So it’s not all books this time, but I can’t wait to dig into the resources I’ve got ready for the coming month…
Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) by Bridget Quinn & illustrated by Lisa Congdon – This book provides a natural segue into my continued creative discussions with my friend Tami over Skype. We finished A Glorious Freedom recently (we both give it glowing remarks), and by Tami’s recommendation, we’re trying Broad Strokes next. It just happens to be illustrated by Lisa Congdon, author of A Glorious Freedom, and the first pages of our latest book quickly reveal Quinn’s wit, creativity and breadth of knowledge.
Wyeth (PBS) – I can’t tell you how pumped I am to watch this film tonight on PBS! I’ve been fascinated with Wyeth’s work ever since being exposed to it through Coursera.org’s “Modern Art & Ideas” class and the fictional book A Piece of the World inspired by Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” And I obviously have some catching up to do with the entire American Masters series “Artists Flight.”
The New Yorker – Through a sweet deal I spotted on Facebook, I’m getting twelve issues of this popular art-filled magazine for just $6. The first article I read today—“What We Know About Art and the Mind” by Paul Bloom—introduced me to a book that will likely make a future bookshelf post: How Art Works by Ellen Winner. More on that—as well as other New Yorker discoveries—later!
This month’s reads are the “next chapters,” so to speak, of other works I’ve read or seen recently. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf in May…
Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Iris Barrel Apfel & Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Barrel Apfel
When I was a relatively new Netflix subscriber, I came across the documentary “Iris” about a spicy older woman with colorful clothes and accessories from all over the world. She has a magical knack for layering, be it bangle upon bangle, or feathers upon hound’s tooth, or chunky chain link necklaces upon 19th Century vestments. It’s fun to page through these two biographies by Iris Apfel’s own hand and really study her sense of style and talents in color and texture. A truly unique brand of artist!
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this book suggestion by my local library is based on a painting that I remember from the “Modern Art & Ideas” Coursera course I finished last month. The author was inspired by “Christina’s World,” a piece by Andrew Wyeth; Baker Kline recreates the life of Christina Olson who experienced the physical limitations brought on by polio. The book reminds me of one of my favorites from years ago—Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland—that revolves around one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Such writings further prove that creativity begets creativity!
Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration by Working Artists by Ricë Freeman-Zachary
I so enjoyed reading Freeman-Zachary’s Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art in March that I picked up another one of her books! Once again, the author showcases the stories and artwork of all kinds of artists and offers exercises that can help the rest of us to collect ideas and to pursue projects, too. So far, I really like the simple tip of collecting paint-sample cards and mixing them together to test different combinations of colors. I’m totally going to do this!
As always, my plunge into all things art includes some notable books on the topic. Here’s what I’m reading in April…
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Every book that I’ve read about art so far either refers to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or this one (or both). I’m about two-thirds of the way through it and have gleaned some practical insight on how to make sure my creative ideas make their way to real endeavors. Each chapter comes in two parts: 1) Tharp’s narrative on how she’s invented her own creative habit in the world of dance and 2) exercises to apply in our own creative lives.
Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit
I have no idea what to expect from this book, which is by the guy who may be best known for his illegal tight-wire walk between the Twin Towers in the 70s. It was this teaser that intrigued me to check it out: “With the reader as his accomplice, Petit reveals fresh and unconventional ways of going about the artistic endeavor, from generating and shaping ideas to practicing, problem-solving and ultimately pulling off the ‘coup’ itself—executing a finished work.”
My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman
It was through an invitation to curate an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City that this book came to be. Not only does Kalman pay tribute to all the items she chose for the exhibit, but she also weaves in some fantastic autobiographical writing and artistry. It makes me ponder the items by which I am fascinated: the five-dollar rummage-sale quilt that my family used in our camper during my growing up (my mom recently gifted this treasure to me), handmade bowls, yarns of striking hues, and books, books, books. Kalman’s is a delight!
I’m currently reading Blue Like Jazz, a collection of essays by Donald Miller and the most honest book about Christianity that I’ve ever read. Please, before you jump to any conclusions that the book is just another one of those “holy-roller self-helpers,” give this one a chance. It addresses the real–I mean really real–grit of life, even vomit. Heck, with chapters titled “Penguin Sex” and “Sexy Carrots,” it has to be something special, right?
The book has now inspired a movie, and Terry and I saw it for the first time at the theater last night. Like the book, the movie was original and captivating, plus it revolved around one of my favorite insights of the book: that personal beliefs are often formulated just like the basic elements of story. Our faith can take shape through the timeless progression of setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.
When the movie was over and we returned to our car, Terry asked what I thought about the movie, what I liked about it, etc. I couldn’t help it–I replied with grunts and stared straight ahead. I can only describe my mental state as a mix of sadness… and frustration… and hope… and apathy… and determination. That’s one potent cocktail for my feeble little brain, so I went straight to bed when we got home. You see, though the movie had met its final resolution, it had created a new and powerful conflict within me.
Call it the “revolving conflict phenomenon.” To me, such is the mark of good writing–when the original story births another story within the reader’s or watcher’s soul. Blue Like Jazz made such an impression on me, and I look forward to living into my own resolution.
WRITING PROMPT 1: Outline a story idea using the basic elements of setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.
WRITING PROMPT 2: Try to write about a current conflict in your life.