Artists are asked relentlessly, “How long did that take you.” The response goes – more or less polite – something like, “why do you ask?” It shouldn’t, but time does matter, somehow, in some way – it has a peculiar relationship with creativity or vice-versa. In numerous ways time doesn’t respond the way you’d expect when creativity is involved.
“How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it! To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”
Ideas are like lightning strikes, they hit you unaware after rubbing a balloon on a wool carpet for months. Creation will make your hair stand on end through the strain of formation. Wait. There it is, about to burn a hole through you until reassigned to significant form.
Lighting strikes feel impulsive; they took a lifetime to build yet can be unpredictable. A vaguely different experience here or there and the strike hits a different spot. It’s the immediacy of creation that takes a tedious lifetime to form but can haunt you by the loss of a critical moment and an opportunity lost. The classic song writer’s tale informs how a key phrase or verse was worked out in the morning shower, or maybe a kernel was missed due to inconvenience; no guitar in sight.
On a different front, our relationship with time implies limitations – working edges rather than the exterior of a proverbial box – time performs as a catalyst or an anxiety producing flame retardant. Then there are the moments when time compresses not unlike a 70’s Psych 101 experiment excepting this one involves creative excitement.
How an audience experiences a work can change when schooled concerning time spent as well. Take these two photos for example – the b + w one and the one in color (if you’re looking at a thumbnail, click on it for a larger version). If I told you I camped out at dawn waiting for perfect light would you care? Perhaps I was leaving work on a coffee break and the tree caught my eye on an impulse; does that make a difference?
Truth is, the color photo was snapped with an iPhone on a whim to share with Facebook friends. It had such a good feel that I whipped out my trusty Canon G9 (usually on my body) and explored it further – this time both b + w and color. Regardless of the obviously better tool and increased time – I was unable to do more than equal the iPhone shot that first inspired me.
If I had set out to find this photo – let’s say I knew these light reflections to appear at 3pm every sunny day the second week of February – I’m not sure I would have found the iPhone photo no matter how much time I spent exploring. It just hit me at that moment in time and I recorded it using the fastest tool available; opportunity caught.