Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Short Takes: David Lynch's Big Fish; A Trip to the Moon; How to Save $60k in MFA Tuition

Have you ever wondered where the dark genius of filmmaker David Lynch comes from? Lynch's 2006 book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity gives rare insight into his creative process and how 35 years of Transcendental Meditation have helped him along the way. The book is comprised of 85 short chapters, some as short as a sentence, describing how Lynch captures ideas and turns them into reality through filmmaking, from Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks to Inland Empire. Catching the Big Fish is a charming, easy read and gives us a refresher course in where our own creativity comes from and how to stay connected to it. Here are some pearls of wisdom from Lynch:

"Ideas are like fish.

Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They're huge and abstract. And they're very beautiful.

I look for a certain kind of fish that is important to me, one that can translate to cinema. But there are all kinds of fish swimming down there. There are fish for business, fish for sports. There are fish for everything.

Everything, anything that is a thing, comes up from the deepest level. Modern physics calls that level the Unified Field. The more your consciousness -- your awareness -- is expanded, the deeper you go toward this source, and the bigger the fish you can catch."

Lynch, who has meditated twice a day for over 35 years, describes how it has helped him overcome negativity:

"When I started meditating, I was filled with anxieties and fears. I felt a sense of depression and anger.  . . . I call that depression and anger the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit of Negativity. It's suffocating, and that rubber stinks. But once you start meditating and diving within, the clown suit starts to dissolve. You finally realize how putrid was the stink when it starts to go. Then, when it dissolves, you have freedom.

Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they're like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They're like a vise grip on creativity. If you're in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch ideas."
Lynch gives the following sage advice for realizing our own creative visions:
"Stay true to yourself. Let your voice ring out, and don't let anybody fiddle with it. Never turn down a good idea, but never take a bad idea. And meditate. It's very important to experience that Self, that pure consciousness. It's really helped me. . . .  So start diving within, enlivening that bliss consciousness. Grow in happiness and intuition. Experience the joy of doing. And you'll glow in this peaceful way. Your friends will be very, very happy with you. Everyone will want to sit next to you. And people will give you money!"
Sign me up!

Here's an ad for Parisienne cigarettes that Lynch directed in 1998:

Click here to buy Catching the Big Fish from

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Speaking of wonderfully bizarre films, I came across this article about the color restoration of Georges Melies’ 16-minute 1902 silent film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), and a documentary that is being released about it.

The documentary, The Extraordinary Voyage by Serge Bromberg, which closes with the restored hand-colored version of A Trip to the Moon, will have its world premiere November 11 at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (the restored short itself debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year).

For those of us not in New York City, the black and white version will have to suffice until a distributor is found for the film or it is released on Blu-ray. Not to worry -- it's amazing in black and white!

* * * * *
My blog post from earlier this year MFA: Is It Necessary? -- The Debate has by far been the most widely read one, receiving the most hits of any of my posts by a two-to-one margin. It has been reposted on many blogs and seems to have taken on a life of its own. It's obviously a hot topic of interest to many of you, so I want to pass on the following essay, What I Learned in Grad School, by artist, instructor and curator, Quinton Bemiller. Bemiller wants to save you the high cost of MFA tuition.

What I Learned in Grad School
by Quinton Bemiller

People have debated, literally, whether or not MFA degrees are necessary, whether or not attending grad school is necessary for serious artists and so on. I have many students who are never going to go to grad school for art. The reasons vary. Yet, many of these students desire to further their education.

Honestly, grad school teaches you things that are far different than undergraduate education or individual classes in art. A BFA teaches you how to make art. An MFA teaches you how to be an artist. With or without formal education, one must learn both.

So, I am going to save you the $60,000 in grad school tuition I am currently paying off (with interest) and cut to the chase. Here is what I learned in grad school (each point comes from a particular experience or instructor):

1. Your work is the most important thing. The quality has to be exceedingly high. Do this and the shows, reviews and sales will follow.

2. You are in competition with other artists, dead and alive.

3. The only voice you should hear in the studio is yours.

4. Know art history and contemporary art as it applies to your own art.

5. Be present as you make your art. Be in the moment and honestly connect to each and every step in the process of making your art.

6. Guard your reputation as an artist. Donʼt show your work just anywhere. Donʼt sell your work to just anyone.

7. Teachers/artists never share all their secrets. Some things you have to learn on your own.

8. Assume you are great and that you will accomplish great things. Make choices about your art and your career with the confidence of knowing that you alone call the shots. What kind of art career do you want? Do that.

9. Artists are like crabs in a cage, pulling down all the others trying to climb out!

10. You need to be completely, madly in love with the art you are making.

11. Donʼt fight battles that have already been won.

12. Get beyond yourself to think of solutions that are unexpected.

13. Know what the driving force is in your work, the main concept or premise on which all other things are built.

14. Serendipitous opportunities will arise, so be sure you are prepared for them.

15. Donʼt make art for an audience or “the viewer”. Make work that is sincere and let the chips fall where they may.

16. Recognition does not always come from those around you. Sometimes you will find more recognition far from home.

17. After you are an accomplished artist, it often takes ten years for anyone to notice.

18. Your peers will do more to help advance your career than anyone else.

19. Your work need only touch one person. That alone can make things happen for you.

20. Despite intellectualism, there seems to be a factor of simple attraction that makes people excited about an artistʼs work.

Quinton Bemiller

Quinton Bemiller is a painter, instructor and curator in Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions include the Armory Center for the Arts, Torrance Art Museum and Offramp Gallery. He earned his MFA at Claremont Graduate University, BFA at The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and AA at Pasadena City College. He can be reached at

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

October 23 - November 20, 2011:
Susan Sironi:
New ABCs: Altered Books & Collages, 2-5pm

November 20:
Closing Reception for Susan Sironi:
New ABCs: Altered Books & Collages, 2-5pm
Artist's Talk by Susan Sironi, 3pm

November 21 - December 3:
Closed for installation

December 4-11: ArtZone 2011
Opening Reception: Sunday, December 4, 2-5pm
Closing Reception: Sunday, December 11, 2-5pm


  1. Hey Quinton, great summary. I didn't even get some of those when I was in grad school, so thanks.

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