Art + Design

Lessons from Chuck Close.

I just watched Chuck Close read a letter to his 14-year-old self. You should watch it too. Sorry about the ad at the beginning—the four minutes that follow are worth it, I promise. I’ll wait…

Good stuff, right?

Chuck Close was the commencement speaker at my graduation from art school. He’d just had a huge retrospective at MoMA earlier that year, and it was very exciting to have him there. Purchase College is divided up into several distinct small schools, each with its own admissions process, its own dean, and its own requirements. The graduation ceremony, however, is all-inclusive. The painters are sitting next to the biology majors are sitting next to the dancers are sitting next to the sociology people are sitting next to the filmmakers are sitting next to the designers.

But Chuck Close was really there to talk to us. The art students. This is part of what he said:

I’d like to say something to the parents of the art majors. This is probably not what you had in mind, you know? You hoped maybe—I don’t know, maybe medical school, maybe a degree in law, but I want to tell you that a life in art can be a wonderful life. Artists live better at near-poverty level income than yuppie bond traders do at much larger income.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of yuppie bond traders out there who are plenty happy with their lives and I certainly don’t deride them for that, but you know…the world is quick to judge someone who makes their living as an artist. The arts are considered expendable and disposable, as if their place in culture and modern society is not one of actual value, but merely something decorative and extraneous. It’s nice to have something to hang above the sofa, sure, but not if it means I’m going to have to pay more taxes! So it’s good to hear something like that from a guy like Chuck Close when you’re about to embark on a career path that will likely always feel a bit tenuous.

(Of course, I was created and raised by two artists who already understood and were actively living this lesson, so I’m pretty sure they did have “this” in mind. Actually, what they had in mind was that their children would become whatever they wanted to. I’d like to think they’d still love me even if I’d become a yuppie bond trader.)

But back to that video! I’ve watched it a number of times now, and I keep dwelling on this:

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

I’ve heard Chuck Close use that line before, but right now it speaks so directly to how I’ve been feeling about inspiration, appropriation, value, context, and work ethics. Far be it from me to claim to be free from inspiration, but I do think Close is right. If you imagine your creative work as a spectrum, you’d have the finding and saving of the work of others on one end, and “showing up and getting to work” on the other. Life doesn’t have to exist solely within the latter part of the spectrum, of course, but the more time we spend there (and, conversely, the less time we spend poring over “inspiration”), the more we likely we are to produce work that is truly the result of what we set out to do when we decided a life in the arts was what we wanted.

When someone asks me what I’m inspired by (easily my least favorite question), the first answer that always comes to me is EVERYTHING. Or if not every thing, then every possibility of a thing. I’m constantly looking at shapes and patterns and colors, whether in nature or in art or in the way my shoes happen to be sitting in front of the closet door. Every food wrapper is considered. Furniture. Bill envelopes. Music. EVERYTHING. It doesn’t have a start or end!

Because of this, inspirational stimulation can easily become overwhelming for me. I’ve never had an inspiration board/mood board/whatever board—I find them oppressive. Aside from the pressure of influence, I dislike the act of stripping context from another person’s work. And yes, I do do that here on this blog sometimes—but I cannot have it around me when I’m in “design mode.” I show up, and I get to work. OK, most of the time. Sometimes I’m an amateur.

So here are my lessons for artist/designer types, as inspired (oops) by Chuck Close:

Not every decision you make has to be crowdsourced beforehand. Trust your gut and keep it to yourself while you follow through.

It’s OK to strive to accomplish things that may never lead to financial reward. More than OK, actually.

Try to put a limit on the amount of time you spend searching for and cataloging images for the sake of inspiration. Think more about appreciating these things for what they are, and not just how you can apply them to your own work.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

And hey, maybe yuppie bond traders can apply these things to their work, too.

Thanks to Kelly at LPP for sharing the video.

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  • Reply Carolyn April 11, 2012 at 2:01 am

    This is great. I teach high school art, and the point you make here is what I think has been making me so leery about the insane amount of energy many of my students direct to their Pinterest or Tumblr pages. It is _hard_ to be a beginner, and overexposure to the seemingly perfect, beautiful work of others can be paralyzing.

    P.S. I realize there is something inherently hypocritical about making this comment on your gorgeous, and often very inspiring, design blog.

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

      I don’t see it as hypocrisy at all, actually—it’s that spectrum I talked about, really. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing to engage in dialog with others and to be exposed to all kinds of stuff that may or may not prove to be inspiring, but I do think it’s important to have some sense of isolation (for lack of a better word) when when it comes to personal output. It’s so easy to lose that awareness altogether and get caught up in thinking too much about what others are doing instead of taking care of your own work!

    • Carolyn April 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      I was definitely poking fun at myself there — and I agree, there is absolutely a place for exploring and interacting with the work of others as a part of the creative process!

    • Daniela April 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Thank you Anna, for this post. I was in big need of reading this. Especially this part: “Not every decision you make has to be crowdsourced beforehand. Trust your gut and keep it to yourself while you follow through.”
      I’m going to be part of an exhibition next week (MA in Arts in Bergen, Norway) and I’ve been waiting to have a tutorial for weeks, so I can get “approval”(?!?) of my thoughts, when trusting my gut and following my own idea is what I should learn to do. It just scares the hell out of me!
      Thank you.

  • Reply Peetu April 11, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Thank you for this! I’m no artist, but ‘trust your gut’ message is what I needed to hear right now.

    Over the past year or so since I’ve started following your blog, I’ve learned about things that I didn’t even know existed (I’ve no one, but myself to blame for this though). So, thank you.. (I didn’t intend to make it sound so sappy… oh well…)

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

      That’s very nice to hear, Peetu. Thank you.

  • Reply Katharina April 11, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Thank you for sharing this video! Wow! It’s so true! Show up and get to work!
    It took me many years to learn that simple truth – I actually think I first started making good stuff when I started with “office hours” in my studio. No more staying up all night, not taking breaks, forgetting to eat. I trust myself now, not inspiration.
    Well, sure I sometimes wish my parents had pushed me more in a money-earning direction, but most of the time I’m grateful they supported my artist-ambition. Living near-poverty can be survivable if it’s your own choice… I feel extremely grateful living in a society that makes it possible for me to be an artist!

