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Author and Illustrator Lori Richmond joins Tim today to talk about running, creativity, and art. Lori’s acclaimed “View From My Run” series illustrates the scenes that she passes as she trains for the New York City Marathon. She is also a children’s book author and illustrator, and she and Tim talk today about running marathons, finding time to be creative, and how we can help students appreciate the artmaking process. Full episode transcript below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show’s produced by The Art of Education, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz. Now, it is race week for me, and I think I mentioned this a couple times on the podcast before, but I am actually running a marathon on Sunday. I’m going to be flying out to Las Vegas with my friend David. He is working on 50 marathons in 50 states. I think this is like number 11 for him. It’s number two for me, but I’ve been training for a while now and thinking a lot about the connection between running and art.
So, I wanted to do an episode that talked a little bit about that connection, but I wasn’t really sure how to do it. But then, Abby Sshukei came to my rescue. You guys know Abby. She’s always here. Just last week, she was talking about colored clay, and she introduced me to Lori Richmond. Now, Lori is an author and an illustrator, and she has done this amazing series over the past couple years, called A View From My Run. Now, she lives in New York, and passes by these inspirational views every time she’s out for a run. Then she will turn around and create drawings based on that inspiration, and they’re just spectacular.
The part that I love about it, about what she does, is that she puts limitations on herself as far as time. So, if she does a 35-minute run, she works on a 35-minute painting, or a 90-minute run lends itself to a 90-minute drawing. It’s a simple idea, but it is so, so cool, and in teaching, we talk a lot about how limitations can enhance our creativity, and they can force us to adapt, and force us to look at things in different ways, so I really hope that we can talk about Lori’s creative process and kind of everything that goes into her art-making.
Now, if you want to pause this really quickly and go check out her work, so you kind of have a visual in mind as we have this discussion, you can definitely do that now. Her website is loridraws, L-O-R-I-D-R-A-W-S, .com, and her Instagram is @LoriDraws. And along with those drawings, you can see the books she’s written, and just everything else about her, and then once you’ve checked everything out, go ahead and come right back here, and we will get Lori’s interview going.
All right, and Lori Richmond is joining me here now. Lori, how are you?
Lori: I’m great. How are you?
Tim: I’m doing really well, and I am really excited to talk to you. I think we need to start by getting all of our running talk out of the way because our audience of a bunch of art teachers probably wants to hear a lot more about drawing, but selfishly, I want to chat about running, so I’m going to throw a bunch of questions at you.
Lori: Yeah, let’s do it.
Tim: So, first off, how long have you been a runner? Like, where’d you get your start? Like, when did you really first start to love it, and I guess like is there anything on the horizon right now, that you’re training for or looking forward to soon?
Lori: Yeah. Well, I’ve only been running for about three years, so I came to it very late in life. I was the typical art kid, who was terrible in gym, was all the cliches. I was picked last for every team and all of that. So, I turned 39 a couple years ago, and there was something, you know, at that milestone birthday, where you know, 40’s coming up, where it just makes you think like, “Oh, I should probably take care of myself now, because you know, I’m heading around that corner, where that physical health is going to become even more important.”
So, it was really on that milestone birthday that gave me pause, and to start thinking about it, but in my coworking space, where I do all my artwork, I work amongst a lot of other professionals that do all kinds of creative work, and there was a bunch of runners that were going to sign up for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, and I figured, “Well, if I’m going to start running, I might as well start with a half-marathon.” Yeah, so that was where I started drinking the Kool-Aid and did all the training. We did the race, got my first medal, was super excited by it, and then they all kind of stopped and I kept going. And now-
Lori: … as for what I’m training for now, I’m doing my first full marathon, the New York City Marathon, this November, coming right up.
Tim: All right. That’s a heck of a place to start with your first marathon, so-
Lori: I know.
Tim: … that should be exciting.
Lori: Got to start with the best.
