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This Museletter is about creativity in all its forms. It includes
excerpts, stories, quotations and various musings designed to educate,
motivate, inspire and to be pondered & enjoyed.
As well as shooting commercial projects on location and in the studio
for advertising clients, Lorne has recently published a fine art photo book on his 20-years of shooing in Cuba, available here. He also teaches travel
photography workshops throughout the world.
Here's what's inside this issue:
1. What Separates Good Art from the Bad?
2. Find your mucker(s) - collaborate or perish.
3. Travel Photography Workshops: (Cuba, Africa, Los Angeles)
"A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist." Leo Tolstoy
1. Leo Tolstoy on Emotional Infectiousness and What Separates Good Art from the Bad.
By 1897, Leo Tolstoy was already a literary legend of worldwide acclaim and a man deeply invested in his ultimate quest to unravel the most important wisdom on life. But he shocked the world when he published What Is Art? that year — which gave us Tolstoy’s addition to history’s finest definitions of art and which pulled into question the creative merits of Shakespeare, Beethoven, and even his very own Anna Karenina. Underneath his then-radical and controversial reflections, however, lies a rich meditation on the immutable, eternal question of what art — especially “good art” — actually is, and how to tell it from its impostors and opposites.
Tolstoy puts forth a sentiment Susan Sontag would come to echo decades later in asserting that “art is a form of consciousness,” and frames the essential role of art as a vehicle of communication and empathy:
"In order correctly to define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of interaction between man and man.
Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship both with him who produced the art, and with all those who, simultaneously, previously, or subsequently, receive the same artistic impression.
The activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it. And it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based."
This core quality of art Tolstoy calls its “infectiousness,” and upon the artist’s ability to “infect” others depends the very recognition of something as art:
"If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art.
To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling — this is the activity of art.
More than a bridge from person to person, he argues, art is a bridge across eras, cultures, and lifetimes — a kind of immortality:
"Thanks to man’s capacity to be infected with the feelings of others by means of art, all that is being lived through by his contemporaries is accessible to him, as well as the feelings experienced by men thousands of years ago, and he has also the possibility of transmitting his own feelings to others."
Lamenting the growing perversion of the art world, which has warped our ability to tell good art from bad, Tolstoy insists that the only way to distinguish true art from its counterfeit is by this very notion of infectiousness:
"However poetical, realistic, effective, or interesting a work may be, it is not a work of art if it does not evoke that feeling (quite distinct from all other feelings) of joy and of spiritual union with another (the author) and with others (those who are also infected by it).
A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist — not that alone, but also between himself and all whose minds receive this work of art. In this freeing of our personality from its separation and isolation, in this uniting of it with others, lies the chief characteristic and the great attractive force of art."
Infectiousness, however, is not a mere binary quality. Tolstoy argues that, the degree of infectiousness is what separates good art from excellent art. He offers three conditions that determine the degree of infectiousness:
"The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art, speaking now apart from its subject matter, i.e., not considering the quality of the feelings it transmits. And the degree of the infectiousness of art depends on three conditions:
1) On the greater or lesser individuality of the feeling transmitted;
2) on the greater or lesser clearness with which the feeling is transmitted;
3) on the sincerity of the artist, i.e., on the greater or lesser force with which the artist himself feels the emotion he transmits.
The more individual the feeling transmitted the more strongly does it act on the receiver.
The clearness of expression assists infection because the receiver, who mingles in consciousness with the author, is the better satisfied the more clearly the feeling is transmitted.
I have mentioned three conditions of contagiousness in art, but they may be all summed up into one, the last, sincerity, i.e., that the artist should be impelled by an inner need to express his feeling. That condition includes the first; for if the artist is sincere he will express the feeling as he experienced it. And as each man is different from everyone else, his feeling will be individual for everyone else; and the more individual it is — the more the artist has drawn it from the depths of his nature — the more sympathetic and sincere will it be. And this same sincerity will impel the artist to find a clear expression of the feeling which he wishes to transmit. Therefore this third condition — sincerity — is the most important of the three.
The presence in various degrees of these three conditions — individuality, clearness, and sincerity — decides the merit of a work of art as art, apart from subject matter. In one the individuality of the feeling transmitted may predominate; in another, clearness of expression; in a third, sincerity; while a fourth may have sincerity and individuality but be deficient in clearness; a fifth, individuality and clearness but less sincerity; and so forth, in all possible degrees and combinations.
Thus is art divided from that which is not art, and thus is the quality of art as art decided, independently of its subject matter, i.e., apart from whether the feelings it transmits are good or bad."
