Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sentimental Slob Or Elemental Genius?

September 28, 2011

Typical day: inspired, frustrated and behind the eight ball. November-December issue goes to the printer tomorrow and we are hanging out big time. Need to finish my editorial, and a new feature—Artists We Love. Also need to whip out another True West Moment for the Arizona Republic. Due this afternoon. Tight because our Christmas Gift Guide is a challenge (a record 16 pages of great ideas, but in need of layout and design).

Had this exchange with Paul Andrew Hutton this morning:

On Memorial Day, May 23, 1903, the sculptor Gus Saint-Guadens and his wife Gussie (Gus and Gussie) sat where they seemed the least likely to be noticed, as the finished bronze of General William T. Sherman was unveiled on the Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. Thousands cheered, marching bands played, dignitaries spoke.

This is from the book "The Greater Journey" by David McCullough about all the Americans who went to France in the 1800s, including Saint-Gaudens. And you and I stood on that exact spot, on a cold night in New York while you gaped in awe. I remember I went down there from the New York Athletic Club the next day to sketch it. Amazing. Eh?


BBB: You are such a SENTIMENTAL slob. That was a great trip. I'm determined to complete the Mickey Free script before starting [a new publishing assignment]. PH

Yes, that's Mickey Free in the left margin. We have been working on our Mickey Free graphic novel-movie idea for about seven years without success (no book, no movie deal). When I was looking for this drawing in my pile of sketchbooks, I ran across snatches of very good imagery designed for our story, but somehow, the follow through, or the narrative, did not work.

Of course, many of the sketches (this was on my quest to do 10,000 "bad" drawings) did not apply to the story of Mickey Free. Or, do they?

Very evocative. Could it be used in a transitional narrative way? Is it the gastro-innards of a gutted foe? Or, perhaps the aftermath of an explosion? Or, maybe a rabid bat spraying blood? In a "Stairway to Heaven" kind of way, I want to say this could work. But then, I remembered something I read recently:

"When we're in the shower, when we're thinking about our idea — boy, does it sound brilliant. But the reality is that most of our ideas are actually terrible," Eric Reis says. "But it's hard to know which are the brilliant ones, and which are the crazy ones, until we actually test them against reality."

Okay, we tested Mickey Free against reality and it didn't fly. We ran a 20-page excerpt of the story in True West and no one bought it. In fact I met a guy in Denver who stopped subscribing because, as he put it, "some Free thing you put in the magazine. What was that?"

Tempted to give up and move on, but then I read what ol' Gus had to say about it:

"Conceive an idea. Then stick to it. Those who hang on are the only ones who amount to anything. You can do anything you please. It's the way it's done that makes the difference."
—Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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