‘Art is Work’

A while ago my dad bought a book by an illustrator called Milton Glaser. I had a look a it and it wasn’t all my cup of tea, but I could appreciate it. I was mostly interested in the music poster work or portraits he’d done of people like Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, et al.

However, I was caught by the personal mission statement he laid out at the front of the book:

“Eliminate the word ‘Art’ and replace it with ‘work’ and develop these descriptions:

1) Work that goes beyond it’s functional intention and moves us in deep and mysterious ways we call GREAT WORK.

2) Work that is conceived and executed with elegance and rigour we call GOOD WORK

3) Work that meets its intended need honestly and without pretense we call simply WORK.

4) Everything else, the sad and shoddy stuff of daily life, can come under the heading of BAD WORK.”

I’ve long since copied this out and posted it on the wall by my desk because I like these definitions a lot.

I think the main thing I like about his approach, is that he de-mystifies his art – oops, sorry ‘work’ and pulls it down to ground level from up in the sky, makes it something not so far off and unobtainable. Basically, if you are not producing, it’s because you are not working.

The word ‘work’ might seem too mundane and uninspiring to some compared with ‘art’ and all its lofty associations.

But it’s a very honest way of looking at it. ‘Work not Art’ flips the focus on to how well you do what the job requires of you, not thinking about what you can get out of it, indulging your ego or any other unhelpful excesses. Work is constant and does not require inspiration.

I think it’s a nice approach which stops someone disappearing up their own backside.

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5 Responses to “‘Art is Work’”

  1. Found this blog through Lee V from the band Dumbjaw.
    There is always the danger of disappearing up your own arse but sometimes that is necessary so that the artist might value objectivity over what there doing. Wouldn’t you agree? I don’t understand artists (HA! Workers) who fear self indulgence and excess. Maybe if they allowed themselves to make a mess of things with the conscious desire to at some point clean up, their art might be less craftsman-like. What do you think?

  2. Wicked. Lee’s a good guy – a real drummer in a world of stick-holders.

    Yeah I think I would agree with you there. There’s no wrong or right approach necessarily, only what WORKS for the person or people involved.

    In fact, when it comes to being down to earth/up your own jacksy, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are actively involved in the process of DOING, of ACTION.

    Although sometimes that action can take the form of sitting back and reflecting on things. I know that’s a very important part of the process for me.

    I suppose it depends on what the person is going for, but I think a balance between craft and chaos is the ultimate goal.

  3. I like your honesty. Any examples of your creative writing online? Seriously, I’d like to take a look.

  4. Thank you. Other than this blog, and my myspace and band pages where you can hear my songs, I don’t currently have any written work online.

    I have some work I might be submitting to a competition, but I can email you something if you like. I’d love to check out your writers group some time.

    (Sorry for the delayed response – I wanted to get through some of the work on your blog before responding)

  5. […] are the top 5 posts that got the most views this year: 1 ‘Art is Work’ 2 Top Ten Alternative Queens 3 The Sound of Modern Music 4 Do You Remember the First Time? 5 Why […]

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