Tuesday, June 23, 2009


All the Ways the Light Comes In, 2007

“For more than fifty-five years he has gone into his studio every morning between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. and stayed until at least 6:30 p.m. for the sole purpose of making drawings. If he has no work, he will make some up. Either way, no matter what else is going on, he will have to go to the studio between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. and stay until 6:30 p.m.”

Paula Sher on Seymour Chwast

An eclectic mix of writers, musicians, painters and sculptors passed through our house when I was young. Back then, I thought they just put themselves in the right setting and the muse flowed through them in a single elegant motion.

How naïve I was.

Later on I realized how hard their work was, and for some how depression, alcoholism, toxic relationships and relationships lost were among the costs of that creativity. Yet, like Seymour Chwast, they could no more think of not practicing their art than they could stop breathing. Regardless of the mess it created, it’s who they were and what they were going to do.

Most of my friends today who pursue lives in music and art have day jobs that distract them from this pursuit. One friend, a marketing guy by day, rises at 5:00 a.m. each morning and spends an hour and a half in front of a typewriter writing poetry, or sometimes screenplays. Sometimes the words come easily and sometimes they fight him. But each day he spends that hour and a half in front of the keyboard, whether anything ends up on the page, or not.

Some years ago I read an account of how, when his children were young, Francis Ford Coppola challenged each of them to “do something creative every day.” As a result, Coppola family dinners were accompanied by lively recollections of the day’s serious and not-so-serious creative explorations.

Coppola knew that it wasn’t the actual result that mattered. Rather, it was all about the habit of making time every day to become sensitized in order to be receptive to creative inspiration.

When I joined an online photo sharing community in the spring of 2003, I figured that if I posted a single picture most every day of the year, I’d have at least a few at the end of each year of which I could be proud. I've been doing it for six years now. Some times I have a long string of pictures on a single theme, or from a single place. But some times, if there’s no backlog of photos to dip into, I’ll have to run out into the yard or look elsewhere in search of a subject. One day it was raining and I photographed my own foot. Two short series that resulted from the need to find something creative in every day, no matter how mundane, are Borders and At My Feet.

By the way, if you’re a fan of Seymour Chwast, there’s a wonderful new book just out about him. The book includes an introductory essay by Stephen Heller, another by Chwast’s wife, Paula Sher, and still another Q&A interview of Seymour Chwast conducted by Seymour Chwast.


  1. I love that mix up above of your photos. You could sell posters of that! I think it completely describes your quotation that "there are pictures all around us, you only have to look." They're really wonderful! You really have had some great series of photos in your flickr stream like that. So creative.

    And I agree--I know so many really talented people who just seem to NEED to create. I think it's a gift, really, and they're so fortunate--keeps a sense of passion in one's life, oui!? No matter what it is--photography, playing music, gardening, cooking, writing, painting, drawing...it's as Picasso says: "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." I so agree with him on this one!

  2. If it's not to melodramatic to say it, I truly believe that having a creative stream to slosh about in can save a person's life; and vice versa, that a creativity choked can lead to a slow, moldering soul-death, a mere existence rather than a life.

  3. Love this commentary.
    I wake up at 4:30-5 and if I don't start drawing in bed immediately my day is ruined.
    A compulsion...
    The Seymour book is on Amazon with many pages to view and wonder..