coppervale (coppervale) wrote,
coppervale
coppervale

On Writing/Art: To Truly Be A Master, You Must Think Like A Novice

I'd been searching for the right words to begin this post, and "Amateur" and "Professional" don't quite fit the bill. But Master and Novice do.

A novice can still act with professionalism. But what I wanted to address was the work itself ("work" applying equally well to any creative endeavor), and the process a creator goes though in maturing from a novice to a master.

Sorting out some old boxes, I came across three color pages I did for the continuation of the PRYDERI TERRA comics, which I hoped to publish through DC Comics' imprint Piranha Press (back in the good ol' days around 1987-88).

The pages were a long stretch better than the earlier work I'd done. After all, an entire YEAR had passed. I was getting better. And the coloring was decent - I was MUCH better at that, having been instructed by people like Mike Grell and Stan Sakai and Mark Wheatley how I should be doing my coloring. But the art styles were drawing on some very broad influences: one page was all George Perez (TEEN TITANS); one was Bissette & Totleben (SWAMP THING); one was Giffen (LEGION) crossed with Gibbons (WATCHMEN). And these were CONSECUTIVE PAGES.

That was pretty daring of me, I thought. I wouldn't take creative risks like that today. And then I wondered: when did I stop being daring?

I think in truth, I never did. What happened is that as my professionalism increased, I found things that worked for me - and then I kept doing those things. I always assimilated new influences (Barry Windsor-Smith, Bernie Wrightson, Charles Vess, and John Totleben became the big ones for me), but as I discovered what I could do WELL, I stopped doing the things I wasn't so good at.

Novices may think that this is exactly what a professional strives to do - but this also means that a creator has stopped (or at least, slowed) learning. A master can become more proficient at doing they things they already do well - but unless they also take risks, they'll never learn anything new. The work can stagnate.

A novice is fearless, because they don't yet know what they're good at. So they try everything. And eventually, they work things out. But at that point, it's important to realize the risk-taking, the daring, was part of the deveopment into mastery. It's just as essential a component as mastery of the tools and techniques.

I've framed the three pieces and am putting them in my office as reminders. At eighteen, I was fearless. Now, at twice that, I should be moreso. I have proven myself enough to know that I can be daring in my work. There's enough safety in the things I do well - but reminders are always good.

To be a Master, one must think like a Novice. Be daring. Be fearless.






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