An artist chooses a brush for many different reasons. He may like the way it feels in his hand, she may like the texture its stokes render, he may like the history behind a vintage tool, she may be impressed by the color of the sable bristles, it may be the best brush ever made. These may or may not be valid reasons but ultimately, non of them matter for shit!
Now now, don’t get all emo on me. I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt and if they choose a certain brush for a certain reason, then that’s their bag and I’m ok with it. I also believe that those artists, creators of emotive sensory stimuli, masters of media whose work I admire, respect, and aspire to imitate also choose their brushes for the most important reason of all…it makes them want to PAINT! Just looking at it makes his mind reel with the creative possibilities. Holding it in his hands is dangerous as it could lead to hours or days on end with little to no sleep for the act of putting brush to canvas to materialize from his mind that which cannot be verbalized. Ok, I’m getting a little sappy here but I think you get it. If you don’t, then my ramblings don’t matter anyway.
My point is, one can get caught up in the search for the best brush rather than USING the ones in his kit. I’m guilty of it. Sometimes I get so caught up in the tech specs of various cameras and lenses or the minute and subtle differences between various video codecs, that I lose my creative mojo. Not that those things are insignificant, but they can become a source of procrastination and excuses for not creating (especially for OCDs like me!).
I love what I do for money. I get to work with amazingly talented people, travel, learn about interesting subjects, play with cool cameras, lenses, lighting and grip gear. That which I don’t own or have direct access to, I rent if the budgets allow for it and they usually do. When I put together a camera package for a shoot, the D.P. already has some idea of what he wants. Some times I make suggestions to stretch the budget. There are cameras that are popular and have name recognition and appeal, and for good reason. However, sometimes a $5000 camera will do the same thing an $80,000 camera will do. The name becomes important because it’s the latest, greatest technology. Make no mistake, I love that stuff! I’m a gear head! I’m also a creative and have to keep in mind that the final image is what matters, not so much how it was achieved.
I’ve recently made a connection with a young local film maker. He has found a niche in making Hip Hop music videos. He often calls me to pick my brain and I’m always willing to share with him what I know. Not long ago he called me about camera choices and said he had an artist who wanted him to shoot with a really “super duper” cinema camera that costs lots of green, about $40,000 to own, $800/day to rent. He said he would have his client call me to discuss it. He called, I talked to the guy recommending that he spend his budget on lighting instead and that the camera he used in the past is fully capable of beautiful cinematic footage. The guy had heard the buzz around said “super duper” camera and figured if his video was shot with it, the same cinematic look would instantly be achieved. It don’t work that way bro. Behind the scenes camera bling doesn’t matter if what’s in front of the camera is not lit and composed with skill and creative effort, and if the director of photography doesn’t know what he’s doing, the camera will not fix it.
I got a new brush recently. It’s called an iPhone 5. Don’t laugh. Seriously, I’ve used it more in the last three days than I’ve used my DSLR in the last month. I’ve used it for stills and video and some of the video may end up in a TV pilot that I’m currently working on. Noted photographer Jack Hollingsworth considers it probably the most important development in photography…ever. I could go on and on about it, and I may do so in another post, but the most important thing is that it’s made me go out and take pictures when I might not feel like taking lots of gear.
Is that lazy?
Does it matter?
I don’t think so.
It’s given me another outlet for capturing images. And that’s a good thing because it gives me more opportunities to practice the fundamentals of lighting, composition, and story telling. It has given me another perspective from which to view the world. I go on my lunch breaks now with renewed enthusiasm because although I think I’ve shot everything in Downtown Roanoke at least 11 times, I’ve never done it with this new device. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I get back to my edit suite, anticipating what gifts of color, light, and contrast I will be opening. Even better, I can edit shots on the spot, taking the “picture never lies” reality I just captured and turning it into a surreal “picture worth a thousand lies”. Isn’t that what creativity is about, evoking thought and emotion in someone?
You tell me.
I’m always learning.
What has inspired you recently?
I’d love to know what you think.
In the interim, or your next lunch break, pick up the brush you have, load it with paint, put it to canvas and PAINT! If you find a brush that allows your creative juices to flow easier, use it. If the one that you have is tried and true and fits, hang on to it.
Dave Perry is a Roanoke Virginia digital film producer, editor and photographer. His sideburns are only a hobby.