Art And Fear 11.02.2010

One of my favorite art books is, "Art and Fear, Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making," by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  The book details problems of making art in our mundane, day to day, existence.  It's a book for ordinary artists, who often have extraordinary obstacles.  Many of these obstacles are self-imposed, a fear that grows with each passing deadline, a fear of failure due to over-inflated goals.  As the writer states, "It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing free will above predestination, choice above chance.  It is about finding your own work."

The blank canvas or paper is foe to the artist. In my case, it is the cold shiny reflection of a copper etching plate. The surface will not yield to half-hearted efforts. Authority and abandonment are great hopes. I seek authority over the metal and abandonment to all fears; I attack the surface with invincible control. There are no mistakes in my world. Every stray line or unintended scratch is forced to be essential.

Much fear is born of our insecurities and the need to be perfect.  Perfection is seldom achieved, but is often a powerful excuse for not working.  The longer we procrastinate creativity, the more unreachable it becomes.  It only stares us in the face when forced upon us by deadlines or commissions, neither of which we fully enjoy in an impromptu moment..  

I was talking to my students about ghosts and fear.  I always ask them which would they fear most, a ghoul on a dark stormy night, or a subtle unexplained shadow in broad daylight.  To me, sheer terror is best felt when the sun is high and life is ordinary.  Making art can sometimes be like this.  Art doesn't have to be grandiose to have significant impact.  Sometimes subtle and even inept attempts are much better than holding off for genius and perfection.  Genre art is much amplified by filtering ordinary things and events into extraordinary observations. The sum of all our little attempts may one day become an earth altering masterpiece.

A Fulfilling Legacy

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.  -  William Faulkner

I don't believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there's one thing that's dangerous for an artist, it's precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and all the rest of it. - Federico Fellini

Q:  Will anyone ever match the genius of Mozart?A:  No.
Thank you -- now can we  get on with our work?   -  "Art and Fear."