I’m re-reading an interesting book that many of you artists may have read – Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It’s a classic survival guide for artists of all backgrounds – if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. My experience of reading it is a continuous series of exclamations to the effect that “that’s just what I feel!”. Since my recent theme seems to be centering around showing your artwork and the attendant emotional gyrations that entails, I thought another pass through this would be useful.

Here’s one of their observations I found interesting and familiar – there is a common fear among artists that they are “pretending” to be an artist. They are not really an artist, not like all the other “real” artists out there. They cite a couple of reasons for this feeling – you know the accidental nature of much of what ends up in your artwork and you also know what parts of it originated with others. You assume that other “real” artists don’t suffer these same secrets. Hah! Rarely do we feel comfortable admitting to either of these qualities of our work.

I know that in my photography often my favorite shots are totally unexpected and many of my shots I carefully planned out don’t work at all. I do know of photographers who seem to have more control of their craft and can plan shots that work more of the time. Perhaps they do have better technique than me which allows them to do this. But does that make them a better artist, or their art better than mine? Or does it just reflect that they know how to do something specific I don’t (yet)?

Speaking of accidental art, the piece above was taken many years ago of my two young sons. It was one of the first “figures in motion” pieces that I took and it has lead me down a long path, much of which you’ve seen on the blog. At the time, I was just playing around with my camera and liked the unexpected result. Since then, I’ve intentionally used the technique over and over, but it is such that I can’t really predict what will happen anyway. Maybe I’m more comfortable using a technique that is beyond anyone’s control!

I call this piece “Figments of Their Imagination”…

7 responses to “Fear

  1. I like this piece a lot Bob. You have a great way of blending photography, figures, and texture into an abstract composition, but you already know that! And there is always nice dark areas in your work too. I like how when the waves hit the figure there is the bright blue, the only bright color in the work. Very nice.

  2. Hi Bob
    I am so glad you found me, so I could find you!!! I am so enjoying the photography to the monoprints and the layered? figurative works! I aspire to create ‘otherly work’ and for me your work has the ‘je ne sais quoi’ I call otherly, so I have bookmarked your blog and will be back when I need a dose of inspiration!
    vis a vis ‘fear’ responses… I have to acknowledge that most of my own favourite work often involves ‘the happy accident.’ Although some of my work requires a bit of planning, I am working more and more towards trying to just trust the muse and not try to control things as much… and its just so much more fun and less stressful lol! namaste Elis.

  3. Nice composition, bob! with a lot of curves (and you know already I’m partial to those…) and a subtle but stil vigourous contrast of warm and cool. I liked it a lot. It’s quite interesting how your works, figurative being, have also a refined “abstract” (stylish?) quality… They are figurative with all the qualities of abstract quality work…

    That book should be very interesting reading, indeed…

    Concerning “hasard” and “accidents” in art I think we have to not only accept it but cherish it and carese ?) it… A very interesting and, I’d say, essential reading in this respect is, for me, the chapter about the arts and zen in Allan Watts Introduction to Zen… Quite enthrilling…

  4. Ellis

    One thing I enjoy about blogging is getting the exposure to other artist’s work – I live a bit out in the country and opportunities to see exhibits of new, interesting work are rare. I’ve been enjoying your blog as well so it sounds like we’ll be visiting each other from time to time!

    It’s interesting to think about the reaction of non-artists when they see our work and hear that much of what happens is by accident. I’m not sure they quite believe that (or they’d be more likely to pick up a brush) but if they do I wonder if they place less value on the work. One of the criticisms I hear about contemporary work is that it looks like it was just paint splattered about, said as a criticism.

    I am a firm believer, however, that the highest quality “accidents” happen only after one has mastered a certain level of technique that you are now trying to get away from! Sort of counter-intuitive…

  5. Danu

    Thanks for the reading tip – I happen to have that book and will read that chapter in particular.

    When I posted this piece I actually thought of you as I noticed that there were no straight lines in it! It’s actually hard to take photos of figures and emphasize straight lines…

  6. Hi Bob!

    I love this photo, and really, as I saw it, I thought it was the result of a lot of preparation work! Really wonderful.

    I know very well the feeling of not being a real artist, but I think the reasons are different from what you say. I think that exactly the accidents are what makes out of us real artists. I think most of the really creative things in the story of the world were found by accident, and I think these kind of accidents happen only to the artists, scientists, etc who are able to make something out of them. In fact i totally agree with you that “the highest quality “accidents” happen only after one has mastered a certain level of technique that you are now trying to get away from”. Wonderfully magically expressed by the way!

    When i say i am not a real artist, it has nothing to do with fear either. it is just the feeling that i am lucking of inner passion concerning art. I love to paint, I love the life it allows me to have, but I am not passionated about it, i mean not from the deepest inside. Not as I was with maths, i know very well the difference.

    I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in Europe we are not confronted with artists fear! Everybody who paints a little bit (and this is almost everybody!) has no fear to call herself/himself an artist!

    Oh, Kevin just saw your photo from behind my back and said:

    “WOW!!!! This is great!”

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