  • Reply Francine April 11, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Love this. So hard.

  • Reply Adriane April 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

    As an artist, I really love this. I feel like I’m always open to inspiration, from all things, but my best work comes from just putting everything aside and painting. I think there’s a good lesson here for all of us. Thanks, as always, for sharing Anna 🙂

  • Reply tamera jane @ verhext April 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

    This is great. I remember an inspiration exercise in art school, though, for a textile design class: we went to a museum and were told to just start sketching. Then, we came back and picked elements to turn into a repeat pattern. My design “inspiration” was a 1956 Yamaha motorcycle – but the resulting textiles were abstract, with nods to the amber roundness of the lights or rubbery black of the tires.

    The point is – even if you DO take an inspiration point, there’s work in the interpretation.

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

      YES. A million times yes. Let’s not forget that inspiration points need not be within the same medium, either…

  • Reply Valeire April 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

    You forgot one thing – say something nice to someone every day.

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Well, this definitely wasn’t meant to be an all-inclusive guide to life for humans!

    • Valerie April 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

      I meant within the context of design – people can be vicious. It’s important to encourage other designers, even if their taste doesn’t necessarily match yours.

  • Reply tere April 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Couldn’t agree more!! Great post, and that video is awesome.

  • Reply Nicole April 11, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Thanks for this! I do have to sit back sometimes and actually think about these things…
    I love Pinterest, but I’d definitely have to admit it limits my actual output. I generally see something I had thought to do, and then it puts me off even trying in the first place – which is terrible. Also it’s a great time-suck!

    Going to repost this great quote on my website, if you don’t mind?

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Chuck Close’s words are not mine to protect! 🙂

    • Nicole April 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Haha, I know!

      It just seemed right to ask, considering you put a lot of work into this post, and also I would link back to your blog when I post the quote. Aneeeeway!

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Of course! Of course! (Thank you.)

  • Reply Paule April 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

    This is something i’ve been relying on..
    I have always felt weird / overwhelmed to go through other illustrator’s blog for fun or inspiration… I know, even if not consciously, i’ll incorporate elements that strike me. And this makes me uncomfortable.

    I’ve gotten used to reading deco (ah hA!!), cooking, blogs and just looking at ANYTHING, all the time. It fills up your mind, and inspires you without forcing it. Somehow when you need to get something done, you always end up having an idea, a problem solving solution.

    Thanks for sharing this, P.

  • Reply Megan April 11, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Very interesting and a kick in the ass to stop procrastinating! And coming at the perfect time since I’ve just relocated and “finding work” is a daunting task.

    I remember that MOMA retrospective, it was one of the most fascinating (and I have to say, inspiring) exhibits I’ve been to in my life. Thanks for the reminded!

  • Reply Jaime from Design Milk April 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for sharing this and that great quote – so very true. Searching for inspiration can be the death of your own creativity.

  • Reply Erin April 11, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Love this post- publishing is not technically art/design, but I know how it feels to love a field for its own sake, not for financial gain. And I think the “inspiration overload” is true for writers, too (or aspiring writers). There is so much exposure these days to other peoples’ work and accomplishments that it really can feel paralyzing if you don’t just try to stay focused on your own work, your own life and your own interests.

  • Reply Lisa Congdon April 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I answer a lot of interview questions. And one of the most asked is “what inspires you” or “where do you find inspiration”. I hate this question too because as an artist it is EVERYTHING and NOTHING. Of course I am inspired — but it is never a singular set of things or conditions which make that happen.

    “I am confident that no artist has more pleasure day in and day out with what he or she does than I do.”

    What a beautiful thing to believe and an amazing way to feel.

  • Reply Samantha April 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

    It’s really helpful to hear that. I’m in art school, and I find myself comparing my work to the work of people who have been working so much longer than I have, and it’s hard to be working at the same thing, but be substantially worse at it.

  • Reply Alicia April 11, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for this post. I am not an artist, but there is so much wisdom in your words and those of Mr. Close.

    I feel fortunate that I read it on the same day as I saw this video on illustrator Rob Ryan:

  • Reply Terry April 11, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I wholeheartedly agree that too much time looking and not enough time working is a problem, but i’m ill at ease with this seeming attack on the pursuit of inspiration, and the idea that it is somehow amateur, or a weakness; one only committed by lesser designers.

    No work is completed in a vacuum, and nothing is new. The design world survives by reinvention and the remixing of old ideas. The devouring of work en masse, especially in the early years of a design education, is critical in understanding the language of design, and developing a rich visual memory. A memory which allows us to ‘show up and get to work’, seemingly with little immediate influence from outside.

    Only once this visual memory has reached a critical mass can ‘new’ forms begin to emerge, but even after we have completed this process of front-loading, every creative person, regardless of what they may say in public, needs to continually feed their mind to remain fresh, and challenge their imagination to grow. Our brains are just big recording machines that need a steady stream of new media to provoke and enflame what could be called ‘unique’ thoughts. When we create purely in isolation for too long, work becomes meaningless and stale.

    Apologies if I have misunderstood your position Anna, but I just don’t want people to start thinking that being inspired by others is in any way shameful, or ‘giving in’, and that true designers only create in some hermetic bubble away from outside influence. When in truth, learning from and sharing with the community, and world at large, is an essential component of creative development; one we should celebrate and partake in, not frown upon or oppose.

    I would also strongly recommend the excellent article by Austin Kleon: ‘How to Steal like an Artist’, which says everything i’ve touched upon far better than I could, and with much more detail. Even if you’ve read it before, it’s well worth another look given the context.

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      First of all, this post is not an “attack” on anyone or anything. I’m certainly not advocating a “hermetic bubble” of existence or isolation of any kind (unless of course that’s the choice of artist, and in that case I will defend that right). Maybe re-read my post, specifically the paragraph about identifying points on a spectrum of creative work. You’re focusing on an extreme end of that spectrum, which is exactly what I made a point of not doing. And yes, I think you are misunderstanding my position.

