What you can’t not do

Forgive the grammar. This resonates with me.

Passion has become an overused word. Everybody is passionate about something. But what you say you’re passionate about doesn’t matter compared to what you do. If you actually have passion, you will do it.

Time is our most valuable resource, and everybody wants it. Facebook wants all of our time, plus we have a job, family, friends, a dog, … After we do everything we’re supposed to do, it seems like there is no time for what we want to do. It’s a good excuse.

But what is is that you have to do? I understand this a lot better now. I finally figured out that no one will “let” me do my art. If I have to do it, I have to make it such a priority that I am willing to say no to some other things. Otherwise I am just a wishful artist, not a real one.

Everything has a cost. Being an artist can have a high cost. Buying the tools of our craft makes us feel like we are doing something, but if you’re not doing the work, you’re not making art. I would never attempt to prioritize your life for you. I can barely do it for myself. But I would suggest you examine what you are really doing with your time. Are you “owned” by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? How many hours of TV do you use to numb the pain of the day?

I gave up my art for a few years because I was too busy. But I had to come back to it. It was a balance to my very left-brained life. It was a peace and joy I needed to combat the world. I am stronger because of my art. The things I gave up are not missed or even remembered. I need my art much more. I can’t not do it.

Does an image have to be “about” something

Does an image have to have deep and obvious meaning to be worthwhile?  I don’t think so. I am reluctant to read too much into an image. In general, it is just a collection of pixels. Those pixels are perceived by our visual system and reconstructed as something in our brain. The viewer is responsible for interpreting the image, and that will be a function of their experiences, mood, context, etc.

There are images that do have a powerful message. They are generally a few exceptional photojournalism images or some advertising or illustration images that state their message clearly. These are not what I am talking about here. I’m talking about “fine art”, whatever that is. Fine Art is generally referred to as works that are done purely as art, not for commercial purposes.

As an image creator, I better have a “why” in mind for an image or it will be just a record shot — just an “I was here; look at that”. Now, some of these record shots can be very nice and I may really like them, but they are not generally what is considered fine art.

But just because I have the reason in mind does not necessarily mean it should be obvious to the viewer. The viewer should discover his own joy in the image. Maybe it is the combination of colors; maybe it is the shapes; maybe it is the composition of the graphical elements; maybe they just really like pictures of horses. It doesn’t matter. If the image challenges or pleases the viewer, if it causes them to ask questions or produces an emotional effect in them, it is successful.

Take this image, for instance:

It probably violates every rule of photography I ever learned (more about Rules later). But to me it has a staying power. I can stare at it for a long time just exploring the colors, movement, etc. I could say a lot about possible symbolism here, but it doesn’t matter unless you, the viewer, ask those questions yourself.