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Being an Artist

Lesson 3 from: Creative Expression in Photography

Joel Grimes

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Lesson Info

3. Being an Artist

Lesson Info

Being an Artist

To be an artist follow your passion to make the opportunity you have to step out and you got to go and take the risk and take the road less travelled and it's against our nature as human beings as a general rule and so that's what's hard it's hard it's hard for us to go and actually make it happen and we give up we get tired get lazy you get responsibilities all these things so my encouragement to you is that number one laid out lay out your plan okay so you know what I'm gonna give up football on sundays on sundays go out and photograph backgrounds were gonna get some someone to come in and do a portrait of him sunday afternoons whatever it is you say I'm willing to sacrifice instead of going skiing on in the alps on my vacation I'm going to go and create a body of work somewhere else and it may be that you can take your you know love of skiing and become that builds the body of work but what I'm saying is is you got to create the opportunity so even though you're an artist even thoug...

h you believe it to your core and you have a voice you've got to go to the next step and make it happen and that's hard you were talking about the ski trip and I'm thinking the if you do that the since I got a family they have to sacrifice a swell so you have to clear that with them as well because trying fight on gorski with them if they don't go ski, they they have to sacrifice us also. So is that something that you need to discussed with the whole family then now I'm goingto investigate nor a improve my an artistic side? Do you settle that with the family you have to, you know? Absolutely why? Because let's put it this way, your family's more important than your success is an artist. I hate to say that, but it's hard and, you know, my wife and I, we've had we've had toe come to certain agreements, and I could say this I did good when I picked my wife, she has supported me she's been there and I'm very grateful for her support she believed in me, and that doesn't happen in every relationship, right? So their situations where that's not true don't let someone steal your dream, but don't lose a marriage over it, figure out a way to make it happen so that you win her over or him over to the dream that you have. So yeah, it's a hard one, ok? Because we live in a real world, but I think that a lot of times you just don't you need to give them the right information say this is what I would do this is the path I want to take theirs the sacrifices I will make I'm not going to second sacrifice my family for it but if you're on board I think we can get there and so uh that's could be a whole other thing but the point is is that bit ate it and it's not easy but I think I think you can win people over with it and um and so I met your wife she's wonderful. So um yeah get him on board get on board alright so throughout history art has been reserved for a select few but we're in the age now that I said it's getting too we beam or accepted think about it even one hundred years ago there are communities and you know that was kind of pockets of people that were doing things but now it's everywhere everyone on iphone you can create a whole body of work with a knife and you rock the world with it there's some cool stuff going on my kids are really good at falling all this stuff and um s o so that's not not reserved for a select few and we had a question yesterday about getting a degree in photography how important is that? Well, if you have the resource is get that degree do you need agree to succeed in today's marketplace? No and if you have a degree are your odds greater than if you don't you might say so because you've got forced to think remember I told you my art history class is help me think a little differently but ultimately it's whether or not you go for it and take the risk and so no you don't have to have a degree or have a master's in whatever to be, uh successful so it's not we're in a good time we're not we're not uh the boundaries have been broken down all right? So a true artist is free to explore without boundaries let's go back to that one when I'm a photographer I got boundaries and in some ways I still I haven't let go completely I'm a photographer there are still some things that kind of go but ultimately when I shed my idea that I was a photographer and then maybe an artist now I'm an artist with a photographer it opened up new possibilities for me and so here's what here's here's what it is the moment I let go of my perception that I was defined as a photographer but looked at myself first of four most as an artist with no boundaries or preconceived ideas established by others my work exploded toe a whole new level and you can see almost exactly my work when I came to that point where I went I am an artist it exploded you could market you know, track it somehow it's an amazing transformation by just thinking of one thing I am an artist first and foremost with a bunch of tools it changed my life and so um now what happens is for example, this image over here on the wall with this girl