Artistic herbs!

March 2016
I like to read books. Non-fiction mainly, as well as historical and modern-day books about art and photography image making in particular. I recently read a book where the artist hardly mentioned the medium (photographic) he uses to make his images, preferring instead to concentrate his writings on how he expresses his art rather than emphasising the tools and technical processes he uses. In fact, it struck such a chord with my own artistic style that I read the book three times, back to back: the first time it evoked emotions of wonder and awe, generating an “I work that way too” reaction. The second time it left me feeling frustrated and angered. The artist lives on the other side of the world and his work concentrates on an area of natural beauty, including mountains and wilderness ... how can I do that in Dorset? The third read was the hardest one to face as I knew I would react with similar emotions. To my surprise, I was left with a much more balanced view of how and why HE made HIS images. It just goes to show how emotions and moods can affect our thought processes, not only when we make images but also when we read or look at other artists at work.

Blue touch paper
I have mentioned in previous posts how easy it is for us to get down about our photography, to be so caught up in the medium that we actually forget to enjoy what we do. When we concentrate on the wrong things, the blue touch paper is easily lit and can spark the feelings of frustration and self-anger. I know when I see images of Iceland (the buzz place to go these days) it just lights my touch paper. How many images of ice cubes on a beach does the world need? The truth is, of course, Iceland is a wonderful place to visit and offers aesthetically pleasing images, just as Durdle Door and Corfe Castle are in Dorset.

Creativity - Positivity - Expressivity
Whether you are a painter, a camera user or any other kind of artist, your best and probably most expressive work will always be that which pleases you! People will no doubt give you a ‘like’ on social media or if you are lucky, may even buy the image, but ultimately its success has to be measured by you. If it feeds your creative expression (see 'Good for Your Soul' link at the bottom) it will almost definitely create a good response from someone else, but, more importantly, it will always remind you of the positive experience you had making it.

Two examples
My images in this post highlight two complete and very different experiences that led me to positive image making, both of which express my experiences and feed my positive creativity as a photographer and artist. The first image(above) was made whilst hosting a 1-2-1 workshop with a new photographer (and dear friend) at Stourhead gardens in Wiltshire. At the time we were chatting about composition and how often we can pick out an image within a larger scene. Anyone who knows Stourhead will be familiar with the aesthetics of the place, offering many wonderful photo opportunities. We concentrated on a very small portion of a lake and noticed a small black duck creating circles within the reeds. The original aesthetics of the large lake and trees were appealing but not as much as isolating the smaller view and cutting an artistic slice from it. Serendipity may have played a part, but we were searching for something extra, more artistic. The experience behind it was peaceful, uplifting and pleasurable. The image expresses the experience of our entire day! The second image(left) represents an equally joyful experience and expression of a moment that, for me, could not be matched anywhere else in the world. During a family visit to a local country park, my 15-month-old grandson’s face speaks a thousand words whilst being lifted high into the sky by his Dad. My input merely needed visual awareness and dexterity for the image to bear fruit. For me, the success of the image is defined by the joyful experience of making it. Bettering our previous photographic attainments doesn’t depend on where we go to make our images. Neither will adopting the vantage point of any other photographer, no matter what trophy he or she holds. It definitely doesn’t depend on anyone else and their images or successes. To progress and continue to grow on a personal level, both artistically and photographically, we must look at the experience of making the image first. Shield ourselves from outer influences. Cocoon and express ourselves within the experience.


Correct ingredients
If we were chefs, the ingredients would be an adequate portion of technical knowledge, a large dollop of enjoying the experience, and a pinch of inner artistic herb to give our own flavour and expression to the image. The chef then sits back and reflects on his work … as others enjoy the fruits of his labour!

See related links Good for your soul?