I don’t think there is any skill harder to develop than the ability to stay motivated. No matter what you are doing, taking photographs, building your latest MOC or writing the next great novel, staying motivated is hard.
I read this book many years ago and it was helpful when I hit a few creative rough patches. I thought I would give it a read again and see if it could shed some light on many of the creative concerns I hear mentioned by my friends on Instagram. Ideas like motivation, inspiration, talent and approval to name just a few of the common themes I hear mentioned in one way or another.
After the first page, after just the first paragraph, I wanted to scream out: THIS IS IT! I don’t know how I can express to you how good it feels to read this book. It is like having your favorite, trusted art teacher tell you all your fears and doubts are ok, that we all have them. It is normal.
Since I know you are not convinced, here are a few quotes from the first pages to tantalize you:
”Artmaking involves skills that can be learned. The conventional wisdom here is that while ‘craft’ can be taught, ‘art’ remains a magical gift bestowed only by the gods. Not so.” Art and Fear, page 3.
”Even talent is rarely indistinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.” Art and Fear, page 3.
”You learn how to make your work by making your work … art you care about — and lots of it!” Art and Fear, page 6.
Pleas don’t be dissuaded from this book by the word “Art”. It is relevant to anyone who is trying to be creative, no matter if you are a painter, a jeweler, a musician or a writer. The observations in this book are for everyone who wants to be creative. So I beg you, plead with you, to go to your local book store and grab a copy of this work of sheer genius. Trust me.
If you have read this book did you find it helpful?
Are there any other books you would like to recommend that helped you with your artistic doubts?
Today I felt like Angry Unikitty for much of the day. Whenever I feel like this I’m tempted to post cutting remarks on various social media platforms but then I remember the immortal words of Mark Twain…
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about community this past week. As I have mulled over my limited time resources and the energy it takes to move any project forward, I actually contemplated shutting down Brickcentral on Instagram. It has been saved from the chopping block for the foreseeable future by the willingness of wonderful new volunteer.
Back in the early days of the social media frenzy you heard so much about “creating a brand” to sell yourself or your product. That drum beat has changed to the “build your community” chant. It has not escaped my notice that the majority of experts who extol the virtues of an on-line community are men. I think there is a very good reason for this: most women build community naturally and don’t need a name for what we already do. We just call it something else: making connections or simply making friends.
Community is an incredibly hard thing to create and maintain. It is an ephemeral and constantly shifting set of personalities and priorities. At least that has been my experience. What might be true one month won’t be what the community needs six months later. It’s a very complex friendship that needs lots of attention.
For most people delving into this community building quicksand is not a possibility; most people have jobs, families and more important priorities than creating an on line community. But when the community falls silent a hole is left. Maybe it will be noticed, maybe it won’t.
I have no answers as to the why people crave “community”, especially one as specialized as ours, yet they do. I see this desire all the time when I post on Brickcentral and the comments often include a “thank you for being here” sentiment.
I hope this doesn’t sound critical, because it isn’t meant to be. In my own experience creating, nurturing this online community of LEGO photography enthusiasts has been an incredible experience that has enriched my life immensely. I plan on sticking with it, probably longer than I should, and on the way I will keep thumbing my nose at the “experts” who talk about community building as if it was something you can do in your spare time. You don’t create friends and family in your spare time.
Do you converse with your followers wherever you post your photos?
Have you made any friends through social media?
Is creating friends and community an important aspect of your social media participation?
I seriously want to know what you think. I would love it if you could take the time to comment on the social media platform of your choice.
This week has been filed with lost opportunities, missed connections and course corrections…or as I like to say, business as usual.
All of this made me think back to the book Steal Like and Artist and one of its more accurate diagrams.
I have had countless ideas that I have thought: “Eureka, this is going to be awesome!” And then as I start to face the difficulties of bringing my fantasies into the realm of concrete, ugly reality will hit. Yup, making art is never a pretty or an easy road.
This diagram is also a good representation for life, never quite as great as you imagined it could be, but not quite as bad as you feared.
So when you face your next creative crisis know we have all been there and it’s ok, this too shall pass.
Sometimes when I am on Instagram and I see people use certain photo terms I am occasionally left scratching my head and going “Huh?” I never know if it is a case of ignorance or if something is simply lost in translation. So in the interest of clarity I thought I should do a quick explanation of a few basic photo terms so we are all on the same page.
Rule of Thirds: Is simply a guideline to help you compose your photograph. If you view each frame as if is divided into nine section (almost all cameras and phones come with these guidelines that can be easily turned on or off) composing a photo is easier. There is a top, middle and bottom third as well as a left, middle and right third to each phot. The points were these lines intersect are referred to as “power points”. When you are composing an image you want to align your horizon line along the top or bottom third line as well as place your subject near one of the power point intersections. This is simply a guideline and a nice place to start when learning to compose a photograph.
