Sunday, September 22, 2013

artistic inspiration :: how do you find yours?

I believe it was the American painter and photographer, Chuck Close, who said, and I may be paraphrasing...

'If I only worked when I was inspired, I wouldn't get much work done.'

That quote is often my savior in the ever challenging world of photography that I have chosen, or been chosen, to immerse and surround myself with all of the love and passion that I could possibly muster up on a daily basis. 

Why, if I've given my heart and soul to this art form, would I need a savior? 

The quote, in and of itself, is the reason and the answer to that given question, the reason that I'm writing to you today. 

I N S P I R A T I O N 

Or, the lack thereof. 

Today, I want to share what I believe to be more important than what camera body you are shooting, more important than any or stops, more important than flash duration and certainly more important than which Creative Suite you currently own (legally or illegally). 

Today, we discuss the ever elusive inspiration.

What Is Inspiration?

Without getting too overly obsessive, I will take, from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the easiest and most attainable definition of the word of today's discussion. The online dictionary defines inspiration as:


That's it. The basis for this invisible thing, this phantom that all artists fear when it's gone and fear equally if not more when it's hanging around, simply because all artists fear that, well, is the dose of inspiration that they have been handed, good enough, strong enough, to get them to the level at which they dream to aspire. 


Take a close look at the opening quote from Chuck Close. Reread it. And now read it again. Were you mislead from the opening paragraphs? Did you think that the end all, be all of successful artists was by the large dose of inspiration that the art fairy dusted on the other person's head and not yours? 

Another gem from Mr. Close is this:

"Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work."

I hope you are starting to see where I am going with this. 

The Grass Isn't Greener Over Here

Sure, from where you are sitting, you may think, or not, that I get a sprinkling of that magical inspiration dust, each and every night I go to slumber. I wake each morning with this uncontrollable, irresistible urge to make cool photographs. My right index finger, my trigger finger, glows like that of E.T., able to trip the shutter only when pure genius passes the viewfinder, the viewfinder that only allows for composition of genius to pass before my brilliant, blessed, left eyeball (yep, right handed and left eyed). 

Guess what my friends? That shit just doesn't happen. Wait a minute. It was you who got the fairy blessing wasn't it? You son of a bitch. Wink wink.

Look, I'm sure there are a few artists out there that are farting rainbows (um, Joey L. comes to mind) as often as I miss focus but fact of the matter is, 99.99999% of artists actually have to get to work. 

Let me elaborate. 

I woke up this morning rather early. I lied comfy in bed as my wife continued to sleep. Bruno, our pit-bull, licked my face, in normal fashion, while I stared at the ceiling. You know what I was thinking about? Was I contemplating today's blog post? Was I thinking about the beautiful weather on this fine day and how I would go out to take advantage of some street photography? 

The answers are nope and no sir. I wasn't thinking about a Goddamn thing. Pure nothingness. Actually was quite enjoyable for a change. 

I walked past my desk, ignoring the computer that is need of my blogging attention. I stumbled down the hall and towards the kitchen, desperately seeking some needed caffeine. Lying messily on the cafe table is Betsy (D4), a couple of Pockewizard Plus ii transceivers and a Rosco #12 gelled 430 EX ii. I'm surrounded by my creative tools yet I can't bare to look at any one of them. . . yet. 

It wasn't noon yet and I was already trying to think of a way to avoid any work and simply throw my ass on the couch and watch Orange is the New Black via Netflix on my Apple TV. 

I can go on and on, demonstrating my point but I think you all should have a clear understanding thus far. 

It ain't easy over here either, to find that great idea, to find that great inspiration. I (we) gotta work for it too! And yes, my friends, sometimes it's a big pain in the ass. Sometimes, shit just don't come as easy as we would like. Sometimes Often, I/you/we need to get out and get dirty, to get out and overcome that overwhelming urge to sit on the couch and watch chicks in prison. 

And that's, in my opinion, what separates the awesome from everyone else. 

Be Careful

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inspiration as "a good idea." A good idea. A - good - idea. Think about it for a sec. We all have ideas. I have them often, lots of them. The key word there is "good." And a "good" idea is different for all of us. Consider this; you probably had what you thought was a good idea a couple years, months or even days ago that at this very moment, you think is horse shit. It happens to all of us. After careful consideration of the brilliant revelation, we realize that we were weak creatives for even pondering such a thing. Maybe this is a sign of progress, a sign that we are expecting more from ourselves. 

In these cases I say, be careful. Use caution. Don't discount all of your ideas. There are times that they can blossom into something unexpected. 

Which to choose, which to discount? Tough call. I'm sure there are a trillion genius ideas that have fallen through the mental cracks over the course of humanity. Try as many as possible, see where they are headed, then filter later on, when absolutely necessary. 

My Path

Let me preface by saying that I'm not the zen guru god of educating about inspiration but what I am is just like you; an artist that wants, that needs to be creative. 

One of the biggest ways I have helped grow my creativeness was, and still is, have a muse. Immediately, you may think to yourself that that idea sounds ludicrous, that artists with muses, shit, that only happens in the movies, the French and English movies at that.

I disagree.

Your muse doesn't have to be an exotic European woman with hairy armpits, dropping her dress for you at the snap of your fingers. Your muse can be anyone, anything, that can, help develop your skill set, allowing you to use them for your practice. Can they inspire? Sure, but that will run out from time to time. The best muse is the one that's available. 

The photos you are looking at today are of my muse. That's my wife, Stefanie. 

Awww, how romantic. Right? Wrong. We've been married for over five years now. You think she really loves having that big ole Betsy stuck in her face, day after day? Not a chance in hell. In fact, last night, I tried for some shots and she tore me a brand new you-know-what. I tried to ignore, firing away, until I could really feel the wrath unleash. It was then I knew to wrap things up. 

In actuality, she's pretty cool with it. She doesn't love it but she sure does tolerate it, which is super awesome for my progress. Having created so many awesome photographs of her, over the years, had inspired (there's that word) to create [THE STEFANIE PROJECT]. Basically, it's a never ending portfolio of work that I have begun and added to my website, The Stefanie Project can be found at my website, under the portfolio tab. I will continue to add awesome photos as they are produced, day to day.

My point here is that Stefanie, my muse, has helped me to grow my work as I had never expected. The reasons? Her tolerance and availability. Thank you Stefanie.

Now think about it, who will be your muse. It can be your spouse, sibling, cat or dog, it doesn't really matter. Some people's muse is their automobile. Find one, lock it down, and work it. 

Having a muse will undoubtedly help grow your creativity and skill set. I can't quantify how much Stefanie has helped me as a photographer but I'm sure, if it were measurable, the results would be fantastic. Which brings me to my next and final little tidbit of advice.

Without my muse, I truly believe that my work would suffer. Why? I'm going elementary here. . . Use it or lose it. 

A way I have found to make it easy to Use rather than Lose, and I mentioned earlier, is that I, for the most part, leave some gear in a visible and quickly accessible location. I spoke of the camera and other gear lying on the cafe table. That's not unusual for me. Well, the cafe table isn't ideal as that is one variable that causes Stefanie to unleash her wrath. 

Access is the key, access and happy wife, happy life. I often find that if I pack the camera away, snug in the Tenba, I have more of a tendency to leave Betsy where she lies. With Betsy on the cafe table, or better and less fight provoking, my desk, I'm more likely to grab in any given moment, wether it be to photograph my muse or any other thing of interest for that matter. 


Today, I had no idea what to blog about, no inspiration. I thought to myself that this post would be short and useless. It wasn't until after the fact, once I began writing, that I was inspired. 

The bottom line?

Go. Now. Create. Something. Anything.