Sustaining The Practice of Art

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” ~Kurt Vonnegut

Chase Jarvis recently posted about his Create-Share-Sustain paradigm. I’ve referenced it, linked to it, quoted it several times this past year. In that paradigm, the notion of sustaining the create-share cycle is generally seen as a financial one. It’s the grease on the wheels that allows you to keep going – whether that’s working at Starbucks or a day-job you love, or even making photographs as a career itself. But there are other means by which we sustain ourselves. Man, Jesus once said, does not live by bread alone. Of course, He was referring to prayer, a sustenance of the soul.

Art too sustains the soul. But how do you sustain art?

I’m ending, as you know, an incredibly busy year. It’s been exciting, and my work has certainly sustained and grown my soul, to use the words of writer Kurt Vonnegut. But you know that bit in physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction? It’s like that in metaphysics too. As a result this year and the work I did, has also had something of a draining effect. I am tired. I am running out of images and words. I’m feeling it. So what do you do when the thing that sustains you begins to tire you? What do you do when the shelves are bare?

I think you go back and put stuff on the shelf. For the creative soul I think the way we do that is a little counter-intuitive: we shoot more, write more, we go back to the well and fill it with the same bucket we use for drawing water in the first place. We get intentional about the process and stop worrying about the products. We stir the paint. We take more risks. We work more, not less. If you’re a VisionMonger and your work feeds you literally as well as metaphorically, it means you take the time to do personal projects and create something for you and not only your clients. It is not just as important that you feed your own creative soul before you feed your market, it is more important.

I’ll tell you my plan in the coming days, but for now I’m curious about you. Forget resolutions and plans for the new year for now. For now, forget the steps you’ll take to improve your business. What do you do to stir the paint? Where do you go to fill your well?



Dec 21st


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CategoryPosted in: Pep Talks, The Big Q, VisionMongers

Doomed(?) Revisited.

2008. Sleeping on the train to Tunis, Tunisia. Or Sfax. I can’t recall now. Photo credit: The Legendary H. On Friday I posted a letter from a photographer asking a very pointed question about his future in the craft. I put the note out there and invited replies from you, and boy did you ever […]

Dec 17th


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CategoryPosted in: Pep Talks, The Big Q, VisionMongers

Doomed To Mediocrity?

I got this question in my inbox this week: In the past two decades I’ve learned at least one thing about myself:  I don’t do expert well. I do bouncing around, try everything once well.  Chalk it up to my being Gemini, too much coffee or ADD. I can get good, and focus for short […]

Dec 16th


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CategoryPosted in: Marketing, Self-Promotion, News & Stuff, Pep Talks, VisionMongers


A short post this morning as I’m swimming (drowning?) in the business and task-management end of things. Consider the brevity a chance to catch up on other reading My learning curve feels endless and steep these days. New software, new business models, new cameras, shooting film and remembering what it’s like to get a bunch […]

Dec 10th


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CategoryPosted in: VisionMongers

VisionMonger Questions

This one might win for lamest illustration I’ve ever posted. Remember the buttons I (over)did for a while? Any more of these and you’ll be begging to go back to them. The other day Peachpit hosted a webcast chat with me and about 70 other folks. It was a fun conversation, though these things always […]

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