Monday, May 07, 2012

Creative Myths

When Seth was here and we were chatting before his book signing began, he mentioned that in some of the Q&A sessions that followed the talks he gave, some topics were controversial. I was intrigued, so I asked him what he meant. The example he gave was about how someone brought up the topic of hands-on art vs. digital art and how some people felt that digital art was, in their eyes, cheating or not as hard to produce as art made by hand. This got me thinking and I've been turning the idea over and over in my mind, like a small stone, so I thought I would post my thoughts about it this morning.

First of all, I've been doing mixed media for 11 years. I love it. Nothing will ever replace my desire to create using all the materials available to me. I began creating using digital photography a year and a half ago. Before I dipped my toes into this medium, I assumed one of two things about it: either is was super hard and not something I'd ever be able to do OR it was cheating because it was the lazy way of making art. Here's what I now know: Neither of these things is true.

When I first encountered digital art, computers, computer programs and the Internet were all pretty new. I thought you had to be some sort of math genius or rocket scientist to be able to make art with your computer. I am most certainly not a math genius. If I was, I probably wouldn't be an artist-I'd be a rocket scientist. (For real! I am fascinated by space exploration.) *laughs* In any case, I believed digital art was for geniuses.

It's not true. Well okay, there is the part of being a creative genius when it comes to making digital art, but the programs out there today make digital art easily accessible. Alot of the programs are intuitive, which makes them very user friendly for someone like me who just wants to make beautiful images without having to get a PhD to do it.

In my heart of hearts, I feel that creating art digitally is NOT cheating. 
Let's look at the definition of cheating:

Cheating refers to an immoral way of achieving a goal. It is generally used for the breaking of rules to gain advantage in a competitive situation. The rules infringed may be explicit, or they may be from an unwritten code of conduct based on morality, ethics or custom, making the identification of cheating a subjective process. 

 Okay, so that's pretty interesting, isn't it? "Breaking the rules". Isn't that what artists do?!? Isn't the whole idea of making art to bring forth something that has never been seen or done before and share it with the world? The idea that "the identification of cheating {is} a subjective process" is interesting. Who gets to decide this and is the decision based on their own sense of competitiveness? How many times have you heard someone bash someone else's art because it's good (or even great) simply because they know the bar has been raised and they are feeling threatened?

Using digital means to create is not cheating. It's simply using the tools of our times to move forward with our own creative process. It's pioneering, really. It doesn't make the act of creation any less-it's just different. There are some that would argue that it's less work. Let me attempt to dispel that myth. 

When I am going to work on digital photography and post processing, here's a quick breakdown of the steps I go through in order to create a single finished image:

1. I have to decide where I want to shoot, for starters. Usually it involves driving somewhere at least half and hour or more from my home.

2. Once I am at the location I want to shoot at, I spend an enormous amount of time scouting out what to shoot. On average I take about 150-300 photos. I shoot fast and dirty because I know for me that's where the magic lies.

3. When I return home, I upload the images to my computer and comb through them, deleting anything that is blurry or otherwise unsuitable.

4. After I've culled my shoot down to about 50 photos, (or less!) I start working with the one that inspires me the most, using at least 2 post processing programs.
 I begin with cropping and if necessary, correcting the image.

5. Once the image is cleaned up, I move onto working with adding layers, text and effects. This is entirely intuitive for me, so it can take some time. I move quickly in this process though, because it's not about thinking, so much as feeling and the way I get the best results it to just relax into "the zone". When I am in the zone, time feels oddly suspended. Sometimes I sit down at 5 or 6 am and it's noon before I realize I've been working for hours!

6. Once all the layers are done, I look at how I want to finish the image. In order for it to feel finished to me, I like the edges to have some sort of definition. At this point, I also add my watermark.

All of this is alot of work and there is most definitely skill involved. Some of the skills I use are newly acquired, through the photography classes I've been taking, some of skills  have been repurposed from other mediums I've worked with over the years and some of it is that intangible element that makes my work uniquely my own. The intensity of the work is the same as it would be for any other medium I work in. The means of creating is just different.

It's interesting to me that some artists draw a circle around themselves and what they do and anything that doesn't fit inside that circle is seen as "less than". I think if you feel the need to draw that circle, you should draw it in chalk, so you can keep erasing it and making it bigger to embrace all kinds of amazing techniques, ideas and inspiration. Why limit yourself? And as for the rule breakers, count me among them. I'll proudly wear that label.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Well said! Hope your words open some closed minds :)