Podcast 13: Breaking Creative Blocks

This week on the podcast  author/coach Jill Badonsky gives me sage and funny advice on breaking down creative barriers and getting to work.

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COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE (transcribed by robots, vaguely checked by humans)

On Creative Blocks — with Jill Badonsky

DANNY: Welcome to art for all, the Sketchbook Skool podcast. I’m your host Danny Gregory.  Each week I bring you stories, ideas, interviews and inspiration to keep you company while you work on your own creative project.  Whether you are drawing a selfie, carving an ice sculpture, sewing a ball gown, designing an annual report, or making a grilled cheese sandwich, I hope this episode inspires you. That’s our mission at Sketchbook Skool, to help encourage art for all. Including you, of course.

A couple of quick reminders:  We are in week two of our new kourse called Watercolor Rules! And how to break them. And the response so far has amazed us. People really love it and we get emails every day saying it’s the best thing since the invention of the waterbrush. If you’ve been on the fence about joining us, get off, and scurry over to  watercolor.school and sign up. Don’t worry about joining late. There’s so much packed into this 6-week kourse that we’re all a little behind so you will fit right in. Don’t put it off another day. I promise you won’t be sorry.

I also want to remind you procrastinators  that we are soon going to raise the price of a ticket to SketchKon, our first ever drawing and painting convention in Pasadena, November 2-4. The faster you sign up, the less it costs.  If you want to know more about about this amazing event, visit SketchKon.com, that’s Kon with a K, and you’ll see all the incredible events and speakers and sponsors and sketchcrawls and social events we have lined up.  It is gonna be amazing.

In fact let me read you part of the letter I just wrote to go in the front page of the program

Welcome to SketchKon!

Are you ready to get inspired? To do some drawing? To make some friends? To have a lot of fun?

Let’s go!

The next three days are going to be packed with activities. We’ll meet artists, see their work and hear their stories. We’ll discover new materials and learn how to use them in our sketchbooks. We’ll plunge into fun projects and discover new ways to create. And we’ll have lots of opportunities to meet artists just like us, people from around the world who are making art making a part of their everyday lives.

We’re going to kick things off with an all-convention assembly to help orient you.Then the presentations will begin — two or three every hour. Sit, look and learn. And don’t forget to get your sketchbook stamped after each session as a souvenir of all you’ve done.

But you don’t have to just sit and listen. There will be lots of opportunities to create stuff too.

Join a sketchcrawl — short walking tours of the neighborhood where we will stop and draw street scenes with one or more presenters. Creation Stations — hands-on collaborations where we get to try out new techniques, materials and projects. At lunchtime, hit the food trucks and draw your food with Salli Swindell. And don’t miss out on the panel discussions where artists share different perspectives to inspire our own creative journeys.

And on Saturday night, we’re going to get together for a big Day of the Dead celebration complete with snacks, drinks, and some surprise guests. Bring your sketchbook and let’s party!

This convention is for you. Make the most of it. Feel confident and safe among friends. No one will judge your work or your questions, and the more you share and explore, the more you’re going to get out of the experience.

This weekend is going to be amazing! You’ll head home energized with a sketchbook full of  ideas and memories and loads of inspiration for the art you have yet to make.

I hope you’ll get to read the rest of the program when you come to Pasadena ina few weeks. November 2-4. Details at sketchkon.com

Onto this week’s episode.

So, speaking of SketchKon, I want to share a chat I just had with the fabulous Jill Badonsky.  Jill is the  author of a bun  ch of books on creativity and journaling, she’s a multimedia artist, and creativity coach. She helps people break free from creative blocks through her writing, coaching, and teaching. She also teaches yoga and has a background in mental health, occupational therapy, marketing, and consulting.

I think Jill is brilliant. Brilliantly wise and brilliantly funny. I first met her through the daily questions she posts on social media. Follow her for a daily thought provoking laugh.

I called her up in her home in California to ask her some advice about creative blocks an fto discuss her upcoming keynote address at SketchKon.  The conversation took off from there.

DANNY: So Jill, I’m interested to talk to you because I feel like you are an expert on. So this sort of psychology of creativity as much as a lot of other things and I think that that’s something that we all need help with them and one of the things we encountered at Sketchbook school, when we first launched our first course was I remember somebody placed a comment that they said this seems like self-help.

I thought it was a drawing class and I thought okay well to me learning to draw and to create. Is a sort of a psychological Journey as much as it’s a technical Journey that it’s not just about learning about perspectives and how to sharpen a pencil. It’s also about kind of dealing with stuff inside of you that has gotten in the way of you learning to draw before and I just wanted what you think about that. If you think that’s a fact.

JILL: It is a fact. I think when we engage in the creative process, we are up against all of our demons. You know the fears that we have come to surface. It’s it’s an incredible journey of self growth because we not only get the drawing or the book or the music we become different people we create ourselves as different people because this mysterious area of being creative.

Draws upon all of these inner insecurities we have is this going to be good enough. Can I do this as good as it looks on the sketch but examples would if it’s not good if I’m wasting all of my time and it goes nowhere. What if I can never do this? I can’t do this as quick as I want to do this and my background is actually in Psychology.

I worked in Psychiatry for 17 years in the creative aspect of it. And what we found was how you approach a drawing and I used a lot of projective drawings to help the psychiatrist understand the patient’s how you approach that and deal with it is how you deal with an awful lot of things in your life.

