Irish artist Mr. John Ryaner responded to Jerry Saltz’s ‘rules’ (as had the original publisher, Vulture magazine) in an Instagram story. I asked him if we could publish it… and here we are. I especially appreciate his candor in raising the role of drugs and alcohol in the art world. The whole piece is edited down. – Ed.
Jerry Saltz’s 33 Rules for Being an Artist
1. Don’t Be Embarrassed
2. “Tell your own story and you will be interesting.” — Louise Bourgeois
3. Feel Free to Imitate
4. Art Is Not About Understanding
5. Work, Work, Work
6. Start With a Pencil
7. Develop Forms of Practice
8. Now, Redefine Skill
9. “Embed thought in material.” — Roberta Smith
10. Find Your Own Voice Then exaggerate it.
11. Listen to the Crazy Voices in Your Head
12. Know What You Hate
14. Compare Cats and Dogs
15. Understand That Art Is Not Just for Looking At
16. Learn the Difference Between Subject Matter and Content
17. See As Much As You Can
18. All Art Is Identity Art!
19. All Art Was Once Contemporary Art
20. Accept That You Will Likely Be Poor
21. Define Success but be careful.
22. It Takes Only a Few People to Make a Career
23. Learn to Write
24. Artists Must Be Vampires
25. Learn to Deal With Rejection
26. Make an Enemy of Envy Today!
27. Having a Family Is Fine
28. What You Don’t Like Is As Important As What You Do Like
29. Art Is a Form of Knowing Yourself
30. “Artists do not own the meaning of their work.”
31. All Art Is Subjective
32. You Must Prize Vulnerability
33. Be Delusional
34. Always be nice, generous, and open with others and take good care of your teeth.
35. Fake it till you make it.
Mr. John Ryaner
36. It matters who you hang out with.
37. Try not to get frustrated or upset at the seemingly immediate success and power wielding of people of super rich families, artists and galleries.
38. Accept that some people are better than you, because … they just are. [Some people are way better at networking, or just super-likable. Other people are smarter, others work harder… – Ed.]
39. Things which are cool in one place are not always cool in other scenes.
40. Don’t let cocaine get the better of you.
41. Knowledge is restricting.
42. Go to openings sober, don’t get drunk around people who will dislike you or choose to not work with you because you’re a mess when you’re drunk.
43. It’s good to try new things and to broaden your horizons, but if you follow every new trend it will be visible to everyone.
44. If you get a small bit of success be careful how you treat your friends.
45. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
46. For some people, no matter how hard you work, there’s a limit to how much success your work will have. That’s just the way it is.
47. Avoid thinking about the prospects of becoming a washed-up and worn-out unknown artist who works at an art school.
48. There are different types of artists. National heroes, market artists, artists who actually have an influence on the culture, the artist’s artist…
49. Don’t get too bothered by artists who use ‘leftism’ to gain cultural capital, (and their contradictions!)
50. Don’t fake an interest in queerness, feminism, class struggle, neocolonial studies etc. If an interest in these discourses isn’t in your soul, it will shine through in your work and the way you talk about it.
Rula says21/12/2018 at 16:12
Excellent additional thoughts.
Seán O'Neill says05/05/2019 at 17:52
51: Or whatever. Fuck it up and start all over again ad infinitum if you find it suits you better, it will make you more versatile.
Food for thought, useful pointers, the additional tips are mostly concerned with other people’s opinions though which isn’t what being an artist is about IMHO.
Tracer says03/08/2019 at 18:26
Bullshit wank insecurities good luck