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Procrastination

This past week I have been in full blown procrastination mode. I find myself doing practically anything instead of working on those large, self imposed, projects I set out for myself.

My procrastination is so bad, I am actually tackling the dreaded and tedious task of sorting LEGO, cleaning out my closets and of course escaping into the nearby wilderness with kids and friends in tow. Sure my house is cleaner, my LEGO is getting a much needed major reorganization and I have certainly enjoyed taking mini figure photos in some spectacular scenery; but those projects I set before me to do are still begging for my attention.

In fact there is a very cute little brown faced figure sitting on my desk, staring at me, wondering when we are going to get started on our project. I have to tell my little friend to be patient a little longer because I think this down time, this procrastination, is a good thing.

One of my favorite authors, Hillary Mantel, said this about procrastination:

Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you.

While I am working so hard not to work, I know my subconscious is busy working out the problems ahead of me. Instead of running head long into an impasse, I am slowly figuring out the work arounds. I think this is what Ms Mantel was talking about when she says: “make delay and procrastination work for you.”

I am learning to embrace these white spaces, the down time, and have faith that when the time is right, the photographs I am looking for will flow effortlessly.

In the mean time, I will leave you with a recent images that I couldn’t be happier with.

Watermarked Photo-1
Enjoying the Moment
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My Passion

My passion is not LEGO, it may not even be photography, it’s music. I have been pretty clear with friends that if I had to choose between LEGO and music, I would choose music.

Weird, right?

I love my LEGO mini figures, I love my camera and what I can accomplish with it, I love the community that I have created out of all of this. But honestly it doesn’t make me feel the way I do when I listen to music. When I listen to music, to a particular piece or an artist that I truly connect with, it makes me feel alive. I mean truly deeply connected to this earth, to myself, to my emotions, to the human condition, in a way that nothing else does.

When I attend a concert by a band / artist that I am particularly enamored with, it can be a spiritual event. I enjoy being part of a crowd of like minded individuals who are having a shared experience. I love to feel the music course through my body and while I let my brain disconnect from the everyday, I simply exist in the moment.

More often than not I have to hear the music in person, rather than a recording, to truly understand music. Its like I need to see the music before I can really feel it. Maybe this is what ultimately connected me to KEXP and my weird long time (read six years) volunteer position with their video department. When I am videoing a band  I want to somehow translate that intimate experience to the viewer through the shot I am framing . Obviously most of the creative process lies with the editor, but if he doesn’t have good material to work from, how can he do his job?

It is important to have a variety of interests and passions to feed your creativity.  Our passions and our art are all connected. For me the tie that binds all this music, video and toy photography together is one word: emotions. Music is my creative release and inspiration. I want the passion I feel for music to resonate in my photography. I want the viewer to have an emotional response to my work. It is a lofty goal and one I know I fall short of, but it is good to have goals.

I share all of this with you because I want to know what inspires you! I am currently reading Sally Man’s memoir and she mentions that her creative inspiration is long distance horse racing. Maybe it is the opposite, maybe your photography inspires your work?  What ever your passion is, I hope you cherish and nourish it. The world can be a brutal place and its important to have a passion that helps to energize and fuel you going forward.

So what is YOUR passion?

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Quantity is Better than Quality

There is a classic story about creativity  from Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking that I want to share with you.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quantity. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated and “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, come grading time a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than  grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.” – Art and Fear

So don’t get hung up on how great your images are. If you simply spend more time behind that lens snapping away at lots of things, without worrying about what you are doing a funny thing will happen … you will find yourself getting better and some amazing images will start appearing.

Sometimes quantity IS better than quality.

IMG_2536-1
It’s a journey, not a destination.

 

Have you ever hit a creative dry spell? If so, did you do anything special to free yourself of it?

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The Color of Summer

For me, nothing says summer like the rich color of green.

Summer is upon us here in the great Pacific Northwest with a vengeance. The kids are out of school, the temperatures are unseasonably warm and the sun never stops shining.

Luckily, only a short drive away, you can escape the heat and take a deep dive into the forest. You can climb a mountain or follow a shady path through the tangled undergrowth, whatever suites your fancy. The light is beautiful as it filters though the canopy of leaves high overhead. If you look closely you can observe the magic of the ever-present moss, lichen and fungus as it clings to everything in sight. Sword ferns cover the ground as far as the eye can see, decomposing fallen trees bring a new round of nutrients to the soil and the large rocks and boulders left from some retreating glacier, add to the beauty of this rich, cool and very green landscape.

Since the sun never seems to stop shining here in the “rainy” Pacific Northwest (thank you climate change) my photos this summer will be filled with a thousand shades of green as I escape into this wonderland of cool.

Of course there are much worse places to escape to with a backpack full of mini figures. 🙂

What says summer to you? Is it a particular mini figure, or a particular color, or a favorite place? 