So even without knowing it when you. Approach drawing and you get through all of the blocks all the fears, you are strengthening yourself for other areas of your life. So it has all sorts of fringe benefits. I called them being in the creative process that go goes beyond just learning to draw and learning to capture a scene.

And that’s what I deal with is. I think we all have the ability to not only be creative but to draw and it’s a matter of tolerating all of the things that that go into that and getting out of the way of these thoughts that we have that stop us.

DANNY: Do think you encounter similar kinds of resistance with other sorts of creative endeavors like writing or music? Do you think it functions the same way or do you think that Visual Arts have some other element too?

JILL: I think to me what I’ve discovered with all the clients. I’m working as there’s very similar fears for each of these things. The the drawing aspect is. Is interesting because it’s a tangible evidence as is writing and anything else of what we’re doing in and it can be immediately frustrating and I think one of the biggest blocks is unrealistic expectations people thinking that you’re born with this Talent of being able to draw rather than if you practice, you know, it’s just.

The mathematical equation when you when you practice you become better. So people quit really quickly when they’re drawing how many times have the people listening to this heard? I can’t I can’t even draw a stick figure. I can’t draw and mostly would happens is those people try to draw for the first time and it just doesn’t come out the way they like it a lot of perfectionists in that group and.

A lot of people want to draw like other people who have been drawing for years and just the unreality of that and the common sense of he just maybe need a little instruction. And also I think people need to honor that we all project our personality into our drawings if you’ve ever been to one of those paint and drink parties, which I’ve gone to.

Everybody’s painting the same thing. In fact, the instructor is showing step-by-step. Okay, let’s put this street light in and this is how you do it yet. All 30 of those paintings come out differently because people are projecting their personality into it and so accepting and exploring which is yours.

What is your personality that comes out into this and not. Putting it down. If it if it doesn’t look like somebody else’s you and it’ll look like

DANNY: thought. Function of how much they drink but

JILL: yeah that too that helps.

DANNY: I agree. I think it’s something that we we encounter with schedule school a lot, which is it brings out a level of frustration and and panic and and sort of putting yourself down in such intense ways that don’t really seem kind of in proportion for what you’re doing. Here you are you learning a skill you didn’t know before and it’s not about beating yourself up and yet that’s kind of thing comes out a lot . If you compare it to other things that we learn like say you went took a clicking class, you know, I don’t think you’d get to reach that same sort of level of like You’re trying to beat yourself up if you you know your souffle fell, you know, and and I think that that’s in part because it’s something that we used to do. So we do have a bit of a background in drawing but I think it’s also because we have this vision of what it should be like that we hold so high and and we set this bar for ourselves when we first go into it that is really comparing ourselves to people who have been doing this for a long time. My people who’ve already put in the work who create something, you know that we admire and then we say, well I want to be able to draw like that person. I should be able to do it fairly quickly. Whereas that person may have spent many many years doing it and gone through a lot of trials and tribulations to get there. So it’s not fair really to ourselves. What we what we use as the as the.

JILL: Right and that and also you can’t eat your your painting like you can a souffle.

DANNY: That’s true. Even a fallen souffle taste good.


JILL: I’m like that too. I have you know, I have a lot of these Neuroses, so it makes me even more qualified to talk about them, but I will draw something and and think didn’t come out good and I’ll put it away, I will forget the expectations I’ve had for it. I’ll bring it back out again I go Oh this isn’t as bad as I thought it was and and it’s because I’m not in the moment of this is the way or where I forget that I made a little mistake and I look at it and I don’t even see the mistake. So. I think I think unrealistic expectations are rampant. They’re out there right now. Just a little story that was just a major shift for me. I used to paint prolifically with this man. I was dating at the time and he loved his his paintings and. I didn’t like his paintings at all. But he would he would frame them with glass and black electrical tape, which just horrified me and hang them in and cafes and I didn’t like his or hardly any of mine, but I would save them so I could tear them up and use them as collages or paint on the other side. And having poor boundaries one day, he took one of my unfinished paintings and he framed it with glass and black electrical tape and I walked into this Cafe and there was my blunder hanging on the wall and I was horrified and kind of yelled at him and then went back the next day to retrieve it and somebody had bought it for $300

DANNY: Laughs

JILL:  and I had this huge how cellular shift that I’m not even my own audience here.

I didn’t see what somebody else saw. In my drawing, I think that happens a lot to people they draw something and and people compliment them and they’re either thinking. Oh, they’re just trying to be nice or they don’t know what I could do or I’m sorry, I think an important aspect of getting through that is learning to accept compliments and learning that our voices are different and there’s an audience.

You know, I draw these little child like drawings. I come from a mother who is architecturally perfect with her paintings and really never thought mine were good until an editor wanted to publish my book mainly because of my drawings and it shocked me. So I think there’s a lot of people out there that that are able to draw really neat things but that comparison thing is toxic and I’ll be talking  at the keynote about some antidotes to get through but it’s mostly our self-talk. It’s it’s my favorite part of it is just going with what we are doing instead of look what they can do and I can’t do is just just let’s all just be one and just go but look what we’re doing, what we’re drawing, because your subconscious doesn’t know any different.

