Recreating a Famous 70s Poster

Let’s dig into my “Caring for the Muse” list a little deeper. One of my suggestions in yesterday’s post was to:

Take your smartphone or camera and take some pictures. Take anything. Make it silly or documentary or sexy or weird or whatever you want. Try out some of the strangest filters on your phone, or on an app like Instagram.

I’ve been doing this recently, and the results have been…er…mixed. Some of the pictures have come out terrible, some bland, some comically unusable, and some simply comical. Case in point—

Farrah Fawcett and Brian Hutzell
My not-terribly-serious recreation of Farrah’s famous 1976 poster, the best-selling poster of all-time

The beautiful lady on the left is, of course, Farrah Fawcett, who was one of the iconic stars of the 1970s-80s. The not-so-beautiful guy on the right is me. This all came about as the result of a crack my wife made about my hair getting too long. “You look like Farrah Fawcett,” was her innocent enough comment. That was enough to make me wonder if there were any way I could recreate her famous 1976 poster. When I spotted a red, white, & blue striped blanket tossed over a chair, I knew what I had to do: Make that photo happen! While the result may be cringe-worthy, I got a lot of laughs out of it on Facebook (see the original post here). It was also a fun, off-kilter way to exercise a little creativity.

My point is that you should not be afraid to try even a silly, outside the box idea. I was not in a great headspace going into 2020, but I was at least cautiously optimistic that things might be on the upswing on a personal level. Then COVID-19 came along, and all bets were off. For the past four months, staying healthy, happy, and sane has been a struggle. Trying new things, finding ways to be creative helps me. Maybe it will help you too. If anyone asks what you’re doing, tell ’em Farrah sent you!

PS: Farrah Fawcett died of cancer at age 62 on June 25, 2009. The Farrah Fawcett Foundation is dedicated to cancer research. You can visit their website here: https://thefarrahfawcettfoundation.org/

Caring for the Muse – Part II

I am a list-maker. Every day I have a To Do list, and if I do something that isn’t on the list, I have been known to write it on the list and then immediately cross it off. It’s very satisfying.

So I’m going to continue yesterday’s theme with a slightly expanded list of “How to Care for Your Muse in Troubled Times.” (I suppose these might also work in non-troubled times, if there are such things. The present times seems especially troubled, however, so those are the conditions I have in mind for this list of artistic self-care.)

  • Check out Sarah Urist Green’s fun, inspiring, & educational YouTube Channel, The Art Assignment. Her series is filled with ideas for making art whether you are an artist or not, and whether you have art supplies or not.
  • Watch this dated (yes, the language is entirely masculine, and yes the people are mostly white) but still awesome short film: Why Man Creates.
  • Take your smartphone or camera and take some pictures. Take anything. Make it silly or documentary or sexy or weird or whatever you want. Try out some of the strangest filters on your phone, or on an app like Instagram.
  • Try journalling. Sometimes this helps me, but other times it can actually make me feel worse if I fall into a tailspin of self-pitying introspection. Jude for yourself how it’s making you feel.
  • If there is a certain movie that inspires you, watch it! For me it’s (don’t laugh) 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan.
  • Move! I don’t mean load all of your belongings onto a truck and move across the country, but physically get your body moving. Run. Dance (this one terrifies me, which is one reason I should probably do it). Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Play a sport. Move!
  • Make a thwinting sound. I’ll explain what I mean by this later. Or not. In the meantime, do whatever YOU think it means!

Caring for the Muse in a Troubling Time

As a result of COVID-19, I lost my job back in March. I had a small cushion, but have now reached the point where money is going to get very tight very soon. This is, unfortunately, not a unique position to be in these days, but in this case having lots of company doesn’t make the situation any less miserable.

Ideally, I would be doing a lot of writing, making art, and composing music. After all, these are all things I love, and I have often found myself wishing I had more time in which to do them. Well, now I have the time, so why am I not doing them? Truth is, I’m having a hard time concentrating on any creative pursuits while my mind is preoccupied with worrying about trivia like rent and food.

Here are a few things I’ve been doing to try to keep the muse alive, even if it isn’t currently being very productive:

  • Reading. I have to be careful of this one, but I am a real book nerd, and I can easily find myself reading to the exclusion of all else.
  • Walking. Serves the dual purpose of providing some much-needed exercise as well as giving me a break from sitting in my apartment. Also: I sometimes get good song/story/art ideas while walking. Sometimes.
  • Trying to write a page of lyrics a day, even if they are really terrible lyrics, which most of them are. Collaborating long-distance with a friend in Canada on some new songs.
  • Free improvising on an instrument (mine happen to be piano and trombone). If anything sounds worth keeping, write it down or record it.
  • Listen to music and/or podcasts that inspire me, or at least things that I enjoy.

None of these are terribly original suggestions, and none of them has solved the bigger problem of income and lack thereof. But by tending even minimally to my inner artistis spirit, I am keeping myself back from the brink of despair.

Why Create?

Aladdin

“Why does man create?” Probably the first time I heard this question was in grade school art class. The teacher showed us a short film called Why Man Creates by Saul Bass. A couple years later, a different teacher in a different class showed us the same film. There may have even been a third viewing. I loved it every time, even though I didn’t understand most of it.

Several years ago, I reconnected with this brilliant little movie, and I have watched it probably at least once a year ever since. It was made in 1968, and it is definitely of its time (witness the title), yet it still resonates with me. Why do we humans create?

I started composing when I was quite young, and have copyrighted several hundred original songs. Most of them are terrible. Likewise, I have tried my hand at visual art and also writing for the stage. Again: rather terrible. But I still do it. A palm reader once told me I have almost no innate creativity. My level of success as a creative artist would seem to bear this out. Perhaps that is why I have a bit of an obsession with other obsessed but untalented artists. (Please understand that I am writing this with a good portion of tongue in cheek. I admire anyone who creates original work, and dislike almost everything about the term “talented.” A better way of describing these people—modestly including myself—would be “non-traditionally talented.”) Check out In the Realms of the Unreal, about artist Henry Darger for an extreme example.

Why did I stat this blog? To quote Tevye, “I’ll tell you; I don’t know.” I know it’s a creative outlet, but why I need such a thing is a mystery. I’ll give the last word to Why Man Creates:

“Yet among all the variety of human expression, a thread of connection, a common mark can be seen: that urge to look into oneself and out at the world and say, ‘This is what I am. I am unique. I am here. I am!’”