Make A Lot of It

I’m certainly not a chef, but whenever I’m asked what the “key ingredient” is to making good photographs, good ART, the answer I give is a simple one: make a lot of it.

We often talk about how vision is everything, but vision doesn’t come from the womb full grown and mature. It’s cultivated. And that cultivation takes time and effort. Certainty and control might be your friends while performing surgery, but they are not your friends here.

While some people might mistake my suggestion of repetition and productivity with ‘thoughtless’ production, it couldn’t be further from what I mean. In reality, it’s usually through producing art that ideas get brought to fruition. You’re working your way through fear, through vagueness, through the numbers, the details, the soul of it. It’s through this process that we find what we’re looking for.

Tolstoy re-wrote War & Peace 8 times (by hand) before he got it right.

Michael Jordan has missed 26 game winning shots.

I could go on, but you get the point.

“Making art is like beginning a sentence before you know it’s ending. The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all – or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it’s an excellent idea in making art.” – from the book Art & Fear

[Btw, if you haven’t read the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
, you’re missing out. The book was first gifted to me by a photographer I met on the road named Bryce Boyer. Thx B.]

39 Responses to Make A Lot of It

  1. David Dvir November 2, 2010 at 10:26 am #


    Couldn’t agree more, that’s why everyone should take advantage of digital camera, and the fact that you can create pretty much as much art with them as you want without the time/financial restraints of film. Not that I don’t like film, but we really have very little excuse to not just unleash a whirlwind of photographs whenever we want in an attempt to gain experience, art and pure and simple magic.


  2. Brian 'Spoo' Spour November 2, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    Very, very true Chase. I consistently create work everyday, big or small, photographs or art, its all the thought process.

  3. jake November 2, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Hi Kate! nice post. I would just add that photography is not art, especially Commercial one. The truly great art comes from unique experience and great skill. Taking snaps really doesn’t count into it. undoubtedly, you may end up with something interesting but it will fall short amid the world’s greatest art. take a look at the recent kanye west videos. he tried hard to be artistic, but he eithet doesn’t have skills or deeper thougts about our existance and sense. In other words, art can’t be created is seconds nor minutes, it’s a process that should take you your whole life and the road to it should be occupied with sensible and tremendously hard work.
    otherwise you end up with something really average and generic.

    • David Dvir November 2, 2010 at 11:05 am #

      I have to disagree with this and say that art is an opinion. Art can be found anywhere and everywhere and it’s more a state of mind than a life-long pursuit. A child might take a photograph and we might find beauty and art in there. Is that to say he is artistic, no, but it is that he created art. Art is beyond photographs or paintings or sculptures or films, it’s simply the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination… there are no other rules like “it being a process that should take you your whole life and the road should be occupied with sensible and tremendously hard work.” I think most artists would say that art can happen as spontaneously as anything else. Although some people do commit their whole lives to art and produce none aside from a story about their wasted days.. life long dedication and hard work are not the only ways of creating art!

      • Michelle Sibley November 2, 2010 at 11:51 am #

        (My Response to David Dvir’s comment on Tuesday, Nov. 2)
        Yes, David I agree with you that art is everywhere. To respond to the art that you see and appreciate is natural, easy and free. The appreciation of art costs you nothing. But, I can say that for me, I think I understand what the writer wishes to convey with the title of that book. Personally, I know that I have ideas and creativity flows from that. The FEAR part is in the exposing. What I mean is that it is difficult sometimes to allow your art to be scrutinized. Or, at least that is how I feel sometimes. And, the wicked truth is that the one who is most critical is ME! I overly scrutinize my own work. Then, FEAR becomes the paralyzing factor. Who wins in this case? Sad to say…FEAR wins. That is probably why Chase recommends this book because so many people can relate.

        • David Dvir November 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

          Michelle, we’re often the most critical of our own work. I think that’s normal. I agree with you though about the titel of the book :). In my experience embracing your art should be your main concern. No matter how beautiful something that you create is, someone will not agree. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually what makes “art” so interesting.

      • jake November 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

        David, the suggestion about art you make is really stretched and I understand how you want that to be true. It’s mainly the fault of gear manufactures, software developers and ad agencies. It’s brainwashing. The amount of individuals creating real art is more or less the same as it used to be 400 years ago. I agree that art is expression of oneself, yet it’s not spontaneous. It is the result of meticulous thinking process, analysis and beliefs. No one posting on this site is even capable of doing half of that.
        And my request is to not undermine the value of art, because by your definition, not flushing a toilet after your number two, is and act of art as well.

        • David Dvir November 2, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

          I realize that my suggestion is stretched, I felt that to get my point across I had to embellish a bit. How can you say though, the number of artists is the same, at the very least you should agree that the percentage is the same, given that the population of the Earth has grown substantially in that time.
          I just request that we not undermine art created in simple ways. Not ALL art must be crafted by the hand of a meticulous process. Sometimes the most simple truths carry great impact and reach. When I stare through my telescope at some distant, static celestial body, I often find myself in shock and awe. I am amazed by what I see and often would consider calling it art. That is not my definition of “art” by the way, that is the dictionary’s.
          I think you make many assumptions and your remarks offend me. To argue that art cannot be spontaneous is as short visioned as suggesting no one posting on this site is capable of creating art. One day you will see something beautiful and realize to yourself that no one spent their life designing it’s purpose. It is simply art.

    • Will November 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

      @Jake I think it’s crazy that you could say photography isn’t an art form, by your definition “great art comes from unique experience and great skill” so what you’re stating is a photographer can’t have these attributes and put them into their art form ? If you go to many art galleries across the World they have entire sections devoted to photography.
      Painters, sculpters, illustrators (all whom you would define as artists I’m assuming) used the medium they had at the time (paint, charcoal, stone, clay), now if leanardo da vinci’s Mona Lisa was a photograph you would say that it would no longer be art ?