DANNY: It’s true and clearly you’re not qualified to be a Critic, you know, just because you’re an artist doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re able to evaluate your own art or other people’s either so, you know, maybe leave that for the experts or leave that for the marketplace or. Just forget about it all together and just do what you feel.

Right? Exactly.


DANNY: So one of the things I wanted to ask you about is creative blocks. I want to talk about those because I feel like there are times when I feel like creative blocks are a myth that they’re just the thing that we’ve created. To excuse our own lack of productivity which is kind of harsh, but there are times when I experienced them too.

And I think that they’re this feeling of. I’m just not knowing where to begin and not knowing whether you’re capable of beginning and I think it’s an interesting phenomenon because it often assails people who have been really creative in the past and we’ve done things that are really good and now suddenly, you know, it seems to be gone.It seems like the magic is gone. Do you think it’s a real thing?

JILL: Well, I think if it’s not a real thing, there’s something that’s not real stopping a lot of people from no pursuing their creativity and and enjoying it and you know, I may be my definition of creative blocks might be different. I think everybody’s creative.

I think what I teach is there’s there’s four pillars, foundations of creative blocks one of them is fear, you know, there’s a whole gamut of fear. I’m not going to be good enough. I’m wasting my time. What are people going to think even to fear of success? What if this is good? I’m going to have a lot of pressure on myself to have to keep this up and then there’s habits that I see as blocks like the habit of social media these days, the habit of getting caught up in what’s on the news and with computer games, and all of this is taking time away from creativity, but people feel captive to it. So yeah, I think I think those habits get in the way.

DANNY: So they’re burning up your time. In other words. Those are things when you could be making something but you consuming it instead.

JILL: Right and afterwards you don’t respect yourself because you’re like I was going to do my creative. You know, who’s going to do my drawing today and I got caught up in Facebook for hours and that just drained me of all my ability to have any energy and so I see that as a creative block.

I see these unrealistic expectations we’ve been talking about,you know, fall in the category of perfectionism and that stifles people and and the last one that is a part of all of these is our self-talk and it’s complicit with fear and habits and unrealistic expectations and it’s saying I can’t do this — which is it’s not true.

So we buy into these these irrational thoughts and then our Behavior matches. So all of these have Real Simple Solutions, they just require practice and you know for the person that has these unrealistic expectations just show up. At my Retreats. I tell people let’s just draw crap. Let’s draw with our left hand and let’s draw with their eyes closed and people are shocked. And there’s a lot of writers who weren’t even wanting to do this art that go away and they’re just on fire because the expectations are taken away. You can’t be perfect when you’re drawing with your non-dominant hand or drawing something upside down, but you can draw something that looks pretty good that gets you excited about it. A lot of these blocks I think come from the self talk of “what if I’m not good at this this is going to be hard. I don’t know where to start” instead of “What do I love about this?” Why don’t you want to do this? And it’s to me it’s like creative for plates going. I love when I put some watercolor on the page and it goes in a different direction than I was thinking but it’s a really good direction and and just focusing on what we truly love about something.

We’ll get us excited about it versus that self talk that brings up fear and and who wants to feel fear when they can go on Facebook and see if somebody like their post or go to the refrigerator and see if the chocolate mousse is still there. Does that make sense?

DANNY: yeah, it does. I think there’s also like a lot of focus on having done it, you know. I want to be a writer. I want to be an artist. And that can eclipse I want to write and I want to make art you know that you can end up to sort of getting involved for this image of yourself as somebody who has already done this and that that. Image can kind of overwhelm it because then you say well actually I don’t even know how to get there.I don’t know how to get to the point of having written a book and have it out there all the way of course to do that is by sitting down and writing the first page. But if you you know, if you if the two things are so interlinked in a mesh with each other it can make it hard to start as well.

JILL: Yeah, I think starting is sometimes the biggest block with those again their expectations and they’re looking at the final product and when we break it down to You know, what can we do in 30 seconds?  even asking a question is part of the creative process people have all these expectations of sitting down and drawing for hours. And even when I ask people what is your first small step they’re like every day I’m going to draw which can you know, a small step needs to be so small that it’s hard not to do it.

Let’s ask the question: What would be fun to draw? And not even have to answer it but begin to go into curiosity instead of these paralyzing expectations of calling ourselves an artist and … I work with a lot of people who think they need to know exactly what to do and get all of the instruction and have all of the equipment in the classes before they can even begin and my motto is always ready, fire, aim.

 Just go into it and make up your own. I mean, I I didn’t take hardly any classes and I’ve Illustrated three books now and it just doesn’t have to be done. I’m I’m curious what what blocks have you encountered?

DANNY: You know, I’ve encountered many many many blocks. I mean I didn’t really start drawing until I was in my late 30s in part because I couldn’t really see the utility of it anymore.

I didn’t really wanted to. You know put the time into it. I didn’t wasn’t sure that I would be any good at it. I you know, I there was a point where I had. You know in my teen years I had done some paintings and I had these like big canvases that I would carry around with you when I moved to the first couple of Apartments I had and I would always think about those paintings.

I think I don’t need any more paintings like that. So what’s the point so it’s kind of like my focus is on this sort of end result, but I think it was really more that I didn’t think that I had the discipline and I also didn’t want to disappoint myself. I think I. When you have a bit of creative ability and a bit of so-called talent and maybe you were an artistic person in high school and then many years pass you’re almost afraid to go back and investigate that because it’s sort of Part of Yourself identity.

