Balancing Time and Creative Space


As part of my daily rhythm, I aim to work on some area of personal creativity. The busyness of life sometimes means that I only achieve my goal 5 days out of 7, but it is something I feel is necessary for survival and mental well-being. There is nothing more depressing than simply going through the motions of a day without noticing something beautiful or creating something fresh.


I recently read this quote: "Work expands as to fill the time which is available for its completion." Cyril Parkinson

I began to wonder -

Does our creativity expand to fill the vision we imagine?

How much space can we give to a single creative project?

If we envisage a daring creative project, will that push us to expand our technical skills to execute the project? 

And how do we balance limitations with openness?  

The bigger our dream for a project, the more potential it has to be amazing. I've never once actually achieved the level of excellence and creativity that I've imagined for any artwork, photography project etc. However, by aiming high and putting time into researching, planning and preparation, I'm sure the work stands a better chance of being creative and unique.


We can give a lot of space to creative ideas, but I think they will struggle to come to anything unless we break the idea into smaller, bite size pieces to work on. For example, one of my long term projects is developing a body of light and airy black and white images. So, I regularly take both macro photos of natural objects and stylised portraits to work on this concept. The natural objects are great for three reasons, firstly, I love the opportunity to slow down and really spend time with a flower, plant, seed pod, feather or sea shell, secondly, they are patient and don't move while I tweak the lights and experiment, thirdly, they don't complain about modelling. 


By planning projects, whether they are photographic or perhaps paintings, mixed media works etc, we begin to travel down previously unconsidered roads. Then, we are inspired by the work of others, or by a theme or concept. Then the real work starts as we begin to figure out what skills are needed to create something which brings our imagination into the tangible world. I always find there are new skills I need to work on in order to bring my ideas to fruition. Having a specific project, gives me a reason to develop those skills


So, where are the limits? How do they help? The world is an amazing place, we are surrounded by beauty and wonder everywhere, but most of the time, we walk by in our hurried life. Setting limits in a project actually opens up the opportunity for it to shine with creativity. It allows us to focus in on 1 or 2 concepts and draw out the uniqueness of the idea. 

T.S. Eliot wrote: "When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost - and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl."

Sprawl isn't necessarily a bad thing. The photos in this blog post were taken one day when I just wanted to play with the macro lens for a while and explore the lovely bunch of poppy seedpods that I bought at the flower market in Amsterdam and carefully carried around the city for the rest of the day. Now that I've 'met' the seedpods and made an initial acquaintance, I can begin to think of different aspects of them, such as their form, the texture, the flat shapes of the tops, how they look repeated or as individual seedpods. I'd like to do some further exploration and consider how I could use them in composite photographs or incorporate text and other elements with meaning. Poppies are often associated with remembrance and seeds with fresh beginnings and new life.

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My little play with the poppy seedpods was a small part of an ongoing project photographing natural objects up close, experimenting with selective focus, abstract forms, pattern and composition. Plus, I worked the images in black and white which is another long term project. I then applied the high key backlighting to a portrait shoot a few weeks later. Here are a couple of shots from that day.