Creativity is a lifelong talent that enhances our life and work, but it requires nurturing. The good news is that creative people can't help but be creative, so working at it doesn't feel like work. The bad news is that the arts are not always considered a serious educational endeavor, so creative kids often have to find their own direction. Here are some suggestions to help those kids, and anyone else, nurture their creativity.

  • If you have an art or writing teacher who you like, work closely with them. As you go through school, seek out the best writing and art instructors.
  • Find other people who share your interests. Artists need a sense of community and it's not always easy to find each other. Join organizations that require writing or artistic skills, not just for the kind of work, but to surround yourself with people who value those skills. I worked on my college newspaper and it was the highlight of my college years; working on the paper felt more like play.
  • Find authors and artists you like and follow their work. Learn about them. Find out what makes them tick.
  • Figure out when and where your brain is most creative. I do my most creative thinking at 5 a.m., so I get up early and jot down quick little ideas that come to me. I think of them as the dust of my dreams.
  • Practice your craft all the time. Draw, draw, draw. Write, write, write.
  • Drawing is the most important skill of all the visual arts. If you can draw well, you'll be a better painter, sculptor, photographer or fashion designer. It's also a skill that's fading as computers take over many of the tasks formerly done by "drawers." Speaking of computers, they are a reality of the visual arts, so you have to embrace programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Start learning them now.
  • Find a friend who loves art as much as you do and ask your parents to take you both to spend a day at an art museum. Before you leave the museum, buy a few postcards of your favorite paintings and use them for inspiration.

Tom was honored to be the illustrator for the 2008 Illinois Library Association's iREAD campaign.
iRead helps local libraries promote summer reading. ILA chose a sports theme, with the title "Get in the Game, READ!" Tom created a poster and clip art that was used on t-shirts, book bags, stickers, pencils, tattoos, and more.