You know, I’m a creative person, but you may not actually have taken the. To try it out again, you know and to challenge yourself to see what am I actually that thing that I’ve sort of been carrying around the back of my mind or or am I actually I’m afraid that I’m a failed artist. So that’s part of myself definition.

Oh, well, I tried this I failed at it and that’s kind of been carved into who you are. And so there’s a certain fear of saying well, Maybe I need to just find out if that’s actually the case with me and I think that was part of what I struggled with. I think even to this day, you know, even though I’ve done a lot of things I still have a fairly low.

Kind of evaluation of what I’ve done. I don’t think that the books that I’ve written a particularly good. I don’t think the drawings have done a particularly good I look at other people. I think that they’re much more successful and and more qualified than I am not all the time. But but often enough that it can make me not want to do more, you know, and I can look back.

I’ll take one of the books that I wrote years ago and I’ll read it and I’ll be shocked at how good it is, you know, or I’ll say well if now if somebody else had written that I would be I would think this is really good. Why am I always thought this wasn’t really that good and it’s not to say that all of them are good like that, but I definitely don’t have any sense of clarity about what I make and do so, I think that that can lead to a block I’m in the middle of writing a book right now and the final I’ve given in.

Most of it but I have the rest of it is due in 12 days and I’ve took a long time to get back to writing that last bit because I thought I don’t I don’t know. I don’t know what it was. It was almost like this physical feeling like. There were other things I could do instead. So I would just procrastinate and you know or sort of looked at it and thought like well, maybe I should have I should double spaced it instead of having spacing and a half, you know, maybe I should look at it in Courier and then a couple days ago I said, why don’t you just try rewriting it and doing this last draft and so I have been and it’s been really fun and but I think I’ve spent probably two months delaying myself from sitting down and doing this.

JILL: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

DANNY: Not really because I don’t think that what I make is perfect. In fact, I kind of Revel in the imperfection and I like accidents. I like messiness and I usually don’t think of myself as being able to do really perfect things. Like that’s it’s not that so much I.

You know, it’s possible to nickel and noodle things fair amount and I kind of enjoy that process like make it bigger make it smaller move. It left move it right, but it’s not really necessarily an age of innate of perfectionism. I think it’s just another form of of procrastinating or maybe of just creating.

I mean, maybe it’s just another thing of another way of playing.

JILL: I think people listening to this who know your books and know your work their jaws have probably dropped that you you don’t find your work. As good as you might like some times and I had the exact same experience with my first book.

In fact, I could not look at it for a year after I wrote it because it had been rejected by by us so many agents and Publishers and then and then finally, It went on it was bid four by five of the publishing companies in New York, you know band to me pig penguin and and all of those and I still kind of look at it.

And finally when it was published I looked at it and I was like the same way. It’s like who wrote this this is really good and I think and I deal with perfectionist who were unable to see. The beauty of what they’ve done and to me it’s one of the biggest crimes of perfectionism is not to enjoy and to go dang.

This is good. You know, we don’t have to say it out loud but to ourselves because that’s so important for our continued perseverance. Like you said, it was hard to get back to that that last part. Because of these expectations but with you and with so many successful creative people those things may happen, but you persist and perseverance and staying in it for whatever reason is one of the biggest keys to its success in all of this and I think the other thing you said that’s really important that I use as well is is this is now fun and we take the fun out of it by.

They going okay. This has to be this way and I’m like a font fanatic. It’s like which font is going to look better, you know, and I can spend hours on fonts and just going you know, what does it how can I make this fun even just asking the question and and look this is fun and giving ourselves credit for what we do and and just asking ourselves if we can crack the door open a little bit, too.

This is close enough. I mean, that’s one of the mantras I teach these perfectionists who like this is never good enough. It’s like this is close enough and I use it a lot to you know for talks and writing and and I’m just like, I don’t know if this is good enough and then then that Muse voice, you know, the voices of the muses.

I feel like for our creativity just goes that’s close enough Let It Go,


DANNY: Right. Yeah, I think I think it’s also going back to what you were saying before about your own judgement of your work when you’re in the middle of working on something. You’re not really that good of an of a judge of it, you know, so I think it’s better to just keep making and keep moving on and then it give it some time and come back or get some help from an editor or you know, the collaborator to look back at what you’ve done and help you.

Polish it then but but I think this herbs that we have to keep you know revising as we go is not necessarily making a better can actually make it worse and more constipated and you know and.

JILL: Yeah Picasso said it’s that first line that has most of the energy you can’t redo it and have that energy that you have when you first make it but.

Curious again you had this block in your 30s. How did you get through it? How did you start? What did you say to yourself or look up?

DANNY: You know it’s tied into. Something that happened in my life, which was that my wife had this accident that sort of overnight changed our lives and I was searching for meaning and I was searching for meaning in writing because I was a writer so I was writing and writing and writing, you know, stream-of-consciousness stuff and I was reading a lot of things and and none of it was really helping me.

So for me drawing was something that Sonny came to me this idea of like one just do some drawing and it says. See what that’s like not not in order to gain Insight but just as a break, I think and suddenly things clicked when I did that so it wasn’t really intentional and you know, and I think it’s something that’s come and gone with me over the last.

