Monday, February 4, 2008

Art and Fear

American artist, Sandy Webster. Visit

Perched on the shelf above my bed is a book called "Art & fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of Artmaking." by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It was sent to me from American artist Sandy Webster (she is pictured above) who I was fortunate to meet last year, and who helped me formulate my first serious body of work. It's really good so far and I have lots of notes in the margins already. Basically it's for artists about being an artist and the struggles that entails. I am not even halfway through but it does discuss things such as "if I'm not making art and I'm not selling art, am I still an artist?" The future for artists can look bleak I feel, when I see how many artists don't go on to pursue an artistic career even if they have invested three years gaining a degree (not that having a degree is the be all and end of all of being an artist, not by a long shot). So I asked theMan if he minded supporting me possibly for the rest of my life as an artist for as long as that might be. He laughed and said he already was. He's a big ole softy and would support me if I wanted to go to the moon. Anyway the book raises some interesting questions, some things I was battling within myself and surprised to see that it wasn't me per se, rather it is part of ongoing conflict of most artists. Another one was the idea that academic art was an invention, and prior to that, there was no distinction between art and craft. Ah, the old 'is craft art?' debate lives on, strong and kicking. Sandy made an interesting distinction between art and craft. I will try and look that up for you. My own difficulty is that my background is craft (thanks Mama and Mum for fuelling this when I was a kid) but I am now in an academic environment where everything must be measureable. I love art but aspects of what I am doing can get so frustrating ... I guess my conclusion for now is that angst is just a part of everything we do. A fact of life. No one and nothing is perfect, mistakes are ok, mine and others. I definitely feel more tolerant after this last year. One thing we can always count on is change. If I can get used to that, I can handle anything. A 'tolerance for uncertainty' and being an artist of any form requires the ability to live on the edge. In other words, big balls! And sometimes honest expression is not right pending popular opinion nor received with appreciation by others, and yet as artists still we forge ahead because we must. Art can tend to burst out of us. Passionless art, what is that anyway? I read a blog last night where one art student in Wales went in for her end of year appraisal with her tutors in her final year. They all disagreed and strongly disapproved of the work she was proposing for her finals. Her spirits were squashed (sometimes it is damn difficult to tick all the requirement boxes and designs don't just appear out of thin air) and her choices were: forge ahead and do her own work anyway even though it might cost her her final grade; or do what was asked even though she was being asked to do what they wanted and not what she believed, in short to sell out. She ended her post saying that she wasn't leaving her bed. I am so green still and going to art school takes balls trust me. There is an upside too. Being in an artistic environment with other art souls. The odd tutor who gets 'me' from time to time. The inspiration and synergy that comes when others are creating too. I start next Monday.
Thanks to Sandy for emailing me the following definitions:
An attempt to define the noticeable differences between:

Please remember this is not a hierarchy. It is the intention of the maker which will help to further define it’s category as well as the viewer’s response.
When viewing an object of “craft”, technique and materials are the primary noticeable characteristics. What was used and how was it made. Quite often the intention of a craft piece is to perform a function which is also apparent.
Here it is the form or shape which we see first….. usually it is aesthetically pleasing and therefore will elicit a response from the viewer. Sculpture shows the characteristics of craft by having a well-informed use of materials and technique
The sole purpose of these works is decoration. That is their primary function. Fine jewelry, well made household accessories, art to wear clothing all show the qualities of good craftsmanship and technical expertise but their function is to decorate a person or a particular space.
When we see a work of “art” we are seeing an idea fixed in form. That is what we notice first and what will stay with us after viewing the piece. It usually represents something “important” to the artist, a personal response of theirs that they wish to share to some degree with the viewer. It is the artist’s interpretation of a feeling or issue that has meaning for them. And this representation may at times not be clear or easily understood by the viewer. Here the purpose of techniques and materials is to serve the content. They should become in a way transparent and not distract by drawing attention to themselves
rules 1: Sister Corita Kent (

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