Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Creative Process

When I was in Chicago last fall, I visited the Art Institute, which is one of my absolute most favorite museums ever. They always have a wonderful children's art exhibit, usually from picture books, a great photography exhibit, other fantastic special exhibits, and of course, their amazing permanent collection. (I always visit the Caillebotte painting Paris Street in Rainy Weather.)

During one of the most recent visits, one of the special exhibits was one of drawings from the Renaissance. I love exhibits of drawings. Love.

It feels like seeing behind the scenes of a painting. Drawings are often so fluid and of-the-moment; you see how the artist's mind came up with the composition, the idea of the drawing. You see mistakes, or re-visionings. It's as close as we can get, perhaps, to seeing the creative process as it proceeds.

I realized, too, that this chance to glimpse the process, the inner workings (as much as any person who's not the artist can) is the same reason I always loved watching play rehearsals in college. And why I love editing and seeing drafts of manuscripts. Watching something beautiful come together is as compelling to me as the finished project. It's mysterious and magical and inexplicable and completely fascinating.


  1. I explore Chicago's wonderful museums with my children each year. We have yet to go as a family to the Art Institute with them. I am inspired to take them there soon! Their art teachers do an excellent job presenting different artists to them, and they obviously enjoy illustrations in picture books. I think they are ready for it.

  2. Thanks for the reminder that there is beauty in the editing process. It can be easy to lose sight of when you're chin deep in the changes needing to be made in order to make a story great. :-)

  3. Martha,
    I grew up in the Chicago area and I remember when my second grade teacher first took me to the Art Institute. The experience felt magical -- not only because I got to spend the day with one of my favorite teachers and a couple close friends, but I remember feeling the enormity of the works there. I also fell in love with the miniatures collection. I've since visited often -- with my own children too.

    Now as a children's writer I've carried with me that love and appreciation of art. Consequently I so admire my current PB illustrators, their depth of talent and their vision for my books. Their mediums, while vastly different, involve many steps to the finished masterpiece. Thank you for the reminder that my revisions are my own personal steps in artistic creation.
    Jean Reidy