I’m not a fan of the positive thinking movement as it’s usually presented to me. The push to constantly be and think positively seems oppressive. I think there’s value in seeing a positive side to things, and sometimes a positive attitude can turn a moment around for you when you’re confronted with shame or blame.
But your so-called negative feelings—cultural labeling, mind—are valuable, too. Our feelings are a deep part of our humanity. Sadness and anger aren’t the dark side. They just are.
It’s important to feel everything so you can interpret it through your work. Your set of emotions is a unique mix, and that thumbprint is more prominent the more you embrace it.
I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be making art if we didn’t love it. Maybe there’s some tortured genius out there who’s just ambivalent about art in general, but keeps making it because she’s really good at it. But probably not.
It doesn’t follow that because we’re fascinated and enamored by a few or thousands of artists that we appreciate our own. Artists as their own worst critic is more true than not, in my experience, and that can easily extend to bald hatred of their own work.
I’m here to ask you to go easy on yourself. Making art—creating at all, really—is hard. Our visions of what could be don’t match what comes out in the physical world. But there’s tremendous value in giving of yourself so deeply. Pulling the viscera of your inner being out into daylight is brave and revealing. You deserve gentle adulation just for that.
I see a lot of comments online to the effect of “[animal1]—what did we do to deserve them?” Or, “we totally don’t deserve [animal2]s,” followed by a charming video of [animal]. I’m not immune to such memes.
But if you’ve read Rudyard Kipling’s “The Cat That Walked by Himself,” in which the prototypical titular cat gradually ingratiates himself to the woman—this was published in 1902, so, cats were naturally a girl thing—you’ll note that bargains are struck for a give-and-take relationship. Everyone gets value for their contribution.
It’s certainly possible to think of art, the work you make yourself, in this mutually beneficial way. And, like the cat, it’s wild, and aloof, and we don’t fully understand it.
But we strike the bargain, and we both give to and get an insane level of value from art. “Pet” is probably an inept label. Let’s say “companion.” We walk side-by-side and get closer the more effort and time we put in.
‘Ey, clever, huh? What I mean by the title is that we all have crises of confidence, and they aren’t limited or even able to be headed off. But your value and contribution aren’t limited to what the rest of the world notices. It seems like the human condition to doubt. I’ve written about confidence and your work before, more than once, and I think it’s interesting how this blog is becoming a little less dogmatic over time.
It’s my hope to be wise, but beyond that to be a sympathetic and understanding teacher of—well, something. We tend to listen to the voice of success, that is, the voices of the famous and those who sell a lot of work. But everyone who’s been doing their work for a long time has valuable and insightful things to say about how to do it and why you should.
I think it’s a common human good to make art and put it into the world. I think it expresses and enhances our collective humanity and enriches and informs your own life.
What you’re doing, whatever form of art it is, has value, and I hope you find ways to keep doing it.
There’s a lot of speculation about why Banks did this, and what it means. I’m not sure yet that there’s any one meaning to the work, but I’m intrigued by the larger possibilities behind the concept.
If Banksy wanted to “prank” the fine art world, it backfired, in a way, because the likelihood is that it’s worth more money shredded. This includes the possibility of the thing continuing through the frame shredder at some point. It transitioned from 2D art to conceptual art, and there’s plenty of that which doesn’t have a specific and discrete physical form. All this attention has undoubtedly increased its value for the buyer, and brought massive publicity to both Banksy and Sotheby’s. It’s not really tweaking the wealthy fine art community as much as fostering it.
On the other hand, Banksy may know what he’s doing, that all this would result in increased value, which is more cynical and that’s disheartening. It’s interesting as another in a series of “why is a thing worth this much?” works, but I’m not sure that goes very far. If the thing dissolved completely, that’d be a better way of bringing it full concept: what’s the resale value of a painting that no longer exists, sans documentation?
The main value, I think, is that I’ll have to think about this some more.
We have dreams of making a lot of money with our work, most of us. Those are easy fantasies. Harder is to look in the opposite direction.
