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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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  71,110 ratings  ·  1,028 reviews
"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 remov ...more
Paperback, 122 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Image Continuum Press - Image Continuum 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 fail…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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Deb Stone
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Tiffany Gholar
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 o
Timothy Warnock
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-own, faves
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2012 added it
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]."

" '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
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Sian Jones
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Inspirational. I like stories that are balm to my artistic lateblooming. Calms the inner turmoil of yet another month, year, without publication. It makes the drawersful of scribbled foolscap, of slapdash characterization, of hours of unpresentable efforts a little less of a tell-tale heart. It makes things okay to know that the Mozarts are one every couple hundred years, yet great art gets made all the time. Just work at it. It is a helpful, boost of a book in the vein of Pressfield's creativit ...more
Elizabeth A
May 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, art
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.

I'm a relatively small person, but "Art and Fear" is not a long book either, so...
Julie Christine
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
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Leslie Reese
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was written by two working artists in 1993 to address the anxieties and concerns common to late 20th century makers of creative output such as visual art, literature, music, and performance. The authors cite that many artistic fears originate in places outside of their imaginations and supportive art-making environments. Prevalent social and marketplace attitudes about the value of art, who has a right to produce it and who will be recognized, praised and paid to do it are difficult fo ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Breinholt Dorrough
Sep 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Platitudinous, hackneyed, jumbled. Some good ideas but not a cohesive or engaging book.
Octavio Solis
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
I found Art and Fear to be the right book for the right time. I'm a fairly successful and prolific playwright, but over the last year I have been struggling with severe writer's block. I've unable to even muster up the courage to look at a blank page or screen. The paralysis has affected my confidence and belief not only in my own abilities but also in the field I work in. What this book has shown me is that this lull is simply part of the process and I have to learn to interpret the fears I am ...more
Jacob Russell
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Kat (Lost in Neverland)
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it

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;

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.
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, creativity
I found an audio copy of this book at my library and started reading it when I saw it on a recommended list for writers recently.

Oh my. Is it ever a fabulous book for writers?!

I wrote down a lot of quotes from the book to save and read again:

“This book is 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. But while geniuses ma
Tanushree Vyas
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting and an absolutely insightful book about art and the process of art making, this is a well documented manuscript that systematically deals with the pertinent themes and questions that trouble every artist-in-the-making. This book provides unique perspectives of looking at art and conceiving it, allowing the reader to think and ponder over perspectives hitherto not thought of.

All in all, an enjoyable and interesting read. Recommended to all those interested in questions centering aro
Nancy Freund
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed, underlined, annotated, and frequently discussed many passages in this small volume. Highly recommended! Not just for visual artists, either.
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