Tag Archives: Review

KEEP GOING 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times & Bad, a review

I have mentioned before that I struggle at times to keep up a daily writing practice.   I was starting to slip off again after a fairly successful month of regular writing.  I found myself crankily (it’s a word now!) wondering if it really mattered as I turned on the car radio during my lunch break.  The next words I heard were, “KEEP GOING.”

Austin Kleon, author of the book KEEP GOING, 10 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD, was being interviewed by Kai Wright on WNYC.  I was so grateful for this coincidental encouragement that I bought his book the next day.  It’s a short book.  The 201 pages alternate between graphics and double-spaced text.  It’s more like 100 pages of written content.  Overall, I enjoyed this breezy presentation but I would have preferred a little more writing and a little less space.

The first five chapters were on on-topic. Kleon offers practical, executable advice to creatives on how to keep going. Every Day is Groundhog’s Day reminds us that the key to being a prolific artist is a daily practice. It’s “a repeatable way of working that insulates them from success, failure, and the chaos of the outside world. They all have identified what they want to spend their time on and they get up and work at it every day, no matter what.”

Chapter Two, Build a Bliss Station, is about creating time and space for your work. Forget The Noun, Do The Verb reminds us to focus on the work rather than what we are trying to be. Chapter Four, Make Gifts, is a call to shift our attention from worrying about money and metrics and to remember our love for the craft. Kleon demonstrates in The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraoridinary that we need to slow down and pay attention or risk missing the inspiration that is all around us waiting to be discovered.

I loved the first five chapters.  Kleon was thoughtful in the way he expressed these concepts.  He included relevant anecdotes and quotations from other writers and artists who have inspired him.  Unfortunately, he went off the rails in the second half of the book.  Most of the remaining chapters were filled with his opinions about the role of art in the world rather than the how-tos that comprised the first half of the book.

Kleon’s thoughts might be interesting but I didn’t buy the book for out-of-left field pondering like this bit from Chapter Six, Slay the Art Monsters:

“If making your art is adding net misery to the world, walk away and do something else.  Find something else to do with your time, something that makes you and the people around you feel more alive.  The world doesn’t need more great artists. It needs more more decent human beings.”

The last four chapters were full of similar propaganda except for When in Doubt, Tidy Up.  That whole chapter had nothing to do with tidying up; it was just filler about sifting through the crap in your office because you might find something inspiring. The chapter title was nothing more than a blatant attempt to steal a little of Marie Kondo’s popularity. Kleon even references her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and why he doesn’t think it is useful to artists.

All in all, I would say KEEP GOING is worth picking up.  I would just retitle it to KEEP GOING Five Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad (+ Some Other Art-related Thoughts from the Author.)

Tasha Tudor

The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a review

Recently, I borrowed a book from the library that was published in 1992.  1992 probably seems like a lifetime ago to many of us.  The internet was a nascent network available only to Vax nerds.  Cell phones were only in the hands of a privileged few.  Life was a little slower, quieter and simpler 27 years ago.

1992 was a lot quieter, simpler and slower for renowned illustrator Tasha Tudor who chose to live on a quiet rural Vermont estate with a menagerie of domestic and exotic animals.  Her 1830s lifestyle is beautifully captured in The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a coffee table book by Tasha Tudor and photographer Richard Brown.

The photographs alone are reason enough to pick up this book. It is filled with pictures of Tasha Tudor in her environment. Divided into the four seasons, you will see lush photos of Tudor’s gardens, as well as the inside of her home with her oil lamps, old-fashioned wood cooking stove, homespun linens and beautiful handcrafted items. There are also photos of Tudor with her grandchildren wearing the early 19th Century clothes that Tudor preferred.

“I’m very fond of men. I think they’re wonderful creatures. But I don’t want to look like one. When women gave up long skirts, they made a grave error.  Things half seen are so much more mysterious and delightful.”

Tudor’s humor, wit and frankness fill the pages opposite the photos.  She was someone who knew what she wanted from the time she was a little girl. She was convinced she had lived before in the 1830s and felt more comfortable in that way of life. So, she masterfully recreated a 19th century lifestyle while enjoying a very successful career as the award-winning illustrator of almost 100 books.  One quote that really resonated with me was:

“When I’m working in th barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life. But I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies. They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts. Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.”

Great advice! When I realize I am dwelling too much in the negative past, I also try to think of something that makes me happy like my dogs or a beautiful garden.

The book is filled these sorts of self-reflections and other helpful observations. Above all, it gorgeously displays a life that is deeply connected to the natural world, as well as, being in tune with the seasons of nature rather than being ruled by the artificial, digital timing of Today’s world.

I would highly recommend The Private World of Tasha Tudor if you would like to experience the serenity of the 1830s through beautiful photographs and the brilliant musings of a satisfied woman who brought to life the world of her dreams.

Naturally Reflective: New Year’s Review and Reset

I am very happy to have today off!  Since it’s New Year’s Eve, a coworker asked me yesterday with a smirk if I was going to “party hard.”  The sarcasm stems from the fact that I am the only introvert in an office replete with extroverts.  It’s common knowledge at work that “partying hard” is clearly not in my wheelhouse.  In fact, I stopped trying to “fake it in order to make it” years ago.

I prefer to focus more on starting the New Year off on the right foot.  So, New Year’s Eve for me is a good time to reflect back over the last year.  I saw a great quote on Facebook the other day from the ageless and wise Mimi Kirk:

“2016- Life is like a garden, keep the things that worked last year and get rid of the things that didn’t.”

Oh how I love a good gardening analogy!  It seems like sage advice for non-diggers as well.  Removing clutter from our lives has become a popular theme in recent years, as the minimalist trend has gained momentum.  I applaud the idea of careful consumption and avoiding the accumulation of items that aren’t loved or needed.

What about habits and behaviors that don’t benefit us and keep us from living our dreams?  This is the question I will be pondering today.  New Year’s Eve is a good time to look back over the past year and see what worked and what didn’t.  I am going to follow Mimi’s advice to weed out what is not serving me.  I also want to recognize with gratitude what did and plan to cultivate those practices.

How are you spending New Year’s Eve?  Will you be spending time in reflection and gratitude?  Partying hard?  Little of both? Leave me a reply.  I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!  May 2016 be your best year ever, filled with love, happiness, prosperity, laughter and many beautiful blessings!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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