Years that I’ve been doing this there have been times when I’m absolutely passionately in love with with drawing and creating and then there are times when I just drift away from it, but I’ve seen the patterns over long enough to know that I can come back and I can’t fall in love with it again. And then that when I pick up I’m not going to be picking up from square one.

You know, it’s not. There’s a lot of muscle memory in there and I will get back to it is sometimes it’ll horrify me when I start again. I’ll say oh my God what happened? I could just can’t draw anymore, but then it’ll come back, you know, sometimes within a day or two and I’ll see see it again. And I think that’s always possible, you know to pick up the.

JILL: I think what you’re talking about is is really important for people to know that creativity does have cycles that we fall in love and get passionate about something. Just like we do a person we get infatuated with it and and then sometimes the enthusiasm goes away and a lot of people are like, well, that’s it.

I guess this isn’t my thing anymore and when I’m finding in with you know, my first book I talked about it. There’s a news called loll is just letting go of the process. It’s the winter of creativity and just going I guess it’s time to take a break from this and and. What sometimes happens during that time as we fill me fill with new passion and new approaches and perspectives and and Let It Go long enough that once we get back to it.

It’s novel again and you get excited about it again.

DANNY: Yeah, I think it’s a journey and I think you have to stop periodically and like get out of the car and stretch your legs and walk around. It’s not just about you know, a native bee. Thing and I think there’s also the equivalent of eating too much candy, you know, you just get sick of it and you need to and you need to take a break.

So so I think that’s why I think it’s also possible that each leg of the journey is about learning a particular lesson and that gets a point where you’ve learned. Lesson and you kind of bored with it. You’re not you know, you’re plateauing you’re not advancing. And so, you know, you can mistake that for a judgment on all of your creativity or you can just say, you know what I now know how to do this thing.

Maybe I need to sort of Step Back From it internalized it a bit and then figure out a new challenge some new new sort of. Thing to learn to pick up and and get excited about that. That’s that’s I think the way I work, you know, I’ll set myself new challenges and they will get the excited about the whole Endeavor because I’ll say oh I want to learn this particular thing and a lot of times I think well, I should go back to doing what I’ve done that was successful.

I think that’s another thing that happens even with really successful people, you know, the sort of sophomore slump. Where your well known for a certain thing and then you just kind of don’t want to do that thing anymore. But you’re afraid that your success is tied up with you having done that. So if you stop doing it, are you no longer going to be loved?

JILL: People get attached to their efficiency to their competence and and it’s hard sometimes for them to start over in something new because. They tie their value and their happiness up into this competence. So going into something and being a beginner and and being incompetent that it is sometimes hard, but I can I use I’ve worked with those people before and you can hear it in their voice.

It’s like I’m not getting to this thing and and I really should be and then I asked but do you want to they stop for a moment and go. No, I don’t. I don’t want to get to this anymore and it can be really liberating and scary and all of it is is tranny like you said, it’s this growing Journey where okay, I’m going to start something new and it happens.

So many people, you know, Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat Pray Love when into a block has can I ever write a thing as good as them? And that that happens to a lot of people I’m really good at this and I’ve gotten 6s even in the same realm can I do this again? And it stops people, you know, JK Rowling was the same way.

She had a big block before she got one of her books done and I think it goes back to just lowering expectations, but also like you said, See what else there is out there and not being afraid to try it and I think people underestimate the use of just asking questions just going what else would be cool.

What else could be exciting for me to start not even having to answer that question because the subconscious little committee down there people with charts and graphs will just start looking. For something and all of a sudden will have this aha experience. This is this is what I want to start but it takes courage it takes courage to start over again and and the cool part of that is when you have that courage or when you must Stir It Up to to try something new that you’re not as good at as something else that courage applies to other areas of our life.

We’re not just building a courage muscle for doing. You know this this new kind of perspective drawing or whatever. We’re blending courage for going up and talking to people to starting a class to go into a retreat when you’re an introvert all of those kinds of things.

DANNY: I see that in my own life. I see how much I was set in my ways how I. I thought that I have figured out all the stuff in my life how to  live how to earn a living how to relate to other people how to see myself and bit by bit. I’ve completely dismantled and rebuilt all of those things not really intentionally, but just because I suddenly had the courage to do it, you know, then I realized that being in a place of security can also be stifling and you can stagnate in a place of security whereas if you  Try out some things to keep you try out things that first are safe to try out, you know, so I think if you say to yourself, I’m going to go and take a risk and learn something that isn’t Central. You know, it’s just a thing that I’m not supposed to be good at. So if so, I can afford to you know to look foolish if you try that out and use suddenly realize some things about yourself some capabilities.

You have some growth then you come back to you. Comfortable life and he say, huh? What other Furniture can I rearrange? You know, what are the things can I do and that’s what happened to me. I mean, I really am a very very different person and I changed my life kind of in my 40s and 50s much more I think than I did in my 20s and 30s and that was just because I realized that I that I could and that being safe and secure wasn’t always cracked up to be.

JILL: Yeah, it’s exciting because this creative thing just keeps unfolding in two different parts of our life and and the application of what we get from from trying these new things just gives us this new way of looking at life. And and I think you know, if you have a creative call that you really need to follow it because.

