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

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"This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius "This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius." --from the Introduction


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"This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius "This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius." --from the Introduction

30 review for Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

  1. 4 out of 5

    Deb Stone

    I've read this book cover to cover four or five times. I have picked it up and opened a random page to read on dozens of occasions. I reread the margin notes that I've written at various times. What I love about this book is that it uses art to talk about life. Specifically, it uses art and fear to talk about how our choice to have courage or not drives the degree of light you will manifest in your own life. The writers explore the human need for acceptance, fear of failure, communication I've read this book cover to cover four or five times. I have picked it up and opened a random page to read on dozens of occasions. I reread the margin notes that I've written at various times. What I love about this book is that it uses art to talk about life. Specifically, it uses art and fear to talk about how our choice to have courage or not drives the degree of light you will manifest in your own life. The writers explore the human need for acceptance, fear of failure, communication sensibilities between your work and yourself versus your work and the outside world. In talking about other's "magic" in their work the authors write: "Their magic is theirs. Your don't lack it. You don't need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period." Stop coveting other peoples talent, skills, lessons. Find your own magic. Risk it. Earn it. Everything I read in this book could also apply to the art of relationship. The art of love. You could cross out the title word Art and write LOVE & Fear, and the same concepts apply. It's specific to art,yet universal. It's an easy read, barely over a hundred pages. Carry it in your backpack, put it in your purse, or on the back of your toilet. Read it. Return to it. Make your life your art. It's that simple and profound.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Warnock

    It starts out strong, very strong, and then falls apart in a semantic entanglement of mixed metaphors and pseudo philosophy that spends a lot of words saying very little. It's a bit frustrating to read, the section on art and science was a disaster, perhaps demonstrating the authors complete lack of understanding of science. The two authors refer to "art" in such a flimsy pretext that they not only fail to define it, they change the implied definition to suit whatever point is being made but It starts out strong, very strong, and then falls apart in a semantic entanglement of mixed metaphors and pseudo philosophy that spends a lot of words saying very little. It's a bit frustrating to read, the section on art and science was a disaster, perhaps demonstrating the authors complete lack of understanding of science. The two authors refer to "art" in such a flimsy pretext that they not only fail to define it, they change the implied definition to suit whatever point is being made but then mix the definitions in chains of clumsy logic (sometimes to the fine art business, other times to any creative expression, other times to a limited set of work that is non-reproducible). They go further into neologic territory and leave the word "art" in an unusable state that lacks any coherent meaning. For an artist, the book is captivating in parts, especially in the beginning as it concerns execution and vision, and a discussion of common fears in the art making process -- excellent insights. But that's maybe a 1/5 of the book, the title is a bit misleading... By the end of the book, you'll likely be entirely confused and realize "there's no definition of art", and it's the artists (and art community's) own fault. Tirelessly extolling "what is" and "what is not" art seems to have ruined the word in our vocabulary... if it's going to become so subjective as to not have a communicable meaning, then... well it doesn't really mean anything. Anyway, it's a quick read and if you enjoy pseudo intellectual banter that lacks meaningful content then you might enjoy more of it than I

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Gholar

    If you are in need of some motivation and don't have time to read The Artist's Way series (which, by the way, I also recommend), it's perfect for you. It addresses issues like perfectionism, creative blocks, and motivation. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it: 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. If ninety-eight percent of our medical students If you are in need of some motivation and don't have time to read The Artist's Way series (which, by the way, I also recommend), it's perfect for you.  It addresses issues like perfectionism, creative blocks, and motivation.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from it: 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. If ninety-eight percent of our medical students were no longer practicing medicine five years after graduation, there would be a Senate investigation, yet that proportion of art majors are routinely consigned to an early professional death. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don't, quit. Tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding. The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, "you're not like us; you're weird; you're crazy." If The Artist's Way is like a super deluxe 64 ounce mocha with flavored syrup, whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg on top, Art and Fear is like a shot of espresso.  Both are like caffeine to energize your artistic career, and which you choose is really a matter of taste.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This book is about the challenges in making, or not making, art. Making art is difficult. Many times artists will stop making art and then feel guilty about not returning. Why? The is what the author says-- "Lack of confidence and self doubt -- I'm not an artist-- I'm a phony; other people are better than I am; I've never had a real exhibit; I'm no good. Or maybe fear about what others say after looking at your work. Basically the only work really worth doing-- the only work you can do This book is about the challenges in making, or not making, art. Making art is difficult. Many times artists will stop making art and then feel guilty about not returning. Why? The is what the author says-- "Lack of confidence and self doubt -- I'm not an artist-- I'm a phony; other people are better than I am; I've never had a real exhibit; I'm no good. Or maybe fear about what others say after looking at your work. Basically the only work really worth doing-- the only work you can do convincingly -- is the work that focuses on the things you care about. The individual recipe any artist finds for proceeding belongs to that artist alone-- it's non-transferable and no of little use to others. In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it you best shot-- and thereby GUARANTEEING that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mellinga

