Richard Armitage: brain musher or creativity spur?

Last week when I was caught whining, this was tweeted at me:

The tweet has stayed in my inbox, which means that every time I move to delete it, I start to think about it. It’s at the top now because I just answered every F3-related message left! Armitage has helped a lot with the discipline necessary for that. Since Thursday when I’ve been feeling a lack of resolve or a desire to procrastinate, I’ve been reminding myself of the caps from the latest Hobbit vlog and how they inspired me. But I do also have that experience of looking a picture and starting to feel my frontal lobes melt.

Especially this picture:

Richard Armitage, promo photo from still-unreleased interview for Recognise magazine, summer 2011. Source:

I’m not being funny, or not intentionally. I’ve thought about this problem a little, and one issue with this picture is that it’s so high resolution that I can look really closely at his skin, and everything about him seems a little surreal because of that. At times I find myself examining his pores, for crying out loud. In normal life I only do that with sexual partners — I don’t get close enough to anyone else! If I’m that close, I invariably find myself thinking about other stuff that I’d be able to perceive if I were that close to a man. His smell, for example, or body temperature, or breathing rate, or eyelid motions. I’m not sure that these high resolution photos do me a lot of favors in terms of concentration.

I’m not whining about them, though. On the contrary. I need photos like this for really, really bad days. If what I need is a pick-me-up from a disastrous moment, this is the kind of pic I go to because my physical response to it is visceral and instantaneous. Or, if I am extremely tense, a few minutes of photos like this can relax me. But they are dangerous if I’m in equilibrium and looking for inspiration. They are more anesthetizing than inspiring of flow, which is part of what I’m searching for in looking at the pictures, at least when I want them for inspiration.

A better candidate in a moment like that is a picture of Richard Armitage concentrating, like today’s Picture of the Day from

Richard Armitage training to become Guy of Gisborne. From the Hood Academy gallery at

This image was taken during archery training. The focused gaze, the slightly pursed lips; both indicate focused attention and pursuit of a target. It’s like somehow by watching him cultivate flow, I can be moved to cultivate flow myself. In contrast, promo photos have him staring at me / viewers, and the focus isn’t always so clear, even if he has put his piercing gaze on for that purpose. Those photos are intended and designed as a projection of self, and his projection of his self is dizzying, intoxicating, distracting. I can bathe in that projection, and that’s good when what I need is a sloughing off of negative emotion or a restoration of lost or shaky equilibrium.

But flow involves not the drowning in the intoxicating self of the other (that’s something more like romantic love — in which I lose myself in you), but instead a loss of self, an attained unconsciousness of one’s own boundaries, a result through which something greater takes over the self. So I need to remember, when I need to get stuff done or words written, when I need flow, the point is to find a picture of Richard Armitage when he’s lost to self, a more prominent feeling in pictures of him from actual productions (when he is being someone else) or these photos that frame him at work, showing him losing himself in the presence of others whose job it is to record that loss.

I think that some of the Strike Back behind the scenes photos do this:

Richard Armitage as John Porter in a behind the scenes photo from the filming of Strike Back 1.1. Source:

I’ve written about the photo above before, as evidence of the tremendous concentration required for Richard Armitage’s job. It strikes me today that one outcome of concentration is loss of self, and that means focus on flow that permits the successful, effective, even perfect completion of the task at hand. As I’ve written, that’s what I get from the glimpses of Thorin that we saw in vlog #6. Not just joy, but the reminder of focus. Work as joy: do it now, do it completely, do it beautifully, do it fully.

At the end of the discussion of the forearms of the unidentified dwarf entering the barrel, Jane and I were speculating that if one reason (among many possible ones we could imagine) to leave Richard Armitage mostly in shadow in the last Hobbit vlog was a desire to avoid exposing what non-Armitage fangirl viewers are likely to perceive as a marked incongruity between Armitage the person and Thorin Oakenshield. But sloan raised the intriguing possibility that Armitage’s immersion at this point is so complete that there’s no more Richard Armitage: only Thorin.

Only Thorin? Richard Armitage and other actors playing dwarves storm across a New Zealand plain. Cap from preproduction vlog #6 from The Hobbit. Source:

If that’s true — if there’s no more Richard Armitage at the moment — now that’s flow. If I could achieve flow so consistently over days, weeks, or months that there simply was no more Servetus: breathtaking.

