Once you’ve found it CHALLENGE it!

We are on the last and final part of the Finding Your Inner Artist Series.  Let’s do a quick synopsis of Parts 1 & 2 before we go any further:

Part 1:  Find your style and what makes you unique

  • Don’t get so enveloped with someone else’s style that you disregard your own in the process.
  • Think of yourself as an Artist.
  • Allow your emotions to enter your processing.
  • Elaborate on the images that move you and attempt to reproduce that.

Part 2:  Find Your Style and Elaborate On It

  • Separate your Artistic Expression from the Technical Tools.
  • Your style comes out when you know exactly ‘why’ you are doing something which is much more important than knowing ‘how’ to do something.
  • You should always be considering your Artistic Expression with every technical stroke.  Literally ask yourself, “If I move this slider to the left or right does it add to the expression I want to create?”  
  • Becoming cognizant of your technical decisions and the affect they will have on your images is the first step in recognizing your style.

Now that you have found what makes you unique and are starting to elaborate on your style, how do you ensure it continues to evolve?

You challenge it.  You challenge your style with every post processing opportunity, this in a sense challenges your workflow as well.  I hate to be the one to rain on your parade, but if you have a set workflow and you just go through the ropes on every image, you are doing your inner artist an injustice.  You should never strive to get to “the end all be all” workflow as this does not challenge your inner style.  It looks a little something like this:

  • The Red Line is something to avoid at all costs
  • The Orange Line is something like a rut and while seemingly effective is detrimental to your style.
  • The Green line is the ideal workflow progression for a healthy style and inner artist

Challenge Workflow Progression sm

The Red Line

The Red Line shows the Workflow Progression descending as time increases.  This is to be avoided at all costs, but happens more frequently than you think.  This red line progression will eventually kill your workflow and your artistic style along with it and leave your inner artist defeated.  Here are some of the factors that create the red line progression:

  • Too many Programs (Plugins):  Often times people get inundated with software and the need for more to try and adapt their style to something they saw in a program or tutorial.  When you become efficient at many, but master none, your style starts to descend as you try and adapt it to the inundated workflow.  This can lead to self-doubt, the questioning of why you do what you do and the desire to start fresh. Instead of adapt your style to a program try to adapt the program to your style.  This will ensure upward mobility on the Workflow Progression
  • Trying to be someone you are not:  This is when you have a set style.  You are happy with your progression and are doing well with your inner artist, but you unsuccessfully try to adapt and conform to someone else’s style.  The key word is unsuccessfully.  You try and become someone you are not as an artist by emulating a style that is not your own, only to find out it looks nothing like the other artist.  This creates a downward death spiral in your own style and has you questioning your inner artist and your intentions as an artist.
  • Boredom:  You failed to challenge yourself and became bored with your style.  You are showing little signs of improvement and instead of picking up the pieces and moving on, you descend in the progression and find yourself questioning why you do what you do.  In this time you may not have the inspiration to pick up the camera, you may go months without shooting or processing and every time you try to get back into it your heart just isn’t there.

The Orange Line

The orange line shows a healthy workflow progression that eventually tapers off into a plateau.  Ideally this line may be appealing as it shows a form of workflow stability, however:

  • It shows you have gotten to a state of comfort with your Workflow and in turn adapted a style you enjoy.
  • It will stay on this plateauing path for a while, maybe even years.
  • In this line of progression you may see yourself doing the exact same thing from image to image, photo to photo, day to day.
  • You may have a series of Actions or Presets you always use because they always produce the results you desire.  You may even find yourself saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or “That’s the way I have always done it”

This is line of progression is not as fatal looking at first as the Red Line but it stunts your growth and makes you complacent.  I learned in Basic Military Training that Complacency is the devil, and sometimes referred to as the slow killer.  Comfort leads to Complacency, Complacency leads to Sedentary, Sedentary leads to Idle… You don’t want your workflow, style, or inner artist to remain idle!

The Green Line

This line shows continual growth over time that has no end.  With this Workflow progression you may see minor plateaus some longer than others which is completely acceptable.  The idea is that you stay comfortable for long enough to realize it and move on through the progression striving for nothing more than continual growth.  This workflow progression will stimulate the inner artist and create a continually evolving style.  Certainly this is easier said than done, right?  Here are some ways to instill this artistic growth progression:

  • Research:  This is simple and with Google there is no end to the amount of research one can do.  If you hear someone say something like “Frequency Separation” or “Tone Curve” or “High Pass Sharpening”.  Don’t just stand there with your ‘deer in the headlights look’, remember those key words and research them later.  Information is free these days use that to your advantage, knowledge truly is power even in the art world.
  • Develop & Innovate:  This goes against the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality.  I say, “If it ain’t broke we don’t need to fix it, but how can we make it more efficient”?  There is always room for improvement in every aspect of our art, heck with our life in general.  If you live by this motto you can achieve anything.  There is nothing that can limit you if you can detect and fix the limitations.  Piggy backing off of research, once you have become comfortable with a process you have researched figure out how you can improve upon that process.  Develop and Innovate.
  • Challenge Everything Including Yourself:  This is a big one and probably the one that will pull you out of any plateau and put you on the upward swing.  Once you have become comfortable with a program, your workflow, your style, or your inner artistic self; challenge them.  Put them to the test.  You have to breach your comfort zone to say “okay, that was good, but you can do better.  I know you can do better.  You’ve done better in the past.  What is stopping you now?”

The Bottom (Yellow Line) Line

Everyone always says “you can’t make inspiration happen”.  However, I challenge that (see what I did there).  I think you can make inspiration happen.  You certainly cannot buy it in an over-sized aluminum can at the Gas Station, but you can draw out inspiration from your inner artist through tedious workflow improvements and the constant desire for more from yourself.  The keywords there are more and yourself.  You have the inner artist, you yearn for your inner artist. But if you expect some kind of program or plugin to get that out of you, then you are on the wrong path.

What makes your inner artist come out is you, nothing else.  I can guarantee if you look at all of those lines (Red, Orange and Green) and read their descriptions you will see yourself in every one of them.  I know this because I have been there, I will be there again, and I will need this post to pull my inner artist back out again at some point.  The reality of the situation is we are more like the Yellow Line below.  We start at a given point, get inspired, take our work to great lengths, get comfortable, descend, and then pull ourselves back up again just to do it all over.  Knowing this is half the battle!

The goal is to get ourselves out of the slumps before they become detrimental and continually challenge our inner artist to grow upward through practical application, continual improvement measure, and the longing for more from ourselves.

Challenge Workflow Progression 2

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Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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