Influences: Lisa Congdon / Art Inc.

Lisa Congdon's new book has officially been added to my  Arts & Creatvity Bookshelf .

Lisa Congdon's new book has officially been added to my Arts & Creatvity Bookshelf.

Visit Lisa's website:

Visit Lisa's website:

I've recently discovered Lisa Congdon, fine artist, illustrator, and author, and she's quickly becoming a big influence on my work. Lisa found her identity as an artist in her 30's and has built an amazingly successful career in the last 10-15 years or so through smart, hard, and dedicated work. 

She shares in-depth details of how you can make a living by making visual art in the book Art, Inc. (The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist)There is more practical guidance in this book than in most resources of a similar sort, which I expect I'll go back to and reference as needed. The design of the book is also excellent, which I appreciate as the book is indeed about art/design. (It only makes sense I suppose, but this is not always a given.) There are other books in the "Inc." series including Creative, Inc. , Blog, Inc. , Craft Inc. , and Mom, Inc.

Hear/see more about Lisa Congdon's life and work in the videos below:

Art, Fear, and Sensitivity...

These are the 13th & 14th of 25 books I have committed to read & review this year for a project I’m calling “25/25.” Follow visual updates on Instagram (& Twitter) with the hashtag #read25in25.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

I've read this book a couple of times now over the last few years. It's a staple in my library of books on life as an artist and the creative process. It is one of the ones that sends me straight back into my work reenergized and refocused. One of the best parts of Art & Fear is how is de-romanticizes artmaking, centering the conversation in the practical world of life and work without discounting the element of mystery involved in finding and making the work that is ours to make. 

It is said to be an "artist's survival guide" that addresses the following 3 questions that recur at each stage of an artist's development:

  • What is your art really about?
  • Where is it going?
  • What stands in the way of getting it there? must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have. Art work is ordinary work, but it takes courage to embrace that work, and wisdom to mediate the interplay of art & fear...Your art does not arrive miraculously from the darkness, but is made uneventfully in the light.
— David Bayles & Ted Orland

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph. D

When reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, I learned of a trait called "high-sensitivity." It's a trait that merely describes a person with a more sensitive nervous system than the average person, and it is estimated that 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive persons (HSPs)–that makes approximately 50 million in the U.S. Cain referenced the work of Elaine Aron repeatedly, and it led me to purchase and read this book by Aron. It was valuable to get a more in depth look at the nuances of living as or with an HSP, but as a starting point, I'd really recommend reading Cain's book first.

Dr. Aron explains that in the past HSPs have been called “shy,” “timid,” “inhibited,” or “introverted,” but these labels completely miss the nature of the trait. Thirty percent of HSPs are actually extraverts. HSPs only appear inhibited because they are so aware of all the possibilities in a situation. They pause before acting, reflecting on their past experiences. If these were mostly bad experiences, then yes, they will be truly shy. But in a culture that prefers confident, “bold” extraverts, it is harmful as well as mistaken to stigmatize all HSPs as shy when many are not. In The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Aron reframes these stereotyping words and their common application to the HSP in a more positive light and helps HSPs use and view these aspects of their personality as strengths rather than weaknesses.

Sensitivity is anything but a flaw. Many HSPs are often unusually creative and productive workers, attentive and thoughtful partners, and intellectually gifted individuals.

Some gifted individuals indeed, and important figures in our culture, including: Albert Einstein, Carl Jung, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Thomas Alva Edison, Jane Goodall, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, Virginia Woolf, E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Kahlil Gibran, D.H. Lawrence, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van GoghGeorgia O’Keefe, Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Frank Lloyd Wright, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Neil Young, Judy Garland, and many others. To be fair, the trait certainly does not always lead to positive contributions as  Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden are also thought to exhibit the signs of being HSPs.

Some questions to ask yourself...if you answer yes to the majority of these you may be an HSP:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

High-sensitivity is not the same as introversion, however many introverts are also HSPs. And both of these traits–introversion and high-sensitivity–can get confused with shyness, but these are misconceptions. Watch the TED Talk to the left from Susan Cain to get a bit more of an accurate picture of what introversion truly is, the value of it, and a look at how the bias of our current culture is toward extroversion in a variety of ways...

If you know me at all, you know I fit into both of these categories–HSP and introverted. I'm grateful for the language people like Susan Cain and Elaine Aron are developing and that it is gaining a place in the public discourse. This is good news for all of us I think:)

25 in 25 Update: Book Reviews

These are the 8th-12th of 25 books I have committed to read & review this year for a project I’m calling “25/25.” Follow visual updates on Instagram (& Twitter) with the hashtag #read25in25.

