“To be an artist, you don’t have to compose music or paint or be in the movies or write books. It’s just a way of living. It has to do with paying attention, remembering, filtering what you see and answering back, participating in life.”

~Viggo Moretensen


The fall months can be difficult for me to be creative from the stand point of being inspired with the changes I observe. Certainly this is something I have to learn to be open too and accepting of what I am viewing and not try to force things into a set vision. In other words I need to quit being stubborn and be open to new views without dismissing them because they don’t fit my previous successes. And lets not foget after all the army training in the cold and wet weather, I really prefer to stay warm, dry and comfortable now days.

I happened to be sitting in my office on the floor the other night, just letting my mind wander and I suddenly noticed the nautilus shells on the upper shelf of the book case in front of me. I have a set of nautilus shells I have photographed over the years, inspired by the Nautilus shell made famous by Edward Weston. I wanted to have a print similar to his and of course this led to other arrangements of my own using my own collection of shells. I have a whole nautilus shell and one that has been cut into uneven thirds. In any case, as I was close to eye level with the shells I noticed a point of view I had not considered previously. This led sudden observation inspired me to start arranging and contemplating photographs for the following day.

So the next day I started photographing and came up with several new arrangements and was excited with the results. During one of the exposures, the center nautilus shell fell over with about 10 seconds left in the exposure. I was a bit annoyed about the spoiled exposure and knew I would need to start over with the arrangement and exposure. But when I observed the image on the digital camera screen I noted the main shell was only partially recorded in the upright position and in the fallen position. I loaded the file onto my computer and while the image was not one I would use to make a final print, it did give me an idea for another direction I could use in making images. Wow, two observations leading to new ideas and compositions I had not previously considered.

I went back and arranged the shells and made a new exposure of the arrangement. Then part way through the exposure I removed the main shell, leaving a “ghost” image. While this can easily be done or manipulated with Photoshop using layers, I found for me personally, the Photoshop rendition did not have the same feel. The resulting images were exciting and started me thinking in different ways and along different lines on how to observe and create images aligned with this new found vision.

As to whether this creative episode was by accident, coincidence, observation or serendipity, seems to be irrelevant. What I learned from this experience is to be prepared and open to recognizing new possibilities in seeing, and when presented with new ideas, and then to act upon them. This may include study of other occupations or art forms to open your vision to new opportunities. Most often these changes in our vision or being open to new ideas comes about because of changes in our lives.

In the book Go Rin No Sho, The Book of Five Rings, by Miamoto Musashi, Musashi made the observation that men pass through life as warriors, gentlemen, artisans, farmers and merchants. While Musashi was referring to strategy and the Way of the Sword, he implies that it is an artist who has mastered many art forms besides that of the sword, such as tea drinking (sado), laboring, writing, and painting, who achieves true mastery of the sword.

In much the same way, mastery and exposure to many conditions or experiences in life opens us to being prepared as artists to observe, and then create because we have expanded our limited understanding. From a small sliver of experience and knowledge to an ever expanding understanding of the universe we live in, the ever changing human condition, and our own changing inner nature. All of these are changing and growing throughout our lives and the potential for new and exciting art is potentially limitless.

Regardless of the reason for our creative inspiration, be open to seeing and experiencing life in a way that will allow you to express your art and your inner intent. Our lives are a series of experiences and our art is an expression of that life.