jumping and she's an alley she's a kind of a tough girl you know? Why is she in the alley she's not in like a you know she actually played uh lingerie football there's a lingerie football league in the states I've never actually seen the games but she was a subject that came in and we photographed her but um why why why can I put her and how can I put her in an alley? I know she's not in the football field or whatever it is why is it that joel grimes and get away putting her in an alley? This was two blocks from my studio in pasadena I'm an artist and I do it and people go wow that's really interesting someone may say I don't that doesn't work for me but someone may say that's ingenious that's brilliant the reason why I can do this because if I was a photographer I would have said I'm gonna put her in a sports background, but as an artist I can go outside that boundary and say I really like this background I think someone jumping in alleys kind of a cool thing that kind of fits my view, and I just happen to take that a couple days before or after and kaboom there's a marriage of two things, and I get away with it because I'm an artist. I don't have to defend that so much that's a beauty being an artist photo a zit photographers, they you know, the standard definition dog for you probably would have taken a picture of her in the stadium all same time that's, right? But now you've given yourself options, and even beyond that let's say, two years from now, joel grimes likes to work with illustrator why not right, there's? Nothing holding you back to do that now, because you've opened up your your alleyways of inventiveness. So I had a guy come to me and he was working for a technical firm, whatever kind of engineer guy, but he had a love for photography and he was doing hdr and this back when hdr was fairly new and he has a wooden made one. Those books you know, how you send your stuff off and make a book big coffee table book, and he wanted to show it to me, and I said, sure, I'll take a look at it so me on over saturated images, right? Hdr to the hills so you know you have hd options and you go you know, maur grungy, more grungy more runs all sudden is like this one that looks like it's on fire neon that's what he had and maybe I'm over exaggerating but they were pretty bold and I was like, not my style not my style not my style but he actually did a huge body of work like that see what he said what do you think? And I say and when people ask me when they come and I do critique and they say what do you think of my work and I say the first thing I always say do you like it? Do you like this body of work? Yes keep doing it doesn't fit me it's like heavy metal and I want james taylor right to me it just is it my personality but the bottom line is not what I think what do you think? What do you think of your work? I'm on track good keep doing it if ice and they say, well, what do you think about the hdr oversaturated look I say didn't fit me but don't listen to me what do you think? So when I put a picture in a alley of a girl jumping and I go, I really like that and someone comes along with let mackey putting the athlete and allie for that doesn't fit so you know what doesn't matter what you think what matters is I like it because I'm an artist and I have the freedom do that it fits my vision and again hopefully enough people come along and say we like it too you find a group of people so I had this guy come to my workshop and he'd been in photographer a long time and he um came up to me afterwards the whole workshop he said really struggling I don't know two d'oh and he said I used to be pretty successful business and he says I've been thing's been really struggling lately do you have any advice for me after all my spiel he still did I don't buy sit okay here's what I want you to do if you can do this if you can afford to do this I want you to know he was doing senior portrait's and whatever it weddings and all the stuff I said do you like to photograph weddings goes no okay so here's what you do I want you to just build the bodywork of something that you like every weekend, every free minute go out and build the bodywork replace all your stuff your wedding pictures you're whatever senior portrait pictures you're you know and replace them all and put just what you love on your website and on your studio walls and that's it take the risk you see what happens? Call me in here. You called me here and he said, guess what? I have a line out the door he said exactly what you said because here's the thing when you take their risk and say I'm gonna do what I do build a body of work that you love there's always going to be a group of people that love it may not be the masses there's always gonna be people go that is absolutely amazing stuff. I want a picture. I want a portrait of you of picking by you when it can come in and he started building these beautiful portrait the fit him and you got a lot of attention in his community because he took the risk. So that's, what I say is that when you take that risk to be you because you're an artist and you fight for it, great things will happen. Um from jury deutsch he asks, how can I develop my right brain? I feel like a technician, not an artist. I feel that artists requires creativity and