    I'm an artist. This book is absolutely terrible. In the first chapter, the authors claim that that art came before consciousness and that prehistoric cave painters were not conscious beings. When they painted a bison on the wall, they had no idea what they were doing or why they were doing it. They didn't even know that they or the cave painting existed. So how the hell do you unconsciously paint a bison? If the prehistoric artists lacked conscious intent to create the picture, what exactly would I'm an artist. This book is absolutely terrible. In the first chapter, the authors claim that that art came before consciousness and that prehistoric cave painters were not conscious beings. When they painted a bison on the wall, they had no idea what they were doing or why they were doing it. They didn't even know that they or the cave painting existed. So how the hell do you unconsciously paint a bison? If the prehistoric artists lacked conscious intent to create the picture, what exactly would prompt them to paint? Just automatic reflexes? Some sort of cave-decorating instinct that forced these unconscious humans to paint on auto-pilot? I don't think so. Obviously, the cave artists knew the bison existed and that it was possible to create a likeness of the animal using pigments. If they didn't, they wouldn't do it. The word "creativity" is not mentioned anywhere in the book, except in the tiny segment that points this out to the reader. "Why should it?" the authors ask smugly. "Do only some people have ideas, confront problems, dream, live in the real world, and breathe air?" Yeah, okay, everyone is creative - I get it. But not discussing creativity in a book about making art? What? That's like writing a recipe book and saying "this book doesn't mention ingredients. Why should it? Do only some desserts have flour, sugar, eggs, butter?" I have no clue why this book has such glowing reviews. The great majority of it is pretentious nonsense, obvious advice like "don't worry about what other people think of your art!", or just plain wrong information that the authors try to pass off as fact. I don't recommend it at all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a great book for ALL people, artist or not, professional or amateur. What I mean by that is, whether you want to start cooking, gardening, dancing, painting -- WHATEVER! -- it helps give you motivation to do so. I've always been an artist, having a natural drawing talent from a very young age, delving into my art in high school, then studying art in college. I received my commercial art/graphic arts degree and even though I did not stay in my field (I hated desktop publishing, and would This is a great book for ALL people, artist or not, professional or amateur. What I mean by that is, whether you want to start cooking, gardening, dancing, painting -- WHATEVER! -- it helps give you motivation to do so. I've always been an artist, having a natural drawing talent from a very young age, delving into my art in high school, then studying art in college. I received my commercial art/graphic arts degree and even though I did not stay in my field (I hated desktop publishing, and would rather create fine art), this book has been of great help to me in pursuing art as a hobby and just for fun. I love calligraphy/lettering, abstract painting (acrylics & watercolor) & some card-making. I still cannot believe all the notes I took from this book. I highlighted and underlined things on nearly every single page. There are many examples to give from this book, but 2 things have always stood out for me: The first is the example of the 2 groups of pottery students. One group was assigned to make as many items they could and the other group was assigned to just make one, but it had to be perfect. Of course, the first group succeeded because the more times you do something, the better you hone your skill for it. The other group were completely stressed out at making just that one perfect pot. Another example is the story of the dancer who was a great dancer, and did it because she loved to dance. She never thought of pursuing it professionally, until her teacher suggested she try out for a position (or something to that). That's when she became terrified of failing and questioned herself. She didn't enjoy dancing anymore because of the pressure to perform for others vs. just dancing for herself. This story is the same as what my b-i-l experienced as a photographer. He takes great pictures (we call him the family photographer because he always has his camera at family functions). Well, one year, I asked him (via email) if he would take a family portrait for me. I offered to pay him, said we'd work around his schedule, etc, etc. (I wanted him to know how much I'd appreciate it). Well, he never replied. I just figured he was too busy. But when my husband asked him about it a few months later, the bil said he felt he wouldn't be good enough and started to feel pressure. I immediately thought of this book and wanted to share it with him so bad! He was the perfect example of someone who just wanted to do what he did for the enjoyment of it and when I tried to make it "professional", he cowarded. (I never did get the family photo, but I warned him that he'll be hired to do my son's senior pics!)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    A quick, no-nonsense, part-philosophical-part-practical examination of what it means to make art, no matter the medium, and to continue to do so in spite of its inherent challenges. The authors' basic premise is that you can and will only ever be you, and all the other people in the world will also only ever be themselves. It might seem obvious, but the logical corollary here is that it is a pity to not make art because you are the only person who could ever make the art that you make. A second A quick, no-nonsense, part-philosophical-part-practical examination of what it means to make art, no matter the medium, and to continue to do so in spite of its inherent challenges. The authors' basic premise is that you can and will only ever be you, and all the other people in the world will also only ever be themselves. It might seem obvious, but the logical corollary here is that it is a pity to not make art because you are the only person who could ever make the art that you make. A second corollary is that it is useless to compare your art to that of other artists. With that notion in mind, the authors explore different forms of fear that lead people to stop making art, and explain concisely why each one is silly, surmountable, and ultimately up to you to overcome. It's a beautiful piece of quasi-self-help that offers only blunt and useful considerations without any of the fluff and hand-holding with which self-help, as a genre, is infested. I loved this book. Its applications reach beyond the scope of art, and into any form of creative thought (whether in sciences, math, problem solving, etc), and should be read by absolutely everyone. I mean it. Everyone.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mariya