In interest of both sticking to my project goals and the deadlines I've publicly committed to, I've decided to shorten most of these 25-in-25 reviews considerably. I'm splitting my time between a number of different projects at the moment, want to best give what I can to each of them, and am trying to be realistic about just how much that is. If ever you're curious to know more about a book, don't hesitate to ask! I love to discuss what I'm reading, so perhaps these can function more as conversation starters rather than full out reviews. Thanks for following, everybody! And happy reading...

Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Katherine Monk

I'll read just about anything I can get my hands on that's about Joni Mitchell. She's a huge influence on my own work as an artist–both musically & visually–and has been a great source of comfort & inspiration in recent years. 

This book was a worthwhile read, though not my favorite take on the Joni Mitchell life-story. The facts are there, the stories are there, but Monk's insight seems a bit limited (or even off-base at times). This may be due largely to the fact that she was unable to get much if any direct conversation with Joni in the process of compiling this biography. I did appreciate that Monk, like Joni, is originally from Canada and could speak to some of specifics of growing up there was like.

I'd recommend Will You Take Me As I Am? Joni Mitchell's Blue Period for more insightful, accurate portrait of Joni Mitchell. I'm no expert necessarily. This is just my personal take based on my extensive "research"–or hours upon hours of watching documentaries, interview tapes, listening to/analyzing records, and studying related personality types. As you can see, I tend to get a little obsessed...but we can just call it "focused." Right? Maybe?

Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer

This is a classic that should be on the shelf of any artist who claims a Christian worldview/lifestyle.

It is essential to read the brief foreword to get situated in the book's historical context–to understand why it was written. However it is eerily applicable still (or again?) today, over 40 years later.

"In a world that had become suspicious of the beautiful, Schaeffer reminded us that the Father of Jesus was also the God of beauty." (Foreward, p8)

Schaeffer encourages artists to take seriously the lordship of Christ over every aspect of our lives. Meaning that if Jesus is the lord of all that has been made and will be, that we are at liberty to make art about anything and everything in creation as we experience it, so long as we remain submitted to the lordship of Jesus. This essentially obliterates the sacred vs. secular divide, and states that Christians don't have to feel limited to making art only about religious themes (though of course they are at liberty to make religiously themed art as well). If all has been made through Jesus (John 1:3), there isn't a secular molecule in the universe. And at a time when about 98% of the mainstream art & music coming out of the "Christian market" is only focusing on about the 2% most "spiritual" aspects of our human experience, this is good news to us. We need art made by folks looking at the world with a Christian worldview about all sorts of things they see and experience, not just art about the worldview itself. We need art that's honest about the hard, unresolved aspects of our lives that doesn't try to tie up the pain of those neatly by the end of every 3 minute song. The whole body of work of a Christian should certainly be dominated by the hope of full life we know, but by no means does that require an artist to be dishonest about doubt, pain, confusion, loneliness, anger or anything of the sort in any given piece of art...with no rush to resolve prematurely.

And ultimately–artist or not– Schaeffer reiterates time and time again that the ultimate artwork is our life itself. We can and should learn to see our lives as works of art, crafting them into things of truth and beauty amidst a world in deep need of both.

And the Floor Was Always Lava by Michelle Junot

So, one of my best friends and college roommate Michelle Junot wrote a book. It's been special for me to see a number of these stories be developed over the last few years, culminating in this project. But I recommend this read to you from the most unbiased stance I can muster. Really, I'm putting on my let's-be-objective pants for this one...

Michelle has this uniquely entertaining-while-insightful voice in her writing, and there's really nothing quite like it (as far as I can tell). There's dry wit, blunt realism, and deep insight in her observations that will have you all over the spectrum of emotion by the time you're done with this book. I read this by the pool one afternoon and noted how grateful I was for my sunglasses as tears, giggles, belly-laughs, and my thinking face (not super attractive) were surely all on display at one point or another.

A book of stories that chart a coming-of-age in the world. Michelle's coming of age, yes, but somehow in someway our own coming-of-age too.

Buy the book at

photo 2.PNG.jpeg
photo 4.PNG.jpeg
photo 3.PNG.jpeg

(Photos of Michelle & me...Good writing requires: good friends, good teachers, good ice cream, and good coffee shops.)

