Monday, November 8, 2010

Art & Fear - Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

The words "required reading" usually evoke feelings of dread and/or dismay for me rather than excitement and eager anticipation. However, there was one such book in college that caught my attention as soon as I saw the title: Art & Fear. Just by joining those two words on the cover captured my excitement about what this book might hold for me. I was recently reminded of this book and decided it was time for me to revisit these "Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking" that the subtitle mentions.

I initially read this book during my second year of photography school. Just to be real honest, it took me a really long time to call myself an "artist". I still struggle with that term at times. This book lays it all out there - the fears I have about myself with regards to my work, the fears I have about others, fears about the lack of creativity, etc. I must mention that my re-reading of this book comes during a time when I am learning about/realizing/contemplating the creative nature of all humans. Although this blog is not focused on my belief in Jesus as Lord, this belief informs every area of my life, including my life as an artist. I mention this because I guess I missed the verses that state very plainly that we (me, you, your Mom, your best friend, your worst enemy) were all created in His own image (Genesis 1: 26-27). These verses come right after a description of God in the act of creating. As a former science teacher, I am continually amazed at the way He designed things in His creation. I'm amazed at the way He created things to work. So anyway, I was created in the image of the Creator. 

I was like many people who believe that you are either creative or you aren't. "They" (the painters, musicians, writers, and OTHER photographers) were born with the ability to create, but not me. This book is helping to remind me that "creativity" is not some elusive trait given to a select few, but something that we all have. Whether or not we grow and cultivate this trait, however, is up to each of us.

I wanted to share just a few things from my re-reading of this book so far that I believe are worth dwelling on for a few minutes:

  • The point is that 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. (p. 6)
  • Artmaking has been around longer than the art establishment. (p. 6) In other words, people (cave painters, potters, etc) have been making art from the beginning of our existence but the earliest people probably never thought of themselves as artists.
  • Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again - and art is all about starting again. (p. 10)
  • What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don't, quit. (p.14)
  • Fears arise when you look back, and they arise when you look ahead. (p. 14)
  • Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the pre-requisite to succeeding. (p. 21)

If you struggle with "Art & Fear", I highly suggest you pick up this little book. It's very inexpensive and it's a pretty short read but packed with great insight. You can buy it here.

Have you given up on a creative pursuit? If so, what was it? What made you quit? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!


Shay said...

This is a great blog! I am definitely going to pick up the book. This is definitely something that I wrestle with too. I relish the fact that God is the ultimate creator and posesses all creativity, and as Christians our story of redemption, Father and prodigal, in itself is ultimately beautiful. :) thanks for the insight!

Leslie McDaniel said...

Hey Shay! Thanks for commenting! Yes, it is a very, very good book with great insights. I think you'll probably see all of your thoughts laid out in the book...and you'll think "I thought I was the only one!" :)