Art and Fear: The book

I'll say right up front I haven't read the book. But I want to read it. I got an email with quotes from it in it. Thought I would throw some of those in.Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

On feeling ordinary:

“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.


“Creatures having only virtues can hardly be imagined making art.? It's difficult to picture . . . Batman throwing pots. . . . If art is made by ordinary people, then you'd have to allow that the ideal artist would be an ordinary person too, with the whole usual mixed bag of traits that real human beings possess.? This is a giant hint about art, because it suggests that our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to our getting work done, are a source of strength as well.? Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them.”

On feeling untalented:

“Talent, in common parlance, is 'what comes easily'.? So sooner or later, inevitably, you reach a point where the work doesn't come easily, and–Aha!, it's just as you feared!

Wrong.? By definition, 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–and probably no worry more common.? This is true even among artists of considerable achievement.

Talent, if it is anything, is a gift, and nothing of the artist's own making.?The fact is, artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work. . .?. So when you ask, 'Then why doesn't it come easily for me?', the answer is probably, 'Because making art is hard!'? What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.

Talent is a snare and a delusion.? In the end, the practical questions about talent come down to these: Who cares?? Who would know?? and What difference would it make?? And the practical answers are: Nobody, Nobody, and None.”

On fear:

“Making art can feel dangerous and revealing.? Making art is dangerous and revealing.

Art, however,?is a high calling–fears are coincidental.? Coincidental, sneaky, and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials and surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others–indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot.

So if a critic praises Nabokov's obsession with wordplay, you begin to worry that you can't even spell 'obsession'.?But 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.? The best you can do is make art you care about–and lots of it!”

And if you ever wonder whether the “real” artists struggle with not liking their work, consider Tolstoy in the Age Before Typewriters, re-wrote War & Peace eight times and was still revising galley proofs as it finally rolled onto the press.