Inspiration from Robin Williams

January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been watching a lot of Robin Williams clips on YouTube lately, and I just finished his 2008 interview at the New School called “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

What fascinates me about Robin Williams is his ability to become a character completely and spontaneously, as well as the fact that he is always on, always performing, and constantly playing. You can see from his interview here, as well as in his interviews with Ellen and David Letterman, that he can’t keep himself from exploring his craft all the time. Since taking up graphic design after turning from studying piano, I’ve noticed parallels between the artistic processes between design and music, and here he’s reaffirmed the parallels with acting as well: that he is an amazing performer and improviser is due to him being ever-absorbent and always responding to stimulus, constantly and immediately, being fearless in the series of risks he takes artistically in going out on a limb and fleshing out whatever impulse comes to mind. During the interview he quotes: “When there’s a mistake, go with it because a mistake is a Buddhist gift.” (I’m sorry I don’t remember who he’s quoting!) He talks about process, in which you keep trying things that may be more and more outrageous, until you peak, and then you go too far, then come back, and then focus. It’s all stuff I know to a certain extent and have heard many times before, but it’s one thing to be told this, and it’s another thing to be shown examples of this type of exploration, but in his interviews, he shows example after example after example at such an explosive pace that I can’t help but watch in absolute awe and see him as nothing less than a genius, and hope that I can develop a similar ability to absorb and then create with such effortlessness. He says that, for risks, the gains are great, and I thought it was interesting that he mentioned comfort level with his audience as an impetus to keep trying new stuff, and that he is forever learning—another obvious bit that can sound cliché, but coming from him, it seemed synonymous with forever playing and forever exploring.

And every bit of this is incredibly applicable to design. It kind of makes me want to look for some beginners acting classes to help me flesh out this part of my brain. (I know, it’s applicable to music, too, but we won’t go there right now.)

One last thing: Robin Williams also references the internet, mentioning its extraordinary to connect people and ideas. With so many blogs and comments and images and videos and clips and tweets bouncing around constantly and at such an amazing pace—that’s a seemingly unlimited amount to absorb and internalize all the time. But that’s a topic for another day.



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