Re-learning to draw

jacks-parrotsMy boy, Jack, 9, has always loved to draw. He draws in the symbolic away kids do, inventing characters in his mind, drawings scenes and battles and maps and worlds. Recently though we have been talking about drawing realistically and from nature.
Last week, we began doing exercises from a great book by Mona Brookes, called “Drawing with Children.” The book’s method is extremely clear and simple and we’ve had a lot of fun working on it together. In the very first lesson, he drew in ways he never has before and, at the end, asked me when we could do it again.
When children draw, they are working things out, play acting, exploring and learning. They are probably being more left brained about it than adult artists are, working primarily with symbols that are not based on observation. Our society assumes that this sort of play should not be interfered with as it may somehow stunt their imaginations. Instead, there’s a risen a myth that children can’t or oughtn’t be taught to draw. When kids reach ten or eleven, they taper off with this sort of play and, for too many people, this marks the end of their drawing life.
Some kids persevere on their own, but against the odds, because they usually have insufficient instruction. It’s absurd, like giving a class full of children access to books but not teaching them to read. We expect kids magically to go from drawing symbols to seeing clearly enough and having the perseverance to train themselves to draw accurately. Some will figure it on their own, the rest will just lose interest. We don’t do that with driver’s ed, or swimming, or mathematics, or even music.
The teaching and the learning aren’t hard. At nine, Jack’s brain is a sponge and Brookes breaks seeing and rendering down to such intuitive fun exercises that he picks it right up. The system is designed to help adults too and Patti has been talking about starting soon too. I can’t wait.
If you’ve been procrastinating about learning to draw, try working through this book with a child (even two year olds can do it). The fun is contagious and it’ll light your fuse.

Hellhounds on my Trail

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“Context is everything that isn’t physically contained in the grooves of the record. It includes your knowledge that everyone else says he’s great: that must modify the way you hear him. That he was a handsome and imposing man, a member of a romantic minority, that he played with Charlie Parker, that he spans generations, that he underwent various addictions, that he married Cicely Tyson, that he dressed well, that Jean-Luc Godard liked him, that he wore shades and was very cool, that he himself said little about his work, and so on. Surely all that affects how you hear him: I mean, could it possibly have felt the same if he’d been an overweight heating engineer from Oslo? When you listen to music, aren’t you also ‘listening’ to all the stuff around it, too?”—- Brian Eno

When I was thirteen and we had just come to America, I had never heard of drugs. I may have had some vague sense of them from the adult novels I read but they were very abstract. In Pakistan, in Israel, they just hadn’t been in my sphere of reference. I imagine my mother and stepfather smoked dope, it was the ’60s after all, but not around me.

A few months after I started in eighth grade, they showed us a black and white anti-drug film during morning assembly. The film began with the protagonist, a young Puerto Rican kid smoking some pot with his buddies on an abandoned car. Late he was introduced to coke, and finally to horse, smack, H, and became a junkie. He ODed twice, the final time in the shower.

That night I woke my mother and step father up at two a.m.

“I can’t sleep, I told them. Waking up my insomniac mother was about the most dangerous and forbidden thing I could do, but I was desperate.

“What is it?”

“I think I’m a junkie.”

“What?!” they both leaped at me, frothing.

My stepfather grabbed me. “Where did you get the stuff?”

“I don’t know!”

“Don’t lie to me, boy. Who’s your dealer?”

“I swear,” I started to cry.” I think I’m such a junkie, I don’t know it.”

I told them abut the film, and how my imagination had me convinced that I could be leading a split double life, one in which I was a nerdy hundred point bookworm with a faint moustache, the other in which I was a stone cold junkie.

“Go back to bed,” my stepfather said. Clearly I was going to get no sympathy.

