You Are An Artist (a pep talk + book!)


So… you are an artist. You might disagree with that statement, but
hold on let me tell you what I mean. You are an artist as long as you’re making
things that you or anyone else might consider art. And I draw my art boundaries really widely. For me, art doesn’t need to be one of the
major disciplines like painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, or the like. Those things are certainly art, and I like
them, too. But for me, art is also a bicycle wheel, plants
growing on a form, fluorescent light, and sound. It’s condensation, purple smoke, gunpowder,
a giant crater, an arrangement of hanging panels, and a bench that moves when you sit
on it. Art can be a crack in the floor, spray paint
on a train, a billboard, pantyhose filled with sand, a multi-story slide through an
art museum. It can be a sunburn, a video game, a cookie,
a meat suit. I could do this all day. There are so many working and successful artists
who make things and experiences that fall outside of the traditional categories of art. And we’ve featured a lot of them on this
show! Over the course of three years, we gathered
sixty assignments from artists all over who demonstrate beautifully and inspiringly how
there are lots of ways to be an artist. And I’m thrilled to announce that many of
those original assignments and a bunch of new ones are going to be a book! It’s coming out next spring, and will be
published by Penguin Books, and it has this amazing cover, and it’s available for preorder
at the handy link below. You do not have to consider yourself an artist
for this book to be relevant for you. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have
to know how to draw well, or even at all, to be an artist or to follow the prompts offered
in this book. There are so many non-drawing related activities
that are ways of making art. Like when Fritz Haeg showed us how he’s
taken strips of old t-shirts and bedsheets and hand knotted them into rugs. We also saw how he brought those rugs into
the notoriously cold, hard spaces of museums and invited others to contribute to them,
as part of his wider practice exploring what it means to make oneself at home. And Michelle Grabner shared with us how the
paper weaving activity her son brought home from kindergarten one day became a multi-decade
art-making endeavor, allowing her to explore pattern, repetition and variation, and how
small changes can affect vast systems of order. The Guerrilla Girls showed us how complaining
can be art. And not just any kind of complaining, but
strategic, original, well-thought-out, and sustained complaining. When we visited JooYoung Choi, she showed
us how she conceptualizes and constructs the characters who populate the paracosm she calls
the Cosmic Womb. Her assignment encourages you to make your
own imaginary friend in whatever medium you choose, and build out their world, and maybe
even introduce them to others. Some of the artists featured in the book are
very good at drawing. Like Toyin Ojih Odutola, who makes astoundingly
elaborate and detailed drawings at large scale, portraits of herself, others, and recently
two fictional Nigerian families whose personas and worlds she’s brought to colorful life. And Molly Springfield, who gave us a window
into her meticulous and laborious process making graphite drawings of photocopied text. And also showed us how you might make art
using only a photocopier and a little persistence. The first artist I ever met even contributed
an assignment to the book! Lonnie Holley is an accomplished visual artist
and experimental musician originally from Birmingham, Alabama, who did a workshop with
my class when I was a kid. These artists are not asking you to make exactly
the kind of art they’re making, but to respond to an assignment that reveals something about
their way of working. If you have mad drawing skills and want to
use them, you will indeed be able to in your responses. But for most of these, all you need is your
attention, maybe possibly your wits, and the wherewithal to source materials you already
have or can easily find. Because to be an artist, all you have to do
is start making things. You don’t need to be touched by the divine
gods of inspiration. Nor do you need to be the type of person that
other people or even you consider creative or “artsy,” one of my least favorite words
in the English language. But what you might need is a prompt, and that’s
where these assignments come in. The thing I really want to pass along to you
with this book is not particular skills, but ways of thinking. By following the leads of these artists, you’ll
do something you wouldn’t normally do, and which might open up new ways of thinking and
making for you. It might be frustrating at times and what
you make might look ugly, but come on people, by following one of these assignments you’ll
find your band. I’m being serious when I say that some of
the assignments in this book have changed the way I look at the world. Like Odili Donald Odita’s deceptively simple
assignment of finding and comparing and observing objects that could all be considered “white.” And Lauren Zoll’s assignment asking us to
look for images in screens that are “off.” The book expands on our original assignment
videos and adds many new assignments from artists including Wendy Red Star, Genesis
Belanger, Dread Scott, Julie Green, Gillian Wearing, and more. In the book, you’ll learn about why these
artists are offering each assignment, how it relates to their work, and what works from
art history might inform the activity. It also includes some of the outstanding responses
that have been made to some of the assignments, as well as a bunch of new tips and cheats
and variations. So whether you’ve seen every single assignment
video or have no idea what I’m talking about, there is something in this book for you. You may not be making art right now. But you could be. The artists in this book are real people,
who do take their work seriously, but who aren’t overly self-serious about it. Many of them have made real life part of their
art, and show you how you might do that, too. When the book comes out in April, we’ll
release some new assignment videos on this channel, and encourage you to make your own
responses and share them with us. In the meantime, pre-order a copy! Because here’s the thing: Art needs you. It needs more voices from more places and
from a wider variety of backgrounds. This whole enterprise we call art can make
your life more meaningful, but it can also be a way for you to share some of what you
know with others. Because you are an artist. Or, at least, you can be soon. Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting
The Art Assignment, especially our grandmasters of the arts Vincent Apa and Ernest Wolfe.

