Posts tagged art
How To Be an Artist With a Day Job

There are fifty thousand articles online about turning your creative passion into a full-time career (that's an exact number I counted myself, so no need to check if it’s accurate). Many of said fifty thousand articles include very good advice. You should read them and maybe take what they say to heart. But there aren’t many articles tackling the far more common situation: being an artist and having a*gulp*day job.

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How (and Why) to Establish Your Creative Philosophy

Creativity and philosophy go hand-in-hand in crucial ways. In fact, you will have trouble making any worthwhile art without first understanding the philosophy behind it. Luckily, it's easy to achieve in a few simple steps.

Anyone who talks to me for more than a few minutes learns that I enjoy getting philosophical. Sometimes I dive a little too deeply into a topic very quickly, but that's just the kind of guy I am; I like to skip past the superficial crap and get right to the interesting stuff.

I'm a firm believer in establishing a personal philosophy that provides a frame of reference for making important decisions. That's a much bigger topic for some future posts to cover, so for now I'm focusing on a smaller, but related, topic: the creative philosophy. 

In this post I'll tell you three important things:

  1. Why all creative endeavors need a philosophy

  2. Examples of creative philosophies in action

  3. How to find your very own personal creative philosophy

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Art Defined for the Non-Pretentious, Aggressively Realistic, Grounded Human

"Running the ball is a good parallel with art. You put your whole self into it and if you're really good at it, people are moved by it. They admire it and they're awed by it. Who's the best is tough to say. It's like art. It's all a preference. It's what looks good to you."  Barry Sanders

I talk about art a lot in this blog, but it wasn't until fairly recently that I stopped having a genuine aversion to using the word to describe anything other than paintings hung in museums. Every time I heard someone talk about art or being an artist, they just sounded pretentious to me. Stop acting high and mighty, like you're changing the world because being an artist is such an important and interesting thing, I would say to myself regularly in between writing rock songs and blog posts that obviously weren't "high art." The worst was when someone claimed they had created art when it just looked to me like they were being intentionally eccentric or opaque. I just didn't get it, and I distanced myself from the term accordingly.

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No One Cares, and That's OK

Look: I know there are people who are genuinely interested and excited when I come out with new music, a new comic or a new blog post. Most of them are friends and family, but no matter who they are, I’m delighted that someone out there can enjoy the things I love to make.

But in the big picture, there’s an unavoidable fact: for the most part, nobody really cares what I do. It’s not just creative stuff, either. On a day to day basis, the vast majority of human beings in the world couldn’t possibly care any less about what I think, feel, create or accomplish. The same thing applies to you. In fact, it even applies to famous people. While an album release by a well-known artist could affect the lives of thousands, even millions of people, still the majority of the population just couldn’t give two shits. Many of the people we consider important, influential or powerful don’t really move the needle in the life of the average person. In short: nobody cares what you do.

And that’s OK.

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I Don't Need to Be Brilliant

I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am my own worst critic. I cut myself less slack than anyone else possibly could. If I don’t, I might create something that sucks. I might make myself vulnerable to legitimate criticism. I could cut off the bad stuff at the source and let only the most brilliant, genius, groundbreaking material get out into the public. That would be such a relief. Then I’d know everything I create will be wonderful, because I’ve already given myself so much shit and demanded I be great from the start.

If only it worked that way.

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Artistic Naiveté

For anyone who’s living a life of creative pursuits, being realistic about our chances of making it to the next level isn’t something that we generally take into account. Like I said in my post about the romance of the ideal a few months ago, most of us tend to live life with our heads in the clouds, and maybe one or two toes scraping the ground for good measure.  After talking with a friend about the inevitable umbrella of naiveté that we musicians have to live under, I realized a few things.

There are two kinds of artistic naiveté. One is good, and one is bad.

To be fair, it could be argued that both are bad, but nobody who has devoted their life to pursuing near-impossible goals like musicians and artists is going to lock horns with me on this one. We’ll leave that to the folks who are always wondering when we’ll grow up and get real jobs. Anyway, the good naiveté is that which we use to ignore the odds of turning art into real income. I’ve been playing in bands since I was a teenager, and I’ve been spending the better part of my last five years working on developing my current band. As much as I believe in the music we’re making, as good a band as I think we are, the simple fact is that the law of averages is against us. For every band that makes a living from their music, there are hundreds that never even came close. Maybe even thousands. And being good is no more a guarantee to your success than being lucky. Being smart about your music career is a must, but that’s a topic for another day.

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We Are All Artists

Usually when I talk to people about my pursuit of a career in music, I stress that I’ve never really felt as though I was pursuing a dream so much as fulfilling a basic need. Music is something that’s always been there and, much like eating and sleeping, will always be around just begging for my attention every day. I hesitate to use terms as dramatic as “life force” when describing it, but despite the lameness, it is pretty accurate when describing creative and artistic pursuits in my life. I thrive on creating and otherwise being involved in artistic endeavors, whether it be music, drawing or writing. Even humor is a creative aspect of my personality that is stubbornly embedded into my being. Art isn’t something that I do, it’s something that I am–it happens naturally and necessarily.

Most artistic types will stress that they simply have a need to express themselves. Actually, just about everybody seems to need a venue for self-expression, artistic or otherwise. Although I essentially agreed with the self-expression goal behind art, for quite a long time I wondered why something like that would be so urgent. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot of important stuff to say, so why feel the need to express myself?

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Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)

Who decides how much one can push their art’s boundaries? Are artists here to entertain or innovate? Or both? If you’re hoping to push the envelope but just end up in a gray area that doesn’t revolutionize but does entertain, is there a point when you should resign yourself to be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished as an artist?


Radiohead Vs. Nickelback: The Classic Debate


I recently watched a live Radiohead performance on the Music HD channel. They're one of the best bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live, and this particular show proved they’ve only gotten tighter as a musical unit since I last saw them. The difference in musical contribution to the world between them and, say, a band like Good Charlotte or Nickelback, is like night and day. But the latter two bands entertain large audiences. Some might call it mindless, others call it greatness. When it comes down to it, they’re both equally valid for different reasons. But if the members of Nickelback are in the business to innovate, should they accept their current place in the music world (which, for the record, is in a spot pretty goddamn far from the world of innovation), or should they keep pushing themselves to be something they are most likely never going to be? And by most likely, I mean most abso-fucking-definitely-lutely.

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