As artists, mentors come in and out of our creative lives, guiding us on our journey. Some give advice and support while others change the world as we see it, providing another lens in which to look through. Hall of Fame illustrator, fine art painter, author and educator Marshall Arisman was one of those artistic mentors. Through decades of inspired work and dedicated teaching, we have witnessed not only his creativity and inventiveness but also his resilience, strength and resourcefulness even in the third act. He has shown us what it takes to be successful in this business for the long term and what it means to teach others to live an authentic creative life to its fullest. For this gift, many artists, illustrators and educators, myself included, are profoundly grateful.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to spend time talking with Marshall about not only his creative process and approach but also where his sources of inspiration and personal content come from. The multi-faced artist’s vast body of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work, short films and storytelling as well as his ability to work from a pure and authentic place within himself has inspired and touched so many. Arisman’s unique insights and ability to take the road less followed, venturing out on a journey of self-discovery, will be forever the legacy that the artist leaves for the next generation to ponder, push and pursue.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Arisman chose to be resourceful and creative, reaching out to director and long-time collaborator Nada Ray to produce a film with the intention of making it a master class of sorts. But, like with any creative endeavor, once you are into the process, things evolve and you are guided by the work to move in another direction. This is exactly what happened in the process of making the film Unlocking the Creative Self. Guided by a divine spark of inspiration, the direction of the film evolved and it became much more than a mere teaching tool. Unlocking the Creative Self became a message in a bottle for generations of artists to come about the importance of connecting to the creative spirit within, putting forth meaningful, thought-provoking works of art into the culture.

During the process of making the film, Arisman passed away unexpectedly in April of 2022, only two weeks after filming the last scenes of the artist working in his studio. It was an incredibly devastating loss to the entire illustration and artistic community, especially those who were faculty, students and alumni from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The film’s director, composer and crew picked up the torch that Marshall lit and followed through on this film. By creating a kickstarter campaign, Unlocking the Creative Self became a reality.

For the kickstarter funding: Marshall Arisman: An Artist’s Journey from Dark to Light (1972 to 2017) exhibition book and catalogue. DVD with Unlocking the Creative Self documentary and commentary.

After backing the kickstarter project, I was sent the Marshall Arisman: An Artist’s Journey from Dark to Light (1972 to 2017) book shown above as well as a link to watch the film with the director and composer. This was when I met Nada Ray. We instantly bonded. Our admiration for such an amazing man and artist propelled us to collaborate. For me, it was as though Marshall had put us together.

Check out the insightful interview (video below) that I did with the director on the behind-the-scenes elements in the film Unlocking the Creative Self.

Poster credit: Poster for documentary: Unlocking the Creative Self with Marshall Arisman, 2023

Unlocking the Creative Self can be seen on-demand on the vimeo site. The music created exclusively for the film by composer Mirjana Gvozdenac can be heard on Spotify.

Cast and Crew:

Featured Artist: Marshall Arisman
Director: Nada Ray
Cinematography: Aleksandar Sepi, Justin Ho, Sebastian Pizon
Editor: Nada Ray
Music composer: Mirjana Gvozdenac
Production: Nada Ray Media

To see more information about the film Unlocking the Creative Self, you can check out the official website or the film’s IMDb page.

You can also check out the trailer for the film below:

I would also like to share an audio interview, featured below, with Marshall Arisman that was originally done in 2009 as research for an artist profile entitled Content-Driven Approach featured in my book Art Revolution: Alternative Approaches for Fine Artists and Illustrators. I discovered the audiotape many years later in my basement (along with so many other  interviews that I had done over the years) and knew I needed to share it. Marshall humbly agreed with me.

In addition, you can check out an article I wrote for The Illustrator’s Journal about my basement find of so many legendary, Hall of Fame illustrator interviews all on tape! One day, I hope to transfer them to MP3 files and share them!

copyright Lisa L. Cyr. Cyr Studio LLC, all rights reserved