This Head I Hold

Posted by Scott

I don’t usually go too deep trying to interpret films and videos simply for the fact that I’m not good at it. Can you really ever truly determine the intentions of an artist? True, some are pretty forthright and wear it on their sleeves as a sort of art-form in and of itself, but for the most part art and expression are purely personal exercises, the products of which can’t be expected to be faithfully interpreted by others. And that’s the beauty; that others are free to take the form and mold it to their own experience, to derive a more personal meaning from it. I for one hope that the majority of people who consume my work perceive it in a completely different way than I do. I know that by and large that’s not the case, but I’d like to think it could be if properly framed.

But this video struck a chord with me as an artist and as a human being in general. How can we reconcile our passions and goals with the biological imperative and our desire to find true meaning in life? Is our work the true meaning? On your death bed will you praise yourself for the things you’ve achieved as an artist, be fulfilled because you followed your “dream”. Or will you be thankful for the the relationships you’ve forged and the lives you’ve touched? Hopefully both. But as I grown older and learn more of myself and my work, I begin to fear these goals are mutually exclusive in some respects.

Curious to hear other’s thoughts. And I’m not missing the lighter side of this, it’s downright hilarious in it’s own way. But on a more serious note I think this is outlines some conflicts we all must face as artists striving towards our self-oriented goals.

Electric Guest – This Head I hold Directed by Keith Schofield

Via Dusty Brown

22 Comments Leave A Comment


C42D says:

May 10, 2012 at 6:30 am

I think on your death bed you won’t give two shits about anything you were *doing* and will care immensely at what you were *being* during these years in physical form.

Just my philosophical two cents.

ps- love the 1971 poster in my studio!! :) everyone digs it!!



May 10, 2012 at 8:00 am

A really interesting post. Have thought along similar lines myself. I would question whether those are the only two options to choose from…

With your work, I would imagine the audio side of things would be consumed/interpreted in personal/individual ways. As the way music is absorbed it’s dependent on so many other factors. when, where, with whom, personal experiences etc.


Nthn says:

May 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

Great post!

I believe that the two goals are not mutually exclusive but one informs the other. Having a family and being a creator can at times be a balancing act…who am I kidding, at all times it is a balancing act. I find it keeps me grounded but also pushes my imagination farther. Many facets in life makes for a fuller, more meaningful life. Thems my thoughts on it.


zx says:

May 10, 2012 at 9:52 am

A little pessimistic maybe, but thought about my work, and the stuff we’re doing (UI design or design overall) and started to think that we create more problems than we solve, and the things we’re doing are not necessary in long term. The guys who traveled whole globe in a solar-powered boat did something important, we just creating some random stuff, mostly unimportant.

(Or in place of ‘we’ I should put ‘I’, cause I thought about what I am doing – webpages, logos, software UIs. And decided to cut it of part by part and find myself a real thing to do, event if it means help in building shelters in Africa.)


Poupette says:

May 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm


I agree with you when you say that “for the most part art and expression are purely personal exercises, the products of which can’t be expected to be faithfully interpreted by others”.

Reminds me of a Benny Hill skit in which he plays a famous French movie director. He’s being interviewed by a highbrow British movie critic who keeps rambling on about what Benny Hill “really means” with such and such scene/dialogue. Benny Hill gets so exasperated because the critic is wrong on all fronts.

I found your music quite by chance on Youtube last year and shared it with my husband who claims that it’s ‘perfect’ music. I like it because it brings a sense of happiness in me. Music is everything in our home, so we’re very picky about what we listen to. We want art/music that keeps us at peace, and yours does.

I don’t think that a lot of you designers understand what your art does for us.

To the person above who spoke of building shelters in Africa, maybe if you build shelters right where you are, it would be better for you.

