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February Book of the Month

February’s Book of the Month is a renowned title by the name of Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. It is written by David Bayles and Ted Orland, both experienced photographers and writers. This book will change the way you view artmaking and pull you out of creators' block by the seat of your pants.

The authors of Art & Fear dive explore the way art gets made by extensively addressing the ways it doesn’t get made. I like to think of it as a “what not to do” guide. Not to spoil the book, but every artist faces similar obstacles when it comes to creating work. Art & Fear argues that anyone can imagine a concept, create an idea, that’s not profound at all. What makes an artist an artist is actually sitting down (or getting up) and doing the work. Easier said than done. So what are the top issues this text tackles?

Art & Fear

This section addresses the issues involving the artmaking process itself. How does one bridge the gap between vision and execution? How do you get your materials to work the way you want them to? How do you cope with the never-ending uncertainty of manifesting something from your imagination?

Fears About Yourself and Others

The following chapters dive into art and ego. The much debated talent vs. willpower phenomenon is picked apart and reconstructed into lessons that you can apply to any area of life. Perfectionists should tread carefully because these chapters will read YOU. If you’re looking for advice that is stern and straightforward, look no further. This book has not a drop of condescending tone or cushy sentiments. Just realness.

The World Around You

The second half of the book covers the external factors that impact artmaking, for better or worse. The academic world, the high art world, and beyond that. What’s the difference between art and craft? Where does science fit into art? How do you know when you’ve done your best work? What purpose does art have in the grand scheme of things?

The title of this book indicates the inherent nature of the text, as any good title should. The authors present their observations on all of the aforementioned topics. So spoiler alert: there aren’t many definitive “answers” to these questions. Not because the authors don’t know how to answer them, but because they understand the answers will vary greatly from one person to the next. When discussing art and more specifically artmaking, the experience is entirely individual. Your art is informed by your life and experiences, your perspective and values, it’s unique. Which is why it’s so hard to write good books on artmaking and creativity. That being said, this one does an excellent job of hitting on the universal dilemmas, while being vague enough to be applicable to any discipline, but also specific enough to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about their process and practice.

Art & Fear is available in the Atithi Library in the Artmaking and Creativity Collection. If you’re curious about the book, visit us during gallery hours to check it out, but trust me, you’ll want your own copy to reference later. Email to recommend materials or inquire about our current collection.

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