    This book was recommended to me and to all of my fellow art students by a professor, whose every word is normally golden. I must say this was the exception. When this small pamphlet of a book was published in the early nineties, perhaps it answered an urgent need of recent art school grads and artists struggling to stay productive when faced with the loneliness of the process. It's still true, outside of the nurturing environment of art academia, the level of disinterest in art, and the artist's This book was recommended to me and to all of my fellow art students by a professor, whose every word is normally golden. I must say this was the exception. When this small pamphlet of a book was published in the early nineties, perhaps it answered an urgent need of recent art school grads and artists struggling to stay productive when faced with the loneliness of the process. It's still true, outside of the nurturing environment of art academia, the level of disinterest in art, and the artist's particular work, is a sobering blow to the artist's sense of direction and self worth. All the tricks of convincing yourself to return to the studio and just churn out as much work as you can, inviting mistakes to happen - all that is still relevant. But its also advice easily gleaned from the art blogosphere, and reads as something akin to shallow pop psychology articles. It's not quite as redundant as the ubiquitous advice lists, but still it is a matter of getting someone else to tell you something you already know. I was expecting something revelatory for a book to be worth my time, but got a no-nonsense "stop fretting about this and that and just do your work" pat on the back. Which is fine. It is somewhat encouraging to have evidence that other artists have dealt with the very same setbacks, that the nature of the contemporary art world indeed cultivates unstable and broken-up sense of identity in most art-workers. But here are fears that are worth digging deeper. They merit a thorough treatise, not an advice column. Then again, I might just be the sort of person who enjoys 500-page books. To be fair though, I am already finding myself repeating to myself some of the key sentences from the book, that were particularly on point. For people who prefer laconic presentation of ideas, this might be perfect.