Far Away isn’t necessarily the cure.


james says:

May 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

strange how at the end of the video, the woman and child look longingly at him, as if he were betraying/neglecting them somehow.
in reality, shouldn’t loved ones support passions, however ‘meaningless’ they seem to them?
as poupette said, “we want art/music that keeps us at peace”. it is impossible to understate the importance of art/music as a means of enabling serenity, encourages self-knowledge, or inspiring action, etc. perhaps a Tycho song has lead someone to realize they are ready to start a family, or to break up with a significant other who disrupts the creative process.
even if we are in a sense dancing monkeys for absurd critics, loved ones should have compassion for artists who can only follow their hearts. and artists should have compassion for themselves. the existential pangs accompanying these questions are the signs of growth into new phases…

such are my thoughts. thanks for provoking them with this post, Scott.


Aaron says:

May 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Great post. I think this question in itself is holding truth along the same lines as the statement you made early in the post. The answer can only come from within oneself, and it would be a personal interpretation of how they valued each part of their life.

Personally, I think that these two areas are mutually exclusive. Along with many others, like Mature Cheddar commented earlier. I think about the dreams I am chasing and often wonder if my family or friends even know why it is a dream of mine or why I have set out to achieve certain goals. I don’t expect anyone else to understand why I have chose the goals and dreams that I have, because I myself do not even know.

I find myself breaking ties and leaving close friends and family to follow said dreams. All because one day I decided that “this” was going to be what I do life. I still haven’t reached my goal, but I wonder that when I do, will I think it was worth all the years of distancing myself from people close to me?

It’s a good question to raise to get people thinking about it. Keep up the great work.


Ryan says:

May 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

This has definitely been an issue in my own life, but probably less so because I am not a touring artist. I agree it is difficult to possess both, and we tend to want whatever we do not have. If we dedicate our lives to making art, we wish we would have put more energy into our relationships. If we dedicate ourselves to relationships, we wish that we would have devoted more time to our art. If we devote our lives to both and try to balance it out somehow, we might even feel that they both suffer and fall short of what they could have been had we devoted more time and energy to one of them! In the end, I think we just have to follow our hearts and decide what exact mix of relationship and art making we require.


Ryan says:

May 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Oh, and the video..I love how this video speaks directly to artists faced with the same dilemma. I think it implies that in the end, we really can’t perfect both things and it sucks. However, it’s also beyond our control that this problem exists, so all we can/should do is laugh about how awful the struggle is and then live as passionately as we know how to through our art and our relationships.


Anonymous says:

May 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm

For me, in the last minutes of conscious thought before I die, I don’t see myself looking back on what I “accomplished”. I do see myself thinking about how much I love her.


RIA says:

May 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Amazing. I’ve been struggling with this as of late as well. Having neglected my creative side to focus on a relationship, realizing I was totally unhappy and breaking that bond to focus on art, I’ve seen that my relationships (with my family especially) have been strained. Dating? So far it’s only a distraction. I have yet to find the one who will give me the freedom to pursue my dreams AND be there for me when I come back. But that is a requirement for me, and if I never find it…well then…


Karina says:

May 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I feel the same way about art, although I do enjoy trying to interpret what the artist felt while they made their work.

In regards to that video, I feel like one’s passions can be a sort of relationship of their own. When he was afraid of pursuing his passions, he ran away and found passion in a relationship, which is something we all innately search for at some point (usually). When the passion there was waning he returned to what initially gave him a sense of fulfillment.

I’ve recently gone through some moody times and now I feel like the only relationship I really want is one where I can freely express myself, which is in art. I want to be my very best etc. and channel it through my passions. So I mean… I don’t know!

Thanks for the food for thought.


Scott says:

May 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Great responses everyone, really interesting stuff to think about.

@zx – I think about that every day. I watch movies about explorers and athletes and I wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life. I go hiking in the woods and wonder why I don’t do it every day.


Rudolph says:

May 12, 2012 at 8:08 am

Scott, what you are doing with your life is inspiring others though your work. My design has improved due to the inspiration you music and art have provided me. You inspire others through the greatness you project into the world. That’s the fuck you are doing with your life.


Scott says:

May 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm

This makes me think of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

“The eye is not satisfied with seeing,

Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

9 That which has been is that which will be,

And that which has been done is that which will be done.

So there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one might say,

“See this, it is new”?

