art & fear…

A couple of weeks ago Steve passed on a book to me called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It is definitely one of the better books on art and creativity that I have read and offers a perspective on the creative process that is lamentably lacking in the greater dialog. For now, here are some quotes from the book:

“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.”

I love that. I hear a lot of people (myself included) who complains about the state of mainstream art, particularly mainstream music. The general feeling is that mainstream music, whether Secular or Christian, is super generic and mediocre. What I think is lacking is the “following your own voice” part of what they are talking about. So many “songwriting guru’s” talk about the need to “write, rewrite, rewrite again, collaborate, rewrite some more, write for your audience”, but lately I’m starting to think that this process is more of a hinderance than a help, for it dilutes the heart of the art, dumbs down the ideas to the lowest common denominator and, as a result, drowns out the artist’s “distinctive voice”. I’m getting off topic…I’ll talk about this more later, let’s get back to some quotes.

“Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if art making did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible.”

“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… 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.”

“…you learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about – and lots of it!”

If there is one thing that I would say to all of the fledgling artists that I come in contact with it would be that: “make art you care about- and lots of it!” Don’t write for someone else. Don’t create for “the masses”, or for success, or for a paycheck. Take comfort in the knowledge that if you like it, than there will be an audience out there that likes it too. It may not be a large audience, but it will be an audience.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Frake says:

    Shawn, I couldn't agree more. Making art is expressing yourself, and I think great art is only accomplished if you can be truly free; that is if you are not boxed in to what might be popular/sellable/likable. This will kill creativity because there is no innovation/personal growth or personal expression.

  2. I also agree, mr. shawn. True creativity begins with the desire to express oneself with authenticity. I will, though, take this one step further. I posit that creativity finds its true purity when applied towards the betterment of others. This is not to say we as artists should 'bend' our work so others will like it more. Our creativity must be funded by Christ and all He stood for: sacrifice, truth, selflessness. In the last while, I have come to firmly believe that when creativity is unleashed out of love, for the betterment of others, its power is unmatched.what sayest thou, old friend?- Josh

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