“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how small changes in habits can have a profound impact in what we are able to achieve across all aspects of our lives.
Mason Currey‘s book ‘Daily Rituals‘ is an interesting collection of observations of the daily routines of many of the great creators and provides an interesting insight into the lives of people who need to develop a body of work. What is apparent across almost all of these examples is commitment to showing up and getting to work. Not too much lolling around waiting for the muse to visit, just simply a matter of putting in the time whether they feel like it or not.
This attitude of ‘show up and do the work’ makes me realize that doing something every day, regardless of how small it is will could eventually yield substantial results. The simple act of writing 500 words everyday will mean that you will have written over 25,000 words for the year. Not too shabby.
A photo a day projects were very popular a year or two ago and seem to be unsustainable to me but doable for a month or one photo shoot a week for a year would both result in a body of work that you could do something useful with.
Changes in other parts of your life would also mean potentially useful changes. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up had a big impact on my weight loss. Meditating before your day gets going or journaling at the end of the day could lead to more positive changes in your outlook and getting more done.
What small change could you incorporate on a daily basis that would move you in the direction of your goals?
Jump to minute 19:00 of the video below to hear Mason Currey talking about his book ‘Daily Rituals’
When I first saw Hobie Porter‘s work I wasn’t sure what I was looking at – a ‘straight’ photograph, a digital mash-up or what. He is of course a landscape painter, and his work is a juxtaposition of the grand landscape with artifacts that he’s found. Perhaps not surprisingly what caught my attention are his seascapes in which he incorporates old ropes, propellers and a variety of other things that he’s found at the beach. One of the advantages that painters have over photographers is that they are able to paint what ever they imagine and so I had assumed that these beach artifacts were figments of Porter’s imagination. Not so. While there may be an element of interpretation he actually collected these objects for use as reference and then for the exhibition shown in the video below displays them as part of the exhibition. Check out the videos of Porter at work and of him discussing his art below.
As I was thinking about British artists that I remembered seeing when I was younger Richard Long came to mind. The stone circles that I remember him making resonated with me at the time, and I still find that I’m drawn to simple geometric shapes, his sculptures, lines made by walking, was more of a mystery to me. I find some of his recent ‘mudworks’ to be quite interesting. Long considers these to be two dimensional sculptures having originally started this work on the ground before progressing to working on walls at quite a massive scale. The mud that is used in the work comes from the river Avon, a choice that reflects his upbringing on the banks of this river. As can be seen in the image above he’s brought some of his stone work indoors, making both mudworks and stone circles that interact with each other for some of his exhibitions.
It’s always surprising to me how there is a common thread between the things that catch my attention. I’d been looking at the work of Turner in recent weeks and in the course of that exploration read of his influence on the Hudson River School painter Thomas Moran. I was recently fortunate enough to be in a position to have access to to a couple of great books, ‘Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains’ by Thurman Wilkins and the National Gallery of Art book ‘Thomas Moran’ and was able to spend some more time reading about the influence of Turner on Moran’s work. The Wilkins book is quite dense and was something of a labor to get through, even though I only had time to read the sections on the intersection of Moran and Turner’s work. Moran spent time in London studying the work of Turner, learning the fundamentals of Turner’s technique such that he was able to make high-quality copies of the masterworks. This exploration of the use of light and color that began with emulating the work of Turner remained with Moran even as he developed his own distinct style.
Moran is perhaps most famous for his paintings of the american west and particularly of Yellowstone which were instrumental in making the case for the creation of Yellowstone National Park. It wasn’t these images that caught my eye but rather the ones that represented Shoshone Falls. The Shoshone falls when Moran painted them were considered to be unexplored by painters, although long recognized to be second only to Niagara Falls in magnificence. The section on the falls in the National Gallery book is particularly interesting. I was surprised to read that the painting of the falls at the top of the page was the last of his large panoramic landscapes and remained unsold at his death. My interest in the Shosone falls was piqued because it was the subject of another one of my favorite photographers Thomas Joshua Cooper. I’ve mentioned Cooper on the blog previously in a couple of posts first here and then here. His interpretation of the Shoshone falls can be seen in his book Shoshone Falls. A book that I’m going to revisit soon.