      There is a vast difference between the kind of inspiration (which I really prefer to call influence) that we accumulate over time and through exposure, and with endlessly seeking out, cataloging, and preserving specific pieces of work to serve as inspiration for one’s own future output. One is the sum total of who were are as people, and the other is who we wish we were. It’s very important to recognize that difference and to be aware of the amount of “inspiration hoarding” we do when we work. Unfortunately, the act of seeking out and referring to those sparks winds up depleting the actual output of many, many artists and designers. I see this happening everywhere, and the net result is that a lesser value is placed on encouraging new and, yes, original output. The internet has magnified this to the Nth degree, of course.

      Also, just a personal peeve: The line “nothing is new” is a tired cop-out that is used ad nauseum in creative fields. Everything is the world is a “remix” of what already exists in some form of energy or matter, but we’re shooting ourselves in our collective foot if we write off our human ability create new things without spending time clicking/leafing through cataloged inspiration first in preparation to do so. We are capable of so much more.

    • chrisbean April 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Jessica Hische (and Nubby Twiglet) have both posted great stuff on this. Check out Jessica’s:

      And this below, but note the “SELECT ONLY”―we can’t just steal indiscriminately. And it’s not about the hunt; it’s about getting swept off your feet and being open to influence.

      “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery―celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from―it’s where you take them to.”
      ― Jim Jarmusch

    • Anna @ D16 April 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      That Jim Jarmusch quote is a favorite of mine, but I’ve seen it interpreted in very different ways by different people, and often as a means to justify copying someone else’s work. I don’t think that’s what JJ means at all, though, and I agree with with you about the “being open to influence” aspect of becoming aware of the world around you. The key is that he’s talking about YOUR WORK, not YOUR DOCUMENTATION OF SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK. There’s a huge difference! I think over time this kind of constant absorption of influence just becomes part of daily existence and awareness of the world around you—it’s the “hunt and gather” approach that leads nowhere.

  • Reply Erica April 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks for this — such a great video and reminder to turn off the inspiration hose that is (can be) the Internet and work. I appreciate the reminder.

  • Reply Max April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I totally agree, for the most part. I like to keep “inspirational” images around and I *do* have a bulletin board, but the images on it are generally just there because I like looking at them on a daily basis, not because they’re a collection of images sourced for a specific project. As far as art and design goes, I don’t think any amount of inspiration can compete with experimentation and actual hands-on work. If you’re too preoccupied with consciously collecting inspiration, I don’t think it can really saturate your brain the way daily observance can.

    That being said— there certainly *is* a time and a place for inspiration collecting. For instance, it’s pretty much a job requirement for those involved in historic reproduction or set decoration. I suppose one could call it “research” in that context, though. Also, many people tear out magazine pages in preparation for a home remodeling or a wedding and I don’t see anything particularly wrong with that (although, I guess that would fall into the “amateur” side of the design spectrum).

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      I should add that I don’t think there’s any shame in being an amateur! I also think that the importance of various ends of the spectrum I mentioned change depending on whether one is a fine artist, a commercial artist, or a graphic designer.

      And I totally agree with you here:
      “If you’re too preoccupied with consciously collecting inspiration, I don’t think it can really saturate your brain the way daily observance can.”

  • Reply Ragland April 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I am so glad to read that someone else (whose work I admire) finds the constant stream of inspiration at times to be daunting, especially when it comes to mood boards. I see colleagues who are SO good at pooling inspiration purposefully on Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. that I sink a bit in the seat of my heart, realizing I’m pretty terrible at it. Well, I’mma throw that comparison out the window today.

    Funny, I’ve worked so damn hard this past year, I’ve stopped looking at the world around me. So in essence, get to work…isn’t working. Any philosophy taken to an extreme will fold on its self and you have to redefine what it means constantly. Perhaps I lost sight of what “get to work” means beyond the literal sense. I would argue that anyone who took offense to items in this post WILL apply the philosophies they disagree with to their own lives at some point. Thanks for sharing such fantastic food for thought!

  • Reply Simone April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Anna; I like the topic you address here. Yesterday I saw a documentary about the artist Francesca Woodman. Her father (who is an artist as well) was speaking about ideas in art. He said: You go to the studio in the morning no matter what. If you have no ideas, go to the studio and sharpen your pencils. The idea will come while you are sharpening your pencils. Sharpen your pencils. (Funny.)
    I agree with what you are saying. What irritates me the most is when I see a design that is obviously copied and pasted from a really good older designs, but they copy the shapes etc. without understanding the reason or the function of the shapes (like a curve in a backrest to make it more comfortable in the original design). In the past this kind of design could be seen a lot in the Wallpaper (I stopped reading it for that reason) without referral to the original design I might add (maybe they were not aware of it). I think magazines (maybe some blogs too when I think about it (remodelista comes to mind)) are in a way like vampires, they need to fill their pages as affordable as possible, and they need to do that every month.
    When I design I like to have a “feeling” a sense of what I am looking to experience or how something should function, and I work from that, so surprisingly it is a less visual proces than one would imagine (but I am an architect so I always have to think abut space as well). But sometimes I do look for pictures that have that feeling in them. In order to enhance the awareness of what I am looking for.
    Anyhow, here are my ten cents about this topic.
    Have a wonderful day!!!

  • Reply Tiffanie April 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I simply cannot collect “inspiring” images to any large extent, because I am too impressionable, and then beat myself if any outside influences overtly show up in what I’m doing (of course we are always influenced). I am easily inspired by observing people, how they live and the spaces they live in. That all gets catalogued in memory.

    In a post I wrote after attending the Girl Crush art workshop held by your pals LIsa and Danielle, I said this:

    If you are not putting “pen to paper”, you will not improve or evolve, you will stay in your head and you will not move forward. You must act.

    It came from listening to how both of them, but especially Lisa, got where she was by DOING. Doing is where it’s at. I’ve “done” so much since that workshop a month ago, by the way!

  • Reply Rebecca - we are large people April 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I really like this, Anna. I needed to hear it, as I’ve got inspiration overload in many areas of my life right now, when what I really need to do is get shit done.

  • Reply Kevin April 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    What a great letter. I saw a Chuck Close exhibit at PAM once. The scale is daunting. Learning about his process was inspiring. Thanks for the post. I normally hate uplifting jibber-jabber but this great.

