I have written before that we should be able to find interest wherever we are, even if it is familiar territory. I still agree with this, but sometimes it helps to do something different. It is easy to get stagnant without a refresher. So what can we do to overcome boredom?
Love the familiar
There is a comfort and special knowledge that comes from working with well known subjects or locations. We get to know all of the moods, the look in different lighting and conditions, the “best” times. When we have a familiar subject we can work when we want, we are not dependent on the luck of what we find the day we are there. We can keep coming back whenever we want to explore how we best like to see it.
This has always been true. Claude Monet was drawn to his water lilies. Some artists only do portraits, because they are energized by the personal interactions. Guy Tal mostly does images of the Colorado Plateau in Utah. That is what he loves and it is where he lives.
Probably most of us have a favorite place or subject we are more drawn to and spend a lot of time working with. It is natural. Familiarity tends to build strong ties and a deep appreciation.
But if we are not careful, we can get stagnant. We get into a rut. If we keep doing the same familiar thing over and over without injecting new thought or new creative approaches, we will cripple our art.
Are we able to see something new in the familiar territory? Can we look at the same thing and visualize it differently? This is a skill. Like any skill, it must be developed by thoughtful practice.
I mentioned Claude Monet. How much can you do with a small pond with water lilies? Well, I recently visited l’Orangerie in Paris. This museum has a special wing built to host an incredible set of paintings he did of his garden. It hosts 8 images, each 2 meters high and 91 meters long. Yes, each painting is 299 feet long! It is quite an experience. This, to me, is an example of creating a fresh approach to a familiar subject.
Seeing new approaches to the familiar is a great creativity exercise. Sometimes, though, the subject doesn’t support the depth of vision required. We burn out on certain subjects. That is OK. Take what we have learned and fall in love with a new subject. This is one of the advantages of doing projects. A project gives us a subject or a theme to pursue for a while until we feel it is exhausted. Some may run out in a few weeks. Some last our whole career.
Shake yourself up
However we do it, we have to shake our self up. Shake off the rust and barnacles. To pull out of the rut and make our work fresh again. What works for you is intensely personal. I am not one to try to tell you what you should do. I don’t like it when someone presumes to know what I need without even knowing me.
Some things commonly recommended are projects, travel, workshops, classes, and tools. I have tried all of these and all have varying degrees of impact on me.
I mentioned projects already. This has been very useful for me. Having a project as a focal point for your creativity is stimulating. Taking a subject or a concept you have never seriously considered and trying to make a coherent and excellent portfolio around it is a great creativity exercise. It might give you a fresh viewpoint on other things, too.
As a personal example, I just returned from an international trip. Rather than going with the idea that I would shoot “everything” that is interesting, I had 4 projects in mind for the trip. Yes, I shot lots of pictures just because they were interesting, but I found myself drawn to my project ideas in a deeper way. They gave me a focus for my creativity.
Travel is almost universally recommended. Getting out of your comfort zone and into a new environment tends to change our perspective. I believe almost any travel is useful, but that idea of getting yourself out of your comfort zone is important. What I mean is, if you live in Philadelphia, traveling to Cincinnati would be interesting, but going to Utah or France would have a lot more impact. Those are a major change of comfort zone.
Workshops and classes have good results for a lot of people. I find myself not drawn to workshops for a variety of reasons, many related to my personality and learning style. I do, though, take a lot of classes. Mostly online. There is a wealth of instruction available now. I get many of my classes from CreativeLive or Kelby One. And I get no consideration for referring them.
Sometimes new tools or technology can spur us on to new levels. New camera bodies with great built in features might cause us to try new things. New software tools might give us incentive to apply new techniques to our work. To think in different ways.
Whatever works for you, find a way to do it.
Feed your head
Like Jefferson Airplane said way back, we have to feed our head (but hopefully not the way they did). Our creativity comes from within. We must protect it and grow it. If we let ourselves get stuck in a creative rut, all our work starts to look alike and we are just repeating the same things over and over.
Sometimes this is the result of boredom from focusing on the same subjects and the same locations too long. Get out of your comfort zone. Get scared when you cannot find new things to do in your work. Don’t repeat yourself.
I don’t want to do that. I hope you don’t, either. And have fun while you are doing it. After all, this is your art.