Reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland was far more revealing than I anticipated. I have never had the opportunity to read a text which so thoroughly nailed down the writers mindset, truthfully I never really thought artists were such predictable creatures. I learned I am very misguided.
Art and Fear had several insightful observations not only about the current generation of artists, but human nature in general. I had not really thought of how completely unsupported the making of art is in this day and age until reading this text. I had a certain skewed understanding of it, watching the continued crumbling of the publishing world and its morals, but I did not comprehend this atrophy applies to all forms of art. It is true though, in today’s day and age, it is rare to find the writer/painter/potter etc, who makes a living solely on their craft. Many artists must compliment their meager artistic earnings with a nine to five job. I know because I do work a 40 hour a week job, and all the trappings that come with it. It is an odd feeling when say 100 years ago, one could earn a living by becoming a writer, 50 years ago writers were able to make a living off their work. Something changed, drastically, to the point where the crafting of art is almost looked down on or seen as a tier only the fabulously talented and willing to starve aspire to. The term “starving artist” is not a new phrase, but it seems to have taken on an almost vicious edge in today’s consumer driven world. Bayles covered many issues, from self doubts, to quitting, to the difficulties artists face in the current times trying to find their niche in the art world, if they have a niche at all.
The chapter that spoke the most to me in this text was Fears About Yourself. While it is sobering to realize how completely some of these fears fit me, such as the fear that you are only pretending to do art because you doubt your artistic ability, is one that has plagued me for years. There is always that nagging doubt in the back of my mind when I read over something I have written of “who the hell would read this?” or “what are you playing at? This is rubbish.” I have novellas I can’t even look at without cringing as they sit on my shelf collecting dust because I don’t think they are could enough to mess with. But Bayles also points out, you have to make a lot of bad art before any good art comes out of it. His example of the divided pottery class was excellent, as well as a statement that really struck a chord with me: Artists often dream about already finished work, not the crafting of the work.
I can not even count the number of times I have day dreamed myself at a book signing, having achieved J.K. Rowling status-like fame, having just bought a castle with my oodles of money from my amazing book sales. *Snort* Yes it is easy to dream such dreams, but I honestly do not daydream myself swearing and sweating over a keyboard, trying not to beat my head on the desk as I try to get the words out of my head and onto the page. But writers are allowed to produce bad work, its called drafts. I could not believe William Kennedy rewrote one of his novels eight times before he was satisfied with it. At the same time it is a work ethic I am trying to cultivate.