new books about art & creativity

since i’m just beginning to listen to one of these and have the other one on hold at the public library, i can’t give you a review yet of either of them. but both of these books have been the subject of numerous podcasts recently that i listen to, and seem right up my alley so i thought many of you might be interested in them too. i just wanted to share my excitement about them both. i’ll probably end up buying them as hardcovers eventually but i think i will listen to them first.

the first is your brain on art: how the arts transform us by susan magsamen and ivy ross. (buy on amazon or or do what i did and read or listen to it from your library. if they don’t have it, suggest it to them!)

i first heard about it on nicholas wilton’s art2life podcast where he interviewed both co-writers of the book and discussed how the book came about and the concepts of neuroaesthetics or neuroarts. as someone who has had brain surgery, which is a traumatic brain injury (tbi) in and of itself, and had to go through a long recuperation which involved re-learning to use my vocal chords (well, one was/maybe still is paralyzed) and how to swallow, dealing with double vision and droopy eyelids, as well as a host of other fun body issues, i’ve been acutely interested in learning more about how the brain operates and how i can continue to help it heal post-surgery. i am also getting older and want to understand how to keep my brain nimble as i age. and, well, as an artist, i’m always interested in creativity and the process of art-making and how that impacts or is impacted by your brain. so this book seemed like a – pardon the pun – no-brainer.

i’m only on the first chapter but already i’m very intrigued and want to do the exercises they recommend. it’s hard to participate in them while listening to the book driving around or while walking a dog, so i’ll have to go back and re-listen when i’m at home and can grab a pen and a notebook or journal to play along. but the concept of neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury – is super fascinating, and i’ve seen it in action in myself with my own brain. so i want to learn more, particularly the role creativity or art-making can play. i’ll try to remember to post a review after i’ve finished listening to it or have had some time to digest it.

the second book has a bit more popular appeal due to its author, rick rubin, who is a famous hip hop (and other musical styles) producer. the creative act: a way of being (buy on amazon or has gotten a lot of media attention and rubin has been interviewed on a host of radio shows/podcasts. i think i first heard about it on debbie millman’s design matters podcast – she did a great interview with rubin.

it’s not a memoir but rather a rumination on the act of creativity and what it is to be an artist. it does draw on rubin’s lifetime of working with all kinds of artists, in helping them express themselves and tap into their unique creative voice. i was honestly surprised when this book came out, seeing all the rave reviews and the very philosophical slant of it; i didn’t expect that from the founder of def jam records. but when i thought about it, it makes total sense, as rubin has worked with so many musicians over his career and his job as a producer is to get the best out of artists, help them be true to themselves. i’m very much looking forward to reading this one.

are there other new/recent books about creativity and/or art that you are reading? if so, please share them in the comments!

(i just signed up as an affiliate for and started my own art/creativity list that i will keep adding to as i think of titles. i’ve read some of these books and others are on my wishlist to get to eventually. i’m working on a similar list for amazon and will post the link when i have it. if you make purchases from my links, i’ll get a little kickback that will help defray the cost of this blog and/or art supplies or whatever. it takes time to write all these posts and i’m just looking for easy ways to monetize that don’t involve advertising.)

new artist paint tip!

i wanted to write a quick post to share a pretty cool deal for artists but i think it’s only good til the end of march, so you need to act fast. and no, i don’t work for them and am not getting anything in return for talking about their product. i’m just someone who is always interested in new art supplies and especially eco-friendly paints and processes, so when i saw a sponsored ad for this company and their paint scroll across my IG feed, i looked into it and ordered some samples.

the company is called tomorrow’s artist and they make premium quality, highly pigmented acrylic paint using leftover paint that was destined for the landfill. “they” are a group of artists, art enthusiasts, makers and marketers who created a proprietary process to turn leftover paint of all kinds into high quality artist paint. you can read more about them on their website or that of their parent company, encore.

the deal they are offering right now is for the month of march, which they are calling artist appreciation month. they are offering buy one get one free on their 4-ounce jars of either standard body or heavy body paint in all colors, and free shipping for all orders regardless of amount. ever curious, i ordered 4 4-ounce jars of standard body, which ended up costing me $15.98 – a pretty great deal considering the prices of other brands. (their normal pricing for a 16-ounce jar of standard body is $19.25.)

i just got the jars of paint an hour ago and opened them right up. the colors are really vivid. i brushed some onto a page in my sketchbook so you could see what they looked like. the standard body is fairly fluid though not quite as much as fluid-body paints, more like basic latex. it brushes on really smooth but has good coverage, at least in the colors i chose. i ordered “bluebird blue,” “oak orange,” “thalia blonde,” and “victoria sunset.” i got the first three but the last one must have been out of stock or something, because instead i received “gaviota gold.” oh well. no explanation was provided, which is a little disappointing but since i’m just sampling their product, i guess it doesn’t matter much.

