Humans are ephemeral; but creativity lives on.
Robin Williams has been called a creative genius. But creative ingenuity is often associated with people who are reserved and reticent. That wasn’t Robin Williams.
In a prolific career that included stand-up, television and award-winning movies, Williams seemed to have his hand in everything. But the technique didn’t spread his talent thin, as some would suspect, but served only to amplify it. As a result, Williams was often described as “always on.”
His comedic approach of switching characters, scenes, voices, personalities, in rapid succession, showcased his immense intelligence, but also made him seem larger than life. And it’s hard to believe, when someone has such a giant personality, that all that energy, all that excitement, could just dissipate.
When author and artist Austin Kleon began his newspaper blackout, a method in which he writes poems by blacking out unwanted words from newspaper prose, he believed he’d stumbled upon something original. It wasn’t until his blackout poems began getting some traction on the internet, that people began to accuse him of being “a fraud” and ripping off a British artist named Tom Phillips who creates similar visual pieces using classic novels. But when Kleon began to trace the inception of the idea, he realized it did not in fact begin with Phillips either, but that it could be dated as far back as the 1700s. The concept evolved over the years, took on new shapes and new techniques, but the general idea was passed on.
Kleon’s discovery, that his work was not what they call “original” inspired him to write the book Steal Like an Artist. ”All creative work builds on what came before. Every new idea is just a remix, or a mash-up of one or two previous ideas,” Kleon said, as he described the evolution of his art.
Creativity does not dissipate. It sparks new inspiration and new ideas. It proliferates. Robin Williams himself was inspired and influenced by comedian and artist Jonathan Winters, a man Williams called his “Comedy Buddha.”
Today, the extent of Williams’ legacy remains to be seen. But it’s possible that remnants of Robin Williams will percolate in comedic acts 200 years from now. People are already trying to analyze the succession of that creative flame, to see where the torch will be passed. They recognize it in the stoicism of Louis C.K. and the character portrayals of Jimmy Fallon and Jim Carrey. But the immense creativity was not lost by his death. And wasn’t minimized by his death. It was freed up and will manifest in art forms for years to come.
Photos: via Patch Adams