  9. 5 out of 5

    KW

    Depending upon where you may be in your particular process as an artist, "Art and Fear" can be a light in the dark for anyone desiring to take their work more seriously. Oftentimes, those who write, paint, sculpt or shoot fear discussing this topic with others, even other artists, at the risk of sounding pretentious or dull. To read this book, a slim, unassuming-looking little volume, is to feel freer in admitting: I am an artist, or writer. My work is important to me, even if it is unimportant Depending upon where you may be in your particular process as an artist, "Art and Fear" can be a light in the dark for anyone desiring to take their work more seriously. Oftentimes, those who write, paint, sculpt or shoot fear discussing this topic with others, even other artists, at the risk of sounding pretentious or dull. To read this book, a slim, unassuming-looking little volume, is to feel freer in admitting: I am an artist, or writer. My work is important to me, even if it is unimportant to the rest of the world. It is important to my life and my peace of mind that I be productive. My work has a trajectory. Transcending this barrier often means the difference between shying away from the actual work and having the ability to sit down and, as one individual once eloquently put it, just do the fuckin thing. The book makes it clear that it is the product, and less the product, the artist's original conception of the product or the audience's review, which matters; hence, it is the process, sittin down and practicing, which matters most. As everyone who has ever written a paper realizes, the end result has most often made so many steps away from the original conception that it is more firmly rooted in the world for having been worked over and made real than in the writer's mind. The book also grants some wonderful advice for that difficult process of dragging your work out of your private cave, the most happy place where work is done in private, and into the world, where it has a better chance of survival. Look also for the guidelines approaching the best methods by which artists can work, and be inspired, by other artists (living and dead) in a way which is healthy and proactive as opposed to threatening. My copy is dog-eared and well underlined, and will sit on the shelf until I need another reminder as to why I'm broke and doing this with my life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tamra

    Popular and familiar with my friends; it was my first read. Favorite passages: "Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending...tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding [at making art]." "Talent...is 'what comes easily'... a gift" yet the author reminds us that "whatever you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have...Talent may get someone off the Popular and familiar with my friends; it was my first read. Favorite passages: "Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending...tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding [at making art]." "Talent...is 'what comes easily'... a gift" yet the author reminds us that "whatever you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have...Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won't count for much." [My favorite quote] "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...TO make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have...You have to see that the universe is not formless and dark throughout, but awaits simply the revealing light of your own mind."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linnie

    I could really relate to the first third of this book and found it very motivating as an artist. After that, it got less and less interesting and more and more vague. My favorite quotes/sections from the first part: pg 3 "Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and hard work." pg 5 "The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your work that soars." pg. 15 "Imagination is in control whenyou I could really relate to the first third of this book and found it very motivating as an artist. After that, it got less and less interesting and more and more vague. My favorite quotes/sections from the first part: pg 3 "Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and hard work." pg 5 "The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your work that soars." pg. 15 "Imagination is in control whenyou begin making an object. The artwork's potential is never higher than in that magic moment when the first brushstroke is applied, the first chord struck. But as the piece grows, technique and craft take over, and imagination becomes a less useful tool. a piece grows by becoming more specific...The development of an imagined piece into an actual piece is a progression of decreasing possibilities..." pg. 29 The ceramics class divided into two groups; half would be graded on quantity and the other half on quality. The half graded on quantity ended up making better work pg. 30 "...to require perfection is to invite paralysis"

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sian Jones

    The short review: I will be sleeping with this book under my pillow from now on. I find the very sight of its cover inspiring and must resist clutching it to my breast at all times like a talisman. The long review: The authors write that the book is the result of years of discussions about what artists -- regardless of the type of art -- have in common, and they come up with some very real, practical, and spiritual (in the best way) suggestions. The authors address the question of not "why do we The short review: I will be sleeping with this book under my pillow from now on. I find the very sight of its cover inspiring and must resist clutching it to my breast at all times like a talisman. The long review: The authors write that the book is the result of years of discussions about what artists -- regardless of the type of art -- have in common, and they come up with some very real, practical, and spiritual (in the best way) suggestions. The authors address the question of not "why do we make art?" but "why do we stop making art, why do we quit, how do we keep going?". They do it with such careful intelligence, compassion, and understanding that I am letting them get away with other things like capitalizing the words Art and Vision every once in a while. (If you're not Emily Dickinson, you don't get to do this, as far as I'm concerned.) I am also letting them get away with using the first-person plural ("we") and referring to themselves as "the authors", because they also clearly have a wry sense of humor and genuine honesty that deflates gestures towards pretention. This book is basically about the craft of making art -- not the craft of writing a good sentence or painting a picture or dancing a pirouette -- the craft of becoming yourself, confronting yourself, mundanely holding yourself to the task at hand. It is genius, and I'm a little surprised it's not required reading in MFA programs. I certainly could have used its wisdom before now.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abel

