I recently read—actually re-read--Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland and can’t stop thinking about this amazing little book. I want to share some of its ideas and encourage all artists to read this gem. We tend to think that as artists we all face unique problems that we must suffer through alone, but actually we are all in the same boat. Here are a few of the themes and excerpts from this life-changing book
“Making art involves skills that can be learned…. In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive…. Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.”
Those who demand perfection end up with nothing.
“To require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do, away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to NOT work is to not make mistakes. To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity….yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work.”
Your work is your guide.
“The seed for your next art work lives embedded in the imperfections of your current piece . . . The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly—without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes, without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.” Reading this part was like an explosion in my mind—I now look at my “failures” and “mistakes” in a whole new positive light!
Opening our work up to criticism by others.
“Courting approval, even that of peers puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts—namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work. They’re in a good position to comment on how they are moved (or challenged or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process. Audience comes later. The only pure communication is between you and your work.”
The value of quantity over quality.
“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.” Oh, these last word hit me with such a force! In other words, JUST DO IT!
The only way you fail is to stop trying.
“What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears continue; those who don’t, quit.”
I will end this post with a few more quotes:
“Computers are useless. All they give you are answers.” -- Pablo Picasso
“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” --- Oscar Wilde
“Artists don’t get down to working until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.” –Stephen DeStaebler