The Intentional Christian Community Handbook by David Janzen (and a community of friends)

The opening line of the foreword reads, "This is a book we've needed for a long, long time." And that couldn't be more true.

We've had books of big visions and stories of radical living. We've had books on the theologies and ideologies that drive the visions and experiments in life-together. And many of these are excellent books. Deeply excellent and needed. However there's been something missing from the shelf...whether we knew it or not...and this book can now fill that gap.

Practical. Deeply honest. Real. Humble. Hopeful. Helpful.

Janzen and his friends have been at this life-together thing for a long time, being formed by community for almost twice as long as I've been alive. The relief, joy, confirmation, and conviction a few of us have felt as we've immersed ourselves in this wisdom is invaluable and essential past the point of words.

If you've been confused and curious about what the heck this intentional Christian community stuff is...or what New Monasticism is (or just how to pronounce it)...and how these intentional communities of all kinds are relating within themselves, to each other, and/or to the wider church body, this is a great place to start learning. And if you're in thick of community wondering if you're falling apart or growing, what covenanted life can look like in different seasons, or just how to get the dishes washed regularly...this is for you.

"This is a book for people who long for community and for people who've found it; for young seekers and for old radicals. Like a farmer's almanac or a good cookbook, it's a guide that doesn't tell you what to do but rather gives you the resources you need to find your way together with friends in the place where you are." (Foreword, xiv)

Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke

Ok, I went through a Judy Garland phase as a kid. Not a Wizard of Oz phase or an Andy Hardy phase or anything like that, but a full out Judy Garland in a fascinated by her life story, begging my mom to take me to Blockbuster (remember those?) to find the DVD of Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows phase.

I was probably 12 years old. Having recently re-watched that film and read this 528-page book, I see now that this was maybe an odd thing for a 12 year old to be so interested in, but nevertheless I just was.

She's one of the greatest talents yet to walk the earth with a story that fluctuates between tragic and triumphant until that little body that housed such a huge voice and even bigger heart just couldn't keep going anymore. With an overbearing stage mother who started her on amphetamines at age 10 and the monopoly that was MGM never satisfied with her weight or face or friends for years and years...she really barely had a hope of a stable adult existence. Sure, there were a lot of poor choices along the way for which the responsibility is hers, but it's hard to deny that the cards were stacked against her from an early age. And with that in mind, the brilliance that she blessed millions with seems all the more magical...

photo 1.PNG.jpeg

An agile, curious mind that loved to learn. The photographic memory that could memorize a script in one read-through. The capacity to seemingly become the character she was to play. The endurance and supreme work ethic (when healthy). The electric presence that moved audiences time and time again. The overflowing love and affection for her audiences and children. The playfulness and humor/wit that many knew and loved. The list goes on...

The opposites could surely be listed as well. Judy was a drug addict before anyone knew much how to help with such struggles–and she, her family, her coworkers, her staff, and her acquaintances all fell victim to problems this created. 

But don't call her life a's clear enough that she'd hate that. She was adamant that she loved life. This was a roller-coaster of a read, but one I'm glad to have invested time in. I've learned much about the human capacity for both beauty and destruction from her story–feeling the potential of each to manifest in myself. I'm grateful for the inspiration to draw from Judy's triumphs and the warnings to be heeded from her struggles. And I'm grateful we still have so much of her here to enjoy through the films, recordings, her children, books, etc.


Influences: Sandra McCracken & Jordan Brooke Hamlin

I appreciate when other artists give us glimpses into the influences that undergird the work they're making, so I've decided to periodically offer you those glimpses of the things that comprise my creative process. Hope it's interesting or helpful to you in some way!

I can't deny the immense influence Sandra McCracken has had on my music and my development as an artist––and as a person for that matter. For almost 10 years now, I've followed her career closely and have gleaned wisdom, solace, challenge, and courage at each turn. I'm indebted and surely grateful to Sandra for all she's shared with us. Now in her mid-late 30s, Sandra is only making better and better work, and that is such a sign of hope to me as I go forward into the next decade of art-making and sharing. In fact, I thought just the other day that I have no idea how she'll top her last record, "Desire Like Dynamite," but the momentum would suggest that she will, and I can't wait to hear whatever form the next record takes.

