It’s no secret I am a massive Neil Gaiman fan. I think I have all his novels, and most of his other works, like comics. But the man writes so much and makes such good art, it’s pretty much impossible to have a complete Gaiman collection. Still, I try. So when Waterstones gave me the option to pre-order a signed edition of his latest work, Art Matters, I obviously had to buy it. This small book is illustrated by the brilliant Chris Riddell. And, even though I’m probably biased, this is another masterpiece.
Even though Art Matters doesn’t need an introduction, here’s what Goodreads has to say about it anyway:
Combining Neil Gaiman’s extraordinary words with Chris Riddell’s deft and striking illustrations, Art Matters will inspire its readers to seize the day in the name of art.
Neil Gaiman once said that ‘the world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before’. This little book is the embodiment of that vision.
Drawn together from speeches, poems and creative manifestos, Art Matters will explore how reading, imagining and creating can change the world. A creative call to arms, the book will champion freedom of ideas, making art in the face of adversity and choosing to be bold. It will be inspirational to young and old, and will encourage glorious, creative rebellion.
Art Matters consists of four parts. All of these were published before, but never together or illustrated like this. Credo was first published in 2015 in The New Statesman. It’s about ideas, and their power.
I believe that it is difficult to kill an idea because ideas are invisible and contagious, and they move fast.
With this Credo, Art Matters has a very powerful start. The second part is ‘Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming’. I think the title alone says enough what that bit is about. It’s also about why we should teach our children to read, and tell them that reading is fun. There are some very inspiring and even emotional quotes there. Seriously, read it.
I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.
Next up is ‘Making A Chair’, which first appeared on the CD ‘An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’ in 2011. It’s an analogy about how writing a book is similar to building a chair. It sounds weird, but it’s actually a pretty cool story.
Making a book is a little like making a chair. Perhaps it ought to come with warnings, like the chair instructions.
The final part of Art Matters is ‘Make Good Art’, which is probably the best known. Originally, it was a speech Gaiman gave at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. In 2013, a hardcover book was published with just this speech in it. I even have a personally signed copy. It’s such a powerful piece.
Make interesting, amazing, glorious, fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
Those illustrations are incredible
But let’s not give Neil Gaiman all the credit. This is a two-man job. Without Chris Riddell’s illustrations, these words wouldn’t be as powerful. Because every single page has an illustration. Sometimes it’s ‘just’ a candle, but each illustration matches the page it’s on. So yes, you can expect a lot of people reading books. But you can also expect sharks and monsters and fairies and even Stephen King to make an appearance.
I love that Gaiman and Riddell work together so often. Riddell’s illustrations and drawings are a perfect fit for the otherworldly stories of Gaiman. It’s a match made in heaven. I still need to pick up the illustrated version of Neverwhere. Because you should always own multiple copies of your favorite book, right?
All creators should read Art Matters
Whether you’re a writer, a sculptor, an illustrator or a blogger: all creative minds should have a copy of Art Matters. The four parts are so incredibly inspiring, they will make you want to create more. The messages in the book are all evenly important. Ideas can change the world; reading is important; making art is hard; make good art.
Reading this will give you inspiration to be (even more) creative. To keep on making art, or maybe even finally write that book. I wish I had unlimited budget, because I want to spread the booklove for Art Matters, it’s that good. So if you’re ever looking for a gift to give a creative person: buy this book. I promise you they’ll love it.
And please remember:
Be bold. Be rebellious. Choose Art. It matters.