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Janas (Fake) Journal: Spell for Art Making

Play Your Art Instrument, gel pen and colored pencil
Play Your Art Instrument, gel pens and colored pencil

I heard an interview with musician Bobby McFerrin on NPR yesterday and he said something about work, play and creativity that really struck me. He was talking about having always just wanted to be a working musician (rather than a famous celebrity). Then he stopped to correct himself about the word “work” vs. the importance of “play”:

“When we’re doing our lessons, the teacher doesn’t say, ‘Ready, set, work.’ They say, ‘Ready, set, play,’ and I always took that word seriously.”

When I heard his spontaneous and inspired music, I understood exactly. Without the spirit of play, art becomes work, serious work. And serious isn’t fun. You rarely see the adjective serious describing something you want. It usually appears before words like illness, accident,  mistake, and problem.

Of course there are serious artists who make serious work. I watched a series about artists on PBS called “Art:21.” The producers must have told all the artists to refer to their paintings, sculptures, prints as “work”  (e.g. “I made this work last year…” or “This work is about…” or “When I am making work…”). It just sounded so pretentious, self-important and overly serious.

So now, when I find myself working hard (and enjoying it less) whether in the studio, the sketchbook or life in general, I will remember the spell for joyful art making and apply it once again.

If you want to try the spell too, all you have to do is open your mind, heart, spirit, eyes, arms and PLAY!

(For more information about International Fake Journal Month click here).

7 replies on “Janas (Fake) Journal: Spell for Art Making”

I agree totally! I have a job and when I go there I work. I like my job and most days I have fun at it, but it is work because things are “expected” of me. I am expected to be there for a certain number of hours, to produce certain things, to contribute things. But when I draw or sketch, I have only my own expectations. I do it because I want to and because it makes me feel alive and engaged, and I do it only for myself.


I think we’re very lucky to have jobs we like (most days) where we can make a contribution and our own “work/play” that we LOVE! Thanks for that reminder! Jana


As your related articles show, I’ve written about Bobby McFerrin before, and seen him live twice. What a marvelous artist.. you can see the ‘play’ in him, he has an energy about him that resonates.. He’s amazing, I missed the recent interview, can’t wait to listen to it!

I like what you say about work/play. I’m starting a new career as a freelance writer and some days it’s so much work that I forget the play that brings me to this endeavour.. ? hmmm, another work word!
my freelance blog is, where I write under my real name.


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