Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

Picking a Locale — Overcoming the Blank Page with Carl Barks

A fun rabbit hole I've been down is learning more about "The Good Duck Artist" Carl Barks.

The Good Duck Artist

Barks was a self taught cartoonist and an early legend in comics. He's known for his Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck cartoons. Wickedly talented in every domain within comics — Story, drawing, expression, color, inking — he was also incredibly prolific, releasing comics regularly over a 25 year career.

The Good Duck

Interestingly enough, Barks was more widely famous in Danish culture as opposed to the US due to Donald Duck being the lead character in Denmark instead of Mickey Mouse. Hence, why one of my top searches for "Carl Barks Interviews" brought me to a Danish recording:

Watch on YouTube

Aside from how lighthearted Barks is about his work and characters, my favorite part of the interview comes from the question of how he came up with all of these stories:

"I would just start thinking of what I would like to draw. Because those comic book stories required a great number of hours of drawing and if I could think of some pleasant place — a south sea island or trip into the mountains — something that would give me some good backgrounds and interesting things to draw, then I would chose that as the locale of my store. Then once I've chosen the locale... somehow the ideas for a story, something for those ducks to do, would just come about! The ideas would just pour down onto my head."

I've heard elsewhere that Barks would use National Geographic issues as reference and inspiration for these far-flung adventures.

From his Biography, Terry Pratchett described in his process having a horizon off in the distance. He didn't always know how he was going to hit certain story beats, but having a destination helped move the story there.

My biggest case of "fearing the blank page" comes with writing music. Something about music being less physical makes it a bit more daunting to get started on. But stories really aren't so different. Nothing helps me kick start a song quicker than deciding on a "locale" — be it genre, a pallet of instruments, or even just a song title.

As is my contractual obligation to say in these posts: So it is with anything creative. Starting with a title helps with writing. Starting with a subject matter helps with drawing. Starting with an app idea helps with software.

Starting an adventure is easier once you've settled on a point of departure.