Art Works Blog

More Advice For Artists From Artists

Making art is joyful, life-giving, transformative, and even transcendent. Making art is also darned hard. Especially when you're staring at the blank page or canvas, or trying to figure out the first steps, or first fumbling through the fingering or phrasing for a particularly fiendish piece of music. And don't even get us started on writer's block and its many equivalents across artforms.

But you know what they say—when the going gets tough, the tough get advice from those who've been there, done that, and have a drawer full of t-shirts. On that note, here's our second round of advice from artists, drawn from Art Talks we've published over the last few years. (Click on the name of each artist to read the full interview.)

“Learn from the beginning to place a value on your art; don't give it away for free. Only when you value your art will others value it.” — Daniel Phoenix Singh

“Be messy. Flourish in chaos as order and limits are among the bastions of the non-creative. You know what has to be done.” — Greg Mort

"For god's sake, be nice. Shake hands, respect your peers, and do something good every day. I don't believe in karma, but I do believe that if you're a good person, people will take notice.  — Ted Geoghegan

"This might seem contradictory, but the advice I give to young poets is not to treat poetry as a career—to stay an amateur, a word that comes from the Latin amare, to love." — Tung-Hui Hu

“Read everything you can and write as much as possible. Then read and write some more.” — Ann Angel

“ [A]rtists interested in socially-engaged work should give before expecting to receive, which they can do by sharing what they are genuinely passionate about.” —Gayle Isa

"While you're sleeping, someone else is practicing." — Herb Alpert

“To as great and legally an extent as is possible given local laws and zoning restrictions, get freakishly obsessed with something. Then write about it as only you can.” — Matthew Batt

“[A] debt can sometimes be an asset. Artists are sometimes like, ‘I can’t afford to take that workshop. It’s going to put me in debt,’ not realizing that if they spend $100 on this workshop…they can possibly make $1,000.” — Slash Coleman

“It's so easy to believe the bad reviews and sort of discard the good ones, but it's the good ones you have to believe because those are the people who see deeply inside of you and your soul and what you're trying to convey.” — Laurie Rubin

"I think you have to define who you are—and that definition can change—but you have to be as uncompromising as you possibly can about who you think you are, and to fight for that, in bad times and good times.” — Michael Kahn

“Be creative with what you do with the art form. Don't be limited to what's already happened in the past. Use technology, use history, use everything. Be innovative. Walk your own path. Try to be unique—well, don't try to be unique, be unique. Be different. And just have fun.” — Jason Samuels Smith

“Never give up. Believe. Be fearless. Jump into the muse. Don’t fuss until later. Hear the stories within you and believe they have power. Don’t don’t don’t DON’T EVER be cynical. It’s too easy. It’s TOO easy to be cynical. Keep trusting. Fight bitterness. Just because a work makes you feel something don’t dismiss it as sentimental. Open up your inner eye. Believe in the miraculous and beautiful. Overcome the darkness by lighting the torch to see. Don’t censor yourself. Look at the difficult stories. Be tough. Be courageous. Be sentimental. Be ruthlessly big-hearted. See yourself as part of a larger community that was here before you and hopefully will be here after you leave. Know that you are a steward of stories. Don’t whine. Give back. Buy books. Buy hardback books. Support the arts.” — Debra Magpie Earling

For more inspiration check out our first iteration of Advice for Artists, From Artists and Wisdom of the Ages: Advice from Artist Elders.

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