In The Can or Out Of The Can?

Mar 9, 2015 / Photography / book review / art process / artist mindset

There are books that I come across that stay with me for a long time after reading it. Lynda Barry’s What It Is is one of those books. Part autobiography, comic, self-help book, and journal, it is a guide to becoming a writer.

One particular page (as shown above) I still think about four months later. Illustrated within this page are realities of what it means to be an artist. Creating art will not make me rich; it will not make me famous; it will not make me cuter. It will not financially support me unless I do something else at the same time, like teach or get a day job.

So what is the point you may ask?

Because I will be out of the can! It’s really as simple as that. If I don’t create things, I will be in the can–imprisoned. I will constantly feel that I’m missing something, that there should be something more. By creating things, I get to be outside the can. That is what matters.

One of my photography heroes says this sentiment (of in the can or out of the can) in a different way, but it’s equally effective. In his book, Why People Photograph, Robert Adams wrote:

If I like many photographers, and I do, I account for this by noting a quality they share: animation. Photographers may or may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it.

This advice does not only apply to photographers or to artists only. What do you long for that makes you feel alive? I say do that, whatever it is. You’ll be out of the can if you do.

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