I’m pleased to have author Dominick Domingo on for a guest post. The author is an animation artist who’s work has been in many movies such as The Lion King, Pocahontas and many YA books from Penguin, Harper Collins and others. Dominick has worked on original screen plays as well and all of this artistic expressing led me to request a guest post on the topic of varying forms of artistic expression. I thought that with one who clearly has a great deal of talent and many outlets for that talent Dominick would have a lot to say on the matter.
Dominick Domingo is a veteran Animation Artist (Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Tarzan, Fantasia.) who’s illustrated YA books for Penguin, Random House, Lowell House, Disney Publishing, Hyperion Books, and Harcourt. Developing original screenplays as a filmmaker led to a growing writing resume. To capitalize on it, Dominick recently penned a collection of Narrative Nonfiction essays titled “Jesus Shoes,” two of which have been included in anthologies. One of the essays, ‘L’Epiphanie,’ was awarded the 2011 Solas award in the humor category for ‘Best Travel Writing.’ The Nameless Prince represents Dominick’s foray into Young Adult urban fantasy. He’d be happy to retire as a full-time author. He lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A., surrounded by hipsters.
His new book The Nameless Price came out July 15th. Be sure to check out what looks to be a great tale for young and old-er
Seth Bauman has issues. His Mom split ten years ago, right after his birth, and guardian Uncle Troy won’t discuss the past. Seth’s only friend is Mexican immigrant Elena, whom he must walk home from school through Silverlake’s gang-ravaged streets. When Elena is abducted by local gang ‘the Mayans,’ Seth has no choice but to follow the Boatman of the L.A. River into the sprawling network of sewers and metro tunnels concealing Mayan headquarters. To Seth the great labyrinth unfolds as a magical realm called ‘the Interior,’ whose residents immediately deem him the ‘Nameless Prince’ of prophecy, sent to save them from peril.
To find Elena, Seth embarks on an odyssey of riddles and self-discovery. Only in ‘Interia’ is it safe to discover the truth about his past, and the forgiveness that will set him free. In rescuing Elena he rescues his own innocence. In fulfilling prophecy by learning his name, Seth discovers the greatness that lies within.
On Being an Artist – With Various Modes of Expression
In addition to my illustration, filmmaking and writing ventures, I have taught in the degree program at Art Center College of Design for fourteen years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my teaching, it’s that most artists are multi-faceted. Many actors also play an instrument, just as painters often write or sing. The common denominator seems to be a creative impulse- what varies is the vehicle of expression. Often creatives choose to hone one particular craft, while other pursuits become a cathartic avocation to their chosen line of work. At the bottom of it is a common desire to illuminate, to interpret the world around us and offer up the result for the consumption of others. The creative process is often cathartic, serving the artist him or herself, but by extension he or she is able to move, or touch, or enlighten, or enforce social change. I surveyed my students on this very topic once while developing a documentary; though artists do not come from a single mold, I was surprised at how many said their creations were their way of ‘loving.’
But rather than speaking for all artists, I will speak for myself.
I took my first oil painting class at seven.
I got my first typewriter for Christmas at seven. Though I was told it should last me through college, I wore it out within a year. The ‘E’ key went missing, but I continued to peck away, forming a callous on my finger striking the angry prong that remained. In high school I was Vocal Music president. I chose to get my Bachelor’s in Illustration at Art Center, but continued writing for pleasure throughout. Even during my ten years at Disney I found myself writing on evenings and weekends. It brought me solace. Like many, it took me a while to marry my craft with a sense of purpose. But at some point in my twenties I discovered the common thread in all of my work. The themes in both my painted images and my writing had to do with the profound in the everyday- they sought to illuminate the metaphysical, to illustrate that there’s more going on here than the empirical mind would like to acknowledge.
At thirty-something an early midlife crisis drove me to leave Disney and begin making live-action films. Many things came together in the film medium- my limited brush with theater, my visual nature, a storytelling sensibility. I felt lucky to have crafted a career that was evolving. In the portfolio class I was teaching at Art Center, I found myself saying that ‘although you should hit the ground running,’ ( Art Center pushes for a very specific commodity by graduation ) ‘that doesn’t mean closing the door on other aspects of yourself. While it’s true you can’t do it all at once, you can over time.’
At some point during my filmmaking stint, I realized that I did not necessarily enjoy the chaos onset. I didn’t thrive on it the way the twenty-somethings did. It was just a means to an end. And the goal was to tell a story. I realized I had stumbled into a writing resume through my two original screenplay credits. I found I could tell stories by sitting in a coffee with my laptop, sipping Cappuccino, without the high strung P.A.’s and the sixty extras and the horses and the baby. All things, mind you, one is told not to attempt on his first feature.
To capitalize on the growing writing resume, ( and perhaps due to an acute awareness of my pending mortality, ) I began writing my memoirs. What resulted was a collection of narrative nonfiction essays titled ‘Jesus Shoes.’ Two selections were accepted into anthologies, one of which one the Solas Award for Best Travel Writing. ‘The Nameless Prince,’ my foray into Young Adult Fantasy, was picked up by Twilight Times Books. I knew I was doing the right thing. It felt right.
The danger in being multi-faceted, of course, is becoming jack of all trades, master of none. I heard myself say in an interview recently that Illustration was my chosen profession- that I am untrained as a writer and like it that way. Don’t get me wrong, I took creative writing in college, have been in writer’s groups, learned hoards about western storytelling structure both at Disney and in screenwriting seminars. I’ve read book after book on story structure, the hero’s journey and other templates.
Each artist knows whether he or she is taking a shortcut. For me the trick in exploring multiple genres has been knowing the rules. Becoming familiar with the trappings, traditions, and conventions of each. In film you ‘show it, don’t say it.’ You can’t rely on the characters to be mouthpieces for exposition; It‘s a crutch. In film, back story must be interspersed gracefully and organically without slowing down the plot. Theater allows for less action and more cerebral or philosophical fare. And literature even more so. Rather than being a crutch, exposition adds texture and resonance. Insight into characters’ thought processes, rather than coming off as spoon-feeding as it would in film, can create affinity and identification, thereby heightening the emotional investment.
In short, my advice is to ‘know the rules.’ Be multi-faceted but try to bark up the right trees. That doesn’t mean labeling yourself by your limitations or accepting those others place on you. Nothing saddens me more than hearing a student say ‘I’m not a good colorist,’ simply because someone has told them that. Find the balance between having humility- being open to learning from feedback, and holding up your middle finger to doubters. There will always be someone to tell you ‘no.’
In the end, there are no mistakes. Those who are meant to realize their artistic journey will. It’s not really a choice. They say ‘you can lead horse to water but you cannot make him drink. I have found this to be true. What I can do is encourage. Give permission. On the topic of being versatile my advice is simply this: Do what makes you happy- shoot for the stars and follow your heart ( with a solid grounding in realism! ) Persevere on faith. And remember- you can’t do it all at once, but u can over time!’