Art School Getting You Down?


The marvelous Martha Hull of: Cute. Funny. Deadly. Art & Stories.

Last week I was catching up with a fellow pink-haired friend from art school, Martha Hull. She and I were chatting about the creative life, books, and running our own small businesses. In the midst of our conversation about the struggles of finding an audience and making art that we’re passionate about, Martha looked at her studio wall and said:

“Wait! I have and inspirational quote on the wall about this!”

She proceeded to share with me an email I sent her twelve years ago. An email that she printed out, decorated, and still has hanging on her studio wall.

The email is a lengthy quote from Tim Burton on the importance of making art because you love it, and forgetting all the other negative chatter. Hearing it again after all these years gave me chills. It still holds up. It’s still a lesson I need to remember a whole decade later.

I asked Martha to send me a picture of that decorated email, and here it is:


In case you can’t read the email. Here’s what it says:

Subject: Art School Getting You Down?

Date: Thursday, January 2, 2003

Message: Just in case you’re feeling like you can’t draw – thought I’d send you a few words of wisdom from good ol’ Tim Burton:

“I remember going through art school, and you’ve got to take life drawing, and it was a real struggle. Instead of encouraging you to express yourself and draw like you did when you were a child, they start going by the rules of society. They say “No. No. You CAN’T draw like this. You have to draw like THIS.” And I remember one day I was so frustrated – because I love drawing, but actually I’m not that good at it. But one day something clicked in my brain. I was sitting sketching and thought, “Fuck it, I don’t care if I can’t draw or not. I like doing it.” And I swear to God, from one second to the next I had a freedom which I hadn’t had before. From that point on, I didn’t care if I couldn’t make that human form look like the human form. I didn’t care if people liked it. There was this almost drug-induced sense of freedom. And I fight every day, someone saying, “You can’t do that. This doesn’t make any sense.” Every day it’s a struggle. It’s just a question of trying to maintain a certain amount of freedom.” – Tim Burton (Burton on Burton)

Go make art because you love it!


Cool huh? It’s kind of awesome to be getting advice from yourself twelve years later.

Have you been writing for years and publishing has you down? Are you in that brutal state of querying where you’re surrounded by rejection? Are you being told that what you’re writing isn’t right for the market? Are you in the middle of that difficult draft that no one else seems to understand? I say: print out this quote and put it on the wall and remember the LOVE. The love of writing. Writing because you LOVE to write.

Forget everything else and embrace the joy. Find that little nugget of freedom and never let go!