Book Lover’s TV Interview: Nancy Hillis and The Artist’s Journey® Book
Daniel Hall interviews Dr. Nancy Hillis about her book: The Artist’s Journey®: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity on Book Lover’s TV.
You can see the interview by clicking on the arrow above.
You can also visit Daniel Hall’s YouTube Channel and watch it HERE.
Welcome To Book Lover’s TV
00:00:05 Why hello and a welcome to this very special interview that we have for you here at Book Lovers TV, w ewelcome you.
And today I am so, so excited because our special guest on Book Lover’s TV is author and physician Dr. Nancy Hillis.
Nancy, thank you so much for being here. I really, really appreciate it. Tell us the name of your book.
The Artist’s Journey®: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity
00:00:30 Thank you so much Daniel. I’m so excited to be here. And the name of my book is The Artist’s Journey®: Bold Strikes To Spark Creativity.
Right. You know, and that’s, that was kind of the, the cool thing that, um, I, I guess I still resonate with you because we are, we’re both, we both have so many careers.
00:00:49 Uh, we’ve met we’ve, we’ve kind of done in our lives. Um, and, and the fact that you are, um, on, on one, you know, on one hand you are a, uh, renowned, uh, artist, but on the other hand, you’re also a very gifted, uh, physician. So when, when,
00:01:09 when I knew that this was your book, because I didn’t know until, until I read the book, like, Oh my gosh, that that’s a very, very unique, uh, combination.
Who The Artist’s Journey Book Is For
Tell us who this book is for.
I mean, who, who is this book for? Who did you write this book for?
This book is for anyone who is interested in accessing and activating their creativity in one way or the other.
00:01:36 And so it could be you’re an artist, or it could be, you are a cook or composer, or just interested in being creative in your life and bringing that into your life essentially.
Daniel: And that’s what I got out of the book as well, is that if, if you are really any kind of a creative, this, this book will help you.
00:02:01 That’s essentially what you’re saying.
Yes. And if you just even yearn to be creative, you may think that you’re not creative, but you yearn to be creative.
Daniel: This book is. Yeah. And after having read this, because at the first time, you know, I pick up the book and I’m like, Oh, this book is for artists.
00:02:20 Um, and, and painters specifically. Um, and I’m like, okay, well, that’s great. Let me read through it. Um, and, and I found that, yes, you, you definitely have things there for painters and artists, but, but so many of the, the principles that, that you cover, um, are germane or applicable to any other creative endeavor.
00:02:47 And, and in the one thing I would say, as I read the book, you have like this one sort of core belief, this one, one core tenant,
I believe that ultimately you must believe in yourself. One of the things that gets in the way of creativity is a kind of grappling with self doubt. And so I want to help you to move past that self doubt and into your fullest self expression, your fullest exploration and experimentation.
00:03:23 It’s really the process of trusting yourself in other words, and kind of where, and, and, and, and what, what sort of bubbles allowing what what’s in you to bubble to the surface and, and somehow manifest itself in, in, in whatever creative endeavor that you’re engaged in. Right? I mean, that’s kind of it.
00:03:48 Yeah, that’s right. Because you know, why Daniel,
The creative impulse, I believe can be very subtle and it’s easily missed or dismissed.
We just go along and move ahead. Anyway, I think Churchill said something like, you know, you’ll stumble upon something, but then walk on as if nothing happened. And these little impulses can be super subtle.
00:04:13 And if you can begin to listen to them and kind of trust yourself enough to do that, really exciting things start to unfold in your art and in your life,
Uh, indeed. Uh, there, so, so much truth to that. Um, and you know, one of the, one of the things that I thought was really, really interesting was in facilitating this,
00:04:38 this, this sort of understanding and, and, and paying attention to those, those nudges, those, those, that still small voice, uh, that you, you have come from the, the, the aspect of being able to look back at yourself, sort of as a third party. And I thought, Oh, my in other words,
00:05:04 be in, be actively an observer right. Of, of yourself. What, how does that play with increasing your creativity?
Yes. So yes, I believe that kind of stepping back, and it’s kind of bringing mindfulness into this, uh, stepping into the observer role, the part of you gonna step back and watch yourself and allow, allow yourself to experiment and explore.
