Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Published: May 14th 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: William Morrow
Pages: 80
Format: Book
Genre: Non Fiction/Inspirational
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

This book is for anybody looking around and thinking, now what?

 In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman stood at a podium at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to deliver the commencement address. For the next nineteen minutes he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength: he encouraged the students before him to break rule and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to make good art.

Make Good Art is a book representation of the commencement address Neil Gaiman made in 2012. It is his advice and experience in a short book that he gave to the students at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. There is so much I love in this book, the message for certain, but I also love the way it is presented. The design and layout of this book is done by Chip Kidd, a graphic designer and writer, and while it may be unconventional, I believe it is just the right way to express the message Gaiman is trying to put across in his speech.

People talk about it being a pain and how it makes this book lose its message a bit, but I think how Kidd has converted this is wonderful. I understand the early pages can be hard as the words move about the page, but this settles down as you progress, while maintaining the colour and design. The way this book is presented I think only adds to the message Gaiman is making. All art is Art. His words are reinforced by how Kidd has presented them and shows there are no rules in getting your message out.

I know some people may feel that there are enough motivational speakers and people should just know what to do or do what they want, but having someone reinforce your own ideas and desires, especially someone you admire and idolise reaffirming and assuring you it is going to be ok is sometimes the right thing a person needs to hear. And when they are discussing something you’re passionate about is much better, everyone offers something new and different based on their own experiences and history.

Gaiman talks in his speech about his own journey and his own learned lessons in his career. He talks about how the world is changing, about how art is art regardless, and how there should always be a time for making art, whether your cat has exploded or not. There are so many lessons and inspiring messages that can be taken from this speech, one I think that will benefit even those who are not involved in creating art. Anything you strive to do, anything you dream about doing Gaiman tells you you can make it happen if you want it, you just need to find the right way of doing it.

I will never tire of hearing commencement speeches. I adored the two I was able to hear at my own graduations, as well as at friends graduations, not to mention the ones other people have done like Tim Minchin, and now Neil Gaiman. I watched the video of this speech when it was first released and the effect it had on me then was the same one evoked from reading the words. You can still watch the video here if you have 19 minutes 54 seconds to spare, you won’t regret it. There is something wonderful though about also reading the speech, there are many wonderful snippets that can be great inspirational quotes just when you need them to reassure you or to motivate you. It is a quick read, but it manages to capture to feeling of his speech so well.

One message is that “People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of work if it’s good, and they like you. And you don’t always have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.” This does not apply to art alone, and while it is directed and focused on the arts, it is a great speech about succeeding in life as well. And there are so many others to inspire people to create and find their place and voice in the world, no matter what format.

What is certain that the message you are left with when you finish is to leave the world more interesting for your being here.

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