All of which is a long way of telling you why I was sort of anxious when Russell, our guitar teacher, urged me to buy “Jimi Hendrix: Blues” to listen to with Jack. I have studiously avoided any sort of psychedelic, heavily distorted bluesy rock and roll classic rock for thirty years, ever since the scene in that black and white 16 mm. film in which the young Puerto Rican does coke for the first time. In the background, a portable gramophone is playing some sort of shrieking, wailing guitar track and that sound has been linked in my mind with the spiraling descent into oblivion ever since.

But the fact is, we are learning a lot of blues these days and Hendrix was the god so I had to check it out.

First off, the guy is unbelievably good. Once I had a beer and read the liner notes a few times, I steeled myself and hit play. Hendrix had enormous facility and seemed to know every sound the guitar could possibly make deep in his marrow. He’d been playing since he was five and had probably had the guitar in his hands most of the time since. His playing has incredible variety, eccentricity, and expression. I won’t try to explain here why but suffice it to say, though his playing is so far away from anything I can do, listening to that album was enormously inspiring and just made me want to play, any old way I can. More though, it made me want to draw, strangely enough, I pull out my dip pen and attack the page, drawing mad dogs. The dip pen seemed the most appropriate, the most out of control weapon to use to spray ink around, like a living thing in my hand, the stroke widening with my clutch, then backing off into spirally tendrils, squealing then whispering, throbbing and choking, like Jimi’s guitar.

I haven’t fully overcome my hard rock phobia. It is very deeply wired into me. But I am able to overcome that anxiety well enough to really listen to Hendrix and more importantly to feel it, to surrender to it and to be moved by it. Jimi said: “Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel.” Well, he made me feel it.

I don’t know if I’m ready for Hot Tuna or the Black Sabbath or Megadeath or all those other bands I ran from in my youth.But I did discover that in the end, Jimi is just a more joyous, exuberant, fuzzy and wah-wah version of Miles. And I dig Miles.

Overcoming your preconceptions is damned hard but it’s the only way to grow. I grew a little this morning. In fact, my pants are hard to button.

Art Supply Porn

vacation-art-legs

I didn’t even know I had a great aunt Greta (twice removed). But I was happy to take the call from her lawyer, the executor of her estate. Now I am the lucky owner of a 5,000 square foot studio loft not far from our home.
It is a quiet space but when I open the floor to ceiling French doors, the birds’ twittering can be heard from Central Park below. The ceilings are high, about 18 feet and, but for a few graceful, sculpted columns, the space is open and expansive with freshly painted white walls and well varnished, wide plank floors. The most notable feature is the enormous skylight overhead that floods the room with sunshine on even the gloomiest days.
Greta, who apparently enjoyed my drawings when I was six, also left me an open ended, unrestricted trust fund for art supplies and furniture, so I have been busily organizing and shopping for the past few days.
First, I had my friend Dean help me plan out the space. We covered the eastern wall with cork for pinning up drawings and things torn out of books and magazines. Next to it, we erected twelve foot high bookshelves with one of those sliding ladders. In the corner by the door, I have a seating area with a Mies leather couch (for afternoon naps) and three Eames chairs and walnut stools. There’s a large kitchen and we just had to have some of the counters redone (I love to draw at the kitchen table) and a new fridge with an ice maker installed.
There’s another wall for storage with oak flat files and cabinets for storing supplies. I have two different drawing tables, one of which is a BF23 from Italy and can be angled, and raised with a foot pedal. I have a wooden print rack and several taborets that roll around on the floor and hold pens and stuff. They’re delivering the G5 Mac tomorrow afternoon and the server, which will hold my MP3 collection. Then the guys from Harvey Electronics just need to hook the system up to the Niles Audio AT8700 speakers they installed in all the walls and we’ll have Miles playing in ever corner.

