Its a long road without a turning February 17 2016

By the very nature of creativity, artists, photographers, painters, or anyone involved with imagery know what its like to look at their work objectively, while trying to see their end goal.
There are always going to be hurdles along the road, up and downs for anyone. I think that we as creatives find it particularly hard to always keep the determination going.

Its a long road without a turning.

There's never been  a truer saying.

But thats exactly what you must do. 

Keep going down that road and never give up.

Its so important to always maintain a positive outlook; a sense of purpose, a self believe and a focus with what you are doing. So that one day it will all come out right. At the same time keep a sense of humour and laugh at yourself.
Despite the odds sometimes stacked against you, always keep going as whatever you are good at, you will eventually get there.
If you lack creativity or inspiration, start again by noticing  the small details that are all around you every day. If you just open your eyes wide enough your imagination  will find its own course.
Even mundane tasks around the house or traveling to work by car is a great way to do just that. To let your mind calmly wander while doing a fairly robotic task, can actually help your creativity and self belief.
By contrast to my life now, but as an example, I used to have a very special journey to work  each day.

Twenty years ago I was lucky enough  to live in California.  I moved back to England in the mid nineties.
California was the start of my life as a creative artist. I still have those pictures as clear as day in my mind. I still see the day breaking from so many different angles and casting its light onto shapes all around me.
4.30 am is about the time I used to get up for work and then leave at 5 am to beat the rush hour for my drive into Los Angeles.
A long and winding road, without a turning.
But the very nature of it was something quite extraordinary.
It was a drive that took an hour and a half, but it was worth every minute of it, just  to live by the ocean. Chasing the dawn, I'd see one picture, slowly turning into another with vast differences in landscape and shadows on that 90 mile drive.

I’d leave a beautiful Santa Barbara with a  cool sea mist rising. Not a soul on the road and I'd follow Highway 101 along  the pacific ocean. 
As the sun was just creeping out of bed, i'd watch the flickering of a dawn cast its red tentacles out over the ocean and silhouette the oil rigs and nodding donkeys.
I'd  head east at Ventura on the 126 and drive through fields upon fields of orange groves, lit like glowing tea lights with the rising sun.
At Castaic Junction I’d hit Interstate 5 and immediately head south and see the outline of Six Flags magic mountain, a  grotesque  theme park rising out of the desert like a huge rattlesnake.
Then I would suddenly be in a wilderness of arid mountain rock . Huge slabs of stone that ran almost perpendicular , meeting other rocks at right angles; surging out of the earth and completely at odds with the landscape.
The rocks were covered in a warm yellow glow as the sun angled in at 30 degrees.

It was the San Andreas fault. 

By this time  traffic had started to build with gargantuan semi trailer oil trucks grunting and spluttering exhaust fumes. You could hear them as they braked to slow on the downhill grade, air brakes hissing and wheezing.  I’d usually get stuck behind one of these  aluminium monsters and be blinded by it as the  easterly sun now in full view was reflected in the sides of the truck.
 All I could do was slow down to well below the 55 mph speed limit and take in what was all around me.
To my left was the Newhall interchange , a huge elevated freeway intersection, not dissimilar to Six Flags a few miles back. Only this was a real rollercoaster ride , a real road that linked and split the Interstate 5 and the state route 14 highway.
The rest of my  journey felt the morning heat rise over the San Fernando valley.
I’d watch the smog completely blanket the horizon, as i nudged my way into the sprawling city. All this gave me ideas and thoughts about a city, but I couldn’t quite formulate it. 
I'd watch these freeways overladen with cars, pickup trucks and vans all slowly  heading somewhere on that long road.
Eventually  I would get to Pasadena just in time for a morning coffee , before turning in for work at the photographic studio.
I had already been living in the States for 3 years and had worked as a photographic assistant, having graduated with a B.A degree. So getting work around the studios of L.A was easy . I had also  honed a personal interest in  the  art deco architecture that littered Los Angeles. Watching too many pop culture films  like Blade Runner and reading Raymond Chandler crime novels probably didn't  help.
I would photograph these fabulous buildings, some in a state of decay and left over from the golden age of Hollywood.
As a side line to a humdrum assistants job, this helped me get my own  photographic career off the ground and I picked up my first clients. My clients liked  the look and style  of my portfolio and hired me to shoot their products.
Their  company supplied  background props to the movie industry and they wanted me to document their inventory of hundreds of 1940's household electrical items.
If you've ever watched LA confidential, China town, or any famous 1940’s/50’s period movie;  you’d probably have glimpsed a toaster, a blender, or an old vacumn cleaner lurking momentarily  in the background. Their Machine Age props set the tone and styling for a period film.
In those days documenting a product shot meant shooting it on black and white kodak tri-x film. I processed it myself and then scanned the film  very slowly into some of the earliest apple macs at my work place. 
Computers were very slow back then with not much memory or speed. 
Through my work I had got hooked on the first versions of Adobe photoshop. I taught myself  how to use it and eagerly embraced this fledgling technology.
I could see it had great potential.
I also started to look at my product shots in a different way. I was looking at each blender, mixer, vacumn cleaner and toaster as though it was a science fiction vehicle, or a building.
I would then reshoot it from a low angle and these products suddenly took on a totally different form.
I started playing around with them on the computer and manipulating them in this early version of photoshop.
In those days there was no such thing as layers where you can place one image on top of another, like tracing paper pages in a book. There were no multiple undos.
So I had to be very exacting and precise with each image.
Saving multiple images in varying states of completion.
It was like slowly making a painting. 
Gradually I built all these household objects into a vast cityscape. It was the idea that I'd being thinking about on my long morning drives , but couldn't quite place it.
Now it was slowly formulating into a vast and complicated image.
I came up with a name and called the city 'Appliance'. it was a nod and a wink to Gotham city, or  the science fiction cityscape in Blade Runner. 
It was different, original and somehow it all worked.
 
