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

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  46,443 Ratings  ·  716 Reviews
These are questions that matter, questions that recur at each stage of artistic development - and they are the source for this volume of wonderfully incisive commentary. Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reason it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. This is a book about what it fee ...more
Paperback, 122 pages
Published March 1st 1994 by Capra Press (first published 1993)
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Bryan Wilson I believe people need to always ready themselves for the potential tests that lie ahead. As it relates to art, this is criticism. To me, the only…moreI believe people need to always ready themselves for the potential tests that lie ahead. As it relates to art, this is criticism. To me, the only failure is not staying true to what you set out to do (especially allowing yourself to be sidetracked by those that have no investment in you or your work). Why take a test without any conceptual knowledge? If the test presents itself there had to have been some sort of preparation. After all tests are only for assessing growth. How far have you come in such and such amount of time.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Deb Stone
May 16, 2013 Deb Stone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 sensibi
...more
Timothy
Jan 29, 2009 Timothy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 the ...more
Tiffany Gholar
Oct 27, 2012 Tiffany Gholar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists
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
...more
Carol
Apr 06, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: making-art
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 convincin ...more
Leslie
Jan 19, 2009 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-own, faves
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chrissy
Sep 11, 2010 Chrissy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone in the world.
Recommended to Chrissy by: Jr
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 ...more
Mellinga
Jun 29, 2013 Mellinga rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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 start
...more
KW
Dec 05, 2008 KW rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mariya
May 31, 2012 Mariya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-method
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
...more
Linnie
Nov 30, 2009 Linnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 be
...more
Olivia Maia
Mar 19, 2017 Olivia Maia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
um livro sobre fazer arte que não menciona em nenhum momento a palavra CRIATIVIDADE. o que obviamente conta como ponto positivo. também um livro que se faz difícil pelo que ele tem de melhor: evoca distrações. você se mete a pensar em ideias e possibilidades, e de repente passou uma página inteira e você já não lembra o que leu (estava lendo?). recomendo.
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.
Sian Jones
Jan 23, 2012 Sian Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
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 ...more
Julie
Sep 03, 2015 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Julie
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 so
...more
Kristina
Feb 13, 2016 Kristina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 lev
...more
Wendy
Aug 27, 2010 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who ever felt like a chicken shit
Recommended to Wendy by: Class
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 understoo
...more
SoManyBooks SoLittleTime (Aven Shore)
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 d ...more
Jacob Russell
Aug 27, 2015 Jacob Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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;

description
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.
Caroline
Aug 28, 2014 Caroline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Rose Lemberg
An extraordinary and necessary book about the emotional and practical challenges of artmaking. It is not without flaws (some oddly judgmental statements stood out), but these are minor. The book is packed with important observations on quitting, creative doubt, fear, the limitations and freedom afforded by materials, the importance of creating a body of work, and much more. This book is applicable not just to artists but to anyone generating work - I found many of the insights relevant to my aca ...more
Susan Pearce
Feb 10th:
I finished this a couple of days ago, having skipped through most of Part 2, which reads as though the authors dictated it while sipping long drinks and congratulating one another; it reads as though the publisher said, Come on, I can't publish something as slight as this [i.e. Part 1] and call it non-fiction. Please add to it. Which is a pity, because Part 1, apart from some wordiness, is full of lovely observations about art-making (as ranted over below). Part 2 is long-winded and bor
...more
Anthony
Jun 25, 2012 Anthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you know me, you know I write songs, a lot. I've written about three albums of solo material and one black metal EP, not a bad output (I would think?) for someone who's been doing this rather steadily for only about 5 years (although I wrote perhaps 20 songs in high school, but never did much with them). Enjoying the smell of my own farts aside, I definitely come across a common problem when I'm writing (or rather, trying to write) songs.

I often feel inhibited, have self-doubts, and worry ab
...more
Pickle Farmer
Good, comforting kernels of advice. I especially liked the emphasis on uncertainty, and how the ultimate key is to find nourishment within the work itself, as opposed to the finished product or its reception. I also really liked the chapter on art & academia, and the role of teaching and learning in terms of artmaking.

Sentences I particularly liked:
When you act out of fear, your fears come true. (23)
Not many activities routinely call one’s basic self-worth into question. (65)
Healthy artistic
...more
robyn
Feb 04, 2011 robyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artists
Mostly I thought, this took 10 years to write?

Or, okay, that's not accurate. It was developed over 10 years? It's a very thin pamphlet!

It's one of those self-help (ish) books that's full of a lot of self-evident truths, with here and there an interesting application or thought. I believe it's aimed primarily at fine artists; if you're working just for your own satisfaction, or directly for a client, a lot of the obstacles described in the book aren't going to pertain to you. For instance. Unles
...more
Jen
Art & Fear is a book I will surely read again and again through the years. As an artist, I strongly identify with the experiences and dilemmas discussed within. It was very motivating and comforting to learn that I'm not the only one facing these struggles. This is probably my favorite art book I've ever read. I stopped highlighting because I would've highlighted nearly the whole book! If you're an artist, or any type of creative person - writer, musician, dancer, etc. - you absolutely shoul ...more
Joseph
Jun 11, 2013 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal book. Put into words my own feelings and experiences about making art. Showed me I'm not alone.
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Paths to Wholeness: Art and Fear 1 6 Dec 30, 2016 07:02PM  
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  • Art Through the Ages
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Share This Book



“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.” 16 likes
“You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren't good, the parts that aren't yours. It's called feedback, and it's the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It's also called doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and you're the closest person around.” 14 likes
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