Sunday, July 31, 2016

Art & Fear - a review

“Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking”,
written by David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993, 122 pages
published by The Image Continuum Press

This is a slim, dense, insightful volume that I have read and re-read many times.  It was recommended to me by Dianne S. Hire, when I took her workshop many years ago. The authors are practicing artists and teachers who deal with the self-doubts that happen to each of us in the making (and especially in the not-making) of our art.  

Among their observations:
  • Artmaking involves skills that can be learned, that are not bestowed by the gods.
  • Art is made by ordinary (flawed) people.
  • Your humanity is the ultimate source of your work.  Perfectionism denies you the very thing you need to get your work done.
  • You learn how to make your work by making your work.
  • The difference between an artist and a failed artist is that the failed artist quits.
  • Making art is about exposing yourself to the world.  How could you not take criticism personally?
  • In the real artist, fears exist alongside the desires that complement them.
  • Not all your art will soar.
  • There will always be a dissonance between the art that you imagine making and the art that you actually make.  

Almost every page has a nugget that calls out to be highlighted, and on each re-reading, I have been struck by some different observation.  The authors embed their text with examples from different media, and enliven the book with pithy examples ranging from cave artists to Mozart to the Plains Indians.

Topics include a discussion of art vs. craft; the values and pitfalls of university art education for both teachers and students; and the artist’s need for community vs. the essential solitariness of making art. 

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