Posts in Category: Creative process

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves since probably 2008 or so. I bought it at Book People on one of my many afternoons spent reading there before it got so crowded (cue non-native Austinite whining about how Austin used to be better before all the people moved here). It’s still intact; a little battered, but still intact.


It’s time to destroy this thing. Dedicated to perfectionists everywhere, indeed.

The Sunday Stuff: on creating a body of work

Out takes, rough drafts, and maybes for a series in progress. ©2015 Casey Clough

The wisdom of Ira Glass. You’ve probably seen this before, but it’s always good to have in your arsenal.

I’ve found the articles and reviews I’ve read this week rather uninspiring. I’m also a week behind on my New York Times, so that’s not helping me have a lot to write about, either. What can I say, this week has been kind of a doozy.

Changing media, doing the work, and the evolution of confidence.

I’ve been a photographer for almost three years now, so hardly any time at all considering how long it takes to develop artistic competence. It was and is a rocky journey: I have a trained eye, one I spent years and thousands of dollars educating. I have a basic-to-moderate command of the technicals of the camera (okay, it’s probably better than that). I’m just beginning to see what my own voice in photography looks like. I am most definitely in “the gap” Glass talks about so well.

I struggle with photographic series, because I am still in the stage where I don’t want to go back and look at work I’ve done even a few months ago, for the most part. I don’t feel consistent yet in my quality of work, and maybe no one ever does. I keep hearing the same feedback, the same advice:

  • Keep going.
  • Keep going.
  • Keep going.

Today, that’s all I’ve got. Rule #1: life intrudes.

Calls for Entry

Sidney Zuber Photography Award

if_logoINFOCUS, the photography support organization of Phoenix Art Museum, is calling for entries for the first INFOCUS Sidney Zuber Photography Award. The award will be granted biennially to an emerging or early career photographer who demonstrates artistic promise. The competition is open to photographers who are residents of the United States, working in all photographic media and styles.  Entry period: January 7, 2015 – March 15, 2015.


MPLS Photo Center | Still Life: The Inanimate Subject

Learn-more-about-the-MPLS-Photo-CenterThis call for entry focuses on the depiction of inanimate subject matter, traditionally referred to as still life. More than other genres of photography, still life gives photographers greater latitude in achieving their final vision through the arrangement of objects and composition of design elements. Juror Russell Joslin also welcomes entries that expand or challenge what “still life” photography is, or can be. Entry period January 29, 2015 – March 15, 2015.

Juried by Russell Jarvin of Shots Magazine, so all of you blurry black and white-loving lomographers, get on it.

 Foundry Art Center: Circus

1425764251294I happen to know the Exhibitions Manager at the Foundry Art Centre, Melissa Whitwam. The Foundry is a great space in St. Louis that is adding an artistic vibrancy and community to an area otherwise dominated by candle shops and touristy bars. It’s lovely.

The Foundry Art Centre’s Circus! exhibition invites artists of all media to astound our visitors with work celebrating the tradition of the Circus. Circuses and carnivals fulfill a need for people to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, overcoming the impossible in spectacular shows of grace, strength, and mystery. We invite the artist to capture the magic of the extraordinary by paying homage to, referencing, reacting to, or alluding to the spirit of the fantastic spectacular.  Sideshows, Freak shows, Traveling troupes, and entertainers—come one, come all and share your revelry in this art exhibition! Entry period now until May 17, 2015.

3 simple steps to being a successful artist…

…according to Horton Foote, at least. Keith Carter sometimes says that it was a Horton Foote lecture that began his career. In that speech, Foote gave three pieces of advice for artists:

  • You must know the history of your medium.

  • You must make work in your own time.

  • You must come from a place.

Paraphrased, of course. I wasn’t there, I have read slightly different accounts, and I forgot to take pictures of all of the slides during Kate Breakey‘s lecture the other night. I have read elsewhere (here, in fact) that one of the three steps was that you must be competent in your medium. I guess that seems fairly evident to me — yet, some amazing work can come from accidents.


I hate lists like this. “5 easy steps to world domination with clowns!”, “1 weird old trick to look like Cosmo wants you to!” — eh, yuck. I’m less likely to click on that kind of title, just because I feel like they are manipulative as all get out. There are no easy ways to be an artist. There aren’t any lists that can help you do the work, and that’s what it is all about. Do the work.

