Book Review for
“The Artist’s Journey” by Nancy Hillis 01.27.19
Book Review By Janis Kirstein
In “The Artist’s Journey,” author Nancy Hillis has woven for us an intricate, structurally sound and radically uplifting tapestry of inspiration and guidance, not only for today’s creative artist, but for all seekers of truth who want to live, thrive and come alive and aware in the 21st Century.
Her magic carpet of structural threads stems from and includes her personal and direct knowledge and experience of 20 plus years as a Stanford trained existential psychiatrist. Combine this with her well of seemingly limitless understanding of the workings of the subconscious mind and explorations of the self.
Watch how she weaves her epistle with a myriad of powerful gossamer threads highlighting and illustrating her eloquently stated concepts and revelations. As you move through “The Artist’s Journey,” compendia of cultural knowledge and illustrative stories range from Biblical to Medieval to Modern Day writings and literature providing direct illustrations of her key concepts.
Also included with this book are links to Nancy’s “Studio Journey” lessons and exercises for painters at any level, from beginners to age old painting aficionados.
And finally, the ubiquitous warp and woof of her grand tapestry is undergirded and revealed by Nancy’s extensive background and real life experience as an abstract painter. Her direct art journey provides for all of her readers a sure footed guidance and understanding of how to incorporate all of the revelations of her magical tapestry into the unique life of each and every reader. She engages us with her truth, examples, stories and insight, whisking us away on a magic carpet of joy in the journey through enlightenment.
Facing into your fears, learning to trust yourself and embracing the abandoned self are the basic gold nuggets and key steps to take on the Artist’s Journey. Nancy explores and explains these monumental tasks of the Artist, complete with a weaving of stories from multiple cultures and times.
Trusting yourself is the holy grail of creating, she says. She gives the example of Jacob wrestling with the Angel by the Jabbok River in the Bible. She uses this story to illustrate the truth that to express yourself in art, you first have to master yourself.
Face into your fears, she says. She illustrates the exploration of the artist’s reliance in their own life struggles to enable creativity of inner voice and vision to emerge. She illustrates this importance of struggle as necessity with the story of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” She shows us how this story reflects a journey into the subconscious mind and the paradox of finding strength and transformation even as you experience powerlessness.
She reminds us with an example from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “Women Who Run With the Wolves” that dying is as essential as birth in the creative process. Facing the dark night of the soul is essential.
Accept the parts of yourself that you have rejected and abandoned, she says. “Invite them back because they have something to teach you,” she says, encouraging us to employ talking to ourselves as a process to turn around Solomon’s Paradox, the age old observation that some are much better at giving advice to others than to themselves. The way you talk to yourself can help release emotional blockage by allowing insight to uncover and allow epiphany through inner dialogue.
Concrete maps and details for proceeding in the Artist’s Journey are the basis of this book, combined with enlightening advice and engaging stories from a myriad of times and cultures. As a professional artist for over 35 years, I will use “The Artist’s Journey” as requisite curriculum for the next 50 years of my creative life. “The Artist’s Journey” by Nancy Hillis is the new Required Reading and Bible of Creating for all Artists and Seekers of Truth in the 21st Century.