That’s a real reason to look at these pictures.

~ by Servetus on March 5, 2012.

31 Responses to “Richard Armitage: brain musher or creativity spur?”

  1. It always amazes, the different effects photos of this particular man can make on me. I have to say looking at the last screencaps from the video blog put a huge smile on my face and I found myself tearing up. Not sad tears; tears of joy because he looks so happy, so at home. So in the zone.
    Perhaps the latter is due to the fact he has, indeed, “become” Thorin.
    He is certainly a wonderful example of “do what you love and do it well and good things will come back to you.”


    • Yes — an important lesson!


      • I think there are some GREAT life lessons to learn from Mr. A.
        Not to mention how we gain knowledge about a variety of subjects through the blogs. It’s all good.
        Add in alll that beauty and sex appeal he offers, well . . .

        I think it’s perfectly OK if our brains do turn to mush every so often when contemplating him. 😀


  2. As I can’t think of anything creative he’s inspired on my part (apart from the occasional humorous blog post), I guess I’ll have to pitch my tent at Camp Musher. As much as I respect and admire his craftmanship, for whatever reason, it hasn’t been my tendency to receive or turn to actors for creative spurs – more so musicians, visual artists, and those who triumph over adversity. Each to their own! Pictures of RA get you through bad days, the music of Glenn Gould gets me through mine (I smile to myself whenever I hear him singing in the background of his recordings).

    Having said that, RA’s ability to become so consumed by a character is mighty impressive (only Thorin, as you say, very interesting point!) and I do wish I had the ability to be “only Thorin” (or PhD writer, or whatever it is). Perhaps I shouldn’t pitch my tent, just yet 🙂


    • Before Armitagemania, it was usually poetry or prayer for me, sometimes music. So this is interesting — the effect that pictures of him can have.


  3. Hi Servetus, I may have mentioned I packed a few scattered books to come to London with me from the US, but have no conscious memory of what I selected at the time.

    Your blog always gives me a private grin because often you will mention a book or concept, and I will look up at my 2 shelves here and sure enough, something you refer to is already up there. In this case, I clicked on your link to ‘flow’ in this article, which referred to the book by Csikszenthmihalyi.

    Looking up at my shelf, imagine my grin to see yes, yes that book is up there, too. Along with Erikson, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Jung (you can blame the liberal arts education). It’s like I’m playing a private game of bingo to see how many of those books you’ll hit over time. 😉

    I find this all very comforting, by the way – and it’s another reason for why I feel an affinity for your blog. 🙂


    • I think we must have had very similar educations. The author you mention are all people I refer to frequently 🙂 People like to point fingers at the liberal arts these days, but they do help to equip you for life. 🙂


  4. I had a mushy brain sort of day today, through choice, not because I needed it for stress relief or anything. I don’t feel guilty about it at all! 😉
    As far as becoming the character is concerned, I would imagine the length of time that filming takes place must have something to do with it. TH is being produced over a long period so it’s understandable if RA, with his willingness to totally inhabit a role, may become wholly immersed in Thorin. After filming Strike Back for 26 weeks, he said in an interview that he was “pretty much Porter for the whole time we were shooting.”


    • I don’t feel guilty when my brain quits — just worried, because everything I do relies on it in some way.


  5. Just a brain musher!!! Guess it’s basically what I needed to scape from my tough and boring reality!!


  6. IHi Servetus!
    In my case brain-musher,definetly!:D
    I’m loosing my mind but in an excellent company of mind Aristocrats!:)


  7. I think you can tell when watching him at work in The Hobbit, even in the small glimpses we’ve been getting from the recent Video Blog, when he’s immersed in Thorin and when he’s himself. I think the “hair toss” scene followed by the smile is definitely Richard Armitage, I don’t think Thorin would smile that smile.

    But in the video blog before this one, when he also didn’t speak, was it #4 or #5, I believe you can see in his facial expressions and his eyes that he is fully Thorin at that moment, even when someone is fixing his makeup.

    He’s certainly been an inspiration to me 🙂


    • My position was initially that too much seeing him be Richard Armitage would undercut the Thorin mystique, but there’s something about seeing him so concentrated that makes me wonder.


