Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creativity Blog # 2, Arizona Photographer Paul Gill

 A few years ago when I stumbled across the photographs of Paul Gill, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I had the feeling like I had discovered a photographer with something of the same sensibility as what I had hoped to bring to my own best paintings.  A sense of design.  A sense of the extreme variations of color captured in the desert - if one knew the land well enough to have a sense of timing and urgency to find the land at its highest point of expression.  I actually felt like Paul saw the scenes that he photographed much like some of the best painters I knew.  It was clear that to him an image is more than a digital click - it has all the potential to be a piece of art.  Paul Gill, more than any other Arizona photographer I am aware of, makes photographs rise to the level of fine art.

He is also one of the very few photographers whom I have sought out for permission to paint from his images (A reminder to all artists, you should not be painting from other people's photographs without permission.  Paul and I made an arrangement by which I could paint from his images ).  A handful of some of my own best paintings of the desert, mostly in spring themes, have been highly stylized versions of Paul Gill images.

A short bio on his website says it best:

" A native of the Arizona desert, Paul’s photographs have appeared on the cover and pages of Arizona Highways magazine, calendars and books along with Natures Best magazine and many scenic publications, calendars and books as well as displayed in fine art galleries. Paul received his bachelors of fine arts from Arizona State University and had worked as a art director for 17 years. before turning all of his attention to photographing the grandeur of nature."

Paul Gill

Official website:

Below is the website for the book "Wild in Arizona" by Paul Gill and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry.   I HIGHLY recommend this book.  It is a great resource for everyone, whether you are interested in photography, or if you are a painter looking for amazing spring blooms! Click below:


Below are Paul's responses to my "creativity" questions...

1) What personal habits do you have that you feel make you more creative?

Previsualization is the key for me to take elements that I have seen from a location or subject matter and find a story of what it is I want to say about it. I then can create a image in my head making decisions about time of day and light direction to tell the story. Sometimes I will remember past images I have seen and will try and think of a ways to change the image to fit my vision. This is always a driving force to get me to a place where I want to create, funny thing is I almost never find that previsualised image but it do’s influence how and what I see.

2) Who are the creative artists, in any field, that inspire you the most?

I was originally inspired by Maxfield Parish and his great sense of light. My photography is inspired by the Father of near-far David Munch and Tucson's own Pulitzer prize photographer Jack Dykinga both of whom I have had the great honor to photograph with in my earlier years. 

3) What do you do when you are not feeling creative?  Or - how to you get yourself back to a point where you are feeling creative?

To be inspired I try and place myself into beautiful light locations and that triggers the creative spark but that's not always possible so to start creating I will make that first image this helps me get in touch with my surroundings and I will start seeing line shape and light, which leads to finding compositions that I can come back to when the optimal light is on them. If nothing is working I will stop trying to force it to happen then come back latter and take that first step by making an image. 

4) What are some creative outlets that you enjoy outside your own respective creative field? 

Music is always my catalyst with upbeat positive tunes to pump me up before a shoot and relaxing background sounds to slow me down so I can concentrate on what is in front of me giving me the ability to focus on one subject at a time and break down a scene to its most simple components. This helps me block out the world around me.

5) For someone who has talent in a creative field, how would you suggest they go about converting that talent into something original - something that stands out from the crowd?

We all have distinctive visions and directions to move our images but sometimes seeing other artists work can help direct our own originality by filtering out what we do and don't like. I found that the more time I spent with professionals the more I developed my own look and personality to my imagery. And it was only then that I was able to explore and experiment with the talent I have which looks nothing like the photographers that originally inspired me. 
For someone just starting out in the creative field and not sure about their direction I like the book: 

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Austin Kleon 

I wish this book was out when I was just starting out.


           (This image, "Ponderosa Bloom" is featured in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian)

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