the only other minor grievance i will note is that the various jars were all filled to different levels, as you can see in the picture above. the “thalia blonde” and “gaviota gold” were not as full as the other two colors, noticeably different. but again, these are meant as testers and i got a good deal so i can’t complain too much. hopefully they don’t do that with the larger jars.

i have to run to work right now but i look forward to playing with these paints and seeing how they interact with the other brands of paint i have, how they layer and mix and dry on various surfaces. but i would say so far i’m pleased with the purchase and am considering getting another order in before the end of the month, maybe to try out some of their heavy body colors. but if you are someone who is invested in trying to be more eco-friendly with your painting life, this might be a good option to investigate and if you order in the next few days before the end of the month, you can take advantage of a pretty good deal to try them out.

ETA: after i posted this and an IG post pointing to this blog post, i got a response from the company apologizing for sending me the wrong color and offering to send me the one i actually ordered. it was just a mistake and they didn’t even realize it had happened. and then they explained to me that the jars they bought to use for the 4 ounce testers turned out to be actually 6-8 ounce jars, so that’s why the fill lines are all different. they didn’t want to waste the jars, so they are using them; and they didn’t want to just put 4 ounces in them cuz they’d look half empty! so they are in fact being extremely generous by filling them up closer to the top!

this is great customer service, to address the issues i brought up right away and to offer to correct their mistake. i just put in another small order for a few of the heavy body paints to compare them to the standard body, so i’ll report back when i get them.

playing around

for the past year or so i’ve been in a “playing around” or experimental/educational phase with my art, trying to not put pressure on myself to make things that will sell or to try to sell whatever it is that i’m making. this is a very different mindset about my creativity than i’ve had most of my life, as my art and craft has usually been a side hustle to make me money, with a very direct correlation between the time i spend making it and how much i can receive by selling it. i’ve always been focused on producing a “product” and been concerned with what would appeal to my audience, even when it came to my more personal art.

and it’s not that i don’t eventually want to get back to selling – in fact, that is actually the end game, to revive my art business so i’m making a significant part of my overall income from it – but for now i wanted to give myself the space and freedom to investigate new styles, new media, new techniques, new thought processes about art-making, and for the first time in my life really develop an art PRACTICE. like, show up every day (or close to it) in the studio and see what happens. instead of just feeling stuck and saying i’m having creative block or that inspiration isn’t there – which usually results in me just throwing my hands in the air and not making anything for a long time – i’m showing up daily in hopes that inspiration will eventually find me right where i need to be, in the studio playing around with my art supplies.

each day i try to do SOMETHING, anything. a page in one of my sketchbooks. a small canvas or wooden board. a collage. or even just painting collage papers of different colors of paint, practicing mixing colors. most days it’s some kind of sketchbook page that may or may not be an complete composition. maybe it’s just a scrape of paint, or using a brush i’m not accustomed to using to see what it can do. or i’m trying colors next to each other. or seeing what i can use around the house to make interesting textures. most of it doesn’t look like anything cohesive, but hopefully will add up to knowledge in my head about how to do things and one day i can put all that together into a finished piece.

so far i’m doing pretty great for march, in terms of showing up for myself in the studio.

one of the things i’ve been playing with is this large 2’x4’ wooden panel that was repurposed from a discount-store readymade wall art piece. i don’t even remember what was on it originally but it now has a layer of gesso, then a layer of paper ephemera collaged down with gel medium, a few experimental image transfers using gel medium, and now several different layers of paint, sanded in between. i have NO IDEA where it’s going or what the final look will be but i’m having fun playing along the way and am really loving what the surface is looking like, with many layers of paint and paper showing through here and there.

i love my orbital sander. the funny thing is, i didn’t even remember i had one until a month or so ago. i remember a long time ago having a palm sander but i used it until it died. i guess i bought this sander – or maybe someone gave it to me? – to replace the dead one but i honestly had completely forgotten i had it until i went poking around in my shed and found it in a plastic bin with a bunch of other tools. (after the shed collapsed during hurricane ida and a bunch of stuff got ruined because it was exposed to the elements, i started trying to store everything in plastic bins in case it happens again.)

so i’ve been experimenting with different sandpaper grit to see how much paint comes off and what different effects i can get. but honestly, this wood panel will probably get several more layers of paint before i have any idea where it’s going. but i’ll be excited to see where it ends up!

