More thoughts from the #hughbook etc.]
IN PRAISE OF SMALL ART.
A friend of mine was in Paris a few years ago, where she went and checked out the massive Anish Kapoor sculpture, Monumenta 2011, which was on exhibit at Le Grand Palais.
This got me thinking…
I like Kapoor’s work. He makes a lot of very big art, especially the last decade.
I, on the other hand, make very small art i.e. these “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards“. And the prints aren’t too large, either.
Though I like a lot of “Big Art”- Kapoor, Serra, Gormley, Smithson etc etc- I’m pretty happy I stuck with “Small Art”.
Small Art can impact another person on a meaningful level, just as powerfully as Big Art. Fifteen lines from Shelley’s Ozymandias had as much influence on me over the years, as fifteen hundred pages of Tolstoy’s War & Peace, as much as I loved the latter.
Small Art is A LOT less hassle to make.
And you can make more of it. More often. Without bankrupting yourself or putting your life on hold for literally years on end.
And perhaps more importantly, there’s the “Personal Sovereignty” angle. With Small Art, there’s no need to wait for someone to deem it worthy beforehand- no need to wait nervously for the rich patron, the movie studio exec, or the illustrious museum director to give it the greenlight. There’s no need for the politics or the schmoozing or the bureaucracy.
Or the sleaze and corruption. The “Big Art” world is rife with that, as we all know full well.
With Small Art, you just go ahead and make it, and then it exists, and the rest is in the hands of the gods. Your work is already done, and you can get to bed at a decent hour. And not lose any sleep over it, either.
Hey, it worked for Joseph Cornell, Saul Steinberg and Edward Gorey… three artists who I rate WAY higher than Kapoor or Serra.
And what is true for Art is probably true for your thing, as well. Worry less about how BIG you want your business to be, instead think about how much LOVE you actually want to give out while your still have time left on this earth.
“Meaning Scales.” Exactly.
PUT THE HOURS IN.
Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort, and stamina.
I get asked a lot, “Your business card format is very simple. Aren’t you worried about somebody ripping it off?”
Standard Answer: Only if they can draw more of them than me, better than me.
What gives the work its edge is the simple fact that I’ve spent years drawing them. I’ve drawn thousands. Tens of thousands of man hours.
So if somebody wants to rip my idea off, go ahead. If somebody wants to overtake me in the business card doodle wars, go ahead. You’ve got many long years in front of you. And unlike me, you won’t be doing it for the joy of it. You’ll be doing it for some self-loathing, ill-informed, lame-ass mercenary reason. So the years will be even longer and far, far more painful. Lucky you.
If somebody in your industry is more successful than you, it’s probably because he works harder at it than you do. Sure, maybe he’s more inherently talented, more adept at networking etc, but I don’t consider that an excuse. Over time, that advantage counts for less and less. Which is why the world is full of highly talented, network-savvy, failed mediocrities.
If I was just starting out writing, say, a novel or a screenplay, or maybe starting up a new software company, I wouldn’t try to quit my job in order to make this big, dramatic heroic-quest thing about it.
I would do something far simpler: I would find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but me, and I would make it productive. Put the hours in, do it for long enough and magical, life-transforming things happen eventually. Sure, that means less time watching TV, internet surfing, going out or whatever.
But who cares?
ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR “THING”, IT NEVER GOES AWAY.
For me, it was cartoons. But for you, it can be anything. Writing books. Poetry. Painting. Technology. Computers. Internet. Running a business. Theater. Music. Cooking. Carpentry. Film. Photography. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that it’s yours, something you really own, not just something you’re doing just because it sounds good.
And once you have this thing, it’s here to stay. It’s going to rule your every waking hour on some level. It’s going to be the lens you see the world through.
You’re going to have to learn to accept that, learn how to deal with it.
And because you’re going to need people in your life who understand this (Most people won’t get it, not even a little bit), you’re going to have to be very selective about your friends, about who you give your energy to.
This is it. This is what it feels like. Good luck.