Creative book list

Here are some books I’ve read that have helped me on my creative journey. Some have taught me tricks that have saved me years of struggle. Some have made me see the world in new ways. If your local library does not have them, ask for them to get them for you from Inter-library Loan (ILL). Remember, the more money you save from not buying books means more money for art supplies.

 

Bantock, Nick  The Trickster’s Hat – a mischievous apprenticeship in creativity.

Bantock, Nick     Urgent Second Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera

Beam, Mary Todd  The Creative Edge: Exercises to Celebrate Your Creative Self

Berry, Jill K.  Map Art Lab: 52 Exciting Art Explorations in Mapmaking, Imagination, and Travel.

Cameron, Julia   The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

Cameron, Julia   How to avoid making art.

Campanario, Gabriel  The art of urban sketching: drawing on location around the world.

Conlin, Kristy Art Journal Kickstarter: Pages and Prompts to Energize Your Art Journals.

Cozen, Chris Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer.

Currie, Jim.  The mindful traveler – a guide to journaling and transformative travel.   

Diehn, Gwen  The Decorated Page – Journals, Scrapbooks and albums made simply beautiful. 

Doggett, Sue   Bookworks.

Evans-Sills, Faith and Mati Rose McDonough Painting the Sacred Within

Ganz, Nicolas   Graffiti World – Street art from five continents

Gregory, Danny   Art Before Breakfast: A zillion ways to be more creative no matter how busy you are.

Gregory, Danny Everyday Matters

Gregory, Danny   The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are.

Harrison, Sabrina  Spilling Open – the art of becoming yourself.

Hellmuth, Claudine    Collage Discovery Workshop: Make Your Own Collage Creations Using Vintage Photos, Found Objects and Ephemera.

Hennessy, Alena  Alter This!   Radical ideas for transforming books into art.

Jacobs, Michael and Judy Creative Correspondence.

James, Angela  The Handmade Book

Jones, Heather.  Water Paper Paint.  Exploring creativity with watercolor and mixed media.  

Koch, Maryjo   Vintage Collage Journals – journaling with antique ephemera.

La Plantz, Sherren Cover to Cover – creative techniques for making beautiful books, journals and albums.

MacLeod, Janice   A Paris Year: My day to day adventures in the most romantic city in the world.  

Nerjorde, Arne   Make your own ideabook with Arne and Carlos 

 Neubauer, Crystal   The Art of Expressive Collage.

 Newburger, Emily    Journal Sparks.  Fire up your creativity with spontaneous art, wild writing, and inventive thinking.

Pickett, Jan Decorated Lettering.

Roberts, Kelly Rae   Taking Flight: Inspiration and Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings.

Scheinberger, Felix  Urban watercolor sketching: a guide to drawing, painting, and storytelling in color.

Schilling, Richard Watercolor Journeys: Create Your Own Travel Sketchbook. 

Sharpe, Joanne    The Art of Whimsical Lettering.

Smith, Keri   Wreck this Journal.

Smith, Keri   How to be an explorer of the world- portable life museum.

Swift, Vivian   Gardens of Awe and Folly.

Swift, Vivian When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

Sonheim, Carla   Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun.

Thorspecken, Thomas   Urban sketching: the complete guide to techniques.

Tourtillott, Suzanne   Making and Keeping Creative Journals. 

 

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Time to make art?

People sometimes ask how long a piece I made took. This usually is in reference to beaded jewelry, but I soon expect it to happen for my collages. I’ve not been creating in that manner as long, and I’ve not started to try to seriously sell them, so I’ve not had this happen yet.
Why does it matter how long something took to make? Does that devalue it if it didn’t take the artist very long? Does it mean that it should cost more if it took more time?
How long does it really take? When do you start the clock? When you first had the idea? When you bought the materials? When you started putting paint or ephemera onto the canvas? Or does it start before that – with classes and study, learning how to use the materials?
There have been plenty of times when I’ve realized that the only way I could have learned how to make the piece I just did was to have made the twenty other ones that the potential customer does not see. Sure, this one took two days to make. But in reality, it took two years of trial and error to learn how to do this in two days.
If a necklace took twenty minutes to make, does that mean that it shouldn’t cost $45, because you only make $15 an hour? What if the same customer would spend $30 on a meal that took ten minutes to cook?
Food is a good analogy – the raw ingredients have to be raised or grown or processed (chicken, asparagus, pasta). All of these things take time and skill – before you even get to cook them into a meal. Learning how to cook takes time and a lot of practice.
Making art is the same. The materials used have to be created and / or purchased. The expense (time and money) involved in just the materials alone must be considered, as well as the time it took to learn how to prepare it.
Perhaps artists should start saying the real time it took, starting with when they first had the idea for that piece or bought the first supply that was used. or when they first learned a technique they used in that piece. In some cases, that would be 20 years for me.

