Maira Kalman on Daydreaming, Eccentricity, and Not Knowing What is Going On

(Vido link HERE.) Portraits in Creativity is a series of short-form videos by renown creative director Gael Towey about the bravery and processes of artists and artisans. Who could better start off the series than the great, wise, observant Maira Kalman?  Kalman’s drawing and writing gets to the essence of not knowing what is going on” and celebrates it. Which is why we love her.

The video is like a walk around New York City with the Kalman. It is rich with illuminating observations about such varied subjects as Nature, cafes, walking, eccentricity, what it was like to play the duck in Isaac Mizrahi’s production of Peter in the Wolf,  as well as the big questions:“Why are we here? Who are we? How are we documenting ourselves. Is this a dream?”

Here are our favorite bits:

Daydreaming is a function of the brain that is an uncensored —without controlling it – exploration of ideas, emotions…Often the best ideas…come from the moments when you’re not trying.


Maira Kalman's mother's map

Maira Kalman’s mother’s map

“I think every person you talk to is deeply eccentric, in their own own way. You just have to find it.”

We love her painting of her mother’s giant bra, and the 1950’s memory that accompanies it, both of her mother wearing it while she stood at the stove frying different foods, and the map her mother drew for her when she was young:

Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman

We are very interested in Kalman’s statement that “Copying is my way of learning.” In copying paintings of great masters, she put herself in their shoes and learned A LOT, and to see in new ways. Now THERE’S a practice!

Kalman’s newest book, Girls Standing on the Lawn. is a collaboration with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. It is “a meditation on memories, childhood, nostalgia, home, family, and the act of seeing” which Handler succinctly describes as “a photograph, a painting, a sentence, a pose.”

Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman

The thirteen minutes video is packed with little treasures; we find it nice to watch pieces of it during the day.


via Kottke

2 Responses to Maira Kalman on Daydreaming, Eccentricity, and Not Knowing What is Going On

  1. Elyse Harrison 07.30.2014 at 5:21pm #

    Thanks for posting this.
    I am a huge fan of this amazing artist.

    Cheers to the filmmaker Gael Towey.
    A perfect portrait. Bravo!

  2. Anna Smukler 04.02.2015 at 12:40pm #

    I didn’t have time to open the Maira Kalman Thinker video on the NYTimes, and am so happy I got to view it here on Improvised Life. Maira’s work always touches me deeply in many ways, but mostly straight to my heart, which magically opens to all she is offering.

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