Jerry Saltz

Five Things I've Learned About

How to Look at Art

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Join Pulitzer-Prize winning art critic and New York magazine columnist Jerry Saltz, and discover the Five Things He’s Learned about how artists and art lovers become really good at art.

Online Event Details

  • 90 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $40.00

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how artists and art lovers become really good at art.

Art is for anyone. It’s just not for everyone. I know this viscerally, as a would-be artist who burned out. Many people ask “How can I be an artist?” Or “How do I look at art?” I never went to school and have no degrees – other than three honorary PhDs. I spent decades as a long-distance truck driver (my CB-handle was The Jewish Cowboy) and didn’t start writing till I was forty. All this is by way of say that all of us are self-taught and that artand the confidence to understand artis best when it is most self-taught.

But how do you get from starting to make art or just looking at it seriously to being really good at it? There’s no special way. But to begin you need to understand art. How? Everyone takes a different path. I am still not sure what I’m doing. Yet over the years I’ve found myself returning to a handful of core ideas again and again. Most of these ideas come from the simple act of looking at art, then looking some more. Others come from listening to artists talk about their work and their struggles.

In this talk we’ll plumb art’s mysteries and depths. On offer will be nodes and nubs of advice, a kind of assemblage designed to take the listener from clueless amateur to generational talent or at least help you live your life as an artist or lover of art a little more creatively. Art, in all its forms, raises many persistent, strange, and even scary issues—challenges that can keep artists and onlookers intimidated, cynical, afraid to get started or to keep going. Even lifers like me. Don’t be afraid; or do be afraid and get on with it and to work anyway, you big babies. Smileface emoji.

Some of our fears of incompetence are circumstantial or learned:

What happens if you didn’t go to school for this? (I didn’t.)

What if you’re almost pathologically bashful? (Hi.)

What if you have impostor syndrome? (Almost everyone does; it’s the price of admission to the House of Creativity.)

Other questions are foundational:

Is the psychology of the work the same as the psychology of the artist? (Not really. And yet there must be a little bit of Jane Austen in every character in Sense and Sensibility, right? Just as there must be a bit of Goya in each of his monstrous figures. Or is there?)

How do you know if your art is working? (As painter Bridget Riley put it, “If it doesn’t feel right—it’s not right.”)

Deepest of all: What is art, anyway? Is it a form of consciousness? A tool the universe uses to become aware of itself? Is it a craft-based tool for the study of consciousness or maybe the greatest operating system our species has ever invented to explore the seen and unseen worlds? 

I say yes—art is all these and more. And your talent and desire is like a wild animal that must be fed.

With all these questions floating around unresolved, how does any aspiring artist take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears and do their best work? How does a would-be lover of art do the same?

That’s what we’ll be touching on. Please join me.

Jerry Saltz

Jerry Saltz is the Senior Art Critic for New York magazine, where he writes about the constantly shifting dynamics of the art world, from up-and-coming artists to billionaire collectors to the role of criticism. Hailed as a “critic of the people” by Architectural Digest, he democratizes art for a broad audience through his irreverent column and his social media channels, where has nearly one million followers.

In 2018, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for “My Life as a Failed Artist,” an essay about how his disappointing career as an artist is responsible for his success as a critic. Saltz’s viral New York cover story, “How to Be an Artist,” sold nearly 400,000 print editions of the magazine and gained over 250,000 readers online, ultimately earning a National Magazine Award. Jerry Saltz’s book, also entitled How to Be an Artist, expands on his prize-winning piece with dozens of brand new guidelines, exercises, prompts, and tips designed to help artists do what they do best—create. In his entertaining lectures, he dispenses valuable advice for amateurs and professionals alike, along with sharp analysis of the role of criticism in the art world today. His latest book, Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night is a deliciously readable survey of the art world in turbulent times.

Jerry Saltz has been a columnist for New York magazine since 2007. Formerly, he was the senior art critic for The Village Voice for almost ten years, where he was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. A frequent guest lecturer, he has spoken at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum, and many others, and has appeared at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere. Jerry Saltz has received honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Kansas City Art Institute. He was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in New York City.

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