Sandra is a calm, gentle presence (I've had the slightly-intimidating privilege of meeting her) with a subtle strength and energy that seems to pulse under the surface and come forth so clearly in the depth and richness of her songs. I appreciate the honesty and innovation that she's been brave enough to bring to the table. It's a gift to all of us who get to receive it. If you haven't heard Sandra's work, or if you have and are ready for more, check out the video above! I found it recently on Vimeo, and it's a high-quality, 25-minute concert documentary complete with live song performances and brief interviews in between.

Jordan Brooke Hamlin backs Sandra in the video. Jordan has also been a huge influence of mine, as she not only produces records and plays auxiliary instruments/vocals with numerous artists, but also does visual art & graphic design for album covers and other projects. Charting her growth as a successful multimedia artist has been quite empowering to me. I'd love to meet her and pick her brain someday.

In addition to the music, Sandra does some writing for the Art House America blog. Check out her latest piece here. Sandra's artist bio on the blog reads as follows:

Sandra McCracken is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Nashville, TN. Over the course of eight critically acclaimed studio albums, Sandra has developed a body of work that encompasses hook-driven melodic pop, No Depression-style Americana, contemporary recastings of classic hymns, and even children’s music as part of the Nashville alt-folk super-group Rain For Roots. Her music has been featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy; her 2013 solo record, Desire Like Dynamite, charted as one of Billboard’s Top 50 Heatseekers; and she is currently at work on a new album for 2014.
— Art House America Blog

Sandra is also a part of A Rocha international's work in Nashville––a community seeking to integrate faith, creation care and hospitality.

Thanks for reading! (And hopefully for listening/watching the video;)



These are 2 small paintings I recently did as gifts for our interns at the  Yellow House  to commemorate their first year together and the commitment they've made to stay and continue growing together :)

These are 2 small paintings I recently did as gifts for our interns at the Yellow House to commemorate their first year together and the commitment they've made to stay and continue growing together :)

One of the values we learned and internalized this year around the Yellow House is the importance of stability...of committing both to people and a place and staying put for the long haul. None of us came to value this easily, naturally, or before throwing a few "adult temper tantrums" (I'm kidding...kind of) as it is so counter-cultural these days, especially for us young adults. Whether you call it "on-the-road syndrome" (thanks, Jack Kerouac*), "the-grass-is-always-greener disorder," wanderlust, or just 20-something's hard to deny that those of my generation typically more often have our eyes on the next exciting thing than the tangible here and now...the next text message, the next place, next job, next 3-month internship, next trip to the mountains, next relationship, and so on. When we can't even commit to a dinner offer because something better might come up (true story), we're missing the people we're "with" and they're missing us. When we can't stay in a lease agreement longer than 2.5 months (another true story), we're missing all that the neighborhood/city/state has to offer and surely not seeing the myriad of things we could offer to it.

A seminal book on all this planting business. It has surely challenged and formed us significantly. Check it out if you're curious!

A seminal book on all this planting business. It has surely challenged and formed us significantly. Check it out if you're curious!

I'm convinced this whole life thing is one big search for home. Home doesn't just happen. Home isn't going to randomly be found up one mountain or another, in that city with the cleanest water and organic produce on every corner, or in your dream apartment. Home is something we showing up and being present where we are with the people around us. Home is both place and people. We can make home where we are. By committing and being committed to, and by result making a safe place to share life and all of ourselves with those around us.

This is the design that the above paintings were based on. Click the image to check out the Yellow House's online store for more prints and other products like this!

This is the design that the above paintings were based on. Click the image to check out the Yellow House's online store for more prints and other products like this!

Ok, that's a super short snippet of what we've been learning and trying to live out together here in Shreveport, here in Highland. Not everyone will be called to make home in Shreveport obviously, but I would venture to say that we are each made to do so somewhere with some community. Where is that for you? It won't be the "perfect" place because that just doesn't exist. It won't be with the perfect, conflict-free community because that's even less likely to exist. Could it be where you are now? If not, I hope for you, that place, and your future friends that you find it soon:) But could it be where you are? For us, that's Shreveport and Highland as I've said, and we've decided to plant here and trust that we'll individuals, as a family, with our (literal) neighbors and that as a result the block, neighborhood, city, and beyond will grow and change by extension. And we trust that there will plenty enough adventure along the way, as there surely have been already! 

Here's to finding the freedom in planting and flourishing in that life together...


*To clarify, no hard feelings toward Kerouac! In fact I'm fascinated by him, his work, and it's influence on culture. It's just a reality that part of that influence was contributing to this myth that freedom is found on the move.


Austin Kleon is "a writer who draws" who lives in Austin, TX and online at .

