I’ve been reading the book ‘Art and Fear. Observations in the Merits and Rewards of Art Making, by David Bayles and Ted Orland and I have gathered some lessons.
“Virtually all artists spend some of their time (and some artists spend virtually all of their time) producing work that no one else much cares about. It just seems to come with the territory. “
When this happens, according to the authors, we tend to romanticize this as us being deep and able to see beyond the usual and ordinary.
Romantic, but wrong. The sobering truth is that the disinterest of others hardly ever reflects a gulf in vision. In fact there’s generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist’s work. 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
…the only people who will really care about your work are those who care about you personally. “
But curiously, while artists always have a myriad of reasons to quit, they consistently wait for a handful of specific moments to quit. Artists quit when they convince themselves that their next effort is already doomed to fail. And artists quit when they lose the destination for their work —for the place their work belongs.
Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again —and art is all about starting again
Not many people continue making art when — abruptly — their work is no longer seen, no longer exhibited, no longer commented upon, no longer encouraged. Could you?
What art is like:
Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all — or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it’s an excellent idea in making art.
Control, apparently, is not the answer. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simply put, making art is chancy —it doesn’t mix well with predictability. Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.
Something to remember:
But while you may feel you’re just pretending that you’re an artist, there’s no way to pretend you’re making art. Go ahead, try writing a story while pretending you’re writing a story. Not possible. Your work may not be what curators want to exhibit or publishers want to publish, but those are different issues entirely. You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn’t very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren’t good, the parts that aren’t yours. It’s called feedback, and it’s the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It’s also called doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and you’re the closest person around.