Follow the Yellow

how to be an explorer of the world

“…you are a detective. your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before…”

The wonderful Keri Smith has announced a new book! How to be an Explorer of the World is all about exploring, collecting, observing and documenting the things around us. As with most of Smith’s work, it’s all about enjoying the mystery, inspiration and fascination of the seemingly ordinary and everyday. There’s a tempting little teaser for the new book online here, though unfortunately it won’t be out here in the UK until November. However, in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying keeping up with Smith’s well-loved blog, the wish jar journal.

Keri Smith describes herself as “an author/illustrator turned guerilla artist.” As an illustrator, she has worked for a wide variety of clients from Random House to the New York Times, but she has gained particular success as a blogger and author writing about creativity in its broadest sense, and perhaps most especially about the fun and importance of creative and artistic play. There is a certain childlike naivety to Smith’s work, which works well with her distinctive illustrative style: titles such as Living Out Loud may strike the reader as twee in places, advocating everything from painting pebbles in the back garden to making paper dolls in the quest to enjoy a creative life to the full. However, looking beyond the surface, Smith’s books are also highly inspirational, referencing everything and everyone from eastern philosophy to John Cage and Charles and Ray Eames. In a recent interview, Smith explains her commitment to writing about creativity: “I love the idea of creating books that give people more of a direct experience with life instead of walking through it passively. Get up out of your chair and take a look at things around you… Turn off the TV… there is no time to waste. Aren’t we all just aching for a bit of adventure?”

It is this “sense of adventure” that Smith’s books aim to encapsulate, becoming a playful call to arms to artists of all kinds. As well as Living Out Loud, my personal highlights would be the ever-popular Guerilla Art Kit and Wreck This Journal, a book filled with prompts telling the reader how to systematically ‘destroy’ the entire book. As Smith explains “in this book good does not exist. The goal is to fill it up, to shift your perception of the blank page and the journal itself into a place for experimentation. Into a place… to do those things you were taught to never do (make a mess, destroy, fold down pages, write in books, play with dirt). This book IS the place.” I treated myself to a copy earlier this year and have been thoroughly enjoying the destructive process, which feels enjoyably subversive and just generally naughty in a very good way. Check this out:

(You can see more journal wrecking inspiration at the wreck this journal website here.)

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