creative influences – part 1

photo by Anton Corbijn

Inspired by this post from Megan Clark about her favorite people, I thought it would be fun to list some of my most enduring creative influences. These are the writers, artists, ideas and images that have burrowed inside my head and now refuse to leave. We all have them — both accidental and intentional.

Here’s my brief list. I’d love to hear yours.

Amedeo Modigliani

Like most kids, I loved to draw, but I could never re-create what I saw in my head. That didn’t stop me from trying. In high school, I remember sweating over an oil painting of a couple sitting in a ’50s-style diner. It was terrible. My generous art teacher suggested it resembled a Modigliani painting and encouraged me to look up his work. Wow. While her comparison was wildly exaggerated, I saw in his art the power of individuality. There’s no reason to paint, write or create like everyone else. Do it your way.


Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg & Anne Lamott

Admittedly, these best-selling women are a little touchy-feely. They mix art and spirituality with abandon and in some chapters, you can almost smell the patchouli rising from the pages. Their books on writing, however, remain among the most dog-eared volumes on my shelf. Once you peel back the flowery descriptions of Cameron’s horses in twilight or Goldberg’s spiral Snoopy notebooks, they offer some of the most practical advice I’ve heard about the creative process: Forget your fear, get the F*** to work, and don’t judge it until you’re done.


Lisa Cholodenko

High Art and Laurel Canyon are two of my all-time favorite films. There’s something intoxicating about the way Cholodenko blends images, words and music together on the big screen. Neither movie is particularly plot-driven, either, which highlights another principle of creativity: The work doesn’t have to be huge; it simply needs to be compelling and true.


Anton Corbijn

I’ve written before about my love for this Dutch artist’s work. He’s a photographer, film director and all-around creative visionary. His gritty glamour and a slew of high-profile projects (including the 2007 film, Control) draw increasingly hungrier audiences, but he’s been shooting steadily since the early ’70s. I’m continually inspired by his work ethic and singular lens on the world.


These are just a few of the people and works I’ve long admired. Writing this post was a reminder that there are many, many, many more. In fact, I’m going to do another list soon.

Baring these influences is also strangely liberating. There’s a lot of baggage around the idea of creative references and, specifically, the pressure to value what’s exclusively considered highbrow, established or cool. You can and should seek out brilliant work at every opportunity, but you never know what will hit a raw emotional nerve. In the end, that’s what really endures.


posted 23 Sep 11 in: art, books, inspiration, media. This post currently has 3 responses.

3 Responses so far. Add Your Own.

what – no music on this list?
how can that be?

Jill / 08 Nov 11

I know! Too much to choose from. I will have to write a separate post for music…

cheri / 01 Dec 11

Hi, great job here, especially the Amedeo Modigliani part :)

Boris / 09 Jun 12

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