“When passion and creativity collide, dreams become a reality.” Steven Lamar
Finding Your Inspiration
I think if you were to ask almost any artist where their passion and creativity comes from, they would tell you that passion comes from some place deep within their soul, and creativity comes from having your tools in hand when your mind and eyes envision something amazing. At least that is what I would tell you. I have been a visually stimulated person my whole life. I love seeing or envisioning something that invokes a feeling so powerful that I cannot help but pursue it. When I was a kid I found it very difficult to keep my eyes focused on just one thing for an extended period of time. Had I been born a generation later, I would have likely been diagnosed with some form of attention disorder. In reality I have always picked up on things very quickly which allowed my mind and eyes to wander and still get my work done. To this day, I am a multi-tasking expert in that arena. It comes down to the simple fact that my eyes are constantly looking for stimulation. I am sure that some of you can relate to this. Some will call this a gifted talent, but at times it has also been a curse.
As an artist I see the world different a little different than most people. I don’t pay attention to the great big things right in front of me. Perhaps this could explain the few objects I have been known to run into. I find beauty in lines, angles, composition, shadows, highlights, and other fine details that most never even take the time to notice or understand. My parents were both natural artists, and I would go as far as to say that they were both experts at their own craft.
My dad has been able to channel his passion for creating things into a job that has not only put food on his table, but later in life has provided him the opportunity to help others in a time of need. He has also been able to enjoy a few modest luxuries for himself, which he deserves. He spends his day taking basic materials and turning them into beautiful homes and other furnishings. It is a skill that he has spent decades perfecting. One that he is likely to tell you he is still learning about. He recently told me something that blew my mind. He said “I can’t wait to get to work so that I can create something new with the projects I get to do for other people. When I think about it I have to laugh because these people pay me to do what I would possibly do for nothing.”
My mom on the other hand, has made beautiful pieces of art out of things that most people would have just thrown,put into a box, or donated to charity. I have seen her do almost everything when it comes to 2 dimensional art. I have seen her paint elaborate murals on the hood of a show car. Created amazingly realistic artwork that was etched into glass with simple diamond bits from the craft store. Numerous drawings, and paintings of all types that people having hanging on their walls to this day. Her creativity is almost ridiculous when I think about it now. Her hands could do exactly what she saw in her mind. I once watched her draw a picture completely in ink. I asked her why she was doing that in lieu of using a pencil. She said that pen makes sure that she does it right the first time. She considered it good practice for the “Real Thing.” Unfortunately, my mother hasn’t found a way to channel this talent into anything more than a hobby. A talent that she has not pursued much in several years. I hope that one day she gets back to work. So many people have enjoyed the art she could create with ease.
Not Your Parents Footsteps
For me, art started out very basic at an early age. I can remember building stuff when I was very young. I loved making things out of legos. My dad even recruited me once to help put some cabinets together when I was very young. My mom taught me the skill of highlighting and shading when it came to drawing. I was loving every minute of it. I had a good collection of drawings started by the time I entered 3rd grade. I remember how excited I was to get started that year because I was finally going to be able to enter my artwork into the “Big Kid” competition that was only for 3rd and 4th graders. I already had the project in mind and began working on it. I remember putting the finishing touches on my drawing about a week before they were due to be entered. It was an eagle, with a pine branch in the foreground to create some depth. What I remember most about that drawing were 3 key elements. I had to make sure they eyes and the beak was perfect. I didn’t want the eagle to appear nice or too mean. I wanted it to appear focused and alert, ready to capture its prey. I felt so accomplished when I finally got it just the way I wanted. Now came the 3rd element that caused me the most frustration. I had to draw in all of those darn feathers one by one. I found myself erasing them and starting over several times because I would get lazy and sloppy with them. My mom was alway a lot more patient then I was when it came to repetitive tasks. Needless to say it was finally done and I took it to school secured inside a binder to keep it from getting damaged on the way. A couple of days later, judgement day began. I didn’t really care if I won but I was confident that I would at least place. I was not at all prepared for what really happened. They disqualified me from the competition, stating that it was clearly not completed by a 3rd grade student. The rules stated that a student must work on it completely by themselves. They could not have any help from someone else. I followed those rules in detail but they refused to listen even when my mom vouched for the fact that she never touched it. That was the end of my drawing days. I really never picked up a pencil again in the same way. My dream of being an artist like her was over.
