They’re a never-ending source of inspiration and fascination for me. Watching someone who is transfixed by their side gig, and who is good at what they do – it doesn’t matter what the hobby is, it’s fun to watch and listen.
I’ve had my share of hobbies over the years: comic books, old Macintosh computers, photography, travel. You know I’m into something if I start a blog about it.
I have a theory that the fan art we see these days is just another version of religious art during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. What do we care about? What are we passionate about, as a culture? What moves us emotionally? That’s what gets made in sculpture, painting, drawing, etc. And a lot of it comes with no expectations of fame, money, or recognition. Most people just want others to share in the joy of creation.
The Artist-in-Residence Program is open to artists and artisans whose work can be influenced by the unique northern wilderness setting of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Michigan’s largest state park encompasses 25 miles of wave-washed shores, four inland lakes, entire river systems, countless waterfalls, enchanting wooded peaks, and an escarpment, which rises slowly from the edge of Lake Superior until it plummets abruptly into the Carp River valley.
The Artist-in-Residence Program offers writers, composers and all visual and performing artists an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the park and to express it through their art form. Each year a number of artists will be selected for residencies lasting a minimum of two weeks.
Again: if I were a younger man, and photography was a hobby, I would jump at this.
Back in 2011, I visited Michigan’s only mountain range during a drive-through trip in the Upper Peninsula. It’s beautiful country. A two-week stay to do nothing but explore and make art? It would’ve been a dream for my younger self.
There are institutions, professionals and organizations that would like you to believe that you don’t have much choice in the matter.
They want to take away your agency, because it makes their job easier or their profits higher.
But you have more choice than you know.
In our recent move, I’ve twice dealt with corporations and utilities that have made me feel like I have no agency. Most recently, Apple Support left me hanging on an Apple ID and iTunes issue. Apple! A company I’ve supported each of my adult years!
Call support centers are a form of capitalist nihilism. There’s no reason for any of the decisions made except to make the company’s situation better, and to help you feel powerless. It’s rare that a support interaction has a positive outcome – so rare, that we marvel at Creation when it happens.
My Apple interaction was especially galling. From 2005-2008, I purchased a bunch of music under an old Apple ID. From 2008 on, I’ve been purchasing music from a different Apple ID, unaware of the consequences, so now I have a bunch of music in limbo. The support center’s solution? “Switch Apple IDs each time you want to listen to that music.” Helpful! And silly. What they don’t tell you is that each time you switch Apple IDs in iTunes, it locks the previous Apple ID for 90 days.
Three months! Unacceptable. And completely arbitrary.
So now I’ll be sticking to downloading my music from companies with fewer arbitrary restrictions (as Godin writes, keeping the “ability to shop around”). It’s one of the reasons I don’t rely on subscription-based music services. There is, by definition, no agency involved in that transaction. If you unsubscribe, all the music goes away.
The larger point can be applied to creativity and photography, of course. There’s creative agency – that sense of not being held hostage by expectations and self-imposed pressure. On the technology side, by submitting our work to Instagram and Tumblr, you’re giving up a bit of agency. And if something goes wrong, your only recourse is a faceless call center, if that.
My one weak spot: Flickr. I rely on Ol’ Reliable for so much of what I do, including image hosting for this very blog. And I have a lot of time and infrastructure wrapped up in that website. If something goes wrong, I’ll be in a bit of trouble. It won’t be catastrophic, but it certainly won’t be fun.
When we keep our agency, in the form of hosted, backed-up websites and blogs, we have a bit more say in the matter. We can always pack up and put up our tent somewhere else.
Success is really an iceberg. On the surface you see the rewards and accolades, but underneath it is nothing but blood, sweat, failure, hard work, frustration, set backs, disappointment, and resistance.
I was invited to give a talk at the Jackson Civic Art Association Tuesday night on my still life photography: what was my thinking, what were my techniques, etc. It was also a how-to for other artists to think about making their own still life paintings, drawings, or photos.
It’s a good way to really think about your own projects. If you have to explain the whole thing, from idea to execution, you get really intimate with your process. I feel like the talk was good for me and helpful for them.
And many of the group members did come up and compliment me on my presentation. “I really appreciate the length of your talk,” one lady told me. “Some people are up there for hours going on and on about technique.”
That’s another thing: can you show and tell in an efficient time frame?
In another life, I was probably a teacher. Coworkers at my last job nicknamed me “Professor Dave” because of my presentation style, and my love for getting up on a whiteboard and scribbling out thoughts and ideas. I see talks like the one I gave Tuesday as part lesson, part performance. It’s fun for me.
It was also fun to break down my inspirations, thinking, and planning during the still life project.