Tag Archives: James Artimus Owen

Kickstarting Zen Awesomeness

I have a deep and abiding personal respect for James A Owen. He’s a talented and successful author, comic books artist, and business person. He’s always been a good friend to me, giving me unconditional support and encouragement in not only my writing, but also my personal life. He taught me about the power of selling your Eggs Benedict and about the need to push yourself until you are just a little bit scared. His actions frequently remind me of the power of kindness and understanding. Now, he’s the one in need of a little help, and I’m for sure going to answer the call!

When first asked to speak to middle schoolers as part of his book tours, James decided that he didn’t want to talk about his Imaginarium Geographica series. If he was given only one hour to speak to the kids, he wanted to talk about what he thought was important in life. About the cumulative power of choice in our lives, on the need to decide what you want and work for it, and on the idea that it’s never too early to start shaping your destiny. This talk, Drawing out the Dragons, was so successful that he’s been asked to repeat it hundreds of times over the years.

When James realized that he couldn’t reach all of his audience personally, he converted the talk into a book. However, the story and the philosophy weren’t done there. He had more to share. And so, he wrote the Meditation’s trilogy to share his amazing life and philosophy of relentless optimism in the pursuit of one’s destiny.

My first experiences with the trilogy came when I heard James’ Drawing Out the Dragons presentation at the Superstars Writing Seminar back in 2013. I then read the first book, by the same name, and enjoyed it greatly. In fact, it is one of the few books I perpetually keep in my phone. Like everyone else, sometimes I just need someone to tell me that they believe in me and inspire me to keep pushing forward. James does this, both in person and in text.

Right now, James as a few days left in the Kickstarter he is using to turn these powerful books into a beautiful hard cover set. I’m a supporter, and hope that y’all would be willing to consider taking the leap of faith needed to help him complete this awesome project. I promise, you won’t regret it!

DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS: A Meditation on Art, Destiny and the Power of Choice

“James inspires and motivates both the young and young-at-heart with personal stories that share an important belief: that you can choose to lead an extraordinary life if you will just persevere, stay focused on your goals, and believe in yourself.” —LeVar Burton educator, actor, entrepreneur. Drawing Out the Dragons has the power to uplift, inspire, and change your life, and is the first book in The Meditation s series.

THE BARBIZON DIARIES: A Meditation on Will, Purpose and the Value of Stories

“Mythologies are huge, sweeping things. And the grandest stories are those with the widest arcs of triumph and despair. As much as we may want to, we may not be able to avoid the despair – but triumph is a matter of will.” DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS was written for everyone, but this book is an advanced course in surviving the Refiner’s fire – because some stories are too important not to share, and some stories are too meaningful to hide.

THE GRAND DESIGN: A Meditation on Creativity, Ambition, and Building a Personal Mythology

This book brings together the ideas from the previous volumes in The Meditations series (Drawing out the Dragons and The Barbizon Diaries) about all of the things I know and believe are most important in choosing to live an extraordinary life. Significance is a choice; and the extraordinary can always be chosen. That’s everything. And that’s all.

Live Deliberately

Several times now I have had the profound experience of listening to famed author and illustrator, James A. Owen give his incredible lecture titled, “Drawing Out the Dragons.”

There were many great lessons shared and some terrific insights into life. One particular seemed to penetrate me deeply; each time I’ve heard Drawing out the Dragons, I have felt challenged, recommitted to Live Deliberately.

Much of my early life, I lived like a stick floating down a stream, subjected to the whims and will of the water flow, victim to whatever happened to me, resenting most everything, because I wanted something else, but felt powerless. In recent years I’ve discovered that I have a voice, and it is my choice whether or not I use it. Rather than letting life and the elements act on me, I have chosen to act. I have chosen to live deliberately.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

This is what I think it means to live deliberately.

Seize the day. “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” – Henry David Thoreau

Have no fear. “If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.” – James A. Owen

Let go of pride. “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.” – C.S. Lewis

Find your tribe. “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learn, always. “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Know thyself. “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

To thine own self be true. “Every once in a while, the Universe opens itself up to you and you alone, and shows you something that no one else is going to understand. And you have to decide in that moment how much you believe in what you have seeneven if everyone else in the world tells you you’re wrong.” – James A. Owen

Choose.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  Robert Frost

The Ley-Lines of Creative Inspiration

A guest post by James A. Owen.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that Walt Disney was and is a continuing influence on my life and work. It was the scope of his ambition as much as anything else that is so inspiring to me: theme parks, film, animation, publishing, and even his business philosophies… There are so many instances where something he did or influenced became a source for inspiring work of my own that the ley-lines of inspiration that connect me to Disney literally touch every part of my life and career.

