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Adam J. Kurtz makes art on his own terms
Artists, this one's for you
✨Let the magic of creativity wash over you in today’s new episode.✨
Adam J. Kurtz is one of the original viral creators on the internet. He started posting art on Tumblr as a teen. (Have you seen this on a T-shirt? Adam dreamed that joke up, before it got ripped off a million times.) Flash forward a decade and some of his handmade zines have been purchased by the MoMA!
I love this episode because Adam spoke very honestly about what it means to be an artist! And how and why he makes art! And why WE ARE ALL ARTISTS!
Below, read Adam J. Kurtz talk about crafting a creative life no matter who you are, what you do, or even if you can’t bear to call yourself an artist (like me).
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💫 Trust your authentic voice
Adam J. Kurtz [AJK]: Everything that I'm making—my books, my stationery, my apparel, my accessories—it's how I speak. I'm hopeful, but I'm also very jaded. I really, truly love people and believe in people, but I'm also really hard on myself, and all of that sentiment in my real voice ends up in the books. And particularly in my new book, I finally learned to just trust that that voice is good enough, and to be highly literal and specific about my version of backhanded optimism and cautious hope and mental health awareness, and just talking about mental illness on purpose and trying to get it all together. And I'm finally trusting that voice.
My art is me talking to myself. It's me reminding myself of the things I know when I'm in a happy mood, when I'm of clear mind and heart, for when I'm not going to be. I'm going to forget what it feels like to feel good. And I want to preserve some version of this for later because I'm going to need it.
💫 What makes an artist?
AJK: I think artist is one of those scary labels where you feel like, I'm not an artist because I'm not this, this or this. But I feel like an artist is a personality type. Artist is a certain type of sensitivity, of record-keeping and memory-making where you're proactively preserving moments to hold on to them for later.
And I think that if we really give ourselves flexibility, and if we're kind to ourselves, many people would realize, Oh, I am an artist. That doesn't mean you're a good artist. It doesn't mean you're going to be a rich artist. Those are all qualifiers that you can you can try for your whole life, but artist is a type. Once you figure that out, that's really liberating. It's like, oh, why am I so stressed out about this thing? Well, you're an artist, so you're hardwired to tie your happiness or your productivity. Welcome.
💫 Allow your dreams to change
AJK: Your dream can change, you know what I mean? My my whole career has shifted so much. In New York I had multiple dream jobs, the kind of jobs that people really dream of having, and those experiences taught me that, Yeah, you can get a dream gig and then realize, No, my dream is different. And that happens to me often. You have a goal you achieve that goal, or the goal changes, and then you just keep going and that's life, dude. It's steps. It's an endless staircase.
💫 Just make your art
AJK: Look at my work. It's pencil and paper. It's handwriting. It's simple illustration. I went to a community college and then I went to a state university. I can't draw that well. I'm not a genius. It's just me, I don't have a team, I don't have startup money. I just try and sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. And I do a lot of self-publishing. And that's allowed. We don't need to wait for the gatekeepers. Just do it.
💫 Craft a creative life, and let that be enough
AJK: It's absolutely insane to think that you can just do your little art, and it's not fine art, and it's not groundbreaking, and it's not like you're an overnight success, but it can be enough. You can have a creative life, you can make rent, you can meet someone, you can do your thing. It's enough. It's so corny to just be moderately happy.
Further resources from Adam J. Kurtz:
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Logo artist Jaymie de los Reyes
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