...to be an artist


My head is spinning at this point, but the thread inspired me to turn on my gear and record something, so yay? :wink:

I like this quote even though I’m not sure whether I agree, vehemently disagree, or both at the same time. “True artist” kind of sets off alarm bells and I’m not sure whether mystic truths should be revealed or guarded. But it got me going, so it’s a good quote.

(Edit: And now that I look up that particular piece, I see the creator felt the same about it.)

Anyway, I’m starting to think one of my 2019 goals is to stop worrying what is or isn’t art and just make stuff. To throw a couple of quotes…

“Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness.” – John Cage

“The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint.” – Keith Haring


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cosign all above!


This. Always this.

It’s a good goal for 2019. Simple and to the point :slight_smile:


I subscribe to this to some degree…

Eno has some nice essays on what art is for, quite helpful…

Edit to fix Eno from Emo! Interesting Jungian slip?


In my own words, I would describe this sort of thing as developing your artistic practice. I think about this similar to how someone might describe a yoga practice, which I understand to be a personal thing with a forward (and I think in this context, creative) trajectory.

This past year I think I got deeper into this myself by releasing a couple albums of ambient synth music, in addition to playing shows myself and with others. For me, I think it has been super helpful to conceptualize and then work on making that into a finished thing that’s made public (be it a live set or “improvisation framework”, working with others to come up with how our individual sounds could work together, etc).

As I’ve been finishing up this third record, I’ve been reaching for and playing along with the ambient stuff I had been compiling and bringing in bass and guitar. I’ve gotten my acoustic guitar from my parents house and my studio set up with a mic hooked up so I can explore the methods that were more or less my introduction to making music, and seeing where they take the things I’ve learned and created recently. Moving forward while trying to explore the past.


In my mind, an artist is someone who is always chasing inspiration, evolving, and creating for themselves first and foremost. It is an obsession. When I feel like less of an artist, it is because I’ve drifted from these standards.

Many kinds of people can be artists.


To me “how to be an artist” has meant a few things.

  • Prioritizing time and space to make my art and music at the same level as other aspects of my life.
  • Taking my work in art seriously and treating it with care and respect.
  • Calling myself an artist and making it part of my “profession”.
  • Getting more involved with the artistic community of practice and community in general.

And all of that has led me to a crazy(?) decision to apply for MFA programs in 2019…


(I still have to read through the rest of this thread, but your statement here stands out to me, so I’m jumping in…)

Nearly every artist I’ve spoken or worked with has talked about the omnipresent discomfort of making art. For myself, the things I’m proudest of were projects that felt the riskiest at the time I was making them. On the other hand, I do get frustrated with my lack of workflow and how much time I spend learning or relearning a thing while in the midst of making a piece.

Do you mean you wish that making art was less anxiety-producing, or are you talking about building workflow (or related) skills? Or maybe something else?


I mostly mean workflow-related skills. “This is what I did the last time I didn’t know where to go with a piece”, “If all else fails, I know I really like this kind of sound”, “Nope, we’ve listened to that sequence 50 times, that means it’s time to change something”—more things in that vein.

I do wish making art was a little less anxiety-producing, but I’ve actually made great strides in this vein in 2018. If this is where we end up for a while, I will still make art, so I’m happy there.


it seems i’m not alone then… i actually felt it was so boring finishing tracks i stopped making music completely for a while. this year i’ve been focusing on enjoying the process and that translates mainly to jam or play live with “instruments” that i think is fun or interesting to explore in some way. mostly i’ve actually not been recording anything just for the sake of focusing on the moment and having fun really. i think i read somewhere here about “truck loads” of gentle twinkly business and i feel live shows would be a lot more interesting, also where the artist is ready to take a risk, or at least similar risks as in the studio.


I think one of the key component of this thread, related to that sentence :

and this one

And more quotes later in the thread, is this idea : What are society’s cues that make us feel like that ? What are the unhealthy incentives that make us second guess our choices to dedicate ourselves to art and how worthy or not we are to do so ? I can think of hundreds of them but then again, I’m tired before even starting to talk and I’m (egoistically !) more interested in reading other people’s trajectories and opinions on it. This probably have to do with the fact that it’s a daily question that gets a different answer everyday (or more likely, different variations revolving around the few more secured answers I found good enough to be moral and emotional standards to live by).

