Art Survival

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Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”

“Let us not kid ourselves,” Professor Vladimir Nabokov reminds us. “Let us remember that literature is of no practical value whatsoever. … ” But practical value isn’t the only kind of value. Ours is a mixed economy, with the gift economy of the arts existing (if not exactly flourishing) within the inhospitable conditions of a market economy, like the fragile black market in human decency that keeps civilization going despite the pitiless dictates of self-interest.

Mary Oliver
From the time she was young, she knew that writers didn’t make very much money, so she sat down and made a list of all the things in life she would never be able to have — a nice car, fancy clothes, and eating out at expensive restaurants were all on the list. But young Mary decided she wanted to be a poet anyway.
“I was very careful never to take an interesting job. Not an interesting one. I took lots of jobs. But if you have an interesting job you get interested in it. I also began in those years to keep early hours. […] If anybody has a job and starts at 9, there’s no reason why they can’t get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second-best effort of the day — which is what I did.”

Do what you love, it is going to lead to where you want to go.

1Stop hurrying, quantity is nothing, well, something, but not the be all end all.

2Be true to yourself.

3Don’t take no for an answer.

4The one. the only, Patti Smith Laying it down:

5artists are mercenaries

6We need to not look out to the corporatists for validation.

7Have Fun!

8No one wants to hear it but, get a job. Then quit it real soon, repeat. Just do’t get to “good” of a job that it takes you away from your real work.

9This article should be required reading for art student



10Chris Hedges

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

11You know you are on the right path when you will pay to do your work. To make your art. Write your prose.

12Do you think those Banksters would have worked at a coffee shop, construction work or waiter so that at night and on weekends they could destroy the world economy for free? That is what makes art so powerful, threatening and confusing to non artists and especially politicians. We have found our passion and will pay to do it. The only reason most people”work” is for money. Period.

13Know thyself and Persevere, for it is a marathon, not a sprint.

14Be at peace not having a day job. It is ok, you don’t need insurance or “security”. Part of becoming an artist is to be free, not a slave. A half full glass is just fine.


FROM ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15Educate yourself in all the arts, for the rest of your life. Know your history or you are destined to repeat it.

16Look for art, be proactive, the really mind-blowing stuff you have to root out.
It is just like politics, you have to engage for something to happen. Just like
exhibiting your work: engage with the public.
Work on YOUR work everysingle day, even if it is just a sketch or reading
about art.
17Practice your practice, experiment. Over and over.
18D.I.Y. no one is going to do it for you.
19.Don’t expect to get in the Whitney Biennial, it most likely isn’t going to happen.
20So now what? Book your own shows, open your own space. Noonewas giving
the Dadaists or Surrealists shows either.
213 people are a movement. Show with your friends. Start your own scene.
Show your work in your kitchen and basement and back yard. Buy some food
and drinks. Share.


You are art History
22Make the art you want to see.
23You are a foundation block of culture. It takes a lot of blocks. Every block holds
up the wall. At some point you MAY get to be a block on top of
the wall and get a great view, but it probably will not last. That is OK, there
are 2nd acts.
24It takes all of the blocks so the one person gets the show at MOMA.


25Stop with the excuses, if you have no money make art from whatever you
can scavenge. No time? work nights and weekends, don’t go out so much,
at least until you get that next project finished.

26We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action
always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
– Frank Tibolt

27Art Makes You Think, Redefine, Recategorize, Reassess,
Recontextualize, & Reevaluate. Art Changes the Way You Look
at the World. Art Changes the Way you Draw Boundaries, the
way you Frame “Reality.” So does WikiLeaks.
V. Vale
28Playing for a bigger cause.
29Genius or talent, most of us have talent, use it.
30Art is our own private languages we make up, like buzzing cicada’s or tweeting

31Save things and save them for later. Carry around a sketchpad. Write in your
books. Tear things out of magazines and collage them in your scrapbook.


32As Burroughs said, the old wily power-and-control addicts live by the principle of “Whatever you’re forced to give, snatch it back as quickly as you can…
Don’t play the victim and don’t be passive with culture.

33Nobody can contribute to the best of humanity who does not make the best out of himself. – Johann Gottfried Herder

34Birds may be the only vertebrates that continue to produce new brain cells after they are mature. Experts think that’s why a canary has to learn a new mating song every year.