I’m one of those people who revels in the documentaries about how he began, and built up his company, and especially those about individual projects like the animated films and especially, Disneyland. The animators he called the Nine Old Men were the core of both his original animated masterpieces, as well as his ventures into theme parks, and a lot of that early work was done at the old Hyperion Studio in Los Angeles – a studio which is no longer there. Instead, what stands on the property is a Gelson’s Supermarket. They have some framed photos of the old studio in the market, where I spent a lot of time a decade ago, buying ginger ale and killing time waiting for my agent to call.

At one point, the manager saw me looking out the windows – again – and gently told me that the original studio was completely gone. That there was nothing left of those buildings. I told him I understood, then asked if the studio buildings had faced Hyperion Avenue just like the market did. He said they had. And I replied, “That’s why I’m here. That’s the view they had when they worked on those films.” And he was astounded. Apparently, no one had ever looked up. A lot of people came there to recognize that geographical location – but I wanted to put myself in the shoes of Walt and the Nine Old Men. I wanted to sit at their desks. And The easiest way to do that, and draw on the same inspiration that they drew upon, was to look up, and see the same hills they saw as they worked.

I love the Disney Studios in Burbank for much the same reason. Everyone who visits gravitates towards the Michael Graves-designed executive building with the twenty-foot-high seven dwarves that hold up the roof. The interiors are majestic, the floors, immaculate cold marble. It is austere, and serene, and elegant, and it makes me crazy. I much prefer the old animation buildings, with the faded paint, and linoleum floors (some of which do have carpet, now), and outdated windows and doors – because those were the buildings where Walt and the animators worked. Those were the offices he designed. The feel of those spaces is the feel that brought forth incredible works like Sleeping Beauty, and inspired Walt’s original plans for Disneyland.

The same energies I feel in those old studio locations I feel times one thousand with regards to Disneyland itself. Walt Disney World is bigger and grander in every way – but Disneyland was where Walt wandered around reveling in this great thing he was building and bringing into being. I still have the first Disneyland souvenir book my aunt brought to me, with a back cover that announced a newfangled roller-coaster attraction called Space Mountain. I was told they hardly ever lost anyone in space during the course of the ride. I still wonder. There was a photo of the old cemetery caretaker in the Haunted Mansion that is the direct inspiration for my character Ezekiel Higgins in my StarChild graphic novels and the just-completed book Fool’s Hollow. And Disneyland itself was where I first started writing the book my name and reputation are built upon, Here, There Be Dragons.

I had visited the park several times in my childhood – it was the every-other-year vacation destination for our family – and continued to go as often as I could as an adult. I was involved professionally with a number of people at different divisions of the company, but my real passion was the park itself and the resort environment that radiated from it as the years progressed. I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles a decade ago waiting for meetings on the various projects I was working on, and a few overnight stays closer to the different film studios themselves – basically, Hollywood proper – convinced me I didn’t want to spend any more time in that part of the city than was required by law or my agents. I preferred to make the long drive from and back to Anaheim for the meetings that actually occurred, because that meant that I could spend my free time at the parks, or at the Disneyland Hotel, or in the just-completed Downtown Disney.

There was a bookstore in Downtown Disney – now replaced by an Earl of Sandwich – where I could browse all morning, and there were chairs and tables along greenbelts outside where I could spend afternoons working and reading and dreaming. I could wander the waterfall walks at the Disneyland Hotel – now replaced with bigger swimming pools and a Monorail-themed slide – and there were several restaurants where I could grab a quick soda or slice of pizza to eat.

I couldn’t afford to stay at the nicer hotels, not when I was there for weeks at a time, and so I stayed at an inexpensive motel farther down Harbor, a Rodeway Inn (then called the Vagabond) where I had stayed so often the Bangladeshi family who owned it began referring to me as their “beloved customer.” The first time I was there, I hooked my computer up to the phone for internet, and it dialed my provider – in Arizona. The manager had to tell me I’d spent a couple of weeks worth of deposit on three days worth of internet access by way of long-distance charges, but as I was their beloved customer, they were fine with me mailing a check after I got home.

I stayed at the Vagabond so that I had the proximity to Disneyland, and that was where I wrote much of Here, There Be Dragons. That was where I sat, hoping, dreaming, planning. When I had money, I’d spend a day at the park. When I didn’t, I’d sit outside it, by the roses under the monorail track, where I could watch the train come in at the entrance, and dream more, hope more, and then, go back to the greenbelt or bookstore or room 202 at the Vagabond, which they made sure to give me because it had the biggest desk, and work more.

