A couple of years after I wrote The Confident Creative about how drawing can connect us with our true creative selves, I started to write Making Art a Practice /How to Be the Artist You Are. I’ve been a working artist for a long time, much of that time as an illustrator. For many years I’ve also been experimenting—painting, writing, making collages and prints. Making art is not a straight shot ahead, for me at least. It’s a winding road, with bumps, and a way of observing life and making something out of it. A way of living with no particular destination. It’s a dance with imagination and grace.
In some ways, I wrote this book for myself. As one thing winds down, in my case my life as an illustrator, something else begins. Now I am a writer, a teacher, an artist in new ways. How do we navigate all these changes, I wondered, and have the journey continue to lead home to awareness and peace? Art is an adventure, both in the making and in the ways we find to bring it into the world. How do we keep the adventure fresh and vital over time, especially in a culture that values other things more?
Every week in the drawing class I teach, I have the good fortune of working with fellow artists. We explore together by diving into new experiments. We look and see and consider what’s possible and how we feel, who we are, what we have to say. We each have something great to say, I think, some vital truth or humor or insight that comes from the particularity of our lives. Something so worth sharing. People also bring in things they’re working on and we appreciate what they’ve done. We never say anything negative but look for what’s alive and true. It’s always there. I love the humility, bravery and openness of my fellow explorers; beautiful things come of it.
I hope the book can be a companion for those who don’t have Saturday mornings with fellow artists. And for those moments when we don’t quite know what to do. There are lots of ideas in the book, ideas for going deeper and wider, and there’s art by some incredibly inspiring artists—20 of them from 7 different countries. The book explores how we might step out a little more onto the precipice of unknowing where the view is wider and brighter, where we really learn more is possible than we think. And where we learn too that everything is perfect—we are fine as we are and where we are. We can go with whatever inspiration we choose—we can learn to pay attention. There are 30 practices in the book, actions we can take to keep us going over the hills and dales to see what we more than we imagined and do what we’re called to do.
A practice isn’t just about improving skills. As in the Eastern practices of yoga and meditation, making art can bring us to a place where we come to know ourselves as we really are, where we see the wow within. The book is a friendly companion, I hope. It says—don’t give up! We need you! Carry on!