You Are An Artist (a pep talk + book!)

You Are An Artist (a pep talk + book!)

So… you are an artist. You might disagree with that statement, but
hold on let me tell you what I mean. You are an artist as long as you’re making
things that you or anyone else might consider art. And I draw my art boundaries really widely. For me, art doesn’t need to be one of the
major disciplines like painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, or the like. Those things are certainly art, and I like
them, too. But for me, art is also a bicycle wheel, plants
growing on a form, fluorescent light, and sound. It’s condensation, purple smoke, gunpowder,
a giant crater, an arrangement of hanging panels, and a bench that moves when you sit
on it. Art can be a crack in the floor, spray paint
on a train, a billboard, pantyhose filled with sand, a multi-story slide through an
art museum. It can be a sunburn, a video game, a cookie,
a meat suit. I could do this all day. There are so many working and successful artists
who make things and experiences that fall outside of the traditional categories of art. And we’ve featured a lot of them on this
show! Over the course of three years, we gathered
sixty assignments from artists all over who demonstrate beautifully and inspiringly how
there are lots of ways to be an artist. And I’m thrilled to announce that many of
those original assignments and a bunch of new ones are going to be a book! It’s coming out next spring, and will be
published by Penguin Books, and it has this amazing cover, and it’s available for preorder
at the handy link below. You do not have to consider yourself an artist
for this book to be relevant for you. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have
to know how to draw well, or even at all, to be an artist or to follow the prompts offered
in this book. There are so many non-drawing related activities
that are ways of making art. Like when Fritz Haeg showed us how he’s
taken strips of old t-shirts and bedsheets and hand knotted them into rugs. We also saw how he brought those rugs into
the notoriously cold, hard spaces of museums and invited others to contribute to them,
as part of his wider practice exploring what it means to make oneself at home. And Michelle Grabner shared with us how the
paper weaving activity her son brought home from kindergarten one day became a multi-decade
art-making endeavor, allowing her to explore pattern, repetition and variation, and how
small changes can affect vast systems of order. The Guerrilla Girls showed us how complaining
can be art. And not just any kind of complaining, but
strategic, original, well-thought-out, and sustained complaining. When we visited JooYoung Choi, she showed
us how she conceptualizes and constructs the characters who populate the paracosm she calls
the Cosmic Womb. Her assignment encourages you to make your
own imaginary friend in whatever medium you choose, and build out their world, and maybe
even introduce them to others. Some of the artists featured in the book are
very good at drawing. Like Toyin Ojih Odutola, who makes astoundingly
elaborate and detailed drawings at large scale, portraits of herself, others, and recently
two fictional Nigerian families whose personas and worlds she’s brought to colorful life. And Molly Springfield, who gave us a window
into her meticulous and laborious process making graphite drawings of photocopied text. And also showed us how you might make art
using only a photocopier and a little persistence. The first artist I ever met even contributed
an assignment to the book! Lonnie Holley is an accomplished visual artist
and experimental musician originally from Birmingham, Alabama, who did a workshop with
my class when I was a kid. These artists are not asking you to make exactly
the kind of art they’re making, but to respond to an assignment that reveals something about
their way of working. If you have mad drawing skills and want to
use them, you will indeed be able to in your responses. But for most of these, all you need is your
attention, maybe possibly your wits, and the wherewithal to source materials you already
have or can easily find. Because to be an artist, all you have to do
is start making things. You don’t need to be touched by the divine
gods of inspiration. Nor do you need to be the type of person that
other people or even you consider creative or “artsy,” one of my least favorite words
in the English language. But what you might need is a prompt, and that’s
where these assignments come in. The thing I really want to pass along to you
with this book is not particular skills, but ways of thinking. By following the leads of these artists, you’ll
do something you wouldn’t normally do, and which might open up new ways of thinking and
making for you. It might be frustrating at times and what
you make might look ugly, but come on people, by following one of these assignments you’ll
find your band. I’m being serious when I say that some of
the assignments in this book have changed the way I look at the world. Like Odili Donald Odita’s deceptively simple
assignment of finding and comparing and observing objects that could all be considered “white.” And Lauren Zoll’s assignment asking us to
look for images in screens that are “off.” The book expands on our original assignment
videos and adds many new assignments from artists including Wendy Red Star, Genesis
Belanger, Dread Scott, Julie Green, Gillian Wearing, and more. In the book, you’ll learn about why these
artists are offering each assignment, how it relates to their work, and what works from
art history might inform the activity. It also includes some of the outstanding responses
that have been made to some of the assignments, as well as a bunch of new tips and cheats
and variations. So whether you’ve seen every single assignment
video or have no idea what I’m talking about, there is something in this book for you. You may not be making art right now. But you could be. The artists in this book are real people,
who do take their work seriously, but who aren’t overly self-serious about it. Many of them have made real life part of their
art, and show you how you might do that, too. When the book comes out in April, we’ll
release some new assignment videos on this channel, and encourage you to make your own
responses and share them with us. In the meantime, pre-order a copy! Because here’s the thing: Art needs you. It needs more voices from more places and
from a wider variety of backgrounds. This whole enterprise we call art can make
your life more meaningful, but it can also be a way for you to share some of what you
know with others. Because you are an artist. Or, at least, you can be soon. Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting
The Art Assignment, especially our grandmasters of the arts Vincent Apa and Ernest Wolfe.