At one point, I had a presentation that required art, and I needed more space to lay it out than I had at the motel. So I got dressed up in my nicest outfit, went over to the conference center at the Disneyland Hotel, consulted the convention schedule – and which rooms were being used – and simply set everything up in one of the empty rooms. If anyone stuck their head in to ask what I was doing, I’d simply answer “I’m working,” then get back to it. No one bothers someone working in really nice clothes who act as if they belong there. I also learned if you tip the cleaning staff, who never get tips for cleaning conference room space, they’ll be more than happy to pop down to the gift shop and grab a soda for you.

I was in a specific chair at the Disneyland Hotel when I got the news that the producer of the Harry Potter films wanted to option my books. (They didn’t make the movie, but that deal was how I got into the Writer’s Guild and got health insurance.) I worked on a specific bench in the conference center to prepare my presentations for what would become my biggest book deal. I bought the issue of the Hollywood Reporter that announced my first movie deal at the newsstand in Downtown Disney. The first time I saw a copy of Here, There Be Dragons in a bookstore was at the now-gone Compass Books. I celebrated signing the contracts and delivery of the first draft of Fool’s Hollow at two separate dinners with friends and family at the Napa Rose restaurant at the Grand Californian Hotel. I made choices about my career in movies while looking at the candle that they keep lit in Walt’s old apartment over the firehouse in Disneyland. I made decisions about my publishing career standing by the public phones outside the restrooms at the Grand Californian. I first thought of doing window displays of my characters while strolling along Main Street, and created what would become my first animatronics exhibit, part of which will be reemerging at the upcoming Salt Lake Comicon, after reading the big book on Disney Imagineering, in which I also drew the first design for my animatronics walkthrough I took to the San Diego Comicon years ago.

I wanted to be an artist because of the Nine Old Men, and got to meet four of them (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, and Eric Larson) and because of the book The Illusion of Life that Frank and Ollie co-authored. I wanted to write adventure stories because of the Uncle Scrooge comics written and drawn by Carl Barks, which I read as a child, and found again as a teenager in huge reprint hardcovers that were produced by a publishing imprint in Scottsdale, whose principals became friends of mine through our shared love of comics. Over the love of those same Barks stories, I became friends with SF author Alan Dean Foster, who wrote an introduction for an issue of StarChild early in my career, and another mutual friend went on to become an animator at Pixar, where I will be going to meet with artists this Fall, and extend the Disney-influenced ley-lines even further.

There are places that are important to us, creatively, because of what they inspire. Sometimes, those places are where other creative did great work. Sometimes, it’s those small connections with people that create the points for the ley-lines. I have an old letterhead – my own – with a message on it written to me by master animator Ward Kimball. When I met him, and we shook hands, he smiled and remarked, “You’ve now touched the hand that touched the hand of Walt Disney.” What made that meaningful to me was that Disney died years before I was born – but one small gesture, one brief comment, gave me a connection to him I treasure.

Every book, every place, every film, every artist, every single connection I have to the things and people Walt Disney influenced have had an influence on me, and the work I do and choices I make. That is a powerful thing. Sometimes, you can’t always see where the ley-lines of creative inspiration connect to the things that were, are, or will be the most meaningful in your life – and you can’t always see where you, and the work you do, and the things and people you influence may be creating ley-lines of influence for someone else. But you are. I promise you, if you do anything creative, you are. And that is hugely, HUGELY, important to me: when someone comes to me and says, “I chose this path because YOU inspired me,” that means something, because I have said those words. I have felt the depth of meaning in them. And I know what they really are: an intersection of ley-lines of something awesome, in a connection that won’t ever be broken. And they’re easier to see than you think – just look up. And keep going. That’s it.

Guest Writer Bio: James A. Owen is the author of the bestselling Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed StarChild graphic novel series, and the author of the MythWorld series of novels, the author and illustrator of the forthcoming series Fool’s Hollow, and the author of the nonfiction trilogy called The Meditations. He is also the founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a creative think tank and studio that also publishes magazines and books, and develops and produces television and film projects. He makes his home in Arizona, where he is currently redesigning an entire town. Visit him at heretherebedragons.net and at jamesaowen.com.

 

 

 

James A. Owen: Artwork and a Winner!

In conclusion to our book give-away, we have procured a very large, metaphorical hat. It is black and felty and often has rabbits in it. And those are Raisinetes. Everybody loves Raisinetes. No rabbits today, however. Today we find only a name:

Michelle Beal

Congratulations, Michelle! You’re the winner of one of the LAST of the limited-edition hardcover copies of “Drawing out the Dragons,” personally signed by James A. Owen.
Michelle, please send your mailing address to colette@fictorians.com.

We promised some big James Owen news today, but publishing and deadlines being what they are, we can’t say anything yet. However, when a big deadline is looming, it is a fantastic time to post art.

A portrait of an author contemplating a looming deadline.
A portrait of an author contemplating the next deadline.

 

Concluding point: he just made a deadline. News to come!

 

James A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net