The Artist's Way

                                          A Study Guide

                  Stories and activities prepared for high school students based on the Julia Cameron Book "The Artist's Way"

"I have an irreverent shorthand for this that I keep taped to my writing desk: 'Leap, and the net will appear.' Julia Cameron

Marilyn told two personal experience stories - Makin Music and The Artist's Palette. She wove certain events in her life to tell a story. How do her stories and her question and answer sesssion reflect the following principles set forth by Julia Cameron:

Basic Principles:

1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life -- including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.

                                                     The Magic Paintbrush

                                                         Chinese Folktale


Have the students read the two, on-line versions of “The Magic Paintbrush” listed below in the bibliography. What choices did the storytellers make when writing their version? How does this story reflect the status of the artist in China? How would the story change, if were told in modern times from the streets of a city?


Find the two picture books of  “The Magic Paintbrush” listed in the bibliography. Have the students discuss the artists’ choices in the color, tone, and medium. How did they contribute to the overall feel it gave to the story.


Compare the Chinese story to the Japanese story  “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” There is a picture book or go on-line to for the story. What cultural differences do you detect in these two Asian cultures? How are they similar?


The following are “the bones” of magic paintbrush. You can access the on-line paper for the workshop Down to the Bare Bones for further reading Then, have the students write their version of “The Magic Paintbrush.” It may follow the original story using the student's own creative prose or it may mutate into a different sort of story. Send the copies to Marilyn at With permission, she will use them on her web site.


*Young person wishes to be an artist. One night in a dream, a master artist appears and gives him a paintbrush. Whatever he paints comes to life after the last stroke. Master warns him to use it only for good. When he awakes, he has the brush and does as the Master told him…he uses it for good (give examples). A greedy man (emperor)  learns of it and makes demands (give examples), but the boy will not use it unless it is for the good of the people. Finally, he draws a picture of a ship. The ship comes to life. The young artist draws not only the wind, but a storm that takes the greedy man and his company far out to sea, where they are never seen again. Young man grows into a beloved artist in his village.



Books by Julia Cameron:

bullet The Artists Way
bullet The Vein of Gold 
bullet The Right to Write
bullet Walking in This World


For two versions on-line of “The Magic Paintbrush” go to                               


or find a copy of the picture book “The Magic Paintbrush” by Robin Muller, 1989 or another version by Laurence Yep and Suling Wang


More References



Makin’ Music and The Artist’s Palette are on-line. 


There are many audiotapes, DVD’s and CD’s with stories on them. Check them out at the library  


Remember the 398.2, the folktales, in the juvenile section of the library holds a gold mine of stories for telling. Some libraries put collections of folktales into a “J” section for older readers and “E” for the picture books


Resources and information on storytelling is available through the National Storytelling Network 101 Courthouse Sq, Jonesborough, TN 37659.        (1-800/525-4514.)



For information on Illinois storytelling visit:


Information on storytelling in Missouri is available through MO-TELL.  Sue Hinkel, 2236 S. Hwy. N. Pacific, MO 63069 (800-257-7014) 

bulletMarilyn Kinsella:  (618/397-1377)

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