If you’re looking to give your creative spirit a fortifying shot in the arm, and frankly, even if you aren’t, I recommend artist Cat Bennett’s The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind (Findhorn Press, Scotland, 2010). Upon immediate inspection, it’s a lovely book to behold, generously laden with drawings and paintings by Ms. Bennett, her contemporaries and her students. The images meander from quirky to dreamy, from humorous to contemplative, and from sparse to luscious. The even sweeter surprise is the simplicity and kindness of this book’s message: creativity need not be about producing a final and polished product. It is inherent in all of us, arising quite willingly with openness and acceptance of its distinctive voice. Reading it, I remembered a time in my life, decades ago, when I would get together with a friend for the evening, put on music, and the two of would just begin to draw. Often, there was no specific goal as I was being drawn myself down a path, and sometimes one that materialized in what someone many years later described to me as a “happy accident.”
I have happy accidents a lot in my art, and I hope to never stop having them. I’m not against being guided by an artistic vision — I typically am when I’m working on something — but I’ve learned the wisdom of letting the road twist and turn when something unexpectedly moving happens.
The Confident Creative offers drawing exercises to loosen up our occasionally rigid minds, such as drawing upside down (the image is upside down, that is, not you), drawing with your non-dominant hand, drawing with shapes, or drawing from your imagination. They are not new ideas, but gently and simply explained, they have the ability to open up space in the mind and let the reader find the relaxation in unedited creative exploration. My experience is that something profound happens in this space, and I like the respectful way that The Creative Confident encourages this process. In some ways I see it as a kind of prayer book, affirming the joy to be found in being alive and confident of our own expression.
Cat Bennett lives in the greater Boston area and teaches drawing in her “Saturday Morning Drawing Club” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA. Her career as a professional illustrator began more than 25 years ago at The National Film Board of Canada. She went on to make short animations for CBC Sesame Street and Nickelodeon TV. Her illustration client list includes The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, and many others. For me, it’s touching to see that someone with so much drawing experience under her belt still understands the beauty of letting the hand follow where the mind and spirit wander.