Title Pending: Inspiration Fizzles

Inspiration generally gets me to the foot of the mountain. But once I’m there, inspiration often fizzles because the mountain doesn’t look like the mountain anymore. It looks like a steep hill and lots of short steps carrying a cheese-ob- sessed toddler on my back. It looks like a spreadsheet or a blank page instead of a finished book. It looks like cliché and bad transitions instead of a song. In short, it looks like ...

Title Pending: Are You A Sellout?

It is easy to romanticize the image of the “starving artist.” But there is no intrinsic value in failure. Just as there is no intrinsic anathema in success. If you choose to sell what you make, then for the sake of all things worth swearing by, don’t believe for a minute that doing so makes you a sellout. Some art sells. Some doesn’t. Making art with a broad appeal is an art-form in and of ...

weakness20 Nov 2014

Title Pending: What To Do With Criticism and Weakness

If you are anything like me, you won’t have to work very hard to remember negative remarks - they tend to stick to the lesser and weaker parts of my psyche like barnacles. And while I try not to allow negative feedback to derail me, I also think its a bad policy to simply ignore it. Sometimes I need to know that what I’m doing isn’t connecting, and negative feedback is one way (just one, mind you) ...

Bob_Dylan13 Nov 2014

Title Pending: Starting Over, Over and Over

Bob Dylan began by picking up the acoustic guitar. He began again by putting it down and picking up the electric. And people lost their minds because they felt as if he was betraying his most actualized artist-self. But he knew better. He was beginning again. And eventually his people followed. The truth is that Dylan has started over almost sixty times, with every album he wrote, produced and released. Couldn’t he have stopped with ...

Critque6 Nov 2014

Title Pending: You Want To Be Critiqued

Mid-way through that songwriter retreat, one of the other contributing artists shared a story that, in my estimation, clearly detailed the danger of expecting niceness rather than seeking critique. Upon arrival, one of the participants whose song he had critiqued approached him, infuriated. Student: “I don’t understand the feedback you gave me.” Teacher: “Let’s take a look at it and see if I can’t be clearer.” Student: “No, I don’t get why I got negative ...

cliche30 Oct 2014

Title Pending: A Few Thoughts On Cliche

Theologian Walter Brueggemann’s “Hopeful Imagination” is a poetically-charged call to abandon dead words (cliché). In this essay he writes: “Predictable language is a measure of a deadened relationship in which address is reduced to slogan.” The use of cliché can be reflective of a tragic disconnect be- tween an artist and her subject. What may have been a living relationship at one time is reduced to a cold and mechanical trans- action of words and ...

propaganda22 Oct 2014

Title Pending: Propaganda

Nobody likes propaganda and nobody wants to make it. But what if you've got something you really want to say? I don’t think the trick is keep your agendas and ideologies in the back-seat like troublesome children. Instead, learn to make art in which your ideologies and agendas have a place of their own without taking over and dominating your work. Learning to clearly and creatively communicate things you care about (religious, social, political, etc.) is an art in and of ...

vangogh16 Oct 2014

Title Pending: Maturity Is Not About Arrival

In a scene I find both challenging and encouraging, Irving Stone depicts Vincent Van Gogh conversing passionately with his brother, Theo concerning his personal creative development. Pacing the floor wildly, breaking glasses and trashing his own hard-earned work as he rants: Vincent: “Must I give up? Am I through? It looks that way, doesn’t it? Theo: “Vincent, you’re behaving like a child...” Vincent: “But Theo, I’ve let you support me for six long years. And what ...

lauryn-hill 213 Oct 2014

Lauryn Hill And Love For An Audience

This past summer, Lauryn Hill showed up late to a show in Chicago. Someone in the crowd made note of it during her performance. She responded that she didn’t “owe” him anything and that, instead she “did this for love." The encounter stirred up some very interesting conversation about the relationship between an artist and her audience. And while I’m not entirely sure what I think about an artist “owing” anything to an audience, here’s ...

Imitation9 Oct 2014

Title Pending: Imitation

Inspiration is a wonderful place to start when making art. But we often move too quickly from being inspired to innovation—making our own thing with (hopefully) our own, unique signature. I believe that imitation is a missing link in much of our artistic development. So, don’t just be inspired by someone’s work. Make it part of your work to learn how it is that they do what they do. My wife studied studio art in ...