Follow the Mountain, and Inspirational Tips for Artists/Fine Art Photographers, From Writer Neil Gaiman

Follow the Mountain, and Other Inspiring Tips for Fine Art Photographers, by Writer Neil Gaiman @SteveGiovinco

Feeling Lost? Head Toward the Mountain

Neil Gaiman – Inspirational Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts 2012

Perhaps oddly, I came across inspiration in a room at 48 Wall Street at around 7:30pm on a Tuesday night.

In a bombast-free discussion, happily, (by Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of JUN Group, a great person) pointed out a profound notion: consider your artistic goals as a mountain in the distance, and ask yourself: are you stepping closer to the mountain or leaning  further away from it?

This crystallized the artistic dilemma–what are we doing and how do we keep our sights on getting there? Envisioning a mountain provides a compass and path through the “doubt” thickets; as well as hope and a reminder: it’s just over there, the artistic vision, so just look up and follow it, like a beacon in the distance.

It’s a reprieve from the struggles that artists/fine art photographers face, such as little details like eating and paying rent. When these doubts crop up, and they always do, consider viewing Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts in 2012, the originator of the follow-the-mountain notion.

Mr Gaiman further posits additional kernels of advice for artists, writers, fine art photographers. Go the original source, the video; below are highlights.

You Have No Idea What You Are Doing. Good

When first starting out, you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, including what is possible and what is impossible. The more you don’t know, the more unfettered you are to follow your own creative path undeterred.

Follow the Mountain

Imagine where you want to be as an artist/photographer. Then imagine that to be a mountain, a distant goal. If you are walking towards the mountain, everything is alright. And when you are unsure and doubts rises, now is the time to really go towards the mountain. If a seemingly tantalizing corporate job offer appears or if anything else crops up to make you move away from your goals, avoid it.

Failing Means Movement

Dealing with the problem of failure requires a thick skin because not every project survives. You may put out hundreds of things, like a message in a bottle–images, stories, postcards–hoping for one to come back. If you make mistakes, that means you are out in the world doing things.  Just continue.

Follow The Passion

Don’t photograph, write or create art just for the money. The universe knows this. Nothing usually ever results; often, there is no money too. Instead, follow things that excite you. You have one thing that is unique, and it is you–this is your life saver.

You Are the Gatekeeper

The gatekeepers are leaving the gates. Make up your own rules. Pretend to be the person who is a successful fine art photographer, and think like they would.

Have Fun

Finally, enjoy and have fun.

Problems? Make Good Art

Sometimes/most times, things go wrong. When it gets tough, make good art.

If a marriage fails, a job is lost, or if “the cat explodes,” to quote Neil Gaiman, make good art. Do what only you can do best, on both the good and the bad days. The one thing you have is you, your voice, your story. Live only as you can. The moment you feel you are walking down the street naked, that could be the moment you’ve started to get it right.


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