Learning From Other Artists

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, instructs her readers to take “Artist Dates”. These are to be done on a weekly basis, and are meant to be dedicated times for exploring art, time for nurturing your inner artist. This week, Kat has invited us to go to an art gallery for much the same reason, to bring to our attention how the art we observe affects us, and then look at how the art of others influences our photography. 

You know from my post yesterday that we went to the Allen County Fair and took in all the sights and sounds.  The displays of the 4-H projects were fun to look at, bringing back memories of my own 4-H days. There was a photography display that I was particularly interested in, as friends of mine had submitted photos. In that same building were all the handmade items, sewing, knitting, quilting, crocheting, some wood working, and so much more.  I considered this part of my observation for this assignment, and learned some very interesting things which I’ll share later.

Saturday we went to visit Art Space in downtown Lima, a lovely gallery and one of the treasures of this community. There are many works of art on display right now, made of different mediums, displayed in such a way that you just want to let your eyes drink it all in.  We’ve been there many times before and never been disappointed.  

Here is what I learned in this assignment.

  • I was inspired by how so many artists have taken different materials and transformed them into beauty… using paper, clay, wood, metal, wool, glass, beads…
  • What I like was the quality in each work of art. More importantly I was impressed by the questions that the art brings to my mind.
  • What I did not like? Art work that is too busy, too technical, too precise. There were large wooden puzzles that were magnificent in their own way, but they did not inspire me. That’s just me.
  • What ‘called’ to me? Simple folded paper made into works of art. Hard to explain in a blog post…but I am so impressed by simple objects being transformed into beautiful art.
  • What did I notice especially that was “new” to me? I have to use the word context.  Placing a work of art in such a way that you are drawn to it, so the eye focuses on it. Not crowded, but allowed space to breathe. Sometimes this includes negative space around the object. When I compare the experience of viewing photos at the fair versus viewing art (or photos) in the art gallery, the art gallery experience wins. And it is not because the art is any better or worse in either place…. it’s because the art itself is honored when placed in such a way that it has space around it to breathe. I hope that makes sense to you. 
  • The art that moved me includes those creations that spoke to me, those that I saw as a whole and did not try to analyze or see how it was made. These creations were “seamless” to me. Not staged. Not fake or out of place. But very real. Complete. Fashioned in such a way that they looked natural, organic, as if to say “Why, this piece of wool has always been the figure of a man or of a spirit flower!” The artist knows how to find the creation in the medium or material being used.
  • What elements would take from this and add to my photographic work? That element of space, of using negative space, and giving a subject room to breathe and be the focus of the eye. I have done this to some extent already, but I think this is what I will concentrate on more as time goes forward.

Then comes the part where I must share a photo from my own inspiration file that shows similar elements in my photography. I chose this photo of a simple but beautiful window, taken at Lakeside recently.  This image is cropped so that what you really see is the window, the structure of it, and the window box of geraniums that add color and warmth. It’s a window on a house but the shape suggests a church building.

Thanks, Kat, for the assignment, for making me look deeper.

14 Replies to “Learning From Other Artists”

  1. This post reminded me of a story I've heard about Michelangelo, who, when asked how he had created his beautiful statue of David, said that he had merely removed from the block of marble everything that was NOT David.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Beautiful post. Your image is such a great example in support of your words. And you brought up a concept that I need to consider more in my work – negative space. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is – to let the work breathe.

  3. Your comment "giving a subject room to breathe and be the focus of the eye" has given me much to think about! I tend to fill the frame. I will be trying the element of negative space in my photos! Great post and I love your image! It's a perfect example of your words!

  4. Such a wonderful post! Your observations are beneficial to all of us. I really like your comparison of the art gallery vs. fair experience. It speaks to the environment we view the art in, just like the difference between looking online and going in person to see the art. I find it interesting that you are called to the art that transforms everyday objects, naturally and seamlessly. Isn't that what we do in our photos? Take something that is part of our everyday experience, like your window, and transform it to art by focusing on it. Lots of food for thought!

  5. Great post. I love your comment about using negative space and giving the subject room to breathe. I only ever manage to do this accidentally and really need to give it more focus. Beautiful photo too. Becsx

  6. Hi Deb
    What a wonderful post. Your commentary of the art fair, your likes and dislikes,what you saw, the depth of what you saw, all the details seemed to just flow together. I was totally captivated me with every sentence. You're a GREAT photographer and equally good at story telling. I want more!!!

  7. 'artist dates'! i like this idea, finding time every week to look at some artist's work, making it a ritual, what a great idea. your post is so interesting, you have such a clear way of describing your experience. food for thought.

  8. I am so enjoying reading other's takes on this experience. I found your insight on "space", well, insightful.
    I also love that you thought to find art at a fair.
    When you said "The art that moved me includes those creations that spoke to me, those that I saw as a whole and did not try to analyze or see how it was made. These creations were "seamless" to me. Not staged. Not fake or out of place. But very real."
    That is beautifully said and reminds me of the difference when I shoot something and feel physically something within-and the result vs. something that I know is technically "right". I'm trying to do more of the former and less of that later.
    Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.

  9. Teresa and Florence,
    Artists Dates are an idea from that book "The Artist's Way", which I read several years ago with a group of dear friends. I highly recommend the book. It is filled with writing ideas, and 'stuff' that helps you celebrate the artist within you. Though I'm not currently working through that book I have seriously considered reading it again.

  10. The book "The Artist's Way" sounds very interesting. That is one of the things I like about the internet/blogging. You hear so many things you would never have heard about without it.
    It was interesting to read your experience and especially about your use of negative space. I try to use it as well. I like how you combined it with a natural frame to give a peek in the world behind the window.

  11. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, especially regarding negative space in an image. That's something I need to integrate into my images. I like how ended the post with a single image that summed up the entire post. Nicely done!

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