Think Like an Artist

Today is the day that I wish I could write better. The concepts rattling around in my head are bigger than I can express coherently. All these thoughts began to percolate when I attended a talk last week at the Bryan Ohno Gallery that was billed  as the first in a series of improvisational sessions around the topic “Think Like an Artist.”

As I was listing to Bryan talk to the various attendees on creativity, I heard  painters, sculptors and writers talk about their craft, it dawned on me how different the problems of photography are. Photography is not like other traditional arts mediums, we are more aligned with the music and writing industries.

So these thoughts go something like this:

  • How do you stay relevant in an industry that any one with a camera phone and an Instagram account can call themselves a photographer?
  • How can your work be seen when 70 million photos are posted to Instagram daily?
  • How can museums and galleries redefine themselves when these traditional gatekeepers and curators are no longer necessary?
  • Is this explosion of art creation the beginning of a new golden age of art?
  • When the creation of art becomes a part of our daily lives, and not something that is  seen as an activity of the special and gifted, isn’t this ultimately a good thing?

Which brings me to the final question asked to me by my good friend Kitty who is helping to promote the StuckinPlastic exhibition in March:

  • How do I define success for this show?
  • What do I want to have happen that will make me feel this show has met my expectations?

Community building, not sales have been my focus for the past two years. I have very low expectations of selling any work, although it would be nice bonus for all of us who are involved. Plus I have no faith in the art establishment to “get it”; toy photography is not exactly high brow. Basically I have know idea what success will look like.

Maybe just meeting Me2 and Avanaut for the first time in person, showing my friends, family and my city exactly what makes the toy community so wonderful will be enough.

So now you have an idea how this artist thinks; confusion, doubt and hope, all in equal measure.

~ xxsjc

Two Lego Chima birds gather their weapons in preparation for battle, toy photography
“I will prepare…”


I would love to hear your response to any or all of these questions? I know it is a lot to take in, but I value your input. 


  1. Those are very good questions and I found you asked them poignantly and appropriately. I am on the other side, the one who takes photos with a phone for pleasure and as a hobby. I often wonder “do I have the right to publish this on the internet?” ” Am I taking away from the space of “real” artists for whom this is a way to earn a living?” In fact, you’ve inspired me to be better and I now take pictures with my camera…so thank you. This Lego project is a success for me when someone likes one of my pictures because my happiness is shared and because maybe, just maybe for an moment, they see the world through my eyes. I would have lots to write about the questions you raise, but I am a poor writer when it comes to expressing my feelings.

    • Sylivane,

      Thank your or taking the time for such a thoughtful reply. I would definitely like to hear what you have to say about other aspects of this post. I feel that you express yourself very well.

      I think that you are exactly the person I am talking about when I say we are moving into a golden age of creativity. If everyone who has the desire to create something (this could be as simple as making a person smile or a tangible gift to give a friend) the world would be a better place.

      I am thrilled to hear that you have picked up a camera and are practicing your photographic craft. That it brings you and your followers joy is only a bonus.

      Together we will continue to be stuck in plastic. 😀

  2. Me2

    So many true questions, and I really believe we are entering a golden age where we are redefining the standards and the experience.

    Photography has become true mainstream and we are all just charting the edges of what is ahead of us. From taking iPhonography into the walls of MOMA to taking our plastic into the respectfull world of art galleries.

    It is all just the beginning.

    Answering the question of what success looks like to me at the end of our very first Seattle exposition is a pretty complex question, yet a very simple one as well.

    For me it will exist of three components:

    1. The connection. I see the connection and the three (plus Bryan) meeting and connecting and building relations for the future is the first step. This does include long term connection with our Seattle based audience, friends, circles and those who do travel all the way to Seattle.

    2. The recognition. The second and equally important element is the recognition with our audience that we connect. For me, we all need to have sold at least one piece each. For me this is a big leap of faith (it is for all of us, I know) and it is not about the money. It is about the exchange between my audience and me, that someone says, yes, I connect, and I feel your work, and I am actually willing to get this piece of creative photography to hang it to my wall (be it board room or kindergarten) and yes, I am willing to make the transaction.

