The Power of Beauty in Art and Life

The Action of Attraction

Our contemporary world combines the digital and the analog in most things. Whether we are thinking about images online or a light show in your neighborhood, aesthetics matter. There is more to art than merely a pursuit of the beautiful, but it would be foolish to underestimate the power of its experience. You need go no further than to witness West Cliff in Santa Cruz during a Winter sunset. Throngs of sky watchers crowd the cliffs drinking in the changing light and gasping as the clouds become a temporary canvas unrivaled by human efforts. The same is true with photos posted online. The beautiful images get more play.

Authenticity and Aesthetics

One of the dangerous things about our current age for artists is the tendency for feedback to alter your approach to art making. It is all too easy to let the data influence your artistic choices. If this type of photograph got a lot of likes and shares, then it is tempting to repeat that in hopes of increasing your following. Many artists believe that allowing what the audience thinks to influence your style. Indeed, there is a fine line between sharing what you love and what you know will get you love. The trick, I’ve found, if discovering those areas of overlap where you feel good about what you are publishing and the public does, too.

Keeping Your Thumb on the Pulse

For me, it is equally important to spend time hunting the world for images both beautiful and intriguing and to pay attention to the ever changing culture online. It is only by doing this work that you can discover that fruitful zone where what you truly love and what the public wants are a match. The exciting thing about this process is that both are constantly changing. Spending time walking through the world looking and absorbing the details and finding enchanting scenes is as important as understanding the technical aspects of photography and online marketing. You have to both understand the spirit of the times as it reveals itself to us through the Internet and the particular qualities of beauty and intrigue that exist fleetingly in our physical world.

A Shining Light in Dark Times

Part of what Internet culture reveals to us is the presence of extremely disturbing problems. From the opioid epidemic, to mass shootings, there is no shortage of tragedy that happens every single day. This has become so predominant that we are becoming a very strange culture. One response is to create more and more disturbing content. The American public has become obsessed with true crime and particularly serial killers, among the darkest examples of human potential for destruction. The reasons for this trend are many, but one of them must be a kind of coping mechanism to deal with the daily news. Bad things are happening, and many people are immunizing themselves emotionally by exposing themselves to the worst of the worst. In this context, striving to create beautiful images serves as a counterpoint and requires a tremendous courage. The easier thing is to follow the numbers and to create disturbing imagery and controversial content.

Adapting to the Conditions

I have been walking around various Santa Cruz neighborhoods during the day and at night to get exercise, to scout for images I want to make, and to study the world around me. As the period between Christmas and New Year’s has come to an end, I have been focusing on some of the amazing light shows that people have created. Last night, it was raining making a walk with my camera inadvisable, but I decided to shoot two scenes from within the safety of my car. Setting up the tripod on the seat, I composed some photographs and used the window to add another element.

Abstraction in Photography

With a background in painting and a true love for modern and abstract art, I have always enjoyed using a camera to make images that are non-objective. This task is difficult even with a paintbrush, but when you use a camera it is even more challenging. I enjoy using lights and long exposures to soak up the colors without any discernible forms. This reduces the image to line and color and I find it to be fun and interesting. What do you think? Do you like the abstract images or the realistic ones better?

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Why You Don’t Love Yourself

Self Discovery through the Arts

Have you ever asked yourself if you love yourself, or if not why not? Self love is a mystery. It sounds simple, but in practice it can be more challenging than you might think. In order to love yourself, to love your life, you have to know yourself. My last blog was about using the art practice of photography as self discovery. Practicing photography can just as easily lead you astray. The key is honesty, and that is a hard thing. Being honest about who you are and what you really like is the starting point to all true love.

Reading the Signs Correctly

Loving yourself is as simple and challenging as being yourself. The first step is to set out with the intention of being honest. An art practice helps, because it gives you a kind of reflection that exists in the world. This could be achieved through writing, dance, painting or any of the other arts. In order to reach the point of self awareness, which leads to self knowledge, which leads to self mastery, which leads to self love, you have to decipher a set of abstract signs. Why are you attracted to certain forms? What do these things mean to you?

Seeing the Unseen

In landscape photography, there is often a desire to share something beautiful with the world. In an area like Santa Cruz, there is no shortage of beautiful subject matter. The fact is, however, that we are also surrounded by things that we take for granted and some of these things are essential to our lives and livelihood. I have always been interested in power lines because they make up the infrastructure of our digital lives. Those lines carry power and culture into the privacy of our homes.

Theory and Chaos

Being honest means embracing the unpleasant at times. Nobody can live on this wild evolving planet without going through some chaotic times. We need some kind of handle to manipulate the moments of extreme discomfort that accompany events that throw our lives into tumult. Understanding the larger picture of our becoming can help to make sense of a pattern that in the moment feels all too disorganized and wild. Life is a force that drives us and it is not always neatly organized or clean. Embracing the chaos when you feel chaotic is one of the ways you can learn more about yourself.

Courage and Exposure

One of the scariest feelings many people can experience is exposure. Whether that is being on the edge of a cliff surrounded by vast abysmal space, or posting something true and vulnerable on the Internet, the feeling of exposure keeps many people from venturing out. Without adventure, there is no growth. It requires courage to put yourself in a position where you are exposed. These are important ingredients in the recipe of self love.

Discipline and Disciplines

Every artistic discipline requires effort to achieve fluency. Even for those naturally gifted in a certain art practice, the levels you are able to achieve depend upon the work that you put into it. Discipline is a force in art and life that helps us to achieve our goals. Exposing yourself to the world is risky, and you need to temper this danger with discipline. Anthony “Tazy” Tashnick is one of the bravest surfers I have ever known and he achieves this fearlessness through an incredible amount of repetitions. He would probably never call it discipline, but that is exactly what it is. Through putting in the work, he overcomes the fear that many people experience in big wave situations. The same is true with Alex Honnald, who says that even when he is performing a death defying free solo his effort and anxiety level are always between a four and a six on a scale of one to ten. Through practice, you can make difficult things easy, and thus less dangerous or scary.

Luck and Love

When it comes to success in life, luck plays a major factor. When it comes to loving yourself, this is much less true. You don’t need some amazing fortune to come to know who you are and what is best for you. Love is not a product of luck, and success is no guarantee of love. Work is much more important in this process. Of course, the ability to live and to do work depends upon a degree of luck, but what I am talking about has nothing to do with gambling. It is a safe and dependable route. You will need courage and discipline, but you shouldn’t depend upon luck.

The Long Walk Home

Our world is full of complicated distractions. We can easily succumb to bad marketing or fall victim to someone’s malevolent plans. That’s just a part of the picture. Through doing the work of self discovery and making a trail of images that others can follow you can build a solid path that you can rely on for your practice. In my experience, it is better to go slow in this process. When you are younger it can be hard to have patience, but there is no shortcut to finding the keys to self love.

E&J Branding: A New Podcast by Erin H. Lyman and Jake J. Thomas

Clout Farming

I met Erin H. Lyman last week for a portrait in the garden at SkinHappy in Monterey. I had been following her on Instagram as she is one of the most active movers and shakers in the Monterey Arts Scene. Even at a glance you could tell that she has the right stuff for a podcast. She knows what’s up.

Portraits and Podcasting

Every portrait session is like an interview in some way, but with Erin our conversation was interesting enough for me to want to start a podcast with her. I mentioned that I was interested in podcasting and she suggested that I visit a place in Monterey called The Shop. She knew they had a recording studio all set up, so I met her there and checked it out.

Engagement Pod

Erin spends her days and some of her evenings promoting artist and arts organizations around the Monterey County. In order to do this effectively, she has a network of people she interacts with. This is known as an engagement pod and it is an effective way to create traction for social media accounts trying to get a message out to the public. It also sounds like a party you would throw for dolphins. Through her network of people, she introduced me to Chris Powers at The Shop and now we have a podcast in the works.

Marketing and Art in the Digital Age

Our podcast is going to be about strategies for making and marketing art in today’s cultural and economic climate. We are going to be recording at The Shop in Monterey and episodes should be available on your favorite podcast platform, soon. I look forward to bringing you some entertaining and useful information through conversations with Erin H. Lyman!

Shakespeare’s Greatness: Art and Business

Shakespeare’s success story is part of what makes him the GOAT. We have a canon of great art produced by tragic figures who killed themselves or drank themselves into oblivion and ridicule. Shakespeare not only produced an incredible body of work, but he was also a popular success and was able to maintain social rank despite doing something for an occupation that was deemed unworthy of a gentleman. What was it about Shakespeare that gave him the energy and stability to have such a perfect career in less than stable conditions and times?

I’ve started listening to the audiobook version of Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World, which is a biography of Shakespeare. Using the public records of Shakespeare’s birth, his father’s career, his education, his marriage, and his entrance into the London theater scene, Greenblatt pieces together a portrait of the bard that is compelling and insightful. 

The plays themselves are fully capable of capturing our interest on their own. I’m not suggesting that Shakespeare’s biography holds some secret keys to understanding his plays. That’s not what is interesting to me. I’m interested in how Shakespeare ran his career like a business. It is the story of a great artist/ entrepreneur. This isn’t an interpretive key as much as another way of reading the work altogether. Literature that is produced for the critics, for the academy is much different than work that is produced for the public. Shakespeare produced work for the public that also is canonical to the ultimate degree. 

Thinking about Shakespeare as an entrepreneur also shifts the way we consider greatness in art and its popular appeal. Another thing I find interesting about Greenblatt’s biography is it helps to create this image of a world contained within London where there was excitement about the theater. It’s kind of funny to think of people that long ago wanting to be actors. It goes back much further to the roots of Ancient Greece at least. Dudes want to make up stories and act them out.

The competition to be the greatest writer or the best performer is almost central to our human condition. How essential is art to human society? It almost seems to go hand in hand. As soon as we have a group of people, we have clowns trying to entertain them. We also have people trying to lead them. A group of people is a potential audience. It’s an opportunity for an artist to give them something to think about.

What we can see by looking at Shakespeare’s career is more important than looking for clues to understand his psychological drives. When we see how Shakespeare hustled, and how he kept his productivity so high, it shows us how the greats perform. It’s motivational to artists who strive to have a great career. Making great art is just the first part. You must find a way to make it last. That’s why figures like Henry Miller are so important, too. Certain artists figure it out and live great lives worthy of being studied. 

It’s strange to have a figure who set the high mark for achievement over four hundred years ago. In every other human pursuit, we have made tremendous advancements, but in writing nobody is even coming close. Thinking about Shakespeare’s career, putting his literary achievements in the context of a world of supply and demand, we have an opportunity to challenge our times. If we demand a Shakespeare, she will come.