How does one get inspired to new creativity? Any visual medium such as viewing other photographs, videos, movies and more can be a trigger for you. I get a lot from spending time in art museums. Above is a close-up detail from a museum painting.
We’ve all heard that saying, ‘Garbage In Garbage Out.’ Here’s a heads-up. It has to do with our visual literacy as well as computers. Our brain is a lot of neurons constantly firing and looking for connections. If the gray matter is stimulated with wonderful visuals it will eventually make it’s way out into our imagery.
If you keep feeding your brain with fabulous art, color and solid artistic information your visual literacy increases. When that happens you see more. And when you see more, well you know that can only be good for your photography.
During travel for speaking engagements I almost always schedule two extra days for my trip. One is for a museum visit. The other to photograph with a fellow photographer. Let me offer some ideas on your visit and how to get the most from your outings.
In the museum take a fellow visual artist. Share ideas on the work you see. Bouncing ideas back and forth can expand your understanding of the work.
Take your time
Don’t dance your way through the art like a butterfly flitting from piece to piece. Trying to see as much as you can during your visit will lead to not seeing or absorbing very much. When in the museum environment, I slow down. Way down. When a painting or sculpture calls to me, I spend a long time with it. Five minutes at a normal distance, letting my eyes dance through the space. Five minutes as close as I can without having the guards come a running. This is to study the individual paint strokes and colors to see how they look. Stepping as far back as I can get I look to see how the paint strokes resolve into the subject.
Photographing with a fellow photographer is wonderful. It’s pretty amazing that if you put a couple photographers together with the same subject in the same light just how different the final images can be. I’m always amazed when I shoot with an out of Sedona photographer how they are able to see totally different concepts and imagery from my own home turf.
While I am studying the art, I make reference photos. I take an overall image including the frame. One is made inside the frame making the art as large as possible. I capture the information tag as well so I know the artist and the story of the art. Finally, I photograph finite details of the paint strokes and colors. These can be a reference of color palettes with which to play or as textures when using blend modes in my Photoshop layers. These of course, are manipulated quite a bit as well.
What if you can’t go?
If you can’t get to a museum live that doesn’t mean you still can’t be inspired by the artwork. Searching online will yield tons of imagery. You can search for specific artists or museums. Many museums have digitized their entire collection. When you are doing your searches don’t just put in the artist’s name as you will end up with having to sift through lots of people trying tot sell you reproductions. Add ‘in museums’ to your search terms or search directly in the museum of your choice to get started.
What’s your favorite museum?
Let me know in the comments below your favorite museum, and why, so I can add it to my list. When I come to speak in your town or city I’ll have a head start on where to go. Who knows? We might even be able to go together!
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob
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