The Creative Licence

Ever since 1992 I have been in the habit of keeping a diary. For the first ten years, it was mainly a therapeutic tool, helping me to unveil some not so healthy structures and behaviours in myself and people around me. After that, however, I felt that the habit was restraining me rather than helping me forward but I didn´t know how to break out of the mould I had created. I tried to quit, I tried other ways, but always came back to the same thing I had been doing; it was kin to an addiction.

I wish I had stumbled upon Danny Gregory´s book "The Creative Licence" a few years ago. (Actually, I would have needed it before it was written, probably!) The subtitle is "Giving yourself permission to be the artist you truly are", and it is an enthusiastic class in how to do an illustrated journal, whether you think you can draw or not. It is about seeing your world differently, challenging your perceptions and bringing impressions to the page, mixing it around and creating ideas for whatever you are into, not just the visual arts.
Drawing is seeing [...] looking is a language [..] In Genesis, God has Adam name the animals. Labels make abstract thinking possible. But because we overdo it, looking replaces seeing, and we soon stop seeing things for what they truly are. We say "tree" and stop saying "elm" [...]. This is where drawing comes from. You can look at something slowly and carefully [...] you stop thinking about bills and aches and grievances and chores. You, your pen, your paper, your subject, you just are.
This is drawing as mindfulness practice. And being mindful is the door into the state of creativity. It´s like that old cliché: the nutty professor/inventor who gets lost in his own thoughts and work, forgetting all about sleeping, eating and the world around him.

Gregory has a story of his own, of course, about the creative person who got lost in advertising and found his way back and now wants to share and encourage others. Personal experience is always a good place to start. He also has several suggestions on how to start a journal, how to re-start, challenge yourself to "draw ugly", "be specific", "draw negative space", and such things. Lots of illustrations, naturally, not just from his own journals but from other people´s journals as well. He also encourages the reader to experiment with writing, arguing that writing is drawing too. My only objection to this book is, actually, that at times, it is very hard to read, because the writing is so awkward and wonky. A challenge, perhaps, but also a source of irritation. But it´s a minor objection.

I´d like to finish with a quote that made me think, not because of what is said, but because of who says it:
"I cannot tell you how happy I am to have taken up drawing again. I´ve been thinking of it, but I always considered the thing impossible and beyond my reach." - Vincent van Gogh, in a letter to his brother.
If you are bored and don´t know what to do, or you know what you want to do but don´t know how to do it, this can be the book for you. You don´t have to be wanting to learn how to do art, just wanting the courage to put your impressions and ideas on anything down on paper. That´s what Gregory is teaching: courage to create.

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