Change for the Sake of Your Art

In my last post I paraphrased Barney Davey when he mentioned that how artists promote themselves is constantly changing. Not only must artists constantly evaluate their marketing approach, but we must also continually monitor our working procedures and approaches to making our art, keeping ourselves and our art open to change.

Everywhere you turn, there are advocates for evaluation and change. Hazel Dooney has recently tweeted, “It’s time to reinvent my life and my self again. It’s disconcerting. But then I know that not to do it would be worse.” Virtual Photography Studio suggests that you should strive to be unrecognizable in five years. Seth Godin advises that we need to take control and set or reset our own agendas.

But change is scary. Change can be disorienting. In two recent blog posts, “Keep it Simple (Not Stupid)” and “I As Another,” Dooney explains some specific changes she has made and goes on to discuss why change frightens and disorients us so much: “Change is threatening because it replaces the past with something new. New experiences also change the context of the memories we’ve retained.” In keeping with her declared changes, Dooney announced that she would be closing her blog, which has been active since December, 2006. (I would encourage those who are interested to quickly read her ideas before they disappear; she has much to say about art and the creation and marketing of art.)

No matter how threatening change is, it is a necessity. The alternative is to go stale, to keep producing the old and familiar. While that may be comfortable, it is not creative, it contains no growth. And, like a business, an artist who is not growing is dying. Sharon Weaver writing on Empty Easel maintains that “your art will never improve…until you embrace change.”

So, once again, it seems that we must face the frightening. First it was marketing and sales, and now it’s reinvention. Will baby steps work this time? I think not. I think that in order to make any change that is meaningful, you must jump. You must risk. Oh, you may plan, but the outcome of any significant change is uncertain. However, the rewards are tremendous. I know an actress who was also a singer who is now a singer who also acts. And she is tremendously productive and happy. It came time, she told me, to move on to the next phase of her career. That move was not without risk, but it paid off.

You will find many such stories. I, myself, have recently changed the concentration of my personal photographic practice. I created new approaches and new procedures and developed what were, for me, new forms. I had no idea what was going to happen, whether the change would be successful or I would fall on my nose. There was a lot of learning, preparation, and work involved in this new approach. But my efforts are now beginning to bear fruit, and I am feeling positive. I am still finding my way, but now, at least there is direction, albeit not fully charted.

As Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” reminds us, some people can be expected to dislike what you do when you reinvent yourself or change directions. But you must ask yourself for whom are you making the change? What are you trying to accomplish? Where are you trying to go? I’m not sure that change for the sake of change is the best choice, but change for the sake of your art or the sake of your self may be one the better choices you can make. Change may not make you popular, but it will feed your artistic soul.

Date: Monday, 25. April 2011 0:01
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Creativity, Photography

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  1. 1

    I like this a lot. In regards to the last paragraph, one of the lyrics from “Garden Party” is “Can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself”… That is very important when making the decision to change. Changing for the right reasons is always the better choice, even if not everyone agrees. Anyway…wonderful post, as always. 🙂

  2. 2

    Thank you. I think Nelson and you are right. In art you have to please yourself first. If others like it, all the better. Sometimes, change is the right move for an artist; others just have to keep up.

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