    Inspirational. I like stories that are balm to my artistic lateblooming. Calms the inner turmoil of yet another month, year, without publication. It makes the drawersful of scribbled foolscap, of slapdash characterization, of hours of unpresentable efforts a little less of a tell-tale heart. It makes things okay to know that the Mozarts are one every couple hundred years, yet great art gets made all the time. Just work at it. It is a helpful, boost of a book in the vein of Pressfield's Inspirational. I like stories that are balm to my artistic lateblooming. Calms the inner turmoil of yet another month, year, without publication. It makes the drawersful of scribbled foolscap, of slapdash characterization, of hours of unpresentable efforts a little less of a tell-tale heart. It makes things okay to know that the Mozarts are one every couple hundred years, yet great art gets made all the time. Just work at it. It is a helpful, boost of a book in the vein of Pressfield's creativity books designed to look at things pragmatically, ease the pressure, and work. I will be returning to it frequently.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    This little book is all about how you get over yourself, get out of your way and do what you gotta do. There are parts that that were relevant for me, and parts that were not, but overall one with wonderful insights, tips, and advice that would apply to everyone.

  15. 5 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead

    THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME I WANT TO TATTOO IT ON MY BODY! I'm a relatively small person, but "Art and Fear" is not a long book either, so...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I just wasn't impressed by this book. Part of the problem may have been the sheer volume of recommendations I got for this little guy and to live up to those expectations it would basically have to cure cancer, so take that for what it is. First of all, there were a couple of gold nuggets in the book. I rather liked the anecdote of an artist who took dancing for fun, excelled, then had to relearn how to dance for others when the chance arose for her to be part of a performance troop. It was just I just wasn't impressed by this book. Part of the problem may have been the sheer volume of recommendations I got for this little guy and to live up to those expectations it would basically have to cure cancer, so take that for what it is. First of all, there were a couple of gold nuggets in the book. I rather liked the anecdote of an artist who took dancing for fun, excelled, then had to relearn how to dance for others when the chance arose for her to be part of a performance troop. It was just interesting that she had to relearn a skill she already had with a different motivation. Unfortunately, other parts were very trite at times and didn't make a lot of sense at others. I think someone else mentioned that when discussing cave paintings, the authors said something like the cavemen were not intelligent enough to be self-aware which struck me as blatantly false. As is common, it's loaded with adages about how art is made by people who make art, not people who stop and how hard work is hard to distinguish from talent, and that most artists feel like frauds, but none of that struck me as anything special. I've heard that many times before. Perhaps is it was new information in the early nineties, but now it's so readily available, it just seems like a giant yawn. Finally I was really put off by the author's text in boxes. Basically from time to time, they'd have a small aside to "explain" something, but it really seemed more like snarking than anything else. For example: Q: Aren't you ignoring the face that people differ radically in their abilities? A: No. Q: [...If each person made their best work, wouldn't] the more gifted make better work, and the less gifted, less? A: Yes. And wouldn't that be a nice planet to live on? That's not addressing the issue! I was also rather perturbed by the authors' description of entertainment as mass produced, clearly meant derisively. They barely reference commercial art and then rag on how there are very few paying opportunities for artists. It seems like they're missing something there. Finally I didn't like their section on schooling. There is a lot of merit to learning how to draw the figure if nothing else, but they never address that school might give you the tools to address technical matters. Again, this may have been relevant at the time of publishing, but I can tell you that there are schools that prepare you for commerical arts for sure. So basically, it had a few gold nuggets that got it a second star, but it really wasn't a great read. It had the virtue of at least being super short.