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71 thoughts on “You Are An Artist (a pep talk + book!)”

  1. Hanneke Roos says:

    So.. i have to wait until april🤨 nooo, i'm already looking forward to it❤

  2. nadine hammud says:

    The book I didnt know I needed

  3. Huwey says:

    Weirdest sentence ive heard all year: "Art can be a M E A T S U I T"…

  4. Ravnsgård Smykker says:

    Well thanks for the acknowledgment =P

  5. Lisa says:

    This is so cool Sarah! Can't wait!

  6. Patrick Reding says:

    I am absolutely an artist. I mean, I've had work publically exhibited in an art gallery, so that isn't much of a stretch …

  7. DAYBROK3 says:

    If someone is collecting you are artistic books there is one from Rich Theroux called, stop making art and die. Rich has a tedX talk on art, and has an interesting thing called Rumble House live art. Also videos from an older project on the same theme called gorilla house Live Arts.

  8. Akshay Anand says:

    Can I just have this book now? Right now please?

  9. Dries Ketels says:

    It's less about being something (an artist for example) and more about who you're becoming while you're creating. Take it easy when you are coming home to yourself. That's what becoming an artist means, it takes time and practice. It's maybe even more about unbecoming everything that isn't really you, everything that you think an artist should be. It's about authenticity because whenever you're creating something freely, you are restoring your soul. Becoming more authentic.

    It's simple: never stop creating new shit.

  10. Lea Dagher says:

    I’m so buying your book, lovely video and book idea👍

  11. photogchik007 says:

    Will you do a episode on socially engaged art!?

  12. Yi Tang says:

    It’s been a while since I have caught up with this channel!! But a great session to catch up with it all xo I love your hair cut Sarah it’s gorgeous xo 😘

  13. Trish Page says:

    I love this

  14. uzaykızı says:

    Art is console those who are broken by life
    Vincent Van Gogh 🌻💛

  15. Rosianna Halse Rojas says:

    Hurray hurray!

  16. Kajetan Czerwiński says:

    It's a shame that this channel has so few views

  17. Red John says:

    Would love to buy the book but would it be available in Syria in the future? , and thank u for spreading art ❤❤

  18. NSMITH8516 says:

    congrats on the book

  19. Freeda Peeple says:

    I learned this concept by accident. I was desperately trying to figure out how to make ends meet and hit on the idea of making and selling inukshuks. While I was doing this I had the cynical idea that I could probably sell piles of rocks if I called them sculptures, and proceeded to do just that, glued together piles of rocks, then varnished the result. The unexpected success made me realize that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and anything at all could qualify as art, in the right circumstance.

  20. Mindy Holahan Peters says:

    This is fantastic! Congratulations!

  21. L P says:

    Concept creep

  22. Benjamin Azmon says:

    To the research!

  23. Kate Ward says:

    This is such exciting news! I can't wait to read the book and to see the new assignment videos! I've been following this channel since Meet in the Middle 5 years ago, and while I love all the videos you guys make, I've definitely missed actually doing the assignments. Thanks for teaching me almost everything I know about art, and congratulations on the book!

  24. Gizan Glyer says:

    So is this a book you wrote or did you curate the assignments?

  25. Ryleigh Elizabeth says:

    The meatsuit😂

  26. Mariel V says:

    PRE-fricken-ORDERED. Can't wait!!

  27. Jedindianajones says:

    will there be signed copies?

  28. Carrie Cavallo says:

    Ordered- and I am very excited!

  29. Michael Scholten says:

    So octomom is an artist as well? ;).
    The book sounds great btw 😀

  30. LuckyLifeguard says:


  31. LuckyLifeguard says:

    so excited for the book!!! also, would LOOOOOOVE to see a video of sarah's views on the word "artsy" !!!!

  32. SciFiPainter says:

    “There are so many working and successful artists”…

    (*looking at checking account needing supplies*)

    Well, I’m depressed now. Thanks for that 😒😞.

  33. eli cather says:

    I actually just started my first year of earning my bfa at my dream art school, and I really admire how you bring the experiences and freedoms of creativity that many artists experience in the so called “art world”, and bring them into the so called “real world”. In class we read an article from the president of our school back in the 70’s, and he talked a lot about how we have to keep our school hidden away, and never let the regular people in, because they’ll just try to stop us and shame us. But I think the only way these stigmas around artists, and art in general, will go away is to show the world why we do what we do, and why it’s so important to us. And I think you’re definitely doing that with this book. It sounds amazing and I can’t wait!

  34. kay h says:

    i just realized the art assignment is also t heart assignment

  35. Don Bailey says:

    Thats the problem, your understanding has lost the sacred.

