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:

COMPLETE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Continue reading “Podcast 11: Austin Kleon”

Sketchbook Club: Dan Eldon & Peter Beard

Sketchbooks don’t just have to contain sketches. This week in the Club, I discuss how two photographers document their lives in Africa using collage, calligraphy, and gorgeous photos.

This week we will discuss the following books:
• The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon

And, by Peter Beard:
The End of the Game
• Fifty Years of Portraits and
• Beyond the End of the World


How to live forever.

If we want to understand what our earliest ancestors were like, our best evidence are the paintings they left deep in the caves of Southern Europe. When we think of Ancient Egypt, we see the paintings anonymous artisans made on sarcophagi, grand sculptures like the Sphinx, monuments like the Great Pyramids at Giza. The Greeks and Romans are represented by marble statues and architecture too. The Medici, all-powerful merchants live on, long after their last pennies were spent, as sponsors of da Vinci and Raphael. Popes like Julius and Leo, who led armies and converted millions, are instead remembered by Michelangelo’s creations.

And when our civilization is over, what will represent us to the future? When every company on the Fortune 500 has vanished, when the borders of all the world’s nations have been redrawn a hundred times, when our glass and steel towers have tumbled, when hard drives have been wiped and silicon decayed, what will stand as our legacy? Will it be our wars, our laws, our economy? Or will it be Walt Whitman, Bob Dylan and George Lucas?

When I visited the Jewish Museum on Prague and saw all those pencil drawings by children long since consigned to the pyres of Auschwitz, I felt their spirits, felt them enter and inhabit me, felt them live on through those faint marks on paper. Hitler should have been more diligent in burning those drawings too, if he was so hellbent on wiping those children from the earth.

When I think of my grandparents, I don’t think of their success as doctors, their accumulated capital, their role in their community — I think of my grandmother’s garden, designed to look like a Persian carpet, her roses, her topiary of a peacock, her frangipani trees and her cacti. I think of my grandfather’s short stories about his childhood in the stetls of Poland and his experiences in post-partition Pakistan, all written painstakingly at his walnut desk in a cloud of pipe smoke, then hand-bound between shirt cardboards.

My grandfather would have been 106 this week. His body is under Mount Olives in Jerusalem. His house is occupied by strangers. His friends and siblings are but dust. But his stories live on in the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute.

Long after your will has been executed, your real estate dispersed, your Instagram feed expunged, the drawings you make, the recipes you write down, those are the things that will keep your spirit alive.

Art is our way to immortality. Long after your will has been executed, your real estate dispersed, your Instagram feed expunged, the drawings you make, the recipes you write down, those are the things that will keep your spirit alive. Your illustrated journals, records of what you did and experienced and felt, they will be your mark on this earth.

Make sure your family understands that your art is you. It is not to be consigned to eBay or the dump. It is the most precious part of your legacy and it should live on.

Oh, and make sure that the monkey doesn’t prevent you from making those pages, from creating the art that will keep your spirit alive. Don’t kill your memories before they can be born. Be brave, be creative, rock on.

Rethinking my story.

Earlier this year, I got a lovely invitation to come out to Phoenix to talk about what I do. Jenny was born and raised there so we travel to Arizona at all times of the year to see her family and I have come to quite like the city and the desert. Besides, it was mid-winter and the idea of the desert in August had a powerful appeal.

The climate was not the only allure. Some of my pals like Jane LaFazio and Seth Apter will be there too. But most of all, it was as an opportunity to turn to a fresh page. I decided to use the invitation as an incentive to think of a whole new approach to talking to groups of people about creativity. I often present my ideas on creative blocks and the struggles we have with drawing as adults but, over the past couple of years, I have wanted to think about illustrated journaling from a different vantage point.

As part of this fresh start, I went back through every page of my illustrated journals in chronological order. From my first tentative collages and chicken scratching, through the books I bound myself, through my trips around the world, my experimentation with media, my growing confidence, Patti’s death, Jack’s departure for college, the move Jenny and I took to LA and so much more. I paged through almost twenty years of life and it was exhilarating and sobering, emotional and revelatory.

Now I have managed to turn all those pages into a brand-new story that I am really excited to present.

My presentation is open to all and the folks in Phoenix have set up a lovely evening with wine and desert and such — but reservations are filling up fast.  If you’d like to come, meet some other great creative people and see what I have concocted, I’d love to see you there.

The evening begins at 7:00pm on Saturday, August 8 MT.  To find out more and register, click here.  There’s also a Facebook event.

I hope to see you there!