Becoming an Artist

Other essays in this series

Monument Valley at Dusk © Howard Warren,2005
ISO 100, 0.6 sec. exposure,  Canon 24-70mm f/2,8L @ 30mm on Canon 1Ds Mark II in Manual mode

How does one become an artist? Or is one an artist who does not know how to express it? I am asked these questions regularly and the answer is never easy. In fact, there is rarely an answer. Why? Not because the question cannot be answered but because it is not just a matter, for the person asking the question, to hear the answer. Getting the answer will not make someone an artist. In this matter one needs more than an answer. One needs an experience. There is just only so far that reading, reflecting and talking about this subject will allow you to progress.

So what's next? Am I an artist? Could be. In fact many people are artists who do not know it or do not have the opportunity to express it. But the only way that I can know for sure, and the only way YOU can know for sure (which is what really matters) is if you go out and try.

So how do you do so? Well, Natalie and I designed a unique workshop program designed to help you take creative photographs that are extensions of your personality, that are, yes we are getting there: art. Ah, art! And what is that? Well, this essay is intentionally short and going into a definition of art will take me all night (it's 8pm right now in Arizona). So let me just say that art, to be extremely brief, is about expressing yourself, expressing your emotions, your personality, how and what you felt and so on.

But how do you do that? Simple: place yourself in a situation that inspires you, a situation in which it is OK to be an artist and to create artistic photographs. This is what our workshops are designed for, and this is what we can help you with.

This is exactly how Howard, May Navajoland workshop Participant, created the photograph above. As Howard writes:

I learned a lot, but if I had learned only one thing it would have made it all worth it, and that one thing was : it's OK to be an artist.  I know I will improve, but just this is an amazing change from the way I thought prior to the workshop and your articles. I can't tell you how excited I am at finally  being able to produce something that I'm proud of.  Kathy, my wife, just came home and saw it and can't quit looking at the print.  It printed beautifully.

There is little else I can add, really, except maybe a short note about how we conduct our workshops. In our May Navajoland workshop we started our first shoot by listening to Travis Terry play Native American flute music before sunrise. While the gray of dawn gave way to the splendid colors of sunrise, the notes of Travis' flute echoed along the canyon walls. You could hear Travis' music a quarter mile away, and probably beyond that, maybe clear to the other side of Canyon de Chelly. The rich musical tones of his flute, the emotion that was conveyed by his singing (Travis is also a great singer) and the greeting that Travis gave to the new day, set the tone for the whole workshop. What a send off! If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren't, you need to join us for our next Navajoland workshop to really know what I mean. You will never forget it. I know I won't.

You can read a letter I received from Howard in -Reflections on Photography and Art-8-Why attend a Workshop?


Text and photograph of Travis Terry Copyright © Alain Briot 2005
Monument Valley photograph Copyright © Howard Warren 2005