This morning I woke up early to join friends and strangers at The Hall at 801 Park for Creative Mornings. Globally, the monthly theme for Creative Mornings is “Childhood.”
Our Baltimore-based speaker was children’s book illustrator, Kevin O’Malley. Kevin discussed everything from creative confidence to the how good art is nothing but mind control. Many of Kevin’s early points reminded me the Kelley brothers’ work on Creative Confidence – how our perception of the quality of our work as children is greatly influenced by those around us, and how this experience influences our ability to be creative as adults. Kevin noted how he used to draw stick figures like the left-side of the image below, and was perfectly happy about it. Proud, even. Until he became intimidated seeing classmates draw people a bit more fleshed out, with details like clothing and fingers (and maybe even a cape!).
Kevin taught us that great art is no different than a fantastic magic trick. The most beautiful illustration comes from a truly compelling story. And a compelling story can come from even the most simple doodle:
Kevin drew these two simple circles and two thick black lines on the same giant post-it pad. He asked the audience what it was? What do you think it is? While people responded about food on a stick (things including a donut, egg, or lifesaver), Kevin let us know that the image might be an propellor plane headed right toward you or a plate falling off a table. He was quick to inform us the image was actually of a boy wearing a sombrero riding a bicycle. Each of these interpretations of a simple doodle can create a more complex story, and maybe even become a children’s book!
Kevin made one simple addition to prove his point, and tell a little bit more of the story. By adding a teeny nub on the circle, you can know that the bicycle driver is about to turn left.
Kevin’s use of simple shapes to tell a story brings to life the idea that you don’t need to be a great artist to be a fantastic visual storyteller. Simply practicing regularly and putting pen to paper can improve your confidence to doodle. In fact, Kevin challenged us all (and I will challenge you the same):
For the next month, every time you watch TV, doodle without intention. Don’t use fancy paper, don’t try to draw what you see, don’t put any pressure on yourself. Just sit down and make marks on paper – you’ll be surprised the complex stories that will come to life from a playful accident. Just start making marks.
“Art is just making; just doing. There is no good art, no bad art. There’s no need to recreate the Sistine Chapel, it has already been done.”
“The whole business of drawing is about controlling someone’s mind. It’s a magic trick.”