I have been thinking a lot about creating, being an artist and how we humans learn. A few days ago I posted this picture on Facebook with a passionate piece of writing of how we are put on this world to be unique, to bring something new into existence. Maybe it is because my work has been copied so much through the years and I have had time to think about this a lot or perhaps even too much.
Let me start by saying that we humans learn by mimicking the things we see. If we had not done so, we would have never learned to walk or talk and that would have been a shame. In school we learned to copy all the letters of the alphabet and we learned to write. After a while our handwriting digressed from what we learned and it turned into something more unique. In the beginning though, you learn by mimicking. At one point you have the technical skills, you get experience and you start to digress from what you originally mimicked. You soak in more of the things that you love and all these things start to build connections inside your mind and they become one vision. It is this unique personal vision from which we create.
This can be a scary thing. I know I found being creative quite a challenge. I would let things simmer in my brain for years until I just knew I would not get a design wrong. It took me 18 years to realise that it does not work this way. Creativity is letting go of strict rules, expectations of an outcome and letting go of what you see others do. Yes, you have soaked in what others create, things you love, perhaps from many different sources and then you just need to learn to trust that all the things you like together make for a unique perspective. This makes you unique and this perspective makes that you are able to look at the world in a way that no one else can. That to me is the magic of creating. It is also the daunting part of creating. Without an example it feels like you are a little too free, like you lost stability. It is very much like riding your bicycle without your hands on the handlebar for the very first time and whilst it is scary, when you realise that your body knows how to balance you, it is exhilarating.
Creating is lot like this. After all those years of thinking about things until I thought they could not go wrong, I decided that this was not how you were supposed to live life. You don't need the perfect example, you don't need to have the perfect image of the outcome in your mind. Creating is very much about the process and letting something else than your intelligence do the doing. I noticed that if I started making something from scratch I not only learned faster and got things done, but I was able to deal with every obstacle one obstacle at a time and that some way, somehow something inside me knew what to do.
This applies to all kinds of creating, but let's take photography for example. You fall in love with photography, you visit photography websites, you are bowled over by the wonderful pictures you see. You are impressed and as the obsession with taking pictures deepens, you really want to take such pictures as well. You probably have a folder of favourite pictures on websites like flickr or perhaps 500px and I bet that the favourite folders of each of us are different. Let's say we love the exact same picture and we favourite that image, but this can be for a wide array of reasons. My reasons for liking this picture might be entirely different from yours. If you look at your other favourite pictures you might start to see something that connects these images. Maybe it is the light, the weather circumstances, the toning, the composition, the strong lines, the symmetry or lack of it or......the pictures might be connected by the feeling that they give you. Maybe you feel stillness or you have a feeling of escaping the everyday humdrum that life can be. All these things can connect the images you like and once you find that connection, you can work from there.
It all begins there....finding out the "why" behind your photography or your art. Why do you like the things that you like? What is it specifically that draws you to that picture, that piece of art or design? Why do you like certain images better than others?
This way of working requires taking a better look at the things you like, go beyond the surface and then find those dots that you can connect. This way the images and art you love becomes the fertile soil on which you can plant your own flowers. You soak in the things you see, you go beyond the superficial, you make the connection and then make your own art authentic. I have a list of key elements that I would like to see in my images. I carry this list in my photography bag in case I need to remind myself of what I want to convey. I might sometimes go to the same forest as another photographer, but I try to stick to what I want to convey. My way is not the right way nor the wrong way, it is simply my way. My art is simply mine. Another photographer might like the forest for being gigantic, or the trees for being so tall and he or she adds persons to the picture to add a sense of scale. For me the forest is a refuge, away from noise and everyday life. I look for stillness. I only ever have people in my pictures if they contribute to what I am trying to say. Sometimes a person can tell a story of stillness and being in awe. This is just a simple example to illustrate that there can be very different reasons why you would like to photograph forests or any other subject. For me it is finding stillness and looking for the magic in the ordinary. This is something that is deeply embedded in my soul. It is who I am and this is from where I create. To be an artist is to create from that place. It takes a bit of self-knowledge and soul-searching but it is worth it when you realise that this means you can create more freely and authentically than ever before.
Create and share yourself with the world