I recently had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine, who’s also an artist. We had a discussion around the idea of building your visual library. What we meant by that is to experiment and innovate instead of just being inspired.
So how do you build your visual library?
Observe and become aware of your environment and what you have to work with.
Take time to soak it all in. By doing this you’re also visualizing and playing around with ideas in your head.
When I’m taking photos I’m looking for main focus points, leading lines, etc. I’m also constantly aware of the weather and the lighting condition. Is it a clear day? Cloudy? Raining? Snowing? All these factors change the scene dramatically. Has it already rained? Are there droplets on the leaves or plants?
When you build your visual library you’re giving yourself more ideas to work with. Next time you’re out taking pictures you’ll immediately know what to look for and you can take those shots. Then when you’re done, you can take some time to look around and see what is new in this environment and photograph that as well.
I’ve suggested in the past to find a spot you can visit often where you can take photos. This gives you the opportunity to discover a new perspective on how to capture the same thing over and over again. Then you’re beginning to develop your eye for detail.
As a photographer, I’m looking for a single object to focus on with which I can tell a story, such as a flower or an environment where I’m trying to find the essence of what makes it look great, and then figuring out how to bring that to life.
In order to innovate you need to experiment. What you want to achieve as an artist is to combine different ingredients that have never been combined before in order to discover something new. Something that’s original to you. This can only be accomplished by trial and error. You must be willing to try things that might not work. Through all the failed attempts, you might find your “lightbulb” moment.
If you’re drawing, keep doodling. Just allow the pen or brush to flow. Own your time. There’s no rush, there’s no need to impress anyone. Allow the creativity to flow out of you. “Create in silence.”
There needs to be a time where you allow yourself to create without criticism. Just allow yourself to be creative. Allow yourself the opportunity to discover.
Don’t just be inspired, innovate.
Study and play with an object you’re trying to capture. Whether it is a physical object, a scenery, a flower, or a leaf.
Touch it. Feel it. Gaze upon it. Give your mind time to wander and discover.
When taking pictures, photograph from many different angles. Keep pressing that shutter button. Look at your photo, notice what you can improve, take the picture again. Rinse and repeat. If you’re not using a film camera, you have every reason to take hundreds of photos because your camera or phone has infinitely more storage space.
If you’re writing, play with the idea or narrative. Just keep typing. Whatever you do, don’t stop. See where your fingers lead you. Go down the rabbit hole. Once you’re in motion there’s no stopping you. Whatever you do, don’t analyze. Just keep going. Whether it’s gibberish or not. Keep moving forward. Keep the flow going.
Sure, after a paragraph or two it might not make sense anymore but that’s okay. You’re discovering. Even if you remove 80% of it, there might be a few small ideas in between those sentences. You can then separate those ideas and allow them to be a foundation for your next paragraph or article.
Endnote. Get rid of distractions, such as the internet, your phone, social media, etc. They might be a useful tool every now and then when you’re looking for inspiration, but not when you’re trying to innovate. You can’t have ideas and innovate when you’re constantly engaged with distractions. Give your mind time to roam and wander wherever it wants. Keep a pen and paper nearby and write down those thoughts and ideas when they appear.