Art & Design

Adam Green’s Totally Sincere Guide to Becoming an Artist

Art & Design

Adam Green’s Totally Sincere Guide to Becoming an Artist


Adam Green is an artist. The New Yorker has been recording and releasing music since the age of 18, most famously as one half of the folk-hero duo, The Moldy Peaches. But that seminal group is no more (sigh), and Green has gone on to express his inner turmoil/angst/joy/insecurities/fantasies in different ways. The sometimes filmmaker has gone on to carve out a pretty nifty career as another kind of artist—the visual kind. His latest show, Cartoon and Complaint, is launching this weekend with an invitation-only reception at fellow artist Dustin Yellin’s Red Hook studio (and runs until June 19). You can see some of Green’s latest work above, which he says was inspired by everything from drug visions, to a box of crayons, to tarot cards, to Aladdin. See? Artist. But not everyone can be an artist. It takes conviction, according to Green, and “letting your emotions guide the medium,” and a whole bunch of other stuff that sounds equally intense and rewarding. But enough about you. Here are Adam Green’s ten essential steps to becoming an artist.

1. Decide upon Artist as your destiny and begin to value your own visions with esteem and conviction. You can’t really start until you think that way about yourself.

2.  Work 75% with the things that come naturally to you and don’t assume that just because a certain idea occurs naturally to you that it is obvious to anybody else.

3.  Excavate exactly what it is inside your head and make that thing in the outside world.

4.  Let your emotions guide the medium. If you are a songwriter, let your emotions guide the melody into words. If you are a visual artist, let your feelings enter into the lines and colors.

5.  Juxtapose things that you don’t think have been put together before. Use the weight of one thing to balance the other.

6.  Freak yourself out. Be the bravest version of yourself in your artwork. What is brave to you surely must be brave to some others. What is embarrassing or vulnerable is probably where the artwork is hiding.

7.  Don’t be afraid to incorporate humor, but balance it with romance.

8.  Regularly put aside two hour blocks of time—silence your phone and put it in a drawer. Apply yourself to a creative discipline. It’s scary to start, but once you get rolling those two hours will pass quickly and you’ll have something to show for it.

9.  Never give up on a piece of artwork, there is almost always another deeper level to consider it wherein it can be modified and recontextualized to serve your will. Take a break from that piece and revisit with the goal to complete.

10.  Don’t be hyper-critical of yourself. If you find yourself criticizing what you are creating too much, then change what you are going for. Don’t be a hater of what you make – learn to love “all your children” to some degree and understand why you feel the need to create them.