I may not yet have a grasp on this “marketing” thing; I may not want to.

Do the work.

The photography department faculty did a wonderful thing, and convinced Kate Breakey to come lecture to the department. She used these three edicts in her presentation, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot. I’m at a very uncomfortable juncture in my photographic work, and these are sticking in my head like a pebble in my shoe.


Canis latrans/Coyote ©Kate Breakey

Canis latrans/Coyote ©Kate Breakey

I actually think I am doing okay on this one. I have at least a fairly solid overview of photography until the 1970s from my class last semester, and I am continuing to read and explore on my own. I love photographic theory, and I can’t understand theory without history and photographic historiography. I like very much recognizing influences, schools of photographic thought, and processes or digital emulations of processes in the work I see; it informs my practice and gives me a framework.

It’s interesting being trained as a painter and moving into the digital photography world. In a way, I feel like I have lost my connection to the history of my medium, because no amount of book knowledge is going to put the muscle memory of transferring film for processing in a black bag or completely dark room; it is not going to call up the tang of chemicals in my nostrils. When I talk about, think about, or look at paintings, I do get the heady scent of linseed oil and turpentine in my nose, I remember the feel of paint on canvas – how a bristle brush laying thinned paint is a different, harsher sensation than the languid smoothing of bodied oils with a sable later in the work. I know that painters all have that sensual relationship to their medium.

I don’t get that with Photoshop, though I enjoy the minutia of editing with my tablet. I do not feel connected to photographers before me while I am editing with my tablet. Is that necessary? I don’t know. I’m not currently feeling that lack; for me (at least so far) photography is far more about the image I’m seeing than the process by which it was made.


Peeling paint, ©Aaron Siskind

Peeling paint, ©Aaron Siskind

I’ll admit, this one confused me a bit at first, but then I got to thinking about something we were talking about in another class. We were talking about the work of Aaron Siskind and Minor White — both photographers whose work I admire very much — and my professor said that of course, we couldn’t photograph peeling paint and claim it had meaning today. It wouldn’t fly, though it was revolutionary in its time.

He’s right, of course. As much as I love the abstract rhythm of Siskind’s paint, or the beauty in White’s frosty windows, I wouldn’t turn one of them in for critique. Even if it was technically perfect, beautifully printed, and I was secretly in love with it — it wouldn’t be timely. It would be like wearing an outfit that is out of fashion, but not yet so out of fashion that it’s cool again.

Which makes me wonder: it seems the recycle-life for clothing fashion is about twenty years. What is it for photographic technology? Tintype, wet-plate, and all kinds of film are all making a comeback, but are some more “fashionable” than others? It seems right now that the older the technology, the better; wet plate is cooler than black and white 4×5, black and white 4×5 is cooler than 35mm color. Curious.

Is my work in my own time? Usually. It’s something for me to keep an eye on and define better for myself.


©Casey Clough

left home, Marfa ©2012 Casey Clough

This – this is where it gets complicated for me. While Kate Breakey was speaking, she was showing work from her huge series. She has multiple series that have hundreds of images in them, so many she can’t remember the first one she did. All of her work is also very grounded in place: the deserts of Australia and Arizona.

I have always, and continue, to struggle with series. I’m not grounded anywhere, not like that. Do I think these are connected? After thinking for a few days, I do. I’m not entirely sure how yet, but yes. I know place can mean things other than attachment to geographical location, but also being rooted in an emotional state, idea, principle, or some other viewpoint or belief. I haven’t figured out how to stay in one long enough to do the work of making a cohesive body of work.

This is going to have to be something I explore. I am estranged from my biological family. I have a dissociative disorder, which is a fundamental disruption in cohesive identity. How do I define myself in long-term work? I don’t know. I have often thought about exploring my history and head in my work in a direct fashion, but I want to avoid making work that reads like angsty adolescent poetry. While I think that a whole lot of art is in some way therapeutic for the artist who makes it, I don’t want my art to be obviously my therapy. I have therapy for that. There’s a balance to be found. I am introspective enough, and self-contained enough, that the place I am from is me. It could make for some fertile ground to explore, it could lead to the overly-descriptive and trite.

Much to think about.

Those of you who work in series, what are your long-term projects grounded in?