if you want to keep up with my daily art playtime, i’ve been posting occasionally on my instagram page for my art biz. every once in a while i will post a story too. and one day i’ll get brave enough to start doing some reels or maybe even – gasp – a live! i’ve always really resisted the need for artists and makers to put so much of themselves out there but i am also simultaneously addicted to social media so i guess why not? i suppose we’ll see. but for now, my IG has snaps of my sketchbook pages and the occasional small canvas/boards i’m working on. they don’t look like much at this point but hopefully it’ll all come together soon.

art podcasts i’m listening to

this is just a quick post to shout out a few art podcasts i’ve been listening to. i’m a podcast junkie, a habit that started years back because i spend a lot of time in my car driving around all day to pet clients and walking dogs. it helps pass the time and makes me feel less like it’s time “wasted” and listening to podcasts that are educational and/or motivational to me makes the time feel more productive. not all of what i listen to is educational or motivational though – there’s plenty that is just entertaining and just helps pass the time. but lately, i’ve been spending less time with those and the newsy/political podcasts and much more with podcasts about the process of being an artist and of making art.

aside from the occasional interview with artists i admire on shows like fresh air, on being, death sex and money, the ezra klein show, and other more mainstream, interview style podcasts, i wanted to find shows that focus more on creativity and creating. the first podcast i started spending time with years ago was debbie millman’s design matters. as one of the OG podcasters, debbie has really honed her interviewing skills over the past 18+ years and she features some really interesting creative types and focuses on what makes them do whatever it is that they do. I often haven’t heard of the people she interviews but they are always thought-provoking discussions of how and why people do the work and have the lives they do. interviewees are only rarely visual artists – last november she did a fabulous interview with mickalene thomas – and skew heavily to the design world (though she frequently interviews writers, musicians, actors, etc.), but the topics of creativity and motivation are universal with all her guests and the interviews go deep into creators’ lives. highly recommended for not just artists and creatives but everyone.

last summer when i started a free online art course with art2life’s nicholas wilton, i discovered he had a weekly podcast simply called art2life and i quickly consumed the entire back catalog. his shows alternate between interviews with other artists, coaches and other creatives and monologues that are more introspective and motivational. nick’s appeal to me is that he delves a lot into the psyche of being an artist and the reality of what life as an artist is like, both the highs and the lows. you can tell he’s someone who has had a lot of therapy and he approaches teaching and coaching from a psychological perspective. i joke that he’s very woo-woo californian, but i love this about him and it’s what keeps me coming back. i relate to him. i’ve written a lot already in previous posts about art2life and his online art courses spark and CVP, so you can go back and read those for more background. but his podcast topics run the full range from technique like creating texture to art business topics like selling your work to internal struggles like confidence, and he’s done some great interviews with other artists (not always famous ones) about their work and their process, though i tend to like his solo podcasts that delve deep into more personal topics of artist life.

fail like an artist is a relatively recent find, from artists phoebe gander and julie battisti, both of whom are based in new zealand. it’s a very conversational style humorous show themed around all the ways they’ve both failed as artists, with topics like “failing to find a style,” “failing at commissions,” “failing at varnishing,” and “failing at instagram.” they discuss all the things they did wrong in learning how to do things right and laugh at themselves for how spectacularly they initially failed. the show is funny and also helps you realize that everyone gets it wrong sometimes and that failure is just part of the learning process; don’t be afraid to fail! the show only began this year so they are currently on episode 9, “failing at art and motherhood.” but i look forward to each new show as it’s a novel angle for discussing issues and topics relevant to life as an artist.

the newest art podcast i’m loving is called art juice, by louise fletcher and alice sheridan, both of whom are british artists. louise is another online art teacher who i’ve been checking out. she has an online artist community called art tribe that is subscription based and offers a lot of great content including masterclasses in a variety of topics from mindset to techniques to the business of art, as well as many tutorials and interviews with other artists. there’s also a facebook community for those in art tribe to post their work and get feedback. when i didn’t end up taking art2life’s CVP, i decided to sign up for a few months of art tribe (it’s only $25/month so quite a bargain for all the content included) to keep my learning journey going. the podcast began in 2019 and covers a lot of topics from process and technique to mindset and lots of interviews with other artists. the style of the show is very down to earth and conversational, usually with both hosts talking though recently they’ve begun to explore each doing shows alone. as a middle aged artist trying to refind myself, i can identify a lot with louise who is a few years older than me but started her art journey in midlife and has managed to become quite successful. both louise and alice are abstract painters whose styles i like quite a bit so i enjoy hearing them talk about their work and others’.

so that’s what i’m listening to right now. do you have a favorite podcast about art, life as an artist, art technique, the business of art or just generally about creativity? please share it in the comments as i’m always looking for more to add to my playlist.