Depth of Field (often refered to as DOF): DOF refers to how much of your image is in focus. If you are using a small aperture (think Ansel Adams and Group f/64) the entire image from front to back will be in focus. This is referred to as a large depth of field. If you are shooting with the lens aperture wide open, like f2.8 – f4 you will have a short depth of field. Blurring the background by using a short DOF is a great way to draw attention to the subject and minimize distractions. (If you are taking photos on your phone check out the app BigLens to achieve a short DOF.)
Leading Lines: Is a strong line within the photograph that leads the viewers eye from an outside edge to the subject matter. You will often see railroad tracks, roads, tree branches used as leading lines. When you are shooting macro photos outdoors there are many interesting options.
Bokeh: Is an effect most often caused by reflected light in out of focus areas of a photograph. Bokeh is common when using a short depth of field. Bokeh can appear circular or hexagonal depending on the type of lens aperture your camera has. (If you are taking photos on your phone there are several apps that you can use to fake this effect like Lenslight.)
You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams
This quote applies to the entire photographic process; from clicking the shutter, to editing the photo, to printing it out. The simple act of choosing an image to work on is part of the process. Each conscious choice you make determines the final outcome.
I prefer to do this the hard way. I tend to edit my photos twice, once using Snapseed for future Instagram posts and once using Photoshop for printing. I really enjoy using Instagram as a photo sketchpad. I like to test photo concepts and play with editing techniques all the while trying not to get too caught up in my head. When I want to print an image out on paper, I turn to Photoshop for more traditional photo editing.
When I am editing in Photoshop I want to try to capture what I created with my quick Snapseed edits. Of course when I write this out, this process seems totally ass backwards to me. Here I am with my big fancy camera and my big fancy printer and I’m trying to capture the quick, grungy spontaneity of an iPhone picture edited with Snapseed.
Needless to say this has been a challenge. This past weekend I had the most fun with my experimentations, but for all the wrong reasons. The filters I downloaded to play with are designed to emulate film stock. After applying them to my images I discovered something I have not seen in years…film grain! I forgot how much I missed film grain. In this age of digital images and pixillation, film grain is a thing of the past. But for me it was always an important part of my final images. When I enlarged my underwater images to 40″ x 30″ (that’s really, really large) the grain was so pronounced the photos became similar to a pointillism painting. I was so happy to make this discovery, it was like coming home again.
So needless to say I can’t wait to re-edit a few classic images with these new filters, add some grain and blow the best images up really, really large.
What was your happiest accident?
What is your editing workflow?
“Validation is for parking” ~ from Steal Like an Artist
This made me laugh, because it’s so true! I often see people grousing that their posted photos aren’t getting enough likes or comments on Instagram. Another popular complaint is that their photos never get featured by any of the toy groups. All I can think to say to this is that you shouldn’t look to Instagram, Flickr, Google, Tumblr or anything else for validation. Because you aren’t going to get it.
What people like or don’t like is a very fickly enterprise. It is based on their own tastes coupled with their own experiences and occasionally these will intersect with what you are creating. Think of it like a vin diagram with a very small sliver of overlap. Whether or not what you are creating is good enough, has nothing to do with it. Being good is only half of the equation.
Oh did I mention luck is the other half? It’s that weird intangible that separates those that get recognized and those that toil away in obscurity. Life is fickle and art is a temperamental task master. So don’t get frustrated, roll with it, and make some art. Trust me, you will feel better.
So get out your toys, have some fun, take some pictures and look for your validation inside yourself. If it makes YOU happy, then it is good enough.
Did you take any toy photography pictures this weekend like Me2 did?
When was the last time you got a parking ticket?
I’ve bored you all enough with my philosophical ramblings. The rest of this week I will be posting on technique. I didm’t play with my camera this weekend, but I did play with my printer. This was almost as good!
I know there is some controversy on Instagram about “likes” and when to give them. I have plenty of friends among my followers who never like any photos and are quite proud of this fact. When they tell me this I just look at them quizzically and wonder “Why?” Why do you even bother participating in this community?
I will freely admit I like almost every photo I run across. Maybe this means my “likes” are meaningless, but they aren’t to me. I am not liking them for there stellar quality or there creativity (even though that is often the case), I am also liking them for the effort. I know how hard it is to get up each morning and be creative. Some days you are more successful than others; and to me it’s the effort that matters most.
I have a friend who works in public relations and one of her duties for her clients is to tell them they are wonderful…every day. Artists are often in a crisis of self confidence, self doubt comes with the territory. Putting your work in the public to be judged is hard on the psyche. Sometimes I want to add her to my payroll so I can have her do this same service for me on a daily basis. I guess I will settle for our occasional beer and pep talks.
So to everyone who shares their images publicly, I applaud you. You are doing the work and it isn’t easy. Know I will always be there to like your photo and cheer you on because we all need a cheering section.
Are you a “happy liker” like me?
Do you have a cheering section to help you get over the rough patches?
My best friend Kitty with her dogs Kipper and Minty.