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

Educated, A Memoir, Tara Westover is the next post down

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, written by David Bayles and Ted Orland, is a small book, and is a shot in the arm for motivation and discouragement. The principles can be used by artists in any creative field. 


The book came to be because of some questions the two authors asked themselves. Do artists have anything in common? How do artists become artists? How do artists learn to work on their work? How can I make work that will satisfy me?


Many of the chapters deal with fear. Some focus on what talent is, and it is claimed to be the least important ingredient. 

The shot in the arm is more motivational, in its intent, than technical. The deep secret discussed is that the artist needs to just keep working. Don’t stop. Speed is ok. Learn from your mistakes, but learn while you go, and don’t stop your work.  It’s ok if new work makes old work look weak. 

The book differs from art books which traditionally say little about making art, suggesting that it is the product of genius.  This book says that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Mozart and that there won’t be more Mozart’s anyway.  

The book brags about the fact that it doesn’t have a section on “creativity”, and boldly says; “Why should it”? The point being that all people can confront problems, dream, and live in the real world, and breathe air?

So, the book is useful for a shot in the arm, or if you want you can just skip that and get to work. Learn from what you have done not from thinking about it. 


“When you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.”

 “As far as most people are concerned, art may be acceptable as a profession, but certainly not as an occupation.”

“It’s been a tough century for modesty, craftsmanship and tenderness.”

 “Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself and fears about your reception by others.”

 “The only work really worth doing — the only work you can do convincingly — is the work that focuses on the things you care about. To not focus on those issues is to deny the constants in your life.

”Most artists don’t daydream about making great art—they daydream about having made great art.”