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.


Amanda Blake Soule • SouleMama

Amanda Blake Soule is a crafter, writer, photographer, blogger, and unschooling mama of three.

Can you tell us about some of the things on your board?

My board is a true mix of things I find and love: bits of my children’s artwork, cards and prints from friends, magazine tear-outs for projects I want to try, colors that inspire me, and old photographs – some of people I know and some I pick up at sales and just pretend I know!

How often do you change your board?

I’m always adding things on top of other things as I find them. When the layers get too thick, then I know it’s time to give the board a fresh start. This happens probably every few months.

Who or what is inspiring you right now?

Always, my kids. What they see, what they find, what they create – it always makes me think differently and see things in a whole new way.

In the past year or so, I’ve been inspired more than ever by photography. Flickr is great for that – so very many amazing artists out there sharing the beautiful way in which they see their world.

I guess I’m inspired by anyone who is “creating” something – whether it’s my style or not, their process of creating something they’re passionate about is really inspiring to me.

What do you do to “refill the well”?

I change things up in my studio, visit my favorite blogs, stare at my Flickr favorites. Thrifting helps me “refill the well” – even when I don’t buy anything, just wandering the aisles full of old things – both beautiful and ugly – is a tremendous source of new inspiration and ideas. And visiting with crafty friends – that’s always the best recharge of all.

How do you come up with your next idea?

In the middle of the night, driving my children to lessons, making dinner, everywhere and anywhere – in the everyday little moments where there is a little bit of quiet, I start thinking. I’m always hurriedly jotting ideas down in a notebook and hoping I’ll understand it later!

Tell us a little bit about your blog and your business.

I started blogging three years ago to keep in touch with far-away friends and family, as well as a way to record our days. In retrospect, I realize that it was also a low-pressure way in which I could practice writing — something that was always important to me.

From those beginnings, a “business” of sorts emerged. I sell some of the things I make locally in shops and online from time to time. And then, of course, are the books.

My first book The Creative Family will be released April 1st, and the second book — on repurposing for the family home — will be out in 2009.

The blog — while the audience and content has changed from those early days — continues to be a fun, low-pressure, and consistent way in which I record a piece of our lives in words and photographs.

Do you find writing to be as creative a pursuit as making? How do you balance the two?

I find them to be quite similar in process, and yet, there are times when I am definitely drawn to do one and unable to do the other. Writing and making seem to provide a lot of balance for me – it’s the juxtaposition between the work of my hands and the work of my head.

Have you ever been stuck creatively? How did you get past it?

I have had periods of time of being “stuck”, particularly when I’m working under a deadline. The challenging, but most important thing for me to do in these times is to just be patient. Sometimes we have to work through those periods feeling “stuck” to get to something really wonderful on the other end. In the meantime, surrounding myself with other artists, and keeping the inspiration fresh really helps.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

I’m usually pretty motivated – it’s the burn-out that can be a challenge. This past year I began setting clearer work hours and studio time for myself. There are so many advantages to having a work space at home, but the disadvantage, of course, is that it’s always there. So it’s been immensely helpful to have specific hours set for my work – closing the door on the studio sometimes is a very good thing.

How have your children changed you as an artist?

They have changed me so completely. Before children, I was intimidated by the concept of “art” and being “good enough”. I started knitting when I was pregnant with my first child – there was something immensely freeing about making something for my child – the love that went into what I made seemed to overshadow any of the imperfections. From that point, the “artist” grew, and the intimidation lessened. Now that my children are a little bit older, I, of course, learn so much by watching and listening to them and the art they make as well. They are my inspiration, the recipient of much that I make, and my collaborators too.

What’s your perfect creativity-inspiring day?

An early morning start on writing in my studio, a jaunt to a favorite flea market with my girlfriends, a walk in the woods with my family, and returning home for an afternoon of crafting with my little ones. Perfect.

Amanda’s website

Amanda’s blog

Amanda’s shop