Quickie book review: Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Hey-lo! Today, I have a short review of Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

Publisher words: “Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. The book’s co-authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, are themselves both working artists, grappling daily with the problems of making art in the real world. Their insights and observations, drawn from personal experience, provide an incisive view into the world of art as it is experienced by artmakers themselves.”

The description is accurate in this case, and the book, in general, is pretty straightforward. If forced to boil it down to a central idea, that would be that an artist is never alone in their frustrations and insecurities.

Art and Fear mentions other art forms, like writing, but the primary focus is visual art. The authors cover a fair bit of ground from self-acceptance and perfectionism to the many reasons artists give up and a few bits about the art industry in general. 

One quote that I liked was this one: “Talent is a snare and delusion.”

I took a lot of art classes when I was in high school, and every art class had 1 or 2 of those kids that seemed to do everything flawlessly and naturally. I was never that kid. That younger version of me could’ve used that idea. It might’ve motivated me to work harder. Some of the teachers probably could’ve used it, too, because the “easy win” students were the ones who got the most attention.

Here are a few other quotes I liked:

“Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself.”

“To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary and universal humanity.”

“Those who challenge their fears continue. Those who don’t, quit.”

“Vision is always ahead of execution as it should be.”

That last one really got me.

The book is short. I think the audio was about 3 hours. But the length is perfect for the subject matter. Any longer would’ve been overkill and probably would’ve had the authors talking in circles

Art and Fear is a great read for an artist, aspiring or otherwise. However, another possible use for this book that the authors probably didn’t intend would be for a writer to use this as a form of research if they want to write an artist character.

Overall, the book was good, definitely worth a read or a listen if you struggle with creative insecurities.


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