Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Start cultivating your creativity right now...

Over the past two years, I began a little family tradition which has paid off for me personally with some pretty great dividends. My wife's family gets together during the year-end holidays in the lovely Isle of Palms area of Charleston, South Carolina. In the nearby town of Mount Pleasant, I have discovered a Goodwill store, and for the past two years, I have shopped in the book section and picked out books for each of those staying with us. Last year, for myself, I selected a water-damaged copy of a book that seemed vaguely familiar, written by Julia Cameron and entitled "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity." I am working my way through the book, which among other things, commands me to write three pages to begin each day, and I must admit that the results have been spectacular. As Julia writes, "In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it." Along with recommending Julia's excellent book for those interested in nurturing their creativity, below I am sharing brief excerpts from the forthcoming book "An Illustrated Life" from HOW Books by artist Danny Gregory, which presents the personal sketchbooks of some 50 creative professionals. Danny's book is profiled in the August issue of HOW Magazine (look for a feature entitled "Note to Self"), where you can see some of the brilliant work from each of the contributors mentioned below. You can also visit to check-out podcast interviews with the featured creatives.

Peter Arkle: "My sketchbooks have two purposes: First, they're where I collect ideas for my work. I make notes and rough sketches of things that I find interesting or am amused to see or think of. Some of these ideas are destined to stay in the sketchbooks forever; others get taken out, often reworked and edited, and end up in 'Peter Arkle News' or in whatever commissioned piece I'm working on."

Bruce Wymer: "Of all of my many works, my visual journals have the strongest purpose and are the truest form of art. They're one of the few places where my thoughts are expressed solely for my own expectations, a vehicle for self-exploration, not polluted by commercialism and monetary gain. When I look through a finished journal, I can remember exactly the state of mind I was in during that period."

Tommy Kane: "So I bought my first Moleskine book. The second the pen hit the paper, I couldn't stop. The thing went with me everywhere. But it wasn't just the drawing; it was also the writing. It was better than crack. I seemed to have found my calling. I have basically stopped painting, and journaling is to blame. All I can say is, thank you."

Chris Ware: "Drawing is very rarely, if ever, pleasurable to me. It would be sort of disgusting if it was, or at least extremely embarrassing and indulgent to print the results."

Cindy Woods: "It was moving into a nursing home full of people willing to be drawn that finally got me started. There was a chess club that met with the residents here on a weekly basis, and because they were so focused on their game, it provided a safe way to observe people without them taking much notice of me. I gained confidence in drawing this way and started to ask folks to pose for me. These introductions through drawing are how I came to know many of the people here. Since I've lived here more than 30 years, most of these folks are deceased now, making these early drawings all the more precious to me."

Kurt Hollomon: "I go for more of the finished look in my books rather then the quick sketch. I tend to design my pages, more or less. In my personal journal, I write in two vertical columns and write around the drawings as I make them -- just like inset book illustrations. I usually make my drawings intentional. Like they were meant to be there. I have never just randomly doodled."

Roz Stendahl: "I love blank pages. They scream possibilities to me. They clamor for attention. They call to me from across the room while I'm trying to do other work. When I get to the final signature in a journal, I go to the shelf of books I've made and take a couple down, one at a time, turn them around in my hands, open them and look at the type of paper I've used, and decide if this is the type of paper I want to work on for the next four or five weeks. It's a very happy moment. Sometimes I put all the books back and decide to think about it a little longer and decide the next day. But I think that's just an excuse to look at all the books again! When I open them, I see all the fun I'm going to have filling them."