Austin Kleon is "a writer who draws" who lives in Austin, TX and online at

This is the 6th of 25 books I have committed to read & review this year for a project I’m calling “25/25.” Follow visual updates on Instagram (& Twitter) with the hashtag #read25in25.

This was a fun, quick read so I'll try to mirror that in this post. I'd put Show Your Work  in the category of what I call "kickstart books" (others in that category being Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and V is Vulnerable by Seth Godin). "Kickstart books" are concise, direct works that purposefully lead you on an efficient path to one place: making your own work. I've found it important to supplement deeper, more long-form reads with kickstarts like these to keep me active and focused on my work. It's rarely easy to stay on track and keep momentum in making and shipping creative work. It is, after all, called the war of art for a reason. Kleon's Show Your Work focuses specifically on the sharing or shipping of your work. His previous book Steal Like an Artist focuses more on the process of making the work itself.

Sometimes there is an aversion for artists to anything that looks or feels like self-promotion, but I love what Kleon says in the first chapter of his book. This eliminates any thought of self-promotion at least from the early stages of putting your work out into the world to find its audience, your tribe:

The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others...Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts, no matter how bad they are at first. Don't worry, for now, about how you'll make money or a career off it. Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you. (19)

So what are you learning? What are you making of it? Share it with us! We'll all be better for it. And I'll certainly be learning, making, and sharing as well...


An illustration in the book about the percentages in the total amount of work we make. You've gotta make a lot to get that "not crap" percentage up...So true.

An illustration in the book about the percentages in the total amount of work we make. You've gotta make a lot to get that "not crap" percentage up...So true.

The back cover of the book with Kleon's 10 things it takes to share like an artist and show your work.

The back cover of the book with Kleon's 10 things it takes to share like an artist and show your work.

About a year ago I was burrowed in the studio (aka my bedroom at the time) working on this project called "" I haven't shared its story in depth on the blog yet, and it came to mind recently as there is some early-stages conversation taking place about potentially expanding the project. 

The concept/vision came from Matt Rawle (pastor at The Well UMC), my friend and collaborator. He was working on a teaching/sermon series based on some of the "I Am" statements that Jesus made as recorded in John's gospel. He wanted to incorporate short films set to original instrumental music that expressed the ideas, themes, emotions, etc. that would be highlighted in the teaching each week. The statements chosen for the month-long series were as follows:

  • I Am the light of the world.
  • I Am the bread of life.
  • I Am the good shepherd.
  • I Am the resurrection and the life.
An example of the print/screen designs that accompanied the music, videos, and teachings. See more in my  portfolio .

An example of the print/screen designs that accompanied the music, videos, and teachings. See more in my portfolio.

My task? To converse with Matt on the content of each teaching, study and internalize the theology, then express it artistically in a way that would complement the teachings and be digestible for congregation members each week. I ended up making pieces in various mediums that work together to accomplish that goal.

  • Short ambient song recordings (Listen or download with player above)
  • Videos set to the ambient music as their "scores" (see below)
  • Graphic art designs for print and screen display each week

LIGHT "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (JOHN 8:12)

These sounds and images illustrate the most mysterious aspects of Jesus. The ever-present yet illusive light that simultaneously illuminates everything and blinds our human eyes.

BREAD "I am the bread of life." (JOHN 6:48)

These sounds and images act as reminders of the sacred nature of the mundane...the life that is providentially sustained in the most common, ordinary but necessary elements of our days.

NAME "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen for his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (JOHN 10:3,11)

*choreography and dance performance by Anna Kirkes

The music and performance of this piece are essentially a prequel to the scripture referenced above. That tense, almost frenzied search for the one who knows you, is calling to you, and makes a home to share with you...the search for your true and identity and its Source.

LIFE "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die...'" (JOHN 11:25)

Specifically, this is a sonic telling of the story of Lazarus, and generally it is a resurrection narrative. Visually the elements of abstract and concrete from the previous videos are combined. It starts slow and builds to a breaking point followed by silence that represents a death. Then the music and film bursts back to life and represents resurrection. The music ends with the same 3 swells with which it began, illustrating that we must be brought back to life again and again and again.

I learned so much during the course of this project. It became clear where I was on the learning curve for all of the media I worked in. Those limitations in skill that I encountered challenged me to focus on smaller corners of the larger concepts than I intended to, and to develop those with close attention. It is much simpler and more modest than maybe we originally dreamed up, but I hope still compelling, centering, and beautiful in some way. Special thanks to Matt Rawle, Anna Kirkes, and Grant Merritt for their assistance on this project.