People get depressed and cranky when they’re not following through with it and whatever way possible to find, you know classes other ways to begin it because it has so much more in it than than just like I said, the drawings just brings Adventure into your life, and then you went back to talking about how you.

You were looking for meaning in your life and what they’re finding in this positive psychology is happiness is overrated and it is at the meaning that we need to be looking for in life. And I think finding that meaning the creative process not only gives us something to do with the rest of our lives, but it’s it’s so fun and it’s and it opens us up to meeting new people and it gives us these souvenirs that.

You know is the signature of who we are and gives us a purpose and a sense of belonging and and Transcendence which is a big part of meaning, you know, we can move into that Transcendence that’s available in the creative process on hours go by without us realizing it and we need that so much right now.

DANNY: think that’s a really interesting point because I think a lot of people come to Sketchbook Skool wanting to learn to draw, you know, it’s they say I’d like to be able to draw a bowl of fruit or I’d like to be able to write draw, you know and communicate an idea that I have and I think fairly quickly they start to realize that it’s a lot more than that that it’s about.

As you say it’s about transforming your life and your perspective, you know, we try to say we don’t just teach you to draw but we teach you to love to draw but what we also when you see when you love to draw things it starts to change how you see who you are your self identity. You’ve now become this kind of.

Person it changes how you occupy your free time. It can also change you in the sense that it concerned least start making you want to find more free time or to say I want to go on a trip to Florence because I would love to be able to draw the buildings there. And you know, that’s a whole reason for doing something that never occurred to you before and then you start to meet other people who.

Share this with you. And then you find new things in common and you take inspiration from the way that they live their lives and just this step by step by step thing happens. It’s like a religious conversion of a kind, you know where you went there for one thing and then slowly start to realize that it in fact is a worldview.

It’s something that will affect. Every aspect of who you are in a positive way and in a way that you some part of you way at the back always was hoping you get to but. There’s so many things arrayed against it, you know so many quote-unquote practical things so many social things that say living a creative life is risky is self-indulgent, you know, and is threatening to a lot of people so there’s a lot of forces against it but one of the things I think is interesting is when people talk about.

The power of a workshop or of a class or of a group or a community in changing things and you’re going to be speaking at sketch con which is this first-ever Gathering that we’ve had of all the people who have been taking classes at Sketchbook Skool for the last five years. Is and they’re all going to be coming together in person for the first time to be together and you’re going to be talking to us about how to get the most out of that experience.

But from your from your what you’ve done and been a part of how does getting together with other people kind of fundamentally change things.

JILL: I think it exalts the experience for one thing. I think a lot of people come from those circles where. Where creativity is considered indulgent and it’s so important to find your tribe to to be amongst people who are doing it and there’s the people who are coming to sketch con are attracted to sketch school for a reason and so they have that in common and so finding these people that you have something in common with there’s just so many aspects of it that are healthy.

For your your creativity and in part of the keynote is is making sure that you don’t go into comparison don’t put pressure on yourself. But to get the most out of it by by just taking in the inspiration and in a lot of it’s not even happening in a conscious way. It’s just here I am with my tribe and I mentioned earlier that a lot of artists are.

Introverts, so there’s going to be a lot of introverts coming together and and just people who may not be around people a lot to chosen not to do that and we are pack animals in the electricity that happens when your I get a lot of introverts at my Retreats and I just give them permission to be introverted but it’s funny that they they will.

Come out of their rooms more than they ever have to to be with their their tribe to talk to laugh to share things that they haven’t been able to share for a long time because they haven’t been with the right group of people that I get that over and over. It’s just so good to be with my tribe and it’s something they take away from it that last for a long time after the retreat where the event.

DANNY: Yeah, I mean when we first started the first Facebook group for Sketchbook school and a lot of people wrote to me and said can you make sure that this is a closed group that because I’m afraid that if I share stuff that people. Who know me who are my Facebook friends my family. My colleagues my relative my my friends that they will I don’t want them to know that I’m doing this.

I don’t want them to know that I’m drawing. They’re going to mock me. They’re going to judge me. It’s going to be weird. It’s gonna be uncomfortable. I thought that’s so interesting so I felt bad about it, but I understood. It I felt bad that people feel like they have to do this in private. But I also realized how important it is that they are trusting that part of themselves to essentially a group of strangers right there saying here people who I don’t know at all with them.

I’m willing to share my heart and. To talk about this stuff and that I think has been really a transformative thing for people far more than taking classes as is this is being part of this tribe as you say this group of people who allow me to be this thing that I really want to be and the more that I do it eventually I can, you know, come out and start sharing it with other people and let them know this is how I see the world as I see myself and so I’m really looking forward to sketch con because you know, I was one of those people to you know, I.

I was trying to find people on the internet who kind of shared this with me and through this process. I have found found that this is going to be an opportunity for me also to be in a room with you know, 500 people who old drawn a sketch book and think it’s a really cool thing to do and that’s going to be an amazing experience.

I think for me as well as for everybody else.

JILL: Friends that they will keep in touch with for a very long time that will read reinforce this and and I think your Facebook page is is a start for people like you said and it’s scary to post your work especially in front of people who you think are going to judge you but since it’s sort of an accepted thing, it’s scary to put something out on Facebook and you’ve made it safe and once people do and get that feedback.

