Make a list
October 30, 2012
Stepping into an environment with an open mind and no plan is possible. Such a serendipitous attitude can surprise with joy and unforeseen opportunities. But you can also be caught unprepared and blind to both potential and problems. Just as walking right by a particular owl in a certain kind of forest is possible, you need to know how to find what you're looking for. Go out with a list.
A list from a recent mountain sortie suggests looking for:
+ Foreground design that echoes background design.
+ Large patterns of complexity and arbitrary abstraction.
+ Contrast of light and weather for potential drama.
+ Opportunities for neutralized and gradated grays.
+ Opportunities for high colour in counterpoint.
+ Authentic form, inside knowledge and specific detail.
Some artists may not find it necessary to write this sort of thing down and keep referring to the items while shifting the easel. Beginning artists, particularly, should write them down. For advanced and focused artists, list items can be more automatic and burned into the creative psyche. For all of us, self-briefing before going out or starting a project sharpens artistic wit.
A good example of this sort of understanding is the British photographer Martin Parr--best known for his candid shots of people. Working backwards from Parr's brilliantly defined, colourful photos, we get a glimpse of what must be his list--the sort of things he consciously or unconsciously looks for when he steps out with his camera: Posers posing. Open-mouth eating. Extreme frumpiness. Gross flesh. Tight close-ups. Artificial environments. People selling. Evidence of vanity. People echoing one another's actions. Children being childlike. People decaying. Technological threat. Human separateness. Media, print, and signage as comment. The contrast of beauty and ugliness. Animals as humans. Humans as animals. Shopping mayhem. The vacant life. Extreme people. Mid action. Top of action. Doppelganger. Incongruity. Banality. The list goes on.
If you catch my drift, a list is the unseen backbone of passion. A list gives work the appearance of effortless creativity. Make a list.
PS: "Work harder, get closer, be passionate." (Martin Parr)
Esoterica: A list of your own making is the most powerful list of all. As well as the nuances of materials and equipment, personal lists can include work processes, both indoors and in the field. The good stuff can be "love at first sight"--in need of study, courting and claiming. And like a love note, it's nice to have things in writing. Incidentally, I've just hung up from talking to my daughter, Sara, in New York. We were going over her list: Battery radio. Flashlight. Spare batteries. Water. Granola. Sardines. Canson papers, Pastels. It's good to have a list.
- Jeri Lynn Ing
- Alan Soffer
- Maureen Brouillette
- Elle Fagan
- Celeste McCall
- Peter Brown
- Robin Shillcock
- Esmie G. McLaren
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