Drawing as a Pastime by Jack Shamash
It’s a little secret in the artistic community that in order to be creative, you need to keep creating - and it’s not always easy. We chat to journalist and author, Jack Shamash, who has embarked on an ambitious project to write a book a week for a whole year. Introducing us to his second book Drawing as a Pastime, Jack shares his project and the nature of inspiration…
What inspired you to embark on the project a Book a Week?
I've been a professional journalist for years but there are stacks of things that I always wanted to publish and somehow never managed. Last year I wrote a book on George V. I couldn't find a publisher, so I put it out on Kindle. It got a really good response, so I figured it was a good idea to drag out a lot of manuscripts from under the bed and publish them. I also had lots of journalism that i wanted to compile into books. It's been great fun doing it.
What can artists expect to find in Drawing as a Pastime?
Drawing as a Pastime was an entirely new book. I'm not a great artist but I love drawing. And when I'm in a museum sketching, people always come up to me and ask me lots of questions. People are very interested in drawing.
The first half of the book is full of interesting ideas about why it's good to draw. I quote from a number of philosophers and cultural critics. These days people don't really look at things properly. They just snap pictures on their mobile phones. But if you draw, you really study things in detail and it's very absorbing and relaxing. You learn about the world around you, and you start talking to people. And it's wonderful for kids - give them a sketchbook and they'll spend ages looking at a dinosaur or an aircraft.
For artists, I tell them always to bring a pad, pencils and even paints wherever they go. I quote Winston Churchill - a keen painter - who pointed out that if you're drawing you're never bored. Even if you're stuck in an airport, you can sketch away quite happily. I tell people what equipment to bring and where to sit - I usually find a cafe and sip a coffee for 40 minutes while I'm drawing.
How do you manage the creative process of producing a book a week?
Producing the books is a real challenge. I've got to find something to put in each book and I've also got to prepare a cover. I either use my own artwork on the cover or I look on the internet to find pictures on which I don't have to pay royalty. I have to be very inventive. I also have a launch party every week. Everyone is welcome and I usually buy a drink for any newcomers. Details of new books and launch parties are on my website.
Does the process of creating visually help to inspire creativity in your writing and vice versa?
Having to do the visual work does make my writing more creative. I have to come up with loads of interesting ideas - most of which are completely ridiculous. But I've some nice things in the pipeline. I'm also having to illustrate some of the books, because I can't afford an illustrator. One of my books of poetry - Poems about Misery and Death - is full of my illustrations. So it's pushing me in new directions.
Can you predict the results of the project for week 52?
By the end of the process, I will have 52 books. I don't expect to make a fortune, but some of them are selling steadily. And I'll have far fewer manuscripts under my bed. This is my eleventh week and I've published two novels, two books of poetry, a book about drawing and a graphic novel, so it's great that they're getting read.
Jack Samash's books are available on Amazon, where you can pick up a book for only 77p (which can be downloaded onto any kindle device - or onto an iPad or smartphone or PC with a kindle app, which is free).