I'm taking an eight-week photography course and the instructor recommended quite a few books to read. One of the books was 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White.
This book is better suited for those in art school or who were art school graduates. It has more of a visual artist/painter focus more so than a photography focus.
However, there were some interesting points that related to photography:
- Composition is the foundation of image-making.
- Art is a continuing dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years. What you make is your contribution to that dialogue.
- All art is quite useless. Art isn't utilitarian, and if it is, perhaps it isn't art. Art serves as a non-practical role in our lives, but that does not mean that it is not vital or necessary.
- All images are abstractions. Even photographs. They are never the thing pictured; they are a conceptual or mechanical reproduction of a thing past.
- For every hour of making, spend an hour of looking and thinking.
- Making art is an act of discovery. If you are dealing only with what you know, you may not be doing your job. When you discover something new or surprise yourself, you are engaging in the process of discovery.
- Art is a form of experimentation. But most experiments fail. Do not be afraid of those failures. Embrace them. Failed experiments lead to unexpected revelations.
- Carry a sketchbook or journal. Ideas and images can be fleeting. It is important to capture them when they occur to you.
- Learn from your fellow students. Emulate the things they do well, and learn from their mistakes and their successes.
- Avoid cliches and one-liners. Try to avoid shopworn images, such as a crying baby as a symbol of vulnerability.
- The studio is more than a place to work: it is a state of mind. It is the place where your practice is established, and the place where you experiment and meditate on the results.
- Eliminate the nonessential. Every work of art should contain whatever it needs to fulfill its descriptive objective but nothing more. Successful images have no dead spaces or inactive parts.
- Document your work. Keep a record of the stages of your work.
- Not every art school graduate becomes a successful artist. But the training one receives in art school opens avenues to the whole world. Art school teaches one to observe carefully, describe precisely. find solutions to problems through experimentation, keep an open mind to all possibilities, and to accept withering critique in the pursuit of the not yet realized. These are the skills of adventurers, visionaries, and builders of a future we cannot yet fathom.