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    I soaked up the first half of this slim guide with frequent shouts of "Yes! THIS!" and skimmed the second half with a bit of a shrug and a *meh* Isn't it odd when that happens? It's really okay, though, since I found so very much solace, empathy, and inspiration in the parts I did absorb. Things like, . . . Those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue—or more precisely, have learned how not to quit. This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means I soaked up the first half of this slim guide with frequent shouts of "Yes! THIS!" and skimmed the second half with a bit of a shrug and a *meh* Isn't it odd when that happens? It's really okay, though, since I found so very much solace, empathy, and inspiration in the parts I did absorb. Things like, . . . Those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue—or more precisely, have learned how not to quit. This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren’t any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius. Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue. Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be. For many people, that alone is enough to prevent their ever getting started at all -- and for those who do, trouble isn't long in coming. Doubts, in fact, soon rise in swarms: "I am not an artist -- I am a phony. I have nothing worth saying. I'm not sure what I'm doing. Other people are better than I am. I'm only a [student/physicist/mother/whatever]. I've never had a real exhibit. No one understands my work. No one likes my work. I'm no good. Yet viewed objectively, these fears obviously have less to do with art than they do with the artist. And even less to do with the individual artworks. After all, in making art you bring your highest skills to bear upon the materials and ideas you most care about. Art is a high calling -- fears are coincidental. Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward. Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The truly special moments in art making lie in those moments when concept is converted to reality. Good stuff.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    This book was written by two working artists in 1993 to address the anxieties and concerns common to late 20th century makers of creative output such as visual art, literature, music, and performance. The authors cite that many artistic fears originate in places outside of their imaginations and supportive art-making environments. Prevalent social and marketplace attitudes about the value of art, who has a right to produce it and who will be recognized, praised and paid to do it are difficult This book was written by two working artists in 1993 to address the anxieties and concerns common to late 20th century makers of creative output such as visual art, literature, music, and performance. The authors cite that many artistic fears originate in places outside of their imaginations and supportive art-making environments. Prevalent social and marketplace attitudes about the value of art, who has a right to produce it and who will be recognized, praised and paid to do it are difficult for many artists to ignore and not internalize. Family, friends, laborers, and “professionals” all seem to agree that what artists do IS NOT WORK. Meanwhile, the artist hopes to make a living doing her own work but finds it at odds with what the marketplace demands, leaving her insecure about pursuing her intuitive art-making processes. Popular mythology casts artists as prolific geniuses made of eccentric tempers, emotional disorders, and more magical talent than everyone else. Such artists are often burdened with being expected to bear witness to all the world’s social ills, speak truth to power, and deliver soul-mending solutions to problems of every ilk. Inundated with such forces, some artists become paralyzed or find other reasons to abandon making their work. I recommend this book for artists who are feeling discouraged and wondering why they ever began their lines of artistic inquiry. These “observations” have such a definitive-sounding quality I nearly forgot my sense of humor but I don’t think that is a reflection on Bayles & Orland. It points to my own erroneous ideas that artists are supposed to be brooding, “deep,” profound, and only trifling with the most serious issues of the day. Looked at this way, there isn’t much about an artist’s life to be enjoyed; rather, it’s just a dilemma-filled endurance test! Hip-hop culture, “outsider” art, and “new media” forms are not examined by these authors, but I enjoyed this observation: “Today artists often back away from engaging the times and places of their life, choosing instead the largely intellectual challenge of engaging the times and places of Art. But it’s an artificial construct that begins and ends at the gallery door.” For me the resonances and intimacy of the first half of the book were more engaging than the second part. I did a lot of underlining and bracketing and---oh look! a note to myself on one page reveals that I started reading this book back in 2008 but set it to the side for reasons unknown.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Evie