So, off to the store.
Let’s start with watercolors. I want all the colors that Daniel Smith makes, every series, big fat 15 ml. tubes. Then I’m also going to try out a few other brands, so I’ll get all three of the Maimeri sets that Catherine Anderson advertises. I’ve had fun with the Dr Ph Martin’s transparent liquid watercolors I own but I want to move up a notch to their Hydrus colors so I’ll pick up all24 colors they make. I see Schmicke makes powdered metallic watercolors – they could be fun to use in my journal so I’ll take those: rich gold, pale gold, copper, silver and aluminum. Here’s something called Ox gall Liquid; no idea what its for but I like the sound of it. In the basket.
Next, I want the best brushes money can buy. Really great watercolor brushes always spring back to a natural, razor sharp point and I think male Kolinsky red sable is considered the best (they’re made from the tips of animal tails which is mildly disturbing but maybe they just trim off the tip and it grows back like a lizard’s. In any case, I’ll ask the lawyer if the trust fund can make a contribution to PETA or something). Here’s a #14 brush for $311.95. I’ll take three. It’s by Isabey and they’re nickel plated. But the #14 is pretty chunky; for safety’s sake, I should get the whole line, 00 though 12. And, for fooling around with, maybe those Squirrel quills. And a 2″ squirrel wash or two. Oh and some fun brushes: a few of those filberts and fans, a set of lettering brushes and those weird angled tear drop brushes.
I’ll need some good new palettes, the big English glazed porcelain ones. Grab half a dozen. That watercolor bucket looks interesting – it has water basins and palettes inside it and there are holes in the hadles to keep brushes upright. Oh, and this Rinse-Well thing is cool. You fill the big bottle with water, it fills a basin with clean water and when it’s dirty, you press a button and it flushes it into a hidden reservoir. Cute and just $30. I need three. Might as well get this Sta-Wet palette with the lid that seals the paint like Tupperware. It seems a bit fiddly and I can always just get fresh paint but, oh, what the hell… in the basket.
Watercolor canvas? Apparently it has a special coating that takes the watercolor, you can lift off mistakes or even wash the whole image off the surface and start again. It doesn’t rip or shred and comes in huge rolls so you could do paintings that are 4 and half feet by 18 feet! Wow.
I also need loads of Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. I want to try the hot press too and both 140 and 300 lbs. I love the Canon Montval Field books for journaling but also want to try out these Michael Rogers books with 140 lb. cold press acid free paper. Take a half dozen of each. This Nujabi journal looks good too: 25 130 lb. deckled pages in a Royal blue cover. In the basket. Lots of empty pans and half pans and an enameled steel box to hold them. Some nickeled brass palette cups. Check. One of these steel tube wringers that squeeze out paint. Check. A few dozen empty jars and squeeze bottles. Check.
I’ve never used a Mahl stick to rest my hand on while painting. It’s very Rembrandt looking. In the basket. And a thing called an Artist Leaning bridge, a transparent shelf that sits right on top of your page so your grubby paws don’t get on the work.
Here’s a very cute and must have item, the art traveler, a combination back pack and stool, with aluminum legs and lots of pockets and padded straps.
I like these huge art bins with the casters on them, full of individual boxes that neatly stack. Even a pocket for my wireless phone. Do they have to be such an ugly shade of purple?
I’m getting a huge paper cutter for bookbinding. I am used to the arm cutters (which could live up to their name an sever a limb) but am intrigued by the Rotatrim that rolls the blade along a bar. They have a massive 54″ one here that’s a bargain at just a little over a grand.
I need pencils: These Faber-Castell Polychromos come in a box of 120 colors and , for some reason, a CD-ROM. I like the idea of pencils so sophisticated you need to use a computer to work them. I’ll take the matching Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils too. In a wooden box, just $300 a piece. I’ll also need an electric eraser, just in case I ever make a mistake. These triangular TrioColor pencils looks interesting. Oooh, and these color pencil easels that organize everything in rows behind elastic straps and Velcro closures. Very nice.
I want to try some new media too: Encaustic crayons that you apply with a special electric iron. British scraper board for beautiful cross hatched drawings tat look like engravings. I’ll take some in black and some in white. And foil too. Oh and a set of cutters and scrapers you need to work on them.
No pastels. I never like drawing with them and I never like the look of pastel drawings. Except for Degas. And Lautrec.
Some gold leafing. I’ve used cheap stuff and it’s very dramatic but I’m going for the real stuff this time, 22k Double Gold and Pure Palladium too. The perfect way to class up a humble line drawing.
I’m going to have to order some clay for sculpting but I might as well pick up the armature set, the metal mesh and the riffler tools for shaping. This rotating sculpture stand is cool. It goes up and down and has a little adjustable shelf for tools. And this clay gun extrudes different shapes of clay, like a grown up play do maker, only in steel. Ultimately I want to get a welding setup and a kiln but this’ll do for now.
I love pure pigments, no idea what to do with them, but I want a few jars of them sitting around: Sennelier sells a nice starter set for just $1250 in a handsome wooden box.
I want some gouache to try out for the first time. This Lukas brand looks sort of interesting but I think Roz urged me to get Schminke. Better ingredients, less chalky and dull.
Now that I have all this space, I’m going to do some oil painting. I have painted on canvas before but always hastily, using a dining room chair as an easel and acrylics because they dry fast. I’m intrigued by Williamsburg paints. They’re made here in New York by an artist who based his recipes on research into the paint houses that supplied Monet and Cezanne. I’ll need 150 ml. tubes and the colors go from $25-145 so I should probably get the whole range, looks like about 150 colors. I can’t stand the smell of turpentine and how it gets into everything so I better get some Turpenoid and a citrus based thinner.
Brushes: If in doubt, buy the most expensive. In this case, more Kolinsky Sable. I’m getting a set of flats, of rounds, of filberts and of liners: grand total, a mere $1802.15. Hang on, these color shapers look like fun. They’re silicone brushes which I can use for applying and scraping paint, sort of like more elegant paint knives. But I should get paint knives too. Here’s a set of 60 different ones for $450. Done. Oh and a smock. Here’s a nice black one, cotton, lots of pockets. And though I won’t be getting a beret to go with it, I like this life sized human skeleton made of wood. Beautiful, and look, life sized posable manikins. They have men, women, boys and girls. A lovely family for just about two grand. And a posable giraffe too. Other miscellanea: a reducing glass les for looking at my canvas without having to step back and … duh, an easel, I’ll get two: one for plein air, a french easel that folds up into a little box to strap on my back like Van Gogh did. And then a big one made of oiled oak wood with cranks and shelves and casters. Here’s a nice one, called appropriately, the Manhatttan and it’s just $1707. Greta would approve.
Finally, canvas, double primed cotton duck to start with, and then a roll or two of Belgian linen and loads of stretcher strips and canvas pliers and a really good staple gun. And a few maple panels for painting on too, the really thin kind, satin smooth. Oh, and a Bob Ross video, maybe “More Joy of Painting”.

