John Jacobsen's 'The Artist Toolbox' probes creative process
John Jacobsen, a Seattle resident, directs and hosts "The Artist Toolbox," a series of 13 half-hour one-on-one interviews with America's leading artists in various fields airing on KCTS-TV starting Jan. 24.
Seattle Times staff reporter
'The Artist Toolbox'As of early January, KCTS-TV had scheduled six episodes of "The Artist Toolbox," airing at 11:30 p.m. Monday and Jan. 31, and 1 p.m. Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25; more information: www.theartisttoolbox.com.
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From actor Jason Alexander to musician John Legend, from author Isabel Allende to fashion designer Zang Toi, the artists who sat down for interviews with Seattle writer/director John Jacobsen are a fascinating and diverse bunch.
And that's as Jacobsen intended.
The 53-year-old Montlake resident directs and hosts "The Artist Toolbox," a series of 13 half-hour one-on-one interviews with America's leading artists in various fields airing on public television this month. In Seattle, KCTS-TV is airing the show, starting 11:30 p.m. Monday.
The series was produced by Moga|Jacobsen Productions, in which Jacobsen is a partner, and is sponsored by Chicago's WTTW.
Jacobsen co-founded and is now executive director of Seattle's TheFilmSchool, which offers courses and workshops for screenwriters and directors. He recently directed the short film "Arthur," as well as a 1992 feature film, "Around the Fire," that had its Northwest premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Locally, he also serves on the board of ACT Theatre, is a faculty member at Freehold Theatre and a producing partner at New Century Theatre Company.
He talked by phone recently about "The Artist Toolbox," which is already filming its second season.
Q: What inspired the series?
A: I've been in the arts my whole life. My father (Hugh Newell Jacobsen) is a great architect. ... I remember as a kid sitting around the dining-room table talking with artists. They were some of the best times I've had. So I said: Why not do that?
Q: How did you choose which artists to interview?
A: It went from people we could get to — friends, friends of friends — to people we really started to dream of. ... I wanted people that, even if they're not household names, people in the field will know them. I wanted people who are masters of their craft, leaders in their field.
Q: What's the central question or idea you wanted to explore with each of the artists?
A: What is the process of creation — that's really what the show is about. All of us have an idea. All of us want to create, whether we're artists or not. It's fascinating to see how people create something from nothing that then goes on to inspire strangers around the world.
Q: Are there any moments that particularly stand out to you from your interviews?
A: Any time you're in the room with Isabelle Allende, you're going to be touched because she's such a strong woman and vulnerable at the same time. She talked about her daughter, Paula, who had a brain illness that put her into a coma. ... Every one of these artists are so special in their own way. ... (Graphic designer) Massimo Vignelli says: "In English, the word 'ambiguity' means the meaning is not clear. But in Italian, it means many possible meanings." And I love that because that's what artists do. They don't want to tell you what to think. They want you to figure it out yourself.
Q: Is there a common thread you discovered in your interviews?
A: Hard work, craft, passion. They all emphasized they could not be where they are without craft. And that you have to be passionate to work so hard.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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