  • Carly McEachern says:

    Just pre-ordered! So excited about this book + adored this video 💌 thank you

  • Dani Kahn says:

    Looking forward to it! Thanks for all your hard work "Art Assignment" team!!

  • new book smell says:

    That's amazing! 😀 I wish it could be released in paperback first, though. Hardback is so expensive, specially for those people from different backgrounds who don't earn their salaries in dollars. 🙁

  • ItsRadishTime says:


  • Cenit Magnitud says:

    For a moment there, at the end, while thinking of the lack of craftsmanship in pop music, this video seemed to me like an absurd joke, in the sense Albert Camus wrote about.

  • Emaline L. says:

    I'm so excited! I love your art assignment interpretations and responses and I've always craved a prompt to make art. Sometimes we just need a little reminder that even the silliest or most whimsical ideas can come to fruitions as something wonderful and meaningful 🙂

  • Pearl127 says:


  • Paweł Czerski says:

    This sounds like fun!

  • Mat Web says:

    Art Theory! All those Philosophers. You'll discover triffids and evil smelling swamps as well as flying cats, chocolate cake and dancing elves. Have fun.

  • Ray Kampf says:

    Hi Sarah –
    Long Time Watcher, First Time Commenter. I am a Visual Communication Design Professor at CalPoly Pomona. I often direct my students to watch this channel and it has a been a boon to my methodology. The announcement of a book is amazing. But I am actually writing you about something else: Video Games and Websites.
    In this new video, you mentioned Video games as Art. I certainly wouldn't disagree. However in my research, I am struggling in this area of visual design/art. 
    We recently changed the curriculum of our Visual Communication Design program, shaking up the Bauhaus template that is now over 100 years old. We have divided our program into different mediums of visual communication design: Illustration, 2D, 3D (which are the standards) but we have also created 4D (which is based on Time: duration and sequencing – like storyboarding or motion graphics) and 5D (which is based on the viewers interaction: UX/UI and Immersive environments) as part of our foundation programs. I recognize that these mediums share a lot of the same design principles, yet each offers additional opportunities for creation and visual communication.  
    The struggle I am having is with 5D. Where as I am able to point to Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Illustrations, Posters, Industrial Designed objects and Films in museums for my students to study – I can't quite seem to find any 5D in the form of Video Games or Websites in a museum collection. These are of course the late 20th Century's contribution to the field of visual communications, and I am assuming Pong is probably in some collection as an artifact but I can't find one that is considered "Art." Is there an artist that is creating "Art" Video Games or even "Art" Websites? I know you showed the video game about building a museum – and yes it may be artistic, but what would make it "Art?"
    If you have any input or insight at all, I would welcome your feedback.
    And if you are ever in LA, let's do lunch.
    Ray Kampf
    Professor of Visual Communication Design

  • MissVindicat ASMR says:

    Sound! Can whispering be art?