00:05:36 And within that kind of stepping back and observing yourself, you’ll be able to notice the kind of inner landscape that affects everything that is the inner dialogue, the inner narrative, and kind of step back and question that, or even just observing it can be helpful and freeing up your willingness to step into the unknown, which create creating is about stepping into the unknown and allowing for surprise.
The Inner Narrative
00:06:09 Yeah, I, you know, and speaking of the, the inner narrative, we all have this, the self-talk right. We all, we all, we’re always constantly talking to ourselves. And that’s the other interesting approach that you take in the book is you, you come at that from a slightly different way than, than how most of us talk to ourselves.
00:06:33 Can you, can you develop that a little bit?
Yes. So there’s been a lot of research in this area and on the one hand, some work was done at Columbia and it had to do with the literal language that you use. And, um, kind of one of the things that they found is I think they were having people go and give a talk,
00:06:57 which tends to bring up anxiety for people. And if then if the language that they used with themselves was I very kind of first person pronouns kind of like I’m worried, or I don’t know if I’m very good at this, that type of language really led to a lot of difficulties. Whereas if you can step back enough to use a kind of second or third person,
00:07:22 uh, let’s go do this, or even using your name, calling out your name, like saying to yourself, you for Daniel, Hey, Daniel, let’s, uh, let’s go ahead and just step up there and give the talk. And that, that language, which is a little bit more distancing actually was helpful and opening up the creativity and moving past fear.
Growth Versus Static Mindset & Creativity
00:07:46 And then there’s also wonderful work at Stanford by Carol Dweck on, on mindset, which is kind of growth versus static mindset. So understanding that you can keep learning and keep growing. And that’s that growth mindset rather than saying, well, I’m not very creative or I didn’t study art, or I haven’t written very much, that’s a more static mindset. So we want to encourage this unfolding of a growth mindset and believing in the possibility as you move along.
The Zone Of Proximal Development & Scaffolding
00:08:24 And then lastly, there’s one other thing. And that’s Lev Vygotsky’s work, where he talked about the zone of proximal development, where we have an ability, but we were not there yet in terms of something else. And so if we have someone help us to scaffold from this place where we are to where we want to be, that scaffolding can move us into that place.
00:08:49 So that goes along, I believe too, with a growth mindset it’s possible to move into where you’re not quite there yet, but you can get there
Yeah. Right on, you know, and, and that’s the, the other really kind of the cool thing that, uh, this book allows for. And in fact, I would actually even go so far as to say,
00:09:14 encourages the creative, to be free enough to let go of the outcome of whatever the project happens to be. And, and, and even if in the final analysis, they, it is judged to be not good enough to throw it away, which I was like, yeah, you know, I’ve never really thought about, you know, doing anything for me personally,
00:09:45 but I could see where that could be just tremendously freeing, right. To be able to, I don’t have to create perfection. You know, I don’t have to create something.
That’s right. And, you know, perfection ultimately becomes boring. And I think the exciting thing is that the so-called mistakes. I say, I say that,
00:10:11 I think that the mistakes are often the embryonic forms of new work that’s emerging, new work is trying to be born and talk a lot about, you know, the surprise benefits of so-called ugly art, whether that’s ugly paintings, ugly writing what we think of as mistakes and very, um, uncomfortable foreign almost adolescent forms. And yet that’s where the magic is.
Mistakes and ugly paintings are often the nascent, embryonic forms of new work emerging, new art trying to be born.
00:10:38 And so it’s really embracing mistakes. Ugly are the unknown, because this is where the surprising work emerges. This is where innovation happens.
Daniel: Absolutely. And, and, and see, when I read that, I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is like, this is like so cool because it’s, it’s in those, it’s in those innovations that somehow that,
00:11:01 that, that, that can in fact bubble to the surface when you are not really worried about the outcome, right. You’re not really worried about whether you’re going to keep this piece or not. It’s like, it’s kind of reminds me of this story of how, you know, the pretzels were made, you know, how there was this, and then there was this innovation,
00:11:21 and now everyone likes pretzels in this way and, you know, whatever, you know, so it’s that sort of idea, right?
The idea, because, you know, I think the sticky notes came out of that. There was some kind of adhesive that wasn’t working correctly or something in the, in the lab, in the chemistry lab, and yet they’re called mistakes.
