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Pre-order our book YOU ARE AN ARTIST (which includes new assignments!) here: This week we channel Drake and answer your questions from our art hotline*.
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SARAH URIST GREEN: Hey everybody. So we have an art hotline-


SARAH URIST GREEN: --where we answer your questions about art, life and the intersection of the two.

JOHN GREEN: And we have a lot of great questions, so today we're going to answer some of them. The first question comes from anonymous. Lots of people didn't leave their names. Feel free to leave your name.


ANONYMOUS: One of my favorite artists for the past few years has been James Turrell, and I'm not really sure how I feel about the situation regarding Drake. I don't really know whether to take it as a positive or negative, so I'd like to know your opinion on it.

JOHN GREEN: OK Sarah, full disclosure, I did not know that there was a problem with James Turrell and Drake.

SARAH URIST GREEN: So there's not really a problem per se, but when Drake's video for "Hotline Bling" came out--

JOHN GREEN: Great video.

SARAH URIST GREEN: --it became pretty clear to people in art circles that the backgrounds looked a lot like James Turrell installations, and Turrell did not sanction the use or did not collaborate with him in any way. Also, Drake visited the LA County Museum of Art the year prior to see James Turrell's exhibition, and took pictures of himself and posted them to Instagram inside of those installations.

I think we're always borrowing from other artists and other makers in different ways. And I usually tend to fall on the side of being more lenient and letting people play with material.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, for me that's the way that art happens in the first place is people learning from each other and experimenting based on other people's work. And if you don't allow for that, then in a way I think you cut off a lot of what's best about contemporary art-making.

SARAH URIST GREEN: But Drake did rip off Turrell.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, but I don't have a problem with it. [BEEP]

EDUARDO: I've been trying to become a full-time artist now for like three years or so, and now I'm in New York. I don't know where I'm going. How do you find an art-related job in New York?

SARAH URIST GREEN: Oh man, Eduardo. This one, this one's hard. It's really hard to make art and make a living from it, especially in New York City.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, there's an incredible tension between the making of art and the sort of necessary commercialization of art that is required to continue making art.

SARAH URIST GREEN: Yeah, you kind of have to have luck, talent usually, and then perseverance to just hold in there. But then other times I think you should just leave New York City. There are other places to make art. There are other places to find an audience. [BEEP]

EVAN PUSCHAK: I just have this question that I want to ask because I've been thinking about it, and it's whether or not we should consume, watch, or experience art from people who've done really bad things. Examples include "The Cosby Show," anything by Roman Polanski. You can think of others. I'm really conflicted about this, so I'd love to hear your answer.

JOHN GREEN: First off, Evan I love your show.


JOHN GREEN: Yeah, there's a link in the video info below if you want to check it out. And you seem like a good person, so at least there's no conflict there for me.

SARAH URIST GREEN: I think this is a really good, hard question and I don't necessarily know the answer. But the first thing I would think about in the case of "The Cosby Show" is should an ensemble effort be punished because of the terrible actions of one person involved.

JOHN GREEN: The other complexity here is that, of course, we're talking about a continuum. On the far end, you have someone like Bill Cosby or Roman Polanski who've done truly, truly terrible things, but you know along the way almost every piece of art was made by someone who has done something bad. So the question is more where do I personally draw the line, and I feel like ultimately that's a personal decision.

SARAH URIST GREEN: But I think the moral of the story is don't be a terrible person and do bad things so that people can appreciate your art and not feel conflicted about it. 

JOHN GREEN: That's one solution, just make everyone in the world not be terrible.

SARAH URIST GREEN: Be a better person. [BEEP]

JAMIE: Hello, this is Jamie from Ottawa, Canada. I was just calling because I love the show, and I wanted to know what your opinions are on graffiti and street art.

SARAH URIST GREEN: In short, I like street art and graffiti art. I think it's great.

JOHN GREEN: Mm, see I'm more torn, because I feel like sometimes street art and graffiti art is just vandalism.

SARAH URIST GREEN: Well, there's good graffiti art and there's bad graffiti art, and I think you have to evaluate it for what it is. You have to think about where it is, whom it vandalizes, who its audience is. You have to evaluate it within the circumstances of it being street art.

JOHN GREEN: All right, now you made me feel less torn. [BEEP]

JACQUELINE: How the heck do art teachers from the elementary to the college level, and you know beyond, grade art?

JOHN GREEN: I think is a great question. And I think one of the reasons we've seen arts education in the US decline in the last few decades is that it's very hard to quantify and we live in this world where everything must be quantified in education.

