art business

5 Books for Creative Encouragement

Hi there. How are you? 

The creative life can be hard to navigate. Sometimes you need a little guidance or a little encouragement to keep you going. In the past few years, I've noticed a deluge of books on the subject. Working at the public library, I've had a chance to read many books about the creative life, and I thought I'd share my favorites with you. 

 Books that have provided me encouragement along my journey as a creative. Click through for purchase details. 

Books that have provided me encouragement along my journey as a creative. Click through for purchase details. 

5 Books for Creative Encouragement

These titles have all provided me with practical guidance on my own creative journey. (Note the word PRACTICAL.) None of these books offer pie in the sky, get famous fast solutions. Instead, think of them as creative pep-talks, each with actionable steps you can take to live your best creative life. They're NOT just for visual artists, but for anyone who has a creative pursuit.

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Written by the author of the smash hit "Eat, Pray, Love," this is my absolute favorite book on the list. Though Gilbert discusses her own creative process as a writer, the sage wisdom she doles out is applicable to anyone with a creative pursuit. She encourages creatives to NOT quit their day jobs. When your creative pursuit becomes a job, you've got more pressure to produce and it often takes some of the joy out of it. She also puts to rest the myth of the suffering artist. Making good art doesn't have to be torture!

2. Steal LIke an Artist by Austin Kleon

This is a very quick read filled with practical advice in a graphic style. Kleon purports that "Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path. Follow your interests wherever they take you. Stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring—the creative you will need to make room to be wild and daring in your imagination."

 One of my the many humorous illustrations by Martha Rich inside "Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk"  by Danielle Krysa.

One of my the many humorous illustrations by Martha Rich inside "Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk"  by Danielle Krysa.

3. your inner Critic is A Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa

After reading Danielle's blog "The Jealous Curator"  for years and religiously listening to her podcast "Art for Your Ear", I was quick to purchase this book. In her humorous, light-hearted way, Danielle lays out her 10 truths about what it means to be a creative person.  Cheeky illustrations by Martha Rich throughout the book bring even more levity to the discussion. Using anecdotes from successful artists and from her own life, Danielle discusses creative roadblocks, like "Imposter Syndrome," when you feel like a fraud, insecure about your art and creation process. (Boy, can I relate?) She also offers simple, practical exercises to help you get over those roadblocks and get down to the business of making good work. 

 One of the awesome handwritten spreads inside "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. 

One of the awesome handwritten spreads inside "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. 

4. show your work by Austin Kleon

In this follow up to Steal Like an Artist, Kleon explains how to "Share Like an Artist."  In his signature style, combining handwritten pages, illustration, and text, he lays out 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered.  This is another quick read with actionable advice to help you get your work out there. 

5. Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

More than any of the other books on the list, Growing Gills provides a step-by-step process to help you find your creative focus.  Complete with a downloadable workbook, this book is like your own private workshop, helping you build focus to finish your creative work. 

I've read and re-read these books. 

They're all that good! I tend to grab them off my shelf when I'm in an artistic slump or feeling like a fraud again. These little creative pep talks sure do help. 

* As an Amazon Influencer, I earn a small commission when you purchase the books I've listed through these links. It's a small way for you to support the work I do. (Thank you!)

Anything I should add to the list?

Do tell! Leave a comment and let me know. I'm always looking for inspirational reading.

Ciao! Jen

I Gave Myself a Break

Hi there. How are you?

Me? I'm much better.

I very much appreciate all of the support and encouragement I received after my previous post.

My slump didn't last long. I did one very simple thing to get me out of it.

I gave myself a break.

Since January, my primary goal has been to design a new line of wholesale goods (cards, prints, calendars, tea towels, etc.) that I can pitch to retailers. I set out to make 10 new cards featuring my current abstract pen drawings as well as designing 2 new calendars and some new tea towels. 

For a while, I made really great progress towards that goal. Despite the fact that I have been steadily designing new products since then, I'm still not done and haven't even begun to lay out a new catalog. There never seems to be enough time.

Or maybe my heart wasn't really in it.

After my vacation meltdown, I decided to put wholesale aside (at least for a time).

I also put aside my sketchbook and went for a big 12" x 18" format. I picked up my trusty Bic and went to work. (Yep, even after all my searching and experimenting with other pen brands, Bics are still my most favorite.)

 After struggling in my sketchbook, I decided to go big and start a 12" x 18" drawing with my trusty Bic pen.

After struggling in my sketchbook, I decided to go big and start a 12" x 18" drawing with my trusty Bic pen.

Pretty quickly, the work started to flow.

