Brain Pickings

Maira Kalman on Art and the Power of Not Thinking

by

“To have an empty brain is a complete delight.”

There’s no telling how wholeheartedly I adore artist Maira Kalman. Last month, she spoke at my studiomate Tina’s wonderful Creative Mornings breakfast lecture series, held at the Museum of Modern Art, where she took us on a whimsical journey into her creative process, influences, personal history, and infectious outlook on life. Among the works Kalman shows are her collaboration with Lemony Snicket, her visual history of the Constitution, and her illustrated takes on such classics as The Elements of Style and Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.

It was also a passing mention in her talk that sent me digging through Darwin’s papers for this delightfully despondent anecdote.

Kalman echoes Anaïs Nin and adds to history’s finest definitions of art:

There’s a certain freedom to do whatever I want to do, which I guess is the definition of being an artist.

Complement with Kalman on identity, happiness and existence and the difference between thinking and feeling, then treat yourself to some of her marvelous, unassumingly profound books — you can’t go wrong with The Principles of Uncertainty and Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World).

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