    This book was assigned to me for my Drawing class. Some of the concepts are useful, and there were some very good points made. However, it felt as if the authors were trying to stretch a five-page essay into a book; it was redundant and, after the first chapter, waffling. It also seemed as though the book was aimed specifically towards artists looking to showcase their pieces in galleries, which isn't necessarily a failing of the book so much as a narrow target demographic. On a more personal This book was assigned to me for my Drawing class. Some of the concepts are useful, and there were some very good points made. However, it felt as if the authors were trying to stretch a five-page essay into a book; it was redundant and, after the first chapter, waffling. It also seemed as though the book was aimed specifically towards artists looking to showcase their pieces in galleries, which isn't necessarily a failing of the book so much as a narrow target demographic. On a more personal level, I was rather frustrated that only one female artist was mentioned amongst the some twenty or twenty-five artists referenced. When the authors mentioned Watson and Crick, he failed to mention Franklin, and while that would have been a forgivable omission in 1993, the copy I had was a 2010 edition, and that should have been rectified. It might be a minor nitpick, but it's an example of a pattern of exclusion. There really wasn't any excuse not to reference more women. There are so many wonderful, talented, brave artists out there who would have made for better material than "a friend of the authors". It seemed like the book was aimed at male artists looking to have galleries. It's not something I would recommend to female artists, and certainly not to artists pursuing other careers. Really, very disappointing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    This book reminded my of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, but without all the parts that totally pissed me off like typos, the expression of stupid ideas about artists (although in fairness she was pointing out the stupidness) and lame exercises. This is about why we fear creativity and by understanding our fears, we can conquer them, as we all know. I don't have a lot of fear about making art but many of the fears described in this book, such as pleasing others, being accepted and/or This book reminded my of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, but without all the parts that totally pissed me off like typos, the expression of stupid ideas about artists (although in fairness she was pointing out the stupidness) and lame exercises. This is about why we fear creativity and by understanding our fears, we can conquer them, as we all know. I don't have a lot of fear about making art but many of the fears described in this book, such as pleasing others, being accepted and/or understood, being perfect and so on apply to other areas of my life and probably to everyone on the globe. This book is to the point and intelligent. I liked it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Abram Dorrough

    Platitudinous, hackneyed, jumbled. Some good ideas but not a cohesive or engaging book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andreea (Infinite Text)

    The beginning is so strong and really taps into something both psychological and philosophical. I really enjoyed the first half. After it really steers away from what the first half sets it up to be. Also, Art in this book quite literally means painting/visual art not art in the abstract containing every other form like dance, culinary, writing etc.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Octavio Solis

    I found Art and Fear to be the right book for the right time. I'm a fairly successful and prolific playwright, but over the last year I have been struggling with severe writer's block. I've unable to even muster up the courage to look at a blank page or screen. The paralysis has affected my confidence and belief not only in my own abilities but also in the field I work in. What this book has shown me is that this lull is simply part of the process and I have to learn to interpret the fears I am I found Art and Fear to be the right book for the right time. I'm a fairly successful and prolific playwright, but over the last year I have been struggling with severe writer's block. I've unable to even muster up the courage to look at a blank page or screen. The paralysis has affected my confidence and belief not only in my own abilities but also in the field I work in. What this book has shown me is that this lull is simply part of the process and I have to learn to interpret the fears I am dealing with in terms of my own growth as an artist and as a human being. There are many quotable pearls in this book, but without context, they seem rather obvious. The authors are really just trying to remind us of those things we already know, but have forgotten as we have matured in our art-making. The book's not for everybody. It's certainly not for the lay person who may want to pick up this book up in order to tap into their creativity. It won't make sense to them, and in fact, it may piss them off. The authors refuse to romanticize the artistic process and insist on making us confront some of the contemporary cultural and economic challenges that artists face today. No, "Art and Fear" is for the working artist (by which I mean, the painter, the writer, the director, the dancer, the composer, etc.) engaged in serious inquiry who has lost his/her way. It's for people like me who are blocked and/or questioning their pursuit in this enterprise called Art. It's not written by psychologists, so there are none of the familiar catch-words or prescriptive solutions for our malaise. It's penned by a pair of working artists who have also fallen into the same hole that we all end up in one time or another. In that sense, it's a survival manual, a kind of lifeline. But it's beautifully and elegantly written, too, condensing some of the hardest issues we deal with into real-world artists' questions. For that reason alone, it's a book I will keep on my shelf for as long as I write, because I know I'll come to this point again. As for this writer's block, I'm letting it have its way, for now. I know I'll come back to my work in time, but as a changed man with new marching orders.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Russell