(This grotesque fantasy of excess was inspired by the arrival of Jerry’s Artarama catalog in our mailbox. In the real world, I ended up buying a bamboo sketch pen, for $1.79).

Why do I do it?

adrian2

At six, it was universal. We all drew, and painted, sang and sculpted. We were all architects and actors, potters and dancers. It was innate and natural.
I lived around the world as a child, in Lahore and London, in Pittsburgh and Canberra, studied at St. John’s and on a kibbutz. I could quickly fall in with any other kid and we’d pretend to be mountain climbers or scientists, we could build forts out of sofa cushions or turn a refrigerator box into a theater. I wrote and illustrated books. In a school play, I played a dog that saved a family from their burning house. I had an alter ego, Roger Watford, an English lord who smoked a pipe and carried a sword. I made pirate maps, soaked them in tea for verisimilitude. I wore my Halloween costume year round.
Twenty years later, I wore ties. I drew only when doodling on the phone. I never went to galleries or museums or playgrounds. I watched golf on TV.
I was not an artist any more.
When I was a eighteen, I wrote a college application essay on why I felt that writing rather than drawing was the more appropriate and useful medium of expression for me. It came down to a simple equation. Artists starved. Writing was useful in all aspects of business.
Princeton had a painting department. I assumed that its members were lazy, unwilling to take on a proper major or to attend a real art school. Architect students worked notoriously long hours. Fools, again. At best, I’d heard, they’d make $30 grand a year.
By twenty one, I’d become cynical, rigid and unimaginative. I was ready to get to work.
I had talked myself out of going to art school because I believed that the only way to make a living would be to be a ‘commercial’ artist which seemed horribly compromised. My experience working for a local paper had led me to believe that journalists were mere observers rather than participants. My friends who went into investment banking were total sellouts. Three months after graduation, I fell into advertising. It was a job, and got me out of my parents house.
For the next twenty years, it was what I did. I was “creative”. Noun, rather than adjective. In Harper’s, I read an essay that concluded ‘Creative people in advertising are artists “with nothing to say.” It seemed apt.
The advertising profession is divided into creatives and account people. Creatives are divided into art directors and copywriters. I was the latter and yet I drew more and better than the art directors I worked with. I had endless opinions about the visual side of the business but I was adamant that I was a copywriter. I would not be judged as a visual person. I was not an artist.
Despite all the meetings I sat through, all the product I moved, all the concessions and compromises I made, the urge to make things could not be completely quashed. First of all, I made ads. I worked with photographers and directors and editors and composers to make polished little 30 second turds. We all threw ourselves most fervently into these productions, being adamant about the tiniest things, the shade of blue of a models blouse, the placement of a comma. We would fall on our swords all the time, so intent were we to assert our creative will.
This inner artist plagued me like homosexuality must plague those still in the closet, I would jam it down, insisting it was impractical, that I was not good enough, that it was a huge waste of time and then that creative urge would pop its head out somewhere else
I was not a painter (though I did paint at home, balancing huge canvases on my dining room chairs because I would not commit to having an easel).
But I was not really a Writer either and stopped writing the fiction I had pumped out in school.
When I was twenty three, I wrote a play and some producers started to raise money to put it on. We did a reading and Kevin Bacon played the lead. I did nothing to help. The production grew until the plans were to try to open it Off-Broadway at the Henry Miller theater, then on Broadway itself. I stood by. Eventually the plans grew so big, they collapsed. I did nothing to revive the play. I’m not sure if I still even have a copy.
Three different times, I bought myself a keyboard and set up music lessons. Each time, I sabotaged myself after a week, missing practice and lessons because I was so busy at work.
I designed and built the furniture for our apartment out of birds’ eye maple. But then told myself we could afford to replace it at Ikea.
