Tag Archive | art

One dream in the process of fulfillment!

Just recently I wrote a list of hopes and dreams that helped define what I wanted out of life. It made me realize that a huge part of what made me happy was appreciating and creating beauty, which was why photography made it into the list. Well, guess what? There must be some truth to the folk wisdom that says writing things down helps them become reality, because for the past month I’ve been busy learning and exploring my new Nikon D3100. It’s more fun than I ever expected it to be, and the sense of wistfulness I always feel whenever I experience something beautiful is lessened with a camera in my hands. If I can capture something in a photograph, then that moment will never be lost or forgotten, and I can take others inside my memory and share what I’ve seen. It’s an incredible thrill.

It’s also a challenge. I’ve never been a gadget enthusiast. I have a five-year-old ASUS netbook that still runs on Windows XP, a Nokia cellphone with a huge blot in the middle of the LCD, and a 500 gigabyte external hard drive that makes mysterious clicking noises every now and then. And I’m completely okay with these things, though more than one of my techie friends have given me looks of mingled horror and laughter upon seeing the ridiculous state of my electronics. But now that I’m getting into photography, I realized that my blend of ignorance and indifference might keep me terribly limited. A modern SLR camera is a complex piece of technology, and if I can’t maximize its potential, then I might as well have stayed with my little point-and-shoot. And then there are lenses, software, lighting equipment, and so on (I mean, who knew there are actually debates about which kind of memory card is the best? A memory card is a memory card to me: blue and plastic and annoyingly easy to forget that I’ve left it in the computer)…until I’m just about ready to take up painting instead. However, my utter lack of talent with a brush or even crayons compels me to pick up the camera manual once again, then put it down in exasperation, and turn to Google for an explanation written in real-person language, not the incomprehensible jargon that the good folks at Nikon would have me believe is English. Thank God for free online tutorials, is all I can say.

Aside from the technical aspect, I am sometimes intimidated by how far I still have to go. The thing about being a bookworm is that I tend to gobble up information as fast as I can get it on whatever subject I’m interested in, which sometimes leads to overload and the frustrating awareness of how very much I still have to learn. (The more I know, the more I know how little I actually know, if that makes sense.) Then there’s the pleasure/torment of looking at the works of photographers I admire and wondering if I’ll ever make it to that level of artistry. I shared this piece of insecurity to a friend who’s a really talented photographer, and he responded with this insight:

I realized that he’s right, and that I need to be patient with myself. Photography is like writing, where you have to gradually find your own voice, and though I’ve been writing for most of my life, I know the journey’s far from over. I’m simply enjoying the process when it comes to writing, so I’ll try to apply the same attitude to photography and take it one click at a time. As an amateur, I may not turn out the best photos the world has ever seen, but it’s all about experiencing beauty, and that doesn’t require credentials, a portfolio, or even the most cutting-edge technology. Just open eyes and a willingness to see the world in a new way. I have those in abundance, and I know it’s gonna be fun.

My first DSLR 🙂

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Crayons and Pens

When I was a kid, I loved to draw. You know those eight-year-old artistic prodigies, whose creative genius defies the limitations of their youth and blows society’s expectations right out of the water? Yeah, I wasn’t one of those. In fact, I was objectively terrible. Some of the other kids managed to color lightly and evenly, but I gripped those crayons tight and pushed them eagerly onto the paper as if the extra energy could make the colors brighter and prettier somehow. Mostly it just made things messier, but I didn’t mind. I was a child, and the wonderful thing about being a child is the ability to enjoy an activity whether or not you’re good at it. So I enjoyed the heck out of those crayons, filling notebook after notebook with drawings and scribbles. I had this hobby of keeping lists of favorite words, and some of the ones I liked the most I tried to illustrate, taking delight in capturing the nuances of “exquisite” with a lopsided yellow, pink, and green butterfly. I’d carry my notebook and crayons around with me, my favorite toys instead of the dolls and kitchen play sets that my little sister liked. Those clumsy drawings of beautiful words were my idea of fun, even though I never showed them to anyone.

Then I grew up, and the uncomplicated pleasure of drawing was forgotten when I learned how important it was to be excellent in whatever you choose to do. In high school, I had several classmates who were incredibly artistic, and I was content with admiring their talent while focusing on my own skills. I wrote more, realizing that it was something that came naturally to me, and drove myself to be better. The more I learned, the more I became aware of how very far I still have to go.

Most of the time, that awareness is a really good thing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, since I realized that writing is something I’d like to do seriously, not just as a hobby, I’ve been racked with insecurity. Freelancing and ghostwriting jobs are fine, as they don’t really require personal vulnerability, but creative writing? The kind of writing I long to do won’t let me play it safe when it comes to emotional commitment. And I worry that even if I find the courage, my skill might not be up to the task of creating something worth publishing. Suddenly it’s not just about self-expression and storytelling, but about gaining the public’s approval. And it paralyzes me.

It’s wrong; I know it’s wrong. The best books I’ve ever read were those written honestly, bravely, with no thought to critics, awards, or sales. As a reader I know when courage and truth are on the page, and when gimmicks and crowd-pandering are used as substitutes. No matter how excellent the technique, the first fires me up while the second leaves me cold. I know which kind of writing I want to do.

I need inspiration. I need to remind myself of the simple pleasure of doing something and not thinking about how others might respond. Excellence is important, yes, and I will pursue it all my life. But it’s no substitute for heart. It’s no substitute for finding joy in creativity in itself without worrying that I’m not as talented as others are. No matter what I do, there will always be someone who can do it better. It doesn’t mean I should stop doing  what I love. I need to remember this.

So I think I should buy myself some crayons. I’ll get the biggest box with seven shades of every color, the nostalgic smell of wax, and memories of uncomplicated joy. I haven’t done this in years and I’m sure I’ll be as bad at drawing as ever, but who cares? I’ll go draw myself some words.

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