I heard about Art Matters long before it came out, and was eagerly anticipating it from that point. I love Neil Gaiman’s words and Chris Riddell’s illustrations: combining the two seemed a recipe for wonder. When the book finally appeared through my letterbox (for a very reasonable £9.99, given it was a signed hardback first edition), it did not disappoint me. The cover image is inspirational before you even open the book, featuring the rallying cry, “Because your imagination will change the world,” and a hand with a pencil thrust aloft, ready to create.
Gaiman fans will recognise the stories featured in the book. Credo was first published in the New Statesman. Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming was first delivered as a lecture for the Reading Agency. Making a Chair originally appeared on the CD, An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer (which I subsequently bought and will be reviewing separately.) Make Good Art was first published on UArts.com.
However, familiarity in no way breeds contempt. Instead, Riddell’s illustrations add power to the Gaiman’s stories, making them sink into the subconscious more effectively than words alone.
Art Matters is a book designed for the meme generation, with every page offering inspiration for artists, writers and anyone creative. I believe that everyone can create if they find their ‘thing’, and Art Matters is a book that will help turn a spark of creativity into a flame.
It made me cry. Seven simple words and one deft image about art reduced me to cathartic sobs: “Make it on the good days too.” It reminded me of the hours I’ve spent stuck in bed unable to move due to my chronic pain condition – and that I can turn bad days into good days by making art. As someone who believes in the healing power of art, it struck a chord – and is something I want to turn into a poster for the end of my bed, to help remind me to make art even when I’m aching.
The book is wonderfully validating for anyone who’s ever tried to make a living in the arts, and is the ideal gift for any artist who’s struggling with motivation or self-belief. It helps make sense of the bad times and encourages everyone to share the little voice inside themselves that says change can happen: that art does matter.
It’s rare that I buy a book and immediately want to buy numerous more copies. However, Art Matters is a book that I’d love to give to every artist I know. I’d love a large ‘coffee table’ copy; a tiny pocket copy that I could give to artists on the night of their show or day of their book launch to provide artistic comfort; a paperback copy that I could draw on and add notes to. I’d like an Art Matters diary, with pages interspersed with the wonderful illustrations; and Art Matters posters that I could hang on my wall. Hell, I’d even love at Art Matters duvet cover featuring the image that made me cry.
In short, I love this book. I’ve already recommended it to many friends – and strangers online. If you’re an artist in need of a pick-me-up or someone who claims not to understand art, Art Matters is the ideal book to read. It reminds readers about the importance of books and libraries; the reasons artists need to keep making art; and that both Gaiman and Riddell are supreme storytellers.
Buy this book today, and add it to your Christmas lists for friends. Most importantly, remember that Art Matters, and once you’ve experienced the great art that is the book, make some art of your own.
As Gaiman says, “The world always seems brighter when you’ve made something that wasn’t there before.”