TCL: Supplementary Material, I: Roz

Despite the hundreds of drawings and essays and exercises and blood and sweat and tears, many readers have said that they wish they could get more of The Creative License.

We’re not ready for a box set or a deluxe edition (The Da Vinci Code), it ain’t), but I am going to release some supplemental stuff that didn’t make it into the book.
When I started out, I planned to have a significant section that would include in-depth profiles of various people who were living various types of creative lives. I thought I’d explore various issues with them such as: what is it like to be a successful fine artist, or conversely what is it like to be fully committed to making art regardless of the financial impositions it takes, what is it like to become an an artist after living a different sort of life, and so on.
I traveled half way round the worldvisiting and interviewing people for this part of the book but in the end felt like this material was dragging the book in a different direction than I wanted to go. Instead of it being an intimate dialogue between me and you the reader, it became more of a spectator event.
Nonetheless, I learned a lot from my artists friends, and much of this accumulated wisdom found its way into the book in other forms.
Recently, I was rereading a lot of the interviews and photos I took on the trip and decided that they would probably be worth sharing. Over the next week or two, I’ll be presenting a series on our chats here on dannygregory.com. Stay tuned.

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Roz Stendahl is a designer and teacher and bookbinder and dog trainer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who has been a great inspiration to me and to many people on the EDM group. There are several of her journal pages in the book and they are beautiful and detailed. We talked about many things during my visit and I left with a bunch of tips and expanding ideas. Here’s some of what she said about drawing in public during the several days I was lucky to spend at her house.

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ROZ: I’m pretty used to writing and drawing in public and do it all the time. In fact some would say it is the only way I function. OK, let’s just say, I can’t help myself. My journal is pretty much attached permanently to my arm, until of course I need to start a new journal.

You get used to drawing in public and the advice I would give is borrowed from Nike, “Just Do It.” Over time you’ll be glad you did even if a particular session doesn’t go well. My philosophy is that if every fifth page of my visual journal isn’t a complete mess than I am not trying and the whole point of my journal for me is to capture my life, the way my brain functions, the things that I observe, the projects I want to do, the painting ideas, story ideas, whatever, that occur to me, and whatever happens to be right in front of me, and to practice, practice, practice.

It’s all practice. I can always use more practice. (I’ll be practicing until I die.) Those really bad drawings and messed up pages, I learn the most from them.

If you aren’t used to drawing in public you might want to hang out with people who are used to it. Being in a group sort of dilutes any curious attention paid individually to you. (People focus instead on the paranoid aspects of, “gee, they are all drawing, maybe I should be drawing,” and leave to get a sketchbook, or just leave.)

There is also the very funny thing that happens when you’re out with a group of friends sketching and someone comes up and asks what you’re doing and you all say something bland like, “just drawing.” The person asking questions is just convinced that there must be something you are all noticing that he needs to notice. He’ll repeat the question. It’s pretty funny.

We just don’t look in our culture (U.S.). I was at the San Diego Zoo a couple years ago and a woman, man, and two kids in tow came whipping by me at the bat display. I was standing there sketching and they pushed right in front of me, which is no big deal for me because, hey, I know I’ll be there long after they are gone.

Click, click, click, went the man with the camera, “Got them, let’s go,” he said. The kids hadn’t even up to the enclosure. I don’t think they ever did see the bats. I have a feeling the photos didn’t turn out.

I digress. Seriously, going out with a veteran public journaler (is that a word?) is great for another reason. I tend to be anti social and going out with those more gracious than I am has allowed me to painlessly learn ways to deflect the curious without generating any bad karma. I find that if you look intently at your drawing and drawing subject someone might come over and say something, but if you give monosyllabic responses in a polite tone and keep focusing on your drawing people leave you along. And it’s very easy, if you’re in the middle of THE DRAWING OF YOUR LIFE, to simply say, “thanks” to any compliment the observer might give, while you keep drawing.

Alternately you can begin to write down everything the interloper says. They tend to read over your shoulder and see that you are writing about them and bug out pretty quickly. I call that “found dialog,” some people (back me up here Bonnie from Minnesota) call this part of “Minnesota Nice,” and clinically I think it’s called “passive aggressive.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s effective. (I don’t think the karmic cost is high, but I’m not an expert on karma.)

My best journaling in public story: I had a class of nature journaling students (adults) at the Minnesota Zoo. They all spread out to work. I was standing alone drawing a small miniature deer from Southeast Asia, being available if any student had a question or problem (or started having a panic attack from trying to draw in public). A small child, a boy, about 7 or 8, squeezed in front of me, walking along the fence line. I kept drawing. He squeezed in again in the opposite direction.
I was holding my watercolor set and painting so I pretty much had my hands full, but the third time he went by he stopped right in front of me and paused and I thought, maybe I should step away, nah, too much stuff to move (my coat was at my feet with my back pack). So I kept drawing. His mom called him from stage right, and back he went again, past me. I caught him looking at me smiling, when our faces were even, because his passing coincided with my looking up at the subject. He had a wonderful smile.

I finished my drawing and bent down to pack up my painting kit. There was a small pile of M&Ms (plain not peanut, thank you very much!) on my back pack which he had placed there on his third fly-by as a gift to me.