    • Anna @ D16 April 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      I try to keep the uplifting jibber-jabber to a minimum around here. 😉

  • Reply Alyssa April 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I really like the idea of creativity on a spectrum. Lately I’ve been leaning too far toward the ‘inspiration’ side. This might very well be the kick in the butt I need to curb my mood board habit. They truly do become a projection of “what I wish my life was,” which can ultimately lead to displeasure with the current state of affairs. Thanks for this. I’m hoping to move further toward the ‘getting to work’ side of the spectrum again. Though your lovely blog full of inspiration isn’t helping much! (Tongue in cheek. We need a tongue in cheek font.)

  • Reply Kelly April 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Great post Anna!

  • Reply Renee April 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Love Chuck Close, and Love this post. I feel like I need to remind myself that doing something I love is in itself payment. Not everything boils down to dollars and cents. There is my soul and happiness to be considered. When I don’t know where I’m going (which is often) or even where I want to go, my mantra is ‘To Be Happy is Enough.’ That’s my end goal. Maybe I don’t have a fancy career, or a big house. Who the hell cares. If I’m happy, if my husband is happy, that’s Bliss.

    • Anna @ D16 April 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Indeed! And not that the two are mutually exclusive, but my end goal also includes wanting to put back more into the world than I took out of it.

    • Renee April 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      One of my grandfather’s favorite quotes was ‘When through one man a little love and goodness, a little more light and truth, comes into the world, then that mans life has had meaning’

  • Reply cheryl p April 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Nice…interesting how this happens…as a graphic designer working furiously busy inhouse (for a nonprofit, along with 5 others…and for sure we’re not doing it for the $$$) and feeling some frustration with the whole creative/client/branding process …this was just perfect to watch and read!!! For real…love Chuck Close and your perspective…feeling bolstered

  • Reply nichol April 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Really good stuff here. Thank you for the authenticity.

  • Reply Christine April 12, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Thank you, Anna, for sharing this. I’ve read and heard that quotation many times, but every time it comes up it feels new. I’m graduating from an MFA program in one month. Deadlines are coming down to the wire and the expectation (whether external or self-imposed) to be constantly inspired and creative is taxing. I find it infinitely freeing and comforting to think of my creative work as a job–one that I have only to show up for. I know from experience that work makes work. It still helps to be reminded.

  • Reply hungryandfrozen April 12, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Great words, lucky you for hearing them, and lucky us that you passed the ideas on. I like that one about not crowdsourcing everything first – I think in the age of social media it makes it even more tempting to ask opinions first before doing, but I need to learn to trust my inner voice more when it comes to ideas!

  • Reply PhillyLass April 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I’m so excited to see this post! I immediately went to the CBS website and bookmarked the video after watching the original broadcast. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary listening to this remarkable man speak with such equanimity about overcoming challenges that would have left me a quivering heap on the floor. I’ve copied some of my favorite lines from this piece into my journal and here are a few of my favorites:
    “Never let anyone define what you are capable of by using parameters that don’t apply to you.”
    “Everyone needs to feel special.”
    “Oddly enough, there was a gift in this tragedy. I learned very early in life that the absolute worst thing can happen to you, and you will get past it. And you will be happy again.”
    So, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this, Anna.

    • Anna @ D16 April 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm

      Yeah, the whole piece is really powerful. I’ve watched it many times now, and every time I cry.

  • Reply Allison April 12, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I’m no artist, but not quite a yuppie bond trader either. Those lessons apply perfectly to my work as a research economist. We aren’t all that different sometimes.

  • Reply Taylor April 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

    You say that inspiration doesn’t have to start and end (interpretation: inspiration is eternal) yet you also say that it should be marginalized within the artistic process spectrum. How do these thoughts jive with one another? Are you saying that an artist’s existence as a human should be filled with inspiration/influence but an artist’s artistic process (work) should confine inspiration to one sliver of the spectrum balanced by all the other legitimate elements of the spectrum?

    I find (and maybe others are rubbed the same way) that there is something a little disrespectful in the first sentence of Close’s quote. I don’t find anything particularly wrong with being an amateur. And, Anna, one of your takeaways from the quote is “It’s OK to strive to accomplish things that may never lead to financial reward.” Isn’t that almost the definition of amateurism?

    And one last thing; when you talk about the spectrum, do you consider the front end to be the entry point or are you not thinking about the spectrum as a linear progression? For me, as an artist, inspiration is rarely the impetus for my work yet is often sprinkled in at different points during the process.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as hatred or drama or spam or an ad 😉 I’m asking these questions with respect and out of curiosity and for the sake of healthy discourse. There is nothing I want less than to be startin’ somethin’ with the Door.

    • Anna @ D16 April 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      Haha! Taylor, your comment is definitely NOT hatred or drama or spam or an ad. 😉

      I said this in an earlier comment, and I probably should have mentioned it in the post, but I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with being an amateur. I’m an amateur when it comes to 99% of what I do! My goal, though, is to show up and get to work—at least when it comes to the things I’m confident in my ability to do on a professional level, namely designing book covers.

      I am an amateur website designer. I am an amateur interior decorator. I am an amateur cook. I am an amateur handyman. I am an amateur __________. You can fill in that blank with just about ALL of the content of this blog. It’s all practice. It’s all amateur hour, all the time. And that’s OK.

      When it becomes a problem, though, is when someone is ostensibly acting as a “professional” in a field of the arts and is living and huge part their daily life on the end of the “gathering inspiration” end of the creative spectrum. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and it’s become epidemic in the age of the internet and sites like Pinterest and Tumblr and instant access to everything, all the time. The social aspect of sharing these images just exacerbates the problem, too. It’s very troubling.

      When I talk about the spectrum (and I didn’t consider this until I read your comment), I am indeed thinking of it as existing in an infinite formation—certainly NOT a linear progression.

      And no, I don’t think earned income has anything to do with one’s status as an amateur. If that were the case, a great many of the world’s most significant artists, musicians and writers would be considered to be amateurs. That’s not a definition I can get behind!

      This may sound like a cop-out, but I do think that my post really needs to be taken in context with the rest of my blog. I don’t know if you’ve been here before, but an enormous part of my life consists of admiring the work of others, and I am absolutely influenced by exposure to those things. It’s unavoidable. I am absolutely NOT condemning anyone here, but rather speaking to a trend that I believe is ultimately damaging to the development of the careers of artists and designers without them even realizing it’s happening.

