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The Early Versions

The Early Versions

Occasionally you discover that you’re a fan of something weirdly specific.
You never had a name for it, but you always loved it whenever you saw it.

I have recently discovered one:
I love looking at early, crap drawings of highly complex and professional things.
Here’s an example: Joss Whedon's idea for the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Image from The Art of The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Image from The Art of The Avengers: Age of Ultron

To be clear, I don’t love sketches in general, it’s the magic of knowing what the finished product looks like, and seeing the similarities and differences.

Image from Marvel's Age of Ultron trailer

Image from Marvel's Age of Ultron trailer

One day at The Difference Incubator, Bessi puts up an A3 drawing on the wall above our desks:

Unwittingly, I asked if this was her 3-year-old son’s handiwork.
No, it was a placeholder for a canvas print she had ordered.

A sketch by the legendary architect Frank Gehry.

Then it hit me.
I’d seen that somewhere before.
The 2008 movie Get Smart.
That’s the Disney concert hall in LA.
And that’s when I saw the magic.

Frank Gehry has a habit of scaring his clients.
They pay top dollar for a world class design, and at a preliminary meeting, he hands them a drawing like that.

They had come expecting a full blueprint.
And they freak out, because he’s clearly lost the plot.

What they don’t see is the iteration process.
How Frank experiments with shapes and materials

How the design gradually evolves

How the technical details are meticulously covered, but at a later stage

How something so beautiful starts out so ugly

I find these sorts of comparisons incredibly comforting and inspirational.
It’s so easy to admire something and forget about all the old, ugly drafts that lead up to the finished product.

How all the sporting greats once started as rookies

How the world’s biggest companies started out with some pretty ordinary products

How the best TV shows had terrible beginnings

Evolution is magical, because it happens so slowly – almost invisibly.

The aim isn’t to make something perfect on the first try, the aim is to plod along and keep making small improvements.

I am so impressed by the creators, artists and geniuses who are brave enough to start with something rough, something flawed and unpolished, and then gradually make it better.

This is the skill of holding on to the essence, while letting go of the details.

I think I’m drawn to these sorts of examples, because all I see in my own work is the rough sketches.

You can’t get motivated by your own crap drafts, you need to see others go through the process and borrow that inspiration for yourself.

This is the ability to say “I have no idea what my finished version will look like, but I trust that this is the right process”

What I find reassuring is seeing how little of a plan these geniuses had themselves.

Most of them started with a bold, distant vision, then simply made whatever felt like the best decision each day. No detailed roadmaps, no step by step plans.

Just the fortitude to accept their basic drafts and keep making new, better versions.

 

If you also share this passion, you’ll love Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work!

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