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Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the third installment we discuss the role of chance and surprise in creativity.

EM: In describing how he wrote “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan said that he found himself writing what he called “this long piece of vomit, 20 pages long.”

“And out of it,” he recalled, “I took ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and made it as a single. And I’d never written anything like that before and it suddenly came to me.”

If nothing else, Dylan has always been incredibly prolific. “Practice, practice, practice,” says Bruce Springsteen. And then one day there’s your father’s image “Galaxy Apple.” Is that part of what process is about … the yin and yang between chaos and discipline?

JP: Process is how you get there. It doesn’t just happen. And it unfolds through time. The final results may have come quickly, but it took a long time for Dylan to get into the specific state of flow that would produce his song. The same is true for everyone, including photographers.

This reminds me of a time when I introduced a friend of mine to my father. He said, “Oh, you’re that photographer. Gosh I’d like to have your career. All those 1/125ths of a second. What’s that add up to? A 20-minute career?”

Dylan’s statement, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” seems related to Picasso’s “It takes a long time to grow young.”

EM: And Dylan as a teenager in Hibbing, Minnesota, used to listen all night to Hank Williams and Little Richard on the radio—it was all part of the “process” of gearing up for “Bringin’ It All Back Home.”

You mention using a Spirograph as a child to make circles, ellipses and various radiating designs. And some of these patterns continue to show up in your latest imagery. How important is a sense of wonder to photography, or any art form?

JP: How important is a sense of wonder to a life well lived? I think it’s essential. Keeping our sense of wonder alive and well increases our openness, curiosity, sensitivity, perception, playfulness, passion, pleasure, and many other positive benefits. This is related to keeping our inner child or the childlike (not childish) aspects of ourselves active and vibrant.

EM: We’ve discussed chaos versus discipline in art. What about a happy accident—serendipity? What role does “chance” play in process? In the film Pollock, Ed Harris shows Jackson Pollock stumbling onto the process for his drip paintings. Do you ever look at something you’ve done or have been thinking about and suddenly make a leap to a concept that had not occurred to you before? I’m also thinking of Kubrick’s famous visual metaphor early in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the ape throws a bone that morphs into a rotating space station.

JP: There are two questions here. My answer to both is yes …

Read the rest of Part 3 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 1 here.

Read my conversation with Eric Meola about Eric Meola here.

Preview my ebook Process here.

Find out about my exhibit Process here.

“World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, 2013 Harman-Eisner artist in residence, discusses his far-reaching vision for how artists can practice their citizenship, as individuals and through institutions—and how the arts fulfill a fundamental human need by forging and strengthening community.”

View The Essential Collection Of Creativity Videos here.

Read The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes here.

“Bestselling author (Return to Love, Healing the Soul of America), a world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important inspirational thinkers of our time, Marianne shares the spiritual principles on creativity and leadership.”

View more Creativity Videos here.

Quotes_Simplicity

Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes on Simplicity.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” ― Henry David Thoreau

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” ― John Maeda

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ― E.F. Schumacher

“Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.” – Edward Tuft

“Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.” – Alan Perlis

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” – Martin H. Fischer

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

“Simplicity is the outcome of technical subtlety. It is the goal, not the starting point.” – Maurice Saatchi

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.” – Edward Teller

“The simplest things are often the truest.” – Richard Bach

“A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life.” – Winston Churchill

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” ― Isaac Newton

“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy” ― Isaac Newton

“As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.” – Albrecht Durer

“I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.” ― Albert Einstein

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

“The greatest ideas are the simplest.” ― William Golding

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” ― Leo Tolstoy

“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.” – Bruce Lee

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” – Plato

“Simplicity is the glory of expression.” – Walt Whitman

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” – William of Occam

“Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” – Frederic Chopin

“Simplicity is not an objective in art, but one achieves simplicity despite one’s self by entering into the real sense of things.” – Constantin Brancusi

“The more simple we are, the more complete we become.” ― August Rodin

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ― Jack Kerouac

View The Essential Collection of Creativity Quotes here.

Discover more quotes daily in my Twitter and Facebook streams.

Looking into the Light_Cover_smaller

An exercise too late for the book Looking Into The Light.

“I write to find out what I have to say.” Charles Wright

That’s how creativity works. You can try to conceptualize it all you want, but when you begin, it starts to come out completely different … if your lucky. Even if you do it all wrong, you learn more than you ever would by thinking.

That’s why exercises function as the heart of my workshops, and new ones occur to me all the time, so many that I never get to a fraction of them in a class.

The best of them literally take you beyond yourself. When that happens, you suddenly wake up way past whatever it was you thought you were going to do.  You’re like a kid who is learning to ride a bicycle and looks back to see the parent you thought was running beside you and steadying you standing 50 yards back and grinning. And you realize that you’ve been riding your bike and balancing just fine on your own.

That’s what I want out of an exercise.

This summer an idea came to me in the middle of a workshop. I told people to go out, wander around, and make photographs of a place where something had happened. That was it.

My thought was that at least it might get people to really pay attention and just be where they were, see the light, the energy, see what the place felt like. Then they could make some pictures.

So off they went to spend a rainy afternoon working this out, and the next morning we gathered to screen the pictures. When the first ones came up I got a surprise. People had actually written down the thing that they felt might have happened. And the things they had written down completely charged the pictures, and ignited the classes imaginations. They were like short clips from films, and they made you want to see the rest of it.

Here’s one. You’ll see what I mean.