00:11:44 Right. Exactly. So, so basically what you’re saying is, is it applies to everyone, every creative, no matter the art and let it happen.
Yeah. It’s so freeing and it’s a very foundational aspect of creativity.
Zero To One
Yeah. You know, and that, and that’s the other thing I know that, that this book drives out and that is the,
00:12:09 um, the, the thought of the distance between zero and one. Right. Uh, which I love, I love this concept. I actually adore this concept. So can you, can you tell folks a little bit about what we’re talking about here that measuring zero to one and then so forth,
This is so exciting. So this is a concept from mathematics that absolutely is,
is mind blowing. And it is the concept that the interval between zero and one is larger than the interval between one and two, two and three and so on. And this was stunning to me when I learned this, and this can be described, it’s very lengthy, but basically zero to one is, is the biggest interval. And I think that maps onto,
00:13:05 from nothing to something from no to yes, is enormous.
And so what that means is that just starting is everything: zero to one, just start.
So, Right. It’s like, you’re, you’re not in being, you make a decision and now you are in being right. That’s, that’s really what you’re saying. And that is, that is the,
00:13:33 the longest distance, because a lot of people are paralyzed with fear that, that whatever they’re doing, isn’t going to be good enough. Or, um, or they’re for whatever reason they, they procrastinate because, uh, they’re, they’re perfectionist and they don’t have the time to try to make it perfect. So many. And that’s another message that I got so clearly in this book is just dog on show up and do the work,
00:14:00 right? Yes. Yes. It’s huge to just begin, take the step. It’s like, when you go, when you, maybe you want to go swimming, but you’re like, Oh no, it’s kind of cold outside or whatever, go to that swimming pool or ocean or wherever you’re going, put your toe in the water. That’s zero to one begin.
00:14:23 And then the likelihood of continuing increases if you’ll just begin.
Daniel: Yeah. And, you know, and that’s the other thing too, that, that I really kind of, uh, thought was cool about, um, about what you talk about in that is to keep your starts, keep your starts. What, what, what is that about? Okay.
00:14:47 This is so exciting. Yes. We talk a lot in painting about starts painting starts. So, and sometimes I’ll have students create, let’s create 20 painting starts, and it’s kind of stream of consciousness, activating the canvas, allowing your gesture to come through. Uh, this might be in writing just like, just start writing spontaneously, um, and allowing those starts to live.
The more you create these starts, the more possibilities you’re creating that you can play with further.
00:15:16 And then later you can come back and say, Hey, I’ll work up the start further, or I’ll just allow it to be as is. And so the more you create these starts, the more possibilities you’re creating that you can play with further. And then this also leads to working in a series. So that one particular piece of art is not precious,
00:15:41 but part of a series of experimentations, I dig this too, because one of the other things that you, you, you talk about it. And I, and I think this definitely applies to what you’re saying here, that, that, that life, um, is, is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved, right?
Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.
00:16:02 Yes. Yes. I believe Kierkegaard talked about that. Yes. Step into the mystery, allow the mystery, the not knowing and not so much about solving every problem, but just being in this place of not knowing.
Daniel: Yeah. And, and I guess, again, this is another reason why, cause I think that at my core, um, I’m,
00:16:28 uh, I’m, uh, I’m just a scope of a, of a rebel.
Don’t Be Ruled By Rules
And I love the other thing that you said, you know, don’t, don’t be ruled by rules. Don’t be ruled by rules. So what does that mean for the creative? I mean, what, what are you, what are you trying to put across to the creative person when you,
00:16:48 when you say that?
Yes. I love that don’t be ruled by rules. It’s like, understand that there are principles and concepts and underpinnings of things. Yes. And yet you don’t want to be ruled by rules. So you don’t want to, you don’t want your art to become formulaic. If you’re caught up in the rules and everything has to follow the rules,
00:17:15 then it becomes predictable and we don’t want to be predictable.
You don’t want your art to become formulaic, repetitive and predictable. We want to step into the unfolding and the surprise to see what wants to be born.
And we don’t want a repetition of what we’ve already done. We want to step into the unfolding and the surprise to see what wants to be born and created. So it’d be, be aware of, you know, that there are rules, but it’s like, don’t be ruled by them. You can have awareness of it,
00:17:41 but you just don’t want to be taken over.
