Visual Art

Isaac Layman and ‘The Toughest Art-Making Month of My Life’

We embark on a four-week master class with a local photographer. And without a camera.

By Adriana Grant January 12, 2012

Class is in session.

Editor’s note: For this new four-week series, Culture Fiend’s art writer Adriana Grant has enrolled in a master class with Seattle photographer Isaac Layman at the Frye. This is her story.—LD

I enrolled in photographer Isaac Layman’s master class expecting to use my camera. But during our preclass tete-a-tete, we spoke more about poetry than pictures. Though Layman is known as a photographer—his striking large-scale, hyperrealist images are in their first solo museum exhibit at the Frye (through January 22) and have been reviewed by NPR, Artweek, and Art in America—his class isn’t about a specific media. It’s about building one’s creative practice.

In jeans and sneakers, Layman appears easy-going, but when he’s talking about art, his dark eyes flash and he throws his arms about.

"This is going to be," he warns, "the toughest art-making month of your life."

During class, Layman recounts part of a David Sedaris story. "Life is a four-burner stove. One burner is family, one is career, one is friendship, and one is health. To be good at what you do, you have to turn off one burner. To be really good, you have to turn off two."

Our first assignment: spend 20 hours a week making art. My project focuses on a 20-hour writing commitment, and though I have no specific poem output in mind—Layman suggested 40 poems, but I told him that was practically a book—I’m in the process of kick-starting my own writing practice. I’m hoping his hard-core dedication proves contagious.

I’m not shutting off a burner, but I’ve got several hours of writing to do before our next meeting.

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