How to be an artist

Posted in brought by juliobesq on July 19, 2009

HTTBAA-Cover Jungian woods

I have been reading Michael Atavar’s ‘How to be an artist’. I consider it brilliant.

Working practice. Like the artist’s studio and it’s promise of naked flesh, cigarettes stubs floating in polystyrene cups, wine bottles half full… scrub the wine bottles comment, writers too have the whiskey bottle in the bottom drawer. (Perhaps the greatest lure is that of the least appreciated sense: scent. The smell of oil paint, turps, resin. The physicality of it.). Anyway working practice, like glimpsing into an artist’s studio there is also something fascinating about seeing how the creative process is run, how procedure and attitude mull with technique and capability. Sometimes not as a blend but a tug of war.

Spending a week as a set builder has been a valuable lesson in attention to detail. The skills I picked up have been used to be build more physical objects as props in the photography. Now the studio smells of saw dust and reverberates with the sound of power tools.

Fail better is a fantastic tenet and standing beneath it’s banner should disallow being governed by rules. Rules bad, guidelines good (this is a guideline, not a rule). Philosophically it is losing the fear of making mistakes, practically it can be feeding back into the working practice all the stop-gaps and short-cuts we take when necessity becomes the mother of invention.

This month I have learnt the lesson of mis en place, and the studio fills with the exotica of dyes, smoke and mirrors. But more valuably I have added something extra to my working practice, a new bow to my quiver.

‘How to be an artist’ is a misleading title, although written partially as a guide to aspiring artists it works magnificently in inspiring artists. In business the only thing better than a new commission is a new client, and like Eno’s Oblique Strategies this manual offers something far more important than a new idea, it spurs new ways in thinking, in generating new ideas.

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My favourite Atavar thought today: “Choose people who aren’t afraid”

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