    • Martha April 19, 2012 at 11:00 am

      I am an amateur website designer. I am an amateur interior decorator. I am an amateur cook. I am an amateur handyman. I am an amateur __________. You can fill in that blank with just about ALL of the content of this blog. It’s all practice. It’s all amateur hour, all the time. And that’s OK.

      Thank you for this, Anna. I sometimes get caught up in the idea that blogging about “how to” in an area that I’m literally just jumping into for the first time (which is also for me 99% of the time) is somehow wrong. WHAT IF! for example, I’m talking about how to ______ and it’s actually not even supposed to be done that way? The answer is probably, “That’s OK.”

    • Taylor April 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Hi the Do(o)r(f) and Martha, we all agree. Embrace amateurism! Amateurism seems to be have a negative connotation in Chuck’s quote and that’s the part to which I take exception. Anna, I think some of the great artists in history _were_ amateurs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps we’re defining amateurism slightly differently. I’m defining it basically as work – irrespective of the quality – that is done without the intent to sell it . I would rework the quote to state “Inspiration is for assholes, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” or “Laziness is for sons of bitches, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Those don’t offend me, although you probably can’t use those in graduation speeches or network morning news-magazine programs. The Do(o)r(f), you do great work (compliment) on things for which you aren’t paid _and_ you are an amateur in those areas. High quality and amateur status aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I know this post was focused on inspiration and its overinflation in the artistic process (your points on which I agree), and not really on amateurism. Sorry for the digression.

  • Reply Sophia April 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I’m so thankful for your post because you introduced me to a wonderful artist/creator and also you spoke about a subject, that ‘s been on my mind lately, in a very constructive and eloquent way. I would like to add my thoughts on this if I may.. There’s a saying ancient folks of mine came up with and it survived through centuries of civilization. It goes almost like this “Every metron (=limit) is perfect”, as there isn’t a direct equivelent in english for the word “metron” in the context above I’ll try to analyze this a bit. “Metron” basically means any meter or type of meters/ measurement, but above it illustrates the need for a limit as measure(ment) imposed on all things physical or mental. This phrase of ancient wisdom came in my mind because everything needs to be at a certain extend to function properly and inspiration is not an exception. Actually I believe that those (ancient) folks came up with this simple truth because early on realized how us humans can easily be carrired away and loose track of our actions and the reason behind them. This leads to the paradox of an original positive intention to ultimately result in a negative outcome. I guess this had happened with our need for inspiration. It came out of hand and ceased serving its primary cause which was merely assisting creation.

    • Anna @ D16 April 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Sophia, thank you for sharing that expression. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, and have yet to fully wrap my head around it! I think your analysis makes a lot of sense, though, and I agree with what you said about positive intention/negative outcome. It’s so easy to lose sight of that and not realize it’s happening.

  • Reply riye April 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    What I got from the video is that people get inspired or help themselves get inspired in different ways–and that’s fine. The problem starts when all that inspiration becomes a kind of roadblock that somehow prevents you from doing your work because you’re not _____ (fill in the blank) enough. I do that to myself all the time! We are our own worst enemies. 🙂

    Personally, I liked the video. Close seems to be down to earth and have a good sense of humor. And I liked the quote about inspiration–it’s funny.

  • Reply June April 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Inspiration is a tricky thing. In a way I feel like I am addicted to it, I check my (embarrassingly stacked, and meticulously organized) Pinterest account more than once a day. I love seeing what other people are doing and trying to figure out what I would do in their situations and seeing how other’s triumphs could be altered to fit me.

    That being said, I am young, I live in Canada. I have limited access to things. Everyone has to be an amateur at some point. That being said maybe its time to show up and get to work.

  • Reply Kate April 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Reading through the comments, I read your thoughts on the line “nothing is new.” I’m an interior design student, and one of my instructors loves to say that to my class. She’s always saying, “Everything’s been done before.” It’s a frustrating thing to hear, and I don’t understand why a teacher would tell a group of students something like that. It’s like saying my perspective and my interpretation of the world doesn’t count, that I won’t see anything that hasn’t been seen before. There’s so much more I could say/rant about that phrase. I just can’t get on board with that line of thought.

    • Anna @ D16 April 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      I think that kind of thing gets said a lot these days, and it makes me feel so sad and hopeless. I never had a professor (or a parent or any other kind of mentor) say that to me, and I’m thankful for that fact. I think it’s a way for people to absolve themselves of having any ability to innovate or to be introspective, honestly.

  • Reply Kim April 13, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Excellent post, Anna. That statement is a poignant one. It makes me think of my dad’s favorite phrase: stop worrying and fix the problem. As a designer I have returned to this statement so many times and it has helped me move beyond roadblock far more than any inspiration I have collected. At the end of the day we are visual problem solvers. Looking at how other people solved their problems isn’t ultimately going to help me solve my own.

    Of course, to be rather hypocritical to my own statement, as a designer, I do find great pleasure in seeking out other’s work that just stops me in my tracks with its beauty. When I am feeling frustrated I enjoy scrolling through these images, less for ‘inspiration,’ per se, but more as a reminder that every design challenge has a beautiful and unique solution and I just need to keep working until I find my own. I think inspiration is amateurish only if it is the crutch on which all one’s work relies. To appreciate good work for the work’s sake lifts my spirit up and reminds me why I am in this profession.

  • Reply kelsey April 13, 2012 at 9:37 am

    thanks for this. i loved it so much i just shared it with my best friend who i am convinced will love it even more.

  • Reply Emily Elisabeth April 13, 2012 at 11:07 am

    What a beautiful post, and a beautiful portrait (no pun intended) of Chuck Close.

    I recently read an article somewhere where Nylon’s Digital Director gushed about Tumblr and Pinterest being the new “mood board”. I disagree. If anything, they are tools to discredit artists, infringe copyright, and obstruct originality with sensory overload.