      I know many photographers who have spent their whole lives making photographs and put in tremendous hard work, however by your judgement and statement of fact, because they chose photography (which literally means drawing with light) as their medium of choice they do not create art in any way ? Your opinions are totally ridiculous.
      The fact you compare photographers like bresson or klien or whoever to kanye west is even more ridiculous.
      Obviously you yourself must be a critically acclaimed artist of a life long career in some other medium to critique and bring down the hundreds of thousands of photographers over the world who wrongly feel they are making art, yes?

    • Chris Bernard November 3, 2010 at 7:44 am #

      That may be partly true, but what Kate is saying has merit. You gotta have the skills to lay down your “lifelong” vision. To get the skills you need repetition.
      Great insight as always you guys.
      Chris Bernard

  4. gabe s November 2, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I love when I just shoot like crazy. People I’m with are amazed at the number of pictures I take then I just say thats nothing, and point to Chase who does 30k in a day or two….

    • Oliver November 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

      I’m not sold that just creating is the answer though. To take 30k pictures in a shoot sounds nuts to me, but what really matters is the critical thought process of the photographer while shooting. Are they just shooting and hoping that they get something good without trying new things? I’ve seen photogs shoot the exact same shot four or five times just because they can, and memory is cheap. Spray and pray is weak.

      I realized just how bad I sucked as a photographer when I switched to film from digital and I had new contraints that made me think more and click buttons less. I’m not saying digital sucks, but you have to think critically, try new things, as well as create to get anywhere.

      • me November 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm #


  5. Pat November 2, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Thanks, Chase. Read this book quite a while ago but maybe it’s time to revisit. I remember reading it gave me inspiration and the feeling that it was “ok” to be passionate about my art/creative process, even though maybe it didn’t make sense to most people.


    unemployed chef, wanna-be photographer/artist

  6. Angie November 2, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you for this. Your post was the inspiration I needed today to continue working thoughtfully and growing two creative hobbies.

  7. Kenna Klosterman November 2, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    nice! i got Art & Fear from the library last week and it’s sitting on my bedside table. of course reading it is the next step! : ) Thanks for the extra push!

  8. Michelle Sibley November 2, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    That title? Art & fear. It sums up everything that holds me back. Fear… the perpetual demon that must be recognized, contained and squashed! I plan to check out that book. Thanks Chase for the recommendation.

  9. Brence November 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Sounds like a great read.

    I think that it is easy to spend a lot of time thinking about making art, but not actually creating it.

    Perhaps it is best that we do our ‘thinking’ while we are doing.

  10. anthony bellemare November 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    A quote from the artist Chuck Close:

    “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and somthing else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

  11. Carl D November 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Hey Chase

    Agreed. And add my recommendation for that book. It’s an excellent read.

    Nice post,



  12. Tom Jacobs November 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I don’t think is was mentioned…Ted Orland is the author of “Art and Fear”. I have the privilege of meeting in a very small photo group once a month in which Ted is a member. Ted worked with Ansel Adams in Yosemite for 15 years I believe. Ted is a great inspiration.

    Another great follow up book by Ted is “The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World”. It is also a must read!

  13. Tom Jacobs November 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    I apologize… I forgot give credit to David Bayles a co-author of Art and Fear.

  14. Paul S Bartholomew November 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Great post! After 13 yrs of being a photographer I still feel like I’m new at this. Its all about pushing yourself and making lots of mistakes. I’m constantly finding new direction with my work and it requires a lot of uncertainty. It is actually a part of the process.

  15. Peter November 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    That’s funny I bought this book 3 weeks ago, can’t wait to read!

  16. Adam November 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    @Chase or Kate, or whoever posted this: thanks, I’ll be ordering the book…I just figured out that you are my “Oprah”, every book you post on, I buy:) :( :)
    @Jake: Love your high octane posting! If I call my photography “art”, which I do, then I’ll have to come up with another word for “War and Peace”. My elevator, unfortunately does not go to Tolstoy’s floor. (Although I do try…)

  17. Ryan Krueger November 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    I do not know how or when I received this book but it has sat unread on my bookshelf for years collecting dust. Today, after reading this post I finally opened it up and finished it. Thanks.

  18. Jean-Pierre November 3, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    I read that book a few months ago and it changed the way I view art, photography, and anything else I have been passionate about. Not to give a synopsis or anything, but the book is basically about all the internal and external issues involved with creating. Whether it be photography, cooking, or making a halloween costume, art and it’s many forms are integral to people whether they know it or not. And sometimes the fear within is stopping you from being happy.

    Thank you for recommending this book. I hope a lot of people read it because I know, for a fact, that they’ll enjoy it.

  19. Ray Chong November 3, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    Great advice as always, Chase!
    I think a corollary worth keeping in mind (and I know you’ve touched on this before) is “see a lot of it”.

  20. Roger Bong November 3, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Do you mean to say “its ending” instead of “it’s ending”? They both make sense in their own ways…

    “…beginning a sentence before you know it’s ending.”
    “…beginning a sentence before you know its ending.”

  21. book publishers November 6, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    Agreed. And add my recommendation for that book. It’s an excellent read.

  22. Life with Kaishon December 28, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Brilliantly said : )
    Wishing you the most wonderful of new years!

  23. EM July 18, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Even if we were to practice making a circle a thousand times a day, we’d never make a perfect circle, but again that’s not the point. We’d understand the perfect circle just only a thousand times better. Thanks… EM.

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