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How to Make Art & Life
(& photographs) and 
Other Advice to
the Artlorn

images and words by J R Compton

Black Bagley - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Heavy Load into a Narrow Crevice

Dread & Worry Panics & What to do about them

You know those times when you feel like it's all over, no place to go from here. No plans. No shows set. You've just gone through a major bit of education or some other damn transition. But now where? Now what?

The conventional wisdom is to tell you, "Don't worry. It'll be fine." But it won't.

It'll be scary for awhile till you get your bearings oiled up again. Figure out what direction to run in next. Learn who you are now, past that last bit of change.

What really has to happen is that you have to go through it. Whatever it is. Worry. A techtonic panic attack. Serious disillusion for too long to contemplate. Dark moonless midnight of the soul time. And you have to get down into it. Open the manhole cover and climb down the ladder into your blackness down there. Into the scary pit. Down into it. Wallow around down there for awhile.

No more dancing around the edges. Dive in. Feel the pain. The hurt. The fear. The nothingness of you know you're going nowhere. You're not good enough. There's no way out.

I know. I know, you feel like, "Oh, God, I really don't want to… do this." Some other time, maybe. Please, not now.

But you have to. It's your time to wallow in self-pity and all those I-can't-do-its you've been saving up. Now it's your turn for a little dance with the dark-side. Let go of the hold-back on your panic.


Get good and gloomy. No happy thoughts. The world is coming to an end. Your world is, at least. Get really dark like there's no tomorrow, no yesterday and today's gone, too. Go all the way black. Don't think about it. Don't worry about it. Don't fret your little or big head.

But first some rules: Don't dump your friends or lovers. Make 'em read this, so they know what you're up to. And besides, you'll need somebody to complain to. And no suicide attempts. If you just have to, you can take your favorite drugs. Sugar. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Soaps. Loud music. Reality TV. Mary Ju Wanna. Don't be stupid. Don't get caught.

But wallow. Till you're sick and damned tired of wallowing.

Then stop.

Get over it. Get past it. Go out and bump into life. Make new friends.


It's actually good for you and for your art. You've done the happy times are here again routine for awhile.


Two Fences Meeting at the Corner - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Fences Meeting at the Corner

Ever lose a big bunch of important images?

Yes. Often. Usually lose them from cards I accidentally reformatted or "erased." Which is slowly and painfully cured by renewing software that pulls up every file on the card that has not been overwritten. When disks are erased or reformatted, it's only the directory that is changed. What's there — the data, stays there, till it's completely overwritten.

Slipping out of bags is different. You still have the memories. You still have the people you love. You still have the camera. You still have what you learned. You may even still be able to find the card where you least and last expect it.

Figured you were off somewhere cool. Cherish the memories. If you can't find the card, don't worry about it. If you do find it, it'll be because you didn't worry about it, and it will be able to slip back into your plane of existence. Worry is praying for the wrong thing to happen.

Sometimes making art and taking photographs gets between you and your loved ones and what's out there needing to be experienced. Sometimes you get both. Sometimes just one or the other. Sometimes it's even your choice.


Ever feel like it went so badly you want to erase
or burn everything you've made?

Keep them all for awhile. You'll be surprised how much your mind changes about what's good. Look at every art piece. You can always trash them later. I've known several artists who've burned or trashed their old paintings, only to wish they'd been a little calmer and kept those pieces.

Look at and learn from your mistakes, but sooner or later, you need to go through them all and trash the really bad ones.


How do I start taking pictures, making art, writing?

I always tell people who want to make photographs to take photographs. The best way to learn to do something is to start doing it, and be sure to make lots of mistakes. Don't wait. Start.

I've been writing for more than fifty years. I've only been making photographs since 1964. I can't stop. I don't want to stop. I get better by keeping at it. I've still got a lot to learn, and I can't learn what I need to learn if I don't do it and make lots of mistakes.

Sometimes I just sit down at the computer and start typing, to see what I'm thinking about.



hits  since August 3 2011