Emotions Not Required

Sep 15, 2016 / Photography

So I just came back from a ten day art residency as inspired by my accountability partner Rachel Brask who did the same thing in July.

I cleared the decks before I started this residency, but that didn’t work. The first day, Friday, August 29, I had to finish something from work so I ended up working.

Then I had to finalize printing for an upcoming show entitled Cartography of Dreams in the UK. I had to have the prints mounted on backing board and an overmat. With the cyanotype printing process that I do, printing is a very involved process so that took two days.

Then I had to put together a selection of limited edition prints for an upcoming print sale in December that I was invited to, so that took all of Monday.

By the time I did all of that and dropped off the Cartography prints to the framers, it was Tuesday afternoon.

I was ready to start my residency for sure, for sure.

So how did it go?

You would think by now that it would be easy. I had 6.5 days of fully dedicated time of creating. I would be happy at last.

Did it actually happen that way?


I procrastinated.

äóìI don’t know what to shoot.äóù

äóìI should really research how such and such artist creates work.äóù

äóìI should experiment with some cyanotype toning so my work isn’t all blue.äóù

äóìI should test my camera equipment for the best lens to use.äóù

Seriously this is what was going through my mind.

So everyday, there was a silent battle about what to do.

“On the Field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the Dragon.”

That quote comes from novelist Stephen Pressfield’s book Do The Work. I totally understand what he means.

But this time I really wanted the knight to win.

So I negotiated with myself to work for just 25 minutes - that’s one pomodoro. Just one pomodoro. I knew that if I just get past that inertia, it might be that I would continue working. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Newton’s first law of motion applies to art making as well.

One pomodoro completed. That wasn’t bad. Let’s do another 25 minutes. And then another, and before I knew it, I had worked the entire morning. Time for lunch.

The afternoon became easier.

Three things I realized over the 6.5 days of the residency:

  • I get pulled in by curiosity. “Oh that’s an interesting idea. Why don’t I shoot it and see how it looks?äóù This self-talk reminds me of what the celebrated street photographer Garry Winograd once said, äóìI photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.äóù
  • Despite feeling uninspired and not into it, I realized that inspiration and emotions are not required. People are right. Just do the work. Eventhough the work is bad. A shitty first draft is better than no draft at all.
  • There was a big part of me that resented all of this, who would rather watch netflix, amazon prime, or read. I really don’t understand this part of myself.

So what happened with all of these battles? Let’s look at my goals for this residency:

[ ] Blog each morning as usual,
[x] print 5 limited edition prints for an art sale promotion in December,
[x] print 9 limited prints for an upcoming exhibition in October,
[ ] write a guest blog post for a great website, and
[x] create new work for Part III of A Million Suns.

3 out of 5. Not bad.

I’m proud to say that despite all of the internal battles and conflicts, I ended up with 5 draft images for Part III of A Million Suns. They will evolve into different images, or be dropped in future edits, but I’m just happy I created new work.

Oh, I did do some cyanotype toning as you can see in the image above. This was soaked in black coffee for 30 minutes. I can’t decide what color it is, green or black?

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, an accountant, artist, and mythologist. I create cyanotype art that makes you think and feeds the soul and write about the quest for a meaningful life through art and mythology.

On August 6, 2020, a night-time dream led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Mythology with a special emphasis on Depth Psychology. I don’t know how grad school connects to my art and writing, but I’m willing to find out. Subscribe for updates.

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