There was  just  one thing missing. 
How could I define the roads and freeways of a big sprawling metropolis?
The 5/14 interchange of course. 
I drove past it everyday.

So I went back to it one weekend and stood directly underneath its huge monolithic curves. A road with no end; that weaved and curled into the distance.
I photographed it, scanned it and added it to my Appliance city.

 
The following week I was just about to reach for the alarm clock it was getting up time, about  4.30 am  and work was calling. The clock suddenly bounced erratically off the bedside table before I could turn it off. There was a massive noise which threw me out of bed , jolting and jarring up and down like a jack hammer.
The room was shaking, the ceiling fan swaying, pictures fell off the wall. 
I struggled out into the corridor, only to watch the wooden floor in the sitting room rise and fall like a huge ocean wave.
I reached the front door and staggered out into  the garden where there were no heavy objects or masonry immediately overhead. Dawn was just breaking, but I could make out the electric poles dipping, swaying and arcing in the dim light.
It was 17th January 1994 and I’d just experienced my first earthquake. 
And it was a pretty significant one.
So big it had caused the whole interchange I had stood beneath a week previously, to completely collapse. 
 
It also stopped me driving to work for quite a while after that as the freeways had to be repaired. So I spent more time with my cityscapes on a friends computer and slowly developed these strange images into a whole series. 
Eventually they were entered into a design competition in New York, which they won. That resulted into being signed to what was to become one of the major stock picture  libraries. Following that exposure, I was picked up by advertising agencies in London and New York, who liked my style.
So the moral (or Morrell) of this story is keep going, keep thinking.
As you don't know what's around the next corner, or where that turning is going to be.

 
My work to this day, even though now completely different in its structure , still derives its ideas, thought processes  and  concepts from my formative work.
Drawing, sketching, photography, computer manipulation, whatever process is necessary to complete the task.

It is really all about taking a single thought, a glimpse of something that is all  around us, everyday. In my case that might be an animal, or an object and watching it change in the light and then drawing or photographing it.
Having fun with it, not taking it too seriously, but at the same time recreating it with lots and lots of detail into something quite extraordinary. 

And then that simple thought or object will have taken on an entirely different persona as light and shade find it.
That road for me has been a very long one, with ups and downs, twists and turns and a near miss. Its a journey we all take, one way or another, whether we like it or not. 

The important thing is to never give up on your dreams  and to stay focused, keeping a good sense of humour.
Even if you are not sure what you have as an idea in your head, hang on to it and let it evolve into something special.
Keep your eyes  wide open and calmly let your mind wander. 

Keep going along the road. For one day that road will have a turning and it will grant you unimaginable opportunities.

 
All images by Richard Morrell, courtesy of Corbis Images.