Jenna Van Hout
Jenna Van Hout is an independent designer & artist in the Bay Area

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The Artist's Way

I’ve begun a 12-week course on recovering my creativity, called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve had a number of friends embark on this journey to great effect. Thomas, for example, did it when he left his job to discover his art, and he said the experience was “f*cking awesome.” It has a somewhat cultish following of artists, filmmakers, writers and creatives who swear by its methods, and despite just getting started, I think it has great potential to unblock whatever’s been riding along in my psyche my whole adult life.

I was a strange and imaginative weirdo when I was young—always making, drawing, and exploring my curiosity. I lost a great deal of that imagination, perhaps surprisingly, in design school. While I was being groomed to become a process-driven, human-centered young designer at one of the best design schools in the nation, I was told that the way I used to be creative is wrong. Take for example: drawing classes. Drawing 101 and 102 had me spending weeks and weeks creating perfectly rendered three dimensional shapes, and pulled me away from the imaginative doodling and sketching I used to pull out of my brain. I am admittedly not a prolific industrial designer, so while I did well enough to scrape by as an A/B student, I just don’t think in perfectly rendered cubes, spatulas and chassis. But it was enough for me to tell myself that if I can’t draw it in perfectly rendered 3D, it’s not worth drawing at all. So, I haven’t drawn much in the last 15 years (I’ll note that I don’t think this was the intention of my professors, but the impact was certainly lasting). Anyway, I’m on a mission to get over those kinds of blockages and live a more creatively fulfilling life.

The methodology for The Artist’s Way involves writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness every morning, a weekly artist date with myself, and performing a set of tasks tailored by the week to guide the emotional and deeply personal journey of discovering/recovering one’s creativity. It’s a fairly spiritual book, and there’s a lot of reference to the Creator, which right in the intro encourages you to not think of this as the Jesus kind of God, but the divine creative force within us all that we are trying to access. I’m still adjusting to that as a key element in the journey and while I’ve never thought of creativity in that sense, I’m hoping I will convince myself for the sake of this experience. The fact that so many artists that I know and admire have successfully completed The Artist’s Way is motivation enough for me to get over my God allergy.