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i mean, while you’re here, you might as well. right?

if you managed to land on this blog page, i would like to think it’s because you followed a link somewhere regarding my art or a facebook or twitter or instagram post i made, most likely about my art or life as an artist or, well, who knows what.

i am just in the starting phase of accumulating signups for this theoretical newsletter, but i promise once i do start sending it out, it won’t be all that frequently and it won’t be as verbose as i am here on this blog or on my social media. i really just want to have a way to reach folks in case for some reason social media sites go down or go away (i mean, it could happen) or something happens to this blog. if i have your email for my list, then i still have a basic way to reach you to keep you updated about what’s going on with my art/business.

maybe sometime in the (hopefully near) future i might have a painting in an art show somewhere. or maybe i’ll actually end up with paintings i want to sell. or who knows what else might happen now that i’m trying to take my art more seriously. and i want to be able to keep you informed. i mean, if you want to be informed.

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thank you! i appreciate it. (tell yer friends!)

art as business

so even while i feel like i have taken a pause from creating art specifically to sell – which is what i’ve done most of my life with the things i’ve made – in favor of education, experimentation and exploration, i need to be thinking about refocusing my art business and ways to use my lifetime of creative output and maybe my writing skills to earn some passive or low-effort income. my art biz hasn’t really made much money in the last few years and since i do claim it as a business on my taxes (because of the years when i was more successful and made more money), i need to show some profit or i’m at risk of them considering it a hobby, in which case i lose the ability to write off expenses. so diversifying income streams needs to be a focus once again. i used to be much better about this, with all my various designs on print on demand websites offering so many different products. but i haven’t updated any of them in quite a while and a lot of my listings are out of date or broken. i’m gonna make some effort to update these sites and maybe consolidate in one place if possible. stay tuned.

i’m also rethinking how i use this website. i’ve always just thought of it as a vanity site, a space to talk about my art and my thoughts about my creativity. but maybe i could make it more useful, discussing process and tools and more of the nuts and bolts about what i do and how, even as i am still exploring and experimenting. and in so doing, perhaps it would make it more appealing to more readers. (currently hardly anyone reads this blog outside of my friend circle but i’d like to work on getting a bit more of a readership, which also means i need to step up my social media game as pertains to my art posts, to drive folks here.) even if no one else reads it, doing this will make it much more interesting for me to write and will perhaps help me be more organized and think of my art practice as a business.

as part of this, i am thinking about ways to monetize. i hate that word. and i hate that capitalism is necessary but i gotta feed myself and my cat and pay the rent somehow. plus art supplies ain’t cheap! so i have to think outside of the box, beyond just selling my actual creations, to other ways i can make money as an artist and a writer about art.

so i’ve decided to give amazon affiliates another go. (yes, i hate amazon and i don’t even subscribe to prime but i also still use it occasionally and i know most people do too.) i signed up for amazon affiliates once before, back in 2016 when i started my patreon thinking i’d be writing a lot about stuff i could link to, but in the end, i really didn’t. so my account was inactive and eventually deactivated. i just signed up for it again and thought, well maybe i can start doing a series of shorter blog posts about the tools of the trade – paint, brushes, canvases, and other tools – that i use in my painting practice, most of which can be found on amazon of course. i’ve had a lot of trial and error over the years and i have learned a thing or two. maybe some of that info would be helpful to others, and hey, if they buy something using the links to those things on amazon, i’ll get a tiny kickback. but even if they don’t, maybe it will cause folks to want to read my art blog more and help me shape a direction i want this blog to go in beyond just being a vanity site.

whatcha think? i’m also thinking about doing some posts about art podcasts i’m listening to, art books i’m reading/have read, maybe a run down of all the online art teachers i’ve been taking classes from. if nothing else all this will better explain where i am in my head about my art and art in general. again, maybe all this is only interesting to my friends and extended social circle who have supported my artwork over the years, but i feel like i have to give it a go.

i have my thinking cap on about all this. but i wanted to preface whatever i end up doing by being transparent about the fact that most product links in future posts will be affiliate links so if you happen upon my blog posts and are interested in whatever i’m writing about and you want to support me, use my links to make your orders! thanks y’all.

oh, and also, there’s a shiny new paypal “donate” button up at the top of the sidebar menu. i keep going back and forth about whether to do patreon again, but in the meantime, if anyone feels moved at any time to donate to my ongoing art supply and/or education fund, it’s always appreciated. or if you feel like you’re getting anything out of reading whatever i’m writing, $ tips are always nice. 😍

(/shameless plug)