To pursue, any art form with the intention of mastery means a commitment to constant growth. Over time it can become extremely challenging to gauge progress which can make it very easy to become frustrated and possibly even worse complacent.
What were once small victories often become the daily routine, and in my experience routine often cultivates bad habits.
It’s become a common practice for me to read about the lives of artists I admire. I quickly noticed that journaling was a personal habit among all of them despite artform, time-period, or walk-of-life.
Previously in my life I had experienced journaling as a coping mechanism for childhood trauma. I understood the value of creating and keeping a journal, but it also seemed like an extremely difficult process.
When I was younger, I had heard this soundbite by The Notorious B.I.G. that for some reason stayed with me. In an interview about his rise to fame, he stated:
The key to staying on top of things is treat everything like it’s your first project. Like it’s your first day, like, back when you was an intern Like, that’s how you try to treat things like, just stay hungry.”
It’s such a great quote, Jay-Z ended up sampling it later on his record “My 1st song”.
As I’ve gained some experience, I’ve come to rely on this information time and time again. It’s easy to become complacent, to let things become routine. Staying passionate and dedicated has been my saving grace so many times.
For me to stay hungry, and to push myself it takes making the most of any given situation or moment whether shooting for myself or for a client.
My assignments often take place in a new location or under a set of difficult set of circumstances. With the wrong mindset most of these challenges could be seen as a hassle and a normal headache of the job. The truth is, very often some of the challenges can actually be harnessed and utilized to one’s own advantage.
Being present and aware of both is the first step to creating a successful session and a key component for my artistic development.
Sketching and journaling are critical to not only tracking my personal progress but have become fun ways to challenge, experiment and push myself in fun and new ways. By documenting my ideas, no matter how insignificant, I also create space to make myself more hyper-aware of my choices, and to hopefully exercise greater autonomy over my art.
When I started taking photography seriously, I could not imagine shooting video. When I became stuck in a rut I remembered the idea from another very useful tool, Brian Eno’s oblique strategies , one of the strategies is to “fail intentionally”.
Over time, I began creating video sketches with the idea of “failing on purpose“. Journaling allowed me to analyze my work and see that inside of each of those failures were tiny successes. Through this practice, I’ve quickly yielded another valuable tool in my skillset and helped change my approach to photography in general.
For some reason, another bias I held was the idea of writing in a journal long conjured up visuals of hipsters writing in notepads in coffee houses. Having a slick Moleskine, or leatherbound sketchbook/journal is nice. I think it’s worth noting that the lyrics for Jimi Hendrix’s song “Purple Haze” were written on the back of a dinner napkin.
Initially, the very concept of journaling intimidated me. Personally there just never really felt like a good time to go and sit somewhere and write down all of thoughts and feelings. I’m certain this came from my previous experience of using it as a therapeutic device.
I couldn’t begin to fathom this as something to approach in a public space such as a coffee shop.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that if you are writing down a thought; if you are documenting an idea no matter how rudimentary, you are journaling. The complete practice of journaling merely involves acknowledging a thought and documenting it. It can be done simply or it can be done elaborately.
A journal can be a paper towel, it can be an app on your phone. Journaling can be a dedicated practice or it can be a quick “note-to-self”.
In my experience, some of my best ideas come to me waiting in parking lots to meet clients. I’ll often email, or text myself a note so I can write in my journal when I get home. Similarly, a sketch can be a crude drawing of a stick figure, or 6 seconds of a drum loop repeating.
To me, a sketch is any idea that you feel is worth documenting for the possibility to use later. A dream, a song title, an artist to research, your next days’ goal.
The ability to track thoughts, successes and failures over time not only serves as a barometer for growth and development but also can; reveal “lost” ideas, the inspiration to rework an old idea into a new one, or create connections between two things previously unrealized.
There are limitless possibilities to what uses a journal can serve its creator, I can not overstate their value. In addition, as awkward as it can be looking back at times, seeing your progress and knowing that you did your absolute best back then-and-now is a very gratifying feeling.
I would like to share some of my recent journal entries with you below.
A beautiful snowy evening inspired me to write this small piece.
Recently, I started a photo project where I am taking a photo at exactly 4:20 each day. 📸🕰📷🕰 Here are some of the most interesting results so far.
I also found some old sketches, which was a lot of fun!
In an effort to branch out creatively, I’m currently working on both writing music and longer format video.I’m always driving to-and-from assignments at odd hours and it often feels like a waking dream.
This is my first attempt at marrying sound and image together in a deliberate way to try and capture that feeling. Except for a single GoPro shot, the video and audio for this entire clip was created and edited on my phone.
And an example of my logo in 2013, versus 2017.
Have a favorite journaling technique? Sound off below!