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.

Artistic Grammar

transits 36, photograph

“Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending.”

– David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art and Fear

Whether it’s making the first few marks with the brush on the canvas, or snapping the picture and hoping that the camera captured something like what inspired you to take it, when we start our artistic utterance, rarely do we know how it will turn out. It’s not a happy environment for control freaks.

As art viewers, when we see the final piece we don’t know its genesis. As the authors point out, any given masterpiece might have been moments away from abandonment before some inspiration struck and the artist found the right way to complete the work. That’s how fragile the process of getting from the beginning of the sentence to the end can be.

And I would add to their point by saying that a good piece of art is like a sentence that ends in time. How many pieces of art have you made that remind you of a run-on sentence, one that you didn’t know how and when to appropriately end?

No art will get made if we don’t start speaking, and our best pieces will get made when we know when to shut up.

How Do You Find the Time?

flourish, photograph

“If I don’t practice for one day, I know it; if I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it; if I don’t practice for three days, the audience knows it.”

– Ignace Paderewski

Do you find that as an artist you need to limber up – you know, flex your creative muscles before undertaking any serious work? Or do you dive right in? Is there a specific ritual that gets you warmed up?

What happens to your work if you can’t do it for awhile? Does it feel like you have regressed or can you pick up where you left off? Has this ability changed as you have progressed in your own art career?

As a photographer, there are some constraints about when I can practice my art. It’s hard to do at night, for example (though there are some things one can do then). Add to that that I run a small business full time and have family duties and I find that my time to do photography usually comes in short randomly spaced bursts of time. I might have a couple of hours here and another hour there. Rarely is it even as much as a full day.

So I have to dive in and make the most of that time when it appears. I’m sure my work would be better if I could do it more regularly. One thing I miss about painting is that it was a little easier to do, since it all occurred in my studio and I could do it whenever I had a little time. There was less dependency on the external world being in a certain condition – perhaps that’s one reason I was drawn to do abstract painting (even less external dependency).

I have recently been trying to create more discipline in my photography by focusing on projects that are self-assigned. When I have a deadline, even a self-imposed one, I find I plan a little more and make more time.

What strategies do you use to get yourself to create more time in your schedule to make art? Maybe I can steal one or two…