I believe that inspiration is the heart of fulfillment.
That being inspired means living a meaningful life.
That when we are inspired, we can create art with impact.
Some people are naturally inspired. I am one of those people. I thank the stars everyday that I can find inspiration in anything. Over time I have discovered what a gift it is to be inspired, and I want to do everything I can to spread inspiration to others.
I know that it is distributed unevenly, that it is more difficult for some people to find than others.
I have learned to cultivate inspiration when I can’t find it naturally. So, I made a video about some fun ways to do that, and some practical tips, too:
This video is a little longer than usual, so here is a time code breakdown:
00:00 – Introduction 00:55 – Tip 1: Working with no budget 01:08 – Behind the scenes photo shoot 04:57 – Tip 2: Daydreaming 05:58 – Tip 3: Metaphor Dice 08:46 – Tip 4: Have a mission statement 10:05 – Tip 5: Complete a daily writing prompt 11:47 – Bonus tips 15:15 – Outro 15:50 – Extra metaphor options for this week’s challenge
If you’re interested in the poet Taylor Mali and his Metaphor Dice, click here!
Share your favorite tools for finding inspiration!
Revelation: The thing that surprises me the most about my art is how little I surprise myself.
Terrible revelation, I know. I’m in the process of fixing that. In a few weeks I’ll be locking myself in a house to experimentally create the darkest art I can. And, a few days ago, I challenged myself to stop caring so much about what comes out of my photo shoots. I took my Instax Mini camera out and shot with instant film, experimenting, and trying to woo my past adventurous creative soul out to play.
It worked! I had an incredibly fun time creating with no boundaries, no expectations.
I went into the shoot with no plan, just a vague idea of what could be done with my little orange camera. After a couple of frames, I decided I might try some mixed media. Instead of something shot entirely on that little film camera, I would blend the film into my digital process.
The results? Eh, I’m not so sure about them. But that was never the point. The point was to do something out of my nature; to play without consequence or care for the final outcome. I went into Photoshop not knowing what to do, but attempting something nonetheless.
The result is an image that blends film with digital, that got me to think outside the box, and, apart from almost being eaten by fire ants, gave me an unforgettable evening in the desert.
Sometimes adventures aren’t the big kind that take you around the world. Sometimes they happen in our homes or backyards, with the simplest tools. Adventure, for me, is a mindset. It is a willingness to try new things, no matter how small they seem.
An adventurous mindset can bring about enormous change – emotionally, in your art, in your life. I take active steps to see myself as an adventurer; to let myself believe that even these small things, like an instant film shoot in the desert, constitutes adventure. Because, at the end of the day, big adventures might not be within our means. But we can take small steps to broaden our horizons.
Not long ago someone asked me if I get nervous to try new things for the sake of keeping up professional appearances. I thought about it for a while, because at one point, my answer would have been yes. But now my attitude has changed entirely.
I want to dispel any myths surrounding professionalism in art. Yes, we should master our craft and know it intimately, but not at the sacrifice of innovation. I choose to change what professional looks like; instead of always trying to producing something perfect, I’d rather produce a hundred mediocre images in the pursuit of greatness.
What types of art would you mix to create mixed media?
Have you done something experimental this week?
Has anyone ever told you that you can’t do something you want to do? Or that you shouldn’t, or that it’s best not to?
This past week I had an idea to make myself look like I was covered in tree sap while hanging upside down from the most epic tree I’ve ever seen. In order to do that, I had to cover myself in molasses…or, as it ended up turning out, corn syrup.
On a micro level, there were many reasons why this wasn’t a good idea.
The sticky mess that would take hours to clean. Messing up my camera equipment. Ruining clothes.
I had a thought while I was planning. “You’re 31 years old now. When will this stop?” That line of questioning no doubt comes from countless sources, from parental figures to television.
The answer came immediately: It will never stop.
I will continue to pour molasses all over myself for the sake of art, or whatever else the art requests of me.
If we stop pursuing the little wonders, the absurd, the silly, the messy, the childish…
…We will lose our sense of wonder.
In my life, if I want to do something and it won’t do any harm to anyone else, I do it.
I don’t care if it is uncomfortable or difficult. I don’t care if it is easy or not. I will do it because I must prove to myself that I am all in for this life.
If we don’t pursue those wild things that are uncomfortable or difficult, our childlike desires will start to disappear. Just like a plan that doesn’t get watered, our imagination will die if it isn’t loosed.