I look forward to doing more work similar to this in the future!

Thanks, as always, for reading...


THE ICARUS DECEPTION (A "Word Shots" Session)

Sometimes I know I need a boost of the value that a book has offered in the past, but I don't necessarily have time to sit down and reread the whole thing. So instead of getting frustrated with this, I've started a new practice I'm playfully calling Word Shots. That looks like me sitting down with a book, skimming, and taking no more than 2 journal pages of notes from the content. Just a "shot" of what it's got to offer to recharge rather than to drink in the whole thing again. I'll only do this occasionally, but when I do I thought it'd be fun to share my notes. Hope this can be helpful for you all as well!

The artist cares and so extends herself, creating new interactions to ensure that the recipient is changed and a connection is made...Anyone who cares and acts on it is performing a work of art.
— Seth Godin


Seth Godin is an extremely prolific writer with some very important insights on the end of the industrial age, the burgeoning connection economy, and what it now means to make a living. He challenges us to see that the only "safe" option left is to be making art. Think you've got a pretty solid definition of what art is? Don't think you're an artist? Think again, and read this book (or others by Godin) to be convinced...and hopefully encouraged to make your art, whatever kind that might be.

My Notes...

Elements that define art (p14): 

  • New
  • Real
  • Important 

The opposite of coherent is not incoherent, but rather interesting.  (p14)

There is a scarcity of the emotional labor it takes to make art. That labor entails:

  • Risk in digging deep to connect and surprise
  • Patience required to build trust
  • Guts to say, "I made this"   (p10)

Habits of successful artists:  (p144)

  • Learn to sell what you've made.
  • Say thank you in writing.
  • Speak in public.
  • Fail often.
  • See the world as it is.
  • Make predictions.
  • Teach others.
  • Write daily.
  • Connect others.
  • Lead a tribe.

Art almost never works as fast as you want it to, and the more you need it to work, the slower it happens.  (p211)

This might end up in crying. If you're not prepared to cry about it, I'm not sure you're making art. And if you're not prepared to dance in anticipation, you're definitely not making art.  (p210-211)

...your biggest failure is the thing you dreamed of contributing but didn't find the guts to do.  (p216)

The only 2 courses/classes art-makers need to take:

  • How to see
  • Finding the guts to make important work

The artist cares and so extends herself, creating new interactions to ensure that the recipient is changed and a connection is made...Anyone who cares and acts on it is performing a work of art.  (p161)

Art is an effort, an opportunity to denote enormous emotion and energy in a specific direction. It means that you care, not that you're a loner or a loon.  (p163)


This is the 3rd of 25 books I have committed to read & review this year for a project I’m calling “25/25.” Follow visual updates on Instagram (& Twitter) with the hashtag #read25in25.


I ran across this book by happenstance while taking a rare glance at the business section at Barnes & Noble recently. The handwritten type on the front cover stood out among the more traditional business-style designs, except for Seth Godin’s books of course. Those were popping out at me as usual, but I’ve bought too many already so I directed my attention back at Creative Confidence. I’d heard of IDEO, one of the world’s leading design firms, but I knew next to nothing about the Kelley brothers who founded and run it. And I’m all about instilling confidence in folks, as well as reminding us that we’re all infused with creative impulses and gifting––not just those people called artists, designers, writers, performers, etc. So the book seemed right up my alley. And in addition to the cover that caught my attention, I have to say the texture of the book jacket, paper choice, illustrations, and the overall design/layout make this a very pleasing read. I suppose this should be expected from the elite of the design world, but nonetheless I noted and appreciated it.


There was good balance of storytelling, discussion of values & ethics, and practically applicable information and exercises. These categories are not always offered cohesively together in one book, but here Tom and David Kelley accomplish it quite well. I also benefitted from their focus not only on the individual, but on crafting a communal culture that can better encourage creative confidence among members. 

One of my favorite parts of the book includes a list of principles and mindsets that the Kelleys suggest help “to foster creative confidence in a group setting, consider[ing] the social ecology of your team” (184):

  • Keep your sense of humor
  • Build on the energy of others
  • Minimize hierarchy
  • Value team camaraderie and trust
  • Defer judgement––at least temporarily

Download the Preface and Introduction to the book for  free  here.

Download the Preface and Introduction to the book for free here.

Watch David Kelley's TED Talk on "How To Build Your Creative Confidence" here.