Here is a wonderful guest post by Sue Clancy for the ULS, the Underground Library Society. Please visit her site: sue clancy visual stories: fine art, artist books .
The Art of Life
by Sue Clancy
In a world where books were illegal the two books I would memorize, attempt to smuggle out under cover of darkness and then would recite/read from until people rolled their eyes (or killed me) are: “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and “The Art of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves.
“Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” is the collected and illustrated stories of Dr. Bob Hoke a psychiatrist who practiced what is now known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – basically he had the idea, developed in his Emotional Repair Program, that people have the resources and the emotional strength to resolve their own problems and create emotional growth. People do not need to wait for a savior or to wait until they feel better – there are constructive, practical, actions one can take regardless of circumstances or feelings.
When I met Dr. Bob Hoke he had constructed a series of “teaching stories” as he called them that would help people think about their ways of thinking, think about their self-talk vocabulary and the rhythms of the mundane life that they were creating – and he wanted an illustrator to illustrate them for his use during his lectures. Many years later I told him I wanted to collect them into a book. He agreed – on the condition that I make it an ebook and or a very thin small printed book – he didn’t want people to be intimidated by lots of text. So, the book is about half graphic novel style illustrations.
Dr. Bob Hoke wanted cartoon illustrations because he wanted people to laugh while they learned as he believed laughter aided learning. At that time, I was a professional cartoonist so I took on the project. And his concepts so revolutionized my own thinking that his concepts became foundational for my own life. Including my way of approaching fine art.
Before I met Dr. Bob Hoke I had taken art classes at my local high school. Art was taught by Jackie Faulkner who assumed that everyone taking her art class was planning to be either a professional artist or to have art as a hobby so seriously that their art activities would be listed in their obituary. She taught us from “The Art Of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves. The book had been originally copyrighted in 1941.
The root concept in the book is that the principles of art-making/design are the basic vocabulary of art. The principles are knowable and can be learned and practiced. The principles are not mystical or magical. An art guru is not needed. Artist’s do not need to wait for “the muse” to strike or to wait until “feeling inspired”. There are concrete steps toward learning and practicing the principles of art that can be done by anyone regardless of circumstance or momentary feelings.
Maitland Graves writes in his introduction “In the following pages it will be demonstrated that all art, Modern, Primitive, Classical or Oriental is built on a few simple, fundamental principles of structure. This common basis is the key to understanding. It also provides a standard of comparison that makes possible a keener perception and a more intelligent appraisal of design.”
What follows in the book are pictures that illustrate the principle concepts, guided questions and exercises – suggestions of practical, technical, things to do that will help an artist at any skill level help themselves in their own artistic growth.
Later, in college, when I met Dr. Bob Hoke and learned the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I realized that Maitland Graves was – essentially – teaching Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for artists as applied to the visual arts. And the two books became bound together in my mind as essential tools for living the creative life well.
Dr. Bob Hoke says at the end of the First Aid Kit “This Emotional First Aid Program is something to “do”! It is a practical guide for creating an ongoing practice of thinking about your own thinking and creating your own regular Therapeutic Conversations with yourself! The good news about this “First Aid Kit”: When you consistently practice you will notice changes in your self and in your relationships. Start your practices in small doses and keep up your courage when you fail at first. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first! Just keep practicing.”
As it is with life so it is with art. Which is why I would memorize, smuggle and risk annoying people (or death) for the sake of these two books.
Information about “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” can be accessed here:
“The Art of Color and Design” by Maitland Graves, copyright 1941, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc