TED Theme: The Creative Spark

“How are we inspired? Where might our imaginations take us? What does creativity look like in its wildest form? These clever, invigorating speakers plumb the wellspring of invention.”

Listen to TED Talks focusing on creativity here.


J. Otto Seibold

J. Otto Seibold is an illustrator and author.

What is inspiring you right now?

Poverty, I think it is where honest living is. It’s the only real politics, so when every dollar matters, you pay attention to who gets it. That sounds harsh, but I’m trying to say as that outside of money and acting to get it I am having a very nice life right now.

What is your work space like?

An old school lunch table elevated on chunks of wood. It has a original stencil that reads “lunch table” and I drew the Mr. Lunch books at it.

It has a laptop and a Cintiq draw screen and a vase with curly branches that have fake flowers on the tips. I steal fake flowers … pick them … and I will take them from wherever they are found. But I only take one and make the absence invisible.

How do you come up with new ideas?

They just show up. It’s like a conversation. I used to think i was good at reacting. Someone would say something and it would trigger an interesting or funny connection. So writing alone is tough … you have to have someone, thing, to bounce off of. I often write with another person for that reason.

What do you do when you have illustrator’s block? Or do you even get illustrator’s block?

I don’t get it … I’m of the Miles Davis approach, one take. Sometimes I can’t draw … it just happens and I just wait till later. I also distract myself playing music or laying on the floor.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished a book called Vunce Upon a Time about a vegetarian vampire. And now I’m working on a sequel to the B.B. Wolf book I did with Judy Sierra.
Any advice to the many people who are inspired by you?

Stop the war … everyone’s art will improve once that gets taken care of. Take money out of oil …ride your bike … burn recycled biodiesel … uhm, I sound like an angry hippy. Be nice to everyone…

J. Otto Seibold’s Website



Japan vs. UK: PingMag’s Desk Project

Brede Korsmo and Luke Frost's work table

Lots of great inspiration here. Check it out!

Hat tip: swissmiss


Maira Kalman

photo credit: Rick Meyerowitz

Maira Kalman is an artist, designer, author, illustrator, and photographer, among other things.

What inspires you?

Books (Sebald, Nabakov, Austen)

Music (Handel, Bach, Mozart, Monk)

Travel (India, Russia, Israel)

Odd moments and great people. Humor. Anyone that is funny inspires me.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I have carried a sketchbook/journal since I was 18 years old. And I always carry a small camera.

How do you arrange your workspace?

I have a studio that has music and windows and organized reference material and a million books and lots of paint and brushes. No phone. No computer.

Are there places or things you avoid because they sap your creativity?

I avoid malls. They are deadly.

How do you create the best circumstances for inspiration, serendipity, ideas?

I try to take long walks and breathe deeply and stare at people going about their lives. I drink coffee and stare some more.

What do you collect, and how does it inspire you?

First and foremost I collect books. Those are my treasures and if I had to give everything up, I would in a second, but not the books.

Then there are all the collections of odd ephemera. Old notebooks, boxes, fezzes, cafe napkins, moss, doll clothes, interesting packaging.

Inspiration comes from shape, color, text, misuse of text, humor, honesty of intent. All of those things play in making something.

The endless possibilities are always encouraging.

Can you say something about found objects and how they inspire you?

First of all a found object is free. And that is always exhilarating. It was waiting for you and you took it. It had a life and now the life continues. You may pass it on to someone. Or forget it for years and then refind it in a box. It is mysterious and yet tells a story.

[My sons Dominic and Jack love Maira’s books for children, especially her books about Pete and Max. Jack, who is eight years old, wanted to ask one of the interview questions. — L.P.]

(Jack’s Question:) What do you weigh? Just kidding! What is your secret for drawing?

My secret for drawing is not a secret. It is sitting down and drawing. I do the best I can which means I try not to do it right but just to do it as I feel and as I see.

Getting it right is not a good goal.

The biggest secret is perseverance. Just not stopping no matter what.

Though I do stop to run and play tennis so I won’t weigh too much.

But that is a whole other story.

I do everything I do because I love to do it, even when I worry or am confused or slightly in despair. Those feelings usually pass. And then the next day is there.

Always a good thing. The next day.

Maira's website

Maira's TED talk

The Principles of Uncertainty

The Elements of Style Illustrated

Maira's New York Times column

Julie Saul Gallery


Maira Kalman interview coming!

I was recently lucky and blessed enough to be able to interview one of my greatest personal inspirations, Ms. Maira Kalman. I'll be posting her interview next week. To celebrate, I am going to give away a free copy of her fantastic book The Principles of Uncertainty. Leave a comment, and I'll draw a lucky winner on Sunday.

(And if you already own that book — it's fantastic! — go ahead and enter, and we'll pick out one you don't have. ;^)

Check out that list of coming interviews in the right-hand column! Be sure you subscribe to our RSS feed so you don't miss out on any of the excitement. And thank you for your wonderful comments and e-mails! I appreciate every single one of them.