And once again, let’s try to NOT circumscribe artistry to the realm of “art making”, I think our world would do great to consider what makes “art making” such a special (and apparently “garded”) domain and infuse some of its (positive) specificities into the rest of our activities, however mundain. Easier said than done but it’s discussions like this that help me shape my life towards that goal a little more clearly.


I came from a very creative family that nonetheless strongly communicated to its children that art was a fun hobby for all but the extremely rare few and you better have a day job.

And even with that, I still have an uncle who teaches art and an aunt that teaches band, both at the high school level. So grandpa’s baloney wasn’t entirely convincing, it seems.

Fine art seems to require a bit of patronage, something nowhere to be found anywhere near our midwestern family. The notion went something like “go make your fortune in computers or plastic or something and then you can afford to be an artist”.

And as much as my youthful self may have virulently rebelled against these notions, I have to admit that it ended up being the course I took in life…


I try not to think of myself as an artist, I guess? From my point of view, a framing of craftsmanship, or engineering, works better for me - I think by allowing me to displace some of the existential anxiety of “making art” (that so many in this thread have discussed), and instead focusing on technique and materials.

I definitely can lose sight of the “big picture” because of this, sometimes; but on the other hand, looking back at more self-conscious “art” pieces I did when I was younger, I feel like the material quality suffered as a result - so for me it’s always been a trade-off.

However, that’s just speaking from my own experience of my own practice and limitations; a lot of the folks I admire the most can operate on both levels - maintain conceptual clarity, technical discipline, and an engagement with the material all at once.

But for my own practice - figuring out avenues to keep making things without having to conceptualize the work, or my role in relation to it, seems like the way forward for now.


Yeah I ended up (from pretty similar background, discourse-wise) doing exactly the opposite (rebellion as you call it :slight_smile: I think it was much more about feeling in tune with mysefl, however tough it was, the other option was just worse for me) and experienced many years of financial struggle, and that’s actually still not over, but I don’t regret it, and I certainly don’t ask of anyone to choose that path unless they’re very sure that’s what they want. But I’d love for us to try and pinpoint the reasons why we HAVE to go that route to, you know, be able to both make art and eat.


I think the only real necessity here is one of biology. We humans are still trying to figure out how to provide for our basic needs without consuming every waking moment in the process. When we succeed, we’re far more likely to make art than when we are genuinely starving.

The rest is strategy and tactics.

And priorities. It goes without saying that art doesn’t happen unless it’s a priority.


I like to remember the fine example of Charles Ives, son of a rather mad sounding father who would have two marching bands come from different directions playing different music and cross each other in front of the audience listening position…

Charles wrote some of the most amazing visionary music but supported himself financially as a successful insurance executive. That always seemed prudent and reasonable to me…

I have been a devoted musician my entire life and I know exactly one person who has never held any kind of non-musical job in her life.


I sympathize with anyone who wants to support themselves entirely from their “art” but would be at a loss to advise them how to actually accomplish that…

Of course, there’s always academia… :slightly_smiling_face:


related to this topic, i watched a documentary about harry partch today which i found here as well :slight_smile:

to some degree being an artist in the public sense actually contradicts being a true artist, as a contemporary artist actually has to accept being commoditised at some level. i mean all aspects of human culture is more or less commoditised, even experimental music. i think that is why i “long” after a more healthy live culture.


the interview where he says this is this kind of bizarre subtextual lament about streaming, but I always liked Philip Glass’s “I expected to have a day job for my whole life”


In a capitalist society based on consumming every possible ressources to maximize profit for the richest, this is kind of an outdated statement or I’m getting something wrong? I mean, a lot of “paying jobs” don’t support anything that could be in any way consider a “basic need”, and are certainly less useful for the overall well being of society that what we call “art”. Yet those job are more easily accessible and accepted by the capitalist society than “art making” or “being an artist”.


no, the point is this: being on Lines, even, is a sign that we have a little time to do more than work to support ourselves, and world-historically this is a rare position to be in.