Whether You Like it or Not

euphorbia 4, photograph

“If you only photograph when you feel like it… you’ll never be totally successful as a photographer.”

– Freeman Patterson

Many of us view artmaking as something we do purely for fun, so it’s hard to understand why we would practice our art when we don’t want to. That seems like a contradiction. And we’ve all felt at one time or another like making art is the last thing we want to do.

But I agree with Patterson, to improve as an artist you must  be committed enough to your work to practice it  even when you aren’t in the mood. It will cause you to take your art more seriously. You’ll be forced to find your creative muse under a wider range of circumstances and mental and emotional states, which will allow you to access a deeper well of inspiration.

We’ve all heard artists say that it is important to show up each day in the studio for work. I don’t take this literally because I can’t  (I have a full time job, after all) but rather for me it means that I am committed to take as many opportunities as I can to make art regardless of whether I am in the mood. I have a limited amount of time left in my life to make art and I can’t afford to limit myself to only those times when I feel like doing so if I want to grow.

This doesn’t mean that making art becomes a chore or, worse, a punishment. There are times when I choose not to practice art, when I need a break or just want to indulge in some other activity. But I’m careful to not decide against practicing art solely based on whether or not I feel like it at the moment. Such a habit would gradually cause my artistic muscles to grow slack.

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9 responses to “Whether You Like it or Not

  1. Very good thoughts, Bob. Thanks for sharing them. It puts it in our artistic ‘faces’ that we should be approaching photography like we approach working out, or gardening – doing it because it will be good for us in the long run even if we don’t feel in the mood. Now, I have to go get on my bike and exercise those muscles…

  2. I’m a big believer in ‘Daily Practice’. Not that it makes ‘perfect’..but that it builds skill and an eye that we wouldn’t otherwise experience. Love the image..and your words that resonate so true.

  3. As a full time artist, I can attest to the truth in this. Creativity is a skill just like any other skills. Continuing on with your “artistic muscles” comments – an athlete does not excel by only practicing their event when they feel like it, they excel by being committed and getting out there to practice whether they really feel like it or not.

  4. Based on this perhaps I should be thankful that I only have a small amount of time to dedicate to my art? That way I do cherish the moment…

    Nice lensbaby image, as usual Bob.

  5. A great post, thought and impressive Lensbaby creation. These quotes may or may not apply, but the words and message(s) have their applications that apply:

    “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. First, I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes and I “see” the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there’s sort of a fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality. Only at the end of this short, private, Hollywood spectacular do I select a club and step up to the ball.” ~ Golf My Way, by Jack Nicklaus and Ken Bowden, copyright 1974.

    “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.” ~ Jack Nicklaus

    Not about photography, but, as a form of learning, endurance, creating, and the simple act of “doing” we learn to “visualize” something and obtain that “additional sense” where what we are doing becomes “second nature.”

    I could have simply stated and repeated the famous saying, “Practice makes perfect…” but it is not that simple. What is perfection? Do we ever get to a level of perfection without saying, “I can do better.”

    As like in sports, “Practice, practice, practice…” is essential, even in repeating basic skills over-and-over, on a regular basis, and, especially, even when you do not feel like doing it. The warm up, the stretch, the work out, the pain, fighting the pain, making mistakes, going beyond… etc., etc. It all can be translated into most any given application or situation.

    Natural talent always is a plus. Loving what you do is also a major plus. Having a love-hate mentality can also have its benefits as well.

    At the present level that digital technology is advancing, breaking down previous limitations… and essentially having our minds and imagination being our only limitations… Practice, practice, practice… and the act of simply “doing” is essential to keep fresh, alert and open minded to create. Try new things. Revisit “old school” things. Make mistakes. Work through the “I do not want to’s…” Whatever it takes… Do it! As you mention, “Whether you like it or not.”

    Think what it was like to take that “first step” … “that first click of the camera” that started that passionate fire within. The reason why you do what you do -or- where you are -or- where you go. Enjoy your work… Enjoy what you do… Passions do not come easy and require attention… Here’s to keeping all of our passions alive and well – no matter what we do.

    Great blog Bob!

  6. I am a huge fan of Freeman Patterson’s, and your own work exudes the same passion for revealing light, subtle detail, and magical composition….

    I would agree with the comments above, and would add that often we associate passion and drive only with someone who effortlessly and fanatically eats, sleeps, and breathes their pursuits/jobs. But I think real solid passion is that which forces us to keep photographing/painting/writing, no matter how we “feel”… beautifully put once again Bob! Thanks for giving us something to chew on once again!

  7. Wow, that’s a tough one. I certainly agree with the principle, but when trying to pack art making into so many other things that makes life hectic – you sometimes need to prioritize. Not in a creative mood? Ok, well I will do something else that needs to be done.

  8. Hi Bob,
    I popped over here from Bob Towery’s blog. I had just convinced myself that I didn’t really need a lensbaby, but now maybe I do?
    I also have a full time job, so spending time with art daily is difficult, but I find it essential and frankly I get cranky if I don’t. Even spending time posting or looking at the work of others can transport me away from the daily grind into a kinder place.
    If only I had time to read and look more at your blog right now, but I don’t — hopefully soon.

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