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Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "I am an artist." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 7 April 2020,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2020)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2020, April 7). I am an artist. [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2020)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "I am an artist.", April 7, 2020, YouTube, 03:48,
Order You Are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green:
Join Sarah, me, and special guests on the book's virtual tour:
You can find excellent free Art Assignments here:

In which John unambiguously celebrates Sarah Urist Green and her wonderful book You Are an Artist, and considers what it means to make art and be an artist.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. New temporary background because this is the new temporary headquarters of The Art Assignment, my wife Sarah's YouTube channel with PBS Digital Studios which reminds me that Sarah's book You Are an Artist comes out a week from today. 

The finished copies just arrived and it is such a beautiful book. I am so excited! Sarah is a wondrously unsentimental person unlike her husband and so I hope she will forgive me for this, but when I met Sarah seventeen years ago, she was working at a gallery, and even then, she had a special brilliance for writing in a way that was simultaneously accessible and intellectually rigorous, which is really hard. And for a year before we started dating we wrote each other emails, like hundreds of pages of emails about how and why art can matter, about the book we read and movies we saw, about what happened to us that day and how we felt about it. We have many books that are important to us, but by far the most important book in our library is this book that Sarah made for me that contains all of those emails. 

And I remember awed by how Sarah could find language for deeply abstract and complex experiences, and to be honest, I'm still a little awed by it. In those days I was revising the novel that would become Looking for Alaska, and I remember saying to Sarah once that I was trying to be a writer or that I'd like to be a writer or something and she said "Well, you're writing, so you're a writer." And that idea is central to the book Sarah has written all these years later because the truth is art making is not optional for humans and it's not reserved only for certain kinds of humans. 

We've made art during every crisis, amid every kind of deprivation, I mean we were painting on walls before we could make walls. We made art before we domesticated animals or planted crops. And to quote the title of Sarah's book, you are an artist if you make art, any kind of art, at any time. And that's what I really love about Sarah's book: it humanizes art, it shows where artists really get their ideas, which is not from on high, but from regular life: a kid brings home a paper weaving from kindergarten and the artist thinks "that's interesting." By the way Alice and I made that one together. 

Or an artist is journaling and realizes there's not really that much difference between writing lines and drawing them. The ideas don't come from having an extraordinary kind of life, they come from paying an extraordinary kind of attention to life. And the art assignments in Sarah's book encourage and cultivate that in me and they remind me that in the end, art can be whatever we create for and with each other. 

And so you don't need fancy art supplies to respond to the prompts in the book because it's not about how to use clay or graphite or paint or whatever, it's about how to use that far more important resource of your attention. And then via clay or graphite or paint or old magazines or your phone or your dinner, it's about how paying that special kind of attention can help us to find meaning or cooler still, help us to create meaning. 

It's a great book and I hope you enjoy it. But wait! you say, John I can't afford a book, there's catastrophe everywhere. I know, I'm sorry. Two responses: one, your local library may have copies of You Are an Artist available for free including electronic and audiobook versions. And two, regardless, you can still participate in the meaning-making magic that is The Art Assignment via the glory of YouTube. 

Many of the assignments in the book started with YouTube videos. I will link to a playlist below. It is hard to feel unambiguously happy or hopeful about anything right now. Every celebration is tinged with sadness from birthday parties to book releases and there is no getting around that. For instance, Sarah's virtual book tour which begins next week will not be the book tour she had long imagined, but it will still be and it will still be wonderful.

And that feels somehow appropriate to a book that is about working with what you have and finding ways to build meaning together. So Sarah, unambiguous congratulations, and Hank, I'll see you on Friday.