Corita Kent was a nun who taught art for more than 20 years in Los Angeles. Jan Steward knew Sister Corita and became the biographer using an interesting concept to create to create the biographs, Learning By Heart, Teachings To Free The Creative Spirit.
Jan would write down an idea, a sentence, a memory, or a quote she remembered from Sr. Corita, and toss it into a box marked with the name of a course Sr. Corita taught. The two women wrote back and forth about the book, until Sr. Corita died unexpectedly. But Jan didn’t quit or give up. She finished the book, which has become a cult favorite. The chapter titles were taken from courses that Sr. Corita taught: Sources, Structure, Connect & Create, Work Play, Celebration.
I’ve met Jan, and just finished reading her book again. I love the determination of both Corita Kent, who met considerable resistance in teaching art her way, and Jan Steward, who brought the book to completion.
Some quotes from the book for inspiration:
“Limitation is what differentiates a flood from a lake. In th emaking of things, limitations allow ou to choose from something rather than everything.”
“Everything is a Source: There are two objects to my left on the table where I am typing. One is a purple plastic ink bottle . . . the other is a photoraph of a bronze statue of Lord Shiva. . . Either could be a source for my drawin The content of the object will not determine the success of my work.”
“Artists are people who have developd their seeing muscles in much the same way as weight-ifters develop thelir lifting muscles–by constant, disciplined use.”
“We tend to think of play as abstract, without a goal, and somewhat irresponsible–while work suggests a goal, is specific and honorable. Because of this, play can be more challenging–even though we have been taught to perceive work as that challenge.”
“There are moments in the creative process when one is aware of great things happening, but I never feel that is the Creative Process. It is only a punctuated moment of excitement in the larger process. The hard times, too, are prt of the creative process; for example when I can’t sleep at night or lose the meaning of what it’s all about.
It can be a time of drudgery–a dirty, collecting time when I sharpen pencils or clear work space, but we know that somehow these things are necessary . . .”
—Quinn McDonald is amazed at how Jan’s book and Sr. Corita’s wisdom still rings true, decades later. She takes comfort in that.