Last Friday, an artist named Amanda Palmer performed a show in Joburg at the Sheds @1Fox.
Confession #1: I had no idea who Amanda Palmer was until a few days ago.
Confession #2: I didn’t go to Amanda Palmer’s show.
When I heard Amanda Palmer was coming to Joburg and realized that this is a big deal, I googled Amanda and then downloaded her book, the Art of Asking. I started reading the book this weekend. I’m only on page 53 of 348 but I’m already blown away.
Here are a couple of amazing things that I’ve read in the book so far:
There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.
In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple:
The professionals know they’re winging it.
The amateurs pretend they’re not.
I’ve never met you, Amanda, and I unfortunately missed your show on Friday. But you say things I need to hear. You’ve prompted me to write this blog post.
While reading the above passages, it occurred to me that I’ve been very reluctant, actually afraid, to call myself an artist. It took me a long time to start calling myself a blogger, and even longer to call myself a photographer. But identifying as an artist is the hardest of all.
First, I’ve never thought of myself as creative or talented enough to be an artist. And second, I’ve been afraid to give myself permission to be an artist. Because I know being an artist is hard. And being an artist will force me to look at — and potentially expose — parts of myself that I haven’t been willing to look at or expose up until now.
I’m writing a book. I’ve been threatening to do this for years but I’m serious now – so serious that I’m putting it out here to keep myself accountable.
In order to succeed at writing this book, I need to get real. I need to call myself an artist and believe it. I need to BE an artist. I need to get comfortable with telling the truth. Not just part of the truth – not the truth that’s easy and convenient and makes for the best story. I need to get comfortable telling the whole truth: the beautiful, hideous, ridiculous, hilarious, painful truth about myself and my experiences. And I need to turn that truth into art.
Here’s a bit of truth-art to get the ball rolling: a paragraph that I wrote on September 1, 2012. I came across it yesterday while looking through old journal entries from a very difficult time in my life. I was surprised to find it as I have no recollection of writing it. I’m scared to share it.
I’m sitting in my bed with Smokey at 6:30 a.m., admiring the way the morning light hits the rock karee tree. It’s shining on the branches just so, creating a knife edge of glow. I can’t believe I’m sitting in South Africa right now, doing that. Jon‘s addiction, and perhaps my addiction, brought me here.
I confess to being an artist. A good artist. I’m going to devote myself to staying that way, and to becoming better.
There will be more confessions to come.
I have always thought of you as a very accomplished artist.
Thank you Gail. You are too 🙂
Heather, this post means the world to me, Thank-You………………………
Thank YOU, Rob. You just made my day.
hi – clever clever post arty lady. her book sounds interesting – Im not sure about her music – they played it on the radio the other day. But maybe I need to venture out of my ‘van morrison and elvis’ world
Hahaha. Keep listening to whatever makes you happy, Jacks. I miss you.
Yes!!! You will not believe how things change once you announce yourself as an artist. After announcing myself as an artist in a blog post and on social media my life has hanged dramatically, in all aspects, and it was, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve ever done for my self. Behind you all the way, the paragraph is beautiful and I look forward to your book very much. Kudos on the bravery – it will be well worth it, I promise! Xxx
Thanks Germaine. It’s not easy to give myself this label, as I’m sure you know, but I’m excited about it. Thanks for understanding. xx
yea, an artist you are! I honestly nearly peed in my pants when I hear Amanda was in town and I so so so wished I had scooped everyone I know up to go to the show/experience/life enhancing joyous celebration. Like you I am reading that book and my mind and heart and soul are being spring cleaned. Yay us for living in Joburg and yay us for always having chances to grow x
Thanks Melinda, I’m glad you caught the show. I’ll definitely be there next time.
I am frothing to read more.
Love and good vibes.
You will, Timmee. I promise.
Well done. Loved this post. You are indeed a talented artist!
People often ask me what my definition of a good photograph is. My answer is: “a good photograph is an image that people want to look at” — it’s as simple as that. There are no rules, no absolute do’s and don’ts. There are guidelines that may help you produce these types of images, but in the end it is all about your personal vision and your dedication to your craft. Stay true to those principals and you will be a good artist whether you are Picasso making a painting or Warren Buffet making an investment.
Amanda Palmer nails it when she says “you are an artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.”
Thanks Dad. I imagine Warren Buffet would be pleased to be called an artist 🙂
I find this extremely courageous of you, after watching Amanda palmers vids with you I was abit shocked but I have to admit art is meant to be that way. I would like to hear what she says in her book. This is a great post it further makes me think how good a match we are. You are definitely an artist I knew that when we first met, what I do and what you do are both so so similar. Beautiful post! I am actually so stoked to see you totally come out and lay it all out for everyone I know you abit better and I know you stew and mull over ideas for a while before finally deciding what you initially say the first time round. I think that will only make sense between us. But this post is so just perfect. I love you and you know I have said this to you, I am happy you are here despite what it took. You are strong and intelligent and I am proud of you! In line you- Ray
Red dots <3
You should check out the video by Amanda’s husband Neil Gaiman about art. Very inspirational. http://wp.me/p3zYcH-hC
Thanks Ashley, I’ll definitely check it out 🙂