Podcast 14: Doing Your Thing

In this episode, I explore dozens of examples of creative people either being limited or exploding the labels that define them.

I hope it inspires you to make some changes  and take some risks of your own.


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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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Podcast 11: Austin Kleon

This week I interview best-selling author Austin Kleon on the creative process.

Austin is one of my favorite writers and thinkers about the creative process. He is a poet, a collage artist, a blogger, an author, a diarist, and a writer who draws.

Listen to the episode here.

Mentioned in this episode:


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Podcast 05: The seasons of creation

I woke up super early with a thought in my mind and, as fast as I could type, I wrote this script for the new episode of  art for all, the Sketchbook Skool podcast.  It’s all about  the creative process. How the brain recovers from a burst of productivity, the value of inspiration, how to tackle a giant project, coping with setbacks, and more.

I hope it make some sense.  Let me know.

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Links to stuff mentioned in the episode.


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Brain — on.

My brain has been whirring this weekend. I now have loads of things I want to make — but only one life to make ’em in.

• I am thinking of new daily projects I want to pursue. My 30-dogs-in-30-days iPad drawing project eventually reached 110 dogs, which was great fun for a while, but it’s feeling forced now and for the first time have missed several days. I am thinking of doing a series of drawings and long-text Instagram posts about my family’s history and my childhood. I spent some time yesterday looking at old photos and had a bunch of ideas. I have thought about writing on this topic before but always flamed out under the weight of it all, worrying more about how to wrangle several generations of dysfunctional people into an ongoing narrative but the idea of doing something bite-sized and episodic seems more doable and fun.

• I want to start up a podcast again. It’s been over a year since I did an episode of Shut Your Monkey and the podbug is nibbling at me again. I am thinking I’d like to do a chatty podcast about art making, probably under the Sketchbook Skool umbrella, kinda of like an audio version of the Zine we’ve been doing. A great new issue of the Zine comes out next week, by the way. I wrote a lot of it. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, get on it.)

• I just signed up for a mysterious creative camp for this summer and I am excited and super curious about that.

• There are only a couple of weeks till Illustration Nation begins at SBS and I have been thinking alot about what project I want to spend a month on. I like the idea of making prints or a book or magazine but am not sure what to do with the things I make. Maybe I’ll give them to you.

• I am very excited about a conference we are planning and keep thinking of more and more ideas about what to do there. Ideas that will get people together, ideas about all the people I want to have speak, ideas about how to promote it, ideas about little videos to show and ideas about what I will wear.

• I have been working on a short-film series on and off for the past year and I think I am now ready to release it. I’ll do so episode by episode. They’re gonna be short and autobiographical. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long to get them done.

• I would like to do some new episodes of Sketchbook Club and now have an entire shelf of books set aside. I’m thinking of finally tackling Maira Kalman, Lynda Barry, Lapin, Eric Sloane and a few others. I’ll try to get one done in the week to come.

• I have three new shoots with artists scheduled for the next month and I’ll be travelling to Atlanta, then Charlotte and finally Nashville starting in ten days. I have been preproducing these for the last couple of months and I can’t wait to get out there, work with some new artists and film crews, and make some cool stuff.

• Koosje and I have been working on a new kourse that we are calling “Zillion” for short. We have begun filming and it has been so fun to work on a new kourse and to collaborate creatively with my partner.

• I was invited to do two keynotes in Washington DC — and they are major. The audience is super-important and not the usual sort of folks I talk to so I am eager to do something interesting. I am contractually not allowed to say who it is, alas, but let’s just say they are in Washington and work in a large building with flags on it.

Weekends are meant for relaxation so I tried turning my brain off last night by watching a movie. But The Square was the most amazing, brilliant, hilarious, thought-provoking film I maybe have ever seen and so it filled my dreams with monkeys, piles of gravel, and angry children. What an incredible work of art!

Today, I will make some stew and probably not watch the Super Bowl. Maybe the Puppy Bowl instead.

The Color of Money

When you grow up in New York City, weeks can go by with your ever getting into an automobile. Generally, the only cars you travel in are subway cars. That’s how I managed to reach the ripe old age of twenty five without ever getting a driver’s license.

I’ve always loved cars though. I can identify most makes, models, and years from a distance. Particularly those made when cars were still cars and not just interchangeable silver blobs. I read somewhere that people love the cars most that were manufactured the year they first became aware of cars, usually around five or six.  That’s why my very first car was a 1965 Ford Fairlane. I bought it for $800 in a used car lot under Route 1 overpass in Jersey City, when I was 25 and still a month or two away from taking my driving test. I’d moved out of Manhattan to live in Jersey City with a friend and for the first time actually needed a car to go buy a carton of milk.

Despite its age, the Fairlane had about 40,000 miles and its original paint which was a buttery bronze color. Patti (who managed to go to her grave without ever getting a driver’s license) dubbed the Fairlane “The Color Of Money” after the Scorsese movie which also came out that year. It was big and boxy with a fat stripe down its side. It had a manual transmission, “three on the tree”, and suited my old-mannish driving style. The thing was perfection.

