I now recant my cynicism about the book, "Finding Your Own Visual Language"; it is as wonderful as everybody says.
It is a nice-looking book, but the authors didn't concentrate as much on making a beautiful book as they did on making us get to work and be excited about the making. There are just enough examples showing how the exercises can be done, but not enough to make the book prescriptive, and some examples show how ideas germinated in the exercises have been developed into pieces of work.
The book also has a lot of reminders I didn't know I needed until I read them. Here's one: "... don't be intimidated by the idea that a shape has been 'done'. (They) are all symbols as old as human kind. No one owns these images. They are part of our collective unconscious."
The exercises are simple yet versatile, so I can revisit them for the fun of it, to develop the idea further, to try different options, or to restart with a different topic. Yesterday I made eight examples for Exercise 1 in the afternoon, but my head was flooding with variations I had to try 13 more in the evening. And there's isn't a lot of drawing! Yay!
The exercises are about 2/3 of the book; the authors suggest how I can use these techniques continuously or repeatedly, productively or unproductively (which is just as important) in my work. In this respect, "Finding" may become my Betty Crocker's big red cookbook or Edmonds Cookery Book where I know my favorite recipes but I return time and time again, modifying, multiplying, or just for old times' sake.
I haven't exactly done a lot of design/creativity-training to compare; I did The Artist's Way on my own in late 2003, and one correspondence and two workshops with Alison in the last six years.
The Artist's Way is designed by writer Julia Cameron, so though I enjoyed the process, I needed a few extra step between all the thinking/writing, and the making of something visual. Alison's methods, I really didn't get until the March workshop, so I need to experiment more, but the main difference is, for Alison, I need to research a topic before I can get my hands dirty. With "Finding", it's as if Mom dropped me right in the middle of the kindy where all the material have been laid out and all I that's expected of me is to play.
Or, it's because of my epiphany in the March workshop I can now jump right in without forming expectations. Either way, I think the authors intended to write a book to make us get going.
"Finding" doesn't decrease my liking of Julia Cameron's softly-softly approach, but I've been doing this art thing a while now, and I like the little sturdier nudge I find in "Finding" more honest. This is a book that can lead you to water and make you mighty thirsty.
Kaz the Curious Weaver has a less gushy, more concise description of the book, as well as examples of what she did with the exercises here. (If anyone else has posted something about working with this book, please let me know.)