Fundamentals, essential elements, and tennis balls.

Krysta Kaos - 110513 - SideB

Photography and art lifts us up, makes us feel, think, believe, tear us down, change us, challenge us, and make us live our humanity.  All of that is much of the lofty stuff that makes us aspire to creating art and expressing ourselves.  This stuff is crucial to an artist's soul, but to be honest, it isn't the only thing that makes the art.  An artist also needs to keep in mind the fundamentals of craft, classic elements of art, and then going out and doing it, doing it again and doing it better, then repeat.

I recently picked up an issue of of Popular Photography that reviewed the fundamentals of photography such as rule-of-thirds, tonal range, etc., to make your photos better.  Even though all of it was very basic, it reminded me that sometimes I neglect these fundamentals  because I assume I am that good and don't need to be cognizant of them.  One recent example came from a portrait photo shoot where for half of the photos I forgot the golden rule of ensuring the subject's eye closest to me must be in focus.  I should have remembered my fundamentals.  So padawans, learn your fundamentals. Once you master them, you can transgress them, but you must master them first.

A few years ago I enjoyed the opportunity to take an art history course.  We discussed many of the essential elements of art.  Composition, color theory, motion, narrative, perspective, etc.  It made me look at art with an appreciation of the artist's mastery of fundamentals and using the essential elements (and bending them) to create works that transcend the brush strokes and colors to become overtures of emotion, thought, message and life.  So padawans, learn these essential elements and study the art of those who have created before you.  Take those lessons and make your own voice from their inspirational notes.

You know what a coach says about what you have to do to get good at tennis, hit a lot of tennis balls.  Same is true about photography.  You have to take a lot of photos. - Mentor Ron
Creating art is an exercise.  Like the runner, the gymnast, the swimmer, you don't become a great artist instantly and with little work.  You must get out their and create, show, get feedback, create more, refine, explore, and create more. 

As a photographer, you must go out and shoot.  This practice must not be indiscrimate shooting, but with the intent to learn, explore your art and craft, and to create your own artistic voice.  Once you  captured the image, you then have to go and finish the art through editing and printing.  You may do this in a darkroom and grow your ability to create master prints from printing hundreds or thousands of times to learn the craft.  As a digital photographer you must keep learning the tools (i.e., Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) and then practice, push, and practice more. 

I've found from my own experience I learn a new technique (adding digital vignettes was one of my first) and initially over using it in all my art.  After time and practice, I hopefully grow in subtlety and power as I let it enhance the art, not take over it.  This is a normal evolution of any growth.  Exuberance and excitement on the new power and then a deeper learning of how it applies to my art.

One of my greatest weaknesses in art is that this an exercise that needs... exercise.  Like running, it is easier to not do it than do it.  All I can say is that if you want it to be important to you, you will have to get the discipline to keep creating and doing it.  Hopefully your artistic need to create quality and the rewards and lessons will also be motivational to getting off your ass and creating with intent.  So padawans, put down your excuses and make some art, then make  more and more.