WHAT IT IS on the Make: Gift Guide 2009.

“Make: Gift Guide 2009: Creativity tools” / Make Zine / Gareth Branwyn / December 12, 2009

I can't think of a better example of a real-life Blakean character, someone who's cultivated a similar self-modeled creative universe and who sees things from many and unique angles, than contemporary comic artist and memoirist Lynda Barry. This is profoundly evident in her new book, What It Is. This densely collaged work is utterly uncategorizable - so many modes of expression at the same time: a textbook/workbook on inspiring creative writing and cultivating creativity of all kinds, a memoir-comic of Barry's personal struggles with creativity and self-expression as a child, a stunning and challenging piece of collage art, and a sort of extended fever dream on the nature of memory, imagination, play, and creativity. And like William Blake, Barry's message is also about waking up to yourself. It's an extended pep talk on finding the inspiration between your ears and using your senses and memories of life experiences to express yourself in ways that can truly enrich your life. It's hard not to open up this book, poke your head into its dream-like sea of memory-ticklers, imaginative ideas, creative inspiration, and surreal imagery, and not want to put it down to go make something on your own. As if to drive home the beastly, manifold nature of feral creativity, Barry introduces the Magic Cephalopod (aka squid), a sort of creature from your Id who swims through the murky depths of the text, its many appendages constantly in creative motion, gently guiding you to swim off to some grand adventure inside the Mariana Trench of your own creativity. This is Blakean art, and Blakean inspiration, for the 21st century. 

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