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Mini Figure Customization

I recently purchased the book Minifigure Customization and I am busy sawing, grinding and painting my plastic. (Gasp!) To give you some idea of what a revolutionary statement that is for me, I currently store my mini figs by series and theme, I rarely ever mix and match parts and if I do I immediately put them back to their original configuration. Anything less makes me anxious.

To go from that purist mind set to painting LEGO has been a leap of faith for me. Funny thing is, I like it! I enjoy the creative rush of making something with my hands. I think it’s just a matter of time before I am going full on custom like my friend Krash_Override.

This image of my daughter dressed for her high school graduation is my first customization. I made the cape (including prepping the cloth so it doesn’t fray), painted the mortar board and carved out the hair so the cap fit over her hair. I’m very pleased with the results.

 

Next up on my agenda will be few new weapons, maybe a custom light saber and certainly my own TinTin and Captain Haddock. Because with my new found willingness to get down and dirty with my plastic…I won’t have to wait for LEGO or the HERGE Foundation to make my next adventure a reality.

  • Have you ever tried your hand at a customized mini figure? 
  • How do you feel about taking a saw and paint brush to your plastic mini figures?
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A Morning Well Spent

This past Saturday I had the absolute privilege to meet up with nine other local toy photographers and spend a very quick two hours running around Seward Park taking photographs of toys. This group was made up of people I admire, people who are my friends and people who I want to get to know better. It was a morning well spent.

It was also a personal reminder of why I do what I do… I enjoy the social aspects of social media. By “social aspects” I don’t me a brief comment on a photo or a quick “like”, I mean the get down and dirty lets go have a beer, share some fries and talk toys, life, jobs, relationships, kids or whatever else you want to share with me kind of exchange.

Almost everyone who I know in real life I have meet on the internet; the number of exceptions can be counted on one hand. Those experiences, connections, exchanges are what I thrive on.

There are a lot of changes on the horizon for me in the next few months and I want to savor this summer. I don’t want to worry about blogging; I don’t want to think about photography. I want to concentrate on more personal subjects. Sometimes you need to take two very large steps backward before you can take one step forward. 

For the next few months I’m going to change up my priorities. They will include:

  • enjoying my daughter before she moves out this fall.
  • going for a hike at least once a week.
  • meeting up with friends for more photo safaris.
  • practicing my archery.
  • taking advantage of those long standing offers for free lodging in the San Juan Islands.
  • puttering in my garden.

I also promise to take a selection of Lego along for the ride which I actually don’t do now! I will take photographs of Lego and dinosaurs in places around the beautiful Pacific Northwest and share my adventures with you. What I won’t do is bore you with talk of art & commerce or give you bad photographic advice; you are welcome to read my older posts if you that is what you are looking for.

I know that there are people in the toy photography community, my self included,  that would like to see what we do acknowledged in some larger way.  Whether this will happen or not I think this quote speaks volumes on the subject:

“Sincerity is a non-value in art.” Robert Storr, lecture at Pratt Institute

So instead of sitting around and planning, strategizing and generally trying to force a miracle to happen; I’m going to concentrate on what I do best, build community and of course share my photographs with you. I will be active on the usual platforms, maybe not my regular daily post, but I will always be around and engaged. I will also be spending time with the people in the below photo taking more toy photographs, sharing a burger and fries and generally engaging in the more social aspects of social media.

You know… what I do best.

Photo Safari – Seward Park, WA  by Christopher Nelson Photography (standing: xxsjc, rewjam3s, wiiman, dinoczars,thisbrick, camrc_, gwenji_, stephrcdore. In front: sunnymartini, chrispirillo
Photo Safari - Seward Park, WAPhoto Safari – Seward Park, WA  by
Christopher Nelson Photography (standing: xxsjc, rewjam3s, wiiman, dinoczars,thisbrick, camrc_, gwenji_, stephrcdore. In front: sunnymartini, chrispirillo

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Choices

I would be lying to you and to myself if I said I took photographs only for the joy of it. Sure, at some point that was true, but it’s also true that in the last year that has all changed. As doors and opportunities have presented themselves I have made choices that have taken me down a path that has led to a certain amount of success.

Some of those choices I have been happy with, others, not so much.

This past weekend I watched one of my favorite musical performers make a choice that reminded me of something I would do. While his set list started out strong with three powerful dance numbers from his latest album, it soon drifted into slow piano ballads from earlier work. I watched as the crowd began to fidget and drift away when the energy dropped. Was this an opportunity to reach a broader audience at a major music festival wasted or a just an artist being true to his own vision?

I’m not sure, and only time will tell. As artists we are confronted by situations like this continually; play to the crowd or stick to your personal vision.

