more Letters to a Young Artist

from XU BING


Those who know how to work also understand that whatever limitations they meet can be transformed into things that are useful to them. Using a limitation well transforms it into a strength…

My viewpoint is that wherever you live, you will face that place’s problems. If you have problems then you have art. Your plight and your problems are actually the source of your artistic creation…

The majority of young artists who come to New York to develop their careers are eager to enter the mainstream. But, like you, they have to spend time working other jobs to support their costs of living here. It may seem like you are wasting time that could be used for making art, but you needn’t actually worry about this too much. As long as you are a true artist, every field that you engage in outside of art circles – living and working – will produce treasure, which sooner or later will be used in the creation of your art.



LET YOUR STUDIO BE YOUR SANCTUARY… Within that space you create and take chances, destroy and create again.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO DO DUMB THINGS IN THE STUDIO. Artists can’t get anywhere beyond the familiar and the prevalidated without risking being ridiculous.




Stay in touch with your original motivation to become an artist – and beware that it is always a process of becoming. You have to stay light on your feet. It is about change and transformation. You are the boss of that but you don’t have total control. Good to give into that. Making art recquires a lot of isolation, but I realized over time that I also wanted a whole life, that I could still do my work and have a partner and a family. So have a life. Art making fits in well.



One must know when deciding to become an artist – it is an irresistable attraction – that there are no guarentees of success, rewards, recognition, etc. One chooses or is drawn to a life of producing works that have no practical use in a largely indifferent world. The way is not easy or comfortable. To be an artist you must love art – and you must respect and find a haven for yourself within your work. It is important to find a basic pleasure – intellectual, sensual, kinetic, touch, smell, sight… “the shape, the sense, the feel of things” (Hilda Doolittle). Life in general is a miraculous phenomenon full of contradiction for all.

PS: Be careful not to be overwhelmed by unimportant details. Schedule time every day for your work. There are many examples of poets, for instance, who were doctors, worked in insurance companies, or banks. Find a way to support yourself that is not a compromize. Years ago I saw a photograph in a Canadian magazine of an old woman sitting on the ground surrounded by wooden objects she had made. She was outside the system you refer to. She was smiling and it seemed that she loved her work. For me, this was inspiring.



The only work worth doing is the art that makes things better. More actually advanced. More enjoyable. A key: genuine happiness. All around. So, make art that comes out of your own sense of what’s actually best, and advanced, and supercool. Do you live on a planet, or on a multi-blither of unknown galaxies?


3 thoughts on “more Letters to a Young Artist

  1. Reading this made me feel like what I do on my down time actually matters. Thank you! I’ve never read these before. Crazy, right? Can I just say that I also struggle with making art, getting published, finding a new job that brings me more happiness/financial freedom, etc. because I hold myself back with my own anxious mind. It’s true, I self-sabotage constantly. I need to learn to let it go and just get my shit together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember reading these back when I was in college and not appreciating them. I guess I hadn’t been put through the thick of it yet so I hadn’t really needed them then. Now that I am juggling loads more feelings though, these letters are pretty enlightening. Yep, the struggle is real, but so is the neccesity and the NEED to push through it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With age comes drama and wisdom, right? I’m learning this every day. Maybe it was good that I read them now, because I really did appreciate the letters I read. Thanks, I enjoy reading about your life abroad, the work and art you do. Keep rocking your blog!


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