Artistry in Action 2017: Weekly Readings “Art isn’t only…” & “Maybe You Can’t Get Paid for Doing Your Art”-updated

One of the issues that we will reflect on in class this coming week is the role of art in our society. What function do we serve?  How are we seen? How do we contribute?  The following quote is another from Seth Godin’s book Linchpin that argues for a broader definition. Do we benefit from encouraging others to see themselves as artists? Or do we dilute the possibilities for ourselves and our work?  This question is also discussed in the Economies of Life Essay

The second reading is one that you may have already seen in the Week One blog readings.  It is also from Linchpin.

-Darrell

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Maybe You Can’t Get Paid for Doing Your Art

The thing is, it’s far easier than ever before to surface your ideas. Far easier to have
 someone notice your interpersonal skills or your writing or your vision. Which means 
that people who might have hidden their talents are now finding them noticed.

That blog you’ve built, the one with a lot of traffic–perhaps it can’t be monetized.

That nonprofit you work with, the one where you are able to change lives–perhaps turning it into a career will ruin it.

That passion you have for abstract painting–perhaps making your work commercial enough to sell will squeeze the joy out of it.

When what you do is what you love, you’re able to invest more effort and care and time. That means you’re more likely to win, to gain share, to profit. On the other hand, poets don’t get paid. Even worse, poets who try to get paid end up writing jingles and failing and hating it at the same time.

Today, there are more ways than ever to share your talents and hobbies in public. And if you’re driven, talented, and focused, you may discover that the market loves what you do. That people read your blog or click on your cartoons or listen to your MP3s. But, alas, that doesn’t mean you can monetize it, quit your day job, and spend all day writing songs.

The pitfalls:

1. In order to monetize your work, you’ll probably corrupt it, taking out the magic, in
 search of dollars; and

2. Attention doesn’t always equal significant cash flow.

I think it makes sense to make your art your art, to give yourself over to it without regard for commerce.

Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you’re going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with.

A friend who loved music, who wanted to spend his life doing it, got a job doing PR for a
record label. He hated doing PR, and eventually realized that simply being in the record 
business didn’t mean he had anything at all to do with music. Instead of finding a job he 
could love, he ended up being in proximity to, but nowhere involved with, something he 
cared about. I wish he had become a committed schoolteacher instead, spending every
 minute of his spare time making music and sharing it online for free. Instead, he’s a 
frazzled publicity hound, working twice as many hours for less money and doing no 
music at all.

Maybe you can’t make money doing what you love (at least what you love right now).
But I bet you can figure out how to love what you do to make money (if you choose
 wisely).

Do your art. But don’t wreck your art if it doesn’t lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy.

(And the twist, because there is always a twist, is that as soon as you focus on your art 
and leave the money behind, you may discover that this focus turns out to be the secret of
 actually breaking through and making money.)

From Linchpin by Seth Godin

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17 thoughts on “Artistry in Action 2017: Weekly Readings “Art isn’t only…” & “Maybe You Can’t Get Paid for Doing Your Art”-updated

    • I think this post is interesting because some people have preconceived notions about about what they think an artists is and when they hear the word “artist” they automatically put others in a box. A lot of people think that an artist can only be on one thing, but in reality an artist can be and do many things.

      Like

    • I think this post is interesting because some people have preconceived notions about what they think an artists is and when they hear the word “artist” they automatically put others in a box. A lot of people think that an artist can only be on one thing, but in reality an artist can be and do many things.

      Like

    • I enjoyed reading this article and reflecting on the daily interactions we all go through. In order to gain a more in depth perspective on what good art is, it is helpful to widen the scope of what is traditionally considered “art”. I really enjoyed the quote “Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient”. I can think of many conversations or casual business interactions where that definition really resonated with me. By reflecting on this, we can gain a more focused definition of what we’re really trying to do with our art, regardless of the medium.

      Like

    • What dictates something is an art form or not? The most removed thing from my preconceived notion of art is working as an accountant in a cubicle in Manhattan. However, this does not mean an accountant isn’t an artist in any respect; any action can be defined as art so long that the artist defines it as such. For example, I could stand and stare blankly at a teak colored wall for an hour, and while to an observer I may look deranged, I may define this as performance art, or some obscured form of public meditation.

      Despite this, we have institutions in place that define art for us. Museums, concert halls, social media; platforms for curating art and displaying it to the public on in an elevated and equitable way.

      Like

    • I think it is important to constantly remind oneself to remember to not expect getting any pay for our art. I think what it does to a person is that it all of a sudden makes us feel entitled to be able live off of our art but it doesn’t work that way. Instead I feel like the secret to my personal success is that I follow with my ambitions for a [stable] job that can lay out the financial foundation to pursue my art outside of the stability and security of the job. There needs to be a balance and not put all eggs in a basket.