The always not-quite-ness of being an artist.

Part of being an artist is always feeling incomplete. If you were content, you have no need to create. You would not have a lack, a hole, a vacuum, an emptiness. Artists create to fill that blank space. They must.
But the problem is that they never feel complete. They make the painting, the poem, the play, the piano sonata – and it isn’t enough. They still don’t feel done. The piece may be good enough for now, but it is never what they saw in their heads. So they have to try to fix it, or make another one, or move onto another project.
It is like living in a world where you can hear another language in your head, but you can’t ever fully speak it. Just trying to say the words is like speaking with your mouth full of water. Yet you keep trying, because to not try means to not communicate at all.
The language you were given as a child, be it English, Russian, Somali, Korean, is a pale second to your first language, which is being creative. Then, because nobody teaches you how to speak that language, you are constantly frustrated in trying to express yourself.
Yet the more you try, the better you get. Try learning different techniques from other artists, either in person or in a book. Get different art supplies. Learn a different thing entirely. If you paint, write a poem. If you write plays, learn to play the guitar. Art is art is art and it all feeds into the well you draw on to find your “words”.
Make something every day, even if it is a small something. Be okay with not being perfect. The only failure is to not try at all. Instead of getting frustrated at that not-enough feeling, learn to embrace it as why you create. Without it, you’d be a robot.

Real art versus copy

I really like Nick Bantock’s art in the “Griffin and Sabine” series. Something I like about it is it seems so dreamy and ethereal. He uses bits of photographs and stamps and other ephemera in order to create his art. There is acrylic paint, certainly, and tissue paper as well. But the most important part to me is that he uses objects.
I read his book “Urgent 2nd Class” about how he makes his art. He says to make color photocopies of everything you use and not use the originals. I felt cheated when I read that. I thought that everything he was using in his artwork was real. It gave it all a magical, totemic quality, a sense of risk. Now, not so much. Sure, it is beautiful, but it isn’t the same to me.
I’ve been making collage art, inspired by him and others. I’m torn as to whether to use copies or originals. I can see the points for both sides.
It might be easier to not use the real thing because then there’s not as much pressure. If I make a mistake with the real thing, I’m in trouble. There is no going back like with beads or with digital manipulation. Paint is permanent, and so are scissors. One wrong blob or cut and I’ll have to figure out a way around it or scrap the whole thing.
I could certainly play around with a copy first while I figure it out. Then I could make the final version with the real stuff. But I don’t really have time to make multiple versions of the same things, and I know from all my other forays into creating art that whatever I think it is going to be, it never is. So even if I get it “perfect” with the copies, it will look different when I use the real stuff. Plus, half of the reason I create is the discovery. It is nice to get what I see in my head, but it is also nice to be surprised when something works out better than I planned.
Well, I’ll be honest. It wasn’t nice at first to have things not come out the way I’d imagined. But I’ve learned to like it. At first I was pretty upset that what I was aiming for just wouldn’t materialize. I had all the pieces – how come they won’t go together like I think they should? But sometimes what results is far more interesting. Sometimes it isn’t, but then I just don’t tell people what I was aiming for. I act like I meant it to look like that. Even if it does look like what I was planning for, they wouldn’t know anyway.
Using the real thing could certainly be intimidating. It might make me not even start on the piece.
Sometimes when creating art you have to think about what will make the art happen. Sometimes having limits helps, and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes having limits on what tools or techniques you can use will actually make you more creative. Sometimes it might stop you before you even begin.
For now, I’m using originals, but I’m doing it carefully. I’ll try out something with a real piece (like a stamp, or a foreign bank note, or a fortune from a cookie) but maybe it isn’t “the” piece. I’m learning how that kind of paper works with the glue and the paint I’m using. Then I can use that knowledge for when I make a “real” piece, with more meaningful ephemera.
I can see another advantage to using copies – the paper is always the same. So there is no adjustment to be made for different textures or absorption rates. If the materials are all the same, it frees you up to work on composition and style.
But I still feel like that is cheating the audience. I like the idea that what they are looking at can’t be replicated. If there are copies of the ephemera being used, then another copy of the artwork can be made. Sure, it won’t look the same – that is part of the nature of art in general and painting in specific, but it will be close. Part of what I like about creating artwork is that each piece is unique.
A painting that has real things in it has an energy to it, like a shaman’s necklace. Each item has a story, a background, a history. Each piece adds to the song. They aren’t just images, but the actual thing. A picture of a shell isn’t the same as a shell itself. And just any old shell isn’t the same as a special one – say the one you found on your anniversary trip. It is that kind of energy that I’m talking about. You just can’t get that from a copy.