I got a book contract to write a book of highly subjective funny essays about New York bars. I wrote 250 pages but then my editor left the house. My new editor wanted to make changes. I refused. The book faded away but I held on to the advance.
I would come home and cook, hand grinding spices, rolling out raviolis, shopping for months for the perfect knife, making elaborate dishes that I would eat by myself, standing over the sink. I worked hard on what I wore, scouring vintage stores for hand made suits, collecting hundreds of ties, dressing and redressing myself to get the look just so.
Someone gave me a harmonica and I kept it in the shower where I would play it till the pipes ran cold. Whenever someone in our family had a birthday, I would develop elaborate themes to my presents and print my own wrapping paper.
I saw every movie that came out, hundreds a year, telling myself it was part of my job and tax deductible to boot, I watched them intently, memorizing camera placements, noting editing techniques, the names of key grips.
I made my girlfriend elaborate hand made gifts. I wrote and illustrated books for her, even epic poems. I convinced my boss to let me have a laser printer in my office, and then worked behind closed doors to print my books on special papers, to make slip cases and design my own type. I would finesse each piece over and over, readjusting the kerning, the leading, till it was perfect. I worked for months on each item, a single edition of one book. I was doing it for my love. But I didn’t deal with the fact that I was doing it because I had to.
Long before we became parents, I made intense home movies, costuming Patti and driving her to interesting locations. I drove her in a car I had bought simply because it was beautiful, a 1962 Mercury Monterey that was 18 feet long and two tone, cornflower blue and white. It was completely impractical, far too big for Manhattan and I rarely drove it but I polished it and reupholstered it, a gleaming feast for the eye.
Fade out.
Another decade passes. I am married. I have gained a son and thirty pounds.
My career has continued to climb. I am at the top of my field, running the creative department of an agency.
But I am suffocating.
I am under enormous pressure to make other people produce creative ideas. Money is inextricably wound up in everything. All our efforts are judged and harshly.
I slowly came to realize I have been leading a false life for so long, that I am not who I am pretending to be. I have been using my ability to make things purely in terms of how it will provide money to my family, There is no joy in the process. The things I make are completely at the behest of others, I am making advertising campaigns for investment banks, for people who sell weapons systems, for chemical producers and management consultants. I am making more money than ever have and yet I fell completely bankrupt. Nothing I do is for me. I am bitter and insomniac.
A few years before, I had found one outlet that meant a lot to me. I had begun an illustrated journal and had become quite good at drawing the little things I encountered every day. I took a class in bookbinding and learned to make my own journals. For a while, it was a great escape. But then I’d stopped that too. My position as creative director meant there was no time for such things, for the folderol of making things that did not contribute to the agency’s bottom line. I locked my journals away and for five years I focused exclusively on my job, twelve hours a day. My wife grew distant but I didn’t notice. I had no friends outside of work but no time for them in any case. Whatever little burblings of creativity used to have, that I channeled into cooking and fashion and gifts was 100% channeled into servicing clients.
The camel’s back finally broke.
Through my job I started to meet some of the top graphic designers, people like Stefan Sagmeister, Woody Pirtle, Paul Sahre, and as I talked to them, I found myself admitting how much I hated what I did, how lost I felt. I was supposed to be their client but I treated them like mentors. I so envied their lives, making all sorts of things for people, working on their own projects, committing themselves to social change, turning down work if they felt it was wrong, living on a fifth of what I was making and seeming well rounded and complete. Finally one of them suggested I get back to my journaling. Hesitantly, I did.
I let art back in the door and suddenly the walls started to crack. Within a month, I had a book contract. A few months later, I had a second, this one to publish my illustrated journals. Before long, I had an agent and was no longer a creative director.
Instead, I was me.

