Cover Image: The Artist's Journey

The Artist's Journey

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Member Reviews

This is a great book for inspiration for artists. It's sort of one long, encouraging letter to young artists from an established artist, of all the things he'd tell new artists. A great read.

I read a temporary digital ARC of this book for review.
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The book I read is "Dancing With the Gods".  

It is a book I would read for the pure pleasure of reading.

A quote from the opening of Chapter 4, "There is art and there is artistry, and they are not the same."  is a brilliant nugget for me.

Chapter 9 on doubt, criticism and possible mindsets I found personally helpful.  It offered words and concepts that allow me to navigate around my knee-jerk reaction to criticism.
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There are many books that reveal the joys and struggles of creating something out of your imagination. Kent Nerburn's Dancing with the Gods: Reflections on Life and Art is one of those. Having said that, Dancing with the Gods is much more. This is a work that opens up the inner life of a creator and what it takes to make peace with its triumphs and disappointments. It is full of valuable advice on what it takes to become a joyful and fulfilled creator. Kent Nerburn covers lots of issues and emotions that face anyone who rely on their imagination to do their work.

The author is forthright and grandfatherly in his approach. He uses lots of examples from his own life experiences in the arts. He is candid about his failures and missteps. He also touches on one of the most important topics to artists - finance.

This is a book to read more than once as it seems to cover a lot of things most creators would have gone through. It is a work I wished I came across a few years back.


Anyone who wants to enjoy the work they do.


    As a creator, you need to respect, even savour, the magic of accident and care less about what is being lost than what is being born. Remember that any work of art, in its becoming, follows the rules of evolution, not the rules of human construction: every form remakes itself as new information is discovered and internalised...

    When I feel myself lost in the midst of a project, I like to remind myself of the separate skills of the architect and the gardener. The architect designs and builds; he knows the desired outcome before he begins. The gardener plants and cultivates, trusting the sun and weather and the vagaries of chance to bring forth a bloom.

    As artists, we must learn to be gardeners, not architects. We must seek to cultivate our art, not construct it, giving up our preconceptions and presuppositions to embrace accident and mystery. Let moments of darkness become the seedbed of growth, not occasions of fear.

Many thanks to Canongate Books for review copy.
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What would you say if you received a letter from a young artist, asking if it was possible to make a life in your art?

Most people, of course, will realistically say the odds are long - a truth. Some people would go further and say it's a waste of time - an untruth..

I have a lot of thoughts about pursuing art in the course of a life, regardless of whether it is full time or squeezed in between other life duties. Many of those thoughts are echoed in this book, which I'd say is geared more toward younger people just beginning their trek on the artist's path, whether that art is writing, painting, designing, dancing, or any other other ways they might express themselves. It's easy to get into the negatives - most artists don't make enough money to survive solely on their art, it may take years or decades to make a name, rejection is practically a given, and so on - and these, while necessary truths, need not be the only lens through which one views their art.

Nerburn incorporates these truths in this bookish response to the young artist, but weaves them into a larger framework of making good art, as Neil Gaiman would say. The question is not whether one may make a living in their selected art, but whether the continued practice and pursuit of an art is worthwhile in the life one is currently living.

Spoiler: it absolutely is.

There are many books and blog posts and videos that say this, but I found Nerburn's version to be well written, quite thoughtful, and a good read, regardless of the age of the reader pursuing their art and if they are a neophyte or grizzled veteran.

A solid four out of five stars.

Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy.
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If you are an artist in any way and are experiencing some discouragement this would be the perfect book for you. At times I felt like there was a bit of rambling, but there are some golden nuggets of encouragement that makes this worth the read.
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This was an encouraging book for artists. The author shared his personal experiences and drew on other creators as well. At times, it drifted a bit for me. But overall I think the goal was met. It was meant to be supportive.
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I don’t know where to start with my review of this book. Not only is it a book I will come back to again and again, but it is a book I needed right now. 

The description says for young artists, and although I can see where it can help artists just starting out in their art, and I definitely wish I had had this, when I first began my journey, there is no way I could have fathomed the jewels in this book if I didn’t have the experience with my work now. This is for anyone thinking about artistic expression, or struggling with their art. And art is many things, including but not limited to painting, drawing, signing, acting, writing, cooking, applying makeup, raising children, or everyday life. 

The book is beautiful, insightful, inspiring, well-written, but it also touches upon rejection and even walking away. Many people would call that quitting, or failing, but this book is so deep I can tell the author truly knows his work and what it means to be creative in any form of artistic expression. The beauty and challenges of art, as well as sometimes saying goodbye. I love how he speaks on the differences of success and accomplishment, as well as realizations of creative dimension. He speaks of balancing your artistry with having to make a living with a job that, for many of us, take us away from our art. 

I love how this book doesn’t push you or make you feel like you have to keep going, no matter the cost. Quite the opposite, actually. I have been struggling in my own as a writer for some time now, and have had a few aha moments, but this book hit the nail on the head. 

The best I’ve read. Highly recommended whether you are an artist who is just starting out, burned out, struggling, or thriving.
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Kent Nerburn’s newest book is a love letter to all artists, whether writer, dancer, painter.

A letter to the author himself from a young creative was inspiration. Is it possible to make a life in the arts, she asked? He answers with this inspiring, graceful, spiritual book. 

He reflects on his own life as a writer, honestly sharing the triumphs and risks through four sections that cover an artist’s life cycle: The Journey Begins, The Hard Places, The Hidden Secrets, The Unseen Joys. 

Making art is hard, he asserts, but the process is the crux. How art “paints” the painter makes any obstacle worth it. 

He also quotes iconic dancer Martha Graham, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”

Without creators, he agrees, the world would atrophy. So go make art, transform yourself, transform the world!

5 of 5 Stars

Pub Date 24 Nov 2020

Thanks to the author, Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine.

#OnMakingArtBeinganArtist #NetGalley
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