If you’ve followed the blog for any duration, you already know that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman.
I wrote a post last fall, called “To the planet from the speck,” which was in essence a fan letter, posted days before I had the chance to meet Gaiman in person at WFC, and snag a set of autographs and a hug.
These days, I wear a WWNGD bracelet…
…and the answer to that question–WHAT WOULD NEIL GAIMAN DO–used to be simply GO WRITE, but is now always MAKE GOOD ART.
The phrase comes a commencement address, in which Gaiman gave the following instruction to the 2012 graduating class at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia:
“Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before? Make good art.”
The whole speech is incredible, and if you haven’t watched it already, you should. You can find it HERE.
MAKE GOOD ART.
This is where Amanda Palmer comes in.
I’ve been aware of Palmer peripherally for the past few years–I remember going to a friend’s house and being taken with a book on her side table, “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?”–but it wasn’t until after her path crossed with Gaiman’s that my interest sharpened.
I began to pick at her work, to taste, and, as with good food, got hungrier with every bite. When her latest record, THEATRE IS EVIL, hit the digital stores this past week, I devoured it. I’d been devouring the sneak peeks and videos in the preceding weeks, and the more of Palmer I discover, the more I find to love. Her art–an experience, really, equal parts music and performance–gets into my bones.
It makes me want to CREATE, and that’s really the greatest thing an artist can do, in my opinion.
Spread the urge to MAKE.
That sensation is what first drew me to Gaiman’s writing. The way he wove words, shaped worlds, got under my skin, peeled away the paint and paper on the creative places I’d covered to focus on more academic things. Palmer’s music did the same thing–albeit in an entirely different way–and I found my fingers itching for a pen.
So here we have two people, and they’re both MAKING GOOD ART.
Neil Gaiman on his own is a colossal talent.
And as I am quickly discovering, Amanda Palmer is a force as well.
But what I find so magical, so exponentially wonderful, is their combination. Not in any specific art form, not in the way they infuse or inspire one another, no, but in the simple way that, for me, Amanda Palmer makes Neil Gaiman’s commencement command CONCRETE.
MAKE GOOD ART, commanded Gaiman.
And Amanda Palmer does exactly that.
She is the perfect embodiment of that command.
With every piece of her being, Palmer makes art.
And it is GOOD. It is PHENOMENAL, stunning in the way something is stunning when you as the viewer/listener/receiver can tell that the artist is putting themselves–every fiber, every flaw–into their work. In addition to talent, which Palmer has in droves, there is a level of artistic merit that comes from the sheer dedication to one’s art, both physical and emotional devotion. From belief in one’s self. Or at least from clarity. From finding a shape and taking it, and knowing that even though that shape can and will and must change, for this moment, this is the shape, and every fiber owns it. That is what Palmer does. She owns her shape. And it makes good art great.
Neil Gaiman’s speech on its own is brilliant. But pairing it with a force like Amanda Palmer gives the message both gravity and elevation. Seeing someone so perfectly EMBODY that message lifts my hopes as a creator, and helps me to believe–and on bad days, we all need that help, that clarity, that strength of shape–that good art is always worth it.
Nail Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are each, in their own right, inspiring. But seeing two such talented creators build on each other, amplify each other’s messages and become a kind of constructive creative force, it makes my fingers itch and my thoughts spin.
It makes me want to MAKE GOOD ART.