P025: Effort vs Elegance

Writer, artist and all-around interesting internet person Austin Kleon linked to an old post from his archives the other day featuring a great quote from designer Bob Gill:

“There’s nothing more embarrassing than a juggler who always looks as if he’s about to drop whatever he’s juggling. By my standards, however difficult it is to make art, it should always look easy, never labored. That’s what I mean by inevitable.

The Italians have a word for this —sprezzatura — that is so vivid, so vibrant that of course it has been fully appropriated by the #menswear crowd. To be “sprezz to death,” to truly inhabit a studied carelessness, is the highest complement and is a properly tumblresque expression of the Gill quote above.

On the other hand

Writer, artist and all-around interesting internet person Austin Kleon recently dropped Show Your Work, a book that encourages its readers to build an audience by Thinking Process, Not Product. Key quote:

“By letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work, which helps to move more of our product.”

Becoming a documentarian of what you do allows people to see the human behind the art and appreciate the heart and mind that go into its production. Highlighting the effort that goes into your art is good!

Wait, what?

While on the surface these two positions are contradictory, I see them as complimentary. Intellectually, everyone knows that anything worth a crap was brought kicking and screaming into existence through hard work and perseverance. If the final product is so pristine that it looks inevitable, letting people look behind the scenes lends credibility to the end result and validates the observer’s intellect. The super-polished Apple Keynote has the nuts and bolts video and they combine to make a stronger impression. But in the end, if the final movie isn’t great, the DVD extras are going to seem excessive and unnecessary. Do the work, then show the work.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron