Book Review: The Artist Within – A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit

May 11, 2011
I’ve just read “The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit” by Whitney Ferre.

The book has an interesting twist. It is a life-balance-creativity-self-help manual couched within a breezy basic design manual. A rather unique concept. I think the purpose of the book is not to teach you to become a fine artist, but to help you add creativity to your every day life. Not a bad goal. In fact – it’s a goal I heartily agree with.

After briefly explaining a design principle such as “contrast” she asks you to do a few right-brain exercises to exercise your creative muscle. The projects are wonderfully childlike and freeing. 

For instance: When talking about the design principle of Unity she says “In life, a lack of unity can distract us, make us feel like we are stretched too thin. If you feel this way, try finding the common thread in your life, what is vital. This will help you to refocus your energies and gain a greater unity of purpose.”

The creative exercises that go along with the concept  include creating a torn paper family tree where you write  thoughts related to unity on any paper available to you, tear it up, and paste it into tree form. Another project might be to create a sculpture from the items in your junk drawer – symbolizing unifying the disparate elements of your past. Much more instruction is given for applying the principle of Unity to work or family life than how to create the art – but that’s the point of the book.

I like the idea. Once I understood that the book was more about life coaching than fine art instruction I really enjoyed it and had fun thinking about different areas of my life that could use a creative boost. 

As a fun special just for you, my friends, 
I’m giving away this book 
to one lucky commenter on today or tomorrow’s post. 

Answer me this.
How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life? How can you integrate the creativity that you apply to your art into the act of daily living?

I’ll be interviewing Whitney tomorrow, talking a little more about her story. You can leave a comment on that post too and double your chances to win her book. Check back next Monday the 16th of May to see if you’ve won.


  • Reply
    May 17, 2011 at 6:17 am

    My art journalling helps me to maintain that balance. It try to take the time to create as often as I can!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2011 at 1:36 am

    I haven't figured out the answer to those questions yet but I find when I take care of the most important things first the rest falls into place. If I could just remember to do that every day. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Reply
    May 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I try to be present. I know this is cliche, but if you think about what needs to be done, what you want to do, what others want you to do, you will never find balance. I am retired, but find that demands on my time are greater now than when I worked. So, there is a "quiet hour". This is never scheduled into, and I am very protective of that time. The book sounds wonderful. Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Reply
    May 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Balance to me means that sometimes I must choose priorities, and those priorities may not be the ones I want to do. I have to step back and look at the situation objectively. Fortunately, I have a husband who helps me keep it straight. I don't always want to be an adult, but if it means that I only get to work on my art for 1/2 hr late at night, I am good.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    balance is such a struggle for me – I tend to be All or Nothing, and lately I've been stuck in Nothing, repetitively doing the Same Thing That Didn't Work Yesterday. I need a good shakin up!


  • Reply
    May 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Disappointedly, my comment isn't here. I spent some time thinking about what to say…typed it out..and posted it within the time frame and saw it posted here…now its gone.. I don't understand…
    Ann Cofone

  • Reply
    Heather Mietz Egli
    May 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I try to have things scheduled each week-like chores this day, creativity this day, exercise and journalling every day. But to be honest, I get caught up in the now so much I often scrap my plans and do something else which inspires me. That's how I incorporate being an artist into every life, I suppose. I'd like to figure out how to be and respond to the present but be able to schedule myself as well, and keep to the schedule.

  • Reply
    Ellen Lindner
    May 15, 2011 at 2:51 am

    Forgot to answer the questions:
    I practice balance and contrast when I switch gears in my activities. If I've been sitting too long, I get up and do laundry or some other task involving movement. When I hit a design issue, I leave the studio and go cook dinner.
    I once read that creativity is simply problem sovling. And I think that's very true. Which means that we use it a lot throughout our days. Another example of the correlation the book is trying to help us notice.

  • Reply
    Ellen Lindner
    May 15, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Great ideas!

  • Reply
    May 15, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Reaching mid-life caught me in a scramble of imbalance trying to do too much and ultimately loosing touch with values I hold dear. In the aftermath of the free fall that grounded me I have started step by step on a path to living a more authentic life. For me, creating art has been the key to healing and moving forward. Artistically exploring harmonies of balance, contrast, repetition and unity is playing with all the big questions in life. It is not for the faint of heart. As a practice art demands courage, risk, suspension of judgment โ€“ and revealing the self both to ourselves and to others. In my own work I make use of items and inspirations from everyday life as a way of exploring larger themes such as motherhood, community and food security. Through mindful appreciation of simple and often repetitive patterns of every day living I am discovering ways to creatively celebrate who I am as a person and to share that experience with others.

    Carol Howard Donati

  • Reply
    Julie-Anne McDonald
    May 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Okay, I left a comment yesterday and don't see it and since I know I wasn't offensive (or at least I hope I wasn't) I will try again.

    I said that gardening is my right now art and that all the principles and elements of art are in place some, like mulching makes repetition a less desirable one. Making art is making life. Now back to the garden.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I've been doing Zumba regularly since January and it is amazing how much better I feel and more creative.

  • Reply
    Rachel Marie
    May 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    1. How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life? 2. How can you ?

    1. I can incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into my daily life by…

    The biggest example of repetition and unity is prayer for me. I pray often, of which listening is important as well than just speaking. I repeat this ritual/practice/way of living in order to maintain more unity with my Holy Creator and in order to be more aware of and unified with my surroundings.

    I integrate the creativity that I apply to your art into the act of daily living by being creative with the way I dress (sometimes!), by being creative with the way I interact with and love people, and just creatively seeing the links between things in my life and/or imagining new possibilities concerning my environment, relationships, etc. Another really lovely thing that I like do do is just appreciate the imagery in my surroundings and gather it all as a means to inspire my art.

  • Reply
    Susan Ritchie Voegtly
    May 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Nice to be reminded when your not obviously the only human struggling. Be kind to yourself and realize that if life wasn't so complex – we wouldn't have so much to make art about! Give yourself permission to drop the ball in other areas.

  • Reply
    Kathy Angel Lee
    May 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Interesting ideas she has. I want to know the secret to incorporating balance, contrast, repetition and unity into my daily life.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    What great questions! I find that the very act of journalling helps me to move towards achieving some sense of balance, contrast (repetition seems to just happen anyway!)and unity in my life and acts as a sharp reminder when things are a bit out of whack! I find it harder to find the time or maybe it is that I choose not to because the lack of the above saps the creative urges from my soul.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I believe the creative process is the same in both the "art of life" and the "art of creating a design". We can use brainstorming many unique ideas, exploring new options, and experimenting with different methods to solve problems!

    Love the premise of the book…joni

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    What a tremendous treat it was to read all of your comments! Thank you. I learned a lot from YOU all! I hope you join my newsletter at and you will receive a FREE eBook from me. Also, be sure to email me at if you want info. about our special 2-for-1 offer! The world needs ALL of our creative energy right now. Picture a generator that lights up the more creative energy we put out. We need it to be shooting out so much light so that we can empower our world to CREATE the change we need. You all ARE MAKING SUCH A DIFFERENCE in the world! Thank you! Whitney

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    this book would help me see where I am on my path to creativity. I'd love to add it to my library.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Finding balance is hard to do. Most important to have a plan and make time for art in life.

  • Reply
    Ruth Anne Olson
    May 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Count me in for this giveaway. I think I need this book.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Wow, this is truly thought-provoking, Lyric. I've been working on balance in my life, for a while, I think–balance between work and rest, family and self, etc. I've also been working on repetition–routines, positive habits, that kind of thing. But I hadn't thought about how the other principles apply in my life, nor had I consciously thought about how they connect my life with my art. Lots to think about now. Thanks!!!

  • Reply
    Ann Cofone
    May 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    My "daily life" follows me around as I seek creativity. I must stop chasing it and just sit.

    I must sit long enough to let my 5 senses in….and then sit even longer…waiting and breathing until all the possibilities begin to surface.

    Its all there—waiting for us. We just have to slow down enough to capture it. THAT'S THE BIG PICTURE…

    Now, back to daily life. Each night I make notes on tomorrow's work and before bed, assemble all the necessary supplies and go to sleep thinking about next the day…and I'm dedicated to the word, SIMPLIFY.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I find repetition by sticking with routine. Simple routine, like getting ready for work, timing, route back and forth. I find balance through repetition. A variety of activities worked into routine, work, taking care of home, me time, etc. This all adds to unity which creates a full life.
    I apply creativity through problem solving. As I make art I solve many problems. Picking the best techniques, deciding on details, what is important. Thinking before I act, auditioning solutions work for daily challenges as well as art making.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 3:44 am

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life?