  • Emily Ann says:

    I’ve only ever done acrylic painting and drawing. I’d love to explore different art forms. Can’t wait to get my hands on this! 😍

  • CJ Thibeau says:

    Def want to get this so I can share with my students! Love how affirming your channel is of art and its boundaries. Of course what you expect from PBS!!

  • loonatheworlld says:

    I love your new haircut!!

  • Pia Polzin says:

    I watched Bojack Horseman and I am really surprised to hear that there exists a penguin publisher in real life? Lol xD I am really excited for the book, mostly becuase through the last year I discovered my interest in art and seeing things as art 🙂

  • Kailey Parts says:

    Great video. I want to buy 50 and give them out for ppls birthdays

  • Aurore Durpoix says:

    Thx to explain that ART is a wide subject !! Love it 🖤

  • Crushi! .Music, Art & Love. says:

    A beautiful channel full of beautiful forgiveness.

  • Sara J says:

    … instant preorder it just sounds so crazy good 😍

  • Mystery Me says:

    "Panty hose filled with sand"

    you mean nut sacks?

  • Courtney Hurdle says:

    I've been here since day 1, and I've never been more excited for a book!!!

  • WhaleTank says:

    My friend just started school to become a middle school art teacher. Appropriate gift? I think so!

  • MissyMona says:

    I don't necessarily agree with a lot of these statements. While I think those in the book are artists I think that very often the overly wide definition of what an artist is can in some ways be a detriment to artists themselves. It very often feels liken to post modernism, not in the helpful way but rather when used to actively demean and devalue artists and their titles from the outside. The idea that art, is a body of pure subjectivity can be damaging. That isn't to say that being a self defined artist based off of the fact that you make things is a bad thing, but rather that conflating working on artistic projects is by themselves equivalent to the title can impact how people treat artists. They treat them like hobbyists.

    To reiterate, just because you did art projects in kindergarten doesn't mean you made art and not all work is worthy of that title. But that doesn't mean you aren't an artist or that you can't make art either, I just wouldn't conflate the two. You aren't an artist by proxy.

  • Julian Joseph says:

    There's is a problem here. When you say art can be anything. Someone could say my cat is art. And you have to accept it.

  • ProtonCannon says:

    "You are an artist" God, hearing this said about me makes my stomach shrink into the size of a pea, feels terrible.

  • BlinkPopShift says:


  • Wise One says:

    I love you all.

  • Dylan Thibert says:


  • margot THinc. says:

    There is a difference between just great craft made masterly and art. Not every painting or drawing or sculpture is automatically “art”… it’s mostly a craft (of good quality or less…). That’s ok. Some great art can be crafted in a mediocre manner sooo, let’s discuss that maybe in a future episode? Meanwhile I’m really enjoying the art assignment 😋

  • Yseson _ says:

    Art is a meat suit (sic) all mammals are art.

  • Gabriela Caldas says:

    i feel that like i am not an artist, but an art worker

  • Moira H says:

    I love making things out of other things, recycling kind of art. I can’t wait for new assignments!

  • Loi Laing says:

    So looking forward to this book! I also agree that this new cut is proper fierce.

  • dave mayer says:

    My comment is art

  • Jesse Anderson says:

    So you're literally replicating the Jealous Curator's book Creative Block? Nice going.

  • Sonic Goo says:

    I'm not an artist. I am art.

  • ruthieo54 says:

    There is an ART TO LIVING.

  • Metal Art Spiveys Creations says:

    Is there any room for me.
    Being a full-time artist is challenging but I love it
    Don't know if this is wrong or not but what the heck

  • Aner-i204 says:

    Marcel Duchamp Is Art :))

  • Rabah El Aawar says:

    Amazing book… thank you, Art Assignment! 😍

  • Sharad Kazimi says:

    I kicked the bin in my kitchen last month and let all the trash just lie there. It's no Ai Weiwei and it smells horrible but it pays the bills.

  • john doe says:


  • Hailex says:

    THIS is your art, creating art in others.

  • Timothy Dingman says:

    At one point, 30 years ago, someone first told me I was a "working artist." I agreed I was producing fine art photography while I was working nights in a supermarket.

  • WAZ videos says:

    Yas queen! It's about time 😉 Very excited for you, congrats!

  • Nyarlathotehp says:

    This just strangely made me very happy… thank you?

