Friday, March 11, 2016

What's your quest?

I’m going to harp on this because I think it’s important. If you’re serious about your photography, about improving your work, about making your work your own, unique to you and nobody else, a “quest” of sorts will encourage you to experiment, to try, to fail, and to try again.

This month’s project is to post a picture of the number “3” every day. There are 31 days in March, and I have only twenty-some pictures. I need to create more. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! No pressure, right?

If I were a different sort of person, I might blow off the last week of the month, figuring enough is enough. But it’s a cool challenge, and it’s a challenge I know will help me grow. Everywhere I’ve gone this month I’ve been looking for “3s,” so it’s an exercise in seeing (always a good thing). And I’ve also been encouraged to look through my own files for pictures of “3s” I might have forgotten about. And I’ve also been encouraged to find a boring “3” and try to pump it up. If it ends up looking horrible, that’s okay.

The important thing is that at least I’m trying, and in trying I might just learn something new.

That’s what happened with this morning’s “3.” Let me give you a peek into what I did.

I found a “3” that I’d photographed on the side of a metal fishing boat in March of 2011. The photo is boring, but the “3” is cool. I took the picture knowing that I would tweak it later and create something new with it. This was my starting point.

So yesterday I wondered, what if I added some dots to it? What would that do? I scanned a piece of tissue paper, white with black dots on it, and added it to the mix. Hmmmm. Not bad. But still boring. So then I added a photo of painted paper, paper from my studio that I’d used to clean paintbrushes and rollers (last photo).

I then did a few other things, added some shadowing around the “3,” etc. and declared the picture done. I liked it so much that I uploaded it yesterday to Fine Art America. Will it sell? Probably not, because few of my number photographs do, but that’s okay. I think it’s good. I’m proud of it. And (pay attention now) NO ONE ELSE CAN CREATE A NUMBER LIKE THIS.

Can you say that about your own work? I’m not saying go make your own photomontages. I’m saying please experiment. How can you shoot a slot canyon and make it unlike all the millions of slot canyon photos out there? How can you make a photo of a California poppy that stands out from the rest? How can you make your quilt, your collage, your assemblage art, whatever, be unique to you?

You start with baby steps. Begin experimenting, whether it’s with software, composition, technique, viewpoint, fabric, papers, etc. Give yourself a quest. What will you work on this month that could take you out of your comfort zone?

If you’re a photographer, oh, man, it’s so easy! Got a cellphone? Got an app? Pick one app and work it for a month. I mean really work it. Look online for tutorials. Keep testing. Can you use that same app on pictures you’ve taken with a DSLR as well? What pictures do you already have that maybe can be transmogrified using that same app?

 You’re going to create a lot of crap. Who cares?

Keep creating. Eventually you will either discard the idea entirely, or you will suddenly be inspired. Aha! Yes! That worked great. Are there other images to which I can apply that same technique? Can I make a series of this, or that?

I’m babbling. What I’m trying to say is that throughout your creative life, it’s all just practice. You work on something, maybe you perfect it, maybe you don’t, but everything you do increases your artistic knowledge and your skills. So you continue. Building on what you learned before.

Maybe dots isn’t the right component for something, maybe it’s squares. Maybe it’s silver squares! Maybe it’s silver squares, duplicated, then flipped horizontally and toned green. Try it! Who cares if it’s garbage? Eventually you’re going to discover something that works and it will surprise the hell out of you. It’ll be an “aha” moment that will push you further into your own unique way of seeing and making.

I took a plain photograph of an ordinary “3” and made something completely different. Something that’s unique to me. Something I like well enough to offer it for sale.

All because I gave myself a quest and acted on it. That’s all. A simple little quest. What’s your quest these days? Hmmmmm?

©Carol Leigh
All text, photographs, and other media are ©Copyright Carol Leigh (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Carol Leigh. Thank you!

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