    I’m a makeup artist, and I hate when I’m asked what inspires me. Hell, when I was seventeen I had to write an entrance essay to SVA merely stating what inspires me. How could I possibly be so concise? Whenever I’m asked about inspiration in my work, I always say detail-orientation. I’m inspired by absolutely everything. I wish it were that way for everyone, artist or not.

    Thank you for this.

  • Reply renee April 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This reminds me of something that Philip Glass said in the documentary about him. The interviewer asked him something to the effect of “What is your secret?” or “What is the secret to your success?” or something like that; I can’t remember the exact question and Glass responded (again, I can’t remember the exact response) was that there wasn’t a secret. But then he corrected himself and said that the secret was to get up early and work all day.

    Words to live by, I thought.

  • Reply Jenn April 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Have been ruminating on this post all morning, and keep coming back. I like what Chuck Close and you have said, very much.
    There’s this re-occuring, ever-present, annoying theme, where I think an idea and don’t act on it, and then a year later, see it somewhere. Not having access to the materials that I need to create whatever it is in my little head, and it is so frustrating to see others out there creating, and to not be fully engaged in it myself (engaged being key here – if I was engaged, I’d get the materials, make it a priority – the internet is huge/accessible, living in Canada is no excuse).
    It is a real kick in the ass, to get out and do it. Follow through, from beginning to end, and to not live in that world of could have, should have, would have – disappointed because I’m seeing what was in my head being created by someone else, while I’m pontificating on a thought.
    As an aside, I work in spinal cord research – Going to see if I can get Chuck Close out here. What an amazing opportunity that would be.

  • Reply Karen Anne April 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Great post!

    I’ve finally started “showing up” instead of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to get inspired. I started by just climbing the stairs to my studio and diving in, trusting my intuition and getting out of my way. Now I’m running up to the studio every day!

    Just show up and do the work and let the work lead you forward.

    I’m a happy camper!

    Karen Anne

  • Reply Tamara Manning April 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Love this post, the line you highlighted has been rolling around in my brain ever since I read it. I have struggled with being stuck in the gathering phase of the project, finding things to inspire me but never settling down to do work. I don’t get better by just thinking about it, I actually have to put in the time and “get to work”. Everyone’s ideas I admire are they for me to admire because they worked and then, thankfully, shared. I need to start repaying in kind.

  • Reply Jo in NZ April 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Just that this post, and the comments which followed, have inspired me enormously on a damp, grey weekend. Thank you, Anna.

  • Reply Julie April 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Your best blog post, ever. Thanks, Anna! I need to figure out how to save this somewhere where I won’t forget it…. for inspiration.

  • Reply heather April 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    i really enjoyed this video. i frequently burden myself with too much inspiration that turns heavy and stagnant if not eventually fleshed out into whatever i am working on. it can quickly go from fresh perspective to frantic hoard. i’m the artist in our household and my husband is a yuppie stockbroker (it works beautifully)- i showed this to him, and his response was “that’s lovely. and to that i’d add: discipline is the handmaiden of genius”. 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 April 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      He’s absolutely right! There’s a misconception that “genius” (something I’m not sure I even believe in) comes without effort or discipline, and that belief both diminishes the hard work of the most accomplished and discourages those who wish to achieve more.

  • Reply Sarah April 15, 2012 at 6:24 am

    This whole example can so easily translate to academic research. You can research and research forever but at some point you need to figure out what you think, sit down, and start typing.

    Which is what I need to be doing right this very instant but there’s nothing as daunting as a blank page.

  • Reply Chrispito April 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Hi Anna,

    Some time ago, maybe 18 months ago, I commented on your blog about thinking about quitting art school. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I do remember your enthusiastic encouragement that I stick with it.

    I am finally graduating (many, many, many years after I started) with a BFA in Visual Arts. I’m thanking everyone in my life for helping me get here, because it has been really hard. Art school is hard for many reasons as I’m sure you understand.

    Anyway–I did it! Thanks for your words of kindness which came at what in hindsight was a crucial turning point.

    Great post:)

    • Anna @ D16 April 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Hey, congratulations! I actually DO remember you saying that you were almost done with school and were thinking about calling it quits. Good for you sticking it out!! 🙂

  • Reply chrispito April 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Also–I have one folder on my computer with inspirational images in it. There are two. Two images. I have always felt like a bad collector of inspiration but this post has reminded me that all of us–self-identified artists or not– employ our imaginations in vastly different ways. There are no rules!

  • Reply maja April 16, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Thanks so much for this. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that so many people are defining themselves by their ability to curate (Tumblr, Pinterest etc.), rather than create. To me, there is a big difference.

  • Reply Ella April 16, 2012 at 6:31 am

    This snippet hit home:

    “There is a vast difference between the kind of inspiration (which I really prefer to call influence) that we accumulate over time and through exposure, and with endlessly seeking out, cataloging, and preserving specific pieces of work to serve as inspiration for one’s own future output. One is the sum total of who were are as people, and the other is who we wish we were.”

    It’s something I’ve been thinking for some time, but been unable to put into words. Thanks!

  • Reply LittleTownBigCity April 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have been a big Chuck Close fan for many many years. In fact, I had the great fortune to interview him for my studio art class when I was in high school. He was very very kind to give me, a very young and mostly unaware high school student, a good amount of time to ask him about his process and his life. It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that is etched in my brain.

    I love this line, “Never let anyone define what you are capable of by using parameters that don’t apply to you.” He is amazing.

  • Reply katie April 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    it is weird when i see things that remind me of people i don’t even know, but i thought you when i saw this…

  • Reply Danielle April 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    So happy I stopped by your blog right now. I was just starting the “research” phase for a magazine layout (desperately in search of INSPIRATION). Your words stopped me in my tracks. Thank you.

    I’ve been doing this design thing for 13 years and it is hard to generate ideas on a consistent basis. On (what I call) “Good Design” days, I go into my studio and get working. The ideas flow through me and it’s wonderful and rewarding. But those days are rare for me… and leads me to wonder what the ratio of Good to Bad days is for other designers.

