Art Reading

Book Review: The Everyday Work of Art by Eric Booth

Imagine finding an award winning book (signed by the author) — that teaches you how to awaken the extraordinary in your life — in a second hand book bin for less than $3. ‘The Everyday Work of Art’ by Eric Booth is a wonderful book that invites us on the very first page to  “dramatically enrich the quality of our daily life” by using the creative skills we already have. Ultimately this book was written to to awaken our artistic birthright and remind us that creativity is natural to each of us.

READ: some of my other book reviews here on the blog.

The Everyday Work of Art is easy to read and explains the work of art in terms of an everyday life: your life and my life. It doesn’t separate us from the ‘masters’ — even reminding us that artists like Beethoven and Claude Monet and Anna Pavlova still had everyday lives. And it especially addresses our often skewed concepts of ‘success’ and how any negative spin on that word can limit our enjoyment of the work. One of my favourite passages is actually from this section — a gentle reminder that  the opposite of success is not failure. It’s stasis.

Success is not the attainment of a goal, but the continuing movement toward personally important goals, whether the goals are ultimately ‘achieved’ or not. If your life is alive and moving, even if you have not achieved much in quantifiable terms, you are a success.

The book is filled with practical examples to relate the ideas back to our own lives. Not inaccessible examples we could never hope to match (like Michelangelo inside the cistine chapel painting upside down for more than 4 years). Who does that? But the everyday stuff which actually happens to people like you and me (maybe standing in a long line at the post office to mail a gift to a friend and encountering an abrasively rude cashier). Imagine the new possibilities for happiness if we could find the art in that.

The content is divided into 4 logical sections (see below), so the information flows logically and is easy to access during reviews (I guarantee you’ll keep coming back to the pages.

  • Section 1: opening up the definition of art. Like reminding us that the spicy fragrance from chopped herbs is as much a work of art as Vincent Van Gough’s ‘The Starry Night’.
  • Section 2: helping us distinguish between learned physical skills and the inner abilities we already posses. The stuff that leads to the physical expression of art.
  • Section 3: opening up the ways we capture and use key moments during world-making; world-exploring; and reading the world.
  • Section 4: acknowledging that engaging in art is a series of small ‘yeses’ — yes to scribbling something down with a pen and paper, yes to sitting down and sketching a leaf, yes to putting a symphony into the headphones, yes to getting out of the bus two stops early.

Ultimately this book is an inspiration and a challenge to transform our lives; I’ll leave you with one of the book’s closing passages. I do hope you can find yourself a copy somewhere.

I have an abiding faith that the work of art transforms people’s lives; I know it has mine. But my ambition for the work of art reaches further than individuals. I think it could have an influence on the lives of so many, it could change the course of a nation.

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