Daniel: Yeah. And, and I, and I think, and maybe you would agree with, I’d really like to know. Um, but, but when you, when you approach things in that way, it actually gives you the space to create something new, to come up and, and, and, and let the,
00:18:05 the inner creative in you manifest itself. Right. I mean, that’s really what you’re saying.
We’re cultivating an attitude of allowing, allowing the unknown to come through you, allowing the unseen, the inarticulable, the ineffable to come through.
Yes. We’re really talking about, it’s allowing, it’s cultivating an attitude of allowing, allowing the unknown to come through you, allowing the unseen, the inarticulable, the ineffable to come through.
So yeah. Yeah. I absolutely dig it. One of the things that I would really like to do,
00:18:36 because we do have a, uh, a splendid trailer for The Artist’s Journey, I would, with your kind permission, I’d like to play it for our audience. Is that cool with you?
Let’s let’s do that right now.<inaudible> That’s awesome. Awesome.
Nancy, and one of the other things that, um, I want to encourage folks to do is obviously head over to,
00:20:13 uh, to, to grab the book. Uh, it is available wherever books are sold, but, uh, one other thing, um, I you’re, you’re kind enough to offer, um, a, a very special gift to our, uh, book lovers, TV audience. So I’m gonna, I’m going to put this up on the, uh,
00:20:34 on the screen right now. This is, um, uh, a really a great free gift that you can, uh, go. You can actually point your phone camera at it. Right, right. Now it will take you over to where you can, um, go, uh, subscribe and download for this, but what, what, what is this free gift that we have here,
00:20:55 uh, at, at a it’s at https://artist’sjourney.com/gift, or simply point your phone camera at, uh, at this QR code that we see on the screen right now?
Yes, this is a creativity work worksheet, and it has to do with zero to one, Indeed. And, and that’s the kind of the cool thing once again,
00:21:15 is that, um, you have this opportunity to use this worksheet in a very, very constructive way to get more, get more done, right.
To, to actually get things rolling and have a, have some production, which is, which is yeah. Starts right there at one. So at any rate, that’s where you go, it’s completely free.
00:21:38 Um, if you, uh, if this resonates with you, if this, uh, if this discussion has, is really kind of hits some, um, key notes for you, I would strongly recommend that you head on over there to this QR code and, um, and, uh, go, go get, Nancy’s a free gift over there.
00:21:57 And the other thing too, uh, I will just say here is that, uh, as I read the book, there are this isn’t, this isn’t just a book. This is not just a book. There’s, there’s, it’s it is a book. Yes. And so, so much more, for example, um, you have a variety of tutorials and videos.
00:22:19 It’s really, it’s really a course. So, um, I would, what I’d like to do now is actually play one of the videos from the, from, from the, you recommend in the, in the, in the book. And I, I believe you, you mentioned a little while ago about activating the canvas, right? Um, I’d like to play that,
00:22:41 uh, that, that special video right now, is that cool?
That sounds fantastic.
All right, let’s do that.
Activating The Canvas
Hi, I’m Nancy Hillis with The Artist’s Journey. Welcome to my studio. Thank you so much for joining me on this artistic exploration. Let’s go create together
Today. We’re activating the canvas activating. The canvas is stream of consciousness,
00:23:15 mark making that brings the canvas alive and creates exciting painting starts.
Now, I’m just going to activate the canvas with mark making. These are thin lines with graphite, and I’m just covering the canvas. Um, and I’m not really thinking. It’s very stream of consciousness mark making.
This is to move rhythmically without thinking, and, and you will create rhythmic movement that can be used as a start of a painting.
00:23:50 So now I go in with a darker line to contrast with that thin line that I had previously, and I’m just trusting myself and playing.
One of the things about trusting yourself when you create is to allow the intelligence of your body to express itself much like when you were a child, you weren’t afraid when you were a child, you picked up a paint brush and splashed paint on paper,
00:24:26 and you weren’t concerned about what anyone else thought about it.
As you notice, some lines are kind of curvy and some are more angular. And that’s that contrast between curvilinear and angular. Sometimes I’ll take an eraser and knock this back to make it more random. It could be a plastic eraser or a gum eraser. They give you a different effects.
