Jessie's Reviews > Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Art and Fear by David Bayles
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's review
Dec 15, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, for-teaching
Read from April 25 to 26, 2010

3 stars on my personal reaction, but 4 stars on the potential this bk has to generate no-nonsense discussion with art/writing students; a few really great insights here, and I’ve shared some below this review, but it’s mostly plainly written advice on how to sustain an artist’s life given the unlikelihood of your work really mattering much to anyone besides yourself; the advice is obviously based on the authors’ experience, and I appreciate their honesty. Helpful and a little provocative on MFAs/academia, on being a teaching-artist, on navigating approval/acceptance from The Outside.

They respect inspiration as much as discipline, in the spirit of Mary Oliver’s POETRY HANDBOOK (but without her graceful prose); and they ask basic questions in the manner of James Wood in HOW FICTION WORKS (but, again, they don’t take their prose to such a well-crafted level as Wood). Mike suggested this bk as a book on art is comparable to Richard Rohr’s EVERYTHING BELONGS book on prayer; that’s a helpful comparison. Very simply written, very “boiled down” to essentials but you can tell the simmering went on for a good long time, so it’s a good “boiled down.”

“Your job is to develop an imagination of the possible.” [regarding the movement from imagination to execution—not just daydreaming about those 100 works you have yet to do but focusing on the one before you:] 16

“The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast.” 17

“The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over—and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful. A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns.” 61-2

[regarding teaching artmaking:] “What good teachers offer their students is something akin to the vulnerability found in a personal relationship—a kind of artistic and intellectual intimacy that lets others see how they reached a specific point, not simply that they did reach it.” 83-4

“Your art does not arrive miraculously from the darkness, but is made uneventfully in the light.” 117

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