ARTISTS tend to have great imaginations. We have the ability to see objects before they even exist, just by looking at the raw material that we have to work with, whether it be metal, glass , plaster, clay, fibreglass, wood, etc. We are driven most times by our imaginations, and that is a good thing for a creative soul.
Some of us, though, find that we can’t move beyond the realm of our imaginations when it comes to undertaking ventures that are geared toward creating an ongoing stream of revenue. We often give in to doubt and despondency at the thought of structuring businesses that can enhance the creative industries.
How does a super imaginative person cope with the mundane task of organising a business venture? It can be done. In fact, it’s being done constantly all over the world. I think that a childlike, free imagination and a realistic grounded approach to business practices are both essential if any creative industry is going to thrive.
I consider myself to be fortunate in that I have been encouraged along the course of my own career to pursue both paths. I remember getting advice from my tutor Cheryl Champagnie; she told me to never lose the child that is in me because it is that child that keeps me creative. I can attest to that fact: the child within has kept me creating pieces for the past 14 years, pieces that my clients enjoy a lot (I think it is because it connects with the child in them).
I also owe a debt of gratitude to my grounded mother. Whenever I took my novel ideas to her, she would always grill me with the question: “Wazari, how are you going to make money from that idea?” That kind of challenge along the way always forced me to come up with practical solutions for that particular problem, the problem of making a grand idea financially viable.
When I think of creatives who have had ideas that have generated great wealth, two names come to mind: Walt Disney and Stan Lee. I will deal with Stan Lee in my next column.
Walter Elias Disney was a pioneer in many respects ; an innovative animator who created the world-renowned cartoon character Mickey Mouse. This man won 22 Academy Awards during his lifetime, and his creative exploits did not end there. He was the founder of the theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World. As is the case with most creatives, his talents started showing in his early childhood. Most of his childhood years were spent in Marceline, Missouri, where he began painting, drawing and selling pictures to family friends and neighbours. He was actually seven when he sold his first piece of art.
As an adult Disney spent some time in France, and on returning in the year 1919 he moved to Kansas City to embark on a career as a newspaper artist. Roy Disney, his brother, got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwerks, who was more popularly known as Ub Iwerks. After his stint at Pesmen-Rubin, Disney worked at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he got the opportunity to make commercials based on cut-out animation. This sparked his interest in experimenting with animation a lot more .
Disney began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation, and got the grand idea of opening his own animation business. From the ad company, he recruited Fred Harman as his first employee. We all know where it goes from there.
In the year 1929 Disney created Silly Symphonies, which featured Mickey Mouse’s newly created friends; this first wave of characters from the “Mickey Mouse universe” were Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto. His success was gaining ground. Flowers and Trees, one of his most popular cartoons, was the first to be produced in colour and to win an Oscar. In 1933, Disney touched another chord with the wider society, when his Three Little Pigs and its title song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” became a theme for the United States in the midst of the Great Depression.
An all-time Disney favourite, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, came on the scene on December 21, 1937. The first full-length animated film premiered in Los Angeles and was truly ground-breaking. It produced a figure that was unheard of and unimaginable at the time for an animated film — US$1.499 million — in spite of the Depression, and won a total of eight Oscars.
During the next five years, Walt Disney Studios completed another string of full-length animated films: Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. Disney eventually expanded his empire; he allowed his ideas to move from the realm of two dimensions to three dimensions with the creation of Disney Land and later Disney World. Disney’s creative dream did not remain a dream. He realised an entity which as of May 2015 has a market cap value of US$179.5 billion. If the people who initially scoffed at his dream were alive today to see how it turned out, they would be dumbfounded.
Whenever I talk to my creative peers , I always challenge them to evolve, keep growing and keep playing their part in not only producing art but also in expanding the role of the creative industries in the Jamaican society. I would consider myself quite the hypocrite if I did not subject myself to the very challenge I was putting out to my colleagues.
In my next column I will expand on that challenge.
Wazari Johnson is a ceramist, an entrepreneur and a member of the Jamaica Design Association (JDA). Contact
the JDA at email@example.com
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