Tim: I know. Well, I’m actually, like the week that this airs I’m going to be running the Las Vegas Marathon, which is going to be my second marathon, which I’m pretty excited about. And I’m not fast at all, but I enjoy just like getting out there and doing it, so yeah, it’s kind of fun, and as you said, the health thing is great, but it’s time for me to just like relax, and think, and just get a lot of creative ideas in my head, which I think you’re probably the same way. Which kind of takes me on, I guess, to the View From My Run series. I was hoping you could chat a little bit about, you know, everything that’s involved with that. Like, what is the View From My Run series, the inspiration behind it, kind of how you got started, and just everything that you’ve done with it so far?
Lori: Sure. But first, I want to say that the Las Vegas Marathon sounds very hot.
Tim: Well, it’s-
Lori: I know it’s a dry heat, as they say-
Tim: … it’s in November. Yes.
Tim: But, we don’t start until like 4:30 in the afternoon, so it’s going to be like a nice, cool evening run, which I really love, so I’m hoping it’ll be good for me, so we’ll see.
Lori: Okay, I’m going to trust you on that, but I hope they have ice coolers at the finish line.
Tim: Okay. Yes.
Lori: View From My Run started as a side project, so what it is, is a drawing series that I do and post on Instagram, where I draw something that I saw while I was out running, but I do the drawing in the same amount of time that I was on the run. So for example, if I go out for 27-and-a-half minutes, and I happen to see some architecture that I think is interesting, I’ll snap a photo of it, and then when I get home, I will draw that piece of architecture in the 27-and-a-half minutes. I started it while I was training for another half-marathon, and I had just finished a lot of work projects. My regular job is I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, and those projects are very, very long and very intense, months long, you know, sometimes even more than that.
So, I had just finished three different books in less than a year, which is a lot, and I was feeling really, really burnt out. But as I was doing these projects, and training for the race at the same time, while I would be out running, I would be thinking about my art projects and thinking about, “Oh, there’s this one layout that I can’t really solve,” like, “What are some other things I could try?” And I was kind of doing all this artistic problem-solving as I was running.
And it gave me an idea of like, “Oh, you know, I should do a side project, because I’m feeling kind of burnt out working on all these books, and maybe I can do something with running,” but I kind of wasn’t sure what it was going to be yet. And one night, I was running over the Manhattan Bridge, which connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I personally think it has the best views of anywhere in New York City. A lot of people like the Brooklyn Bridge, which is kind of right next door to it, but I like the Manhattan Bridge because you get the view of the Brooklyn Bridge, so it’s really, really pretty.
It was around sunset time, and the sunset against the skyline was just so breathtakingly beautiful. It was one of those like New York, New York Frank Sinatra moments. So, I stopped, and I said, “I have to take a photo of this,” you know? “Oh, it’ll be fun. Maybe I’ll do a little watercolor landscape, because I haven’t done that in a long time,” and I just kept on going with my run, and as I was checking my watch, you know, just to see what my pace was, like that was when I had this moment of inspiration. You know, “If I go home and paint this landscape, it’s just going to be a landscape, but if I connect it to the run, by doing it in a timed way, you know, in the same amount of time as the run, then these two things become connected and have meaning for each other.”
So, I just knew at that moment, I was like, “Yes, this is going to be the side project.” So, I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s over a year old now, almost … Well, this coming March, it’ll be two years old, but the most hilarious thing was that it was featured in Runner’s World, so if you remember, I was a terrible athlete as a kid. I was actually kicked out of gym in sixth grade if you can believe it. Right? I didn’t even know that was a thing, right? But it is, apparently. It happened to me.
Lori: And I want to go find that sixth-grade gym teacher now because I was in Runner’s World for my art.
Tim: You were in Runner’s World. I love it.
Tim: I love it.
Lori: But for my art, so that whole … I mean, it was amazing, but it was almost like, more comical to me, because I was like, “Yeah, you see, you can’t hold the artist down.”
Tim: Oh, I love that. Now, you mentioned your work as an author and illustrator, and I just want to ask you kind of how you balance everything that you do, as author, illustrator, as a mom, and a runner. Like, how do you prioritize things? How do you make that all work? Like, what advice would you have that people can take, that applies to running and to just kind of life in general?