    Often I’m tired or stressed; something isn’t right with a client, a file, the printer, my jeans are tight, whatever. So I begin this vicious cycle… it starts when I’m not positive enough to trust my own creativity (ie, those initial fuzzy ideas); nothing appears good enough to expound upon. So then I start searching for inspiration elsewhere. I find that I love everyone else’s work so much more than my own. I want to take various colors and styles – and make them work for my own project. But ultimately the source material doesn’t fit the project, and ends up forced into something unnatural or dysfunctional. If bound by time, I will try to make it work (it rarely does). In the end, I’ve wasted heaps of time and pray that tomorrow will be a Good Design day.

    Does this make sense? It’s like I have to ruin a design by using random pieces of inspiration before I revisit from scratch with a fresh perspective. Deep down I realize I can solve creative problems more effectively with my own instincts. I just need to hone into my personal reaction to how a piece should look, feel and function. (I didn’t need the last 3 issues of Print magazine, and bookmarks to the top 10 design agencies’ websites!)

    So yes, Inspiration is for Amateurs. But when Chuck Close says “The Rest of Us just show up and get to work”, he probably means “The Amazingly Talented and Thoroughly Creative just show up and get to work”. Because sometimes inspiration is all I’ve got, even if it completely ruins a design.

    • Chrispito April 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      good point(s)…i know for myself that stress/pain/pressure doesn’t make for good creative flow. i don’t buy that ‘suffering artist’ business one bit. maybe for some; not for me. for me, creativity requires ROOM–to feel, to breathe, to think.

  • Reply chrisbean April 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I need to thank you because I found and lost the fulltext of this several months ago, and just a week or two ago, I was madly searching for the context of that quote with no luck. So, thanks!

    my biggest issue with the pinterest/curation trend is that IF YOU AREN’T MAKING ANYTHING, YOU ARE NOT “INSPIRED” BY ANYTHING.

    I feel like so many people are out there doing the busy-work of assembling these collections of images, and the assemblages are seen somehow as ends in themselves. (Not that I don’t waste time dickering with my account or my own “inspiring images” tumblr.) But creating a collection is not creating art. Time spent “curating” is time better spent making art. And sometimes we need to be bashed over the head with that.

  • Reply Terry April 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Is there any chance you could set up deeper comment threads so I can respond directly to you Anna?

    Also, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but i’d recommend increasing the right padding on ‘.comment-childs’ to something like 15px to stop the text running so close to the edge.


    • Anna @ D16 April 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      I read every comment posted on my blog! If you post a comment here you’ll be responding to me directly. 🙂

  • Reply G April 18, 2012 at 8:05 am

    This doen’t just apply to inspiration per se. I know many artists who are perfectionists and it prevents them finishing work, period. Sometimess you just have to get started and do it. Myself, I don’t like to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    • Anna @ D16 April 18, 2012 at 11:24 am

      YES. Absolutely. Perfection is the opposite of DONE. I struggle every day with this problem.

  • Reply Ann April 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Long time reader but first time commenting, thank you so much for posting this.
    I have watched the clip several times and I too cry every time. I have admired Chuck Close as a person and an artist for a long time this just adds to the love- thank you.

  • Reply Jacqueline April 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Someone at my grad school commencement said something similar to the parents — that art school might not what the parents had intended for the kids, but that art elevates society and that creatives will find a way to improve life and be successful, and that is something to be proud of.

    I feel like inspiration is all around, and sometimes organizing it can be helpful. But instinct is what an artist or creative needs to rely on. Inspiration is great, but the core of the work needs to come from within. If all you are working with is inspiration, nothing you create is going to be original. Inspiration, which is external, can help direct your path, but original ideas come from within.

  • Reply Steve April 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Such a great quote. I like to think of home repair as art, and often times I try to make everything so perfect, but it ends up never finished! It’s sometimes best just to get to work and let the ideas flow.

  • Reply Ben April 19, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Really nice video, thanks for sharing. It’s not often I watch a clip longer than a minute or so (plus that ad!) so Chuck Close must have been saying something good. Right! Enough waiting for inspiration, I’d better get on and DO!

  • Reply Kim @ Yellow Brick Home April 19, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Thank you for this.

    Almost 10 years ago, two friends and I made our first trip to NYC. We all went to art school together, and we hunted down a Chuck Close show in a small gallery that felt very off the beaten path. We were hopelessly lost, but we pushed through and found it. We were the only ones there (it was mid-day), and we were so in awe of his work. Then, suddenly, he rolls out from a back room, and has a conversation with us! He had been there that day to make sure things were going well at the gallery, and his son was with him too. The three of us started crying – we were so overcome with emotion! His son took a photo of us, and all we could talk about for years was, “remember when we met Chuck?”

    He is SO amazing.

  • Reply Leslie April 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I know I’m just adding to the already ridiculously tall pile of comments, but I wanted to say that this particular post (and video) could not have been more timely for me. I, too, am a designer and regularly find myself trying to reconcile my love/hate relationship with the infinite amount of ‘inspirational’ content we have access to. It can be either mobilizing or paralyzing, as others have said, and there is also the corresponding concern that regardless of how inspiration affects me from one day to the next, the bigger, more original ideas I have might never see the light of day because I’m letting them be drowned out by the external noise. Work today was full of creative roadblocks and not productive at all. I know some days are like this — I kept wondering if I just wasn’t inspired enough, that I needed to do more research. It helps to be reminded that it’s just plain old hard work and persistence above all that’s going to get me anywhere. I know it’s simple and I already know it, but sometimes these things need to be reiterated. Thanks for the post.

  • Reply Amber April 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I am a yuppie investment type and this definitely applies! Searching for inspiration I feel is often a search for affirmation/validation that your idea (even, and very often, before it takes a conscious shape) has value. So this is true irrespective of what your idea manifests – a building, a book cover, a unifying theory in quantum physics or an investment strategy – they’re all just the products of ‘authentic’ ideas.

  • Reply Kate April 20, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    You should post more often! This is great btw.

    • Anna @ D16 April 21, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Thanks! I only post when I have something to post about. No schedule, no plans.

  • Reply Terry April 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Sorry Anna, me again,

    I commented above about the possibility of deeper comment threads, and although I understand exactly what you mean about every comment being a directly response to you, I left a much longer comment higher up that you replied to at length, and I wanted to follow up on it, but in the context of the conversation.

    There were some interesting points you made that I wanted to respond to, and I was hoping to clear up any confusion/misunderstanding. If it’s not possible, i’ll just leave another one down here, and just copy/paste your words.

