It's Just Fifteen Minutes
Here’s a confession: I work as an artist, yet sometimes I don’t feel artistically satisfied.
Don’t get me wrong: I adore my job. As a portrait photographer, I get to document growing families, capture the stars in an engaged couples’ eyes, make cute kids giggle (sometimes they just scream, but let’s focus on the positive here, shall we?), and preserve the memories of pregnant mommas’ nervous excitement. I work with my clients individually, getting to know them as much as possible so that their portraits really reflect their personalities. I help them plan out their wardrobes, think of neat props, and talk to them about the small details that can mean the difference between just a snapshot and a gorgeous photo. I’m constantly scouting out new locations, eager to be able to connect my clients to a place that perfectly fits them and possibly means something to them. During the shoot, I try to subtly emphasize that connection between the people and the location they chose. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes and I find the challenge fascinating.
To make a long story short: obviously, my job doesn’t lack for need of creativity. In fact, it practically oozes with it. And yet, sometimes at the end of the day, I realize that all I’ve done for weeks at a time is photograph client after client after client, then sit for hours and hours editing their images, conversing with them about which photos they like, organizing the printing of their photos, and then…well…you get the picture (pun fully intended). It’s draining, and by the end of it I feel anything but creative.
Throughout the past few months, I’ve begun remembering why all of my art teachers always stressed the importance of personal side projects. How they’d go on and on about keeping a sketchbook and filling it daily. Not occasionally, daily. Why every single art class I took required consistently finding and presenting other artists’ work and explaining what I thought of it. And why my teachers kept drilling into me the need to create work within a series – not just a painting here or a drawing there, but a series of work showing a progression of ideas. Doing all of these things simultaneously churns up more inspiration than can be kept track of and keeps any artist on their toes and ready to play the bigger game.
It’s a hard commitment. Back in ye olde college days, finding the time to do all of this was SO easy. Need more sketchbook filler material? Just go and lay out on the quad during lunch. Need ideas for new artists to look at? Ask someone in your ceramics class who their favorite inspirations are. Need a new series of work by tomorrow night? Eh, just pull an all-nighter. Those were the days. Little to no sleep, sugar fueled mornings, oil paint smudges and printmaking ink your constant fashion statement, and no life outside the studio. It was a glorious bubble.
Nowadays, I’m struggling to find the time to squeeze all this into days already filled up with work, family, friends, and other social obligations. It’s easy to just say I’m too busy. It’s easy to pretend that I don’t have the time, but let’s be serious, shall we? All of us are guilty of chilling out on the couch watching Netflix one time too many, or sitting on our iPhones reading Reddit at least once (or twice. or a dozen times) during the day. Can we really not use just fifteen minutes of that time and put it towards working on a project for ourselves? That’s my New Year’s Resolution. Not just to create, but to consistently keep myself accountable by showing what I’ve created on my blog. I’ve found a new group of friends recently who all want to create more, so part of my resolution is to not just focus on my own work, but to help these friends by critiquing their work as well.
I’m the type of person who tries implanting any New Year’s Resolution into my life before the actual new year – kind of as a test to see if it will stick. I’ve been trying. I can’t honestly say I’ve been 100% successful, but I’m glad I can look back over the past few months and say I have produced some work just for myself – not for a client. Sometimes it’s as simple as photographing a daily self portrait. Sometimes it’s just drawing in my sketchbook. And sometimes it’s a random project like learning calligraphy that you swear won’t ever relate to anything else you’re doing but then it does and all the different projects you’re working on start connecting in more meaningful ways and you find yourself coming up with better ideas for your clients and realizing that inspiration is suddenly bouncing out of you faster than you can keep track of.
Fifteen minutes. No more, no less. You might not be able to create the Sistine Chapel in fifteen minutes, but who knows – you might just get inspired enough to want to go and try to do it.
Photos by Giedre Krulikas Sidrys and are used with permission.