Why it’s important to experiment and make bad art
When I have been photographing lots of clean images for clients, I find I need a change from the predictable and what is necessary commercially.
That’s when I break out my most extreme elements of the art creation process: trick lenses, rare foods, bright colours or patterns and far-out editing and styling. Why? Because if I don’t move through the world, I go insane. I cannot keep doing the same thing without fresh and vital discoveries punctuating these projects.
I use these opportunities to push all sorts of envelopes, reaching the far outer edges of my mind.
What mostly happens in this space is extreme beauty coupled with extreme ugly. Needless to say, for the fragile artist this can be a spiky journey because you will create a lot of bad art in your quest for self discovery. You might judge it as bad because you will look at an image as a separate piece on its own, unrelated to the 50 others you made in a sequence. It is important to realise that all of them form part of the whole experience of discovering something new and beautiful in the end.
When I first started out with photography, I didn’t have a clue about most of it. In teaching myself how to edit without any guide on colour principals or what clients needs were, I launched into a season of making use of every colour out there in extreme to test what I liked. I’m talking purple vineyards and red grass guys… Yes, it was bad. It was the worst. But what I love about that is that I was being really good at exploring.
So, I like to reclaim a bit of that mad burst of play in order to discover something new and evolve. Forget what’s come before as much as you can and just mess around. Try things you may have thought were weird or silly, but somehow you just kinda liked it anyway. Do more of that! In there you will discover something so magical. Do this with an open mind and a non-judgemental attitude and the results will follow.
One of the judgements that ferrets around our creative process is having a consideration for what other people might think about our work. I don’t need to remind you that this is not healthy for your artistic and generally human heart. Forget about it, please. If your concern is that your work is not commercially viable, then you need to recognise that approaching an experimental shoot on your own time is Research & Development and all successful companies do this.
As a commercial artist we are mostly given briefs and parameters, so R & D is not absolutely essential to keep creating what your clients expect. However, in order to go beyond what you are capable of delivering, I recommend an experimental or just a personal shoot, that you don’t need to share with anyone.
If you do choose to share it with someone, you must be prepared to hear their opinion. If you are listening to your inner guidance, you will know what the imagery you created means to you and you validate it irreversibly that way. If you are seeking an opinion, you might not feel happy with what you created and are hoping for someone to tell you otherwise. Listen to yourself. You know if something isn’t vibing somewhere, so just keep shooting and playing with the post-processing until something sparks. Or not. Come back another day, but don’t feel disheartened that you didn’t produce something you may have expected. The lesson here will show itself in time as part of a bigger whole.
Explore the details of what attracted you to the chosen objects in the first place. Is it the texture of the fabric or the brushed and dull metal of the spoons? Don’t be afraid to just focus on a part of your set up, even before it’s properly set up. Sometimes just moving and shooting can illuminate the centre point of attraction for you and create gentle mood imagery that supports your main story.
Try composing directly in the centre, or only in the bottom right corner. If you shoot mostly from the top then try 3/4 angles. Whatever you usually do, try its opposite is what I’m getting at. Break rules.
Try using texture overlays for a world of possibilities in your images. Or make your own by using brushes with shape dynamics to make textures and play with the blending layers. Push the colours in shadows and matte the image. The images don’t even have to match if you don’t feel they should. Don’t focus on perfection or completion. See how many different looks you can get from one collection. They don’t have to live together.
How did I choose the subject? I felt pink at the time of starting to create, so I made a pink smoothie and scooped up all the pink things in the room that spoke to me. There is no right or wrong, or technical or correct here. It’s a feeling – trust it.
If you would like to make a few images work as a collection, it helps to use one image as the guiding light of inspiration and match everything to that one image’s look and feel.
For me, it’s mostly about the feeling, the emotive response from the image. This way the viewer is affected emotionally by what you have created and therefore becomes a part of the artwork.
I also experimented with the food itself. Berry smoothie bowls are nothing new here and I absolutely adore them, so I like to have a constant to my variable in experimenting.
The experiment was dusting my buckwheat crispies in beetroot powder and a little rooibos tea to make it stick. This made the crispies dark pink instead of green.
My basic ingredients are raspberries, strawberries, bananas, soaked or boiled cashew nuts for creaminess, coconut milk and all my powders (in this case beetroot powder, maca, chaga and cinnamon). A little rocher of coconut cream and my favourite toasted flaked almonds add a bit of texture and fancy.