Already it has existed for ages

Which were before us.” – Ecclesiastes 1

I think it’s good to have a balanced perspective on life and work. One of the top deathbed regrets is not spending time with loved ones. My identity should be “a father” “a son” and “a brother” moreso than a “designer”. I get all wrapped up in who I am as a designer but none of that matters.


Esteban says:

May 15, 2012 at 7:21 am

My daughter was born two months ago, and it is the most wonderful, overwhelming and scariest thing that had happened to me ever.

My wife and I met like five years ago, and since then we haven’t stopped loving each other.

Before all this, I was a full-time musician and in-between, began to work as a designer.

Things changed, relationships changed, priorities changed.

Nowadays, I’m a succesful web developer working in a big company; I even got to work in Google’s main office for a few months. Big deal.

My wife and my daughter are the sun and the moon for me.

Music, which was my bigger passion, had been left quite behind.

I don’t know how to respond to all these things, and your post it’s both thrilling and disturbing at the same time.

I always thought that we have, on one side, a cloud made up of dreams, hanging high above the sky, and on the other side, a small bag of achievements, that we carry with ourselves everywhere.

And even though the first is the most striking and desired, is the latter which, in the end, truly weighs what we’ve done and what we are.

By now, as far as we know, the video you posted is great and so is your work, Scott. So I guess we are on the right track.

Let’s keep on moving.


Bruce says:

May 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I recently moved to find work. I uprooted my family because the well had run dry where i was. I considered changing careers, taking jobs outside design, all because my number one objective was providing for my children and my wife. Like Esteban said, they are greatest joy in my life.

But life is too short to do something that does not give you purpose or fulfillment. Facing this great change in my life, i distilled (or more clearly articulated) my goal to this: i wanted to do something that mattered. Something that is lasting. That impacts people and their lives.

Ultimately, this boils down to doing what you are made to do. I think your transition from Adobe to your current work was not dissimilar. Doing work that contributes to someone else’s mission will leave you empty and full of regret. For me, it has been doing design for non-profits.

I believe we must pursue our dreams. The cool thing about art and design is that it is naturally relational. It most always involves other people (unless you keep it to yourself).

But even if it is not art, whatever our life aspiration, relationships should play a vital role. They should inspire us, push us, challenge us. And those that love us should support and enable us to be what we were made to be.
The person on his deathbed filled with regret is the one that focused selfishly on his own goals and dreams and neglected the relationships that surrounded him.

You are right. You are not just what you do. So much more than a designer, professor, manager, etc. We are relational people and this blog testifies to just how much we give and take from each other.


zx says:

June 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

@Scott: Don’t know what are you planning, but I’m just seeking for someone who will push me one more step and I am leaving to do something important.

Yet, I think it’s nearly impossible without some kind of guidance. And seems there aren’t many people willing to guide nowadays. Like the ‘old guy with a beard and lots of knowledge’ from books or movies. I like to think that it was easier in the past (probably wasn’t).


zx says:

June 3, 2012 at 8:29 am

Also, I wonder if it would make it easier if we had the ability to find people thinking like that. If it would make it easier to follow that feeling.


LoaRun says:

June 27, 2012 at 8:10 am

I come to this from the opposite direction, or maybe a quite similar one. Drained of all passion, without a goal ahead to drive me forward; i find myself not ‘determined to prove something’ suicidal, but drained, tiered wanting to hide this overly handsome masculine body which i feel so detached from in a far corner of the world and have my consciousness fade.

20 years old is about the worst age other than 19 years of age, The chemical melange constantly tossing me in and out of depression. But in all this swirling there is a stillness i have come to trust and find rest in.

Which is a faith in the goodness of creation. A trust in the divine caring of a loving creator. The challenge is to be cast out in the dark; naked and in my case numb, and yet holding this close to my heart knowing i am not alone in my trial. I have risen to higher ledges and had my eyes opened enough to be aware of the fact that the illusion of chaos only endures when one is far from God. Even Christ thought his own divine nature had turned on Him, and left him alone on a condemned rock drifting in blackness.. But divinity has no more left itself than you or i