For today’s post I have something special. (Ah, creative freedom! It’s quite enjoyable. :))
First off, what makes a successful artist? I would say it’s someone who has learned to follow the joy in their art (whatever that art may be) more than any perceived suffering that may arise from it; someone who has managed to stay mostly heathy and comfortable, while creating prolifically and daringly; and someone who has also learned to daringly and prolifically share what they make, along with their process, so that the world may interact with it and develop from it. And while understanding that in order to have the lotus, we must have the mud, the change that the truly successful artist makes in the world, in my opinion, must be an overall positive one, helping light the way for others. To use my own terminology, the successful artist is a “bloom synergist.” He or she introduces us to the “pale golden blue” of existence — that fine line on the pre-dawn horizon, where dark turns to light.
The other day, John Clinock of Art Rat Café shared a final documentary to finish off his “Acts of Art” series. This one was an 8-and-a-half-minute video called “8 Artists: Advice to the Young,” published by the Louisiana Channel on YouTube, including Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovich, South African artist William Kentridge, rock singer and poet Patti Smith (partly quoting William S. Burroughs), American singer David Byrne, German film director Wim Wenders, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, and British artists Dinos and Jake Chapman.
Clinock adds his own words of experience, in his post, thereby rounding up the gifts of wisdom to a wonderfully inspiring 9. The below is just a taste. Click the link at the end of this quote for more:
“When I was teaching I encouraged my graduating students to explore Life in all of its myriad, miraculous facets before committing to Art School / University and the stress and financial burden of ‘higher’ education. Because…Making Art is a reflection of our life, expressing and sharing who we are as humans and our dances with each other. For most this doesn’t come, like the blues, until the heartbreaks, frustrations and angst of our 20s and 30s. And yet, even in my dotage, there are more days than not that I feel ‘young’. Not the energy young of youth but the young of ‘beginner’s mind’ and the young of standing before the work of a maestro, a master of their art, online; or if you are blessed, [of a] a personal mentor.
“Art is very capable of Magic; it seems I have known this forever. Some of our young will feel, hear and follow the call, most will not. It has always been so.”
— John Clinock, via acts of art 19 -“Advice to the Young” — art rat cafe 2019-04-10
While watching the video John/Clinock shared with us, I transcribed it. It’s a meticulous but approximate transcription, designed for ease of reading rather than 100% accuracy. I’ve removed most unnecessary speech fillers (though there were few to begin with), and added some connector words or clarifications (in square brackets).
I share my transcription with you, here, now, fellow creators and creators-in-the-making. All of the advice may apply to writing, my own current favourite artistic medium, as well as to any other creative endeavour. Enjoy! ❤︎ njl
8 Artists: Advice to the Young
[8m 33s] Published by Louisiana Channel on Jan 5, 2015 [430,427 views 12K likes]
00:02 [Marina Abramovic speaking]: So when I was teaching, this was one of the tests I would ask: how do you know you’re an artist. That’s the main question. To know you’re an artist or not is like breathing — you don’t question breathing, you have to breathe, otherwise you just die; so you breathe. So if you wake up in the morning and you have some ideas, and you have to make them, and this has become, like a kind of, almost obsession; and you have to create, and you have this urge to create, you’re definitely an artist. But you’re not a great artist; you’re just an artist. To be a great artist, that [requires] all different types of rules. And, you really have to — it’s like being obsessed — it’s like there’s nothing else in your mind.
00:45 [William Kentridge]: The only advice you ever hear is something you already know, and that just gets confirmed. If you think of all the advice that you’ve heard, 50 million pieces of advice people have [given you], and there may be three or piece four pieces of advice you can think of having taken.
00:59 [Patty Smith]: When I was really young William Burroughs told me — I was really struggling, we never had any money, and William, the advice that William gave me was: Build a good name. You know, keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money, or being successful; be concerned with doing good work, and make the right choices, and protect your work, and if you build a good name, eventually, you know, that name will be its own currency.
01:33 [David Byrne]: The only advice I have is probably things that a lot of young musicians and artists already know: that although some of them may have the ambition to be the next Jay-Z or the next whatever — whatever it is; the number of those artists are very very small. And often the artists who are very successful that way, they don’t have much flexibility. In achieving success, they kind of lose a lot of their creative freedom. They have to keep making the same thing, more or less, over and over and over again, and that if the musician or artist values their freedom, and the ability to be creative, then they have to maybe realize that they won’t be making hundreds of millions of dollars — they might be making less money, but they might have more artistic satisfaction.
02:40 [Wim Wenders]: Painter, photographer, filmmaker, video artist, whatever you do, [make it something that] nobody else can do that better than you.
02:51 [Dinos and Jake Chapman]: I think, you know, what the thing is, is we’re not in, you know, we can’t impart any kind of wisdom to anyone else. We’re so immersed in the bullsh*t of our own activities to know, you know, even how to give anyone advice. So [shrugs, smiles].
