The only work really worth doing – the only work you can do convincingly – is the work that focuses on the things you care about. To not focus on those issues is to deny the constants in your life.
I just finished reading for the umpteenth time one of my very favorite inspirational art books, Art and Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This small but mighty book has been in print since it was first published in 1994. It always ranks high on the lists of books on art making. So why is it so difficult to describe, except to say read it?
I think it’s because the authors address the secret, deep down challenges of art making. Whether you are a visual artist or musician, writer or dancer, they seem to be able to tap into those questions that we raise in our souls. What are we doing? Are we any good? Who says? Does anyone really care but us? What makes a serious artist? Do we actually need talent or is just plain perseverance and hard work enough?
The authors portend that these questions only really have arisen in the past couple of centuries. Before that, artists knew their role and their expected work, whether working for the church or their clan. Few artists had the luxury of just creating for themselves. You joined the guild that your father belonged to and that was that. You accepted that you would carve stone for the rest of your life, doing the best that you could.
Now we have so many options available, that we’re often left blowing in the wind, twisting from one attraction to another. If you do settle on one or two outlets for your creative efforts, you will still probably be working alone (excepting for those artists who are part of larger group projects.) Maybe even after you’ve put hours, days, weeks, years into your project, you are still faced with the fact that no matter how skilled you may be, someone will come along, probably younger and glitzier, who will garner all the accolades for the next new thing. Maybe they whip up a frenzy over their spray painted graffiti turned art or that they’ve stuck a bunch of miscellaneous objects together with snot and string (and I’m not saying that those things aren’t art), and you’re looking at your studio stocked full of precision master drawings or paintings, and wondering, Was all my effort worth it? Doesn’t anyone appreciate real art?
In the end, art is hard work. You have to keep after it, often (usually) for very little reward. You work long hours, usually alone, for …what?
That ultimately is the question that this book – answers is not the right word, maybe explores. It will make you think. There are so many quotable quotes in this small tome. The battered, used copy that I purchased years ago has underlines from at least two other readers (who the heck uses red for underlining?), plus a name label in the front. Plus my own stars and underlines. What the other readers thought was important may not be what I focus on. Or maybe I do now at a different time of my life.
Whatever your art making form and wherever you are in your art making journey, I highly recommend this book as a great prompt for deep thoughts that you will want to return to often.