    Also, I don’t seem to get an e-mail confirmation when you reply to my comments, but when other people do it seems ok. Is that usually the case, or is there a box that needs ticking somewhere!


  • Reply Louise LeMans April 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    AWESOME post. For real.

    As a designer who went to a school that taught “how to think” instead of how to use Photoshop, it was hard for me, when I got out of school, to just show up and work. I was used to a week of research before doing anything of substance.

    Working in the media cured me of that pretty quick. This wasn’t logo design, this was get that layout to press ON TIME. Nothing like a deadline to inspire!

  • Reply lynn April 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    thank you! i shared this with my high school students, with my artist friends and most of all i listened to him myself. fabulous!

  • Reply Sparky April 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    LOVE Chuck Close. I also wrote on the topic of artworking versus being inspired or just musing, in my post a few years back. Quoted Close on the inspiration thing versus showing up to work, in that article, too. And as for artists living a wonderful life, that is something I was beginning to learn while still in art school (in the late 1970’s) and I relish living it today.

    Link to my article “Artwork, Design, Creativity & Wonder: Front Porch Musings versus Backyard Deeds”:

  • Reply carl April 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I love that artists are talking about this recently, from you to Manhattan nest to Jessica Hische, all are so valid and I’m happy to hear people speaking about “inspiration” it in a global way. It needs to be said, despite that a few are offended by it or take it the wrong way, it’s so extremely valid in today’s society. I just read a post about a similar thing from this blog and enjoyed it very, very much:

  • Reply Lesley April 28, 2012 at 5:29 am

    You know, I think that the word “inspiration” as Chuck uses it in this quote has rather a different meaning from the one that most people are assuming. Seems to me that everyone here reads “inspiration” as meaning “looking at and collecting other people’s work to reference in their own”.

    Now although I think that’s a perfectly legitimate activity (the Jim Jarmusch quote, etcetera, etcetera), it’s not the original meaning of “inspiration”. It’s an additional meaning that the word has picked up over time, probably from people whining “I didn’t copy X’s work, I was just inspired by it”. I think this process would be better called “referencing” or “collecting references” perhaps.

    The original meaning of the word “inspiration”, and, I am pretty sure, the one Chuck was intending, was the process of sitting around hoping for a (completely original, preferably) idea to be magically implanted in one’s mind by a Muse or something. I don’t think Chuck was saying “Referring to other people’s work is for amateurs”, I think he was saying “Sitting around waiting for the Idea Fairy is for amateurs”.

    Of course, if your way of invoking the Idea Fairy is wasting all your time on Pinterest, I guess that’s not such a good thing either. But I’m sure it’s closer to “work” than, say, absinthe. I do think that serious research and reference-collecting can form part of the process that Chuck refers to as “show up and get to work”.

  • Reply Michelle May 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    This was great – thank you for sharing it.

  • Reply Katie May 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this video Anna, I’ve come across Chuck Close and his work before – I think his disability is a fascinating vehicle for his subject choice, and for the way in which he creates his art. He is a very inspiring man, and so is this Letter to himself. Very happy to have discovered your brilliant blog!

  • Reply {gemmifer} June 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    An excellent post and video… You were lucky to have Close as your graduation speaker. I can’t remember who spoke at my Purchase graduation back in 1992, but will always remember the wonderful community of the college. What you said about all the majors sitting together for the ceremony, no division between the schools… that was such a big part of life for all of us. We spent so much time in our respective buildings (for me it was VA, now known as A+D) for all of our studies, it was nice to have friends from all the different majors. All these many years later, my time at Purchase holds a place in my heart.

  • Reply ..ABORT.. October 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Was reffered to watch this video by a very close friend ( no pun intended)” who’s a very talented artist, and I could not be more inspired by the words of Chuck Close. Each time Chuck spoke a phrase of advice I found it to be a “rule” I am currently living by…Sometimes it’s better to take a leap of faith on your art endevours and execute ideas that may or may not be half baked…Rather than playing it safe and sticking to the guidelines…Thank you Chuck for your overly inspirational video!! Now although the memeroable quote from his video is “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” I found that hearing those words from a like minded individual to be inspiring in itself just to keep going in the artistic direction I currently am, and not restrict or limit the possibilities of what one can do at the moment of creation.

  • Reply Sean Leidigh November 10, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Chuck Close also spoke at my college graduation at Michigan State University in the spring of 2001. He was the 4th of four speakers… to this day his speech sits in the back of my head every time I have to make a big decision. The line that will always stick with me is this- “Please, for the love of God, don’t waste your whole life trying to accumulate a bunch of stuff.”

    It will never leave me.


  • Reply Elsie Harrington April 24, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Thank you for this, and it’s good advice! I was worried when I saw your earlier post too, but for different reasons, but now I’m not and neither should you be.
    Both my parents were artists, as am I. My mom became a successful textile/wallpaper designer, but painted exquisite still lifes in her spare time, and played the piano at pro level. My dad was an early Ab-Ex painter, well known until he alienated certain powerful players, but continued as a great but poor professor of art at Brooklyn College. His advice to his students and to me – when it was obvious I would do nothing pursue fine art after the bottom fell out of analog textile design- was similar to this thread. Some of his motivators were “YOU ARE YOUR OWN TEACHER, INSPIRATION IS FOR AMATEURS, JUST GET TO WORK, and NOT A DAY WITHOUT A LINE, (one that both Michelangelo and Beethoven had written in their work space for self discipline,)
    And so I taught myself what others couldn’t, taught others what I knew, helped start a school, (the New York Academy of Art,) then moved around a lot with my composer spouse, always remembering to follow my dream, successful times and not so.
    Chuck close is such an inspiring artist, I’ve met and spoken with him, found him so kind, authentically true to himself and although (or perhaps because) he’s certainly not had it easy, he exudes ease and dignity and makes you feel at ease, too.
    Do what you love. If you feel like painting a back-splash or a six foot canvas you will never sell, do it.
    IT’S ALL ART, and if you love it, it will be alive and make you feel alive. But don’t do it because it might bring you money or recognition,do it just because it makes you whole, and don’t quit your day job, that’s art, too!

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