I’m delighted to feature the first Creative Process post of 2014.
For new readers: Much has been written about The Creative Process, which in its purest form is simply a way of solving a problem. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Creativity and its process, contrary to popular belief, is not just reserved for artists and designers. I believe that everyone can benefit from learning and understanding the numerous ways of the creative process. I will invite people to share their own personal creative processes with us and hope this will help you with identifying your own.
Today I’ve got someone close to my heart for you. Mollie Katzen, an award-winning illustrator and designer with over six million books in print, is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time.
I came across Mollie in the early 90’s, when I first started being interested in cooking, food and health. The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest were amongst the very first cookbooks I bought! So can you imagine how I felt when Mollie agreed to join the CP Express? I had to wait until the publication and whirlwind book tour of her latest bestseller: The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation (lavishly illustrated with her own watercolors, photos, and collages) was all done and dusted, but hey ho, Mollie is now firmly here! I was ecstatic she offered to open up her amazing collection of sketchbooks for us. What a treat….
The Creative Process – Mollie Katzen
I like to avoid the words “creative” and “art,” as they lead to categorization neither real nor measurable. They also lead to the illusion of some special club for the “talented” for which many await an externally-generated invitation that never arrives. Here’s the rub: that club does not exist. The big tent of ideas is internal and unofficial, and by that definition, it does not have a sign out front. But each one of us carries such a space within us-—a space to which access is open and always granted.
So I don’t think “creative process” per se. I just keep track of things. I do so in journals that are bound, hard-cover notebooks filled with blank white paper. I began keeping these books at age 19 and now, at 63, I continue. The selection of images presented here spans that entire era. I flip through from time to time—although the paper has become rather delicate, and I need to turn pages increasingly gently—and with each re-visit comes some new insight or realization. Sometimes it informs my work as a cookbook author and illustrator. And sometimes it just informs me. All useful, and all good.
It’s a form of embracing and remembering. It’s not official – more like notes-to-self. Sometimes it comes out in words, more often in pictures. Sometimes those pictures are portraits of actual things, persons, animals, or places. Sometimes they are the unconscious conversation between inner mind and hand, marginal and doodle-y. What all of this has in common is that it begins in a private place, with the simple purpose of staying centered as a human. Is this “creative?” Fine if semantically so. Regardless of definition, I want to encourage others to understand that “creative” is not about grooming a project in hopes that the world will find it (or you) clever. It’s more truly about the need for each of us to renew our way forward, daily, into the unknown. It’s about gathering resources and bolstering our beings to withstand separateness and create a reservoir of impressions, ideas, and memories as fuel for the journey.
Writing down what I cook or dream about or see—or drawing portraits of ideas or actual beings/places/things—is all very personal. I don’t call it “creative” or “art.” I don’t assign a purpose, most of the time. It’s something other than this.
Mollie, a million thanks for sharing your gorgeous sketchbooks and enriching us all with your wisdom. I hope we get to meet one day soon.
The Creative Process will resume in a few weeks time.