Don’t be afraid of mistakes. If you make a mistake, you can always knock it out, knock it back, Go back over it.
00:25:00 If you make a mistake, you can always knock it out, knock it back, Go back over it. Okay. Now I’m going to go for thicker marker using a Molotow marker. And that gives me quite a different line.
Okay. Now I’m going to add acrylic paint and I will start with, uh, quite a thin brush. And that gives again,
Use your body as an instrument and allow yourself to not know what you’re going to do.
00:25:41 uh, you know, different weight as well. Use your body as an instrument and allow yourself to not know what you’re going to do.
Now. I will bring in a thicker brush. This happens to be a fan brush, but it could be any kind of big brush. I’m just going to add a little bit here and there.
Creating is stepping into a place of not knowing- things that are unplanned, not strategic, not thought out. That’s where the magic is.
00:26:12 Creating is stepping into a place of not knowing- things that are unplanned, not strategic, not thought out. That’s where the magic is
Next time to create differences with composition.
Awesome. All right, well, um, so you get that, you get so many, three Really cool, uh, step-by-step tutorials in, uh, in the, in the book as well.
00:26:50 Can you, can you describe a few of those, uh, other other videos that we have, uh, for folks within the artist journey?
Yes, Daniel. So they are, there were a series of tutorial videos that are in the book resource library, and besides activating the canvas, there’s one on composition and another on value. And then there’s another one that has to do with something I call The Six Maquettes™ Exercise.
00:27:16 So that idea is playing with forms much like Henry Moore did the great British sculptor, but we’re doing it with mark making.
Awesome. Awesome. And once again, we can get this book, um, right here at, uh, at amazon.com. This is a, this is what it looks like. Here’s the, here’s the cover. And, but you could also get it from,
00:27:41 uh, from your website as well. I imagine. And I think you can, I think you can get it right from this QR code once you download your free gift, which by the way, I think is probably the best way to, uh, to be introduced to, uh, Nancy’s work. And, and this is a again, completely free way to go about doing it and,
00:28:04 and to kind of dip a toe.
Um, so my, my last question for you, Nancy, is when we, when we talk about the creative and the whole creative process, there, there are so many solutions that, uh, that have come by and through our creativities as humans.
The way I see this book is it’s yes, if you are, if you are an artist of any sort, this is a complete, no brainer, but if, if you just need more creative power, you know, JP for rocket fuel, um, this is, this is the book.
Yes. Thank you. Yes. I like to, I love the intersections of art, science, psychology, and creativity,
The Adjacent Possible & Creativity
00:29:10 and one of the concepts in the book as well, something called the adjacent possible, which is, you know, you hear me talking a lot about stepping into the unknown.
The Adjacent Possible, a concept from theoretical evolutionary biology, applies to creativity and art as well. Every action you take illuminates a series of possible paths, that were not only invisible before you made your move, but didn’t even exist before. Your act of creating affects existence itself.
The adjacent possible comes from basically evolutionary biology of, every move we make.
Every action we take illuminates a series of possible steps or paths, and that, that were not only invisible before you made your move, but also I didn’t even exist.
So by your act of creating, you’re actually affecting existence itself and whatever form you’re creating, whether it’s in the scientific laboratory as a writer, as an artist, and this is a concept from biology.
So it’s really interesting.
And I think it, it’s so exciting to really give yourself that permission to step into your creativity.
00:30:11 Absolutely. And you know, the other, the other thing is, well, um, that, and we sort of touched on this, but I think it, it, it bears really focusing on here because I know that one of the reasons why I am a creative and, and I enjoy creative endeavors is because it, it really, I mean,
00:30:37 I, it’s almost a high, uh, there, there is, there is a, there is a it’s, it’s not just a physical Heights, it’s a spiritual high, it’s an emotional high. Um, but, but, but there’s like two sides to that coin.
Right. And you, you talk about that as well. You talk about the,
00:30:55 the, the dark night of the soul, um, and, and develop that a little bit. Why, how should, why should that stop an artist or, or, or a creative and, and, and how do we overcome that?
The Dark Night Of The Soul
Yes. So, you know, in the great stories we’re really talking about what’s been described as the hero’s journey and Joseph Campbell talked about that,
00:31:20 but even before that, it was talked about, and it really is.
