February 2, 2012

Creativity Interview: Yuyi Morales

Like many, I admire the multiple talents of Yuyi Morales—author, illustrator, videographer, moving speaker. I also admire Yuyi's creative spirit. Many thanks, Yuyi, for making time for this interview.

1. What were you like as a child?
YM: A few things that described me as a child:
1. I liked drawing, and I practiced so much that I could draw my own face from memory.
2. I was obsessed with UFOs and constantly feared that extraterrestrials were coming to take me with them.
3. I liked reading, so I devoured all of the comic magazines my father bought on Sundays, the encyclopedia my mother bought for my sisters and I, and many of my father's books, all of which were not for children.
4. When I was five my mother taught me how to crochet, and I made myself a colorful vest and a hat. She also taught me how to knit and use the sewing machine. At school, she would encourage me transform simple school projects and written assignments into models, drawings, and little books.
5. I didn't have many friends, I was what people in Mexico call “seria”, which meant that I didn't talk or smile much.

2. My sense is that you have always thought of yourself as creative. How do you nurture your creativity?
YM: Everything in my life is an art project. Just like my mother helped me make simple tasks, like my homework, into creative endeavors, nowadays, most of the things that happen during my daily life, I tend to do it creatively. I love to read, and I have a great need for storytelling. I could watch movies everyday (but I don't because most nights I go to bed late drawing or painting). I like gardening and I look for the compositions and the mixing of colors. I like listening to music, and although I am not a musician, I like to make songs. I love to dance and so I take lessons, and I often break into dancing while I am working. I like taking photographs and sharing them. And I like making friends and loving them. And to me it is all art.

3. Is there a special space that helps you be creative?YM: My studio is the best place in the world. In my studio there is space to daydream, and there is space to work. Having tools around me excites me. I get carried away by thinking about what I could to with materials. But I also need inspiration and references, so having things to look at, as well as places for research such as the library and the internet, give me an urge to create.

4. What are your challenges at this point in your career?
YM: Time is one of my main challenges. I tend to want to have things to materialize immediately. So I have had to learn to be patient, to take my time, and to be gentle with myself and my work. Although I tend to be impatient, I try to take time to exercise, to learn new things, to be with my friends, family, and the people I love, and time to have sacred things in my life. Then, when I am in my studio, I constantly remind myself that steady work will give me the results I want.

5. You have a very intriguing web site. Did you design it yourself?
YM: Yes, I designed it myself a long time ago. At the time, I wanted to have a web site, and not knowing how to get someone to do what I wanted, I decided to learn to do it myself. My husband helped me choose a good book where I could learn HTML. Most of what I did was to take the same approach I use with my art: I played with it. The web page became another blank canvas to be creative with. The result seems to be  less functional and more surprising--you just never know what you might find there.

6. You were an early Día supporter. Tell us why and how you think we all could be more creative in promoting Día.
YM: To me Día de los Niños is a very significant day, because I grew up in Mexico where ever since I can remember, my family always celebrated it. When I arrived at the USA, I found myself celebrating alone with my infant son. I had no one else to celebrate it with. Years later, when I was already a published author, I began to be asked to come to libraries to celebrate with hundreds of children, and I couldn't have been more delighted! What was even better was that Día del Niño had been paired with something else I loved: books and reading.

Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, is one of my favorite days of the year. I am sure that many people have come up with fantastic ideas to celebrate this day; my favorites would be the ones that bring together adults and children through books. Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros is not only a day for children to enjoy and love books, but is also a day for us, adults, to love and celebrate our children by sharing books, reading with them, and connecting forever in that way.

7. Any upcoming projects you want to share with us?
YM: I am currently putting the final touches to a book I wrote titled Niño. In this book there will be a lot of action, and more than one scary character brought from my childhood in Mexico. Also, I am working in a book I wrote about Frida Kahlo, and I have started illustrating a book about the poet Pablo Neruda.

8. How does Yuyi relax?
YM: I have my favorite spot in my garden where two colorful hammocks hang. There, when I need a good time to just be, I swing in one of them looking at the sky and the mulberry tree that holds them. Some times I fall asleep, just like when I was a baby and my mother lullabyed me to sleep, swinging in my crib made of a box weaved into a hammock above my parents bed. I close my eyes, and I am whole again.

Visit Yuyi's blog, Corazonadas.

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