Mario Villalobos

There are at least three birds in this photo

Creative Frustration

  • Journal

The days are getting warmer and longer. On Friday, I went to my usual spot because the blue skies were calling my name, but I couldn’t get into a rhythm. I shot the mountains again, and I saw a pair of geese hanging out, but nothing was quite clicking for me. I felt like I had overworked the area, and I was getting tired of this subject matter. I went home and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to edit my photos, but again, nothing seemed to click for me. I accepted the fact that sometimes I get in a creative funk, and I was about ready to simply delete all the photos I took that day and try again some other time.

This feeling felt familiar. Before photography, I spent a lot of time trying to get better at illustration. I bought and studied a lot of books that taught me about perspective, character design, color theory, and anything else I thought would make me better. I bought sketchbooks and pencils and erasers and other tools I thought I needed in order to get better as an illustrator. But just like my feelings on Friday, I eventually grew frustrated with my progress and I simply stopped sketching.

I plateaued, and I feel like I’ve plateaued again with my photography.

How do I get better? How can I improve? Where can I take my art?

I’m not sure, but I know I won’t find out if I stop. I started sketching in my sketchbook earlier this week, and it felt like something was filled in within me. I got into photography because of drawing. When I studied my perspective books, I learned about different focal lengths and how they treated perspective. I didn’t quite understand what this meant until I bought my camera and lenses and saw for myself how different lenses gave each photo a different look and feel.

When I edit, it feels like I’m painting, and I have a lot of fun doing so. So I think I have to go back and spend more time sketching and studying the world again, not only to get more practice in (and thus improve my skills), but also to give my photographic eye a break and maybe return to it with renewed vigor. Otherwise, I think I’m going to keep feeling frustrated, and who wants to live like that?