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I’ve been on holiday for a week, and finally am returning home. Fortunately, I managed to find a tiny little book shop in Key West (an independent one–shock– specializing in good reads and used and classic books). When I chose “Just Kids” by Patti Smith (which has been on my must read list for months), the shop owner gave me a thumbs up.

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith. photo by me.

He was right.

I had taken along a sketch book and camera with me on this trip, and although I took a few photos to possibly work from in the future, I didn’t touch the sketch book.  Instead, in every spare moment, I read this amazing book about a youthful journey of an artist and his muse (as Patti describes themselves).

Patti Smith’s memoir, published in 2010, reminisces about her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe when they were both young, trying to interact with the New York art scene, struggling with their own personal art and convinced that someday they would be famous.  And they were.  But in those early days it was all about creative exploration…and trying to find something to eat. As Patti said, it was all about finding a direction of art that would illuminate.  I love that idea.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, from "Just Kids". photo of book by me

When I was young, I tried to convince my parents that going from high school to art school was the right thing to do.  I had my eye on Pratt Institute in NYC, which Mapplethorpe attended at this same time.  They insisted a broader liberal arts education and a university degree made much more sense, so I went on to Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia and got my BA in Fine Arts.

Mapplethorpe's photo of Patti for her first album, from "Just Kids". photo of book by me.

I have often wondered how different my life would have been if I had fully committed to fine arts at an earlier age, instead of straying into commercial graphic design.  Reading this book gives a wonderful look down that rabbit hole.  I don’t know if I would have had their stamina, but it was fascinating to live that youthful fantasy through their eyes. It was an astounding journey.

If you get a chance, pick up this book.  Artist or not, it is a wonderful read.