In this new addition to the IMA blog, team members of IMA will be reading and reviewing books that you may be considering for your studio bookshelf. Our book reviews don't give scores but instead, we hope to describe what type of knowledge and/or support the book is aiming to provide to artists.
Whilst we will make all efforts to remain as objective as possible, our perspective will inevitably be filtered through our own individual lense as well as the IMA lens.
The Holistic Artist - An Exploration Into Art and Identity
By Heath Hollensbe and Vernon Hyndman (Contributor)
This is a small book, just 56 pages in the version we read, and takes a 40 Days of Lent approach: 40 topics with a few thoughts on each.
The book gets off to a good start. “You have been unfairly over-praised and over-appreciated.” A good kick in the teeth to get the reader to pay attention. This isn’t one of those “you are wonderful” books that massage your self worth, this is going to require a bit more hard insight.
"... [the book] sits somewhere between a self-help book and a manifesto for the creation of authentic art..."
There are plenty more short, sharp, blunt truths: “replication is regurgitation,” “perfectionism is pre-failing by design”, etc. Overall this sits somewhere between a self-help book and a manifesto for the creation of authentic art that you can dip into as you wish. I read the whole thing in a single sitting and while a few things jumped out at me, overall I found it a little fuzzy where I wanted a little more detail. While the titles of each section grab you, there was little follow-through in terms of solid ideas.
The positivity of some parts appealed: “Make art about what you’re embracing, not what you’re avoiding.” Yes to being for something rather than against something. In other areas, while I understand the sentiment of some pronouncements, for example, “bowing down to rigid order is the enemy of the creative mind,” i.e. sometimes you need to free the mind from self-imposed constraints to discover new possibilities, I know for some, that having a solid structure to their process and their thinking is necessary so as not to get lost in a sea of possibilities. So, like any self-help book, you need to take from it what you can and ignore the bits that don’t work for you personally.
"While the titles of each section grab you, there was little follow-through in terms of solid ideas."
While you may get some nuggets here, it’s sometimes too vague. It’s all very well saying “art seeks out an audience, not the other way round,” but that’s not very useful to a struggling artist who can’t get their work seen beyond a few people. You won’t find out how to do anything in concrete terms, but the thoughts may remind you that you need to step back and understand that sometimes a new approach is needed.
The insights come from a Christian perspective which you can choose to embrace or ignore.
The main takeaways from this book though, are to think of art not as a selfish form of self-expression but as part of something more universal and for the artist to stop taking the easy routes and take the authentic road. What it does come down to, is being true to yourself.
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