    Keeping all things in life simple so as to inspire creativity.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Funny questions to think about….in the last 3 weeks I think I'm starting to get it right. After 55 years.
    First, get a good nights sleep, eat right and be appreciative for the breath in my body.
    That all helps me PAY ATTENTION. I still miss lots of stuff, but overall, everything seems much better.
    Keeping it simple sounds trite, but it's so true….

    At least, that's where I'm at now…lol.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life? I try to find a balance between what I have to do (house work) and what I love to do (art quilting). I also try to see the things I do daily as part of what builds my inner strength and discipline. I need help letting myself play. Maybe the book would help me do that. Thanks for the opportunity to enter!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2011 at 12:31 am

    For me… it is just doing what I can when I can, balance is something I am striving for.. seems like I get close, then it is gone again. This book looks very interesting….

  • Reply
    Diana Trout {}
    May 11, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    thanks for the great review Lyric! The book looks fabulous (you don't to put me in the giveaway, though!)

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    value yourself, make time for yourself and my word this year is Believe ….dont stress the little things, they will fall into place and if not, its not the end of the world..

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Boy, I wish I knew the answer to that question. I TRY – I don't feel at all guilty about leaving work to go to a mid-day guild meeting if I don't have anything scheduled (and I try not to schedule things those times!) and I certainly don't obsess about housework.

    Mostly, I try to remember to say "yes" when my kids ask me to do something – they're the most creative people I know.

  • Reply
    Mary Beth Frezon
    May 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I think you remain creative by keeping your eyes open and paying attention to what's around you daily, and keeping the door open to possibilities.

    Being open and seeing the options means you can choose from a bigger array of solutions to any problem – good both in art and in "normal" life.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    My job as a lab tech is about repetition(I just finished analyzing 1500 duck sera). It is also about contrast since there is a wide variety of lab tests I do and the results don't always correlate! The unity comes from being trapped in a level 3 lab all day with no escape from the work. So to balance it all off and to keep me sane, there is quilting!
    The book you reviewed looks excellent.

  • Reply
    Ruth Wilson Briggs
    May 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I try to teach my family, friends, neighbors, grocery store clerks, etc. in my environment to live creatively in a world which promotes conformity. I have been doing this for so long that balance, contrast, repetition, unity just follow.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I just started to do zentangels and am enjoy the process of just doodling. Love too books and other artists for inspirations. Would love to have this in my very small collection


  • Reply
    Gail Fligstein
    May 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life?

    Personally, I am a rebel at heart. Discipline is my enemy. I have to act on my creative impulses when they show themselves. If I try to inject more balance, contrast, repetition or unity — the rebel within laughs and does just the opposite: nothing. So for me, it is best to just let my creativity flow naturally (albeit sparsely).

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    How am or could I incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into my daily life? I have spent the last month recovering from an illness. I have had to look at the whole (unity) of my life; what I eat, what I do, how much, energy I have, how I think. Being home unexpectedly has made me look at the space, my possessions, and my former activities. Because of the lack of energy, I have had time to consider how all of these thing fit together, might/or might not have contributed to my illness, and what they reveal about me. I am slowly making changes, looking the whole, trying (really) to find balance between what I want to do and what I can do. As a medium to focus and calm myself, I am exploring various art mediums that I have dabbled in, but felt frustrated with (watercolor and drawing). I am allowing myself this opportunity to experiment without self-judgement to see how I need to reorder my life in a healthier sustainable way. I have been enjoying your blog as part of this whole process. Have fun with the interview/talk.

  • Reply
    a quilt obsession
    May 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I think we all can benefit frome these lessons.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. Your blog looks inviting!

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life? How can you integrate the creativity that you apply to your art into the act of daily living?

    For me, it's by paying attention to those little details that are often ignored. I take time to really look at the inside of a flower or listen for the silence in a darkened church. those magical minutes that teach if we let them…

  • Reply
    Ramona Lindsey, Artist
    May 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I beginning to express my creatively daily by giving my self permission to be free to explore new opportunities. I'm not sure how this relates to balance, unity, and other design principles. I've really studied these concepts, so I probably need to read the book to become not only a better artist but also obtaining a truly creative life.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I definitely need to find a balance between work and play. I work at home so tend to work – work – work without allowing myself time for my creative endeavors.

