Growing up as a child, I hated practicing the piano. Sure, I wanted to sound great at it, but I wanted to be a virtuoso without the need for endlessly doing scales and simple songs. Oddly enough, that didn’t work out so well. As a photographer, I can see the result of practicing my craft daily as I evaluate my work before selecting the images I give to a client and deleting the rest. I think of photographs that didn’t work as my practice scales. Click, view, evaluate, delete. Still neither of these stories does much for encouraging a first grader to sit at the piano or to pick up a pencil and to practice her handwriting. I needed a good visual image to bring that lesson home for her.
When I was invited for lunch at an artist’s studio recently, I had no idea the lesson would be waiting for me in plain view. When the artist moved to his new studio, he set his desk along the wall and began practicing calligraphy. Two years on, he had amassed a pair of sizeable piles of paper from his regular practice. When I told him how impressed I was by the volume of his work, he brushed it off saying that this was nothing compared to the work of a true master.
Though I am not trying to raise a master calligrapher per say, the images of his desk and practice pages seems to resonate with everyone. It is not often that we get to glimpse into the mundane creative process of an artist. An exhibition of work does not show us the failed attempts, the nights of frustration when something isn’t quite right, or the years of struggle that is poured into his work. But that stack of decaying paper speaks volumes about the need for practice and I plan on sticking a copy of it on top of the piano.
Photos by Christopher Lay