I trained as a concert pianist for over twenty years. I still believe that I could have been really great, but I lacked one minor (or slightly major) quality. The ability to give myself entirely to the art. There were always too many other alluring interests that also captured my attention: theater, composing music, reading, academics, having a social life…etc.
I’ll never forget Austin. A child protegie pianist who studied in the same music program as I, but with the famed Julliard teacher. When Austin expressed interested in joining the High School Swim Team, there was an adamant “NO!” given from the instructor. “It will take away too much time from your practice.”
I always wondered why that seemed like a good decision. I belong to the school of thought that
“the more experiences you have in this life doing many different things, makes you a better artist and creator.”
I’m sure I was more of an expressive pianist than I otherwise would have been because I had experienced what it felt like to ride horses by moonlight through narrow mountain trails, the feeling of swimming in a glacier lake with a brewing thunder storm casting violent waves upon the usual still glass water surface, the feelings of being heart broken by crushes and affections not returned, the exhilaration of acting on stage as the antagonist of the High School musical, the contemplative hours spent writing silly cowboy poetry about bad blind dates and inside family jokes. Yep, all those experiences and many more provided more colors to my creative and emotional pallet. Perhaps more so than isolating my life schedule to only include the intensity of eight hours of piano practice a day.
Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am. There still must be dedicated attention and time devoted to an art form, but the more varied our experiences in other areas only add enhancement to our expression.
Even variance within an art form can add to our pallet.
I found myself recently telling someone, “I’m a lifestyle photographer. I photograph people.” As the words escaped my mouth I immediately felt the confines of the box that I placed myself in. Could I not photograph other things? Was I really that restricted?
At a family reunion this summer, I arose before the sun (not typical of me) to photograph the family ranch I’ve grown to love every summer of my entire life. No people. Just me, the lovely early morning light, and the land that held so many exciting memories.
I began to look at things differently. I framed my images differently than when I shoot lifestyle. I looked for small details that I often miss in the exhilaration of working with people. I photographed for myself. Not to please a client, not to capture a person, but to artistically document still life that was meaningful to me.
It was only a matter of 45 minutes or so, but I walked away more confident and satisfied with myself than I had been in a long time. I had just stretched myself. I had experienced a challenge in doing something that was out of the norm for me and a camera. My mind was refreshed.
Sometimes we need to get out of the rut. Step out of the boxes we use to define ourselves, and stretch the usual patterns of our creative thought.
What experiences have helped you in your creative expression? What do you do to beat the rut?