Lori: There’s this mythical thing called balance, that people talk about, and I don’t believe that balance exists. You know, parents, any kind of caregiver, you know, I think it has anything to do with someone who is caring for a child, or an aging parent, or a neighbor, elderly neighbor, whoever it is. You know, your time is not always your own, so there are times where things are going to fall apart on one end of your spectrum because you have to put your energy somewhere else. So, some weeks I’m super mom, and then my work suffers, because I can’t be super mom and super illustrator. You know, then other weeks, my kids have been on the iPad for like four days and whatever, but my work is really great.
So, you know, I think that people need to not put so much pressure on themselves to be the best at all of the different facets of their life at the same time because it’s just not possible. So like leave the dirty dishes in the sink if you want to go paint instead, and don’t feel guilty about it, because, at the end of the day, no one really cares that the dirty dishes are going to stay there an extra couple of hours, you know? So, I think it’s hard to sometimes do that for yourself, but I think it’s a good practice to try, you know? You can really only focus on something in a meaningful way one thing at a time.
Tim: Yeah, I think that is really great advice, and we did a podcast, oh, about six weeks ago, with my boss, that just talked about work-life balance doesn’t really exist. Like, there are just things that you have to do, and a lot of times, your work, your extra things that you’re doing, are really what defines you. That’s what gives you passion and what gives you purpose, and I think you’re saying a very similar thing there.
Tim: The other-
Tim: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Lori: No, I was just going to say, the other thing, I mean especially with children, is there are different chapters in your life, right? Like, when you have children, and they’re babies, and they cannot care for themselves like you are here to feed them, you are here to bathe them, and love them, and read to them, and give them all of their basic life needs. Maybe that’s not the chapter of your life where you’re also going to write the great American novel or do the best painting you’ve ever done. Maybe you need to wait out that period of time until the kids get a little bigger, and maybe that’s a better time.
Like, right now, my kids are 11 and a half and eight and a half, so you know, they’re at the age now where I can leave them for an hour or two to go out and do a run in the neighborhood, because you know, my oldest, he’s old enough, he can text me if he has to contact me, and I stay nearby, so would I be training for a marathon when my kids were two years old? Probably not. But for this chapter of our lives, they’re at the age where it’s okay and it makes things easier.
So, you know, I think that’s a really important part of it too, is to really recognize where you’re at in your life, and just meet yourself where you are, and don’t beat yourself up over things that maybe you just can’t do right now, because you have to wait it out a little bit more.
Tim: Yeah, I think that is great advice and great examples of kind of how to balance that. But now, kind of on a related note, as far as finding time to work, finding time to be creative, I was listening to another podcast you were on, where you talked about why you don’t think your creative habit needs to be necessarily an everyday thing, but you know, I think so many people feel like if they’re not creative every day, they’re going to fall away from it, if it’s not part of their routine. So I guess I just want to ask you, like, why do you think we can or why do you think we should pull back from making creativity or making art-making an everyday requirement?
Lori: Well, I think that people that can do it every day and do fit it into their lives, like, that’s not wrong. That’s right for them, you know, and more power to them, and nobody should stop doing that if that’s what works for them. But I think where it becomes problematic and troublesome is when you are unable to do it on a daily basis, and then you feel like you failed simply because you can’t do it every day. And I prefer to think about it as being consistent.
Maybe it’ll take you a little bit longer to get to your goal, whatever that is, if you can only do it three days a week instead of seven, but if you’re still committing to those three days a week, and it takes you a little bit longer to get, you know, back to running to the finish line, that’s okay. It’s just that’s how it fits for you, and there should be nobody that feels bad about being unable to have a daily practice. But, you still have to be honest with yourself, and still be consistent, and then that is where you get the gains. It doesn’t matter how many days a week you do it. It’s just as long as you keep doing it and keep showing up.
Tim: Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s more great advice. I really like that. But I also wanted to chat just a little bit about your day job, your actual work. I know you really love doing school visits and visiting kids out in elementary schools. Can you talk about, I guess, what you do with school presentations, and why you think that’s valuable for kids, why you think they’re so receptive to hearing from authors and illustrators?