  • Reply
    Dale Anne Potter
    May 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I live on the prairies and I LOVE being outside and seeing what Mother Earth gives me to be inspired with everyday! I try to make ART everyday – to feel balanced. I enjoy doing my morning pages – which grounds me every morning, blogging, social media and making videos. It all keeps me creative!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    tough question(s) to answer.. I am a creature of habit so repetition suits me but finding a fine balance between all that I need to accomplish and all that I want to accomplish is something that I have to work on every day! Looks like an interesting book!

  • Reply
    Lynn Douglass
    May 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    In answer to your questions, I can honestly say that I'm completely blocked. I've had a very rough year so far, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively, so I'm looking for help. This book sounds like it would be a great resource for anyone who is struggling in any of these areas! If I don't win it, I'm definitely going to buy it!

  • Reply
    Joyce Potter
    May 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    It sounds like a great addition to any artist's library!

  • Reply
    Karen Burton
    May 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    My days are constantly about balance and repetition. Repetition of the humdrum things that must be done. Balance is the shuffling of these repetitious things with the creative things that add the spice to my life. Unity brings all the pieces together to make my life complete and fulfilling. Contrast – now that's what adds that extra spark.
    All these factors play a part in my creative endeavors and are important alone but especially together.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life?

    To incorporate balance into daily life, I spend at least one hour each day (not necessarily at the same time of day and not necessarily a contiguous stretch of 60 minutes), doing an art-related activity – reading about color theory, studying art books, sorting my fabrics, etc.

    To incorporate contrast, I walk my kids to school. On the way to school, I enjoy listening to their chatter, watching them skip along, and getting caught up in the swirl of childhood. On the way home, I have some quiet time for reflection, observation and so forth.

    Repetition, is simple, keeping up a house and cooking, etc. is an exercise in endless repetition.

    Finally, I equate unity in some ways with ritual or consistency. This demands a lot of creativity to fit it in — one way is to reflect on the best part of each day. We typically go around the table at dinner and share the highlights. I REALLY need to read this book and learn about unity a bit more.

    How can you integrate the creativity that you apply to your art into the act of daily living?

    That's easy for me because I have a hard time following directions, I prefer to do it "my way." That follows for especially for cooking. I tweak all recipes!

    Thank you Lyric for reviewing the book!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I believe that you need to have time and space in your life for yourself, otherwise you can't even get to balance. Making certain that your art space(s) are arranged in such a way that when you have a few minutes you can do some art — repeating this regularly will give you the repetition.

  • Reply
    Approachable Art
    May 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Lyric, I love the new look of your blog!

    Neat book, I think I'll pick it up. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Three months ago I started the practice of "morning pages" or writing a few pages of stream of consciousness writing each morning. I've found it is helping me to bring a sense of unity and balance to my life because I purge out some of the feelings and frustrations that get in the way of my creative activities. It helps me to pull back and see more of the big picture of my life, allowing me to make adjustments and pull my efforts together. As a result, I feel less like a human pinball – bouncing from one thing to another with no connection.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life?

    Having little bit of OCD repetition is something I try to get rid of, and at the same time something I need. Idem for balance. I love simmetrical objects, dispositions and so on.
    Probably for me could be better eradicate them than incorporate :p
    and in fact I'm trying to do asimmetrycal quilts. Not easy for me.

    How can you integrate the creativity that you apply to your art into the act of daily living?

    I love to be creative in daily living. I'm creative trough my dresses and I'm creative when I cook a good dinner with quite nothing (because I was too busy in quilting to go to supermarket :p).
    There are so many ways to be creative in daily life and not all require to create something in my opinion ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Ok.. now I'm ready for the interview ๐Ÿ™‚ LOL

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    How can you incorporate the principles of balance, contrast, repetition or unity into your daily life?

    I think by taking some time out to yourself you can achieve balance. Yoga, Tai Chi, all those things help me with balance. I guess you could consider them repetition too.

    How can you integrate the creativity that you apply to your art into the act of daily living?

    Creativity is essential for daily living. If everyone did everything the same way, there would be no success – just sameness.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Accompanying a toddler through her days is all about repetition! Balance is such a struggle for me between family, chores, art, and health.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    The word last year was focus. Blogging made me identify what I want to do so I committed to a weekly plan that unifies my 'want to'! This sounds like a great book because life is the basis for making art.

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