How, Not What

standing tall, photograph

“When an artist is more concerned with what is said than how it is said there is no art.”


How, not what. What is static and one-dimensional, weighted down by reality. How is dynamic and multi-dimensional, revealing our personal vision.

This is why artists can return to the same subjects over and over and still create work that inspires or intrigues. In fact, some artists paint or photograph the same subject many, many times, intentionally challenging themselves to represent it in new ways. This in-depth exploration of a single subject can be both demanding and rewarding, forcing the artist to explore nuances and subtleties that the first few visits fail to elicit.

The most mundane of subjects can manifest the most sublime of art – because the art is not about the subject, it’s about how we tell you about that subject. And those stories are without limit.

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12 responses to “How, Not What

  1. Hard to add much that has already been said… Great post, awesome image and work of art (creation).

    Passion… Drive… Discovery… Reward…

    I believe we “do” photography and art for multiple reasons. If nothing else, having “fun” is hopefully in the picture (no pun intended). Enjoying what you do… the love (passions)… the thrill of victory and drive to see (capture) it in better light or condition (weather, time of day, seasons)… all seems to be in play and matter.

    As like we choose (are drawn to) various styles (genres) of music, books to read, movies, groups, professions and such… I believe we are attracted to the same with art and photography.

    As like a favorite food, I would have to say we likely are attracted to “comfort photography” and subjects that we simply enjoy seeing over-and-over and over again. A feel good situation and experience.

    Sharing that (those) experience(s) is also the fun part… as we rediscover what we did and just might possibly “inspire” others to see what we see and/or learn and “enhance” our own experiences… Creating “win-win” situations and moments in life.

    Great post and work of art Bob!

  2. Boy, have you hit on the crux of my workshops– to paint in a series and go deeper and really explore the subject matter- I believe that there is a difference between subject matter and content– content is the deeper personal message and subject matter is what is used to help convey that deeper message- so many artists jump around so much and paint so many different ways and subject matters they do not realize how superficial their work can be.

  3. Important words and an evocative photo. The tree seems to have such presence and suggests powerful things.

    Yes, this “how” is the essence of the journey.

    Looking forward to more of your work.

  4. Wonderful photograph Bob.

    Returning to a theme, then re-evaluating and re-interpreting it is an artist’s gift, and a measure of their insight and creativity.

    I marvelled at my colleague Jeff Christie’s ability to re-visit his biggest hit, the original version set in stone by endless airplay and 21 million worldwide sales. But his way of taking a new approach, giving it a freshness on several occasions unencumbered by the original, be it our own version in 1990, or the latest ska-influenced version for the England World cup squad, marks him as a first rate artist, unconfined by the expected norm.

  5. It’s been a while since I was here Bob, in the comments section anyway, but I love your posts. So thought-provoking. One of the best things for creative growth can often be revisiting the ‘same-old’ subject and seeing it in new, different ways.

  6. This photograph is absolutely beautiful….There’s something about getting out in nature with the challenge of capturing some of the amazing beauty around us.
    Over the past year, I have found myself in the freezing cold, (I’m from Canada) braving snowfalls, and sliding over the ice in winter, then attacked by mosquitoes and black flies in summer, all in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of nature’s beauty with my camera… If you would like to view my website please go to…Thank you..

  7. i’m completely in agreement with the ‘how, not what’ philosphy. as a painter what i strive for is to express what i want to say about a subject. I see that in your photography too. i love the ‘float like a butterfly’ image, it makes me feel like i am a butterfly or a hummingbird or a bee.

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