    3. The journey. The third is to use both 1 and 2 and create number 3 where we secure the next step in our Journey. Not sure what or how to define it, but having our next step defined when in Seattle is another confirmation we are on the right track and Bryan took the right leap of faith with us artistic plastic.

    All three are part of my basic what does good looks like.

    I am pretty sure that Bryan is hoping to have point two be much more extensive, but for me these are the three factors of success and form the next step in our journey.

    Hmmm. This should have been a full post, no ?

  3. Lynn

    Excellent post, as always 🙂 Like you, I don’t think much about selling my work. I’m motivated by the wonderful people that I’ve met through Lego photography. I think the fact that you have put together a show with 2 other fantastic photographers is success already 🙂

      • I think you have the wrong Lynn. I can’t write to save my life 🙂 I wish I could though and I wish I could express myself better but that’s why I take photos – so I don’t have to write 🙂

        Let me try logging in through Google Plus for this comment and maybe my buddy icon will show this time?


        • Lynn you’re right! We have Lyn from NY who is a writer who often comments! You are our Flickr friend from Dallas who does awesome photography. SO sorry for the confusion! :0

          I don’t think of myself as a writer or an artist but only a photographer….but here I am posing as all three. Go figure!

  4. Another wonderful post that I can easily relate to.

    My username on IG, “telefonfotografcisi”, actually means “phone-photographer” in my native language 🙂 So I had initially decided to use it just to make fun of myself (and any other friends!) taking photos with an iphone and sharing them “like an artist”! 🙂 And that was before I started taking Lego pictures.

    From the first moment I have always been aware that what I was about to do is not art, nor I was a real photographer. But this was also not an obstacle when it comes to share some of what’s inside my head with other people, using those tiny plastic people as a bridge.

    Even though I know my posts would not stop much people scrolling through their feeds for a few seconds nor make them want to print & hang them on their walls, I still strive to post.

    So far, my best answer is: to let out my creative-inner-self.

    I am not an artist, but this have so little to do with the fact that I have a high tendency of seeing the world around me a little different than most others who are kind enough to call me a “creative” person. At work, I have some space to express my imaginative side. I work in IT sector with an army of software developers yet I studied social sciences at the university and I am on the non-tech (business) side. This sometimes puts me in an advanced position when the company needs some new ideas or simply “something different”. But yet again, just “sometimes”, which is never enough to get satisfied at the end of the day.

    I have re-discovered the joy of creation in Lego quite recently, just in time when I needed some distraction from the boredom of such non-creative days. My favourite toys of childhood have emerged once more in form of small bags of Collectible Series. Then as most of us have practiced, the hobby gone out of control with a room full of plastic people and bricks! That was when I thought I could use my rather inactive IG account to at least let my creations out, not expecting a welcome such warm as this in a relatively short time.

    Not sure how many of the brilliant questions I could answer with my not-very-interesting and un-related little story but I hope at least it helps to understand why we are doing what we are doing in our most precious times of day and night. The process of creation is much more important for me than what the outcome would look like. I would at least grab some other thing than a cell phone to shoot my scenes if I did. The idea is that pathetic camera on the back of my phone is just enough to share the result of something I enjoyed doing. If it gets noticed by others, this certainly adds to the joy. I do not care that much about likes or followers, nor it is that important to get featured in a hobby group. If some hundred total strangers have shared a piece of passion with me through my work, now that makes sense.

    Again, I am not an artist, nor a photographer. Yet the journey I have been to since starting Lego photography have a positive impact on me as a person, helping me to get to know myself better.

    And I have a feeling that the last part about self-awareness motivates even a real artist…

    • Serhat I can’t tell you how much I loved your response. I am so pleased to hear that you are discovering the joys of the creative process. It is amazing how much being creative, sharing what you have created and growing can enrich your life. It is a wonderful respite from the dull aspects of our jobs. I hope you will continue down this path and see where it leads. We are all on this journey of discovery together; one little brick at a time. Be well my friend and thank you so much for sharing!! Shelly

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