The Art of Quitting

The Art of Quitting

Therapy is an impossibly shifty thing, which is arguably why the concept of dealing with addiction eludes so many. René, a native of the Netherlands and a former longtime smoker, established the Art of Quitting, an online venue that eases the struggle to quit with the cathartic effects of art. Join us as René discusses the philosophy behind the phenomenon.

“Artwork by definition is something people want to see. Government campaigns and warning messages on packages are imposed onto the public.”

Format: Many people who say they quit smoking often find that they can’t. Do you think that permanently quitting is an excessively idealistic goal?
René: It is said a smoker never really quits. It’s difficult but it can be done. I don’t smoke now and I am happy about that, but from experience I know the craving for a cigarette always hits people at their weakest moments. This is the dirty thing about this drug. You don’t know in advance if you will be strong enough to deal with it in the future. It is with a reason I called this project the “Art of Quitting.” To quit and to stay quit is truly someone’s personal piece of Art.

Format: In your opinion, how significant of a factor is the entertainment industry in promoting smoking for teenagers worldwide?
René: People make their own decision to do what they do. They are influenced by many factors in their decisions and are not only influenced by the entertainment industry; friends, parents, cultural background. I think all smokers, even the stubborn addicted ones, deep inside know they would be better off not to smoke at all.

Format: When did you start smoking and why?
René: I started smoking when I worked in Washington D.C. about 10 years ago. I can’t really recall why I started but it is probably because I thought it looked cool. Stupid me.

The Art of Quitting

Format: What drove you to stop smoking – and how has your progress been going since January 28, 2007 when you decided to quit?
René: I have smoked a lot in my life, in periods. On some occasions I quit for almost two years living very healthy in the meantime, even ran a marathon. But I found the threshold for starting again to be very low. I haven’t touched a cigarette since January 28th.

Format: What was the hardest aspect of quitting for you?
René: Not to start again. There’s no such thing as ”just one” cigarette. You’re hooked again before you know it.

Format: What about artwork is more effective than ad campaigns espousing anti-smoking messages?
René: Artwork by definition is something people want to see. Government campaigns and warning messages on packages are imposed onto the public. They usually scare smokers. Fear has never been a great motivator anyway. The Artof Quitting doesn’t want people to stop smoking unless they have made the decision themselves and they are ready for it. And when they are ready, they find inspiration on the site.

The Art of Quitting

Format: Do you have an educational or professional background in art?
René: I studied economics and marketing, worked in advertising but I gradually changed my scope to more artistic work such as creating websites and photography. Now I am self employed and advise international companies and agencies with online strategies and creative campaigns.

Format: Is there a standard of quality control on your site, and if so, how do you make the judgement that one submission is ‘art’ and another is not?
René: My main thing is that the work must be created by the submitter him or herself. But besides that I do not really have a standard control on the site yet. Who am I to decide what is art and what is not. The collection of different views on the subject from people (smokers and non-smokers) around the world makes the project a piece of art of itself. However I sometimes refuse a picture because of its poor quality in resolution or if I really see there was no true effort in the artwork at all in some cases people just Google the web and send in stuff they find just to be part of it.

Format: Has there ever been a piece that was too controversial for your website?
René: My mailbox is still waiting for that piece to come in. I hope it makes me doubt a lot whether to publish or not.

The Art of Quitting

Format: Which piece on The Art of Quitting is your favorite at the moment?
René: I have many, difficult to decide. I like the ones that get more personal and underline the difficulty of the quitting process. But I think I have seen enough “plain” pictures of ashtrays by now. I like it when people really take the time to make something for themselves and others.

Format: What is the most negative comment you have ever received about The Art of Quitting?
René: Before I started this project I discussed the idea of The Art of Quitting with some people. Many were skeptical about the potential of the project. “That would never work.” It’s difficult to totally ignore these comments in advance and to go ahead and do it anyway. Once the site was online I mostly got positive messages from all over the world.

Format: What is the most positive comment you have ever received about theartofquitting?
René: A 16 year old girl from Canada decided not the smoke her last pack of cigarettes and instead donated the price of the pack to the project. That made my day! A first sign the website truly inspired someone to quit.

The Art of Quitting

Format: Do you plan on incorporating other media besides strictly static visual pieces to
René: Yes, I am planning to make a book of the best entries. I am also thinking about exhibiting the work in galleries around the world. Ideas and suggestions are welcome on the e-mail address on the website.

Format: Are you considering involving professional artists with your project in the future?
René: A few professional artists already submitted pieces of work to the project, but yes I would like to get in touch with more artists around the world for the book and exhibition(s) mentioned above.

Format: What is your biggest vice next to smoking?
René: I’m addicted to getting inspired. It’s a drug of it’s own. The web, and in particular, is a fantastic place to indulge this addiction.

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The Art of Quitting

Philip Chang

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