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There’s this unwritten demand in the artistic community that your work cannot be similar to other artists. If you create something, it has to come out of your own style and cannot resemble anyone else’s work. This concept demands a fierce independence between artists.

It’s difficult to blame any one person for this idea. Nobody wants to log onto their computer and see another artist with work similar to their own. It feels like they’re stealing your ideas and, in some way, your identity. It cannot be traced to a single person because it’s woven in the artist mind.

“Create something new and unique, something they’ve never seen before”. This is not a bad mindset, it just ignores the idea that we’re constantly influenced by other people. In birthing a new piece of art, you’re creating from a mind that’s seen thousands of pieces of other’s work. Nothing you create with your mind will ever be independent of those influences. They’re permanently engrained.

We have to abandon the idea that what we create is ours. It’s a product built by a community. You’ve moved the hand but, dear, the body is nourished by the external world. If not other people, you’re influenced by the architecture around you or patterns in the concrete. It doesn’t come from you, it comes from everywhere.

I’m guilty of being afraid to post because a work is clearly defined by another artist. But this is not how it’s supposed to be. If anything, it should be liberating to create. It doesn’t matter the source. If you’re inspired by the way the wind moves, great. By art hung in the galleries around you, fine. It does not matter where you gather your taste as long as you continue to create.

This image was made in 2012 and it took a long time to iron out the concept behind it. The original title was “Drain the Tank”. It’s about a man in some sort of capsule. The black liquid is being drained to reveal a man with color dyed into his skin. The black liquid represents the influences that surround him. The colors on his skin are what is left and has become part of him.

He hasn’t taken everything – otherwise his skin would be black. Rather, he’s pulled certain colors out that make him who he is. Another way of putting it: the tank was filled with all his influences and as it drained, it revealed him. Unique in his own way but built on the color and influence of everyone else.

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Day four of BLOGtober!

More Artist Dilemma/Complaints

It seems I’ve hit an odd point in my artistic life. After completing two 365 projects, I feel well versed in regularly producing work and publishing online. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many incredible artists and watch them grow.

Originally, many of these artists published their work on Flickr. Which is where I interacted with them almost exclusively until 2012. There was a shift in the website and many artists abandoned Flickr. Instead, we decided to add each other on Facebook.

Our interactions changed from being about photography. On Facebook, we got to see one another’s daily life. I absolutely loved this. Instead of only getting to see the art, we suddenly got to see the entire person. A person who went out and took pictures with friends, who wrote statuses about their struggles, and who communicated to the world in a different way.

It was an excellent experience to get to know these artists in a more dynamic way.

As time went on, a divide started to occur. Artists who pursued their craft full time produced large amounts of work. I watched many of my friends achieve success at this time. Those who went to school or who focused on their careers seemed to disappear, occasionally producing art. These two groups of artists – the ones who created regularly and those that created semi-regularly, dominated my NewsFeed.

Most of my “real life” friends were unfollowed or pushed out by these media monster-houses. Their work was initially inspiring. I wanted to go out and produce art and share it with them. Over time, these contacts grew out of touch. I started working full-time and lost contact with them for a few months. I became one of the artists who posted rarely.

Most of my artist friends continued to post work more regularly than me and grew in popularity. I watched their work go from having 10 likes to 200 to 600 on every post. I was proud of them. Many of them went freelance and started building clientele. It shocks me how many of my friends got into wedding photography.

The popularity felt like it created a divide from the little leaguers like me. I wanted to initiate conversations but I didn’t know what to talk to them about. They felt too important to talk to. I felt like I was wasting their time if I had casual conversations with them.

Somewhere along the lines, I lost contact with my “real life” friends. My entire NewsFeed was made up of artists until last night. I went through and refollowed my friends. I felt frozen and unable to share my work. Constantly seeing such beautiful and perfect work made sharing my own work feel daunting.

I know it’s a personal problem. Oh boo hoo, you don’t feel good enough. But I’m writing this to address it in myself. I need to overcome the anxiety I have about sharing imperfect work. Blogging is part of that. God I know that these posts are long and boring but I’m working on it.

It’s just so hard to share when I know great writers. It’s hard to share my travel photography when I know great travel photographers. Why would anyone look at my work when there’s already so many fantastic artists out there? Want a great conceptual fine artist? I know twenty of them. Want a great blogger? I know three. It’s hard to produce work when you don’t feel any demand for you to do it.

