...to be an artist


This is simultaneously one of my favorite topics and one of the most triggering for me – I have very strong opinions about what being an artist is, what art is, what making it is and means, etc. Perhaps, paradoxically, those opinions more or less sum to “you get to say.”

My experience with music and musical training when I was a kid and young adult left me with a lot of confusion and self-loathing dumped over my innate passion for music. I have spent pretty much ever since then working through that stuff, trying to get back to the “clean” love for it that I started with – indeed, that goal provided a lot of my energy in becoming a psychologist – and that included wrestling with what it means to be an artist and/or a musician.

I feel like I finally have some answers that work for me and I have empathy for folks who are sorting through that or analogous questions for themselves; conversely, find myself pretty tweaked when I hear someone arguing that there are right and wrong ways to be an artist or make art. I think that’s another reason why I appreciate this forum: most folks here are really interested in learning about others’ ideas about art, rather than seeking to argue one perspective or definition over another.


I am reminded of the back cover of “A Year With Swollen Appendices” by Brian Eno, where he says:

I am:
a mammal
a father
a European
a heterosexual
an artist
a son
an inventor
an Anglo-Saxon
an uncle
a celebrity
a masturbator
a cook
a gardener
an improviser
a husband
a musician
a company director
an employer
a teacher
a wine-lover
a cyclist
a non-driver
a pragmatist
a producer
a writer
a computer user
a caucasian
an interviewee
a grumbler
a “drifting clarifier”

I still have a copy of the book, which appears to be long out of print… there are a number of scans easily findable on the inter webs, of course …


Omigoodness. His usual genius in expressing complexity through simplicity.

[edit] I just looked at the book’s table of contents: more wit as the title is explicated. Must read.


One of the appendices:


I was thinking about this and I think the most simplistic way of thinking about it that works for me is twofold:

  • as stated earlier: to make art everyday is, I think, a great way to put it. Do that and you’re an artist (whether or not you’re a “good” one is entirely subjective and food for another 100+ reply thread)
  • secondly - and as a corollary to that - to make art without consciously considering the potential audience for it


My two favorite philosophers:


Ha, well, of course it’s subjective, that’s why it’s an interesting discussion…for awhile :slight_smile:


I just want to start using zinkydoink in my daily vocabulary.


Makes me think of the aliens’ take on art in Steven Universe after being taught about music.

Peridot: “What if we made music, but instead of sounds, we used things?”
Steven: “Guys, that’s art!”
Peridot: “‘Art?’ That sounds ridiculous.”
Lapis: “I’ve been calling it ‘meep morp.’”


I remember that episode as well. I looked it up for clarity. “Parts Unknown” Season 8 episode 6. “Japan with Masa Takyama”

Ichi-Go, Ichi-E: “one time, one meeting” or “for this time only, never again” … They discuss Umami: “pleasant savory taste” too. Also the question paraphrased here: “Why doesn’t the US have bullet trains?”

Is this the episode you remember or does he circle back to this concept in another?

Once in a lifetime happens often.


That is indeed the same episode. I still have some episodes that I’ve yet to see.

My heart breaks every time I watch him now…

Thanks for the details!


No problem, I appreciate Anthony and his art / perspective too. A tragic loss.