Art, Inc.: A Field Guide to the Psychology and Practicalities of Becoming a Successful Artist

How to master the business of art without buying into the toxic myth that doing so makes you a lesser artist. “Art is a form of consciousness,” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary. But for many working artists, who straddle the balance between creativity and commerce, art swells into a form of uncomfortable self-consciousness —...

You! Be Inspired! – The enchanting art of Meg Hunt

Meg Hunt, a graphic designer, illustrator and hand letterer from Portland Oregon has been making waves in the Illustration community for her cute quirky style and interesting choices of colour palettes. Primarily a creator of character based illustrations, Meg’s whimsical work combines a lot of mixed media techniques juxtaposed into busy backgrounds and quirky elements...

Flashlight: A Whimsical Wordless Story about Curiosity and Wonder

Shedding light on the wonderland that unfolds when you simply dare, and care, to look. As an immense lover of smart children’s books and of cleverly deployed die-cut ingenuity, I was instantly taken with Flashlight (public library) by Vermont-based illustrator Lizi Boyd — a wordless story about curiosity and wonder, following a little boy who...

Ordering the Heavens: How Johannes Hevelius, the Last and Greatest of the Naked-Eye Astronomers, Cataloged the Stars

How a visionary manuscript, completed by the first female astronomer of the Western world, survived three fires to become a beacon of scientific dedication. On September 26, 1679, a fierce fire consumed the Stellaburgum — Europe’s finest observatory, built by the pioneering astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the city of Danzig, present-day Poland, decades before the...

David Foster Wallace on Writing, Self-Improvement, and How We Become Who We Are

“Good writing isn’t a science. It’s an art, and the horizon is infinite. You can always get better.” In late 1999, David Foster Wallace — poignant contemplator of death and redemption, tragic prophet of the meaning of life, champion of intelligent entertainment, admonisher against blind ambition, advocate of true leadership — called the office of...

The ABC Bunny: A Sweet and Unusual Alphabet Book from 1934

“X is for eXit — off, away!” In 1934, six years after creating the oldest American picture-book still in print and a year before her brilliant proto-feminist children’s book, pioneering artist, author, illustrator, and translator Wanda Gág released The ABC Bunny (public library). Given my enormous soft spot for alphabet books and my deep admiration...

Allergy to Originality: Mark Twain and the Remix Nature of All Creative Work, Animated

Why why all creative culture is built on “plagiarism, literary debt, appropriation, incorporation, retelling, rewriting, recapitulation, revision, reprise…” When Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism, her dear friend Mark Twain wrote her a heartfelt and lively letter of support, in which he asserted that “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million...

Art & Physics: Leonard Shlain on Integrating Wonder and Wisdom

“Art and physics, like wave and particle, are an integrated duality … two different but complementary facets of a single description of the world.” “It’s part of the nature of man,” Ray Bradbury told Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke as they peered into the future of space exploration, “to start with romance and build...

This Land Is Mine: Nina Paley’s Animated History of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

“A brief history of the land called Israel / Palestine / Canaan / the Levant.” Ever since her remarkable 2008 animated feature film Sita Sings The Blues, I’ve been a great admirer of animator, cartoonist, and free-culture activist Nina Paley’s creative and meta-creative work. The recent situation in Gaza makes Paley’s 2012 animated short film...

Parrots Over Puerto Rico: An Illustrated Children’s Book Celebrating the Spirit of Conservation

The heartening story of one of Earth’s most beautiful bird species, an underdog of geopolitics and evolution. Most children’s books are full of animals — as protagonists, as pets, as age-old standbys in fairy tales and alphabet primers alike. But, as Jon Mooallem poignantly observed in his bittersweet love letter to wildlife, by the time...

Migrant: An Alice in Wonderland for the Modern Immigrant Experience

A compassionate chronicle of the laboring nomad’s optimism and wistfulness. Having spent my entire adult life as an immigrant, with all the relocations, bureaucracies, and social strain implied, I have tremendous respect for any effort to capture the complexities of the immigrant experience, its joys and its struggles, without robbing it of dimension. So I...

How a Vintage Children’s Book Illustrated by Lynd Ward Saved New York’s Iconic Little Red Lighthouse

A timeless testament to the power of stirring the collective imagination. In 1880, a little lighthouse was erected on New Jersey’s Sandy Hook to guide arriving ships into New York Harbor. But by 1917, this friendly nocturnal sherpa had become obsolete, so it was dismantled and put in storage. Four years later, it was reassembled...

The Science of Dust, Picasso’s Favorite Phenomenon

“With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future…” It takes more than three centuries for a one-foot layer of dust to accumulate. The entirety of the Roman Empire is buried nine feet underground — that is, under nine feet of tightly compacted dust. This household...

Jeanette Winterson on Time, Language, Reading, and How Art Creates a Sanctified Space for the Human Spirit

“Art can make a difference because it pulls people up short. It says, don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself.” In September of 1994, beloved British writer Jeanette Winterson joined Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel on the air for a spectacular...

New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast’s Remarkable Illustrated Meditation on Aging, Illness, and Death

Making sense of the human journey with wit, wisdom, and disarming vulnerability. “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead,” John Updike wrote in his magnificent memoir. “So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” It’s a sentiment somewhat easier to swallow...

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

The science behind the “tortured genius” myth and what it reveals about how the creative mind actually works. “I think I’ve only spent about ten percent of my energies on writing,” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Katherine Anne Porter confessed in a 1963 interview. “The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water.” While art...

The Book of Trees: 800 Years of Visualizing Science, Religion, and Knowledge in Symbolic Diagrams

How the humble tree became our most powerful visual metaphor for organizing information and distilling our understanding of the world. Why is it that when we behold the oldest living trees in the world, primeval awe runs down our spine? We are entwined with trees in an elemental embrace, both biological and symbolic, depending on...

Portraits in Creativity: Artist Maira Kalman, Modern Patron Saint of the Moments Inside the Moments Inside the Moments

“We always are in this in-between world of ‘Is this a dream? Is this really happening? Are we in costume? Who are we?’” From her immeasurably wonderful visual meditations on life, including The Principles of Uncertainty and Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World), to her illustrations for such cultural classics as Strunk and White’s The...

Leonard Cohen on Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting

“The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.” Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist Leonard Cohen (b. September 21, 1934) is among the most exhilarating creative spirits of the past century. Recipient of the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and countless other accolades, and an ordained Rinzai Buddhist...