Reynard the Fox (trickster figure)

The trickster is a wise joker who misdirects for a purpose. His purpose in a handy new book is to loosen your creativity and make you forget about pre-set artistic destinations.

Both writers and artists can gain access to their freshest creativity with the hints and exercises in The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity, by Nick Bantock, author and artist of the long-running New York Times bestselling Griffin & Sabine cycle of books, among many others. Containing 49 exercises, the compact hardcover book is playfully illustrated with four-color collage art.

At the start, Bantock writes that among the important reasons to be an artist, the top one is this: “Art offers a path to our souls.” I’m unsure what that means, but I suspect you’re meant to interpret it metaphorically and personally.

I suggest just jumping into this cauldron of creative jump-starters. While the author suggests you’ll get the most out of the exercises by taking them in order, it seems to me that the proper exploratory attitude may lead you to try them in any order in which they arouse your interest. Here are four abbreviated examples:


1. “Climbing in Through a Small Window.” This is the first exercise in the book and a fine example of the freshness of the lot: You need a piece of paper and a pencil or fine-tipped pen. Begin by drawing a 2” x 2” square. Inside the square, draw as many animals as you can in 5 minutes. Now draw another 2” x 2” square, this time leaving one side open. Taking 5 minutes, draw as many animals as you can escaping out of the square.

2. “First Kiss.” Take 10 minutes to write a paragraph describing your first kiss. Then write a second version, changing anything you want. Finally, if you want to go deeper, write about a last kiss.

3. “A Rant.” In 20 minutes, write a list of things that irritate you, another of things that really annoy you, and a third of things that fill you with righteous indignation. Now pick one subject from your lists and write a rant of 2-3 paragraphs, making it humorous and over-the-top.  (See this recent post of mine about marital annoyances for an example.)

4. “The Unusual Suspects.” Go to a forest, garage sale, beach, or junk store and hunt for things that speak to you. Bring your finds home, lay them out on a table, group them in some way. Take a group of 5-6, line them up on a sheet of white paper, with a few inches of space between each. Photograph the lineup. Absorbing the connections between the objects and how they connect to you, determine what it was that drew you to each object.

Copyright (2014) by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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