SARAH URIST GREEN: That's true because most of art grading is so subjective. And I think everybody involved in arts education knows that. Whether or not they'll admit it is another thing.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, I mean one of the things that's hard to talk directly about when it comes to art is that some art is objectively better than others. Yeah, no, I strongly believe this. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is objectively a better novel than "An Abundance of Katherines." That's not modesty, that's a fact.

SARAH URIST GREEN: I think that people really like to rank, and quantify, and order things, but I wouldn't discount the opinion of someone who really didn't like "Huckleberry Finn" and who loved "An Abundance of Katherines." I don't think they're wrong. It's their opinion. I disagree with them, but it's valid.

JOHN GREEN: Mm, I'm not sure that it is valid.

SARAH URIST GREEN: We're going to have to take this offline. Yeah, clearly. But in sum, I think even though it's hard to quantify you still have to try to make those judgments and not be afraid of it being a subjective exercise. [BEEP]

AUSTIN: I'm really curious what you think of the blending of books as art sometimes, like Mark Z. Danielewski, who does a lot of visual novels, typography, setting, and color changes and font changes and stuff like that. I'm also thinking of like Jonathan Safran Foer who did "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and "Tree of Codes," which is that like die cut book. And I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on that.

SARAH URIST GREEN: Austin, I really love the interplay between the world of art and the world of books. One of my favorite artworks of all time is Tauba Auerbach's "RBG Colorspace," which is not only a book, but it's a beautiful amazing sculpture.

JOHN GREEN: And in your question you mentioned both Mark Danielewski and Jonathan Safran Foer, and I'm really interested in the way that artists and authors can use the constraints and opportunities of the physical book to make something new and interesting. I'm a huge fan of the designer Rodrigo Corral, who actually illustrated the cover of my novel "The Fault in Our Stars." And he did a really fascinating multimedia kind of YA novel slash art piece. I love that stuff.

SARAH URIST GREEN: And I also think in this, the digital age, when so many people are reading on e-readers, authors and publishers have to make a case for why it should be a physical book.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, I think you've got to make physical books beautiful and wonderful to spend time with. They're a good technology. They're under-rated.

ANONYMOUS: There's often a misconception about people getting a degree in art, because you know there's a common misconception that it's a degree that you won't use. And I was wondering what jobs are available who studied this instead of being a traditional artist but being in the art field.

SARAH URIST GREEN: So I majored in art and John in English, and those are both degrees often ridiculed as being useless.

JOHN GREEN: For the record, I double majored. My second major was in religious studies with an emphasis on early Islamic history, totally useful.

SARAH URIST GREEN: But I actually think that was very useful and that you draw on that knowledge all the time.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, totally, and that would be my answer to the question. The kinds of jobs that you can get with a degree in the liberal arts are very similar to the kinds of jobs that you can get just in general. You can sell insurance. You can go to law school. If you want to, you can go back to college, take a couple chemistry classes and then become pre-med.

SARAH URIST GREEN: I think we often forget that a liberal arts degree is not professional school. You're not learning a particular skill. You're learning how to think. You're learning how to approach problems.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, and I would say that rather than preparing you for one particular career, a liberal arts degree prepares you for lots of different careers. Now that comes with its own downsides, of course. I remember in the weeks after I graduated from college, in one week I applied for a job as a religion teacher, a paralegal, and a paramedic. And the other thing I'd say is that there's this misconception that you're going to do something with your life. People always ask me what should I do with my life, as if you're only going to do one thing. You're going to do lots of things with your life, so don't worry too, too much about like the one thing that you want to do, because if you're lucky, and most of us are, you're going to get to do lots of things.

SARAH URIST GREEN: Thanks everybody for calling our art hotline.


SARAH URIST GREEN: And we'll be making more of these videos, so please call in with your questions and comments.

JOHN GREEN: Yeah, it's wonderful to read your comments of course, but there's just something really special about hearing your voices, so thanks to everyone who's called into the hotline.


JOHN GREEN: See you next time.

SARAH URIST GREEN: You would have been a terrible paramedic.

JOHN GREEN: I actually--

SARAH URIST GREEN: You would have been like panic, panic, everybody. He's really hurt.

JOHN GREEN: I actually thought that you would say that I would make a terrible paralegal, because I would also make a terrible paralegal.


JOHN GREEN: I'm not detail-oriented and I'm not a finisher. In addition to that, I would have been an awful religion teacher. It's no wonder that I didn't get any of those three jobs.