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  1. I really enjoy the closing line “Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” This change, the thing that awakes or calms something in someone, is what brings people to art. In my opinion, it is why something is art. Whether it is an iPod or a musical piece, if it changes someone’s perspective, mood, or day, it is an art form, because something that is everyday and rudimentary cannot do this, you have to make something new and that is where art comes from.

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  2. I love the distinctions Godin is making throughout this excerpt about what the defining qualities actually are of the Artist, which is not necessarily the skill or the craft itself, but the passion or rather the energy behind the intentions, as well as the intentions, that the Artist brings by and through their presence and methods of participation – their way of life. I think that makes sense. And I greatly resonate with his definition of the role of the artist. it reminds of me of Artists like Pyotr Pavlensky, whose entire platform is serious in-your-face questioning of Russian authority and ideology. I like and this and resonate with this because i see myself and my role in conjunction to the larger societies i find myself a part of in much the same way, the questions and reflections burning holes in the pockets of my mind the longer I don’t express them.

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  3. I also really enjoyed the last line, “Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”Whenever you begin a conversation with a non-art person (they’re words not mine) the definition of art eventually comes up, and I always revert to something similar to this comment. The degree of value for a given work is less important than the degree of impact it has on any given individual or groups of individuals and thats what I really love about art, it has the ability to alter or change a mindset.

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  4. Earlier today I was having this same discussion with a coworker: what makes art ART? He argued that true art must have an intrinsic level of difficulty and skill put forth in its creation. I argued that Duchamp’s The Fountain is as significant as The Sistine Chapel. I think art is about the intention behind the work and the emotion it evokes; if both of those characteristics are present in a body of artwork, who is anyone else to say otherwise? I think it’s unfortunate that many people have a skewed and limited notion of what art means and must be; they expect to be impressed, it seems, with skill alone. I hope, for what it’s worth, to change that mindset of people I encounter on this subject!

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    • Carolyn,

      This is an incredible interesting and important question that has implications for everything from arts education to philanthropy. I encourage you to keep following this line of questioning. The readings for this term in particular, the economy of life essays may give you some good things to ponder in this regard.

      DG

      Like

  5. These articles are very interesting and I find myself pausing multiple times while reading to evaluate whether I agree or disagree with what I’ve read. Overall, I agreed with this article besides from a few statements like “An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.” Yes, I agree that these things are important, but all but one (creativity) aren’t necessary to define your creation as art.

    Like

  6. What dictates something is an art form or not? The most removed thing from my preconceived notion of art is working as an accountant in a cubicle in Manhattan. However, this does not mean an accountant isn’t an artist in any respect; any action can be defined as art so long that the artist defines it as such. For example, I could stand and stare blankly at a teak colored wall for an hour, and while to an observer I may look deranged, I may define this as performance art, or some obscured form of public meditation.

    Despite this, we have institutions in place that define art for us. Museums, concert halls, social media; platforms for curating art and displaying it to the public on in an elevated and equitable way.

    Like

  7. Art should primarily fill the role of expression for the artist. Their work can define the emotional state of their experience. It provides a view into the soul of the creator. However, art in this pure form often limits the amount of money that an artist can make from their craft. A common solution for artists not making enough money to support themselves is to find something that they like to do related to their art practice. An example might be working for a record label, or being a currator for a gallery. These other monetary driven art jobs may fulfill the need for cash, but most likely won’t fill the artistic needs of the person.

    However the goal is to make money with art, so how does one market themselves to make money from their art? The ideas that come to mind, is looking for new places and niches for one’s art. Find a new way to market to new audiences because audience ressonation is the goal for art marketing.

    Like

  8. These articles were very interesting, I appreciate the honesty these writers provide. I think (not just in the arts field but life in general) people frequently forget that the world doesn’t owe them anything. This typically translates to someone working in a field for several years and becoming overly bitter and frustrated because they have not reached any financial success. But by taking a step back and a larger view of ones practice and the art they have created, realizing that having the ability to make anything is a luxury we have in this modern day in age and not a right. I am not making much of a point here but I know I personally enjoy making my art much more once I realized it was not necessary to try and make a living off of it.

    Like

  9. These articles were very interesting, i appreciate the honesty the writers provide. I think (not just in the arts but any career path) people frequently forget that the world doesnt owe them anything. This typically translates to someone working in a field for several and becoming bitter and frustrated because they have not reached any financial success. By taking a step back and a larger view of ones practice and the art they have created, realizing that having the ability to make anything is a luxury we have in this modern day and not a right. I am not making much of a point here but I know once I realized it was not necessary to make a financial gain from your art to to measure it or your success you will be much happier.

    Like

  10. Within “Art Isn’t Only” I felt like this article expressed that an artist isn’t only one who goes to the art store to pick up art supplies to be an ‘artist’. An artist is a creator; someone who thinks outside the box. I absolutely agree. There is design in everything, even within thinking; aka design thinking. More people are artists than they realized.

    Like

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