Golden rat prints in the concrete, Prague, 2011

35“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. In poetry, it’s the exact opposite.” – Paul Dirac

36Madeleine L’Engle said, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”


Robert Barnes: There’s no suffering involved in a work of art. But maybe realizing that you’re stupid is suffering.

38“When painting becomes so low that laymen talk about it, it doesn’t interest me. Do we dare to talk about mathematics? No! Painting shouldn’t become a fashionable thing. And money, money, money comes in and it becomes a Wall Street affair.” – Marcel Duchamp, The New Yorker, 1957

39“I don’t believe in the sacred mission of the painter. My attitude toward art is that of an atheist toward religion. I would rather be shot, kill myself, or kill somebody else, than paint again. Anyway, I quit long ago, and took up chess.   – Marcel Duchamp, The New Yorker, 1942

40The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
– James Baldwin

41what would you do for free?
is it art?
if it isn’t, you are in the wrong field.

42I always thought if we could choose where our tax dollars go, little to none would go to the military and a lot lot more would go to the arts. A proposal like this works that way in a sense. A society gets what it invests in. Investing in art is proven to get up to 10 times more than what you put into it; artists are used to stretching out a dollar, we make a little bit go a long way.
best, Kal

Dont try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night. – Philip K. Dick

43In The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, Dan Thompson gives a thumbnail sketch of the art world by the numbers: He estimates there are 80,000 artists in the art capitals of New York and London; of these, about 75 are “superstar artists with seven-figure incomes”; about 300 more are “mature, successful artists who show with major galleries and earn six-figure incomes from art.” Below that, even artists who are showing are not really making a living off their artwork.

The notion that the commercial art world stands on its own is just another myth bequeathed to us by the art bubble. For the vast majority of artists, small nonprofits, government grants, teaching positions and encouraging curators at regional and local museums form part of the indispensible support network that allows them to sustain a creative practice. Without these, some will drop out, or will not find space to do things that aren’t already market-tested, and the pool of talent that the commercial section feeds on will contract. Robust public support is part of what makes a vibrant arts scene.

44nobody ever changed doing what they always do

45trying to win is the best way to lose

46Part of it has to do with the fact that we are product driven society, a one layered society in terms of consciousness. That people value the product but not the dignity of the work is indicative of alot of our other problems. It’s a kind of vanity, and a miopic disconnection to where things come from, which we are all painfully and helplessly … Also, it was proven along time ago that there is a powerful connection between art and learning, which has been the corner stone of the argument for why art should be taught from the very beginning. If art history was required, it would be a no brainer that actual human beings who need to eat and have a roof over their head labored to bring it into being, but Americans, on the whole are rather blunt at the edges.
-Sono Osato

47Exorcism is necessary when the guilt has come in and you want to forget about it. You want to forget about certain experiences because they are forbidden. Sculpture needs so much physical involvement that you can rid yourself of demons through your sculpting. Drawing doesn’t have that pretension. Drawing is just a little help.

Louise Bourgeois


Trees In Golden Gate Park, 6/2010

48“Now you will be virtually unemployable…, you have an art degree.”

49The big names that always get mentioned are just the ones who hit it big, however, they must have tapped into some zeitgeist in order for their work to get traction.

50“The art market is not really a market; it’s too small to qualify as one. If it is a market, it’s… More a of market of uniques. Therefore, there is no true comparability between prices. Finally, it’s a market of Geffen goods which is what gives it such strange characteristics.

Geffen was an economist who said that there are certain goods that will disobey the basic laws of supply and demand, that when the price drops to a certain level, instead of demand rising, demand will suddenly drop. As the price drops demand will drop, so there is a cliff in the supply and demand curve at some critical price level.”
Marc Glimcher

51“Art is less a market than it is a by-product of human consciousness; it’s linked to the general prosperity of the society or civilization as a whole. (Any good economist) will tell you that this little market is driven by basic economic prosperity.”


52One comes to the conclusion that one’s a compulsive creator.

palm in San Fran

53Try hard, then try harder, and then try again.

54artists are mercenaries

55If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing something wrong.

56You can’t really teach this shit.


57“At the beginning of the life of an artist,” he said, “there is often a trauma, and for me the trauma was hearing always that everything was very dangerous.”
“The only way to fight dying is through legacy,”
Christian Boltanski

58. Most artists don’t hit their stride until their mid-30’s, you just aren’t that good until then. It takes years of practice, honing your skill set, building up support and a community, proving that you will follow through. working through a lot of problems, issues, ideas and bodies of work.

