Saturday, August 8, 2020

An Artist… | Lefsetz Letter

Doesn’t follow trends.

Sets trends.

Doesn’t give the audience what it wants.

Gives the audience what it needs.

Has a sense of history. If there’s no context, there’s no art. Art is a reaction, a transmogrification…unless you know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.

Knows that money is secondary to art.

Knows that money, if it comes, usually does so last…it takes that long for people to catch up with you, and once they do you don’t rest on your laurels but keep innovating, which challenges the audience to stay bonded.

Knows that execution is secondary to conception. All art is based on conception. The light bulb going off. The idea. Then it’s a race to get it down in a comprehensible form as soon as possible. The more you think about it, the greater the chance of compromise, and art is never about compromise.

Knows that some of their best ideas come when they’re not working.

Realizes they’ll never fit in, otherwise they wouldn’t be an artist.

Must change and grow. Which is why Picasso is a legendary superstar and Braque is a moment in time.

Listens to advice, listens to feedback, but is not bound by it. If you don’t read the reviews, if you don’t listen to what people say, then you’ve got no context. This does not mean you have to take blowback to heart, it just means you can’t create art that has impact unless you understand the populace that reacts. Today everybody reacts. How do you deal with that? Do you create art that makes people post, that offends them, that makes them jump for joy? You are in control of the journey but not the destination. But that does not mean you should not have a map.

Speaks truth to power.

Is not a member of the group, is not a member of the club.

Knows that awards are meaningless. Or at best meaningful for a day. Talk to any true star who’s won, the glow blows off very quickly.

Doesn’t have to tell people they’re great, their work speaks for itself. Unless telling people you’re great, braggadocio, is part of your art.

Doesn’t complain. The game is rigged, the odds are stacked against you, deal with it. Sure, you can be frustrated, but complaining about it just aligns you with the whiners who are not artists, and you don’t want to be dragged down into the hole they’re in.

Affects society, but is separate from it.

Knows that the power of their art supersedes the power of their pocketbook.

Doesn’t bitch about the value of their work. The value is established by the audience. Or, you have your own metric, but then you can’t bitch about the reaction or lack of acceptance.

Frequently creates alone, but oftentimes is inspired by interaction with others. And the closer they are to these others, the more contempt they have for them. You want to do it your way, they want to do it their way, and oftentimes this tension results in work that is better than either of you could do individually. Don’t confuse this with tracks built by twenty “songwriters.” There’s too much thinking involved in that, and art runs on instinct.

Let me repeat that, an artist runs on instinct, on their gut, on what feels right, and as soon as they go against that, they’re toast…their art is compromised.

An artist knows when they do great work. Which comes only occasionally. No one can ring the bell every time out. But when you’re channeling the gods, you know it. Actually, once you become aware that you’re walking on the tightrope, that you’re in the league of greatness, once you become self-conscious, you often fall. The key is to stay in the mood, the groove, for the duration of creation.

An artist is willing to fail. Not that they’re willing to share all their failures. But if you don’t play, you cannot win, you must be willing to fail in the eyes of the public.

Believes they’re God on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a piece of crap the rest of the week.

Art is a Sisyphean task. Once you make it to the top, you roll right down to the bottom and have to start all over again.


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