Booking a vacation

lighthouseI dream very intensely on the first few days of a vacation, as my brain reorganizes its hard drive. Weird hallucinogenic dreams feather into each other, dredging up dramas, ancient and new. Old bosses, old addresses, old mistakes, reappear in new masks to cavort on the brinks of skyscrapers or wrestle in Jello®. It’s like File Day, as rusty drawers squeak open, folders and envelopes get hauled out and dumped in piles, sifted through, tossed or reformatted. All this housework doesn’t necessarily result in clarity but it’s an important part of growing and assimilating experiences.
Here, however, are a few of the things I gleaned while lying poolside:
• It’s a mistake to start a vacation by saying, “I sure hope nobody gets sick on this trip.” I am a hardy type, rarely sick, but in Tuscany I got a virulent ear infection (my first in thirty five years); in Puerto Rico, Jack got chicken pox; on the Jersey shore, I got poison ivy (that required two courses of steroids) and so, inevitably, we succumbed in the Dominican Republic too: head colds, coughs, skin allergy, sunburn, insomnia, and diarrhea made for a fun time.
• Cheap rum is cheap for a reason.
• Al Franken is funny, right, and a bit too much of a shrill wonk.
• You can only draw so many palm trees and no one but Albert Bierstadt should try to paint sunsets.
The Da Vinci Code is an abominably written regurgitation of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a preposterous best seller I read ten years ago and is just a disservice to Leonardo. It wreaks with wooden dialogue, leaden characters and lumbering plot twists and treats art like some sort of word jumble. Wait for the TNT miniseries to come out.
• European and South American pop music uses harmonizing vocal chorus in almost every hit. American pop almost never does.
•Jhumpa Lahiri richly deserved her Pulitzer prize. Many of the characters in The Namesake are still hanging around me, offering me pakoras. I can’t wait for her next one.
• Rapidographs leak after air travel.
How to be Good suggests that Nick Hornby may have been a one or possibly two book wonder.
• I still love James Herriot, almost as much as I did at twelve.
Sixpence House is the story of Paul Collins’ year in Hay-on-Waye, the Welsh town with 1,500 inhabitants and 40 antiquarian bookstores. He is a deep and infectious bibliophile and the book is very entertaining. If you love sifting through shelves of dusty obscure books that no one has read in a century (as I do), it’s worth a quick read.
• Topless sunbathers make me yearn for more covering, rather than less.
• A.P.P.B. (Always Pack Peanut Butter)
• It’s nice to go traveling, but, oh, so nice to come home.