You know the same thing happened to me is like I don’t know if this is any good, but I got to the point where I don’t care, you know, it’s like one of my favorite quotes is from Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s like, you know, the praise and the criticism both go down the drain because I already decided for myself whether I like this or not and I think that’s a place that’s hard to get to it first.

But it’s so liberating once you’re there to be able to go I like this. So I’m going to share it and I don’t care if anybody else likes it.

DANNY: The people who inspire me the most in SketchBook Skool aren’t necessarily the people who draw the best, you know, but they’re the people who work the hardest who keeps showing up who take the risks and keep experimenting.

You know who we’re really open about their process and say I’m doing this. What do you think or I’m thinking of doing that? What do you wish should I go with it and really want to collaborate and want to be. You know what part of it so to watch them and watch them what they’re doing inspires me much more than the actual drawing that they did, you know, it’s that act of creativity and the way that you embrace it that has the real power rather than again just the results because this plenty of people who we can look at through the history of art who draw absolutely perfectly and you know, make things that look like photographs.

It’s been done. It’s done it’s there. I think what’s much more interesting is to understand. How do you get there? You know, why did you get there? What were you thinking? How do you feel? What are you trying to say? What can I take away from?

JILL: Right and it’s the people if you know Studies have shown in his the people who focus more on their effort and the process versus the final product that stay the longest and enjoy it the most if you’re if you’re just always focused on this needs to look good and I’m not going to post it unless it does then you’re equating your worth with your final product and.

Final product is fleeting. Okay, what’s your next final product? And the process is always there. I want to show up because I want to test this I want to I want to practice this skill. I went on to develop the whole discipline of effort and I agree. I you know, that’s what I teach is. Let’s look at the process.

Let’s decide how we want to show up. Instead of showing up with pressure and judgment. Let’s show up with curiosity and mischievous let’s look for Discovery. Let’s let’s have a whole different reason why we’re showing up then creating a Perfect final product. And then you have this incredible process that people want to work on.

You know, they wake up in the morning and went to work on it versus, you know dread or have to do this. Hmm,

DANNY: Yeah, it shouldn’t be a job. You know, it’s because I think if it’s a job than you doing it for somebody else. Somebody else is going to pay you. Whereas if it’s an extension of who you are.

That’s the most valuable that’s the most beautiful probably too is that you’re doing it because you have to you feel this need inside of you that that’s the biggest motivator.

JILL: only that but. And I keep reading all these studies. That’s why I keep quoting them. When you’re when you’re doing something you’re enjoying like this the contentment that comes from last long after it’s over.

So just being able to show bad and when you’re in the creative process, your body is in one of its healthiest places people, you know who have chronic fatigue syndrome and and depression and other kinds of physical ailments. Sometimes find that they become better. They heal themselves by having this medicinal process of enjoying the creative process.

It’s really pretty powerful in terms of what’s good for our mind and our body and our soul. So just lots of reasons to show up.

DANNY: know, I started doing yoga about a year ago, and I really love doing it now, and it’s. What I love about yoga is that you’re basically you’re not in a competitive mode certainly not with the other people who are in the studio when you are you’re there just to learn about yourself and to sort of push your limits.

But also you’re living in the moment, you know, you you’re acknowledging that today you’re capable of doing something that you might not have been able to do yesterday, but the other way around could also. True, you know and that you’re also doing this basic set of things and you’re pushing yourself within it.

Now. I know you that your yoga instructor as well. What do you think about that connection between yoga and and the creative?

JILL: I teach it at my Retreats for that reason. There’s so many metaphors and yoga practice that applied to creativity, you know, just from let’s let’s go into a Twist and think I know how we can look at this differently, you know that in yoga as in life, you know, it’s it’s a good teaching to one of my when I’m in this pose.

Let me focus on what feels good. What I’m doing wrong or the aches and pains are and just letting go letting go of the struggle. I always tell people the struggle is optional. But in the creative, right, you’re right, you’re in the moment and your mind is beginning to to focus which is another big block these days is the inability to focus and yoga helps people focus.

Let’s just focus on. The Bliss of this moment and it clears our mind I do yoga every day because it mainly because it feeds my creativity to be able to relax and get out of the that constant chatter in the mine and to connect the mind with the body because there’s so much creativity and ideas in our body.

There’s so much stored there. You know that. That begins to emerge when we get quiet in the me when we stretch and the word stretch itself applies to creativity. Let’s stretch in a New Direction and putting this this into the body helps us put it into the mind. It’s that’s what yoga is the union of mind and body and like you said, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga you get flexible.

We also need to be flexible. With creative process and I’m flexing our thinking being resourceful. And and so it just to me they just go hand in hand so much when I’m when I’m feeling stuck. I you know, I go in to do some yoga and the breathing the focus on breathing in yoga is like a metaphor for the creative process, where in.

We’re taking an inspiration in and allowing it to run through our body and then having an expression. So we’re into the rise and the fall of it’s coming in and what we can do with it.

DANNY: I also like the way yoga fits into your life. It’s called a practice you practice, you know, it’s not about practicing in order to win the big game you’re practicing because it’s a practice and I think the drawing for me is always been a practice.