  • Jauza Mumtazah says:

    I’d really love to pre order this book but I live outside of the US (Indonesia), is there any other way i can preorder it?

  • Franco Tomas says:

    Art Assignment allowed me to consider and reconsider what I thought of as art and inspired me to both appreciate and participate more in art. I am very thankful for it!

  • Lars Gildehaus says:

    the link doesn't work for me, is it broken for anyone else?

  • Dominick C says:

    Don’t forget about game design and culinary arts!

  • joy schmiedel says:

    This is magnificent! Thanks for providing such quality content, it is really inspiring! Vielen, vielen Dank!!!

  • mahasewata biswas says:

    I will buy this book it look very interesting

  • battery sandwich says:

    New hair so cute!!!!!!!!! X

  • Maria Kyrgiaki says:


  • Edward Long says:

    sorry, (love you + this!!) but.. wouldn't the first artist you've ever met be like.. your mother? cause I'm sure an assignment from her would be fun!

  • per sebra says:

    I am an artist! most of my art is in my head, though.

  • Nina Graci says:

    Sarah it was a wondrous day the day your programme appeared, like an answered prayer for something to light me up and shoot me into my abandoned studio. Now I grab an espresso, and visit a gallery, or an outdoor show with you then dream of what to make next. You fired me up! As an aside, I dearly wish you would give me time to digest all your juicy thoughts! I'm forever replaying and only then realizing how brilliant what you said was. A breath or two between sentences would be appreciated. It's luscious information and there's alot of it to digest. Have you watched John Thornton's art docs? He gives us time to reflect and enjoy the art, which is after all what it's all about. Thank you for your gorgeously filmed videos and all your efforts to expose us to new artists and galleries. It has enriched my life.

    Waving from Toronto,

  • dubtat says:

    If everyone is an artist than the word becomes meaningless. It needs to be something people aspire to.

  • Amarillo Burgess says:

    OMG, Tik Tok… is… ART.

  • Lydgate says:

    This video was something I really needed. I am a Master's student doing a thesis in creative writing, but I realized lately that I only think of myself as a creative in one compartmentalized way, and because writing is also my job, I have performance anxiety about it. This video reminded me that there are multiple, every-day ways to be creative. I can't wait to get the book!

  • HasanKhanArt says:

    Sarah, you are beautiful, therefore, you are also ART!!

  • Max Nieves says:

    I aint an artist

  • aeromodeller1 says:

    Here are some artists.

    Maybe Art Assignment could encourage more disabled people to become artists by featuring places like this one. Quite a few in the comments were looking for something like it.

  • Leen Violite says:


  • Cameron says:


  • Jim Lakin says:

    👍 great

  • Li La says:

    The book sounds awesome! I really want to get more creative and the book sounds like a very good motivation and inspiration to get more creative.

  • Cyndi Casey says:

    Thank you, Sarah! Pre-ordered the e-book 🤗

  • Insane Jason says:

    Can you please make a video on how an Artist can make a living?

  • Rafiq Hamawi says:

    We all now know that we need a video about the word: "ARTSY"

  • Sofía JG says:

    I'll pre orden this book right now! I'm so glad you did this, your channel has made me understad a lot about art 🙂
    You should consider in a non distant future making one book about "the case for" , those are your best!
    Congratulations about the book!!

  • Kendrick Keener says:

    Ways of thinking!!! I love it!

  • Stone McCormick says:

    I love the cover and I would like to read the book as well

  • jamo bee says:

    I think I'll say I'm a doctor today. Will that make me a doctor? It used to be that skill and talent was inherent in the description of what it meant to be an artist. I'll argue that that is why we have buildings like the Sistine Chapel, Parthenon and the Louvre. Sculptures from the likes of Bernini and Michelangelo. Have you ever stood in front of the baldacchino and gazed through to the Cathedra Petri at St. Peter's in Rome? It's quite a different feeling than looking at someone's trashy unmade bed.

  • S. Gillespie says:

    The cover is…ugly! Banal! It doesn't do the art inside justice!