03:05 [Olafur Eliasson]: My advice to younger artists would be something like: to be very sensitive, to where [you] are, and in what times, in what part of the world, and how that constitutes the artistic practice — the artistic inquiry.
03:21 [Marina Abramovic]: I think the great artists have to be ready to fail, which is not what too many people do. Because when you have success in a certain way, then in the public accept you in a certain way, you start somehow involuntarily reproducing the same images, the same type of work. But then you’re not risking. And the real artists, you know, always change their territories, and they go to the land they’ve never been, and there, is unknown territory, and then you can fail, and you can risk. And that failure actually is what makes this — this extra — you know, ready to fail — that makes great artists.
04:02 [William Kentridge]: So it’s not that there isn’t things to say to artists, but I unless they are the specific things they’re going to hear, it’s not worth their while listening, or worth your while telling them. So I think it has to do with the specific interaction of the person giving the advice and the person receiving it, rather than “Broaden our strokes. Work hard. Do your best. Do what you like and people will respect you for it. It doesn’t matter what subject you take on, in the end whatever you do is going to be a self-portrait; it will reveal who you are. If it’s arrogant, it’s about you; if it’s pretentious, that’s about you; don’t think you can escape yourself by your choice of subject matter.” There are many things like that, that one can say. But unless someone is needing those words, they don’t get heard.
04:50 [Dinos and Jake Chapman]: Make your own way in the world. Wrap up warm. Wrap up warm! Eat properly, sensibly. Don’t smoke. And phone your mum. Phone your mum!
05:03 [Marina Abramovic]: I had a very old professor, really which I loved very much — and he gave me two [pieces of] advice. He said to me, “If you are drawing with your right hand, and you’re getting better and better, and become [a] virtuoso, so that even with closed eyes, you can draw anything you want, immediately change to the left hand.” And that was very important advice, because when you become routine, that is the end of everything. And the second [piece of] great advice, he [said] to me: “You know in your lifetime you probably will have one good idea. If you’re really good artist and if you[‘re a] genius, two good ideas, and that’s it. But be careful with them.”
05:42 [Wim Wenders]: Don’t do anything that somebody else — that you know deep in your heart somebody else can do better. But do what nobody else can do except you.
05:52 [Olafur Eliasson]: What I think the best advice is I think, working with art is working with something that is very fierce, very strong, very robust. And even though the whole world seems to say that art is fragile, should be marginalized, it’s not important, it’s counterproductive, it’s — you know, doesn’t belong to the center of what reality is defined as — artists should have confidence in the fact that well, making a drawing on a piece of paper is changing the world, by definition. Making art is making the world. So it is an unbelievably rewarding thing to be an artist. And to be fully behind that idea as a young artist, and to actually see that having chosen the — in many perspectives — strange choice to become an artist, it’s also to have chosen to be a part of the world.
06:50 [Patti Smith]: To be an artist, actually to be a human being, in these times — it’s all difficult. You have to go through life, hopefully, trying to stay healthy; being as happy as you can; and pursuing, you know, doing what you want. If what you want is to have children, if what you want is to be a baker, if what you want is to live out in the woods, or try to save the environment, or maybe what you want is to write scripts for detective shows. It doesn’t really matter, you know. What matters… is to know what you want, and pursue it, and understand that it’s going to be hard. Because life is really difficult. You’re going to lose people you love, you’re going to suffer heartbreak, sometimes you’ll be sick, sometimes you’ll have a really bad toothache, sometimes you’ll be hungry. But on the other hand, you’ll have the most beautiful experiences. Sometimes just, the sky. Sometimes a piece of work that you do, that feels so wonderful, or you find somebody to love, or your children, or there’s beautiful things in life. So when you’re suffering just — you know, it’s part of the package. You look at it — we’re born, and we also have to die; we know that. So it makes sense that we’re going to be really happy, and things are going to be really f*cked up too.
[End of video: 08:33. The YouTube link, once again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyKXw24JX5g%5D
Transcription by njl @ bloomwords.com. 1.5 hours transcription time (no special equipment). Emphasis/boldface added by njl.
With thanks to the inspiring 8 artists in the video, for sharing their priceless wisdom; to Louisiana Channel for collecting and publishing that wisdom, so that it may be freely available; and with thanks also to the amazing visual artist and teacher, John Clinock (who happens to be based in my homeland BC, Canada!) for sharing it with us on his blog. (WordPress users, here is the WP Reader link to his blog: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/24887103)
A quote I loved, from John’s “about the artist” page:
“The act of art enchants me. The sensual and quintessentially magical process of making something from nothing animates my life. I play and lose myself in the act of art. I work until I disappear.” — John Clinock, visual artist
Wow. Yes! Thank you, John/Clinock
xo njl @ bloomwords.com
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. If you wish to contribute and/or show appreciation, please recommend/like and/or comment. Thank you very much for reading & responding. Means the world. ❤︎