Photography has always interested me. I began my study of the art of photography in high school and continued through art school. But as the great Albert Einstein once said,
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
After graduation, I believed I had the technique and skill necessary for my photography to continue to flourish. Not so. After a few years as a young and inexperienced artist out in the real world, I had plateaued. My photographs were boring and my desire to create was fading. Yet I was blown away by the work of other artists! I attended my school colleagues’ art openings and exhibits and realized that, while my style was stagnating, their styles were continuing to evolve. My friends had passed me by because they pushed themselves to continue to grow and learn.
Here was the ugly truth: I had become too complacent in my learning, and my art suffered as a result. I decided to make a change, and, looking back, this proved to be one of the best decisions I made, and served as a great life lesson too. I once read that you have to kick your own ass. So, I started giving myself assignments.
If I was going to the zoo, I would prepare by making a list of the shots I wanted to get. If I was working on a design, I would create different versions to ensure I had produced the best work for my client. I continually studied the works and processes of other artists to see what I could learn from them.
These self-imposed assignments also had an unintended benefit which took me some years to realize. I had learned how to work within the confines of strict parameters. Most people believe that artists are free, uninhibited creators. While that sounds like an awesome notion, it’s almost never the case in the commercial art world. If you’re a designer, illustrator, graphic artist, photographer, etc…, you are given guidelines to follow, a box to stay within. It’s what you do with these guidelines that makes the difference between good work and great work.
So, if you have a chance, confine yourself to silly parameters. Find a way to limit your subject and then see what you can do with it. Critique yourself honestly. I have employed this method as a way to push myself, to redefine my eye and mind. Perhaps next time, I will only photograph things that are orange, or objects that start with the letter “G.”
If you decide to follow this piece of advice, I would love to hear about your experiences!
Until then, Stay Random!