59Share your knowledge.  It’s a way to achieve immortality.

60To teach is to learn twice.  – Joseph Joubert

61The educated person is someone who knows how to find out what he doesn’t know. – Georg Simmel

62He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything. – Johnson, 1709-1784

63We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.  – Frank Tibolt

64Teachers open the door… You enter by yourself.- unknown

65You cease to be afraid when you cease to hope; for hope is accompanied by fear.  – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

66The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion – these are the most valuable coin of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is associated somehow with laziness. – Jerome S. Bruner

67I submit to you that what we now call education in the arts is not an ornament, or a decoration, or a beauty, or a nice thing to do with learning, but that it resides at the center of the process of learning.  Biologically, genetically, at the basis of our capacity to learn is our instinct to make art. Arts is deeply at the root of our intelligence and our capacity to learn. -Robert Pinksy


68We shall not cease from exploration,  and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. -T.S. Eliot

69Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense the creative act. -Kenneth Rexroth

70In the dark times will there also be singing?  Yes, there will be singing about the dark times. -Bertolt Brecht

71We see things not as they are, we see things the way we are. -Anais Nin

72Art is nothing if not teaching, for it teaches us, in various ways on various levels, about nature, about ideas, about ourselves, and about itself. -Robert Grudin

73If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you, I came to live out loud. -Emile Zola

74I firmly believe in experimental art is the most relevant artform in 2005.

75Technology is the infinite medium, forever infinitely evolving.

76You have to at least trying to be inventive when making art.

77You never know where something will take you. -Kal Spelletich


Palm in the Predidio National Park, S.F., Ca.

78It takes tens of thousands of artists all toiling away, then, BAM!
One gets picked.
This one person get the shows, the sales, the attention.
Does this discredit the other 99,000?
Of course not.
I would even argue it takes all 99,000 to produce the 1 who “makes it”.

79It is a cumulative effect thing.
We are all climbing the mountain together, trying to reach/communicate some higher state.
None of us work in a vacuum. It all builds on each other.
All art needs support and respect. More support and respect, more people who “make it”.
80Look at Herman Melville, who wrote arguably the greatest piece of American literature ever, Moby Dick.
It got no real recognition until almost 90 years after it was first published.

photo of closing credits of Kubrick film at the Castro theater 4/28/10

81Never compare yourself to other artists.

82never expect your family to understand you or give you support

83Do not base  the success of your entire career on one project.

84Experiment and try new things, work with new people.

85Value your experience and expertise.

86Do not let money dictate what you do.

87DO not let society pressure you


88Do not be afraid to make work that would scare, shame or humiliate your family

89Do not do whatever people with money are asking.

90Do not let your goals be unachievable,

91Re-asses goals regularly,

92. Someone else’s accomplishments are not yours to accomplish


94“Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.” Paul Auster,

95Don’t get the credit cards/go in debt.
96Wait to have kids
97Wait to get married, 3 things easy to get into, VERY hard to get out of. Since most artists are crazy you kiddin yourself you are going to have some ideal marriage from the suburbs.
98Follow your heart..
99Find a good job or skill away from your art
100Book your own shows, don’t count on the galleries or museums for validation or income.
101Get involved in a group/community-do group shows.
102Accept change in your work and life
103Enjoy the journey!
104Work on several pieces at once so when you get stuck you can jump over to the next hence less down time.
Ask for help.
Learn to collaborate.
Each piece you make, make it  like it is the last piece you are going to build, your final statement.
Keep a studio or workspace, Think about or do art every single day. In your basement, closet, your bedroom, keep a table just for art.


Art is the perfect field as an example for people who are determined to follow their own paths, regardless, and you do it at the risk of your life, against all suggestions and ridicule from society


“The secret to being a artist is that you have to make. It’s not enough to think about making or to study or plan a future life as an artist. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work.”


What would I like about this work if I were someone who liked it?


Port Costa bar

Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult 


If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

– Eldridge Cleaver

We all know it isn’t human to be perfect, and too many of us take advantage of it.

