Book Review – ‘Learn, Create and Teach – A Guide to Building a Creative Life’, by Clara Lieu




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I came across a book recently called ‘Learn, Create and Teach – A Guide to Building a Creative Life’, by Clara Lieu, a visual artist and adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. The title fascinated me as many people have commented to Michael and I over the years that we live such a creative and artistic life.

It’s a quick read – less than 175 pages and has an anecdotal approach to Lieu’s life experience as an art student, teacher and artist. There is a strong academic theme that runs throughout the book as it speaks to teaching, grants and applications for funding and ‘office politics’ in the artspeak circles of academia.

Lieu talks about three stages of her career path that could be applied in almost any industry: learn/absorb, create/build then mentor/teach. Of course the three phases are never clean-cut and often overlap, but she shares clear ideas from different times in her career.

A few worthy gems…

On being a student:
“Arriving on time should become a solid habit that you develop as a student. Every time you go to class, you’re essentially rehearsing to be a professional.” – page 10.

I like this one because like Lieu, we believe that discipline and hard work are the best things to start building your foundation for a creative life. When I first met Michael he was the most disciplined person I had met and I gotta say, he can be an intense person at times. It didn’t take me long to discover that his dedication and discipline are a significant contribution to his success.

On being an artist and creating:
“Now I have strategies to keep working. Every time I finish for the day, I always intentionally leave something unfinished. That way I have concrete incentive to return to the studio and simply pick up where I left off.” – page 71.

This one resonates with me, as Michael has always been continual in his work process and moving forward in the acts of starting and finishing a sculpture. I believe Lieu has truly verbalized a key insight.

On being a teacher:
“Acknowledge that you’ve faced the same hurdles and struggles experienced by your students. Hearing about your personal creative difficulties makes everything more real and accessible for your students and puts things in perspective.” – page 139.

When Michael teaches at carving symposiums or gives workshops, he always tries to touch on this point. He is a successful artist in that he has been self-represented for many decades and this can be intimidating for some students. But as soon as Michael starts a dialogue about all the challenges he has endured as a creator and business person (seller of his own art), the students understand that not everything is peachy-keen.

If you are just starting out down an artistic career path, or contemplating living a more creative life as an artist, this book is worth a read. Real-life experience, insight and advice from a solid individual. Oh – and her work is incredible too – but that’s for another blog post.

To find the book at Amazon go here.

To find the book via the author, go here.

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