“Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by David Bayles and Ted Orland

This isn’t the book I went to Barnes & Noble to buy.

I visited the store after the rush of Thanksgiving break to use a couple coupons Barnes & Noble tempted me with so I could buy Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Color. I’d always wanted a book specifically about color and because the cover of St. Clair’s book appealed to me, I decided to get it. But while searching for that book, I found Art & Fear.

Art & Fear is a book I’ve often seen on lists recommending books to writers and artists. I recall making a mental note to read it back in college, but promptly forgot about it as soon as the note was made. However, that memory came back to me when I saw the book sitting on the shelf. I was pulled toward it. I had no intention of purchasing any additional book to St. Clair’s, yet I found myself leaving the store with Art & Fear in my bag.

I immediately began to read it.

That doesn’t happen often. Usually a book would languish on my shelves for a couple months before I get to them, but it was hard to ignore Art & Fear. I felt a need to read it, and as I read, I realized it was a book I should have read long ago. Art & Fear is a necessary read for all artists and creators no matter what their field or medium or skill or expertise. All levels of artists and creators can benefit from reading this book.

There’s advice for the novice and the master, artists who’re about start on their chosen medium for the first time and those who have engaged in it for years. There’s advice for the working artist and those who haven’t yet entered the industry and those who have retired from it. There’s even advice for getting started and getting work done and how to keep motivated.

It’s amazing how much Bayles and Orland have packed into this little book that amounts to just over 100 pages. As such, it could be a quick read, but I took a week (about 8 days) to get through it because I wanted to pay attention and adopt some of the advice Bayles and Orland shares.

One of my favorite types of bookish occurrences happened while I read this book. I took the book with me while out exploring Washington, D.C., and a young woman saw me reading it and stopped to share with me her experience with the book and how much it means to her. I appreciate such moments. They don’t often happen. I spent some time speaking with the young woman, who happened to be an art student, and I told her that I write and also draw and that I was enjoying reading Art & Fear because of how encouraging it is — which I needed. She told me that the book helped her to believe in herself as an artist. It was a wonderful chat and I was left feeling even more glad that I’d bought and was reading the book.

Now that I’ve completed the book, I can’t help extolling it to everyone I meet who I know are artists and creators of some kind and telling them how much they could benefit from reading the book. Even folks who don’t consider themselves artists and creators could benefit from the positive, encouraging message in it.

I had to add it to my list of favorite books read in 2017. It’s a book I know I’ll return to throughout my life, so I know that I’ll definitely read it again someday.

Overall: ★★★★★

A wonderful, encouraging read that all artists and creators should read no matter their skill level.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

I think it’s worth owning a copy.

Quotes from the book:

In this section of my reviews, I like to list sentences and passages that appealed to me. However, I’ll just include two from this book. I highlighted many things as I read, so to include them all would be to reproduce the entire book here (well, the entire first section since I connected most with that part).

“Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if artmaking did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible.”

“Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be.”

7 thoughts on ““Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by David Bayles and Ted Orland

  1. I feel like I’ve seen that book lying around on the bookstores… I’m not a very artsy person, but my father looves these art books. Such a lovely feeling when you have those bookish encounters with fellow book lovers, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the book! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.