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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Think like an artist" by Will Gompertz

This is a delightful little book. It is written in short chapters full of pithy aphorisms and delightful examples. Very readable!

Gompertz suggests that we can all learn to be creative if we do what artists do. He starts by pointing out that we are all artists because we all create. This gets lost a bit later on as he focuses on the art of painting. I think most of his points could be equally well made if he focused on scientists: scientists are "seriously curious", scientists are "tenacious grafters", scientists build their ideas on those of others, scientists are sceptics who constantly ask questions and so on. Perhaps all schools should be science schools.

Here are his rules: 
  • Artists are enterprising
    • Artists are the CEO of their own businesses. They need to have an acute sensitivity for marketing and and implicit understanding of brand ... After all, they are in the business of supplying products have no real function or purpose.” (p 22) 
  • Artists don’t fail
    • If at first you don't succeed, don't try exactly the same thing again. You won't succeed, again.” (p 43)
    • Artists appear glamorous and blessedly detached, but in reality they are tenacious grafters.” (p 43)
    • It can be difficult to get started. We can feel that we don't have permission to test our talents ... somehow we are unworthy.” (p 51)
    • Everyone thinks they are a bit of a fraud; you just have to get over it.” (p 53)
  • Artists are seriously curious 
    • If necessity is the mother of invention, curiosity is the father.” (p 58)
  • Artists steal
  • Artists are sceptics
    • It is not simply about asking questions; they have to be the most revealing and pertinent questions.” (p 105)
  • Artists think big picture and fine detail
    • Delivering the big picture while focusing on the small detail ... requires your mind to constantly go back and forth, one moment concerned with the minutiae, the next stepping away and seeing the broader context. Spend too much time on the fine detail and you will get lost. But if you only think about the big picture you won't create or connect to anything.” (p 119)
  • Artists have a point of view
    • A point of view is not the same as a style. It is what you say, not the way you say it. And in the creativity game you're not really a player unless you have something to say.” (p 140)
  • Artists are brave
    • Boldness is required to release ideas into the world, even though it can feel alien and arrogant. I mean, who do I think I am? Some kind of genius? Surely there are far more talented people than me out there?” (p 162)
  • Artists pause for thought
    • When artists sit down in their chairs they switch personas. They stop being the creator and turn into a critic. ... Their hyper-critical eyes scrutinise the work for insincerity, sloppiness and technical mistakes.” (p 178)
He concludes that all schools should be art schools (having taught in state secondary comprehensives for 33 years I agree that he makes some extremely valid points about the factory style of education which seems utterly unsuited to the modern digital age but I think he underestimates the political inertia) and then reforms the economy so that we all have portfolio careers. Great stuff! 

More wonderful words of wisdom:
  • Artists, like a lot of us, fear being ‘found out’. But somehow they manage to summon up enough self-belief to overcome the self-doubt.” (p 12)
  • Artists don't seek permission to paint or write or act or sing; they just do it.” (p 12)
  • The very act of making and creating is deeply satisfying, life-affirming and rewarding.” (p 16)
  • Artists are no more courageous or noble or single-minded than the farmers who go to extreme lengths, in extreme weathers, to protect their herd.” (p 20)
  • I don't think there's a dignity issue in being a plumber. ... keeping water out of places you don't want it is a big deal.” (p 36)
  • Creativity isn't about making additions; it is about making subtractions. Ideas need honing, simplifying and focusing.” (p 96)
  • Piero [della Francesca] set himself the task of rethinking how the world should be represented in a painting, given the invention [by Brunelleschi] of mathematical perspective. ... He made the commitment to question everything afresh. All assumptions had to be challenged, starting with first principles.” (p 109)
  • Ernest Hemingway would sometimes spend hours on a single sentence. Not because he was attempting to write the perfect solitary line of text, but because he was trying to make that sentence successfully linked to the one preceding it and seamlessly lead on to the next - while also contributing something to the story.” (p 121)
  • Society puts enormous pressure on us to conform. It functions when we all adhere to agreed systems. We obediently drive our cars on a designated side of the road, use money as the accepted mode of exchange for goods or services received, and stand patiently in queues . It works. If we didn't respect these social conventions chaos would ensue and Society would collapse.” (p 169) 
  • Being employed can be a stifling and infantilizing experience, which is hardly conducive to creativity.” (p 198)

A remarkable book in which an enormous amount of insight is crammed into 200 small pages. April 2018; 201 pages

This is one of a selection of books I am reading to help me understand more about art. Others reviewed on this blog include:

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