Short Review of “Art and Fear”

I have a bad habit of sticking only to things I’m comfortable with, such as going to the same bookstore for 15+ years (which happens to be BAM!, formerly known as Borders). I love shopping there with my best friend (when I’m in the mood to spend full price on books). However, when I was on vacation in Maryland, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and stepped into a lovely gallery/bookshop in the city Berlin. I wish I had actually taken pictures of the place, but alas I get weird about taking any sort of picture in public and was frankly too enraptured with its comforting quaintness to think of grabbing my phone. To get to my point, there was an art section that had an assortment of interesting books, but one that caught my eye was titled “Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making” by David Bayles and Ted Orland; with a relatable title such as that, how could I not get the book?

Honestly, the minute I opened the page, the Introduction had me gripped, my attention was solely on the book. I never searched for books with topics such as this, even though it is something that I have struggled with my whole life, and so that could be a factor as to why I was so interested the minute I opened the first page. Although I will give credit where it is due, and as someone who struggles with the want and need to be perfect, it was nice to see the Introduction address that very struggle. It begins with: “This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart.” For a book that was written in 1993, it perfectly encapsulated the problem I have as a 21st century artist- seeing ten year olds online posting art that is better than anything I could create at 19. 

Part I. begins with a quote, and like the TV geek I am, I immediately thought of the openings to Criminal Minds. But that aside, the quote seems to surmise the chapter well enough:

“Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult” –Hippocrates

I am terrible when it comes down to reading. I told myself I’d read at least three books this summer, and I’ve only read one. So I doubt it will be a surprise to say that I read a brief selection of Part I., but fully intend to read the rest of the book. Even with my inability to commit to a whole book, I will say this about what I had read so far it has already made me feel better about my insecurities within my art, and a lot of what it discusses is notions that I had formed into a half baked thought, but reading them in a book has allowed the alphabet soup that is my messy brain finally make sense of what I was thinking. 

I’m excited to continue reading this book, and I genuinely think that if this honest and relatable tone continues throughout, I am going to learn so much about myself, the art I create (and don’t create), and how to perhaps explore the complicated relationship I have with art in general. 

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