Finding your own visual language.
Written my Claire Benn, Leslie Morgan and Jane Dunnewold
This is my favorite book for really jump starting my creative process as well as an artistic AAA for when that process has a puncture on the road to completion. After I talk about the segments of the book I will explain why I find this book such a rich resource of inspiration.
The main premise of the book is that if offers a multitude of directions like road signs along a journey to bring an artist during any stage of development from point A to point B. For me it has been like taking private lessons from a master, learning to see, understand and correct or redirect the path along the creative process. These include how to get started, move forward, evaluate your work during the process especially when you feel stuck and finally going deeper down the path.
I may know what I like judging from the scrap books of ideas, colors and textures I’ve made. However, I need the guidance of one who has been there to give me the suggestions that help me focus and examine what I am trying to accomplish as an individual. This is where the visual exercises help me see things in a new way, develop ideas on how to create mark and actually put my finger more closely on what it is I am trying to say.
In the first section of the book I worked with shapes, cutting stamps, line drawing, mark making, texture, using mark to express feelings, line studies, rubbings, monoprinting, examining color and pattern and abstraction of images. After doing the work, I am given questions to ask about my work so far and guides for drawing some conclusions.
The second part of the book is an explanation of art and design principles: contrast and relationship, focal points, and balance. Again I am given a series of questions and guided evaluations, ways to seek solutions and make decisions.
To carry you through the process, the authors offer two case studies which are very illuminating. You can see the process in action, like watching someone’s mind work. The last portion of the process is a writing exercise. This is not my forte but using the guidance of the book, I was able to follow through.
Now I come to the point of telling you why I like this book most of all the books I have purchased about surface design. Many books are about technique, or about how the author does her/his work. This book is like having an instructor right in the room with you, guiding YOU down the path of understanding. It’s not about how this person makes their art or that person makes their art; it’s about how I can make art in my own voice. I love the questions and guides provided which show me how to examine what I’ve done and ask myself if I’ve achieved what I set out to do, if I’ve said what I wanted to say.
This book is my “go to” place whenever I feel stuck or in a dry place. The exercises always “get my creative juices flowing” again. I’ve heard it said that we learn by doing and these exercises are a sure fire way to get me “doing” and launch a creative burst.
On a personal note, I have created a book of marks that I use to whet my appetite for "work"or to simply create a page or two when I need a creative outlet. I have included a few pages.
Drops of India ink blown with a plastic straw
Tiny spray with India ink and a toothbrush
A roller pen
black acrylic paint applied with a wad of burlap
Black acrylic paint smeared with a 4" squeegee
Stamps from the excerises in the book with acrylic paint
The gold dots were already on the pages and I made a clam imageI use frequently with white china marker.
For a free giveaway go to And then we set it on fire