Here’s video of a 40-minute keynote I gave during the Scratch Conference at MIT’s Media Lab last month. It was one of the most enjoyable talks I’ve given — it’s a kind of mashup of my books, and it was received by a great room full of enthusiastic people. (Followed by a Q&A with the wonderful Karen Brennan.) If you’re interested in having me speak at your event, check out my speaking page.
How to keep going
A few weeks ago I gave a new talk at Bond in San Francisco. It’s a list of 10 things that have helped me stay creative in such chaotic times:
- Every day is Groundhog Day
- Build a bliss station
- Forget the noun, do the verb
- Make gifts
- The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary
- Art is for life (not the other way around)
- You are allowed to change your mind
- When in doubt, tidy up
- The demons hate fresh air
- Spend time on something that will outlast them
I really loved giving this talk. (And, as I’ve hinted, it is a preview of my next book.) If you’ve been struggling too, hopefully you’ll find something helpful in it. Please share it with anybody you think could use it. The full video is below.
(Special thanks to Andy McMillan for inviting me and Paul Searle for the great video.)
UPDATE: I’ve adapted “How To Keep Going” into a book!
The Steal Like An Artist Journal Talk
If you didn’t get to see me on tour, here’s video of the 30-minute talk I gave about the notebooks and journals that influenced The Steal Like An Artist Journal, filmed during the last stop of the tour at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.
A couple of links I mention in the talk:
- Interview with Mitch Hedberg’s widow, comedian Lynn Shawcroft
- Gary Panter on keeping a sketchbook
- Roger Ebert on drawing in a sketchbook
- A lot of slides come from the “notebooks” tag on my tumblr
Vampires and human spam: video of my SXSW keynote
I was too sick then to remember much of it, and too lazy now to write much about it, so I’ll let Omar Gallaga recap:
In his keynote presentation on Friday, local author and artist Austin Kleon tackled the big themes: death, creativity and, most importantly, “Has SXSW gotten too big? Is it over?” (…) In tackling the subject of SXSW’s growth, Kleon suggested making more human connections, sharing instead of self-promoting all the time… he suggested SXSW attendees stop chasing the new, next big thing and think about longevity, the creative work that will stand the test of time.
Here’s the video:
Here are sketchnotes of the talk by Eva-Lotta Lamm:
Thanks to Shawn O’Keefe and the SXSW gang for giving me the stage.
Photo above by Rodolfo Gonzalez
Questions and Answers (my interview with Chase Jarvis)
Can’t see the video? Watch it here. No time to watch? Download the audio podcast.
A few weeks ago I flew up to Seattle to film an interview with photographer Chase Jarvis. We talked a lot about my books (including the new one) and art and creativity in general. We also took a lot of questions from the live and online audience. The resulting video is sort of a 90-minute primer for my work. It’s probably better than any talk I’ve given.
I’m trying to figure out what it is about the Q&A format that puts me so much more at ease when speaking to an audience, and how to bring some of that ease into my talks. Chase made a joke at one point that I’m like a machine for giving 140-character ready answers. I joked back, “I’m a writer. Putting sentences together is my job.”
But it’s something more than that—I have a terrible memory for names and events and everyday things that happen in my life (which is why I need my logbook), but when I’m faced with a question from someone, it’s like the RAM in my brain boots right up and I can immediately access this database of quotes and lines from stuff I’ve read and written. I’m reading Temple Grandin’s Thinking In Pictures, and in the first chapter, she describes being able to access a library of images in her head like a computer. When she’s faced with a design problem, she can grab these images and try them in difference combinations in order to come up with a solution.
To me, a question is a kind of problem to solve, or maybe more like a prompt. Sometimes I do feel like I’m flipping through my blog tags and tweets and book sentences in these Q&A sessions, but I’m also making up new combinations on the fly—thinking on my feet. However: I’m making the thinking up on the fly, and most of what I say I don’t even remember later! This is why I try to record all of my Q&A sessions on tour: you never know what tossed off thought is going to become a new piece of writing. For example, one of Chase’s fans transcribed this line in his blog comments:
That’s the thing you have to understand about the whole process of art (or the work that we do) – you’re only half of the equation. It’s an interaction between you and the person who’s going to experience the work. The person who’s going to experience the work is bringing just as much to it and is just as important as you are.
I don’t even remember saying that!
Anyways, thanks to Chase and his team for being such great hosts. Seattle was really beautiful, and I hope we can swing back for the next book tour. If you ever get a chance to take the Coach Starlight from Seattle to Portland — do it! So beautiful. Some photos and video from the ride below:
Very pleased (and no, not at all terrified, not me!) to announce that I’ll be giving the opening keynote at SXSW Interactive 2014. I’ve been drawing and organizing panels at the conference since 2008, but this is quite the step up, and I’m honored that the SXSW crew asked me.
