“The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit smIt took me a while to pick up this book and read it; not because it’s got particularly long words in it, or anything, but it at 18cm x 23cm it’s a fairly large book – it somehow felt like a denser read – as if there were more words than normal.

It’s a wonderful book with loads of really sage advice for any creative.

1 – I walk into a white room – About being in the right frame of mind when approaching the  creative process

2 – Rituals of preparation – Being in the working state.

3 – Your creative DNA – How the way that you are hardwired is who you are and also how you approach projects.

4 – Harness your memory – Creation as a result of your previous experiences.

5 – Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box – About Twyla’s system of organisation of her ideas for dance choreography. This was a bit of watershed chapter for me – and has altered my approach to my own creative projects.

6 – Scratching – About the business of finding inspiration

7 – Accidents will happen – About the value of having a plan before you start and the equal value of happenstance coming along – in creative endeavours luck is a skill.

8 – Spine – About the main idea of a creative piece and why the resulting pice doesn’t necessarily require that spine flagged up and explained.

9 – Skill – About building and growing skills in different areas.

10 – Ruts and grooves – and how to shake things up and get out of them.

11 – An “A” in failure -Why failure and disasters are important in order to move your work forward.

12 – The long run – Mastering your creative process by pursuing your work over years.

I have to admit that in my relish at reading Twyla’s chapters- I didn’t always do all the exercises, which come at the end of each chapter. There are usually about three or four of these and they do seem very practical and useful.

I would say that this is probably one of my favourite books about being creative – one that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover – but also one that I know I will refer to again and again.


“Art Before Breakfast” by Danny Gregory

Art Before Breakfast smDanny Gregory’s new book has more in common with “The Creative Licence”, one of his first books about creative freedom.

It isn’t really divided up into chapters or sections. Instead each page, or double-spread, offers of suggested drawing subject, or idea, to get your inspiration flowing.

It starts with a handful of very loose drawing lessons. Well, short drawing activities, really. Danny isn’t concerned with teaching the technicalities of drawing. But he is concerned with illustrating to you how easy it is to draw. How easy it is to find something to draw.

The rest of the book is a series of short prompts and thoughts on different subjects; from water-soluble pens to drawing unsuspecting people,  drawing what you eat (Yey!) to drawing top tens.

Untitled-1Untitled-2The cover reveals that this book is for busy people and it certainly is written for those too busy to pore over a long-winded art manual. Danny’s short prompts are brief and succinct, but  still powerful. his message is clear; draw little and often. No matter what skill level you feel you are at. That doesn’t really matter. Starting that daily habit of drawing, even for just ten minutes a day, can have a profound, positive effect – can lead to a richer, more fulfilling life.

This book would be a welcome addition to anyone who draws or who is thinking about drawing, at any level of proficiency. It is always welcome to be guided by skilled practitioners and to have so many bite-sized guides accompanied by Danny’s illustrations (demonstrating his economy of line and bravura colours) is a handy, pocket-sized guide.

159 pages

“The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Ronde

Journaling - The Sketchnote Handbook smA journalling book in all but name!

I bought Mike Rohde’s book  initially because I like the idea of making practical, illustrative notes in meetings. Once I sat and started to pour over Mike’s book, however, the more I realised that, essentially, this book is a guide to speedy .

Okay, it’s not exactly journalling. Mike’s sketch note idea is one of making very visual, and visually engaging, notes during meetings. Notes which can include character drawings, diagrams, bubble and 3D writing – radial paths and linear paths, modular like a comic strip or explosions of ideas like a spider-diagram. The book covers a wide range of ideas and many, many examples throughout of ways to make note-taking and enjoyable and rewarding experience.

For the casual note-taker this might seem like a radical change in note-taking direction.

To the sketcher and journal writer; I would say that this book offers a great many ideas for how your sketchbook or journal can be brought to further life through note-taking.

Untitled-11. What are sketchnotes? – In which Mike explains his frustration with traditional linear note-taking and some examples are given off sketchnotes ion practice.

2. Why sketchnote? – In which it is explained how one becomes totally focussed when creating visual notes (But us sketchers knew this already)

3. Listen up! – In which the secret keys to listening are revealed


Untitled-1m4. The sketchnoting process – In which we discover Mike’s seven steps in a sketch noting process.

5. Types of sketch notes – In which we are shown different patterns of layout for sketchnotes.

6. Sketchnoting approaches, hierarchy, and personalisation – In which we find out different ways to sketchnote, some ideas about structure and how to make it personal to you.

7. Sketch noting skills and techniques – In which we are shown ways to letter, ways to frame and a variety of sketching tips to quickly capture figures and objects.

205 pages


“Ignore Everybody” by Hugh Macleod

Ignore Everbody smThis book is a light, but perceptive, look at what makes someone successfully creative. What little trials and difficulties may come in the way of the artists struggle to create. What What conflicts might cross their path and what internal problems might an artist have as they strive to create.

The book is written for the artist who wishes to turn their art into a product, the artist who wants to have a saleable product.

Whilst Hugh doesn’t give finite answers to what successful art looks like, he does give sage advice about ideas and originality, about others’ reaction to your art and keeping true to oneself.

It is divided into 40 short chapter of about 1 or 2 pages each:



40 Chapters


It was quite an easy read and Hugh’s wit and joy rang out in every page. Along with examples of his unique business-card art.


Different creatives will find insight from different chapters and all the chapters hold wisdom whether you are starting out or already create.


All in all this book has some very clear food for thought.

159 pages


Want to find out more? 

Hugh Macleod’s blog: The Gaping Void