“Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off from the straight path.
How hard it is to tell what it was like,
this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
(the thought of it brings back all my old fears),
a bitter place! Death could scarce be bitterer.
But if I would show the good that came of it
I must talk about things other than the good.”
― Dante Alighieri
Once the mid-life professional from the technical worlds has accepted the idea that he or she must
- learn this art-thing anew and then
- learn the basics of the camera so that is becomes an extension of their vision and then
- learn their software of choice so well that it becomes an extension of their vision and then
- experience that moment of breakthrough where you are beginning to create your own unique art, and then
- experience that next step that is…nowhere but within then
- one has emerged as their own artist.
There is a long and great swarm of effort and results that are the stepping stones of the path forward. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. There are no ways around what must be done.
Despite all those selling tours and ideas, there is no next step after learning all I have mentioned above. There is only a wildness of opportunity, spontaneity, and experience. In that space there is only experience and the skills learned to express it.
One uses artistic language through the camera, capturing the image, and processing. That is the path that moves one to what only you can tread. Art comes in the capture and in the processing. One must capture an image in focus with the elements that you wish. From there it takes your vision to make it into something that has not been seen before.
Unfortunately, creativity is so individually specific and personal that it has no direction or path for advice from others. The path and expression of creativity is unique and fearsome and solitary. Creativity erupts from one person and cannot be mimicked.
Those who talk about creativity are only reflecting on their own experience, which may be somewhat like yours but only a bit.
It is good to know that others have walked before you, but that assurance will only start the steps of your own path. Frightening…yes. Uncertain…yes. Wanted by others…most definitely yes! but not by all.
What others want is something unique. That uniqueness can only be expressed by you. Not everyone will see what you see, but there are those who will.
The image I have of this artistic process is like climbing the steep side of a plateau, only to come to the top. That flat expanse of land on top of the plateau is the space of continuing what you have learned over and over and over on the climb up. Capturing, processing, printing, over and over and over. It is a monotonous task of capturing images and processing them in the way you had been doing with all the tools and creativity you learned from others.
The next steps though across this flats of the top of the plateau is only known within your soul, and you are not likely to know what it is before it happens.
There is no way to know after learning the basic steps what will come next. There is only exploration and personal experience and a willingness to risk expressing your work. These three aspects are the only things that make your work unique.
Sometimes an artist’s work speaks to others. But it will also not speak to many others, perhaps to most that see your work. In the end the body of work an artist produces is only about the artist. To pursue the life of an artist is to commit to continuing to create a tangible creative expression, whether appreciated by others or not. That is the life walking across the top of the great plateau.
That is also the art that will never be seen unless you express it.
Everyone has a camera. Everyone can learn this or that software. Everyone can use presets to make an image harvested from thousands of other images. But that just makes your work look like everyone else’s.
Early in this path our work does look like the others we are learning from. Later it diverges into that unique expression that is only available if we express and create it.
Artificial intelligence and others presets will never make your work look unique, if that is what you are searching for. Only your own diligent and time-consuming efforts will get you to that point of uniqueness.
I do not wish to be intentionally abstruse. I have just looked at the unpredictability of my own creative moments as well as others I know, and there basically seems to be no pattern to follow. I would like to say, “this is the path from here to there.” Unfortunately, art is about expressing oneself and nothing more.
The expression of one’s personal path in art seems to be a treasure buried within one’s soul that can only be expressed in the practice of the basics and the slow understanding of what one really wants to say with one’s art.
As those who fly fish know, many fish may look at the fly, but only one will take it. So it is that many will flash at the excitement of looking at your art, but few will take it and make it part of their own life.
Although I came to this understanding later in life than many other artists, I am deeply grateful to those who have weathered their own hardships to support my own efforts. It still seems to be true that the artistic journey lies within and can only be known by continued practice and expression in a tangible form. Following one’s path requires diligence as well as the help of others.
My own creative life is greatly fostered by friends who see more in my work than I and continue to spur me on