Pigment, Perspective, and Pandas | The Idea Factory

Posted in Blogs, Humor, Visual Art

February 25, 2015

“Where do you get your ideas?”

People want to know, especially about my cartoons, as they have no idea how I thought that up, and just what it had to do with pandas in the first place.

You do know about the pandas, don’t you?

They started inhabiting my head about seven years ago and they are still there.

So THAT'S what it looks like inside Anne's head!

So THAT’S what it looks like inside Anne’s head!   (cartoon by Anne Belov/(c) 2013)

But, I’m getting sidetracked. The creative process is a mysterious thing to many people, not the least of whom are those in the middle of said process. Not to disillusion anyone, but for the most part we are just as clueless as the rest of you about where all these ideas come from. If only…if only…if only there was…an idea factory!

Well, actually, I have one.

It’s outside, in my garden. I suppose calling the collection of ferns, blackberries and miscellaneous plants that threaten to overwhelm the house like a modern day Sleeping Beauty tale a garden is a bit of a stretch. My version of gardening takes place when the driveway is just about to choke off like the arteries belonging to the guy who eats nothing but cheeseburgers and fries (with mayonnaise), topped off with a large bag of potato chips for fiber. Froggwell, it ain’t.

There is nothing like bashing away at some particularly enthusiastic blackberry vines, (which I have ignored for the last three years because they weren’t quite covering the driveway,) for stirring the creative juices till they spill over in a rolling boil. I have many more brilliant thoughts while toiling away with my loppers and rake than I do while staring at a blank computer screen.

My miniature, found art bonsai garden, courtesy of mother nature, photo by Anne Belov

My miniature, found art bonsai garden, courtesy of Mother Nature   (photo by Anne Belov © 2015)

As for panda satire cartoons, one of my favorite places for story ideas comes from the radio, specifically our Seattle NPR station, KUOW. One of the things that pandas like best is making fun of news of the real world. I do hear the occasional story on Morning Edition that says: “This is a job for panda satire!” But the show that most often feeds my need for a quirky story is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the news quiz show. They find the most bizarre stories imaginable, and hide them among made-up stories, and the guests and panelists have to tell truth from fiction.

The stories are funny enough as they are, but immersed in the world of panda satire, well…let’s just say that more than one person wonders what the inside of my head looks like and if I’m entirely sane.

So, I was listening to Wait,Wait… last Saturday morning, and one of the questions was about which one of three stories about things that might make you crazy was true. The correct one was about a study that proved that cats can make you crazy.

If you have a cat, this is probably not a surprise to you. I have a cat, and yes, she does make me kind of crazy, but the first thought that went through my head, was that I was glad my friend, Mr. Badger, does not listen to the radio, because he would point out this story and that yes, cats do make you crazy. I thought I was safe from his anti-feline comments, but it turns out he was listening to the radio and called me to ask if I had heard the story. Sigh…

But what does this have to do with pandas? Well, I don’t know yet, but I wrote the idea down on a post-it note (my preferred way of keeping track of cartoon ideas) and sooner or later the idea will fill itself out, and a cartoon will go forth into the world.

So my advice to all present and would-be Whidbey creative types, is that when you are stuck for an idea, the best thing you can do is step outside, take a deep breath, and let the ideas pile up, along with the weeds.

Anne Belov is a painter, printmaker, and master of panda satire, an only recently discovered field. She has published five collections of The Panda Chronicles cartoons, most recently Pandapocalypse NOW! All five, along with her wordless picture book, Pandamorphosis, can be found at Moonraker Books in Langley, as well as on Amazon. She is working on more panda silliness, some of which will appear in the not too distant future. Her paintings can be seen at Rob Schouten Gallery in Greenbank, including a brand new painting at their upcoming first Friday opening on March 6. And, sadly, while several cartoonists have won MacArthur Awards, there still is no award for panda satire.


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  1. Yes, all you say is true, ideas are in the now and usually released by focusing on mundane tasks. paradox, or, wait a minute a “pandadox”….

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