Creative courage

Creative courage

Next week I will launch my newest book from the Florence Nightingale Museum. Please let me know if you plan to join us in London on Nov 30:event page

Before the event I will go on a little pilgrimage to the statues of Sidney Herbert and Florence Nightingale at Waterloo Place. These statues help open my book’s story:

. . . you could go for a short walk to meet two of the protagonists of this story. March through the Horse Guards arch and across its parade ground, and you will find St. James’s Park, which is no longer a private garden. Stroll north along the edge of the park and you will soon arrive on a Georgian boulevard named Waterloo Place. There you will see a tall memorial commemorating the 1853–1856 war in Crimea. In front of the memorial is a pair of statues on matching pink granite pedestals. On one stands Sidney Herbert, English statesman. He is looking down, with one hand cradling his head, pensive and solemn. On the other pedestal is Florence Nightingale, Herbert’s friend and confidant. She looks out with determination, almost directly at Horse Guards. The postures of the two statues echo words that Nightingale wrote to Herbert in a private letter more than 150 summers ago: “Whenever I am infuriated, I revenge myself with a new Diagram.”

We are now shipping our books worldwide, see more and get yours at Visionary Press. They are currently discounted: $10-off any title and $45-off the 3-book set:

It will be my greatest delight to bring Nightingale’s story home to the city where it all happened. See you in London!

In the back of my first book,Info We Trust, I tucked-in a short essay titled “How this book came to be.” It was augmented online by a series of blogposts exploring all manners of book production, from research to writing to illustration to layout design.

As I consider writing on similar themes about makingInformation Graphic Visionaries, what strikes hardest is the incredible contrast between my book-making journeys.

The first was precious—an undistracted artist’s journey. These last few years were everything but.

My pandemic experience was anchored by using my data and graphic talents to advise the United States response to Covid-19. For over a year, every night, my team’s graphic reports went to the White House (across both administrations, maybe more about this another day). It was challenging, meaningful work.

On top of that, my family was navigating some health issues (we are doing great now, but also, very challenging). And, like you, I was trying to not lose my mind as the effects of isolation took their toll.

Working onInformation Graphic Visionarieswas a refuge from all that. Book-making was my happy place.

Unlike my first book,Visionarieswas not a precious solo-endeavor. Our new books are a collaborative effort. A team of experts and artisans showed up and did the work as fast as we could, on top of everything else. We arrived already knowing how to do the task, without the need for philosophic inner-journeys. The process was full of joy, but it was not precious. It was almost mechanical. I believe the result is a different type of book. Perhaps even a better book.

Today, the books are beautiful and on their way. My focus now is navigating the pains of shipping during a global supply chain crisis—and promotion (we printed extras,get yours). Once again, it’s challenging. This week, I’m worried the costs might prevent me from doing this again.

At this particular moment I bumped into some relief via an interview of American documentarian Ken Burns. Hearing him talking about his career, his art, and his team shone some light on ways for me to think about my craft.

The Ken Burns interview also introduced me to his collection of American quilts—each one rich with ideas about colorful geometry and homespun harmony.

Over forty years ago, Ken Burns left NYC to make films in New Hampshire. “The great courage was actually to stay here and continue to make the films from here.” The move gave him the focus and low cost-of-living to do the work. Artists who make exciting work, at a nearly industrial scale, often live less-exciting lives.

. . . perseverance. There are a lot more filmmakers, I’m sure, smarter than me; they just didn’t have the stick-to-itiveness to just keep going. . . . I used to keep all the rejections for one one-hour film that filled two three-ring binders, each three or four inches thick, with literally hundreds and hundreds of rejections from that film. Used to sit on my desk to remind me of what I overcame and was able finally to do it. Moving up here: We calculated that I was paid less than 2 cents an hour over the five-plus years it took to get it made, in large measure because no one would take a flyer.

To me, hearing that Ken Burns got paid 2 cents an hour to make his early art is encouraging. It means his projects had some profit.

Since dedicating myself to information graphics my goal has been to stay alive as an independent creative. If I can stay alive then I can keep learning. Improving. Understanding. Along the way I want to share those boons with you too. The goals are to keep the game alive and bring more people into the game.

One of my hopes forInformation Graphic Visionariesis that they spark many conversations. New inquiries. I hope people question the work, and build on it. Ambitiously, I hope they inspire new ways of seeing the world.

Do listen to the entire interview and see the full transcript with lots of links, from Tyler Cowen:Conversations With Tyler

Attila Bátorfy (Twitter) has been sharing the most spectacular graphic discoveries from his study of historic Hungarian data visualization (and beyond). He’s found things I would not know how to look for. For example, see the following thematic map, which Bátorfy described to me:

In the next newsletter I will interview Bátorfy all about his work. Until then, please consider supporting my evangelism of data graphics by becoming a paid subscriber below.

I believe it is important to keep being cheerful and constructive on the Internet. In many ways it is more important than ever that we do so. I appreciate you all for coming along for the ride as a free or paid subscriber.

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