Intro by Skip Cohen
Tim Kelly has a been a friend for a long time, but I want to define "friend" here. We share a lot of common buddies, attend all the same conventions, workshops and even a few rubber-chicken dinners. Like so many of us who are friends, we appreciate each other, even watch each other's backs, but we've never had the time to really sit down and just talk about the industry, the business and the challenges.
Well, not finding that time is clearly my loss - this is an amazing guest post and Tim hits on the topic in a way that to date, I haven't heard. He sums it up in one sentence...
"If you aspire to excellence in photography, it requires more than talent, and a whole lot more than an equipment purchase and a seminar on-line"
This is one of those posts I wish I could make mandatory for every artist to read and one of Tim's closing lines says it all,
"Creativity needs real nutrition, not junk food!"
Looking to find out more about Tim? Check out his website. Even better he's got a workshop coming up at his studio on May 19-21.
Perhaps you don’t have a problem finding inspiration, but many do. There are many things that can stifle creativity, and maybe you’ve started wondering if it’s somehow been getting harder and harder. Though not an excuse, I think it is, and I believe I know why.
There are heroes in our craft, the arts and elsewhere who serve to prove just what can be accomplished with a vision and hard work. However, after so many centuries of invention and creativity, born through good times and trial, I believe we have a serious new problem. We can beat it, but I think it will take a level of focus we’ve not yet been challenged to muster.
The new enemy I see is visual gluttony. An overstimulation and imaging overload that has the potential to confuse and drown the development of fresh thinking. It is reaching a new and dangerous level.
True Inspiration: Compare the rapture of seeing a masterwork face to face in the Louvre, London’s National Portrait Gallery of the MOMA to a quick scan of a thousand, three inch images on the internet in your daily browsing. You may find something of value there amongst the noise, but your time may be better spent on a curated collection in the flesh or even in a high quality book. Whatever you can do, consider this time spent on your artistic development.
Patient Study: There are contemporary artists who I appreciate and study, for it’s not exactly possible to mentor with Rembrandt, Sergeant or even Karsh for that matter. But, there are innumerable artists, accomplished in many schools and styles that can become a deep and specific influence for you. Few artists come to be great quickly, so beware – you’re likely not the exception. It will take time! God gifts many with talent, but that’s just the very beginning. Start contemplating what it could take to be successful, and the devotion it will require of you, should you accept the challenge. It is so worth it - and it’s really the only way.
Proper Investment: These opinions of mine are just that, but I’ve known so many artists and photographers in my career who I only testify to the successes and failures I’ve observed. I believe there are both artists and craftspeople in our trade, but If you aspire to excellence in photography, it requires more than talent, and a whole lot more than an equipment purchase and a seminar on-line. Digital is considered by some a friend and others, an enemy. It is neither and either. I was an early adopter and use its power everyday, but while I deem it just another tool, it has deceived many an aspiring photographer into believing great photography requires no serious training because “good” is easily accomplished. But, that’s another discussion.
My message today is to be wary of where your time is invested. We all, myself included, have distractions bombarding us continually. Our mind can be flooded with less than worthwhile images that will steal our focus, it will steal our time, and it will lower the bar. Just imagine what can be accomplished, and what we can create, if we often spend an entire day resolved to learning or practice. In music we call it “woodsheding”, which is locking yourself away to write or learn a piece or a part we need to perform. I believe our art requires the same discipline. Among all the lightweight, ear tickling fluff, there is good instruction out there, but, to stay sharp, we need to steer clear of that bakery window and go to the garden. Creativity needs real nutrition, not junk food.
Let’s make an effort to nurture real creativity by setting ourselves apart from the noise. Even for an hour – to be taught, to practice, to create. You may just like it.
Images copyright Tim Kelly. All rights reserved.