An Open Letter


I’ve long believed that a creative (person) should always follow their own instincts as it relates to their work. What we do does not have a right or wrong answer, it is an opinion. Having inspiration and influences is key as it gives us direction, but copying is just boring and can lead to complacency. Whether it is your drawing style, the way you dress or the music you listen to, don’t bow to other people’s opinions. Yes, we all need criticism and input to grow, but that should be for YOUR growth, not the critic’s.

In the classes I teach, I have always championed The Apple Lesson - Click to viewindividuality and creativity. I would much rather see work from a creative that is less technically sound and wildly imaginative than something that has been overly influenced by the world around us and technically sterile. I like to surround myself with people that are different so that I can learn something from them.

Having been an artist literally all my life and having been fortunate to use my talents for my livelihood, I have gained much insight to the creative world around us and have come to the point in my life where expressing my opinion about all this has the ability to affect those who are just starting in any creative field. Part of what I do is teach and this not only brings me great satisfaction, but I am thrilled that my students teach me things that help me in my own creativity.

I have a few mantras that I use when I teach;

  • There are no answers in the back of the book.
  • There is a fine line between simple and boring.
  • You’re the designer, you choose.
  • It all starts with the pencil.

These all lead to the concept that YOU are in control of your creative direction. YOU have to create and give life to your vision. YOU have to work and toil to pull everything out from inside. Creativity is neither a mental or physical thing… it is etherial, spiritual almost, in that it cannot truly be explained.

Where is this all leading? I’m almost there… bear with me. Let me tell the second of the most influential things happened to me while in college. The first is here and I recommend you read this as well. With all humility, I say that I did well in college; by my last year, I was on the dean’s list, much to my surprise, by the way. I happened to be taking a break from an all day ceramics session and wandered by administration and just looked at the list and lo and behold… there was my name. “hmmm,” I said to myself, then went back to my clay and throwing wheel.

Marilyn – Graphite on Cream Paper

As well as I did, I still had some bumps in the road. During my second year, I had a drawing teacher that just did not like my work. She wasn’t mean about it and as I remember it wasn’t something specific, I just knew that she felt that I should be doing something differently. I was stumped as drawing was THE one thing I knew I could do. Upon discussion with my parents they simply said, “WE know you draw well, just get through the class and go from there.” So that’s what I did. It worked out and I moved on, but I did not sacrifice my drawing style because I knew deep down that I was right. That I COULD draw and that I needed to keep going.

Ok, we’ve arrived… this is my message. You will run into people that want to change you in some way creatively. I know there are teachers out their whose goal is to create a horde of minions that draw and design just as they do. Fight this. Not just to be obstinate, but if you have worked hard to become what you want to be, don’t settle for someone else’s vision. I do not want you to copy me. I want to see you stand out from the crowd. Break the rules. As Steve Jobs once preached… “Think Different”.

I believe I can teach you techniques and give you suggestions about ways to improve, but I will not change you, and no one else should I want you to grow and progress, and that is what I look for in students and colleagues; that you are YOU and that you grow creatively.





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