Check out the discuss of Thomas Moran’s work in the video below:
I’m always on the look out for how artists represent the ocean and in that search recently came across Wolfgang Bloch‘s work on the web and in his book ‘Wolfgang Bloch: The Colors of Coincidence‘. Wolfgang is a California based painter who has an interesting approach – he uses juxtaposition of materials as the substrate for his paintings which are often two solid fields of color with a breaking wave at the meeting of those fields. His work is subtle and quiet and looking at it I can easily imagine being along on a stormy beach looking out to sea. Check out more of his work here: www.wolfgangbloch.com and listen to Wolfgang talking about his work below.
I find that I can learn as much from looking at books from other visual artists as I do from photographers. One such example is ‘Landscape Meditations’ by Elizabeth Mowry, that I found recently while browsing in a local bookstore. From the introduction I knew this was a book I would gain something from when I read:
‘when one uses an idea already expressed by others, it becomes unequivocally necessary to take the idea deeper, further or in a different direction to avoid finding oneself on an inevitably dead-ended plateau with unfulfilling work that echoes refrains from someone else’s songs.’
This and other ideas in the book are very much in line with my thoughts for what I’m trying to do with my photography, to have my personality come through in my work. How to get there is a struggle that involves working hard and intentionally. I feel as though Landscape Meditations provides some framework for the exploration for those things that catch our attention, the themes that run deep in our work.
The book begins with a brief historical survey of those artists that have worked in series before launching into the 10 chapters that form the bulk of the book. The general format for each chapter is an introduction, the work and finally a section titled ‘Thoughts: artist to artist’. I found myself reading the ‘Thoughts’ sections for all the chapters first and then going back and reading the chapter through.
Thoroughly enjoyed the book and is one that I’ll keep coming back to.
I’m sure that David Hockney is a familiar name to all. Some have told me that he’s the most famous painter alive today, perhaps that’s true but it’s not what I find interesting about Hockney. I first came across Hockney’s work in the late ’80s when he was making photocollages which I thought were interesting and set me on a path of doing ‘joiners’ whenever I had the chance. I stopped paying attention to what he was doing as life got busy and it wasn’t until when one of my friends recently mentioned that her work was moving close to the Hockney Gallery and Museum that I looked him up again. I was surprised to see that he’d relocated from Los Angeles to Bridlington, a small seaside town in East Yorkshire, and was busily painting the Yorkshire Wolds. This is very familiar territory for me and was a bit of a home coming to see the video and resulting pictures. What is particularly noteworthy is that he’s painting very large paintings outside. He really does manage to capture the essence of the place. If you’re in the UK his yorkshire landscape paintings are being exhibited at the Royal Academy from Jan 21 – April 9, 2012. Check out the video below.
I’m continuing to explore my understanding of composition by learning about how painters think about the issue. I recently bought ‘The Simple Secret to Better Painting‘ by Greg Albert that I thought would give me the answer to all my problems. Although I’ve only had a chance to quickly go through the book and it has already been a help. There’s not a lot of new information here for anyone who’s studied composition much at all but Albert’s “One Rule of Composition’ is a nice twist that can really help cut through, what I find to be a complex, rule laden subject.
One of the things that I feel I need to do is slow down and really look before I leap into action. The section an alphabet of landscape composition was useful for me and I will certainly take the time to look for letters and shapes the next time I’m out in the field. Equally helpful was the chapter that dealt with setting up still lifes. This is something that I am interested in, particularly in the summer months, and having some basic instruction in their set up will help my thinking about my ‘Found on the Beach’ series. All in all worth a read.
The introduction has a number of useful comments for the prospective student. The section ‘Getting Involved In The Subject’ particularly resonated with me. Here’s an excerpt:
The best paintings, I feel, result from the artist having an affinity with the subject. Painting is nothing if not accompanied by the poetry of feeling. You need to find those subjects that excite you most, for only when you find an involvement with the subject can you do your finest work.
This as equally applies to photography and I couldn’t agree more!