– unknown

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

– Buddha

marketing propaganda
a posse that feeds off of each other or has a common philosophy or goalscott williams
fred rinne
are two spectacular mission artists who have been around for over 25
years each but were never allowed into the gang/school/club.It was the ones who could sell their work that got in no?

Hell, i dunno, i always tell the youngsters and my students, 2 or 3

people are a movement, get your posse together, you will need them! So
yeah, create your own scene, don’t depend on anyone else to do it for

The skull and bones club?
if you are in the club it can be great, if not it is like a party that
all the cool kids are invited to but not you. It is a little funny
that this particular club/school was formed or named, but not by the
people in it…

I am sometimes included in the San Francisco machine art/robot scene
or school if you will. It is silly but has really helped my “career” a
lot, a whole lot. It is and was a fantastic scene, the best technology
scene in the world hands down.
And i reckon i am a 2nd generation of this school, we really and truly
feed off of each other, some competitiveness, a lot of camaraderie.

All in all i suppose it is good to try and identify movements and
groups, it helps those who are included career wise to be identified
as being in a movement.
And helps society to figure out/frame culture.

“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”
Groucho Marx

hell, try anything, jerry seinfeld is productive and creative!;




kaltek university

11 Responses to “Art Survival”

  1. OR, get married, have kids,get divorced, get a job, do your art whenever you can. kids add a whole dimension to life that is both rewarding and challenging. eventually, as the kids become older, you have more time to make stuff. i look to other women artists who had kids and their art too, louise bourgeois,elizabeth murray,yoko ono to name a few. it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. you just have to live w/ moderation so you can have a long,late life with your art.

    • well sharon,
      the kids cult people always plug their trip to breed.
      Whatever, I have a friend who worked for Louise Bourgoise for years, she is estranged from her kids, for decades, just sayin. You are naming millionaire artists who have kids, this is not my community, my friends are poor, that is like comparing us to wall st. cretins or movie stars, this is not our reality.

      • i know the artists i named are rich while you and i and people we know are pretty poor as far as money goes.i just thought they’d be women people might know of. in fact many women artists in the past who had any success, had fractured families and often the kids ended up w/ a relative. to be an artist is to be a little /quite mad . i’m saying if somehow you end up w/ kids in life, you don’t have to quit as an artist. it’s important to encourage all kinds of artists, mothers and fathers too. your own choice may be to not be a father, but an artist. i’m just saying it’s possible to do both, many do. but glad to hear your side mr. kal..peace

  2. Sweet!

  3. art is not always necessarily recognized as art ~ pouring water in patterns onto hot cement and watching it evaporate could be the art du jour ~ be sweet to yourself ~ do what you really feel like doing ~ keep your integrity in order and all else will flower ~ if you feel pressured to produce, step back, breath, look up at the clouds rolling by

  4. Enjoy the moment you are in. If you let go of worrying about the future and regretting the past, then you have all this time right NOW.

    Jerry Salz

  6. Be adaptable. When you can’t afford or find the supplies you need, don’t be afraid to try and make it work with what’s available. For example: Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” were done with a lady’s eyeliner, lipstick, and foundation, as he had lost or forgotten (I forget which) his inks and pencils.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Moses Hawk. Moses Hawk said: Survival of the Artist, Lessons learned, observations made by kaltek #beart […]

  8. Interesting that you chose that stuffed bear for an illustration. I met the bear’s owner one day and chatted with him. He’s a contractor, and acquired it from some rich moron in Lamorinda when he was doing a remodel. The owner told him to take it to the dump (i.e. the new trophy wife didn’t like it), but this guy just couldn’t bear to do it. So he built that glass case and talked the owners of the Warehouse Bar into letting him keep it there, because he just couldn’t let it go and there was no way it would fit in his house. When I met him he was inside the glass box working the bear with a blow-dryer because someone upstairs (probably the clown-collector lady) had left the bath tap on and flooded that side of the bar. Now you can argue that a trophy-class polar bear in a glass case isn’t really art, and that the contractor wasn’t really an artist, in that he didn’t technically create anything, but I think his story demonstrates the compulsion and the process of the successful artist. He did it because he had to do it, and for no other sensible reason – he just fell in love with the idea and couldn’t let it go. It was a lot of work, and a lot of time, and a lot of frustration, and a lot of taking a lot of shit from a lot of people who just didn’t get it. But he did it anyway. Sound familiar?

  9. making art can be boring sometimes, that’s cool too

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