Fun game to play: Pick a person, and imagine what kind of creative advice they would give you. Then compare that to the actual advice they give you.
Case in point: Yoshitaka Amano, the painter and designer who gave us the ethereal, gloom-shrouded look of Vampire Hunter D and devised the base concepts for much of the Final Fantasy series. One piece of advice I have gleaned from him seems downright counterintuitive given his c.v. as a master of flights of fancy. It comes in the form of a slogan that showed up on posters advertising his New York exhibition: PAINT YOUR LUNCH. (As in, sit down and make a painting from it, not slop some Winsor & Newton 611 AA S1 Titanium White all over your corned beef on rye.)
The contradiction is obvious: Why would someone who'd made a career out of taking us to any number of other worlds advise us to turn our attention back to something that, well, prosaic?
Here's another thought experiment for you. Have someone ask you what you had for lunch yesterday. You have exactly one second to reply. You'd be surprised how many of us don't remember, because we tend to think about lunch in the same dismissive way we think about a bathroom break.
The vast majority of the texture and substance of our lives goes unnoticed. As Harlan Ellison noted in one of his stories, about a man with no real redeeming qualities: on the street, who notices the fire hydrants, the crosswalk stripes? Some of this is just our brains at work, since if we noticed absolutely everything that came our way we'd be paralyzed under a flood of largely redundant input.
But artists know, as an article of faith, that nothing is ever really redundant. If yesterday was egg salad and today is egg salad and tomorrow will be egg salad too, it's only going to be the same for those who aren't in the business of giving something their undivided attention. Those who create have a responsibility to themselves -- and their work, and everyone who enjoys it -- to keep their eyes that much wider open.
The old masters painted still life paintings. From the looks of them, the subject might well have been their lunch.
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Other Lives Of The Mind