I knew I would never be able to give up on art entirely but I also knew that I was never again going to find myself in a situation where someone would accuse me of stealing someone else’s work and displaying it as my own. I spent the rest of my school age years dabbling with various mediums. I tried glass blowing, metal working, charcoal, paint, woodworking, etc… For some reason I just could not get inspired. It wasn’t until I got a camera for graduation that I realized that there just might be hope for me yet. I just loved the feeling of looking through the viewfinder and realizing that I was in complete control of my own art at the very moment I pushed the button. In reality I had no clue what I was doing. I never took any classes or even read a book on the subject. There was just something about it that mesmerized me unfortunately the ability to afford film was simply too much with the steep learning curve of no formal education.
Dream Becomes A Possibility
When the modern era of digital had finally broken through the photography industry it finally became an instant possibility for me again. Digital technology had finally caught up to a level that could compete with film and I was ready to make my move. At the time it was very expensive for even the most basic cameras without much manual control. I didn’t care, because I knew nothing about manual anyway. I just wanted to begin the concept of practice without breaking the bank. All I needed to do was save up enough for the camera and that is what I did. It quickly became a love affair that I have not been able to let go of since. I began taking pictures of almost anything that I found interesting and attractive. I had just missed my window for beautiful landscapes in the Hawaiian Islands because I was finally back home in the Pacific Northwest. While I regret that I didn’t pick this up earlier while I was in the Marine Corps, I was just happy to be back in Washington where beautiful landscapes were all around me. Things started out really slow for me in the photography arena. It is not like drawing where you get some paper and a pencil and get to work. You need to buy the camera first and then comes a nice bag to carry the gear you hope to have one day. The next investment came in the form of lenses which actually turned out to be as or in many cases (I would find out later) more expensive. Just saving a little bit here and there helped the cause. Since I was shooting with auto settings, there wasn’t much need for software to do editing but I did have a copy of photoshop that I bought from a buddy that got me started on that process. One that would become a long and frustrating journey for me. I will save that story for another time.
Source of Encouragement
Once I finally got over the initial fear of showing others my work, it became almost a regular occurrence. I wanted to show someone what I had done and receive constructive feedback. The problem with asking your friends and especially your family, is that they are almost always going to give you feedback that you want to hear rather then what you should hear. This acts as a confirmation of sorts and tends to stifle progress. This is exactly what happened to me for a good few years. I heard the same song and dance from just about everyone. “Oh Steven, you are so good.” “Wow, you really got that one.” “Way to go bud.” You get the point!!! What I really needed to hear was “Thats good start, but I would try this.” or “what would happen if you tried that.” That is the feedback that I really needed, if I wanted to grow. In reality I think that positive encouragement really helps in the beginning phase of anything but you reach a point when someone should really speak up if you “don’t have a voice for singing.” I finally found my go to person years later that would give me great feedback when they loved something, and would tell me exactly what they didn’t like if they were not feeling it. We can just call her my wife… After all, if she was going to be that honest then she must be the one right? She has given me the feedback that I needed for the last 5 years and it has really accelerated my growth. As my skill has grown, so has her critique which really helps me. I also began positing much more of my work online which definitely helps you get a better feel for how you are doing. People might now make negative comments but if you post something and it gets no traction, guess what? It’s a bust. Time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. These are the two factors that really got me off the dirt road and onto the photography highway. Later on I will be positing a toping about the learning curve and the things I learned that might help accelerate your development faster then mine, if that is something you desire. Stay tuned for that in a future blog post. In the meantime I am going to post a couple more of my favorites on par with the night theme I have started here. Night photography has quickly become one of my favorite genres. Not just because of the challenge, but I love the environmental factors that change the entire dynamic of a photo. As a reminder, you can always find my work on Facebook, 500px, google +, or flickr by searching for me by name “Steven Lamar” or by my web name “lamars001” or “lightfxstudio” Of course you can also check out my portfolio on my website at http://www.LightFXStudio.com and as usual, I appreciate the feedback so don’t forget to leave me a comment or 20. I hope you enjoy the photos.