At this point, I’m producing work for myself. I want to share. This is imperfect, it’s flawed. I’ve written too much on a niche subject. Very few people will relate to what I’m writing. But I feel compelled to produce it anyways. Maybe that all I need for now.

In other news, I’m thinking about participating in Blogtober. It’s only 31 days and it could be a breath of fresh air. Heck, maybe I’ll invite Tabitha. It’ll be a party!

Artist Block and General Anxiety

It feels horrible to hit a point where you no longer feel creative. Where no fresh ideas flow through your mind. Artist blocks are terrifying. You don’t know what to create because you don’t have substance. It’s like you have an itch and you want to scratch it but you don’t know where on your body it is. In a block, I’m just blindly clawing at myself until I find how to relieve the itch.

It’s as though I have this intense emotion inside of me and I can’t relieve it. Words can’t express it. I can’t tell you how I feel because it’s more intense than that. I have to create something that properly communicates the emotion. It’s frustrating. I claw and grapple at any way that insane itch can be extinguished.

That’s what a block feels like to me. It’s desperate, generally filled with frustration, and the bane of my artistic existence. Even writing this has been exhausting. I’m scratching at myself trying to find the right way to tell you what it feels like. If that’s not a conundrum, I don’t know what is.

Blocks feel insane because you start with nothing. In your head, you have an emotion. There is no physical equivalent of what you feel. To give birth to that emotion, you have to find what physically exists and mold it into what matches your head. For writers, it’s finding the right word; painters, it’s the right color or stroke; for photographers, it’s finding the right angle or lighting. No matter the medium, you have to find a way to make an intangible emotion into something others can see and feel.

The types of artistic blocks can vary. Sometimes it feels like you have this monstrous emotion inside of you and the only way to prevent it from consuming you is to give it birth. Other times it feels like you need to create but you don’t have anything to give. You’re ready to create, you’ve got the resources, full stocks of paint… but no emotion to cover the canvas.

Now that you understand how desperate and terrifying these blocks can feel like, I want to show you the opposite side. This was actually the reason I started writing tonight:

For the last 2 years I’ve been afraid that I’ll run out of emotion.

It sounds silly but not all feelings are intense enough to create with. Mediocre love doesn’t produce the same art that passionate love does. There isn’t room for mediocrity. Ultimately I’m afraid of being starved of that intensity. So… I’ve been hoarding the emotions.

The passionate love and intense heartbreak that I had last year, I can’t let it go. I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll starve. That I’ll run dry. I’ll have all the resources; models to shoot with, locations to work with, but no BANG of creative energy to go along with it.

Everywhere I go, I carry that heartbreak with me. I put it into a bag of emotions on my hip labelled “feelings I’d like to create with”. Attached to the side there’s a note that reads: “open cautiously, emotions may overwhelm”. Usually that’s what happens. The bag is so full that everywhere I go, it spills a little here and there.

I once read that the mind is like a cup of tea. If you want fresh tea, you have to pour the old stuff out. Otherwise, your cup will overflow and create a mess. There is no use is keeping the old tea, even if it once was delicious. Everything goes stale over time. Carrying around that extra emotion is an unnecessary burden.

I carry too many painful emotions in hopes that one day I’ll be able to create with them. Deep down, I know beautiful things can come out of horrible experiences, so I dream of transforming them. I want to change the difficult times into beautiful works of art – but it’s not necessary. Some of life is just suffering.

All in all, this is a reminder to let go. Don’t be terrified of the blocks. They come and pass naturally. I’ve carried way too many emotions far past their expiration. Empty your cup of tea so you can experience the next batch.

Why do we Create

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To a person who doesn’t enjoy looking at art, it’s difficult to explain its appeal. Art is another style of communication. We speak, we write, we convey ourselves with our bodies, and we create. Those who don’t express their ideas or emotions through art, struggle to understand why artists throw paint at canvas or draw abstract figures.

Imagine if you couldn’t speak. Think about how unusual it would be to see two people talking. Both figures produce sounds with their mouths. They speak and understand one another.

When artists create, they mold from a less tangible medium. Speech is fantastic for conveying information but occasionally what needs to be said can’t be expressed in words. A bright smudge of orange on a white canvas may carry a certain emotion for you. Internally you say “this is what I feel”.