  8. The archery photo is one of my top three favorites–and unfortunately it provokes naughty thoughts and complete inertia on my part instead of inspiration. 😆 Glad it works for you, though!


  9. Hi Serv,
    Richard Armitage is my muse. And image like the first two you shared do make me go weak at the knees.
    Cheers! Grati ;->


    • I agree–Richard Armitage inspires me. When I look at his face I see so many emotions. It’s that expressiveness that I love so much. I feel like I know and can share in what he’s feeling. Then that spurs my imagination and makes me want to write something.

      Other actors, when I look at their faces, it’s like, “Hmmm. Nice face.”


  10. Absolutely stunning analysis, Servetus. I need flow too and had stagnation far too long. The focused pictures really do work ;o) Thank you for the invaluable tip !


  11. I think it’s a rare actor who actually becomes the character. A lot of what I see on the screen are actors playing a variation of themselves. Whether it’s who they really are or the persona they’ve become, you get the same performance in every movie. As I’ve watched RA over the past year, even though he is believable as the character, I see still RA when I look at the screen. But I think in The Hobbit he will demonstrate he has transcended the elements to become Thorin. Not too sure about the day-to-day stuff but I imagine when I see Thorin on the screen, I won’t find RA there at all.
    The other day I was in a meeting that sent my adrenaline skyrocketing. After the meeting, I went to RAonline and saw the picture of the day. It had in immediate calming affect and that’s how I react whenever I see a picture of RA. That affect is one of the most intriguing aspects of watching him.
    As for flows, my current job involves mapping flows. What I’ve learned is not only do you need to know the flow, but you need to understand what is lacking in the flow. So I appreciate the reminder to be in the moment, be focused, be your best, be it fully; do it now, do it correctly, do it beautifully, do it completely. Now if I can just figure out how to incorporate that into mapping process flows.


    • Sloan, what I like about mapping flows / process flows, is that when I see a really good one – it encompasses an entire system all at one glance. It’s the best sort of ‘cheat sheet’ / guide to the lay of the land.

      It generally is also used to highlight weak or break points in a system or process… so as you mention, it shows where flow is lacking, but also where an overflow or failure could break the system. These critical breakpoints are rather vital to understand.

      Have you ever done a mapping flow of your own day? 🙂


      • We’ve just started mapping our business and system processes in the past year and now that we have, we’re doing it with everything. We’ve discussed how you can use mapping in your personal life too, but I never thought about mapping my day. Sounds like an interesting idea especially since my day can get quite chaotic. I’m curious to know how that flow would look. Thanks for the suggestion.


    • I’m not convinced that we’ve ever really seen Richard Armitage, so I’m not sure how we could know what we were seeing in his roles that was him (as opposed to the roles). But I know I’m a minority there.

      I certainly also use him to calm me down (the last days have been a real struggle). But I’m also starting to understand when I’m using him to avoid stuff. If I’m actually in reasonable equilibrium, what I need is a photo in the “inspirational” category, as opposed to one that just floods my brain with hormones — which is what I need when things are going badly. Something that I find weird is that I can know exactly, or at least have a good idea, about what will produce flow in a certain situation, and nonetheless fail to execute on those needs for myself. that’s really weird and something I need to work on.


      • I agree with you that we probably haven’t seen the real RA and I think the closest we came was in one of PJ’s production vlogs when they were going on their first break. You know the one where everybody thought he looked really tired and he didn’t say too much. But he does present himself in a certain way and that’s what I was referring to which is more of a physical presence that not all actors can overcome. Marilyn Monroe is a good example of what I mean. She had a persona that she was able to turn on and off when she chose to and in my opinion she was never ever able to go beyond that persona in her acting.


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  13. I’m not sure I can distinguish between pictures of RA that turn me to brain mush and those that inspire me – they may be one and the same for me. The first picture of him in the blue jacket doesn’t really do anything for me. (hides) I just see Richard posing for some photo shoot. But the picture of him at Hood Acadamy blows my mind and rings all my bells. Here is the real Richard – candid, concentrated, and sexy as all get out. It reminds me to be true to myself and do whatever I do with gusto. Don’t even bring up pictures of Thornton…
    (p.s. Thanks for mentioning my story updates!)


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