'Have an Elephant Skin...': Jerry Saltz's Top 10 Tips for Artists
September 07, 2018
Jerry Saltz, courtesy of New York Magazine and Frieze New York.
A photograph of Jerry Saltz by Amber De Vos/Getty Images for New York Magazine.
Jerry Saltz. Photo by Amber De Vos/Getty Images for New York Magazine.

In 2016, New York magazine senior art critic and Summer Residency faculty Jerry Saltz shared words of wisdom to a packed room in the MFA Fine Arts department at SVA. Delivering a highly insightful and entertaining lecture, both blunt and funny, Saltz broke down what it takes to survive and potentially thrive as an artist in the modern world.

Saltz offered similar thoughts to Artnet News this past Spring, and with the new school year getting underway, we've decided to re-introduce some of his most relevant pieces of timeless advice.

1) Your number one job as an artist is to embed thought in material.. That means your idiot idea has to be there in your idiot art.

2) Be in contact with artists all the time. If you don’t, your work will die because you will wake up one day and think you know it all.

3) Have an elephant skin –– and grow a pair of... whatever you need a pair of.

4) Everyone is sincere. Even Jeff Koons. He’s kinda weird and speaks like a Teletubby but even he’s capable of creating the flower Puppy that made me so incredibly happy. It was like The Beatles.

5) Work late, stay up late with your peers, and support each other. You're only as strong as the weakest among you.

6) Demons will speak to you till you start working. Then you have newer demons. Work with them. Work. Just work. Or don’t and…

7) You will be poor, but your life will never be boring –– accept it.

8) Art critics cannot make or break an artist. Believe me I have tried.

9) Envy will eat you alive; cynicism will eat your work alive.

10) Be vulnerable, expose yourself, have an opinion. And remember: You know a lot less than you think you do.

Related post: 'Envy will eat you alive...': Jerry Saltz's 10 Timeless Tips for Art Students