originally that I don't have to you have any thoughts about how people can just train to be creative a little bit more creative, well, here's one idea, okay, so let's say, like you see me, I shouldn't try out a lot right? I love sharpe images because I shot view cameras and all that stuff. What you might want to do is go to exact opposite of what you do every day so grab a camera take it off the triumph I'd shoot it wide open, start walking the streets and just create stuff shoot a flower shoot this can you just start doing blurred stuff whatever it is for me when I went and photographed beauty fashion so I got this call from a magazine to do a beauty fashion I said you've got the wrong person and I was just I just started doing this look right this edgy look I thought, what the heck? I know they're going to bring twelve thirteen models out I get to have access, you know, photographing and it pushed be in another direction, right kind of forced me down to think about skin how life strikes a little bit hard, you know that you know the beauty side of things the fashion and so it actually helped spark a whole new side and be so I would say let go of this technical part and then just bidding you put it on a program on otto and go and just play and uh again I don't know what he but maybe also looking at artists work that he loves say okay that's something I'm gonna go out and try to do I agree and jerry you know, I I got a degree here creative life dream photography creative live degree and I just say, you know, when you're watching workshops like this it's really getting out of your comfort zone so if you're comfortable being a technician then watch the parts that make you uncomfortable when they talk about being an artist for me I'm uncomfortable more uncomfortable with the technical side so I'll tune it I'll try to tune it out but if you're talking about the artistic side I'm like on the edge of my seat so you really have to tune into what makes you uncomfortable toe learn your weakness in my opinion do you think about that jewel that's good. Okay, cool. Yeah, well okay, member of this we know this hopefully we know this that a lot of times our weakness becomes our strength we're gonna actually talk about that little bit more. But so everyone in this room and out there has good skills and weak skills, right? We're good at some things we could others and here's the beauty of life. If you spend amount of time bringing your weak skills up you explode so but if you always just comfortably here leaving those weak skills alone it's like, for example, when I was in high school I could not get up in front of somebody and speak I'd be so nervous and you know I get up in front and then the world would be going right so here I am talking in front of you angle or a forty five events a year I'm speaking at how's that possible well I took that weak side up right and then it matched mohr of what I'm good at and now I can get in front of people and explained to when people what I'm doing with no coat, no problem so build your weaknesses up and things good things will happen let's think about any questions you might have I have a question here from rich d photo who says joel I specialize in photographing children so most of my clients are soccer moms to whom both the word photographer and artists seemed to be strongly associated with very specific stereotypes if I say I'm a photographer they assume I do the same thing as the kitty candids at the mall if I say I'm an artist they seem to assume they can't relate to me because I'm automatically arrogant condescending hoity toity and my work is inherently non understandable do you ever encounter something similar when your marketing yourself how do you deal with it? Well here's what I would say that as a general rule the person you're pitching as a general is more likely to want you to create something that's an artistic expression than a really good technical thing you know so my my view has always been create something that the average photographer around you can't create, create a look that that sets you apart. So then when the soccer mom comes along and says, I would need a picture of my kid, and they look at your work and go, I want that I want that at all cost, and so, um, so I would say again, lean to the court toward the artistic side, and you may have to sell yourself and, you know, we have an iphone or ipad with us all the time. Look what kind of work I do. You gotta sell your so when I was on the navajo reservation for two years, I don't have an ipad, but I carried prints on my arm. The more prints I got of the navajo people, the easier it was for me to sell someone to get in front of my lens. So you got to sell yourself say, I'm an artist, and this is what I do as an artist, tink! Tink! Tink! Tink! Tink, they go what? That is absolutely beautiful! So I still say sell yourself as an artist, okay? Carlos caracas asked joel, was there any point in your career that you compromised your style for work where you felt like yes and guess what if my kids need food and I need to pay my mortgage I'll still do it today you can't get away from that right you're going to say you know what I want to take this job because I gotta pay the bills and it's okay to do that when I went to school and fine