Illustrated Artist’s Way excerpt — The Virtue Trap

Rainy day. This morning before I sat down to draw, I picked up my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I received my paperback copy in 1993, as a high school graduation gift. She was an actress; he was a university chemistry professor and my dad’s PhD advisor. Both of them came to my graduation ceremony, as they were good friends of my parents and had no children of their own.

I took the book to college with me. I wrapped it in brown paper and rewrote the title in permanent marker. The first few chapters are underlined and starred, as if I studied it like an academic text. As if the material in its pages could be mastered in that way. By reading, underlining, highlighting, starring.

The inscription, in handwritten ballpoint pen ink, reads:


Dear Lisa, (heart with arrow)


on all the wonderful

things that have

happened to you. May

they continue forever (heart with arrow)

Much love, (heart with arrow)

Gail and Dom

On the frontispiece is a business card, attached with scotch tape, from “Transitions Bookplace” in Chicago, Illinois.

I have since read the entire book in different short segments. I have since realized it is not the kind of book one memorizes or even entirely finishes. I have since lived into the experience of knowing when my creativity is blocked, and when it needs some awakening. I have since committed to living a life based on trusting my own creative gifts, and seeing where it leads me.

And this morning, I happened to open to the section of Week 5 in the book, entitled, “The Virtue Trap”. I read the section from back to front, starting with the question, “Are you self-destructive?“. Something in the choices and unfolding of events in the last few months of my life had led me to resonate with this question. To want to linger with it.

So I did. I then read the passage again, from beginning to end, and started copying the sentences that I wanted to linger on, and then draw.

With all the panels done in ink, I took myself on my artist’s date to a new café I had never before visited, just one town away. There I had my first açai bowl, which I learned is a Brazilian street food and also a trend in organic cafés here now.

My first ace bowl at Beach Monkey Organic Cafe, Pacifica.
My first acai bowl at Beach Monkey Organic Cafe, Pacifica.

By the time I finished drawing and coloring in the entire passage, I felt alive again. My true self, my artist self, was fed by the combined actions of reading, writing, drawing, painting, and being in a new place doing something for the first time. One of my deep longings is to travel more, and I know, conceptually, it is a hunger to be in the world with a traveler’s mindset. How to practice more of that in my daily life, no matter where I am located, is my artist’s challenge.

Here is my illustration of “The Virtue Trap” from Week 5 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:

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