And we see this in these stories and films and so forth. It’s an and more, I first came across.
It was in Dante’s Inferno, but basically we have a yearning for something.
We want to create something. We want to experience something, and yet we’re afraid. And so the tendency is to turn our face away and refuse at least for a while, but then eventually you can’t take it any longer because this yearning is in this calling is pulling you.
And so finally you say yes to whatever it is. It might be going on. An expedition might be writing a book, it might be a composing music. And so you say yes, and then you’re immediately plunged into perils.
And the perils are self doubt in her criticism.
00:32:14 Second guessing, overthinking, what was I thinking?
And so then what tends to happen is guides show up in with Dante. It was Virgil the great Roman poet Virgil, but it could be your teacher. It could be a mentor. and so you keep going because you’ve got that support.
And then, however, inevitably you hit that dark night of the soul that’s been written about, well, across the ages. And, and that I think is the moment of greatest self doubt. And it’s also the moment you’ve really, you’ve got to face yourself because you’re really facing yourself.
And if you remember the stories of Luke Skywalker and Star Wars and all that, this is the moment when he let go of the computer and the controls.
The Transformation of Trusting Yourself
00:33:02 And he just tuned in and just, they didn’t know what was going to happen, but he trusted himself in that moment.
And I think that when you face yourself and your darkest deepest doubts, and you wrestle down those dark angels, the transformation within that, on the other side of that, or within that is to believe in yourself,
00:33:25 to trust yourself even just a little bit more. And, and then you come into a different relationship to yourself, and then you come back return to your life, a little bit different, a little bit transformed.
You used that word. I was like, uh, when, and, and, and I, I actually hadn’t thought about it in those terms until you use the word transformed.
00:33:50 That’s, that’s what I think this book can do for some people, without a doubt that this, this is a transformative or a tool for transformation in somebody’s life.
And wow. Um, yeah, just, just like, it just now hit me that, that that’s exactly what this is all about. Really, of course, it’s about making art.
00:34:15 It’s about, it’s about being creative and, and all that, but, but, but the end goal is I started off, I started off like this and, and now, um, I’m completely changed. I’m born anew really.
That is, that is the essence of it is, is transformation and ongoing, ongoing spiraling, because we’re continually, continually unfolding as a person in our lives and in our art, in our creativity.
So it’s really seeing that and allowing that and going into those places and realizing that even that dark night, even those things that are terrifying are, are transformative and, and you keep learning and evolving and trusting yourself more and more as you go. So, yes, that’s the deepest one.
The essence of the book is transformation, the transformation of trusting yourself. It’s an ongoing, spiraling, continually unfolding process. It’s about our lives, our art, our creativity. It’s realizing that even the dark night, though terrifying, is the moment of transformation- the moment when you finally face yourself and your deepest self doubt and trust and believe in yourself anyway.
00:35:14 Can I get an a Yes. Right. So, uh, on that note, thank you so much. Um, Nancy for taking the time to, uh, to, to chat with, uh, the folks watching here at Book Lovers TV really, really appreciate it. And I really appreciate this, uh, this book, if, once again,
00:35:38 if you are a, if you are a creative person, um, at all, um, this, this book will, will, will serve you. And, um, once again, it is available right here on amazon.com and as we close here, I just wanted to, once again, remind you that if you have not yet grabbed your free gift,
00:36:00 um, from, uh, Dr. Hillis Nancy Hillis here, uh, go ahead and grab that right now. Point your phone camera right here at this QR code, or head over to artist’sjourney.com/gift.
And, uh, with that, thank you so much, Nancy, for, for taking the time to, uh, to chat to the,
00:36:20 the, the community here for, for, for folks watching go grab this book right now. You’re going to love it.
Thank you so much, Daniel. And thank you. This was a beautiful interview and just very exciting for me to be in this conversation with you and thank you to your wonderful audience too. So I’ll hold that the book
Oh, wow. Here. This is, this is how we could see it. There we go. Yeah, that has it looks good. And I know you did the cover as well. I did. I did. I did. It’s uh, it’s. It’s awesome with them.
Thank you, Nancy.
Go, go, go grab the book right now.
00:37:09 Available. Wherever books are sold by everyone. Bye.
Get your copy of the book HERE.