I’m. Drawing in order to have a gallery show. I’m drawing because it’s a thing that I do and some days it’s good and some days it’s not good and that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not I’ll do it tomorrow. You just you just keep going you try new things. You stretch a new directions, you know you.

Pause you. Make sure you don’t hurt yourself. You learn new things about yourself. And so I think that that if we could look at at drawing the way that we look at yoga is how it fits into our life and we could say I’m not drawing in order to do a perfect drawing. I’m not drawing in order to become a professional artist.

I’m drawing because it’s part of who I am. It’s a way of me understanding the world. It’s it’s. To form of Consciousness and of living in the moment. I think that would be that’s certainly what it’s done for me and I hope that we can kind of convey that to other people that this and of course when you start you’re not going to be great at it just like when you start with yoga you, you know, you not capable of doing what a lot of the other people in the class are doing but you understand why that is, you know, you don’t say well I’m not talented or I don’t I’m not siper flexible.

You just say well, this is what my body can do and I’m going to keep trying.

JILL: And and I think the practice of drawing can be. Use for mindfulness to you know, just in the way you’re talking about approach. I don’t need to do this for the final product. I need to do this because it relaxes me and it brings me into the moment.

It’s you know, especially talk about the travel journals. I loved your podcast about the travel journals because when you’re when you’re traveling and you’re just snapping a picture you have a completely different relationship. Been sitting there for 20 minutes and and really getting intimate with this thing that you’re drawing and it really brings the moment alive.

You know, it’s the it’s a yogic drawing for sure

DANNY: I mean I did this practice of drawing my teacup every morning. So I would sit in the same sketch book and draw my teacup for. 10 minutes every morning, you know, and I have lots and lots of drawings of a teacup not going to do anything with them.

Nobody wants to buy them. There’s no purpose in them, but. It allowed me to see this moment and to see the same thing that I see every day the same teacup to see it in a different way and also to look at the drawing that I had done of it and to see it as a mirror way of understanding here’s how I am today.

And that’s one of the things that that I that strikes me in. Yoga is when you think about your body at that moment and he say Where am I feeling tightness, you know, where am I feeling? Let me spend this moment understanding myself and drawing can be the same thing.

JILL: I love that reframe   of you know, just making your meditation in the morning your teacup and I’m sure it sets the rest of your day into a focus and to think present with it when you can do that and it’s that simple meditation doesn’t have to be this complicated thing where you get all of the thoughts out of your your brain and it can be something as delightful as as sketching your teacup.

DANNY: Yeah, and I think we also live in a time where there are very few blank spaces in our lives anymore because they’re filled with our pinging phone, you know, there’s always some new thing to read to do. Detective respond to and it’s important to say I need spaces because the spaces are what define the rest, you know, when everything is just this constant moving, you know graph it’s not meaningful, but it’s the pauses that give you meaning to give you an opportunity to sort of think about it.

JILL: reflect and also kind of reboot your Consciousness out of this constant stream of media and responsibilities and everything where we just become better people and we have those pauses and they. I think a lot of people feel that self-indulgence sometimes with that and I think they really need to reframe it as it’s sort of like a vitamin or a supplement or medication even to give that to ourselves because we’re in we’re better in every other aspect of Our Lives when we can give to us, you know that creative call that we is nagging us and that’s not going to go away where we’re beginning to become numb to it.

And that’s that’s just sad.

DANNY: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, I think it’s self-improvement not self-indulgence think it’s about it’s about yourself. It’s about understanding who you are and how to be you know to get more out of your life. I mean, there’s so many other things that we do that we give permission.

Ourselves to do that, you know, this is good for me. It’s good for me to exercise is good for me to be a vegan is good for me to you know, read this book on self-help or something. But creativity is part of that and it’s already built into you. So I find that if you can expand your creativity and become more.

Flexible and more better at it. It changes how you solve problems at work. It changes how you relate to other people it changes how you get value out of every day. So it’s definitely work. So when people ask I thought this was drawing it’s actually seems like self-help. It’s like damn right? Yeah.

That’s what it is. You could use it.

JILL: And I think when you make time for it, you give other people permission as well it to make time for their creativity.

DANNY: That’s true. Well Jill, it’s been it’s been fantastic talking to you. I can’t wait to see you in Pasadena. It’s just six weeks away or less and it’s I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations like this because part of what’s going to be great about SketchKon is a lot of us are staying in the same place.

We’re gonna be hanging out together all day and I think that there’s gonna be so many opportunities for having conversations and for sort of. Sharing ideas and sharing our lives. So it’s going to be really fun. I hope you going to look forward to it, too.

JILL: Looking forward to it.

DANNY:  It’s going to be really great. Well, thanks again for chatting with me today.

JILL: Thanks for having me.


What a wonderful conversation. I hope you got as much out of it as Idid.  If you’d like to learn more from Jill Badonsky and all of the other artists who’ll be at the convention, get over to Sketchkon.com and sign up before ticket prices go up

I hope you got some beautiful creative work while you listened to our conversation and I hope you found them useful. If you did or if you didn’t, please subscribe and give us some feedback.  We try to make lots of different sorts of episodes for you on this podcast and to cover lots of different topics we think you’ll find useful. And we’d love to hear from you so we can make art for all even better.

You can email me at danny@sketchbookskool.com or you can come up and chat with me in Pasadena  

Until next, time, I’m danny gregory and this is art for all.


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