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Bill Cunningham’s Advice to the Wannabe Artist

A lot of people have taste but they are not daring enough to be creative.

Bill Cunningham

RIP Bill Cunningham, the famed fashion photographer for the New York Times.

It takes audacity to be creative. First, you have to have good taste. It takes time, years of reading, watching, or listening to develop a palette for what’s good.

Once you develop your eye for curation, then it’s time to originate some of your work by combining elements of the work you admire. At this point, you’re stealing or remixing like an artist.

Most likely, your product isn’t going to match the quality of the art you admire. That’s when most artists get frustrated and quit, thinking that their effort will never amount to recognizable quality. Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that it takes at least 10,000 hours of work before the amateur becomes a professional.

But if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the process of making shitty drafts, then you’re on your way to honing your personal craft.

How will you know when you’re an artist?

For one, someone else is likely to copy you. Don’t compete with that person. Thank them for their admiration and use it as fuel to take further differentiate your work, taking it to new levels. You can even collaborate with the artists within your ‘scenius,’ playing off each other’s influences.

As someone interested in art, you have two choices. You can curate and spread the work of others. Or, you can develop the itch to make your stuff which requires as Bill Cunningham alludes to, the willingness to experiment with your art as you dance with fear.

The only way to quiet the amygdala that wants you to quit is to work on your craft daily. You’ll hit your stride, eventually, but only if you can persist through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure).

Don’t let the CRAP win. Good luck.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of Discvr.blog and four books.