Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's Easy is Hard

I spend a good amount of time talking with other photographers and artsy-types. Most of the time we yap about normal life stuff. How's the family? Did you see the latest Judd Apatow movie? Does this mole look dangerous to you? Eventually, inevitably, we start talking shop.

When you're around a like-minded group, this can be very cathartic. The sense that we're in the same boat (leaks and all) is palpable. Commiseration about a lost job comes just as easily as congratulations for signing the big contract. We know the long, solitary hours needed to create. And we know the deep sense of satisfaction that only comes when you finish a major project.

But sometimes the differences come out as well. If you want to provoke long, thoughtful pauses, and are willing to wade through a sea of "Umms," "Ahs," and "Good questions," just ask an artist, "Do you enjoy the process of creation?"

For most of us, the answer is, eventually, "Yes, I do enjoy it. But it's very hard work." Boy, howdy, is it ever. There are days when the last thing you want to do is sit at the computer and edit yesterday's shoot. After all, you've already done the job, right? Or, worse yet, you've edited it and sent it to the art director, only to have them say, "It's good, but we decided to try something different. Can you reshoot?"

I mention this because I just spent the last three hours story-boarding a new project. (A children's book, if you must know.) And as much as I enjoy being an artist and letting the creative juices flow, most of this afternoon was like pulling teeth. Every line had to be examined. Every frame thought through. Where does this character go? Will this layout work with the text? How in the world am I going to shoot this?

Yes, it was hard work, pulling ideas out of the either and putting them down on paper so I won't forget them. (Memory like a steel-sieve.) But I finished all twenty-eight panels. And I feel good.

That is, I'll feel good for about an hour. Then I'll realize that I've only just started; barely scratched the surface to be honest. It's going to be months of location shooting, creating models and working in the studio, until this project is done.

But I know that I have good people around to help me through. When I'm so sick of the project I can barely look at it without cringing, when it takes all my willpower to sit down and do one more edit, when, three-quarters of the way through, I get a better idea and have to change everything that's come before, then I'll lean on my friends and family. They're there for me, and they know the awful truth: Art looks easy. Creating art is hard.

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