By Maria Popova from brainpickings.org
"In the long history of humankind (and animalkind, too) those who learned to collaborate most effectively have prevailed." Charles Darwin.
2. Do geniuses work alone? And for that matter, do any of us do our best creative work solo?
Many people believe geniuses work alone, but history and modern research both suggest not. When Michelangelo moved into the Medici Palace in Florence in 1489, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. Not only was this an incredible opportunity to share his art with a rich patron, Lorenzo the Magnificent, it was also a chance to be influenced himself. In Lorenzo’s household, Michelangelo found himself rubbing elbows at dinner parties with thinkers like Niccolò Machiavelli and being mentored by Bertoldo di Giovanni, who’d studied under Donatello. This remarkable creative education was a hallmark of the Italian Renaissance, where passing on of knowledge from one master to the next was common. And to this day, it’s still how great work is done.
Yet we still cling to the notion that groundbreaking creative work happens in isolation. And there’s no shortage of productivity experts who will rush to point out that the toughest, most high-value work takes mastery and deep focus–that distractions are bad, and that most distractions result from other people, all being forced to collaborate and failing miserably at it.
But according to creativity researcher Keith Sawyer, “You cannot be creative alone. Isolated individuals are not creative. That’s not how creativity happens.” Sawyer, who’s coined the term “group genius,” claims that creativity is more about relationships than any sudden flash of genius. Nor does this just apply to the arts, he believes–it’s true across business, science, and nearly every other area of life.
Many of us resist this idea, not just because we may personally dislike teamwork, but because we’d prefer to see the people we admire as earning all the praise we heap on them.
But this is nothing new. Thomas Edison worked with dozens of “muckers” who built and tested his ideas. Was he not a true inventor? Michelangelo relied on literally hundreds of employees for the last 40 years of his life to help him with his work. Was he not a genius?
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN CREATIVE COMMUNITY
Diana Glyer has spent decades studying the Inklings, that famous literary group that birthed the careers of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. And as she sees it, the myth of the starving artist who works alone is not only wrong, it “robs writers and other creatives of the possibility of writing the way that writing or creating normally takes place, which is in a community.”
Embracing that reality, rather than resisting it, can actually encourage creativity itself by helping us find like-minded creatives to collaborate with. If anything, our success is contingent on our ability to work well with others–which may be just one reason why employers seem so desperate lately to hire people with high emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Of course, we need to spend significant amounts of time alone with our craft. But we also need significant amounts of time with people who can guide us in doing better work.
Otherwise, creative output becomes a much slower, more grueling slog than it needs to be. As Glyer puts it, “the life of an artist, [or of] any kind of creator, is fraught with discouragement. You need people to correct your path.” The best kind of work, then, is a result of both “deep work,” as author Cal Newport calls it, and a strong network.
With that in mind, here’s a rough road map to honing your craft–both alone and with other people:
First, find a “master” and study their work. Almost every leader has some kind of footprint these days, and it’s your job to find it. Get more familiar with their work than they are.
Of his poorly paid muckers, Edison said it wasn’t the money they wanted “but the chance for their ambition to work.” One of his employees confirmed this, saying that “the privilege which I had being with this great man for six years was the greatest inspiration of my life.”
Second, emulate your mentor’s work. Borrow what you like most about their style and build upon it, making it better without undercutting it. Yes, you’re “copying” their work at this stage, but it’s an important exercise.
Third; build a creative community that will ultimately support you when you’re ready to forge your own approach. You can begin experimenting with more originality at the same time, but since you’ve already struck a collaborative relationship with your mentor, you’ll be promoting their work through your own. You acknowledge where you came from and give credit where it’s due. This encourages constructive feedback from an engaged and growing audience.
So yes, creative geniuses may retreat to a solitary location now and then to finish a book or album, but their work is always being refined by a community. These “collaborative circles,” as researcher Michael Farrell calls them, are constantly evolving. Longtime members fall into the role of mentors, bringing in new protégés, and those who’ve been mentored for a while start to find their own voice and boost the credentials of those who’d helped them up.
As it’s been for a long time, so it’ll always be: Creativity is more a collaborative art than a solitary one.
By Jeff Goins - Fast Company
The Art of Travel Photography:
How to Create Emotionally Compelling Travel Images
Join Lorne as he teaches you the keys to creating emotionally
compelling nature, landscape, people, wildlife and travel images. This
limited selection of unique workshops, geared toward every participant
skill level, will provide you with an exceptional learning experience
in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, including Cuba and
Africa. To see Lorne's entire workshop schedule for his Art of Travel
Photography workshop series, please visit http://www.lorneresnick.com/workshops