I had so much fun working on this drawing that I even recorded a short video of the process. Unlike the others, this one is in real time, so you can really see my technique.

Working large helped too.

There was more room to experiment and move. I was back in my happy art place, making work I was pleased with. It doesn't look forced, but instead free and flowing. This I where I want to be.

 After fleshing out the composition with green, I added in some black to enhance the depth. At this point, it's just about complete.

After fleshing out the composition with green, I added in some black to enhance the depth. At this point, it's just about complete.

I want to be making original work, not a stationery line.

When I dream of my future as an artist, I see work in galleries, not at the National Stationery Show. I started working towards a wholesale line when my success selling work at art fairs started waning. I've seen other people be very successful with wholesale home goods and thought that might be the way to go for me as well. Unfortunately, I've never been completely satisfied with the cards/pillows/etc that I was making.

I still don't know how I'm going to do sell and market my original work.

All I do know is that I am enjoying the process of making again.

I'm going to think less and draw more, and see what comes of it for a time. My tentative goal is to make and frame enough new work to hang a solo exhibition at a local space. (Or maybe even in our house!)

I appreciate you following along in my journey.

Ciao.

 

A Change is In the Air

Hi there. How are you?

This may be a long rambling post. Lots to tell. Much to process. Read on......

 "Let it Flow Through You" 12" x 12", collaged paper and ballpoint ink on cradled hardboard, 2015.

"Let it Flow Through You" 12" x 12", collaged paper and ballpoint ink on cradled hardboard, 2015.

I got some good news last week.

This piece was accepted into the Rockford Midwestern Biennial, a juried survey of contemporary art made by artists in the Midwest. This is a prestigious show at my hometown museum. I've applied in the past, but this is the first time my work has been accepted. Very exciting!

It was just what I needed.

As any creative will tell you, this being an artist thing is hard work. So hard sometimes, that I contemplate giving it up. I've been feeling that way lately, so getting my work into the Midwestern was a much needed creative boost. Let me explain.

One Year Itch?

I've been feeling restless in my artmaking lately. Unsatisfied with my work. I've been unsure of what to do next. As I look back, I've been feeling much like I did last year at this time. (I wrote all about it HERE.) Maybe this artistic restlessness is a spring thing for me? Or maybe it's time for another change?

This "itch" really made itself known with the launch of my latest coloring book. Sales have been pretty lackluster, and it's hard not to take that to heart. Yes, I know I launched my first coloring book at the beginning of holiday shopping season, so that contributed to its crazy good sales. Any maybe some people are still coloring my first book. Whatever it is, the poor sales have been disheartening and disappointing.

But it got me thinking....

I like making coloring pages, but is that all I want to do? Nope. I really like drawing in my sketchbook. I often find myself drawing patterns, but do I want to be a surface pattern designer, and license my work for fabric and other commercial uses? Nope, doesn't sound appealing to me.

What I do want to do is draw, paint, and make.

I want to make original works. Yes, I know I stopped making originals around this time last year because they weren't selling. Alas, the urge to make original pieces still remains.  I want to work abstractly and intuitively, and with confidence. I want to make for me, and not necessarily to sell. (But selling and making money would sure be nice!)

The universe is talking to me.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of blogs, and am on entirely too many mailing lists of other artists and creators. Last week, it felt like everyone was talking directly to me.

In one of her most recent podcast episodes, Danielle Krysa told me to do something I love, instead of trying to do something that I think people want. On her blog, Alisa Burke told me to get off of the computer, stop comparing myself to others and just start making. Crystal Moody told me that "things change, don't fight it, roll with it."

The universe is telling me that it's time for a change. It's time to be true to myself as an artist. I want to branch out from the more commercial and illustrative things I've been doing. I'm not going to give those things up entirely, but I don't want to "put all of my eggs in that basket."  I keep feeling like I'm trying too hard to be something I'm not, following the trends and styles I see as I scroll through Instagram or Pinterest. I spend entirely too much time comparing myself and my work to others. It's time for that to stop and for me to trust my gut.

Let's call it a pivot

So, I'm not going to reinvent myself again as an artist, but I'm just going to switch things up a bit. A slight pivot in my artistic course. And all I know is that writing this post, organizing my thoughts, and getting it out there has been terribly therapeutic. Enjoyable even. It's helped me to process how I've been feeling and to set a course for the future. Expect to see more writing and more making here soon. (But not next week......I'm going on vacation!)

I appreciate that you've taken time to read this post and welcome your feedback.

See you back here in 2 weeks. Ciao!

P.S. If you enjoy my work, please share this post or some of my artwork with your friends! Thank you.