Lori: Sure. I mean, that’s really, like, the gold at the end of the rainbow, is when you actually get to share the work that you’ve done with kids, and making books is a very long process, as I said. You know, it’s several years time before you see the book in a child’s hand. There’s just so many steps in between to actually getting it done, that when I go into schools and share it, it’s just so much fun.
So when I go into a school, depending on the age group, I kind of tailor the content to be age appropriate, but in some shape or form, we always read one of my books, and then I talk to them about how I made it, and I always focus on things like making mistakes, and revisions, and even for kids as young as kindergarten, showing them that I make mistakes, and that’s okay, and that’s part of the process, you still give … You’re giving the same message as to, say, I would maybe to a fifth grade class, where I could get really more into details of, you know, writing revisions, and how my editor and I disagreed on something, and kind of how we talked through it and mistakes that I’ve made in my art or whatever, and I just go into more detail.
But all the messages are basically the same, that making mistakes is part of the creation process, and it’s okay, and it’s fun, and sometimes, you actually wind up with a fun idea, or you go in a different direction because something unexpected happens, and to embrace that. And I show them a lot of like in-process artifact stuff, like book dummies, and manuscripts with my notes, and doodles, and sketches, and all kinds of stuff, and then I usually do like a drawing game with them, and I have a couple different variations that I do, and they love the live drawing.
They’re just like so amazed by it, and I always encourage them, like, to keep drawing and to keep making art, because kids are the best artists, and it always makes me sad when I speak to adults, and they say like, “Oh, I can’t draw,” and I say, “Oh, well if you can hold a pencil and drag it along a paper, then you’re able to draw.”
So, you know, I really try and make it as interactive and lively as I can, and I think it’s great for kids to meet authors and illustrators in real life, because it’s really the first time that they are connected to a human being making a thing, you know? It’s like, “Well, I go to the library and the books are just there,” or, “I go to the bookstore and the books are just there,” but when they’re actually able to meet the creator, and then hopefully be inspired that maybe one day, they can make something too, you know, it’s just so cool.
Tim: Yeah. That is really cool. That’s a great connection for them. Now, it’s just about time for us to wrap up here, but I do have one last question I wanted to ask you. Besides running, training for a marathon, and doing your drawing, are there other things that you’re working on right now? Like, do you have any new books coming soon, or anything else that we can expect from you?
Lori: I do. I’m illustrating a book right now with Penguin Random House, that is the second book in a series. It’s a picture book. And then I’m working on my second book with Scholastic, with my bunny character, and that one, I both wrote and illustrated, and I’m queued up to illustrate a picture book about a porcupine for Simon & Schuster, but I’m not starting that until January.
Tim: Oh, very cool, but a lot on your plate, as always.
Lori: Yep, that’s how I like it.
Tim: I think that’s awesome. So, cool. All right, well, Lori, thank you so much for your time. It’s been awesome talking to you, and good luck on your running, your illustrating, your parenting, and all that other stuff as well.
Lori: Thank you, and good luck to you in your marathon too.
Tim: Just a couple of things before we go. First, thank you, of course, to Lori Richmond, for taking the time to talk to me. It was an awesome conversation. I loved hearing about her process, and all of the amazing art that she does. So, make sure you check out her website, loridraws.com, and her Instagram, @LoriDraws. We’ll link to those, plus a couple more spots that I think might be interesting for you, in the show notes. Thank you, also, to Abby, for introducing me to Lori and her work. Now, Abby will have an article about Lori coming up in the next couple weeks, so make sure you’re following The Art of Ed on Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, whatever’s your social media platform of choice.
And then lastly, if you just happen to be in Las Vegas on Sunday night and want to come to cheer me on as I cover my 26 miles, I will take all the encouragement I can get. Otherwise, we will plan on talking to you next week. In the meantime, I’m going to encourage you to use this episode for some inspiration. You know, go for a run, or work in your sketchbook for a little bit. Just do something that you enjoy, something that’s going to make you feel better, and I promise even just half an hour of that will definitely be worth it.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. We will be back next week with AOE’s newest writer, Megan Dehner. We’ll talk to you then.