A creative booklist from Loretta West

Posted on August 2, 2016 at 6:00 am

by Erin Dodge

Local artist Loretta West teaches the meditative art form of Zentangle at the Library District during August as part of our 2016 Summer Programs.

In a previous post, Loretta graciously answered my questions about Zentangle and where she finds inspiration. Today, she shares a booklist filled with books that have touched her soul and fueled her artistry. This great list started with what I thought was one simple question…

What’s your favorite book and why?

How can I stick with just one book? I was a late bloomer to recreational reading and, until my late teens, I read books that I was told to read in school. I remember it was The Thorn Birds that turned me around. A neighbor had lent it to me and I was hooked from that book on.

Here’s a list of books I adore, most are short, as I prefer succinct writing over verbosity. Although I have been known to read a book or two over 400 pages and have survived.


I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven

I grew up in the far north boreal forest of Canada. It’s a place where there is a mingling of Native and European cultures. It’s also a wild place with a nearly daily interaction with wildlife. This novella is set on the northern Pacific coast in an ancient, native Kwakiutl village. It really struck me when I read it as a teenager for English class. It is about hard transitions and clashes between the indigenous Native culture and the new European culture and the sad consequences of it all. It is also a journey of discovery for the main character. I am going to read it again, right away. Oh, how I’ve missed it.


Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thorton

I read this as a young woman. It is about the disappeared in Argentina and centers on one couple’s story. I am not one for headlines in the news. I like to know the backstory—there always is a back story. This book beautifully illustrated how lives are affected in a crisis and really woke me up to the wider world. (Check out the film adaptation.)


Mink River by Brian Doyle

This book was a gift from my husband. He was in Portland and found it in a bookstore under staff picks. I had read the author’s pieces in Sun Magazine and am in love with his style. This book grabbed me right away with the talking crow and imagery and humor. It’s set in a small northwest town where two cultures live: native and Irish. There is love, calamity, and intrigue.


The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

This is historical fiction about one of my favorite artists, Emily Carr. Even though I knew her biography, it was great to read about her in this fashion. If you want to know what it was like to be a woman artist way back when, this is the book. Sadly, many of the same struggles are still experienced by women artists today.


Peace is Every Breath by Thich Nhat Hanh

His gentle words have brought me over many a hill. Be present. Be here. Breathe.


Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

This book is an interesting and deep exploration on the origins of color. Where did it come from? How was it used? What makes ultra-marine blue? If you love color as much I do, then this is the read for you.


Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

I picked this up on a whim at an airport and now I recommend it to all my students and any aspiring or struggling artist. It really changed my thinking about creating. Until I read it (twice), I was under the impression that I had to be “original” and “fresh.” That thinking was self -punishing. When I read this book, it set me free as an artist. It truly did.


Wingfield’s World: The Complete Letters from Wingfield Farm by Dan Needles

This is the book that I can read over and over and still laugh like crazy. It is homespun country from a city slicker perspective. It’s the book I give to people when they are sick to perk them up.


Mary Oliver’s poetry

I have read many poets and Mary and I are on the same plane. Her words and phrases speak right to my heart. My favorite poem is “Wild Geese.” These lines I truly love: “You do not have to be good// let the animal of your body love what it loves.” Yep, got it Mary, still working on that one.

There are dozens more I could go on about, but these are my desert island books. What a nice visit down literary memory lane. Thanks for asking.

BIO_ZentangleLoretta West spends her life making art in her studio and teaching students about art and how to relax using the meditative art form, Zentangle, which she is certified to teach. Her work is energetic, colorful, and impressionistic, stemming from her love of this earth. She loves to have fun while making art, mixing things up from mediums, to color, design, and various techniques. She is not a purist but an experimentalist. Over the years, she has trained in various settings, from University to private instruction. She is also influenced by her travels in North America and Europe. Her work is in private collections in the United States and Canada. If she isn’t wetting the brush, she can be found outdoors exploring her beautiful surroundings by foot, bike, sail, kayak, or on skis.


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