How to steal like an artist

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9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.

As Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

I’m a boring guy with a 9-5 job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog.

That whole romantic image of the bohemian artist doing drugs and running around and sleeping with everyone is played out. It’s for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.

The thing is: art takes a lot of energy to make. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.

via Austin Kleon thx, Keith,

There Are 21 Comments On This Article.

  1. Agreed. I feel more creative after a few glasses of wine, great things manifest until I loose ambition, will, drive and focus. It is a very fine line indeed.

  2. For reals. I’m a homebody and I very seldomly go out (exception being assignments and networking to get more assignments). After a shoot I am exhausted and all I want to do is take a nap.

  3. Seen article linked this all over the place. It reeks of an excuse to be boring. To stick with what you’re comfortable with. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a nailed on path to greatness.

    Sure, you can write a fantastic novel, locked in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for a decade.

    But every artist I admire, is living an awesome life, doing lots of weird and cool and dangerous stuff all the time.

    I think I’ll stick with that instead.

    • @Erik,

      I don’t think it provides an excuse to be boring. Yes, art has to come from personal experience and spending your days in a boring white room is not the best way to gain life experience or inspiration for your art. I think Austin’s point was that the stereotype of an artist is played out. You can make good work without spending all your time and money doing drugs and living a crazy lifestyle.

      I admire Don Hertzfeldt more than almost any other artist in the world. He spends most of his days in front of his light table, drawing frame after frame after frame. Much of success is hard work, putting in the time despite the drudgery, day after day after day. There’s no real secret. But if you’re out getting wasted and snorting lines then you won’t have the time or energy to give to your art.

      I think Michelle’s post above gets it right — there’s a fine balance between living an exciting, interesting life and doing what needs to be done to get your art in the right place.

      • @Jim,

        I’d say 90% of my ideas and creative advancement come while already working on other projects. So I make a note and think about it when I get a chance. The key is to work hard and be friendly

      • @Jim @craig, I’d take Ryan McGinley’s life over any friendly art school graduate any day.

        • @Erik, ha it’s funny you say that about ryan b/c in interviews he says his pics just represent the life he wishes he was living. it’s fantasy.

          • @marty, Art is about creating fantasies, but to make the kinda work McGinley does, you have to *do* a lot of stuff. E.g. stage invading Morrisey and climbing rooftops in NY with Dash Snow.

            • @Erik,

              So get off the internet and go do it. Nobody starts there – I started out sweeping floors. It’s funny how many interns start out thinking its all about hot chicks, booze and hanging out in some cool place, when honestly its about meetings, meetings, meetings sitting at the computer, meetings, take some pictures, take a nap. lol

              • @craig, Don’t worry, I’ve been doing it for a long time. And I never swept any floors.

                But what you say is of course through if you want to do that whole NY fashion photog thing.

        • @Erik,

          I bet he works his ass off. I’ve never met anyone who was successful in the business that wasn’t busy all the time with something. Remember, ‘work’ can have a lot of meanings…

          • @craig, Of course he does. I’m not arguing that you should be so cool you never “work”.

            It just irks me to hear that you should be boring and orderly to create great stuff. That’s making excuses for the people to afraid to commit to making art.

            And there are simply too many brilliant artists that live totally unordered and exceptional lives that consistently put out great work.

            The best way to make art is to live it. You don’t need to do heroin to make great stuff, but if you’re a photographer it helps to get out and push your boundaries.

  4. it also depends what you wanna create. if you’re a fine art painter you can do that all in your house at night. to be a documentary photographer though for example…you gotta be living it to some extent.

  5. Regina Marie

    I totally see what you mean. I think it’s a matter of not ‘having to’ live any certain way. I think the idea of the “bohemian” is being stereotyped, though. I’m very bohemian, live aboard a sailboat, and well am “non-conventional” in almost every regard. I still have quite time that I spend with the men and women i adore, with my kids (which live on the sailboat with me)…

    But my life isn’t for everyone, just like I couldn’t live on land and follow a “schedule”. My adventures are what I live for, though the nap afterword is nice too. lol

  6. I think doing dumb crap because you think it will make you an artist is dumb and more makes you a poser.

    I think if you want to live an exciting life, you would anyway whether you were an artist or an accountant.

    In the 40s and 50s so many aspiring Jazz musicians became heroin addicts because they thought that’s what made Charlie Parker or Miles or ‘Trane great jazz musicians.

    But all those guys had an incredible amount of musical scholarship, practiced much more than not, and listened to all forms of music for inspiration. You don’t develop that musical intelligence by shooting china white.

  7. I keep my social life for the shootings… it is so stressful, exciting and interesting that I don’t need more to handle.
    Although I would love to meet my friends more often but it is hard to manage… :) We live on different schedule…

  8. I have to disagree, you don’t have to be boring to get work done. You do have to be disciplined and develop healthy boundaries for those around you.

    If an artist was boring I definitely wouldn’t be interested in them or their work. Just my personal truth.

  9. no way.. I have to say I come across some great stuff when I’m out partying.. Granted I’m not snorting rails off hookers -never was into that stuff- but,.. Motivation and discipline will get you further then making up another list of things that you won’t do.

  10. Donnor Party

    Its not one size fits all. You can be orderly like Flaubert, Alec Soth, Gerhardt Richter, Sally Mann, or chaotic and fucked up like Bukowski, Bob Richardson, Van Gaugh, Nan Golden, Boudlaire, Pollack. Everybody is different in their process and what brought them to create art.

    My observation is that today, the guys doing blow, who bump you in crowded bars, shoot H, generally do not create anything good, except a superficial played out “personality” (I’m talking to you, Dash Snow’s corpse). I have no issue with artists being self destructive, just so long as their art is good. When the art is bad, or fake, its insulting. Its a self undulgent mess, a narcissits feeble diary that W and Interview hails as genuine. As an aside, what the fuck happened to Interview. Its turned into W with pretensions, wearing out its past glory.

    Its interesting that New York doesn’t have a “Young Hollywood” scene that is as all encompassing as LA. Instead it ha a superficial “Downtown” scene that puts an artistic or literary gloss on the same solopsistic bullshit. I don’t know which is worse.

  11. Kind of a pointless debate going on here in the comments?

    No one can dispute, if you want to be successful, you need to work hard. How you work, and how you run your private life (if you decide to keep it private), are up to the individual. Doing one or the other won’t necessarily make you a better photographer.

    Whatever suits you.