What your work is worth is, really, a balance between the most anyone would pay and the least. Which, let’s face it, is nothing, even assuming both ends of the scale are occupied by people who want your thing. But just as art is a gift to you, it’s also one you can decide to make.
Consider that, rather than lowball a piece or store it away, you could give it to someone—a person—who will value it as a precious gift, rather than squeezing the thing for pennies because you have a hard time getting the dollars.
Sometimes gifting is a choice of high value, not lowest possible profit.
I spent quite a few hours just talking with some friends old and new this evening. I’m battling a cold, and really not feeling 100%, physically or mentally.
But the chance to latch onto contact with others is valuable, and I feel it’s lacking and overlooked by many of us as we go about lives that are overwhelmed with agendas and obligations.
On paper, just stated as a concept, it’s trivial: a few people getting together to chat. But the connections we make and maintain are vital to all other aspects of existing.
You can’t create your best work in complete isolation. Art feeds off the everyday and ordinary, because that’s how it connects. The most unusual and mysterious pieces need a human connection in order to resonate and compel.
Someone at work asked me what I wanted to get out of my blog. I have no idea! I didn’t have a good answer, but I fumbled together something about maintaining a daily habit, and taking on a challenge like putting something new into the world every day, even if it was a brief sharing of someone else’s thing.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing this every day, even though it’s not always easy to think of things to post. But I don’t want to view anything in the manner of a corporate raider, that the things we do need to return a profit of some kind—not to mention seeing merit in squeezing every asset until there’s no more value to cash in. I’m certainly not against valuation of creative work, nor profit. It’s just that I think we need more reasons to rethink and do an end-run around value calculations as reason to do something.
Always remember—I’m telling myself as much as you—the word “amateur” has the root for “love” in its beginning. Amateurs are dismissed and professionals lauded, but the labels say nothing about skill or depth or potential. Love comes first, figuring out making any money is later, at some point in the list.
I don’t know how well I can bring anything to being. But what I want from the site, at least at this moment, is to share what I know and the creative things I do. I want to inspire you to start doing the creative thing you’ve long dreamed about but have always put it off. And I want to be one of those things that’s there for you every day, as long as I can do it. All those things are an automatic Phase 3 by also being Phase 2.
Road trip redux! This time it’s to scout neighborhoods for a move to the Pacific Northwest. Plenty of birdsong abounds.
One of the coolest things about being here in Portland is seeing how much they value their public art. It’s full of the same lively whimsy that abounds in the rest of the city, and right now—with spring regularly misting the streets with rain—trees and grass are greening up in contrast to the manufactured environment.
The newest addition to the rail lines brought public poetry to the transit system, which is a rare thing, indeed. It’s a series of one line poems solicited of the citizenry and selected by blind jury.
Right next to the poem above is a sculpture made of rails, bent into shapes reminiscent of a transit map. It’s completely exposed, yet bears no scratches, scuffs, or marks to mar the beautifully textured rust of its surface. Such a thing denotes respect for art, and I’m touched that thousands of people passing by care for their public work in this way.
Public art is ours. Not to do with as we individually wish, but to appreciate, support, and tend for future versions of us. In the best of circumstances, it inspires and uplifts and becomes part of who we are.
Along the digital hygiene self-examination track I’ve roared into headlong, I made my way slowly through Dan Hon’s newsletter (worth subscribing to, if you’re interested in informed ruminations on tech and its intersection with human life) wherein he talks about the difficulty in discerning whether social media corps. are engineering quirks of our brain reward system to get us addicted to the feeds they dangle, or if it’s just a coincidence of their format.
Basically, I wondered, is it just easier to make a decision about what we value? Do we value our time to make things and—even the precious moments we rarely find to just sit and do nothing—more than the endless stream of discrete information that’s overloading us?
Sorry, leading question your honor, withdrawn.
As creators, makers, we probably want our work to be valued. But if we don’t carve out time for it—probably more than we think we need—it doesn’t receive the raw input that imbues much of that potential value. In my opinion.
The Feed takes value from us. It takes it in the form of our time, our focus, and our personal data. We’re attempting to put value back into the world. Perhaps we should consider if we need a lot more of our own raw value to be able to do that.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.