Sometimes things are right there staring us in the face. But we don’t or can’t see it. We fail to see what should be obvious. This in an internal problem. We don’t get to blame anyone else. Don’t go through life with unrecognized interest all around.

Unrecognized artist

“Unrecognized” is a fairly ambiguous word. Well, not really ambiguous, it is just that it can be applied so many ways. One of the first things that comes to mind when I hear the phrase is my sadness at being an “unrecognized” artist.

Even though I have sales and good gallery representation and I get exhibited, it feels like nothing. Failure. I seek to be more widely known. A goal is to share my vision with many more people.

But this aspect of “unrecognized” is not what I am discussing in this article.

Unrecognized beauty

Most people I know sort of drift through life in a daze. We follow our normal paths, doing basically the same thing all the time without really seeing things around us.

If we recognize the rut we are in, we can climb out. At least enough to make a difference. Just deciding that we are going to pay more attention to things around us will go a long way.

There is beauty all around us, even if you live in a city. Disappointed that you don’t live in Yosemite? Get over it. Learn to appreciate where you are. Even if you are not thrilled with your environment, by learning to look more closely we can usually find things, even little things, to brighten our day. Is there a flower, or a tree, or a pattern of light and shadow on a building that catches your eye? Look at it. Stop and take a moment to appreciate it.

This will grow a habit of mindfulness. It will help us become more aware of what is there and more grateful of the little scenes that brighten out day, make us feel more alive.

Unrecognized self

Many of us, I’m pointing to myself, too, have trouble recognizing where our creative instincts are leading us. We change all the time. It can be hard if we feel like we are starting to be recognized for a certain style or subject. We fear that changing would lose our market. But at least that person is aware of what is going on. Most of us, I feel, one day realize that what we are drawn to is different from what we have been practicing for a long time. This can shake us to our bones. But it can also be refreshing and invigorating to re-align with where our subconscious is directing us.

I think this quote from a very good photographer from the past, David Vestal. is enlightening.

As we work, we come to know more and become more patient and less inclined to rush past our own work that we don’t yet recognize. Now I am quicker to see in my own new work the “accidental” good photos that I used to ignore.

Mr. Vestal points out 3 key things that are common and key to our artistic growth.

Know more

As we practice our art we learn. Our technical abilities grow and our creative capabilities are stretched. The more we learn the deeper vocabulary we have to express what we see and feel. We also have more ability to examine our art and critique it.

If we’re lucky, we even get to a point where we know what we don’t know. But the path of knowing more sometimes means we grow away from the positions we held in the past.

More patient

Mr. Vestal describes part of the growth process as becoming more patient. With ourselves. I know for myself, I feel less need now to shoot quantities of images. I used to be in a frenzied rush to capture everything that was the least bit interesting. These days I will usually come back with fewer images. I can see something nice and not feel the need to take a picture. Sometimes it is sufficient to just acknowledge it and appreciate it. I would rather have a few images that excite me rather than a whole pile of “OK” pictures.

I think this also applies to our results and growth as an artist. Have you ever found yourself trying to “force” a great image. I do. Maybe less than I used to. As I grow I am more interested in trying to see more clearly what is there and understand how I perceive it, what I want to do with it. Sometimes it doesn’t come. Rather than be a big frustration, it is an opportunity to try to figure out why.

Have you ever come upon what would be one of your “standard” images, one you would always shoot, and said, “no, that doesn’t interest me today”? Something is speaking to you to tell you you have grown to a new position.


To me, the phrase in his quote “less inclined to rush past our own work that we don’t yet recognize” is brilliant. I sometimes run across something while I am looking for a particular image. Something I didn’t think was very good, but for some reason I kept it. Looking at it some time later I liked it much better. Sometimes I realize that if far more representative of my current vision that things I used to shoot.

He describes them as accidentally good shots. I believe these accidental shots are sometimes our subconscious trying to show us something we don’t recognize yet. As we grow in our artistic concept, we have to leave the past behind. We become bored with what we used to proudly do. Recognize that feeling. Learn from it. It is time to move on.

I have described before that I tend to be fairly brutal about culling out bad or uninteresting shots. Sometimes, though, I am compelled to keep an image that I don’t think I like. Sometimes I find, later, that this image is significant to me. It may even be a pivot to a new direction in my journey. I did not recognize it at the time, but I did perceive that there was something there that made me keep the image and come back to it later.

Be receptive

I believe we should learn to be more receptive to these signals our subconscious is sending us. The subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind. It understands us better. It is not deluded by ego or financial considerations or social media followers.

I have heard it said that this message from our subconscious is usually not a light bulb going on, it is more like a tickle on the back of our neck. That little feeling that there is something here we are missing or need to figure out. Maturity is learning to be aware of this hint and follow it to see where it leads us.

How about you? Have you ever puzzled over an image you couldn’t figure out, only to recognize later that it was a harbinger of a new direction for your creative work? The way to a new creative plateau? Did you trust your instincts and embrace the new direction? What was the result?

I would like to know! Leave a comment or email me.

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