Today, I'd like to share my first blog post in On My Bookshelf series. We are going to talk about a book that was created to be an inspiration, a guide, a gentle kick in the bum for the people who are afraid to be creative - The Creative License by Danny Gregory.
Too many people seem to feel they are not and cannot ever be creative. (...) This book is designed to give you - all of you - something you actually already have: permission to be intensely, brilliantly, wonderfully creative.
I was eyeing this book for a while. To be honest, I don't need the "creative license", because I already feel like creativity is a big part of my life and I feel great about it. What I was looking for in this book was ideas, inspiration, lessons on how to keep an illustrated journal of everyday life.
I read multiple reviews, watched all possible previews and flip-throughs, and finally purchased The Creative License on Amazon second hand. So, it came to me a bit scuffed, dirty and had some pencil notes on a few pages. Nothing major. I love my books clean and pristine, but I made peace with its condition. :)
First of all, I really like the layout of this book - it has many pictures (who doesn't love pictures in books?!) of Danny's and other creative's personal journals and illustrations. The book is also built in a way, that if you open it at any page - you get a completed inspiring chapter/section and some visual eye-candy to go with it. So, it makes it a perfect go-to book when you are looking for inspiration and encouragement on your creative journey. One drawback would be the font - it can be a little difficult on the eyes, as it imitates the handwritten script.
This whole book is one big pep talk (in a good way) and an affirmation that everyone is an artist. "The ability and need to be creative is hard-wired into all of us" Danny says. Then he gives what might be the most well-known quote from this book - he compares art to driving a car.
What if we treated driving like we treat the arts? We'd assume that people were either born to drive or not. We'd wait and see if, as children, they started driving on their own, if they had talent and a calling. If they did, we would be careful not to interfere with their talent and possibly suppress it. We would make sure to encourage only those who seemed they'd be able to drive professionally. We'd pay some of them millions of dollars to drive and lavish them with fame; others we would refuse to support, encouraging them to do something more useful for society. (...)
The Creative License starts with some basic drawing exercises, which I found quite helpful, since I am not a drawing expert. Then he goes into journaling, challenging yourself to see differently, using your senses, expanding your horizons, and finding your own style. What I love most about this book is how chock-full of ideas it is. Every chapter is bursting at the seams with lists of what to draw, of what kind of creative classes you could take, movies to watch, inspiring artists to look up.
Pure creativity is all around us. A weed pokes through cracks in the pavement. Birds make nests. So do ants. Beehives are elegant and intelligently designed. And what about the colors and shapes that fish have come up with to protect themselves? And flowers, aren't their adaptations, so infinitely varied and breathtaking, creative? (...) Can't you be creative as a weed?
The drawing exercises include contour drawing, negative space drawing, measurements, using your left brain vs. using your right brain in the drawing process etc. But most importantly, Danny teaches us that drawing is seeing. If you see, you can draw.
This is where drawing comes from. You can look at something slowly and carefully and refuse to see it for anything but what it is - at this very moment, in this light, from this angle. As you begin to see, you cease to be the many things that limit you. You drop judgments, cultural biases, history, and baggage.
I was a good student and religiously did exercises from the first chapter every morning. Most of them are too embarrassing to show, but the door that was only slightly opened for me before, opened wider and I saw a brighter world of possibilities that this kind of creative journaling can bring me. I started sketching and drawing everything and anything I saw around me: watercolor palette, my shoes, flowers, my food. And it felt good. It truly felt like the right thing to do, like I was meant to do it from the very start,
There are no bad drawings.
Drawings are experiences.
The more you draw, the more experienced you'll get.
In fact, you'll learn more from bad or unpredictable or weird experiences than from those that go exactly as you'd hoped and planned.
So let it go.
Release your ego's desire for perfection.
Create as much as you can, whenever you can.
"Journaling" was probably the chapter I was looking forward the most. It's been over a year since my fascination with illustrated daily journals started. I find it to be such a unique and authentic way of documenting life. That's what I have been trying to do and intend to continue doing. In this chapter Danny covers everything from why to journal to how to journal. Add beautiful examples of his and other artist's journals - and you have an incredibly inspiring read. Even now, after I've read the book, I would open it at random page for some visual inspiration sometimes.
An illustrated journal can be lots of things: a scrapbook, a sketchbook, a travel journal, a memoir, a photo album.
To be creative, you must be brave and allow yourself to take risks. You also must be a little crazy.
I loved the "Shock" chapter for making me think outside the box: changing my mediums, drawing on paper towels, drawing the reflection of your subject you see in a metallic object, foreshortening, zooming in ad drawing only a tiny part of an object, drawing like a child etc.
This chapter was about turning all of your senses on and using them to SEE and feel the world around you. Being present, actually living your life to the fullest, instead of being a spectator. Danny Gregory gives specific examples of exercises you can do to awaken all your senses e.g. get a massage for touch, visiting different shops for smell, eating something new for taste etc.
For two or three days, stop watching television. Stay off the internet, Ignore your e-mail. Turn off the radio. Don't read the paper, magazines, or books. (...) Look away. Remain in the present rather than allowing these messages to catapult your mind into some other place: a Caribbean vacation, a car showroom, a movie set.
"Resistance" chapter covers what to do with your creative awakening. It can be scary and exciting to suddenly see the world around you in colors. So what do you do with it? How do you deal with excuses, procrastination, difficulties?
Warning: we are creations -> we must create -> creation creates change.
This section of the book is about judging and assessing - what you create, how you create, what you should improve, how to deal with your inner critic. Also, about the importance of improvising sometimes, rather than meticulously planning every line you draw.
There's the Art world. And there's the world of art. Know the difference. Don't let looking at other's art bring you down.
I like the name of this chapter "Identity: who you are and why it's fine" - it exactly what it talks about. There are thousands and thousands of different artists around the world, and each one is unique. You don't (and probably won't) make money from your art, but does art really have to be your job for you to be an artist?
(...) I walk - I am a walker.
I read -I am a reader.
I take photos - I am a photographer.
I play the guitar - I am a guitarist.
I write - I am a writer.
I draw - I am a drawer.
I make art - I am an artist.
Art is not only drawing or painting. Art is everywhere! You can do so many things that are creative and artistic, and Danny even gives you a list of what things you could try out.
I love to see art that doesn't know it is art. Women with incredible hairstyles or fantastically elaborate manicures with airbrushing and decals and glued-on gems and initials. Men with customized cars and motorbikes. I love getting mail covered in drawings and stamps and labels, too.
The last chapter of the book covers some of the author's favorite inspirational people, their stories and their art: Dan Price, Tom Kane, Bob Dylan etc. It is a reminder that we all were just beginners at some point. What matters is how far we go for our creativity.
Now, that you have your creative license, don't leave your abilities moldering in long-term parking. Hit the road. Keep going. Experiment, dream, dare to fail. Go down dead ends, then pull a U-turn and head for another corner of the map. Travel the main highways and the parts uncharted.
When I see you there, I'll honk twice.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that this book wasn't revolutionary for me in terms of information I've learned from it. I'd rather call it a compendium of general knowledge, inspiration and encouragement. But hey, it's general knowledge that we often ignore and forget about. So, I don't regret buying this book one bit. It is a great one to pull off your shelf in moments of doubt and lack of inspiration. However, if you are a complete beginner in art, you are scared, lost, afraid to start - I recommend this book even more. It's like your best friend is talking to you, and suddenly, all this art thing seems doable. You are an artist. We all are. We were born to be artists. It only takes courage to make that first step to see it is true.