Tanned, semi-rested and ready

swisscheeseWe just came back from a pleasantish week in the Dominican Republic. Every so often, I would stagger out of my deck chair and draw some of the scenery. In lieu of sending you a postcard, I have put together a special little gallery of my favorite journal pages.Check it out here.

The Way

5th-ave-and-16thI was talking to my friend S. last night while Patti cooked salmon. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten together. S. is a lawyer but he works in the entertainment industry and his boyfriend is a composer so S. is always surounded by others’ art. For the past decade or more, S. has been talking about changing his life so he could do something more creative.
Last night he told me he had hired a career coach to help guide him in a new direction. When S. told him his personal narrative, the coach pointed out how much of S’s story was intertwined with the opinions of others. S. wants to be a good boy but is afraid that doing something creative will jeopardize the opinion others have of him. It’s a familiar story.
One of the suggestions I made to S. was that he buy a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Everyone has heard of this book and many people own unread copies. I’m not much of a self-help book kind of guy but I can say, without equivocation, that the contents of this book changed my life. The cornerstone of the program are the Morning Pages, a discipline that requires you, almost immediately after waking each day, to fill three pages with whatever words come in to your mind. These words are not meant to be read by anyone, not even by you. Yet they give you a chance to skim the crapoff your mind, the doubt and self loathing, the apprehensions and obstacles, and begin each day with a creative act.
I take issue with parts of the book. I think it assumes too much that most people had lousy, oppressive childhoods that sapped the creativity out of them and forces the reader to confront these issues, whether they are central or not. I think it also assumes too much that one’s goal is to become a professional creative person, rather than just infusing one’s life with art. But these are small caveats and so I urge the book on many people.

Almost none of them take me up on it.

My mum did. Like me she has gone through the course several times on her own. Since incorporating the program into her life, she has moved away from here market research business and written a screenplay, a novel, a memoir, and created her wonderful art form, Leafages. She has been invited to speak to many groups on creativity, had one woman and group shows, and her work sells from coast to coast. She even teaches a workshop on The Artist’s Way in her home, spreading the truth that anyone can become more creative to others.
I am not, as a rule, a joiner. Nor am I a believer in much. So please take what I say with a healthy dose of salt. Still, whether you begin this program or another or invent one for yourself, I’m fairly certain that you will find that when you give yourself permission to be creative, your life will change. You will either leave or transform your job. You will open yourself up to new people. You will develop new relationships. You will find that serendipity plays a very active role in your life. You will worry less and appreciate the universe more. You may not lose weight but you’ll enjoy food more. Your body may not look better but your taste in clothing will improve. You may not become wealthier but money will matter less. You may not improve your health but each day will matter more.
As for S., he’s a very nice man, enormously intelligent, and I’m sure his brain will eventually grant him permission to find his calling. As the Buddha said, “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the Way.”