one day at a time

the wall

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

I think in these pictures you can see that they were taken from the hip. The focus in the first picture is not quite in the right spot, which makes it somehow stronger, I don’t know why.

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

Here I also like the taxi in the background. I was really quite close and the kid didn’t notice, although the shutter noise of my camera is rather loud.

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

It was cold, so waiting at the red light became like a dance for the girl on the left. She was hopping from one leg onto the other.

All pictures taken with my Canon EOS 450D and my Canon EF 35mm f/2.0.

For some weird reason I keep waking up just before or after 8am, no matter when I manage to fall asleep. When I was living in England in a house in Brighton every morning I woke up startled from a noise that was already gone. It drove me mad! After about half a year of this I had a completely sleepless night and then I finally heard it: It was a weird clunking noise when the heating came on, very short, but quite loud. From then on I could sleep through that noise, because I knew what it was. Not sure whether my waking up now is a similar issue, but to be honest there are always noises in the street even in the early morning hours. Those shouldn’t wake me up this easily though.

Yesterday my day was rather spoilt through waking up too early after not being able to fall asleep until late. As a result I was in a bad mood and couldn’t quite get things done. I edited some pictures and later I battled a bit with the washing machine, to no avail yet, although I think I know what the problem is now. Such a waste of my time to be dealing with this! I also had to go to the doctor’s office to get a referral. I had a referral already, but it was the wrong one, because it was for the last quarter. So last time I went to the doctor’s office I asked for a new referral for this quarter, but they could only give it to me in the quarter in question. I actually had to come back after a certain date to get the referral I needed. Silly German bureaucracy!

Again, doctor’s appointments are also something I don’t want to deal with. If I want answers though, I won’t get around it. My last attempt at trying to find out what’s wrong with me ended with the doctor wanting to cut me open before even doing a proper ultrasound. I declined and made an appointment with a specialist instead. And I certainly won’t go to that doctor again. They probably will still want to cut me open eventually, because that’s the only way to be sure that I don’t have what they suspect, but I will insist on a high resolution ultrasound and an MRI first. The reason why I don’t want to deal with this is obvious: It’s as annoying as it can be through bureaucracy, waiting for appointments for months, then stupid early in the morning appointments and finally doctors trying to scare me into an operation. Well, and on top of things it’s generally quite scary. Doctors always give you the worst case scenario first so that you don’t sue them when things go bad, not exactly the best thing when you’re worried anyway. And I’m a person who really has a tendency to worry. This whole drawn out process is a right nightmare for me, but I have at least the slight hope that they might actually find something that can be solved relatively easily.

Despite all this I somehow managed to get 2 hours of drawing done. As always I will post my results over at my drawing blog. I always had phases when I was attempting to draw more, but every time it felt like I was getting nowhere with it. Years ago I went to a drawing course as well and that was just a disappointing experience. It only showed me that my skills were crap and didn’t really give me methods to improve. In the end I gave up again. The book that I’m using now, Kimon Nikolaides The Natural Way to Draw is really quite good in that respect. It shows you that you can’t learn to draw just by going to a course of 2 hours once a week, because it needs practice practice practice. Instead his schedules suggest 3 hours a day, 5 days a week for half a year. That’s a lot of work and needs quite some dedication, which is something people don’t really like to hear. They want a quick and simple course of 2 hours a week and then expect to draw amazingly after a month. That just can’t work at all.

Back in 2005 when I was pondering whether I should quit my job to prepare for studying design I spent quite a bit of time in the my favourite bookstore in Düsseldorf. It’s a massive bookstore and has a large section of design books. They don’t discourage people from just sitting down with those books and reading them in the store. Design books are expensive, so I often sat in there for a long time browsing, reading, just like other people would use a library. One day I picked up a design book at random and it talked about jumpstarting your creative process. One of the earliest tips was to start a daily practice of doing whatever you want to do. It said: Imagine the kind of progress you could make by just committing to drawing at least one artwork a day for one year. This also applies to other things apart from drawing: I started this blog as a 365 project, and yes, taking a picture a day has really helped me a lot to improve my photography. I already wrote somewhere else that I don’t think it’s quite the right process, but overall it really helps to learn, especially because it’s a daily commitment. Photography is not just about taking pictures, but also about learning to see, about creating the right mood and therefore also about post-processing and knowing when to shoot what. The good news is that you don’t need to shoot every day as long as you still engage with photography. I think that going out there in the worst of weather or worst of light just to get a random picture is not the way to go, but even if you do it that way, you will improve anyway because you’re doing it every day. Practice helps, that’s the important message.

Here also the 10,000 hour rule comes in. Some research by the psychologist Anders Ericsson suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become an expert in your chosen skill. His research looked at musicians, so this actually falls into an area where people think in terms of talent. Gladwell’s book Outliers talks about the rule as well and this is one reason why the book is so popular: It suggests that it’s not really about talent, but about hard dedicated work. Anyone can do it basically and that’s a comforting thought. Think about it, if there is truth to it, then creating a daily practice is really the first step into the right direction. 10,000 hours, that’s 9 years of practice 3 hours a day. If you just spend one hour a day it will take 27 years, but eventually you’ll get there as well! Well, most people don’t really have the time to dedicate one hour a day to a hobby, so this is really only achievable if you actually make this a priority. Imagine you could take it full time: 5 hours a day would cut the time down to 5 1/2 years, 6 would be 4 1/2 years, that’s the time a degree takes over here.

Now, think again about Nikolaides and his 375 hours of scheduled practice time: It barely scratches the surface of what it needs to become an expert at drawing. It’s a good start though! For me the drawing practice also flows towards my engagement with photography, because drawing teaches you how to see, an important aspect of what a good photographer needs. This is also why a lot of the masters of photography actually had a huge head start, because quite a few of them were artists already.

I wish I would have found the Nicolaides book in 2005, because then I probably would have pushed through my disappointment with the drawing class and continued anyway. I didn’t quit my job to study design back then, because I thought that I just didn’t have the talent. In the end it wasn’t even about talent at all, it was about my lack of practice. It wasn’t all bad though: A few months later I got a place to study Media and Cultural Studies, which was what I originally wanted to study anyway. It made me happy for a while until I got lost again in my search for purpose. I still haven’t found it to be honest, although by now I know that it has to be creative to make me happy. I think I’m on the right track now.


One response

  1. I fully agree with you, exercises, exercises and exercises again. I’m following a drawing course for the second year. And it is only since I dedicate one or two hours almost daily that I’m improving my abilities. Still a long way to go! The same applies to photography.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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