Animators Belong to the Ages
My late friend Alexander Marshack, who once was a photographer for the old picture magazine, LIFE, and also an early TV director, later became a foremost expert on the beginnings of human notation, writing, that is... He traced notation back at least 35,000 years. His story was told in National Geographic magazine, how early humans carved graphic notations on bones, showing where water was, and charting the seasons.
What interested me greatly about Marshack’s work was what he postulated about the cave paintings of Europe. First of all he reminds us of the weird feeling we have when inside a cave... If you've ever been inside a large cave, you'll know this feeling. And if you've ever been deep inside a cave and turned off your light, you will know what dark is! It is a total blackness and quiet we can experience in no other way, especially with the deathly feeling of being under tons of rock.
Alex Marshack pointed out that all those beautiful cave paintings we know of were mainly made in the darkest chambers, deep inside the caves. Why did those early artists want to paint in darkness when it must have been enormously difficult for them? How did they gain the skill to do that?
It proves that even so-called primitive, hunter-gatherer societies felt it important enough to feed artists, giving them time and conditions to develop their graphic sensibilities and methods, to be able to draw and paint in isolated, pitch-dark caverns! It certainly proves that they were able to produce light. Hollowed stones have been found inside the caves, which were probably oil lamps. They also had to be able to bring drawing and painting utensils deep into those caves, and wood, to make scaffolding. They needed to mix colors on the spot. Flattened areas of stone have been found with enough color residues to indicate that they were used as palettes.
But it can be assumed that they did not drag all those animals in there, to use as models! Yet these paintings are marvelous examples of drawing skill by any standard. They were trained artists! What is especially fascinating to an animator is seeing that many of the drawings were attempts to convey an image of motion!
This amazing art was created during a period of primitive and exceedingly difficult life, when merely staying alive and hunting for food was the predominate need. But yet the tribal chiefs felt it necessary to support "professional" artists! From this we have to assume that these so-called cave men had a more advanced social organization than we might have thought, and that they were able to bring in a surplus of food, and that not every man and woman needed to spend full time scrabbling for existence - that a society 35,000 years ago could support and train artists!!! But why? All of these deductions by Alexander Marshack got me to thinking that those prehistoric people had a culture and a lore they wished to preserve, to pass on - a need to tell stories!