This is actually my 'this is ...' entry but who could resist a post title like 'art & fear'?
Have you ever read a book that you just instantly wanted to internalise? Wanted to have its contents permanently lodged inside your head so that you would always know it without having to go back and read it over and over again? This may just be one such book for me - Art and Fear: observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I don't know whether I make art but I sure know about the fear associated with making - that it won't work, that it won't be any good, that I won't like it, that others won't like it, that I'll muck it up, that I don't have the skills to do it, don't have the skills to do it well, that I'll never get it finished, that so-and-so does a better job of it anyway, that it's not original enough, that ... oh, I could go on (and oops, I already have).
I know these fears and have, in some part, gotten over them. Perhaps that's why much of what's in this book resonates so clearly - it's a common-sense talking-to about getting over them and getting on with it. The book is divided into nine chapters and addresses topics such as 'talent', 'acceptance', 'canon', 'competition', 'craft' and 'creativity'.
One of the early gems is this: "Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working" (Stephen DeStaebler). How I know that feeling, of a project germinating, germinating until you can't bear it any longer and all the fears about making it are overtaken by the absolute need for it to sprout. I have a couple of blanket and fabric design projects that have been in the germinating stage for a long time and are almost at the point of breaking through but I'm happy to wait, the balance hasn't quite tipped on them yet.
I also really liked the part in the book about how your work does not have to be, in fact should never be, perfect because the seed of your next work lies in the flaws of the piece that preceded it. It's amazing, and liberating, to consider the 'masterworks', revered as being masterful and complete, and to think that Vermeer, Picasso or Morisot or whoever didn't actually think that it was quite right, that there were some muck-ups in there which lead him or her onto the next piece. Fantastic.
I also love that the authors talk about 'artmaking' as opposed to 'making art'. If someone asks you what you're doing and you reply 'oh, I'm making art' it sounds so pompous and is so focussed on the finished product. But, 'I'm artmaking' is all about the process which I think is a great place to be.
The book is aimed at visual artists, writers, composers, photographers - I highly recommend this book to anyone who makes anything.
(Complete aside here - did you know that Picasso's full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso?)