    Have never read anything better on what goes into making art, for an artist. The motivations, the distracting temptations--what constitutes the only possible reward to keep at it, to keep doing it. I'm a 74 year old artist, and have gone through all the phases of despair, stopping, starting again. This book made me weep with joy. I don't know that I found much new here, new for me at this stage in my life and my art, but the confirmation for what I've struggled with over so many decades is like Have never read anything better on what goes into making art, for an artist. The motivations, the distracting temptations--what constitutes the only possible reward to keep at it, to keep doing it. I'm a 74 year old artist, and have gone through all the phases of despair, stopping, starting again. This book made me weep with joy. I don't know that I found much new here, new for me at this stage in my life and my art, but the confirmation for what I've struggled with over so many decades is like a blessed cool rain after a long drought.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    3.5 I didn't love the tone (hints of professor-ism), but it is as it represents: a treatise on artmaking, for everyone, not just those who might call themselves artists. One really helpful concept that will stick with me is that "work is often terrible right up to the final revision". Darkest before dawn. One can't expect an improvement after each edit like plodding up a mountain, it's just a change, and all the drafts might be awful until the final one, that makes it good. Helps for wrestling 3.5 I didn't love the tone (hints of professor-ism), but it is as it represents: a treatise on artmaking, for everyone, not just those who might call themselves artists. One really helpful concept that will stick with me is that "work is often terrible right up to the final revision". Darkest before dawn. One can't expect an improvement after each edit like plodding up a mountain, it's just a change, and all the drafts might be awful until the final one, that makes it good. Helps for wrestling down writing, when "nothing is working!" That's ok, it's always terrible before the last edit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kat (Lost in Neverland)

    A short, surprisingly encouraging novel for artists of all sorts. It can apply to writing, painting, drawing, graphic design, music, etc. Highly recommended for anyone struggling with doubt in their artwork. In the inspiring words of Shia;

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    The few couple of chapters are very helpful for anyone trying to keep on, or restart, making any kind of art. The rest, aimed at full-time, professional artists (of any type) I found too dependent on shaky metaphors, misunderstanding of science and history, and filler.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This is a little gem of a book that I'd recommend to writers and artists of all stripes. A few sections, such as the one on the academic world, may not apply to everyone, but most of the insights are universal.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    I found an audio copy of this book at my library and started reading it when I saw it on a recommended list for writers recently. Oh my. Is it ever a fabulous book for writers?! I wrote down a lot of quotes from the book to save and read again: “This book is about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people - essentially (statistically speaking) there aren't any people like that. But while geniuses I found an audio copy of this book at my library and started reading it when I saw it on a recommended list for writers recently. Oh my. Is it ever a fabulous book for writers?! I wrote down a lot of quotes from the book to save and read again: “This book is about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people - essentially (statistically speaking) there aren't any people like that. But while geniuses may get made once-a-century or so, good art gets made all the time. Making art is a common and intimately human activity, filled with all the perils (and rewards) that accompany any worthwhile effort. The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar.” “Art is made by ordinary people. Creatures having only virtues can hardly be imagined making art. It's difficult to picture the Virgin Mary painting landscapes. Or Batman throwing pots. The flawless creature wouldn't need to make art.” “The only work really worth doing – the only work you can do convincingly – is the work that focuses on the things you care about.” “The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.” “Those who would make art might begin by reflecting on the fate of those who preceded them: most who began, quit. To survive as an artist requires confronting these troubles. Basically, those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue - or more precisely, have learned how to not quit.” “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. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.” “The truth is that the piece of art which seems so profoundly right in its finished state may earlier have been only inches or seconds away from total collapse. 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.” “A brief digression in which the authors attempt to answer (or deflect) an objection: Q: Aren't you ignoring the fact that people differ radically in their abilities? A: No. Q: But if people differ, and each of them were to make their best work, would not the more gifted make better work, and the less gifted, less? A: Yes. And wouldn't that be a nice planet to live on?” There are many, many more quotable quotes. I think I'm going to listen to this again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Freund

    Thoroughly enjoyed, underlined, annotated, and frequently discussed many passages in this small volume. Highly recommended! Not just for visual artists, either.

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