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Off the Shelf Book Review - The Artist Within A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit, by Whitney Ferre’

Review by: Gina M. Smith

The Artist Within

At first I thought I was just busy. Then I thought I was just procrastinating. Then I started to feel  guilty for taking so long to review this book. Then I felt even guiltier when I realized the book just wasn’t my cup of tea. But maybe it will be yours.  It is called The Artist Within A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit, by Whitney Ferre’, 236 pp.,  2008, Trade Paper Press, an imprint of Turner Publishing Company, $15.95.

                Book reviews are certainly subjective- subject to the reviewer’s (or reader’s) personal tastes, unless one is reviewing specialized subject matter and has the necessary credentials.  This is a friendly blog, not the New York Times’ best-sellers list. And Vintage Indie is grateful for the books we receive to review. So rather than being too subjective, I’d prefer to stay as objective as possible here, because this could be the book that changes your life, as the author hopes.  Or as Ferre’ says, “This book is the mustard seed that can grow into a really big thing.”

                Ferre’ founded The Creative Fitness Center, which has been recognized on HGTV.  Ferre’ says of her creatively fit movement: “it is an idea that warrants our national attention. We need a community that feels confident in its ability to create change. We need a national community that is creatively fit.”

                She says the book is geared toward anyone, writer, architect, entrepreneur, painter or business leader.  I have to carefully remind myself of her disclaimer as I try to gently write my review. “This book is not for artists. This book is no more for the Martha Stewarts of the world than for the Alan Greenspans. This book is for all the people who can’t even draw a straight line.”

                Ferre’ uses the exercises in the book to unlock creativity in corporate settings. If you are one of those people who never liked touchy-feely business seminars about trust and dreams and your personal color, you may not like this either. What you may like better, though, is that you can do this workbook on your own, in private, without your boss asking, “and what color were you?”

                In fact, if you like to work on your own, you may enjoy this workbook. All the exercises can be done alone. If you have a need or desire to be introspective in new ways, this could be one of them. There is no doubt the book is legitimate, of course. Ferre’ uses the eight principles of design – emphasis, balance, proportion, unity, harmony, contrast, rhythm and repetition- for the eight main chapters of her book, with two “creativity workouts” or assignments/exercises per chapter.

Creativity Workout

                As you will see, the book is printed entirely in black and white, except for the triptych on the cover. It is clear the black and white is an intended element. The author does not want to influence the reader’s thinking or the reader’s efforts in working through the exercises. And of course, there are not “wrong” answers anyway. But for me, subjectively speaking, I found the lack of color or sample results less than motivating. It didn’t compel me to do the exercises.

                There’s plenty of room within the book to play along, including many blank pages for doodling. However, the author does suggest you do your work in a journal or with the art supplies she lists at the beginning of each chapter.  The exercises range from torn magazine page collage, leaf rubbings, altered art sculptures with stuff from your ‘junk drawer,’ molding clay into recognizable objects, a twinchie paper quilt and much more. Any of the projects would be fun and a good challenge for one’s creativity.

                To get the novice or person who is sure he or she couldn’t possibly do these projects all warmed up, Ferre’ uses the opening of the book to take the reader through simple, insightful exercises. Once again, you may not feel moved to do the work.  But, if you’ve purchased the book to address your desire to be more creative, then I’m confident you’ll want to play along. The exercises are best done in order. The book builds on the skills assessed and developed in the opening, and the exercises become more and more involved. So it’s not really a book you can pop open and start anywhere as I so often like to do.

The Artist Within 2

                But if you seriously want help in becoming more creative and if, like Ferre’, you believe creativity is necessary for change, and if your life or your workplace could use some change, you may want to work through The Artist Within.


- Contributing Editor Gina Smith aka Lilly*s of London*ish, started making jewelry about six years ago and has since tied this in with a love of vintage finds, Blythe, crochet and altered art in her etsy shop. Growing up in an antiquing family gives her a background and appreciation for all things vintage, especially dinnerware, jewelry and Americana advertising prints and products

{All contributed content Gina Smith © Lilly*s of London*is


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