Art & Fear

I’ve been doing a virtual residency this weekend, participating in Hedgebrook Writes. I set aside 6am to 12pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday for reading, writing and daydreaming. (Eric was very gracious about pretending I wasn’t here during those hours.) One of the things I did was work through some recent notebooks. One is full of quotes (pages of them!) from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

Get yourself a copy of this book and read it.

I read the book during the final stages of production for Every Dress a Decision, as I was full of self-doubt and anxiety, and just beginning to think about what kinds of poems might come next. This book was tremendously helpful. So here are some of the quotes I copied into my notebook. I post them in the hope that they will inspire you to head out to your local independent bookstore and get yourself a copy.

“The best you can do is make art you care about–and lots of it! The rest is largely a matter of perseverance.”

“Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction … making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.”

“In large measure, becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your voice, which makes your work distinctive.”

“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. … even the failed pieces are essential … art is all about starting again”

“vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue”

“All you can work on today is directly in front of you. Your job is to develop an imagination of the possible.”

“Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art”

“…to require perfection is to invite paralysis …. the seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece”

“The problems arise when we confuse others’ priorities with our own”

“The hardest part of art-making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done–over and over–and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.”

“By leading your viewer to experience the world through the very different sensibilities of the artist, a good work of art inevitably calls the viewer’s own belief system into question.”

“…competition centers not on making work, but on collecting the symbols of acceptance and approval of that work–NEA grants, a show at Gallerie d’jour, a celebrity profile in The New Yorker and the like”

“What we really gain from the art-making of others is courage-by-association”

“In making art you declare what’s important”

“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.”

Quoted from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland (Image Continuum Press, 2001). Originally published in 1993.

2 thoughts on “Art & Fear

  1. Barbarann Ayars

    “The hardest part of art-making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done-over and over- and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain practical.”

    This struck me as a guide to just plain living, and in so doing life itself becomes an art. Wish I’d thought of that thirty years ago, when life was overwhelming and painting and poetry were all I could hink of to alleviate the difficulty of living my days. Had I known this simple thought, my life could have, would have, been more beautiful. But it’s never too late to begin, is it?

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