Laura Lein-Svencner has many reasons to appreciate Julia Cameron’s international best-seller The Artist’s Way. Not only does she teach classes based on the book, on she credits it with helping her establish her own career as a collage and mixed-media artist.
After taking a break from her early creative endeavors to raise her children, she tried to get back into the artistic swing of things some 15 years ago. The 1979 Downers Grove North grad saw an ad for a nearby “Artist’s Way” course, decided to give it a shot — and was inspired to go pro with her artwork.
She’s also been teaching the course as a sideline ever since, including a 13-week session opening Oct. 21 at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.
“It helps people develop focus on what they’d like to do and recognize the things that might be blocking them from achieving it.” Lein-Svencner said. “It can really help you get to the core of what’s happening in your creative life and find some direction. “It’s a creative, spiritual way to get through creative blocks.”
In the 12 chapters of her book, Cameron encourages students seeking any sort of creative guidance to recover their sense of identity, power, possibility, autonomy and faith among other attributes. She urges them to cultivate these feelings through practices ranging from something as simple as treating themselves to a bowl of raspberries to setting up an altar in their home. Cameron also suggests creating opportunities for reflective activities such as a walk in the woods.
Cameron’s primary emphasis, though, is on encouraging students to write journals called “morning pages” at the beginning of each day.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or a dancer or a painter or a musician or a chef,” Lein-Svencner said. “She wants you to give yourself a half hour as soon as you wake up and do a lot of writing. It’s kind of like dumping the trash. It gives you the chance to get rid of all the thoughts that are jumbled in there and clear the path for a fresh start every day.”
She added that the process can also help people get some perspective on self-doubt. In her own life, she said, the technique was recently useful as she faced the daunting task of approaching a gallery with a proposal for a solo show.
“It can be a little scary when you try to do something like that, because right away your inner critic kicks in — that inner voice of doubt,” she explained. “But the course helps you learn to break challenges down into small steps instead of jumping right away into that final scary part. When you approach your goal one step at a time, it helps you build confidence along the way.”