I gave my last keynote back in June at HOW Design Live in San Francisco. It was a huge room with a couple thousand people — definitely the biggest room I’d done up until that point, and probably the best talk I’ve given, ever. Alas, due to a miscommunication on my part, we didn’t get any video, but some lovely people on Instagram captured bits and pieces, which you can see below.
Maybe my favorite part of speaking, other than Q&A (yes, I actually love Q&A, because it’s unrehearsed and time I get to think on my feet), is signing books afterwards and getting to talk to people who were in the audience. The line at HOW was at least a hundred people long and it took me 2 hours to get through, but, as should be expected from a design conference, there were some creative moments along the way, such as when Genevieve asked me to sign with a silver Sharpie (why had I never thought of that!?)…
…and when Allan (maybe frustrated from the line length), did a blackout on the last page of Steal:
I’m not doing a lot of speaking for the second half of 2013, but I’ll be hitting the road again next spring for the release of Show Your Work! If you’re interesting in having me talk at your event, drop me a line.
Show Your Work! My Creative Mornings Talk
It was my pleasure to give the inaugural talk at the first Creative Mornings here in Austin last month. The monthly theme was “The Future,” so I tried to make the talk a sort of rallying cry to encourage future presenters and attendees to open up and share the process of their creative work, not just the products of that process. (That happens to also be the subject of my next book.)
If you don’t want to watch the video, I’ve pasted my notes and a few slides from the talk below. Enjoy.
* * *
It’s weird to try to give a talk about the future, because most of the time, talks like this are actually about THE PAST. A speaker is asked to get up on stage and talk because they’re someone who’s accomplished something, so they must have something to say, some sort of wisdom or experience or advice to impart to the audience.
But I happen to think that most advice is autobiographical — a lot of the time when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.
Now, we usually think that the past is behind us, and the future is in front of us. This seems totally natural, right? But years ago I read about this tribe of indigenous people in South America called the Aymara, and they have this very different way of talking about the past and the future.
When they talk about the past, they point to the space in front of them. When they talk about the future, they point behind them. Strange, right?
Well, the reason they point ahead of them when talking about the past is because the past is known to them — the past has happened, therefore it’s in front of them, where they can see it.
The future, on the other hand, is unknown, it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s behind them, where they can’t see it.
This kind of blew my mind when I read about it. The past is right in front of us, but the future is behind us.
The future is hard to talk about because it hasn’t happened yet — it’s behind us, where we can’t see it.
The artist who changed my life
When I was 13, I wrote to the artist Winston Smith, and he wrote me back a 14-page handwritten letter that changed my life:
15 years later, I got to meet him.
I told the whole story two days after it happened when I spoke at Pixar, and then I retold it a few months ago at UX Week and they got it on video. It’s probably my favorite talk I’ve ever given. Enjoy:
Can’t see it on mobile? Watch it here→
Video: Steal Like A Writer
Here’s video of “Steal Like A Writer,” a talk I gave back in June at Cleveland’s Weapons of Mass Creation festival. It’s sort of a remix of the ideas in Steal Like An Artist geared towards designers, musicians, and anybody who wants to get better at writing. Here’s the original description:
No matter what your discipline, it’s hard to get any good work done without clear, straightforward communication. Simply put, being a good writer makes you better at your job. Using a few school supplies, a little visual thinking, and a whole lot of creative theft, this talk will help get you started on the way towards becoming a wordsmith.
Here’s the remixed list of ten:
And here are the slides:
And here are the links to the recommended reading:
- Anne Lamott, BIRD BY BIRD
- Lynda Barry, WHAT IT IS
- Scott McCloud, UNDERSTANDING COMICS
- @shamblanderson’s sentence of the day
It was a fun talk to give and a really nice audience — thanks to Joseph Hughes and the folks at WMCFest for having me.
UPDATE: Wanted to share these cool sketchnotes of the talk by Carolyn Sewell:
Video: Creativity and Curation Panel with Maria Popova, Maris Kreizman, and Maud Newton
Can’t see the video? Watch it here?
I was so thrilled that my friends and favorite bloggers Maria Popova, Maris Kreizman, and Maud Newton agreed to be part of this panel last week in NYC. It was really really fun, McNally Jackson was packed, and best of all, someone was there filming and has posted a video of the conversation online for your viewing pleasure.
Also, dig these hand-drawn notes by @mosteverybody: