Book Review: Art & Fear


Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking
David Bayles & Ted Orland

This book is written by and for working artists. The authors explore the way art gets made, the reasons it doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. (Sounds familiar?)

“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

First published in 1994, Art & Fear quickly became a classic. ┬áThe book’s co-authors are both working artists, grappling daily with the problems of making art in the real world.

However, this is not your typical self-help book: it’s about what it feels like when artists sit down at their easel or keyboard, in their studio or performance space, trying to work out what needs to be done. This book describes where you are or have been. It could even help you stay there, if you choose. It is often narrative, not instructive.

While some quickly identify with the book as if reading their personal diary (that is already filled with all the problems they are facing), others will find that this book tells more of what they already know rather than helping to solve the problems.

On another note, we believe that this book will make a perfect gift for an artist’s friends or family so as to help them understand the artist’s troubles.

“There is a lot to overcome: the inevitable gap between the vision and the actual result, the limits of materials and the difficulty of achieving their full potential, the times when inspiration seems to dry up, and the basic uncertainty that anyone will care about the eventual result. Even the term artist itself creates confusion, especially when capitalized into Artist. Self-doubt of myriad kinds creeps in: do I have enough (or any) talent? Why is it so hard for me, and so easy for everyone else?”

There is a chapter that will speak directly to you as an artist, regardless of your current circumstance.

artandfearArt & Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking
David Bayles & Ted Orland

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