  36. SciJoy says:

    I’m so excited for more assignments! Are there any pictures of the responses in the book? Too bad it is April. Sounds like a great Christmas gift.

  37. inevitablewanderer says:


  38. Mimi de Seda says:

    I cannot wait for the book. The Art Assignment rekindled my love for the arts and my own ability to create. As an aside: your hair looks great this length.

  39. zentouro says:

    ahh! i am so excited for this book!

  40. Léon Tr says:

    has that is so exciting! congratulations on the book. I will be buying one for sure 😀

  41. Stephanie C says:

    Huge congratulations! The cover of the book is absolutely divine btw lol

  42. AnimeOtaku2 says:

    Will there be an ebook version?

  43. Theworld ofArt says:

    The word Artist is use a little bit to loosely you’re not an artist until you have spent at least 100000 hours becoming an artist just like you’re not a doctor because you can put a Band-Aid on a person It’s like all the stuff don’t wanna learn how to paint they give up and decide to be an absolute goddess you take the easy way out for us learn how to paint in the classical style and then if you want to do abstract do abstract like Picasso that I respect

  44. BERLIN Alexander_Platz says:

    thank you.

  45. P Belgazo says:

    I don’t but the idea that art can be anything. You should watch 1- Paul Joseph Watson: «  The truth about modern art » 2- PragerU: «  Why is modern art so bad ? »

  46. EatenByAGrue says:

    So this is why you stopped doing assignments on videos. You were saving them up. I'll take it.

  47. ondinedancer says:

    That new haircut though!

  48. Kaumudi H says:

    Congratulations! <3 It's a little too expensive for a nearly broke Indian college student to pre-order, but I WILL be buying it in the future! SO happy & excited about this!!! (Also, LOVE your hairstyle. In one of the recent episodes of the pod., John mentioned that you decided to grow out your bangs but you did it SO well that I didn't even notice, wth.)

  49. Pedro Yudi Kitamura says:

    Are we gonna have an ebook version?

  50. Drew Liedtke says:

    Aaaaaand preordered

  51. bess blackburn says:

    I think it’s awesome how the Guérilla Girls used the percentage of women artists in the modern art section instead of percentage of women artists in all sections, so it can’t be attributed to past sexism! I hope to see the number of successful women modern artists rise, and the number of successful modern artists in general! Yay for new types of art :))

    I’m also so pumped for this book!!!!!!

  52. Codswallop says:

    I already knew. But thanks.

  53. lucy stripes says:

    reminds me a bit of Wreck This Journal 🙂

  54. Piper Reed says:

    This was what I needed to hear right now. I know you're promoting your book (and I'm excited about it!) but I've been having a hard time with my art recently. And I just got taken off a project after tons of work because the client didn't like it, but they didn't tell me until weeks after they made the decision 🙁 It was nice to hear someone who "understands art" tell me I am an artist, because it's still really hard to tell people that. Thanks!

  55. R M says:

    I agree. But unfortunately no one will buy my condensation. So, I have to continue painting.

  56. Talk Good English says:

    I've found that waiting to be "touched by the divine" is an active hindrance to the artistic process. The divine does not exist and will not reach out to you

  57. Fer A. says:

    congratulations : )

  58. torq says:

    I'm studying filmmaking and I always have a hard time calling myself an artist. I work on commercial projects and create with an underlying client brief. I'm also creating my own personal projects, but it just doesn't feel like the art you would think of when talking about "art".

  59. ana lolliman says:

    My DREAM is to make art so good you talk about it someday.

  60. Kevin Lam says:

    I am so pumped for this book. I loved the original assignments and can't wait to share them again with friends.

  61. Coty Schwabe says:

    She grew out her bangs

  62. c8lyn says:

    ONLY 220 DAYS TO GO!!!!! I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!

  63. FuddMcKoog says:

    What about writing poetry? Writing lyrics? Writing songs? I consider those as art as well.

  64. c8lyn says:

    "To be an artist all you have to do is start making things" YES!

  65. Pub Sociology says:

    It was so cool to see Lonnie Holley pop up on this. When I was in high school, he used to come into the grocery store I worked at and we would talk about art and aesthetics. I was in a super small town in Alabama (Childersburg), and felt like I never got the chance to talk about things like that.

  66. flomoyo says:

    The Art Assignment and this video is such a cup full of joy

  67. Bingo123 says:

    Sarah… great job!!!!!!! Stop by Eugene sometime and let me express my personal appreciation!!!

  68. Nannette says:


  69. PhatDookie 420 says:

    This sounds sooo cool! Im a graphic designer and my home town Seale, AL is known for folk art. I low art that is outside the norm. This seems like it would be so fun to do with my son and other family members!

  70. m I o . o I m says:

    I want that book! Is it available in hardcover? Not that it matters, but most of my design books are hardcover. There's just something ambitious about picking up a rigid, heavy hardcover book.

  71. dom. says:

    I like the Conflict Kitchen posters in the back!

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