28 February 2011

art & fear - chapter 1 read-along

Here we are - the first of the month and the beginning of the new series I mentioned on Feb 1 where we discuss the book Art & Fear.

Several of you have said you're joining me in reading the book - how exciting! I expect that you won't agree with everything that I'll say. And I don't expect you to. That is usually what happens during a discussion like this.

I would love to hear your opinions in either comments on the posts or on your own blogs. If you post about it on your own blog, be sure to leave a link in the comments so every can find you.

So let's get to it:

This post takes a look at Chapter 1: The Nature of the Problem.

There are three major ideas that this chapter touches on that I found interesting so I'm going to discuss those.

***Calling or hobby?***

In the very first couple of pages, the authors discuss what I think is one of the biggest challenges we face as artists today - having our work seen as work. Not as a hobby, not as a quaint way to pass the time - but as serious work. Like any other job.

Its possible that in the past, artist was a more respected title. I don't know about you but often when I tell people I'm an artist, its quickly followed by the question, "But what do you do for a living?"

Now I do have a day job but my end goal is to eventually be a full time artist and make my living that way. I expect it will take many more years to get to that point and I'm content to work toward that goal but I often wonder what makes people think that all I have to do is step through the doors of my studio and artwork instantly starts falling into place?

The fact is that making art is hard work. It involves many steps and constantly learning new skills. Which brings us into the second major point of this chapter:

***Does being an artist mean that you possess some kind of magical gift?

The authors say no. And I have to say that I agree. I've found that the people who make the most art are the ones that are stubborn to the core and refuse to give up until they've mastered their skills and found that sweet spot that makes them realize they are making the art they are meant to.

I'm not saying talent isn't important. Hardly. But just because you are talented doesn't make you an instant success. On more then one occasion I've heard the comment from someone who has just taken a class, "She/He is a great artist but he has no idea how to teach."

Talent is talent. But skill can be learned. Everything we do in this life is learned, down to the tiniest detail. The only thing that stops us from plowing ahead and making things go is doubt in ourselves or worry about what others will think.

I've been there. When I made the conscious decision to move my art beyond the walls of my studio, it was a gut wrenching one. Let's face it, some people are just plain crabby about art. They can always do it better and they know way more then you do. They're quick to offer advice and know just what you did wrong. They'll stand there and look at your work and give you their expertise all day long.

But the thing that I've learned from these people is this: my work is hanging out in the open for people to see - where is theirs?

Crabby people are not the end all be all judges of your work. There are underlying tones to their comments. Could be insecurity on their part, could be jealousy - whatever it is, its not your problem. You make art. They make criticisms. Which one would you rather be doing?

***Failure is not failure***

The authors talk about the fear of failing and the isolation of making art in this chapter as well. I think that's a major one.

Its much easier to not try then it is to try and be rejected or fall flat on your face. No one likes feeling like a failure. I know I don't.

But I also know that even the failures have great value. The work that I choose to share on my blog and my website are the ones that worked. You don't see the half finished ones that are sitting in a box under my work table. The ones that I looked at and thought, "What in the hell was I thinking?"

If nothing else, I figured out how not to do something. This quote from Scott Adams sums up how I feel about what many people think are failed pieces:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Its likely that most of us make art for ourselves. We make it for a small circle of people and won't see our pieces hanging in the Louvre any time soon.

And that's okay. I found long ago that removing the pressure of perfection from what I create instantly added back in the joy that that stress was beginning to strip away.

We are ordinary people. We will go through our lives making art to please ourselves and if we are lucky, a couple other people too.

But remember that being an artist is sacred to yourself. Honor yourself first and the work will reflect that.

On April 1, we'll talk about Chapter 2 of Art & Fear.


Lesley Riley said...

I love this discussion Lynn (great idea BTW). I think your conribution to the points they made in the book are really spot on and I like your personal take on what they have discussed. I am looking forward to the next installment. I wish it were weekly, not monthly, but hey, I also know you've got a LOT going on. :-)

Approachable Art said...

"Crabby people are not the end all be all judges of your work. There are underlying tones to their comments. Could be insecurity on their part, could be jealousy - whatever it is, its not your problem. You make art. "

I love this post.

Bonita Rose said...

beautiful writing and I agree with all u hv shared. We make art, first for us. For ourselves. I'll be digging into this book and sharing more on my blog in the coming week.. xo
thanks for putting this together for all of us! xo

Bonita Rose said...

I love what approachable art has said above. Here here. I will choose to listen and surround myself with my advocates, my supporters. Period. Everyone else I am kicking to the curb. xo

artistaprilcole@gmail.com said...

Thank you for sharing this!
I'd have to say, we make art for ourself...then learn to grow, by parting with our artwork.
We as artist know the time and effort we put into our work, it's personal. It is apart of who we are :]

Jay said...

I love this book!!! A teacher I had at Arrowmont, Elizabeth Busch, read to my class at the beginning of each session a bit of Art and Fear...so I had to purchase my own copy...and now I quote from it to my fiber arts group all the time when some are getting a little discouraged!!

Kim Hambric said...

What struck me the most in Chapter 1: ART IS MADE BY ORDINARY PEOPLE. Our flaws and weaknesses become a source of strength in our work.

Looking forward to chapter II.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

I read your post, then I had to go and buy the book. I have many fears in my life, maybe I can lay this one to rest! I'm a bit late (what else is new..LOL), but I'll be posting soon! Thanks for bringing up the book!!

Goddess of Flame

jen said...

Thanks for this discussion. Amazon got this book to me in time to know what you are talking about. Until I read this first chapter I thought I couldn't be an artist because I am self taught and had no degree!

Thelma said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I had to copy the quote Scott Adams said. Love it, and got it posted to the header of my blog.
Looking forward to the next discussion.

FatQuarterQuiltFarm said...

thanks for heading up this book for discussion. Fear has been my major obstacle for years.Im over it now and am plowing ahead!!

imabetty said...

So glad I discovered your blog and this discussion. Just what I needed right now. Love your thoughts. . .