As I am always looking to improve my photography by learning, part of the process is seeking inspiration from others who create. I don’t, however, confine myself to just learning from other photographers. I cast my net for ideas wide, and look to artists, writers, musicians — whoever it is that will inspire me with new ways of seeing and fresh ideas.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Spain lately, close to Pablo Picasso’s birthplace. After visiting museums to see his work, and reading more about his creations, I found myself pondering over some of the ideas he talked about in relation to creating art.
Some of his ideas are fantastically inspiring and I’d like to share them with you today – and show you how they can help develop your photography.
Let’s get started because, as Picasso said: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”
#1. “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” –Pablo Picasso
Wherever you are, you are absorbing the energy and emotions from everything around you. If you are in the right mental state, of being open and receptive, it can help generate wonderful ideas.
Being peaceful and quiet — really looking at things, not necessarily in a super-focused way, but just allowing your attention to drift — is very helpful for your creativity.
In fact, I encourage everyone to do as much of this type of ‘open awareness’ as it generates ideas for your creativity.
I read on the SIYLI website about open awareness in relation to meditation (which I think also applies to photography). Open Awareness “is your ability to maintain your presence of mind while allowing different stimuli to pass through your awareness – and it’s incredibly useful…When you cultivate open awareness, you open the doors to tremendous insight.”
This helps pull us away from our usual barrage of thoughts (and things to do) and allows us to connect to the world around us, and draw ideas from it.
I also like this from Picasso: “A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.”
So go find the stories!
#2. “If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.” –Pablo Picasso
The mind is a busy place. It always seems to have a lot to sort out, think about and organize. But the busy mind is the worst state to be in when you are taking photos.
Learning to see is about learning to ignore that busy, analytical mind and become present, learning to observe the world around you. It’s getting in touch with the present moment.
I would also add: use your heart, your guts, to guide you. This is where our instinct lives. It’s where we get our ideas about photography without consciously knowing.
Intuition is that knowingness, in a way where you are led by ideas and interests, and not by your logical, analytical mind.
It also connects with what Picasso said: “My hand tells me what I’m thinking.”
Your eyes, your instinct, can lead you in your photography. (Your busy mind will mostly lead you astray.)
#3. “If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse… but surely you will see the wildness!” –Pablo Picasso
We often think, especially as photographers, that we are photographing what we see. Of course, we must ‘see’. I talk about it endlessly because the ability to see and notice things in your environment is the number one thing most people are missing in their photography.
But we are also photographing something that has generated a feeling in us. Something that has probed and provoked our interest.
We see, we feel, and then we create. And what you end up creating can be anything! It can look like anything, feel like anything — the photograph, your art, is yours to make your very own.
#4. “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” –Pablo Picasso
This is the same for any creative medium. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Just begin, and that’s often when ideas start to flow.
If I am busy with work and family life, it can sometimes take me a while to really get into the creative flow when I am out shooting.
Instead of waiting, though, for inspiration, as Picasso said at the beginning of this article, I just get going, and wait for the ideas to find me when I am in the perfect place to do something about them with my camera in hand!
#5. “The more technique you have the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is the less there is.” –Pablo Picasso
This quote sums up so much for me about why learning technique makes things easier when we are out creating.
When you know your kit, you aren’t interrupted when you are in the creative flow. Instead of battling with your camera, you can get totally absorbed in that beautiful location, that interesting subject, or that absorbing light and create some incredible images.
You become so at ease with your tools that your creativity just takes over.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re particularly technical or confident with technique, I have seen hundreds of people in my workshops learn that with practice and focus, you can grasp anything.
#6. “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” –Pablo Picasso
At the moment I like to think of not knowing how to do something as something to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to exercise my (always aging) mind; it’s an opportunity to learn and see something in a different way.
Keep yourself young and your mind agile by learning new things.
Plus, Picasso said: “He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.”
I totally, totally agree. I didn’t think I could be a world-traveling photographer, teaching photography online and selling my work internationally. That seemed impossible to me ten years ago. But now, here I am.
If I can do what I thought impossible, then so can you.
#7. “In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.” –Pablo Picasso
There is never a better time to do something than now. Picasso said so, so get started, OK?
Enjoy this exploration into Picasso’s ideas, and I hope that it’s a little nudge to do something cool with your photography in the week ahead.
About the author: Anthony Epes is a photographer whose work has been featured internationally; including on BBC, French Photo Magazine, Atlas Obscura and CNN. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Epes is also a teacher – writing in-depth free articles on his website. Receive his free ebook on the two essential skills that will instantly improve your photos, and sign up to his weekly newsletter providing inspiration, ideas and pro-photo techniques. This article was also published on Cities at Dawn.