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The Pleasure of Work

I posted this on another blog I started in 2006 but I ‘ll collect all my disparate notes here.

“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.”

My sidebar friend, Mr. A has referred to Emerson a few times and while I’m as avid a reader of RW, but his buddy Thoreau has lots to say of importance too. As the subject of this project is the freelance life, let us consider Life Without Principle, an essay I urge all students of independent work to read.

In the opening part, Henry David describes how he’s out for his morning walk and sees a journeyman struggling to dig a boulder from the ground. Thoreau is embarrassed he is not at the “manly” work of the labour as well and sings the praises of the man’s effort.

Later, HD sees the same rock as an adornment for a local lord and spendthrift. The man later flees the area leaving debts.

In Thoreau’s eyes, the labour is diminished because it is used to decorate; to entertain the rich man and his friends. He now sees the labour as a waste of effort.

I disagree with HD here. (In other writing, I agree with him regarding his own work, surveying.) The work is the thing for me. The pleasure is in removing the rock. Not the rock itself or where it is shown or how many applaud it.

This is an old discussion I’ve often had with my sidebar friends here but I still maintain that in this ephemeral business of animation, the only pleasure that can be counted on is doing the work to our fullest abilities and then letting it go after. Holding onto the end product-television show or feature film or whatever is painful. The illusion of importance fades as soon as the work leaves my desk and the client is satisfied.

These projects are like bad street drugs. They always get “stepped on” by so many people down the line that the purity of the idea is diminished and the high is fleeting if evident at all.

The process of doing a storyboard is my work and my pleasure. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (It shouldn’t be but that’s for another day.) It doesn’t have to be pretty. (Tape, incised panels and whiteout can be apparent.) In these days of CG, it doesn’t have to be on model. It cannot be locked in so tight that the other artists down the line can’t contribute. It is not a blueprint as is often touted, it is-has to be- a rough sketch, a document to be expanded upon, fleshed out, honed and pared.

It has to communicate with clarity. It has to play to the audience. It has to follow the script and the director’s direction. It has to suggest areas that could be emphasized or diminished. It has to be on time.

The board artist is the director’s aid. He has to provide the director with another set of eyes on the visualization of the script. It is interesting and fulfilling work and I enjoy the problem solving aspects of drawing expressively and staging efficiently.

The rock story is early in Thoreau’s essay. The labourer isn’t described enough to be fully realized and is too harshly judged by HD who was a famously irascible guy. We learn from our disagreements and Thoreau explores many aspects of work and principal throughout the essay I do agree with. Please read and discuss among your friends.

For those interested in the freelance life, nothing’s better than Emerson.


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