the Demons of Failure

It happens to everyone who creates. Blockage, uncertainty, failed attempts, bad paths. I am sure I am not alone when I say I feel frustrated and incomplete when I don't produce something consistently. I enjoy the sense of completion more that the process, the satisfaction of the conjuring, the will to create. Fitting a steady artistic life in around a full time "day job" and a personal life is extremely difficult to say the least. Generally, I count on the weekends for the more ambitious projects and images, and if I get one during the week, then I consider it a bonus and a happy surprise. Hence, I average about one or two a week. To make even this happen, it requires having a supply of raw material i.e. model shots at the ready, and all the myriad objects and materials needed for the compositions. That means shooting a model about once a month, and hunting for objects, shooting the objects, keeping an eye out for optimal skies, trees, etc. So, all that happens, ideas or not, and then the weekend comes, like this one, and…failure.
It's not really a failure, but let me err on the side of pragmatism over treacle, and say that the failed attempts DO in fact lead to other things, and are an unfortunate and unavoidable part of the process, but dammit they are unwelcome and really unfortunate when the weekend rolls around with time for creating, and nothing much comes of it.
Okay, enough of the theory, and down to the specifics: Here was this weekend…
I had finished "When the Angels Fall" last week and was really pleased with the results, and consider it one of my best. These come once in a while, and they have a specific, twofold effect on me: a burst of motivation and a bit of a high, as well as a little angst over what I can do more, what I can do better on the next one. Sometimes to crack on from these benchmark images, I start where I left off, using the style layers of the previous one as a starting point on the next one. It's a way of igniting something, since the last one was a pleasing result, why not stay in that world on the next one, to expand it, to see what else it can house. And so, focusing on watery images lately, I began with the template created for "When the Angels Fall" and picked an image from a previous shoot, with a different model, as a start point. I thought, after three consecutive images focusing on a priestly character, to give that a break, and find something new. I chose a shot from my recent session with model Mike Ryan, and found one I liked, and pretty much new what it was going to be: an image inspired by one of my favorite films, Lord of the Rings. Using the water of the reservoir I shot recently, I decided on the Dead Marshes, a bog where dead bodies under the stinking water can mesmerize the traveler into following their "lights" or "candles" into the water and become one of the unfortunate dead of the marshes.
It should have worked but it didn't. Something about it fell flat, and I thought it didn't do a thing for my portfolio or the Tolkein legacy of artistic interpretations. I started it on a Friday night, and worked at least 12 hours on it on Saturday. On Sunday I tried to save it, and even convinced myself it was finished after three more hours. But I did not write it up, and did not release it. It was dead on arrival, and I knew it, but I was too focused on getting one done for the weekend to accept it. Once I decided to shelve it, I decided to use the rest of Sunday to at least start another, knowing that they take days to complete lately, and I feel better when one is in the pipeline. I again used the style template of "When the Angels Fall" and found a new model shot to start with. I won't bore you with the specifics of that one, since the image online is accompanied by my usual write-up about it, but this time the image worked. The result was "Procel: The Demons of the Goetia."I got it done in less than eight hours to my satisfaction, and I can feel good about posting this one, as it is visually something I am proud of, or at least pleased with.
I could call this perseverance, but it is more likely stubbornness, hopefully the good kind. I suppose there would be some value in taking some time off and laying low, certainly I could use it, but I like what I do too much to willingly take a break, and the curiosity of what may come next is too strong to ignore. These kind of weekends remind me that no matter what kind of discipline and dedication I apply to what I do, there is only so much I can control, and creativity takes its own time and marches to its own beat.
All I can do is keep vigilant and wait for it.
June 30, 2013
Michael Bilotta