Productive Patterns

transits 39, photograph

“A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns.”

David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Do you have productive patterns in your life that enable you to more produce art more easily?

The authors emphasize the importance of making a lot of art, quantity breeds quality and perfection is an aim that gets in the way. This is certainly true in photography – good photographers shoot all the time. Your own work teaches you what you need to do next, that’s it’s main purpose in fact.

So it’s a good idea to figure out what strategies, techniques, tricks, habits and rituals facilitate you making more art. It might be something very idiosynchratic that seems a little obsessive-compulsive. It might be a particular form that is the gateway for you to make art. The authors cite Chopin’s fascination with Mazurkas – some might have advised him to try something else, but the consistency of the form allowed him freedom to roam creatively and prodigiously. Making a series, photographing the same subject over and over in different ways, is another method of expediting production.

Constraint can be an impetus to creativity. You don’t have to reinvent yourself with each piece, you can narrow the focus of your imagination, honing it’s edge so it cuts through the inevitable impediments that arise in the face of artmaking.

Of course, just making a lot of art, while necessary, isn’t sufficient. You have to examine what you create, look for what has worked and what hasn’t. Everything you need to know to make your next piece of art is contained in all the art you’ve made so far. No one else can teach you more than is there.

4 responses to “Productive Patterns

  1. Bob,

    I found the comment “good photographers shoot all the time” interesting. How much do you think the “all the time” part of that phrase has changed since digital became king? Now you hear of people that shoot 75,000 images a year, maybe more. Paul Strand and Ansel Adams shot much less than that, but look at their work! Can we reach a point where the thought process behind creating a photographic piece of art is supplanted by continuously clicking the shutter with no or very little thought? Food for thought, and maybe a subject for my blog!

    Great image, as usual!


    • John

      It’s an interesting question, how much is enough and how much is too much. I believe one can be excessive on both ends of the spectrum – artists who are too parsimonious with their output, perhaps in search of some high standard each time, miss out on the important lessons their efforts can teach them. But if you are producing so much that you have no chance to learn from what you’ve done, you’re failing also.

      In my own work, I find that the more I shoot, the better I get and the more of a productive rhythm I achieve.

      But I’m not shooting 75,000 images a year either!

  2. Yikes, this resonates. Lately it seems that I have had ‘unproductive patterns’, but when you are the only one in the office, and you fall way way behind on organization and marketing, the photography creation sometimes gets the back seat and the ‘pattern’ you get in is to get up, go to the office, and begin again the process of admin stuff. That can mean death to creativity with the camera, if you don’t take breaks to get out and play, but on the other hand, as your previous post suggests, the world is not done yet, and I have found satisfaction in creating new websites, organize workflows and files! Next comes the camera. 🙂

    • Amen, Brenda. Running a business can really stifle the creative soul. Those who have and can afford an assistant to handle the office stuff are truly blessed. You my friend are always putting out great work even with the pressure of the daily grind.

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