  • Laura Greenway says:

    I am SO excited for this ♥️♥️♥️

  • Kayli Smith says:

    Can this be published now please, i need this in my life

  • SkynardRonstein says:

    Sarah, I absolutely adore Art Assignment and your book will be brilliant! Of course, I'm gonna buy your book, mostly because it's the book I've tried to write (twice) and mostly failed, brilliantly, I might add! (My book is here: )

  • Audree Rueger says:

    Sarah, I’m curious. Can a meme be art?

  • tyhokan says:

    But you are artsy.

    – An artist from Canada

  • Bettie Turner says:

    I'm so excited for new assignments! I dont know why. I never did a single one. But I felt like I learned. And now I paint watercolor, which I didn't when the Art Assignment started… so I'm sure it affected me. 🙂

  • D.P. Snyder says:

    There are arts that have nothing to do with the visual.

  • Ember Art - Abstract Painting says:

    Love this. Thank you for adding a voice to the discussion about what art is. There is too much negativity out there about what art is or isn't, with some renowned artists even suggesting that some forms of art should be shunned by the public, seemingly because those art forms just don't fit that person's personal standard of what qualifies as art.

    Art is everywhere, and everyone should feel welcome to express themselves creatively. The negativity only seeks to shut down artists who work in non-traditional ways. No one is any kind of art authority to such an extent that they should feel empowered to discourage creative expression in modern forms.

  • SereniaSaissa says:

    I really only found you today – 10 Sept 2019 – after watching John's vlogbrothers video in which he raved about you and your new book and then mentioned that you created the art assignment. I had no idea that you were involved with that program. While I had seen the odd video here and there, I did not know that you (Sarah) specifically were involved!! So now I have to go back and binge watch all of the the art assignment videos!!! I might even get some new prompts for the digital scrapbooking that I love to make.

  • JoRiver11 says:

    I am struggling with this a little bit, I'll try to concisely explain. (Not to say "you're wrong", but in hopes of getting some helpful feedback/insight from others. Maybe that is asking a lot of a YouTube comment section.)
    For me, a meatsuit, an exploration of what is white, or any of the examples that you gave, are solid art pursuits because they seek something deeper, they are exploring a concept. I have a harder time with people who churn out pretty pictures because they will sell. I don't think of those as art. But we live in a culture where most people would consider meaningless and pretty as art, but not think the same way about some of these deeper explorations.
    I've pursued my art practice my entire adult life, and made some very big sacrifices to do so, so I cringe when people say "everyone is an artist".
    I think that everyone is creative. And I think that creativity is an important outlet for everyone.

  • Arley Antes says:

    I came here from contender in the room (:

  • TheBibliophiliac says:

    Normally, I don't recognize much more than the really famous pieces. But then, I saw "The Forty Part Motet" which I saw in Ottawa a couple of years ago! I can't wait for the book.

  • Asha H says:

    emperor's new clothes are also art.

  • Sigijade says:

    Is it coffee table sized or novel sized?

  • Eena B says:

    I just realized how ravenclaw-y this channel is! 😆👍🏻 Definitely will preorder the book.

  • Ryan Rockers says:

    I've been told I'm not an artist so much by professionals. "Fuck them" I say, as long as I get paid.

  • Maurice Duplessis says:

    Thank you. This words it what i needed to ear today.

  • Unlucky Lucy says:

    Your haircut is a piece of art. Love it.

  • SecretConceit says:

    My favorite Youtube show…is written by the person married to my favorite Youtuber. Only took me a year and half to realize

  • Leslie Datsis says:


  • Melody Zambon says:

    I’m so glad I recently found your channel. ❤️ I use an art journal frequently to create (on my third journal currently), but have been feeling like I’m lost, or losing my artistic voice. Can’t wait to purchase the book. Thank you for speaking on art, and helping me get my creativity going again! And thanks to all the artists in the video who create. Subscribed for sure! ❤️☺️

  • Sayantan Mukherjee says:

    Where are my nerdfighters at ?

  • From Scratch Aunty Bindy says:

    I'm think potential amazing P4A perk here? Signed by the Green family… pokeball, spiral, Yeti etc… dang I'd pay for that!

  • GlassMom Intergadgetary says:

    Personal ethics is an art.

  • Chaka Oof Ka says:

    "if everything is art, then nothing is."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *