Legos, Shape Wars, and my early obsession with characters.
Next stop on the biography bus is the Lego age. For me that was probably five to twelve…and I wish I still had some around. So fun.
The thing that interests me about Legos is how I played with them. My older brother, now an architect, played with them how I imagine most kids do. He built things, buildings, ships, racecars. I was always more interested in the Lego people. They were what was important and if I built a space ship it was because I had a space captain and he needed a ship. Even given the endless building possibilities of Legos I was more interested in the people.
This interest in characters didn't stop there. At this same time I was sculpting in clay. The colorful bake able stuff you give to kids. What did I make? People. Characters. Warriors with swords, and names, and names for their swords. In 5th grade my friend and I would make these elaborate doodles that we called ‘shape wars’. They were all variations of two or more groups of ‘shape people’ (shapes with arms and legs) that were placed in 2D video game-esc levels. Always giant war scenes where everyone was about to get stabbed in the back or blown up by a missile. Violent, I know, but I was a ten years old boy. None of this is that uncommon but still; those little clay people were the predecessors of the characters I sculpt now.
As I begin to move away from the figure a bit it seems like a good time to examine this idea of creating characters. The truth is all kids tell stories in some form whether it is through writing or music or whatever. I always liked visual storytelling the best. Later on in college when I took figure modeling I realized that the figure is a reflection of ourselves and is inherently a character. Every decision made when working with the figure is building narrative. How they stand. Where they look. Are they holding something? Standing over a clay figure I tilt the head down, the figure is sad. I shift the gaze back to level and they are searching. Now I lift the gaze to the sky and the figure is deep in thought. This level of control is enticing. Just like in Shape Wars I get to decide what the character do and who lives and who dies. Before you judge me as some psychopath with a god complex consider that this control over characters is what every kid does when playing with their action figures and it’s what authors do when they write.
I'm not sure where this one got me except to realize that the American culture I grew up with was super violent, I probably have control issues and I get to play and be creative everyday.
Robert Michael Jones
While this biography series is ongoing, it is not the only thing I will be writing about. Stay tuned for ‘On Critiques’, book recommendations, and more.
Next in the series- ‘The creativity of growing up in the woods’ and ‘The Monsters Manual’