By dylan
Mar 27th, 2015


I have been studying the impulse to give up on art making because I sometimes do it myself. If I don’t have a clear idea or if I am dissatisfied with the work I’m doing, I will go days without writing or making art.

The truth is art requires time and supplies and effort, not much else. It’s similar to other pursuits—like cooking, say. Art is great for communicating and making meaning, but it get’s saddled with nonsense like the potential to get famous.

I can’t help but attach my ego to art. I like to be recognized for my work. I like hearing people laugh when I read something I wrote. I like getting a lot of “likes” for a drawing I post on Facebook. I also fear of rejection. But these things shouldn’t stop me from doing the work I need to do.

Working as an artist and a writer in a hospital reminds me that art is something we do because we’re human. It’s no big deal. Making art sometimes produces anxiety and frustration because I attach certain expectations on it. I think art should look a certain way or say something profound. I am always filled with apprehension when I start working on a new story or drawing. I want it to be fantastic. Of course, the feelings quickly fade after I get started and become deeply involved in the process.

In the hospital, patients and their caregivers make art to distract themselves and overcome boredom. Most of them also have a lot on their minds. Making art can give them something enjoyable and constructive to do while they wait for the results of an MRI scan, for example.

In the hospital, making art helps people cope with medical crises. I see it every time I work with patients and families, most of whom show remarkable levels of resilience. If art is a useful tool for them, it makes sense that it can benefit all of us.

By dylan
Feb 24th, 2015
Current exhibit of Art in Motion artists at the Main Library downtown Gainesville

Current exhibit of work by Art in Motion artists at the Main Library downtown Gainesville, FL

The Gainesville Sun, our local newspaper recently published this article about Art in Motion, a workshop for people dealing with Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders.  My Arts in Medicine colleague, Madeline Austin runs the program.  I volunteered for Madeline five years ago when I first came to Arts in Medicine.  She has been an excellent teacher.

Here’s what Madeline told the Sun’s reporter, Nicole Deck about her program:

“This is just an avenue to explore one’s creativity,” Austin said. “It’s easy when you’re dealing with physical challenges to start to fall into the ‘why me’s.’ We celebrate the challenges that are before us.”

Dave Chynoweth, one of the participants describes using his challenges to make art:

“That’s what I hope to do here, kind of develop skills and let my tremor be in the art,” said Chynoweth, who attended a recent arts and crafts workshop called Art in Motion for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders and their caregivers. “If it’s part of the art, then so be it.”

By dylan
Feb 11th, 2015

By Joi [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last December, Krista Tippett, the host of NPR’s On Being, interviewed Seth Godin, the internet marketing expert.  Many have admired Godin for years, but I have only recently discovered him.  What he says seems to apply to artists.  Don’t worry about reaching masses of people, says Godin.  Instead, make genuine connections with the people in your community, both in person and online.  I particularly like it when he encourages meaning-making over entertainment.

Godin has a new book out that can only be purchased directly from the author.  It’s called, What To Do When It’s Your Turn.  “This is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from,” writes Godin on the book’s website, “a manifesto about living with things that might not work and embracing tension when doing your art.”

Below is an excerpt from his recent conversation with On Being’s Tippett (29:34):

Krista Tippett

It’s very hopeful what you write, and even how you describe what succeeds, what can succeed.  I think maybe better than that—what endures:  The winning strategy of giving customers a platform to be their best selves.  Again, that’s a really different concept from how we usually think about what we can be successful in offering in any sphere.  Is that true? Is that really true? It’s like you want it to be true.  How do you know that’s true?

Seth Godin

The reason I know it’s true is because all I do for a living is notice things.  And there’s one view of the world called the “Walmart View” that says that what all people want is as much stuff as possible for as cheap a price as possible.  If you look at the world through that lens—and there are plenty of people who do—you can come up with a strategy to achieve that.  That’s Black Friday sales.  That’s self storage units.  That’s somebody who’s happy to push you to buy something that you don’t need because the object of the game is for them to have more stuff.  That’s a world based on scarcity.  “I don’t have enough stuff.  How do I get more stuff?”  There’s a different view.  We see it in so many places.  It doesn’t get a lot of press, which is the view not based on scarcity but based on abundance.  That in an abundance economy the thing we don’t have enough of is we don’t have enough connection.  We’re lonely.  And we don’t have enough time.  If people can offer us connection and meaning and a place where we can be our best selves, yes, we will seek that out.  No, it probably doesn’t help you build a big profitable public company.  But yes, it helps you make a better difference to the community that you’ve chosen to live in.

By dylan
Jan 25th, 2015

Office of Communications, Princeton University, from Wikimedia Commons

In this 2010 Los Angeles Times interview, author, John McPhee echoes Dr. Eric Kandel’s statement about the creativity people use when viewing art.  McPhee is known to be vigilant about getting facts right and for his respect for readers:

“The creative person in this process,” McPhee says, “is the reader, by a long shot. The writer supplies three or four words, but the reader makes the picture.”