Top 10 Art Insights

Making art is the big thing I'm doing with my life. It's what I'm leaving behind, and what I've put the most hours into becoming good at. But like most things, there's no manual for making art, and probably no right way to do it even if there was. But, for what it's worth, here's what I've learned along the way.

1. The piece has its own life.

You never know what's going to happen. Sometimes characters say things you don't expect. The brush moves to an area you hadn't planned. Your lens is drawn to a different subject. Art is more archeology than creation. Let the piece be what it needs to be.

2. You'll never know what will connect.

Will people like it? Hate it? Send you unhelpful comments or emails that put you in a tailspin because seriously who writes that? You'll never know. It's totally out of your control. Pieces that I thought were meh turned out to be huge. Pieces I thought were spectacular were niche. You never know, and you probably never will.

3. Nobody knows their blue period.

Picasso's blue period is regarded as his finest. But to him, it was just a set of experiments, explorations. Only after it was done did anyone have a sense of it. Keep experimenting. Keep exploring.

4. Read. Watch. Look. Listen. A lot.

If you want to be a great writer, read. A lot. Same for photography and film-making and dance. Consume great art over and over and over. You are what you eat.

5. Write. Paint. Film. Code. Dance. A lot.

If you want to be a great writer, write. A lot. Same for painting and game-making and sculpture. Keep making, keep honing your skills.

The best art lies at the intersection of great skill and an exceptional experience. You don't know when that experience is coming. Be ready.

6. Make a meaningful, sustainable connection with your audience.

Know who you're writing to, painting to, singing to. That specificity will let you connect. But make it sustainable. There are trolls. Don't feed them.

7. Give art first dibs.

Give your art first crack at your best, most capable time. First thing in the morning. When ideas show up in the shower. Carve out consistent, quality time for making work, and drop everything when it needs your attention. The work comes first.

8. Be brave. Put shit out there.

Putting work out is scary. But it is the most important thing. How many people do you know who have a book they're going to write, someday? Read any of them? Write it. Paint it. Put it out there.

9. Get a Posse.

Find artists who you like and respect and who inspire you, and get together and talk art. Learn from each other, encourage each other. Making art can be really difficult and really lonely. It's easier together.

10. Learn from your own work.

Read what you wrote. Watch your films. Listen to your songs. You know your work better than anyone. You know what you were trying to create, and you know where you hit and missed the mark. Understand what's working and what's not, and use it to improve your game.

11. Learn from critics, but ignore them.

You are the only judge of your work that matters. Sometimes, a new set of eyes can spot something you missed. Sometimes, they're just dumping their shit all over your work. Listen to what people are saying, but don't accept it as truth. This is your work. They can make their own.

12. Get into the world.

Art comes from experience, and experience isn't only sitting in your bedroom. Get out into the world, have full rich experiences, and let them inform your work.

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