Sunday, May 19, 2013

just when I thought I had it all (or 95% of it) figured out...

When I did my research project on what sort of camera I wanted to get next, Drew cautioned me about getting a new one right away because my skill level might go up while at NSCAD, and I might outgrow said cam like I did during the first year of the photography diploma at NBCCD. While my skill level has gone up, it hasn't affected what I demand of a camera. Instead it's affected the kind of art I want to make and my future plans. This is one of those times when I think I have it all figured out and then everything changes. It's happened before: a few years ago, I expected to be out on my own and doing my own thing by now. I'm still living at home and struggling to find a job.

FVA opened me up to different ways of creating, and I fell in love with art-making all over again (when I wasn't stressed out about getting my assignments done on time). I was exposed to possibilities that I hadn't known existed--see Denise Richard, Adam MacDonald and WhiteFeather. Being the artist that I dreamed of being was possible after all!

Fast forward to convocation 2012 and I had most of my plans figured out and how I was going to accomplish them. Fast forward again to September '12--whoa! There go most of my plans. Although I still want to do portraiture and dance photography (me + other artists of just about any media = I'm the happiest woman in the world), I'm being exposed to the more artistic and conceptual side of photography and am throwing myself into it more fully than I ever have in my life. The first semester was a bit of a push to think that way and I wondered if I was going to burn out in the process, but the second semester I was right back at it and having a blast. And it got me to thinking: I want to do more of this at a professional level. I want to be a fine artist, not just a photographer who hangs out with a backdrop doing portraits for clients (either in a studio or on location). I want to do work that would only be at home in a gallery (and then hopefully someone's living room wall). I want to apply for grants and use said grants to make art. I want to do residencies (anywhere--Canada, North America, somewhere else--just as long as it isn't a war zone and I can do my thing properly, which means electricity). I may even turn to crowdfunding, e.g., Kickstarter, at some point.

Thing is, I've almost always been surrounded by one way of doing art, and that way is "money first". Yes, in our capitalist society money matters. I need money to pay off the student loan (grrrrrrrrr...), eventually buy a car and get my own house/apartment, get new camera equipment (rechargeable batteries don't last forever), pay for Photoshop once I upgrade from CS6, which will be when what would've been CS8 is released, because I've been upgrading every two versions since I got my first laptop, which means that I have thirty-six months between versions (though I will say that I despise their new subscription-only format, and will hold onto CS6 as tightly as possible for as long as possible). Back on track (whew!), said "money first" approach generally means (for me, anyway) focusing on the commercial aspect of photography rather than the artistic side. I'm told that creating art is fine, but it shouldn't be your main thing because you won't make much money. I know that, but I still want to make art a bigger part of my career than my plans currently state (currently it's down at, oh, item number eight, if not lower). One of the things that I remember Peter telling my class is that if you're a photographer you have to work your butt off for the first ten or so years of your career before you really start to "make it" as an artist. And I realize that I may not end up being the next Ed Burtynsky (though I photograph different things than he does), but who says I can't dream? I may not get to that point, where my images are selling for thousands of dollars a pop, but then again it may end up happening--you just never know. Personally, I wouldn't mind having my work shown in a venue like the National Gallery of Canada (a show there = you've officially "made it").

NSCAD's unofficial motto is "nolo facere insipida", "after John Baldessari's lithograph I will not make any more boring art" (the official motto being "Head, Heart, Hand": [the] school's 'heart' beats as a unique independent art educator; the 'head' is the creative spirit of all who have a connection with the school and its historic good works; the 'hand' is the physical energy and assistance commanded out of loyalty to the school in ensuring its long-term well-being"), and I take said motto seriously. Although I will have to make boring art sometimes in order to make a living, when I don't have to I won't--I'll make art that lives up to Baldessari's words.

Thing is, I need to be able to create and experiment like I need air. If I'm not pushing myself creatively what's the point of life? Many of the artists and musicians that I admire are people who push the limits of creativity, and I aspire to be like them. Gene doesn't make boring art, neither does WhiteFeather. Beethoven didn't--in fact, if it weren't for Beethoven Gene wouldn't be writing music the way he does. I don't want to be a game-changer to the extent that Beethoven was (and Beethoven lived back in the day when artists had patrons), but I'm not exactly someone who will accept the status quo. I want to challenge the old ideas--and yes, I am idealistic.

Some young musicians dream of becoming a famous soloist when they grow up. I never wanted that: during the time that I wanted to be a violinist, I wanted to be a musician in an orchestra. Now, if this were music instead of visual art, I'd be leaning more toward being a soloist. Maybe play in an orchestra, but I'd also be a soloist in my own right. Photography and music are two completely different disciplines, but they are both art--and it's all the same in that it's difficult to "make it". By always wanting to be an artist of some kind, I've never chosen the easy path, anyway. But I prefer the challenge. I don't want to always skip through life because my work is fuelled by both the easy and the difficult times. And yes, I have to state to my parents that yes, this is what I want and I'm going to go for it no matter what. Photography isn't just about the more commercial side, just as painting isn't all about what'll sell--look at the Impressionists (though I do want to sell my work during my lifetime--I'm not Monet).

I will have to spend some time over the next year or so figuring out how I can/want to do this. How much time will I spend on art as opposed to other kinds of photography? How will I do it while still making ends meet and paying off the student loan (I've learned this past year that I'm happy not being the richest person out there--just as long as I know that I have enough to pay the bills and loan, buy food and other important things, buy new cam batteries every four or so years and new equipment every now and then, pay for Photoshop once I switch to the Creative Cloud version, go to PBSO concerts--tickets are just $10 each--maybe go to a movie once or twice a year, and get some new music and books every now and then, I'm happy)?

As I was writing this, I thought of chapter two, The Top Hat, from Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (Google's preview of that chapter is so awesome that you can read the whole thing), which discusses how, although we start out life being amazed by the world and everything in it, we eventually get used to life. The fact that we're told that the things that amaze us are just ordinary and nothing to get excited about and to shut up and sit down doesn't help matters. Like Sophie, I am aware of this and I never want to lose my childlike wonder at the world. Devoting more time to fine art is a way of holding onto said wonder.

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