I grew up in a home where creativity was considered the norm. My dad was an artist and he would spend most days painting in his studio. He had good days and bad days but I never heard complaints about dry spells or difficulty coming up with ideas.

My dad, like myself and many artists, had difficulty distinguishing between creativity, inventiveness and recognition for one’s creativity and it took a toll on his self worth. His lack of material success caused him great suffering.

I wanted to avoid that suffering, so I got into commercial art. However commercial art is about producing a product and being creative is for the enjoyment of creation. So I left photography for many years.

When I got back into photography, like so many others I tried to imitate the kinds of images that I liked. I was a big Galen Rowell fan so I did a lot of near/far landscapes. To give Galen credit, his work is much more diverse that that.

At some point the artifice of my approach dawned on me, and quite naturally I started using longer lenses and focusing on more intimate scenes. The change heralded something in the way I related to myself in that I became very conscious of wanting to do my own images and not imitate others. I also gave a lot less credence to feedback from others. My process and my discovery became more important. With this increased inwardness, my style became more inventive and unique; and going out with a camera on many mornings became a regular part of my life, like eating and sleeping.

Obviously there are times when I’m more productive than others, but I don’t experience dry spells. There’s rarely a time I spend in the field that I don’t find enjoyable, enlivening and life enhancing.

I have a pretty active mind. I can hike down a beautiful trail and if I’m going over things in my mind, I’ll see very little.

However give me a camera and put me on the same trail and I’m a different person. Whatever may have been troubling me is put on hold or dropped altogether and I’m quiet and focused on my surroundings.

Yes, I consider myself extremely fortunate.

I think the biggest obstacles that we have to creativity and originality is thinking that it means more that it does. Don’t get me wrong, creativity is extraordinary, but it is no guarantee of our producing great art or getting recognition for it. If we pursue creativity, and expect to get into it, we must pursue it for an end in itself.

In this country, success is everything and those of us who follow a different path are generally not appreciated, to say the least, unless we’re successful. Then we’re lauded as great thinkers and inventors. But if success is not in our cards, we’re considered failures for not being good sheep.

Neither success or failure will make you a better artist. Actually going inside and listening to yourself is a lot easier than listening to others and trying to please them. We’re just conditioned to think the other way.

So, what do you want? Do you want to be successful? Do you want to be liked? Do you want to produce great art? Or do you want to be an artist? I have those other desires too, they’re just not as strong.

I’ve made my choice. I love being an artist.

~ by danbaumbach on May 26, 2018.

6 Responses to “Creativity”

  1. Great post, Dan. I really identify with the paragraph on walking down a trail. I too go out nearly every day for some amount of time to tune in and tune out. This part of my life sometimes is only 20 minutes, sometimes hours. The time doesn’t matter though. EE

  2. Beautifully said Dan…

  3. So very well said. Thank you!

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