Where do you get your ideas?

They say you should never ask a creative type where they get their ideas–they’ll either be articulate and flippant and tell you about the Idea-of-the-Month club, or they will do what I do and stare at you blankly going “Uh…err….um…thing…?”

Fortunately, this common wisdom of not asking has gotten around, so I can mostly save my stammering for more important matters, like every other part of the conversation. If everything is firing in the correct order and I’m in one of those moods, my answer is “I blame the drugs, really…” which is both more and less accurate than it sounds.

What I can never articulate on the spot, of course, is that I don’t know how other people AREN’T having these ideas, and in fact, I assume that everyone else is, in fact, having these random thoughts at any given moment, and perhaps just has better things to do with their time than pursue them in paint. Imagination, like most other muscles, responds to exercise. That other people may have a withered and vestigal imagination is a neverending source of bafflement–having tried, back when I had a day job, to draw co-workers into designing a monster or some other thoroughly basic exercise of the grey matter and having met with total and utter resistance to even starting–“No. I can’t think of anything. I don’t know. I’m not creative. I don’t know where to start. No.”–I neverthless prefer to believe that this was a failure of my social skills rather than of some vital part of my co-worker’s brains. The alternative is too scary. I bet they were having REALLY COOL monster ideas, and just didn’t want to tell me for fear I’d publish first. (Hey, I can dream, damnit!)

Nevertheless, I accept that some of my stuff gets a little out there. “Weird” comes up a lot when people are discussing my work (along with “bizarre,” “cute” and “horrible,” a combination I’m rather pleased with.) And because of that, I’m used to people asking where a particular piece came from. Some of ’em really do demand explanation. The Weird Fruit, for example–yeah, I can see why people wanted to know what the hell I was thinking. The Lurking Turnip, sure, that was pretty out there. Gearworld, yeah, people want explanations for that all the time. Holstein Frogs, sure, they ask what I was smoking.

I am used to this. This doesn’t faze me. I am flattered by the curiosity.

On the other hand, then you get things like this comment at Deviantart…

And where on earth did u get the idea 2 draw a rat, and a red 1 at that?

Look, call me crazy, but rats are just…y’know…they exist. Deciding to draw one does not require coming up with an idea. You just…kinda…draw the rat. There’s no thinking of stuff. That it’s bright red, okay, yeah, I can see that being a little peculiar if you’re very set in that whole things-being-the-color-they-are mindset. But the fact of drawing a rat itself?

I am baffled by their bafflement.

The rat in question, a Laurel Burch inspired ten minute Painter doodle, is at

(I know, DeviantART, but it’s a doodle, so that’s the only place it’s up…)

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