Patti and I would take it around town but were always a little nervous about taking it on a road trip. It ran fine and I was obsessed about looking after it. I bought maintenance manual and endless tools. I’d change the spark plugs and oil myself and way more than necessary. I would hand wash, then wax it, buffing the bronze till it glowed like a Marine’s buttons. Perfection.

I let my roommate Simon drive it occasionally. One bleak day he came back from running errands and casually mentioned that he’d accidentally dinged the driver-side door in the supermarket parking lot. I rushed down to survey the damage. The door looked like a moose had run into it. It was crumpled like one of Simon’s empty cigarette packs. As I pulled open the door, it emitted a pitiful screech and a groan.

I was bereft. Sure, we could probably have gone to a body shop and had the door undinged. But The Color of Money was now  imperfect, soiled, sullied. Instead of a classic, it was just an old beater. A few weeks later, I moved out of the Jersey City house  and into an apartment with Patti. I gave the car to Simon and never saw him or it again.

I thought about The Color of Money today because I was listening to Episode Six of The Unmade Podcast, one of my current favoritest indulgences.  This podcast is about podcasts which is rather meta but deeply entertaining. Actually it’s about podcasts that have never been made (hence the name) but could conceivably be one day if anyone could be bothered.

In each episode, two Australian chums swap ideas for potential podcasts, then delve into what they might be like, and whether they’d be any good. Then they move on to the next idea.  Some of the ideas are great and unspool into hilarious explorations, while other are dead ends which are equally amusing to demolish like the door of a 1965 Ford Fairlane.

I love this podcast because it is all about creativity. These two blokes come up with ideas on the fly, then bat them back and forth, twisting and shaping them then tossing them aside. There’s no obligation to prove the ideas, just the raw pleasure of invention and problem solving.

It really gets my wheels turning as it did this week when they discussed another unmade podcast idea called “My First Car.” In this nonexistent podcast, guests would come on to describe their first vehicle and tell stories about what it meant to them, what adventures they had,what memories it provoked — and that would be it. Simple, dumb, and wonderful.

I’ll never be a guest on My First Car — because it doesn’t exist. But I wanted to share my memory of the Fairlane somewhere.  What stories would you tell if you were a guest on the show?

Author sits down to write blogpost — you won’t believe what happens next!

I’m not sure that I have anything to say today — but I do miss my blog. The poor thing has fallen victim to various impulses within me that claim to know best.

One said, “Hey, I read an article online that says that people don’t read any more, so you should just post videos. Oh, and another article said blogs are dead and people just look at Facebook posts, so stop bothering to write here.”

Another impulse is to focus my time and energy on my job, i.e. Sketchbook Skool. (Yes, I refer to it as a job. The world’s best job, but a job nonetheless.) That means I figure I should devote my creative energy to making kourses and telling people about them, rather than venting here.

It’s a funny thing, being your own boss. There are definite perks, like taking off early to go to yoga or hiring a special effects team to make something you dreamed up, but there’s also the issue of having a boss who sits in a corner office in your skull and can call you into review your performance on a daily basis. My boss loves to tell me I could always be doing more. And this blog strikes him as a pointless cul-de-sac. (As you can tell, my week’s vacation helped revitalize my monkey. He’s tan, well-rested, and eager to get back to work.)

Despite all this wound licking, I have been thinking of a lot of ideas in the last few months, ideas that don’t necessarily have anything to do with teaching. A few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea for a new book and wrote it down, in the dark, with a Sharpie, on a pile of paper on my dining room table. It’s sat in that pile ever since, unread.

I think it could be something interesting or utter crap, but I’m not ready to either take it on or be disappointed by it yet — so it just sits there, in a neat pile, waiting for me.

Another project: drawing dogs.  I started drawing on an iPad Pro this summer and flailed around for a while looking for a direction to my efforts. It was a pretty interesting exploration and I have been meaning to write a long post about it sometime (pending resolution of the issues in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above) but suffice it to say it kick started my drawing practice and toppled a number of hardened prejudices. The latest stage in this exploration has been to try to make a drawing of a dog every single day, always a different dog in  a different style.  Today I posted number 56.

This process has been energizing but has also resurfaced the usual issues.

One — monkey struggles. Three days ago I convinced myself I had milked the idea dry and could not make a drawing I could abide.   After giving up completely and bathing in failure, I drew three new dogs I really liked.

Two — the quest for approval, a monkey variation. Posting my dogs on social media has led inevitably to being overly aware of likes, comments, and all the attendant distractions. People like the ones that look like photos best and the monkey tells me these are the most pedestrian and not creative at all. Sigh.

I do apologize if this first post in ages feels a little lachrymose. I need to shake off the cobwebs and think of stuff I actually want to write about. But writing here this morning has scraped some of the rust off my hull and I look forward to setting forth on a new adventure.

Hopefully no one is reading this because you are all too busy watching baby hippo videos.