I have known so many people who think I’m nuts. People who think I’m too childish. People who cannot fathom doing the things that I do. But at the end of the day, when those people see the process and result of my madness, they don’t think it’s so mad anymore.
We spend so much time making excuses for why we don’t do something. We come up with difficulties in our heads that don’t really exist. We prefer things to be easy and clean and sterile. We want certainty.
I crave those things too. I fall into long, terrible lulls of ease.
But I recognize them and I want more. I want to look back at my 31st year and remember that Friday that I spent covering myself in molasses. I want people to think I’m crazy. I want to stand out from the crowd. I want to make this life worthwhile.
You may not see the connection. How does covering yourself in molasses make your life more worth living?
It’s a fair question. And it has nothing to do with molasses – not really. It’s about doing something that creates a memory, about doing something uncomfortable so that you feel more.
What is one thing you can do this week that is outside of your norm?
Share it so that I can get more ideas of crazy things to do…[insert evil laugh]
I often feel that art is most interesting when it is most inconvenient; when you have no money, no location, nothing to spruce it up. It really comes from inside then instead of relying on the objects around to fill the frame. When you create from nothing, you create from within. As so many of us do, my journey into photography began when I had little resources other than a camera. I had no money, no locations, no props except for what I brought home from dumpsters (seriously though). And looking back, it was like going through a golden age of creativity. My imagination was working overtime to find ideas that could come to life without any resources.
This is how I started a career, with white walls and dumpster props, and how I still try to operate today. There are times when I indulge in bigger budgets or interesting locations, but for the most part, at least 90% of the time, it’s just me and a $5 allowance. Oh, and bed sheets. Because they make the best costumes.
Have you ever created like this? I’m betting yes, either out of necessity or interest. If you have, you know how confronting it is. If you haven’t, you might find it to be an exercise in style.
Creating from nothing allows us to explore who we are, at our very core, without any outside influence. It is how I found my style so fast in my career, and how I learned the camera without pressure.
This video is from 2015, but it’s a good one. Here, I create an image inside a cardboard box, since I didn’t have access to a room suitable to my needs.
Create something with an everyday object in a way that isn’t expected!
I think that we have an innate desire to put our stamp on things, whether that is as a person, as an artist, or something else. In my years of teaching photography, I’ve never once conducted a workshop in which no one asked how to build a recognizable style. I’ve asked myself that question plenty of times.
It is a beautiful thing to look at someone’s work and know, without looking at the name, who made it. Those are my favorite artists. Their essence is in their art. It feels like a natural shine.
As an artist, I have thought about this topic for years. What makes someone stand out as being original? What makes someone’s work recognizable? What makes mine?
Here’s the truest answer. More true than any technique in Photoshop or lens choice.
It is the way my mind works. The way my brain functions. The way I see the world. The way I create in this world.
If you don’t like that answer, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a certain technique to set you apart, stop.
Yes, they help tremendously. Yes, they can make you stand out. Yes, they are the medium that us visual artists exist in.
BUT, and I believe this firmly, there isn’t a successful artist out there who doesn’t have their art in their bones.
If you gave your favorite artist a guitar instead of a camera, it’s very likely that their original music would match their original images.
What we want our art to look like is in us from the beginning. From Day 0.
My art is not just what it looks like or feels like. It is the culmination of who I am – visually, emotionally, experiences and reactions and decisions combined. It is my expression of myself.
That is not to say that finding a style is instant. Why? Because we hardly know ourselves. The more we understand who we are, the more fluidly our style can evolve.
At least that’s what I believe. And I really, really believe it.
There are certain visual ways that my style has evolved. I used to create very monochromatic images, almost always indoors. I shifted from that to incorporating more color in my wardrobe and visiting new locations outdoors. I then started to get into more complicated composites, more detailed sets, more props. I evolved. And I am evolving.
If I had to choose 3 visual cues to my signature style, I would say:
Square Format Yellow highlights/blue shadows Painterly
There are more:
Feminine Dark Cinematic
It’s hard to define a style with just a few words, and not entirely productive, either. We shouldn’t feel trapped by a style, but able and willing to move in and out of it.
I used to fear my style. I felt stuck in it. But now I recognize that my style is mine because that is what naturally comes out of me. No matter what I pursue, it will be mine.
I hope you enjoy this video detailing how I found my style and a few different tricks in the editing room to achieve a polish to my work.
How do you describe your style?
How do you hope to evolve?