my own life. But there’s a constant struggle of you’re also trying to sell something that most people don’t see as being a vital, ‘I have to have that.’ Like, it’s not like you’re selling food or medical care or something. And so that’s…it’s tough, it’s really difficult and that sort of back and forth all of the time. You have to be so remarkable to get any attention that it can turn into really soul-crushing obsession.
Robert: Yeah, it easily can and it just…I think that was always the other part of art. I didn’t start to realize until after I got out of art center but I think everybody goes through this at some point or another, but you start realizing that your craft is only really to entertain people. You don’t do anything else except for that, at least I feel like I’ve never saved someone’s life or something like that. It just doesn’t happen, that was something I had to get over for a long time too is, I always felt like what I was doing was pointless for a long time.
Chris: And I think that’s the beauty of the fact that we now have so much ability to do our own personal work. I definitely felt that way painting fairies and planes all of the time at Disney. And you know, no offense to people making that kind of entertainment, there are tons and tons of little girls learning valuable life skills from the Disney fairies movies, I’ve actually talked about this on the show before about how, it’s not that the final product isn’t valid, it’s my job…I didn’t feel the impact often enough and then when I compared that to the feedback that I get and how often I’m told that I’m making a positive difference in people’s lives with the podcast and with teaching and everything. That was one of the main factors that led to my decision to actually leave Disney. All this is to say but for visual storytellers, this is the beauty part is that you’re born to tell stories and whether that’s through an image or through words and images or some combination, that’s the way you can really get to the heart. And I think that’s the fire that so many artists have to do their own stuff because they can actually contribute the emotional message of the narrative as well.
Robert: Exactly. Yeah, like that’s what I had to learn later on too is that…that’s partly why I want to direct now too is I want to leave messages behind. I don’t want to leave…even though I love to draw, I love to paint and stuff, I feel like I don’t leave a strong enough connection to people or an impact behind me as to what it is that I want to say. I feel like with filming and directing, even with comic books and stuff like that, you can leave so much for people to take in and it can actually change…not to say that we save anyone’s life but we can actually change people’s point of views on things because of it. And that is so powerful to me to think of that.
Chris: Yeah. And you know, it’s important also I think just for the sake of balance to say that, say you’re working a day job and you’re starting to feel the pain of what we’re talking about kind of sink in, it’s also important to remember that it’s not a platitude to say that you can make wherever you are right now, you can make this place a better place and you can improve the people’s lives. There’s all this…we’re so obsessed with getting more and more whatever Twitter followers, and more blog readers, and more eyes on our work and more Facebook likes and all that, that it’s easy to lose sight…it’s easy to just have relationships turn into numbers. And this is something that I’ve been trying to be careful about in my own life all the time. But it’s important for those of you listening to remember that, to remember the ten people that are paying attention, or the six people in your office or whatever, that’s where you start. You start there because otherwise the struggle of making the comic or whatever is going to be miserable if you can’t see the positive impact that you’re having in the now.
Robert: No, I totally agree with that too. And yeah…
Chris: Don’t drive yourselves crazy.
Chris: Beware of Jackson Pollack’s face. Can we talk about dyslexia for a second? This is something that Brian McDonald has spoken about many times and even on our podcast, about how that has actually become a real benefit to him in his work as a kind of writer and storyteller, and story guru, and analyzer and teacher of storytelling. And he talks about how he can see the armature of things very easily and that’s actually common with dyslexia, that you see the structure of things and you understand…you look past the surface very quickly. Have you ever experienced anything like that or does that seem to be true for visual art for you at all?
Robert: That’s interesting you bring that up, because I’ve never thought that myself. But now that you bring that up, I can see how that would make sense to me in a lot of ways because I feel like I can read people pretty easily. And that helps quite a bit when it comes to doing story, one of the big issues I have though is my writing is still terrible today, it’s horrific. And my girlfriend, Peggy Chung, and she’s also one of the co-creators on Momentum and she’s always around me and Mike too, she’s also a concept artist – she is really amazing at writing. And so me and her work on stories together because I’m terrible at writing but we’re able to hit character stuff back and forth really well and I feel like I’m able to help add character structure really fast to things. And I think it goes back to what you were saying too, I feel like I can see some of those things a little bit easier but I don’t know yet because I think a lot of it is I’m still pretty young and I have to live life a little bit more to see how dyslexia has helped me. I know for a fact though that dyslexia has helped me considerably in one way and that is, it’s been such a challenge in my life to get through school and get through all these different things that I feel like there isn’t much that can stop me anymore from doing certain things. I feel like it’s really easy to push past an obstacle that’s up in front of me. Not to say that it’s a breeze and I can go through it and obstacles’ always going to be an obstacle but it feels like it’s a lot easier. I feel like I can just look at it and be like okay, this sucks but if I go with this direction, I can get around that obstacle and keep moving.
Chris: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve read Brian’s books, Invisible Ink, and the Golden Theme and his most recent ink spots, but they’re excellent and he talks quite a bit about his experience in that. And of course, that is the thesis of pretty much all of his writing work, I mean all of his storytelling work. It’s this idea of the armature.
Robert: I need to look this up now, I didn’t even know about this! That’s awesome!
Chris: Yeah, man. He’s on the 20/20 awards podcast a lot and has some great stuff on there.
Chris: Those long painting days.
Chris: Give us a little…Mike did talk about Momentum a bit on his segment, but unpack that a little bit for us.
Robert: Um, okay. Well, I can start a little bit from the beginning. Right when I was leaving school, which is back in 2011, yeah 2011, I left school because school ended and I was also going through a lot at that time too because my dad had just passed away right when school was about to end. And I was trying to figure out things for myself because we were all living in LA together and now that whole dynamic had changed because we couldn’t all afford to live there anymore. So we all had to sort of split up and go into our own housing, so things would get pretty cheap for us but we also had to start…I now had to get some sort of art job to maintain myself. And during that time, I was really depressed but now that I felt like I didn’t have this burden of Art Center and I was remembering all these things with my dad too like just talking about stories with him when I was a kid and stuff. Me and my girlfriend started doing that suddenly during that time because we’d been together since Art Center started. And we started talking about story stuff and started to talk about world creation and everything, and we just came up with this idea of doing…and it was Peggy who initiated it, doing a racing film. And we just thought yeah, it would be cool to put all of our attention towards that and come up with concepts. And back then we didn’t know that much about story either, so we were just like oh it would be really cool to design some stuff for this! And then being naïve, we’re like oh crap, we actually need story structure in there to keep people interested. We can’t just put out pretty images, I feel like personally that doesn’t really give you anything when you do that.
And anyway, throughout that year, we just kept tossing ideas around and then we brought a friend on named Mark Yang, and he was really good at vehicle designs. And so it was now the three of us, it was me, Peggy Chung, and Mark Yang and we all started to develop story structure and we all started to develop vehicle stuff. And initially we started to take that project with another director and because of just timing issues, things like that, we wound up just moving on.