arts it was like if you did commercial photography you sold out right that was the attitude that that happened as a lot on the dick commercial work the best of them all did even the painters had to do commission work so I would not get hung up on that is that yes ok you know you just sell yourself out just to get the money and it's part of life you know I can sleep that night you know but I know that the next day I can put on my hardest hat and do my thing right I'm gonna talk about one more reason why and this is a good segue into what we just talked about one more reason why you want to think like an artist okay why the art artistic process is so important ok the best compensation you can ever receive as a technician is a technician's wage before an artist there's no ceiling on what you get paid this is perfect so let me explain what I mean by that I had a friend come to me he was a product shooter and he said I think this is right when digital was happening right said I have an opportunity by a digital back for my four by five or mend me r z whatever was and um I said what was the cause of fifty thousand dollars now I said well how you gonna pay for that he said I'm gonna put a second mortgage on my home and I went you gotta be kidding me and I said why would you do that why would you risk buying it back risk your home to buy a piece of equipment and he said well because if I get a digital back I can offer digital files to my clients and not to pay for film and more competitive some sort of thinking about it but I'm not very bright person thinking okay who's paying for the fifty grand how you making your fifty grand back he's well I'll get more work em I thought about that for a while I thought that kind of makes sense so you have a piece of equipment and then you say I'm a digital uh you know you hanging on your door I'm digital and so the clients because clients say hey let's use this guy because he's digital we don't pay for film um and so if he gets more work than I guess in theory you could make that fifty grand back but I got to drive in a way I drove away from that and I was thinking at the time uh product shooter in denver made fifty hundred dollars a day that's what you're that's what your rate was and I was doing campaigns and I was billing out at some points ten grand a day how is that possible? I don't have a digital back so I got to thinking about it the problem is that he believed a piece of equipment is gonna increase his marketability marketability and his pay scale or income and that's the wrong mindset folks all I needed two point eight or one point for you know, fifty one point four I have one point to but if I have a one point four I could make more money or whatever I'm more marketable what you want to do is increase your artistic quality because an artist there's no ceiling when you get paid but a technician there's a limit you get paid a technician's wage so I get the car I'm driving along I had a new assistant online you know where'd you go to school all this stuff talking and I say what's the difference between me and you today I'm getting paid ten grand for today you're getting paid two hundred fifty bucks what's the difference besides that are you smarter than me? Probably do you know more about technical you know you just graduated from the big school you probably know more about photography than I do the difference is I got the job that's what separates the two how did I get the job I had to convince somebody how did I convince him I said it's worth for you to pay that kind of money that I'm demanding to get me to produce an image for you and it's through the artistic quality of my work not what piece of equipment I have right but we get stuck on equipment saying if I get this if I have this you know big huge studio if I do all this stuff I'm gonna get hired big dollars forget it go for being an artist create unbelievable images and the phone will start ringing and people pay you big dollars so be careful that you don't get caught thinking in that kind of mindset so in the end I believe the client is looking the higher a creative force on artist not a technician think like an artist think like an art should get the morning I'm an artist believe it maybe your wife'll say your husband I don't think you're an artist or maybe they'll agree with you you are an artist but you have to take that mindset take with confidence and is not an arrogant thing I'm an artist american I'm an arse is built in my d n a I have a passion to create I have a voice and I have and now I'm making the opportunity to be heard so think like an artist that's, my dropping the mic. Nice.

Ratings and Reviews


I loved the course, i laugh because Joel and I are kind of alike in General. Hey Joel if you like Ray's music you might like A guy by the name Amos Lee, Different than Ray but great song writer.

Kelley Hurwitz Ahr

One of the things that I love about Joel is that he has a great message along with great photography! I find him to be relatable, an expert in the field and quite motivating. Highly recommend any of his classes.


That was excellent. Loved the seminar and you hit on a lot of great points when it comes to defining yourself as someone who uses photographic equipment as a tool to be creative.

Student Work