Observation:Sullivant observes the way things really look and then caricatures it in his own way. Of course it's creative as well, but solidly inspired by the real.
These animals don't look anything like the way animals really look. You can't even tell what some of them are.
Does this look anything like a real girl? It suggests girl and it's really cute but it takes a huge liberty from reality.Does this look like a cat and mouse?
Here's Bill Hollman's Spooky the Cat:
Does your cat look anything like this? Yet we know it's a cat.
Creativity and Observation:
This is my favorite recipe for creativity and entertainment. Eyes wide open, always on the lookout for new inspiration.
These humans are not realistic at all, but they are far more observant of humanity than say ....this:
These are neither realistic nor inventive. What is the point?
Milt Gross really looks at life and studies it. Then he takes big liberties in portraying it. All his people seem as varied as real life people. They just aren't "realistic". He has a huge knowledge of how things look, street scenes, trees, landscapes, interiors etc. He knows what they really look like and then creates super cartoony versions of them.
Influence: (Observation of other artists)
Influence can be good or bad. If you have a wide variety of influences and you have skills and you observe life, then it's good. If you are only influenced by one style, or a current trend, then you have limited resources with which to say anything original.
This lion is influenced by Sullivant. Subsequent Disney Lions were influenced by the Disney Lion and gradually got more and more toned down.
Clampett's cat on the left is influenced by Spooky, but taken much farther and put into an insane context. Clampett had a really wide set of influences, not just from other cartoonists, but from movies, Musicians, stage personalities, radio. He mixed and matched lots of inspirations with his own personality and observations of the world and created some of the most original and lively cartoons in history.
Probably most artists in history get their ideas from other artists, rather than from life or their own imagination.
Great artists get their ideas and styles from combining life with the ideas and life interpretations of their heroes.
Most entertainers and artists follow the trends.
In the 30s up till today, feature animators imitate Disney.
In the 40s, everyone shamelessly imitated Warners.
The 50s, UPA.
60s to 80s, Saturday Morning cartoons.
Most people imitate whatever is around, whether it is good or bad.
Stealing is when you actually take someone else's idea on purpose and rip it off - and you don't really add anything to it. It's not an accident. It's bold and usually done without conscience.
Blind Imitation or Absorbtion:
I think this is the most prevalent form of art and entertainment.
Not a lot of artists analyze what they like. They just grow up surrounded by media and subconsciously pick up superficial traits of things they are surrounded with.
You can really see this in American animated features. They almost all stem from Disney and no one seems to be able to break the mold.
People who loved Disney as a kid grow up and try to recreate what they've absorbed into their creative selves, rather than observe from life or create new imaginative ideas and styles and characters.
They are trapped (or the execs are trapped) by the severe restriction of never looking outside at the world or at other artists besides Disney and its imitators.
Conservative Unthinking Decadence (FEAR of making a creative statement)Art that is this narrowly conceived, that does not look outside its closed doors to either the real world or a wide assortment of other artists has no humanity to it. There is no opinion, no comment on the world. it's just product. Product made under the guidance of pure fear and distrust of anything remotely creative.
When a whole era and society degrades to the point where everything is blind absorbtion or stealing, then the art and culture gets more and more primitive.
Eventually everything degrades to no style or substance at all.
Skill declines and is replaced by superficial imitation or sheer nondescript blandness, ideas disappear, humanity dissolves.
Stuff just happens arbitrarily, blandly at great expense so that corporations can feed the masses with ground faceless product until the executives eventually bankrupt their companies and retire with giant bonuses.
You can apply this same concept to not just design, but to movement, acting, story, direction, color and on and on....