While speech conveys information with relative ease, art is usually open to interpretation. People may walk up to that smudge of orange and have no understanding of its meaning. However, its purpose isn’t necessarily universal understanding. Often times, people create art because there isn’t a better way to communicate a particular emotion.

Imagine that both of parents died tragically this morning. You are filled with incredible emotion. Words cannot begin to explain the loss you feel. Talking to others doesn’t seem to help. What you say doesn’t match with how you feel inside. Maybe wiping orange paint is the only way to express the emotion.

Over time, I’ve realized that those who appreciate art are often very empathetic. They can look at a piece and feel the emotion without having to exchange words about it. The art community is built on that receptivity.

I’ve also found that those who appreciate art are able to take on multiple perspectives. Perhaps they don’t understand your orange mess but they are willing to try and feel it. They attempt to decipher what it means to the artist and why they created it.

It’s difficult to explain the appeal of art to someone who doesn’t innately appreciate it. Often, a natural affinity for art pairs with empathy and receptivity. Those who like art value it as a separate form of communication. While it isn’t as concrete as speech or writing, it expresses human emotion in a different way. Art, to me, has always been about sharing what words cannot.

In the comments below, tell me what art means to you. Do you create because you like beautiful things or do you try and convey certain emotions? Also, if you don’t mind, tell me what art medium you use and share a link to your work!

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Music Videos (for class!)

Back in 2010, I took a film design class with a few friends. We didn’t create a lot of content, nor was it great, but I thought I’d share it with you all tonight. We had a lot of fun creating these. It’s not everyday that you get to film music videos with a group of friends.

In the first video we took a generator out into the woods at night so we could power lights. It was crazy but a ridiculous amount of fun. The second was filmed at the college. The next one was just to mess with lights. Finally the last one was a project between my friend Michelle and I. We wanted to use some of our favorite local locations for filming. Enjoy!

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Work is Exhausting

There are days where creating is difficult. Where I work, people don’t create. They spend more time ingesting media than they do contributing. This isn’t to say that they are worse off, it’s just a difficult environment to be a content creator in. It isn’t conducive to the lifestyle that I want to have.

Working 45 hours a week drains you and if you’re not highly motivated, you’re probably not creating. When I was going to school, I had time to talk with artists. We could critique each other’s work and talk about our plans. When we had an idea, we could ping it off in conversation. Where I’m at now, I’m too exhausted at the end of the day.

I can’t wait to leave this job in a few years. Go back with the artists and create blogs and vlogs, and paint, and draw, and get back into photography. If I could cut this job in half; make half the money and work half the time – I would. But for now, I’ll keep creating like this because I don’t know what else to do.

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The Warhol Year

Andy Warhol was famous for his pop images and mass quantity art. He produced a large body of work by creating multiple pieces of art every day. While the quality varied, he designed incredible works. Check out some of his work here.

This past year has felt like a Warhol year. I’ve created a large body of work, with varying quality. The emphasis has been on producing more rather than producing better. It’s focused on growing as a person and diving into a passion. Writing felt incredible last December, so I had to follow what I loved.

Andy was also famous for his celebrity attitude. He hung out with the high class and made a mark in fashion and many other fields. Although he was known for having a large group of friends, he talked about his detachment from it. Instead of wanting to go to parties, he wished that he could just watch the parties on his TV.

For years he filmed aspects of mundane life like eating a hamburger. He wanted to observe everything. His video “Blow Job” was built on observation. The purpose was to see without interacting. He wanted to understand and really see the details.

When I joined, I became less social. I started to become bored with people. I wanted something more and with less interaction. Hanging out was dull because I had to make conversation. I wanted to watch it, see the conversation but not take part in it. I wanted to go out with friends but just to be with them. Not necessarily to interact.

Warhol made many comments about film and how it ruled America. He saw that people wanted to watch TV and didn’t always want to interact with each other. In the same way, over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time introspecting and observing. I’ve been fascinated with interaction and how people communicate.

This year has been about trying to find myself and deciding how I fit with others. It’s been about watching and producing very real art. My writing is mostly unfiltered and raw. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it sucks. I’ve been very passive with my relationships with others and passive in many aspects of my life.

That’s why I’m declaring this Warhol year over. I’m done with mass quantity. Producing work for the sake of producing work is useless. I want skill and tact. This year of observing is over with. I’m taking charge of my life. There’s two weeks left in this project and I’ll have spent 2 years producing art daily. It’s time for some changes! 🙂

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