These are some examples of what I’m making.
collage2

collage1

side view –
collage3

The artistic life

I’m on vacation, and I just haven’t written as much as I normally do. I’ve taken the time to draw, which is nice. It seems to take just as long to draw as to write. I’m not sure how I’d find the time to do both.
What is more important? Isn’t it just important that I’m engaging in art? Art of any sort is healing. The ideal is to have time to write, sketch, paint, drum… But then there is a job I have to go to.
I have a few friends who essentially have said that art is more important than a job. They have made art their job. They say things like “money is evil”. While I agree that loving money isn’t great, I do like the things that money can buy, like food, shelter, and clothing.
While I don’t live large, I do like to live comfortably. I have a small house. Most of my clothes come from thrift stores. I eat well, in part because I’ve learned how to cook. While I admire the gumption of people who have decided to strike out on their own, I feel a little like they are saying that my path isn’t valid, isn’t authentic. I feel a little like a meat eater versus a vegetarian.
Their way is seen as higher evolved or more mindful. My way is seen as hedging my bets and unwilling to cut loose from the shore. My way is seen as being a slave to “the man”, whoever that is.
They wonder why their friends and relatives don’t support their choice to follow their dreams. The only problem is that “support” means “pay for”. They expect their friends and relatives to buy what they’ve made or go to their seminars. Meanwhile they mock them on social media for staying with their secure job. You know, that job where they earn money to buy their art.
If we all quit our jobs and start making art, then how are we going to pay our bills? Because who is going to come to our our seminars and concerts? Who is going to buy our books and artwork? We will all be starving artists because we won’t have an audience to buy our stuff.
I feel it is very dangerous for an artist to mock her audience, or to make them feel like suckers. If everybody could draw or write or bead or dance then why would they need to see you do it? Why would they need to pay you to do it?
We need gas station attendants. We need janitors. We need garbage truck drivers. We need them the same as we need teachers, doctors, lawyers, and diplomats. Saying that someone is less evolved, less mindful, or is just plain less because they have a “real” job and haven’t cut loose and created a non-profit or live in a commune is thoughtless and cruel, and wrong. It is wrong in the sense of “mean”, but it is also wrong in the sense of “incorrect”.
You can be creative while working for “the man”. It just takes a little figuring out. And to knock down someone else’s lifestyle choice as being less enlightened than yours is, in itself, less enlightened.

Addiction and creativity

Back when I smoked pot, I was very creative. I actually got to the point that I was afraid to quit smoking for fear I wouldn’t be creative anymore. That, of course, is silly. Pot doesn’t make you creative. I was already creative. Pot just gave me an excuse to be creative.
I knew someone who smoked pot and thought that music sounded better when he was high. He listened to an album that he’d listened to many times and heard parts of it he’d never heard before. That music was always there. Pot didn’t bring it out. He just expected that things would be different, so he was paying more attention. The music was his focus, instead of in the background.
I knew a guy who had learned how to play the drums while he was stoned. He said he couldn’t play when he was sober. This, too, isn’t true. It is something that he had taught himself to believe. Pot just made him relax and not think about things too much. Or rather, he thought that it would do that. It is all a mind game. It isn’t the thing you use, it is what you think it will do that does the trick.

Start where you are.

Start where you are. It is uniquely yours.

Describe what you see if you are a writer. Take pictures if you are a photographer. Paint it, draw it, make a song of it.

This isn’t just physically. This isn’t just a place. Not only where, but how, you live. This includes who you know, what you do, how you play, all of it. Describe your environment inside and out. Show it off, and turn it around. Explain it, excuse it, defend it.

What was life like growing up in your house? What was your family like? What do these things look like now?

Tell what is and what was. Tell the actual, the way you remember it.

You may think that nobody cares about what you have to say, but strangely they do. Your perspective isn’t their perspective, so no matter how boring it may seem to you, it is entirely foreign to someone else. This is true even if they are from the same country, or same state, or same town. This is true even if they live right next door to you. This is true even if they are a sibling and grew up in the same house as you.

Your story is uniquely yours, and is for you to tell. Or paint. Or photograph. Or dance. Or sing. Or bead.

There are as many ways to tell your story as there are faces, as there are flowers. Try one or three. What can be expressed in one format can’t in another. What makes sense in one is senseless in another. Some are better at expressing different feelings. Try them all. Make up a new one.

But start where you are, because that is where you are. Start where you are and tell what you see. Start where you are and share it with the world. Because we are waiting to hear it.