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The Work of Art

Here are stories and lessons about the hows and whys of living by art, not as object, but as activity, as a way of life. Included are essays about principles of design, measure, and proportion, as well as social and economic aspects of working as an artist -- earning money, working for community, teaching, learning.... Also available as a free download from handprintpress (dot com), or online at, where reader responses include the following:

“Kiko! I love this about making art....your words speak to me. Thank you.” — Cathy Wilson

“Thanks Kiko. Beautiful essay!”

“...I think people are meant to transform and broaden their definition of “artist”, as you have done, and put all that raw ability to good use. So thanks Kiko, and thanks for providing the feedback forum so that we can share what your writing has triggered in us!” — mona

“Kiko - Thank you for expressing so eloquently the mess in my heart. ...All those times I’ve heard, “You can’t make a living doing art.” Well you know what, you can’t make a living denying your soul. If you’re passion is beauty and art - do it anyway, at least you’ll feel whole and connected. And I know many artist now who make enough or more than enough money to be happy.Keep doing what you’re doing.” — Annie

“Thanks for writing this out!”

“This really resonates with me. I’ve been fighting all my life to avoid labels and try to define myself by my actions. I like the concept of explaining my identity without using the phrase ‘I am’”. — Elise

Art, at root, means "to fit together." We engage in the work of art when we fit our unique and individual selves into a whole life and landscape, into our communities, into our common stories. The doing of it — from washing the dishes to hoeing the beans to painting, drawing, or sculpting — it all requires art: technique, skill, awareness, patience, perseverance. Traditional wisdom says the same: "An artist is not a special kind of person; every person is a special kind of artist." Why, then, do we believe the popular myth of the outcast genius pitting her or himself against the whole of society?

At ten, I wanted to carve stone, but by college I'd become cynical. After college, I worked on "changing the world." A dozen years later, I decided to go back to art. I started to see the world — and to understand art — in ways that made more sense, that offered support and encouragement, and that made it possible for me to live by art (tho that looks quite different — better! — than I might have thought 20 years ago).

The ideas aren't new but, like seeds, they must be adapted to each environment, and they only live on if we plant, tend, harvest, and share them. I wrote the stories down to better understand what I was learning. Here (below) is the latest version, in magazine format (as of December, 2013). If you have comments, please share them; it's a discussion, not a lecture. The book is downloadable as a free pdf or a $20 color paperback from handprinpress; paper copies also available via createspace (here).

— Kiko Denzer. More work at: handprintpress, and another blog




KikoI love this about making art. I'm at a point where the shapes, colors, images are growing and swirling in my mind ....and I'm still teaching. I had lived really poooooor in a first marriage (for most of my life--25 years) and feel that I can't face not having a steady I keep teaching, even though I feel myself fading, fading out of my passion for helping kids, even my youth-in-custody kids. [I give A's to everybody who finishes projects, though, not just for "good" results]. I know it's the nature of artmaking to stopandstart, but I feel blocked rather than helped by having to STOP all the time to tend to "business." SO..your words speak to me. Thank you.Cathy Wilson