Picture 1_Michelle Elloway

 

Michelle Elloway

I think this one with the swings was the first up, and the menace and sadness that grew out of the picture of these children’s playthings was palpable. Everyone felt the dark possibilities in it.

Here are a few more …

Picture 2_Antelo Devereux

Antelo Devereux

Picture 3_Kemal Berk Kocabagli

Kemal Berk Kocabagli

What I loved about what people did was that they took ordinary situations into their imaginations and made the pictures suggest stories without telling them. They left plenty of space for viewers to complete them in their own minds.  We all became participants.

So there it is, the perfect kind of exercise. It was kind of like finding a mushroom with a note that said Eat me. Whenever that happens … eat the mushroom!

Find out more about Sean Kernan’s ebook Looking Into The Light here.

Find out more about Sean Kernan here.

Looking into the Light_Cover_smaller

“Years ago I stumbled on what felt like a secret door into creativity in photography. The secret is that photographers don’t need to hope that creativity will turn up. It’s there in us. Creativity is not something we do, it’s something we are…all the time.” says Kernan.

Sean Kernan has spent more than 30 years investigating ways that photographers find and use creativity. And all that insight now fills a workshop-in-a-book, Looking into the Light: Creativity and Photography, now available as an iBook.

Kernan’s book offers ways to get to that creativity for photographers at every level, bright beginner to jaded professional. It looks past cameras and technique to focus on our awareness. “We work on our awareness of all the things that happen before the click, which I’m convinced is where the wonder of our best seeing comes from.”

The book gives a series of concrete assignments that stimulate the visual imagination and change our pictures. The sign that they’re working is when we get a hit of the excitement we felt the first time we took a photograph that was way beyond anything we thought we could do.

The exercises are gathered from many areas—music, theater, writing—and they all involve simple things we already know how to do. We can use them to make better photos, or just to see more deeply into what is around us. The goal is to make pictures that talk to the world, not just to other photographers. As Jay Maisel put it, “You want to take more interesting pictures? Be a more interesting person!”

Looking into the Light illustrates the exercises with work from a distinguished group that includes John Paul Caponigro, Greg Heisler, Cig Harvey, Jay Gould, Dennis Darling, Adam Arkin, poet Gregory Orr, Ed Young, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Sol LeWitt, William Kentridge, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. There’s an iconoclastic essay on portraits by Duane Michals and links to interviews with Duane and Robert Frank.

To support reader’s efforts, the author has created a companion website at www.lookingintothelight.com, where readers can find further articles, watch instructive videos, and upload and share their own work on the assignments.”

Read 20 Questions with Sean Kernan here.

Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance, looking for hints of where her own creativity comes from. It’s a wild ride with a surprise ending.

View more Creativity Videos here.

Browse Creativity Quotes here.

Ira Glass of “This American Life” talks about the building blocks of a great story.

View more Creativity Videos here.

Read Creativity Quotes here.

Quotes_Invention

Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes on invention.

“…to invent is to discover that we know not, and not to recover or resummon that which we already know” — Sir Francis Bacon

“To understand is to invent.” — Jean Piaget

“Inventing is a skill that some people have and some people don’t. But you can learn how to invent.” — Ray Dolby

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.” — Nikola Tesla

“Doubt is the father of invention.” – Galileo Galilei

“Want is the mistress of invention” – Susanna Centlivre

“Necessity, the mother of invention” – Richard Franck

“Mothers are the necessity of invention.” – Bill Watterson

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.” – Agatha Christie

“Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.” — Mark Twain
“I never did anything worth doing by accident; nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work” – Thomas Alva Edison

“Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” – Thomas Alva Edison

“Stumbling upon the next great invention in an ‘ah-ha!’ moment is a myth.” – James Dyson

“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.” – Leonardo DaVinci

“Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles—he can only discover them.” — Thomas Paine

“All creation is a mine, and every man a miner. The whole earth, and all within it, upon it, and round about it, including himself … are the infinitely various “leads” from which, man, from the first, was to dig out his destiny.” — Abraham Lincoln

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” — Thomas Alva Edison

“Inventing is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less material you need.” — Charles F. Kettering

“Invention presupposes imagination but should not be confused with it.” — Igor Stravinsky
“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper

“Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor.’ — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” – Auguste Rodin

“Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory; nothing can come of nothing” – Joshua Reynolds

“I invented nothing new. I simply combined the inventions of others into a car. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed.’ — Henry Ford

“Too often we forget that genius, too, depends upon the data within its reach, that even Archimedes could not have devised Edison’s inventions” – Ernest Dimnet

“I’m an inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it is started.” – Ray Kurzweil

“An invention that is quickly accepted will turn out to be a rather trivial alteration of something that has already existed.” — Edwin Herbert Land

“Inventor, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.” — Ambrose Bierce

“Where a new invention promises to be useful, it ought to be tried” – Thomas Jefferson

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” — Karl Marx

“We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” — John Stuart Mill

“In the modern world we have invented ways of speeding up invention, and people’s lives change so fast that a person is born into one kind of world, grows up in another, and by the time his children are growing up, lives in still a different world” – Margaret Mead

“I must create a system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.” — William Blake

“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes.” — Lawrence George Durrell

Find more Creativity Quotes here.

Discover more quotes daily in my Twitter and Facebook streams.

One of the world’s most influential thinkers Edward de Bono the father of ‘lateral thinking’ shares many insights on creativity.

View more creativity videos here.


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