Movies about artists — must they suck?

I will always check out any movie that’s about an artist (the cheesy Basquiat biopic directed by an artist (Julian Schnabel) remains one of my faves) but I have never found one that made me want to rush home and draw or taught me much about what it’s like to actually be an artist at work.

Why are movies so awful at capturing how artists work? The creative process is a part of moviemaking so you’d think directors and writers would know it intimately.

Continue reading “Movies about artists — must they suck?”

How to fight cancer.

The last few months have been wonderful for me. And simultaneously rather awful. But the awful stuff has inspired me, perhaps more than the good. That’s the nature of the creative process, isn’t it? To take the manure of life and use it to fuel new growth.

Pharmaceutical smorgasbord.

So many of my favorite artists turned adversity into raw material. Van Gogh was fueled by his isolation and mental illness into a turbo–charged creativity machine that cranked out another startling painting virtually every day. Frida Kahlo, whose body was crisscrossed with scars from polio and from being run over by a bus, turned her disabilities, her awful marriage, her abortions and miscarriages into the sources for her brilliant work. Hockney faced homophobia; Basquiat racism; Bacon, Goya, Picasso were all inspired by the terrors of war.

Continue reading “How to fight cancer.”

Podcast 04: How projects can kickstart your creativity

 

This week on art for all, I am bringing in an expert to discuss one of the most powerful productivity tools in the creative’s arsenal. How to give yourself assignments to focus your work,  improve your skills, and really move things along.

Roz Stendahl is an old pal of mine and a teacher at Sketchbook Skool since Day One. She is a real treasure, full of knowledge on drawing, painting. bookbinding, and life.

If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to art for all on your favorite podcasting app.

 

 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Continue reading “Podcast 04: How projects can kickstart your creativity”

You are not alone

You need to go way out to a cabin in the woods to write a great novel. You must move up to a garret on the top of floor of a tenement to paint masterpieces. Do not disturb. Genius at work. The myth of the solitary artist, toiling alone, far from the madding crowd. We’ve all heard it. And yet I wonder, is solitude really the key to creativity?

Case in point.

In 1866, Vincent van Gogh left the Netherlands. For three years, he had been trying to teach himself to paint, essentially on his own. He briefly had a mentor who then grew tired and rejected him. He enrolled in an art school but clashed with his teacher for his unorthodox style of painting. Two months later, he quit to move to Paris.

Within 18 months, Van Gogh went from dreary, ham-fisted brown paintings to bright, lively, emotional masterworks that are some of the greatest paintings ever made. What made the difference?

Paris. Or more specifically the community of artists he found in Paris.

For the first time Vincent was exposed to Impressionism, Symbolism, Pointillism, and Japanese woodblock prints. He befriended Pissarro, Signac, Bernard, Seurat, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Gauguin. His palette changed. His painting technique changed. His line quality changed. His sense of himself as an artist changed.

When Van Gogh finally found himself in the company of artists, he discovered what being an artist truly meant. He borrowed ideas and discoveries from them. He modified pointillism, he painted with complementary color, he discovered light, and in two years, he made over 200 new, fresh paintings.

Marinating in all those influences, helped him discover a unique and utterly personal approach to painting. By associating with great and generous artists, Van Gogh found himself.

Many of our teachers tell me they love being a part of Sketchbook Skool, because they usually spend so much time working alone. They love to commune with other creative minds, to share ideas, to talk shop, to find new solutions to common problems. Some of them set up shared studios. Others travel to conferences and conventions. Others use social media to share their works in progress and find input and support.

For many beginners, sharing art can seem like a scary business. We fear being judged or seeming to be presumptuous by donning the artist’s mantle. But remember the explosive effect of creative community on Van Gogh. Nothing he’d made before 1886 deserved to end up in a museum. He couldn’t find a single customer for his flat, amber landscapes and dimly-lit, mawkish still lives. But by stepping out, by daring to expose himself and ask to learn from other artists, he was transformed.

You may think you are not a Van Gogh. But have you gone to Paris? Have you taken advantage of the impact a creative community can make?

Speaking of creative communities, this piece was originally written for the Sketchbook Skool Zine.  Didn’t see it in your inbox this morning? Sign up now.

Department of Redundancy Dept.

I had a great time drawing my top 32 favorite pens. Sadly, I had to leave the other 749 out.

My homework for Andrea Joseph‘s magnificent klass at Sketchbook Skool. If you don’t know her work, your life, like my pen collection, is incomplete.

Wanderers

I do my fair share of traveling (12 trips so far this year — and today I’m 3,000 miles from home again*) but I love to hear the tales of people who are truly committed peregrinators and who document and share their journeys.

I recently met one such soul, Genevieve, a nomadic artist and environmentalist who is creating a lovely document of the world on her site, regenevieve.com.  In a new blog post, she share recommendations of other traveling bloggers (including me). I hope you find some inspiration here.


*I’m in Los Angeles for a couple of days to film a new teacher for Sketchbook Skool.