What Does Bob Know About Art Anyway?

“You don’t learn how to be an artist by going to school. It’s something you’re born with. It’s about observing the world – but laying down your own truth.” 

The quote above was at the end of Jim’s post today, credited to Bob Lefsetz. Before I continue on about Lefsetz I want to say that I could clearly see what Jim was trying to achieve with his post but by heck did he go about it the wrong way!

I believe it was Jim’s response to a ‘fan’ on SMOG having a bitch about Berenice’s ‘inability’ (in their eyes) to play the keyboard parts to Simple Minds songs correctly or fluently. The criticism was harsh and quite frankly unjust. All a guise for another “please can we have Mick, Derek and Mel back” endless fucking moan. I’m not going to get onto that topic – been there, done that…sssoooo fucking over it it hurts! 

Rightfully Jim highlighted that by listing her talents, Berenice is a more than capable musician and musical artist. Her parents are musicians, her brother, etc. She’s worked with countless others and produces work used on scores for television series, and collaborates with Glenn Gregory on the project Afterhere, among other things. If I listed all her work and credentials, this part of the post would go on for some time.

What brought it all crashing down for me (Jim’s post) and got my hackles up was the fucking Lefsetz quote! To me, it instantly sabotaged the whole reason why Jim was highlighting Berenice in the post in the first place. 

Let’s break this down. I believe someone can have a natural aptitude for something – especially when it is something that’s creative. Those that have it can find their development of their creativity ‘easier’ – ie: less strenuous, less methodical, less complex (perhaps), less developmentally difficult to achieve than those with seemingly no natural aptitude for the creative arts. But to say we’re ‘born with it’? Like an elusive “ta daaa” – just magicked up to you from…God…? No! It just isn’t true. 

I AM GOING TO LEARN HOW TO ARGUE THIS POINT IF IT KILLS ME! I want to put my counter argument across effectively and coherently, so the outcome is that Jim reconsiders ever quoting Bob fucking Lefsetz ever again! 

I feel let down on Berenice’s behalf with that quote because it takes away the hours of learning. The hours and hours of artistic development that has happened to get her where she is now. It takes away Jim’s counter argument to Mr Bring-back-Mick-Derek-Mel that Berenice has a rightful place in the band right now as the keyboard player as she is more than qualified to be there. 

Bob Lefsetz – a man who studied Art History at Middlebury College in Vermont (Wikipedia, 2022), really should know better from that education of his that artist development is LEARNED and you are NOT ‘born with it’.

You can develop art without schooling, yes, granted. But you are not born with these skills. Much like you’re not born already walking, talking, being able to use a toilet, knowing how to feed yourself, or cook, do mathematical equations, or write words down on a page, or draw a cat. 

My last week of study was REALLY hard. What I write here on my blog comes (mostly) naturally to me. It’s lovely when people tell me that I write well and I have a good way of expressing myself but I want to build on that. That is why I am doing this diploma at the OU. I want to progress. I want to GROW. I want to develop artistically. Because TRUE artists DEVELOP – THEY ARE NOT BORN WITH IT – THEY LEARN IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN! 

What I was learning with my study this week – none of that comes naturally to me and it never has: creating characters, scenes, imagery, developing plots, etc, etc. I ended the study week feeling that it was something, with time, that I could develop and possibly end up having some grasp of and maybe even be good at…with a lot of practice. 

I was ssooo scared of this week of study. Scared and, to be honest, somewhat cynical. Because we have this wonderful, romantic notion that writers just spew forth their work. That it’s already all just there on their heads and they write it down. NO! The most incredible thing I learned this week was just what an incredibly hard graft it can be for some writers to get a novel produced. The many, many hours it takes, especially with redrafting and editing.

Towards the end of the week of study we were invited to (as we are during every week of coursework) take some optional further study. I generally always work through some if not all of the optional further study each week as I have the luxury of time on my side that a lot of my fellow students don’t. This week there were some audio clips to listen to with writers talking about the creative writing process and how they go about character development, genre of writing, narrative and structure (plot and story arcs), and lastly about redrafting and editing. One of the writers speaking was Tim Pears and he spoke about there being two types of writer; those who were good at redrafting and editing their own work, and those that needed help from an editor. Initially he felt that he fell under the first category and that he was quite adept at editing his own work. After a time he realised this was NOT the case and produced much better work with an editor helping him. Before we listened to the final audio clip, we were asked to think about how long we would think the writing of a novel would take on average. I thought I read somewhere some time back that it took about four months. For a first draft at least anyway. Some tweaks, etc…maybe six months, possibly eight. Published within a year, right? Well…Tim Pears said it would take him EIGHT MONTHS to get a first draft together and the redrafting and editing would take another TWO YEARS!!!!!

Lastly, I just want to mention Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000 hours rule’, playing Devil’s advocate as I do so because Gladwell’s theory has by and large been debunked, but – the fundamental piece of it is  – that it takes MANY HOURS of practice to develop skills is the key. Okay, we can also bring in the thing about giving chimps typewriters and after X amount of time they’ll produce the works of Shakespeare, ya da ya da – but the point of it all is – NO ONE IS BORN WITH IT!

If you’re born with it, why would you need to practice? Why would you have to hone your craft? Why would you produce some great work and some not-so-great work? 

And Bob Lefsetz can kiss my ass! (What is it they say about opinions and arseholes? 🤔😜)

And…I should reference this all properly, get my referencing skills honed…but this is for my blog and I cannae be arsed. Having said that, the Wiki reference to Lefsetz’s schooling is a clickable link.

One thought on “What Does Bob Know About Art Anyway?

  1. Pristina, I enjoy reading your blog and am impressed with your views but I think you have annalised it wrong. Bernice is learning things that MM created, they are 2 entirely different elements. I do believe people are born to do it and whilst you can teach yourself to play other people’s music to a degree, a composer is unique and cannot be taught

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