Arguably one of the most successful living artists of the 20th century is Jeff Koons.  What does it take to become a living blue chip artists who’s work regulalry sells in the millions? This quote from art critic Jerry Saltz gives some idea of that cost:

“Have you ever heard Koons speak? He’s like Ronald Reagan. He’s vacated himself and made himself eternally empty. I knew him back when we were kids. He wasn’t like that. He sacrificed that for art.”

Jerry Saltz

Every artist has to answer this question eventually: What kind of artist do you want to be?

What kind of artist do you want to be?

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Frank

I know I have mentioned this several times, but inspiration sometimes comes from the weirdest places. Recently I watched the movie “Frank” which tells the story of one aspiring band who is fronted by a man who never removes his papier-mâché head. Just the place to find treasures like:

When you think you’ve gone far enough, go farther.” quote=”When you think you’ve gone far enough, go farther

What a great line and one that really struck a cord with me. It is so easy to keep doing the same thing and forget to keep pushing beyond your comfort zone.  It’s important to go to the edge from time to time and look into that abyss; failure is the flip side to success and it’s a scary beast.

Recently I began on a project that is going to push my boundaries in ways I have purposefully avoided. I will have to build my own LEGO props, customize mini figures, alter existing LEGO, create dioramas for interior shots and even create an indoor forest for both a night and snow scene. (Thank you Mike and Vesa for your inspiration.) Yeah, this pretty much pushes me in every direction I can image and then some; failure is lurking at every turn.

I have already encountered moments of doubt as I try to build my own props. (Cars are harder than they look to build and waiting for parts from BrickLink tests my patience.) Also it is a very different beast photographing your own MOC’s compared to the elegant official LEGO sets. For starters, mine fall apart at the drop of a hat. Yet I can understand pride of creation in a new way. Perhaps I have embarked on that inevitable road to AFOL status?

I am confessing this to you so you will hold my feet to the fire. I have given myself until early August the end of the year to finish this project. There is no specific number of images to be created, but I want them to be on the caliber of “I Will Be a Fisherman” from my Runaway Bunny series. I will give you periodic updates as the work starts to take shape, if you don’t hear from me, feel free to ask.

In the mean time go watch the movie “Frank” so you can experience Frank singing the following line in all its beautiful bittersweet glory.

Frank: [singing] Stale beer. Fat fucked, smoked out. Cowpoked. Sequined mountain ladies. I love your wall. Put your arms around me. Fiddly digits, itchy britches. I love you all.

Do you have a dream project you would like to embark on, but are afraid to because of the possibility of failure?

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“Yes” may not be the right answer

A few weeks ago there was a lot of buzz in the Instagram LEGO toy photography community because several members were asked by the “mother ship”  to use their photographs. I think it is great that LEGO is supporting their fans, but as a member of the creative class, it is prudent to ask a few questions before you say “Yes”.

A recent article published by PetaPixel, is an excellent example (and a cautionary tale) of why you shouldn’t be so quick to say “yes” when a big brand comes calling. It is prudent to ask a few questions, for example: how will they be using your photograph? What might seem like a simple request to use your image as part of a small social media campaign, could actually be a request to use your image as part of a much larger ad campaign where money should be exchanging hands.

When you are just starting out with your photography career, or see yourself as a hobbyist, it is easy to get carried away by a little flattery. But in the long run, when we give away our photographs, especially to big business, we devalue what we do. Not only our own work, but the work of the entire community.

So next time the mothership (or any big business) comes around asking to use your photograph, ask them how it will be used. “Yes” may not be the right answer.

I don’t believe in fairy godmothers or unicorns.
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The Joy of Art

RecentI enjoy receiving ArtNetNews every morning in my mailbox. I enjoy the articles on the comings and goings of the fine art world. I feel like  a voyeur to this rarefied world of museums, galleries and million dollar art sales. It is a world I will never be a part of and I am just fine with that. The following headline reinforced this opinion:

Okwui Enwezor’s 56th Venice Biennale Is Morose, Joyless, and Ugly

So while the movers and shakers of the art world are hopping from one floating pavilion and art installation to another, looking to see and be seen at the latest Venice Biennial, I am more than happy to plan my next lego photo, interact with the amazing people that surround this blog and of course peruse all the latest and greatest photos from the Instagram toy photography community.

I have no pretensions that we will take the traditional art world by storm, or that we are creating art work that will change the course of history, but I do believe that we are creating work that reflects the world that we live in. From those ubiquitous Storm Troopers, to the super heroes out to save the world from the latest super villains, to the amazing custom toys I see every day on my feed, I truly believe the toy photography community is creating art that is more accessible to the average human on this planet than the work created for the Biennial.

And even if toy photography isn’t the next wave of Pop Art, I know that we have a heck of a lot more fun creating our work and we definitely spread joy in this world we all live in.

Anubis and Pharaoh out for a joy ride.

Do you think art should create social change or bring visual enjoyment to the viewer?  

Can you inspire social change through your art and still create something beautiful?