Monday, December 31, 2012

A few words before I close this chapter OR What I learned as a professional wedding photographer

Does this qualify as the obligatory posting to bid 2012 farewell? Perhaps.

So... my now finished Christmas and soon-to-be finished NYE and New Year's day celebrations have gone very well despite the fact that I have spent the last handful of days post-processing my very last wedding jobs of my now numbered days as a professional photographer. I will be electronically delivering 1202 polished images to some very excited newlyweds in hours (because it take hours to upload 1202 images!) and days ago I delivered over 700 images to another excited newlywed couple. Both had weddings in October and November and I had no idea (when I booked them and later shot them) that they would be my last hurrahs of professional wedding photography.

I would say that such a finale has been sweet or even bittersweet but neither of those apply for my photography work. A word more appropriate is probably for the experience of post-processing and delivering everything is more like "bitter." This might seems like an exaggeration but really? It's been this for me as I have sat here chained to my laptop while my husband awaits me (and my time patiently and faithfully) and my daughter eagerly bounces around me also vying for my attention. If you thought the life of a wedding photographer was glamorous, well... I am here to tell you that in my experience it has been far from glamorous.

While some might suspect the non-glamorous part of my photography career has to do with the fact that I am bad at photography and so I am spending copious amounts of time post-processing to fix all of the ways I am bad, that's not the case at all. I will assert to you that I am reasonably (and seasonably) skilled in the way of photography both as an art and as a professional business owner. But... if there is one thing I have learned this year that has largely informed my decision to retire after 12 years of unreasonably great success? It's this...

People are (far) more important than things.

Don't get me wrong. Being a professional photographer has afforded me a great deal in my life: enormous amounts of respect and accolades from others (fellow photographers, artists, and clients alike), the most lucrative source of supplemental income that anybody could ever imagine in all of their wildest dreams, a constant outlet for me to express myself in visually creative ways as well as be affirmed as a WORKING and SUCCESSFUL visual artist in a field of the arts that is everything including bloated and saturated with those who are either fighting to get in the game, stay in the game, and not get kicked out the the game. (The game meaning the professional photography field.)

But, like I said above, photography is a "thing" to me a much as any other "thing" in my life and though it's taken me such a huge amount of my life (and career) to realize it, I am not ashamed to admit it. Definitely it's not a "thing" to so many others but for me? It is just that. It's not a passion though I definitely did approach it as an art form but for the most part? It was a business. IT WAS BUSINESS. Which means it wasn't personal (to me).

I have mentored and consulted with countless fledgling photographers and seasoned professionals of the field/trade for a while now as everyone is always interested in knowing what my "secrets" are. You know what? If secrets means things that I keep from people and purposefully don't share in an effort to ensure that I am more successful than them, I don't have any. I have always told and ALWAYS shared the things that I have brought me the success that I have been so blessed to receive and very obviously and openly enjoy. I am TERRIBLE at keeping secrets. (AWFUL.) (I am worse even at lying! Why? Because I am a visual artist and NOT a performance artist. *shrug*)

On all of those notes and for the purposes of me giving one last thing back to the world of professional photography that has given me SO much that I am walking away from it with my heart and hands full, here are some of the things (for the sake of prosperity) that you (or someone you might know) might consider to be helpful for the purposes of establishing yourself in the business of photography.
  • Your camera doesn't matter as much as you think... I'm serious. It doesn't matter how big or technically capable your camera is. If you can't use the camera? It will end up being the most expensive mistake you ever make in the professional career that you are working so hard to have in the first place. Canon or Nikon? Who cares. Seriously. It's the six inches behind the camera that matters most. You want to repeat something to yourself? Repeat THAT instead.
  • ... But since can't get along without a camera anyway, don't ever buy anything more than what you can afford before you shoot any pictures (for anybody including yourself). Buy used equipment. RESEARCH equipment before you buy any of it - camera bodies, lenses, fancy bags, etc. etc. etc. If you really are a gear head though? Sink your time and energy (and ultimately your funds) into lenses before the most new-fangled camera body. Don't assume that the infamous L-series lenses will automatically guarantee you an immovable place and foundation amongst the "best of the best" of the photographers that you so seek to emulate. Just like a computer is never as able as the person using it, the camera and its lenses will never take jaw-dropping and stop-and-stare images without someone behind it knowing where to aim it, how to make adjustments within its system AND when you should hit that shutter button.
  • You are never better than the last worst picture that is in your portfolio. This means that the best picture you have taken is likely the one that you probably haven't taken yet. Similar to what English teachers say to their students about falling in love with rough drafts? Don't fall so completely in love with a recent "BEST. SHOT. EVER." that you stop rising to the challenge to take more of shots that are even better than that one. Basically, put your ego aside "big shot" and realize that there are always more shots to be taken to be the "sharp shooter" that you want to be known as to begin with.
  • You can always learn something from the others you are working aside or competing for business against. When you don't build others (around you) up, you will ultimately and indirectly end up tearing the world around you apart. The art of photography is about finding the composition that already exists in the world around you. When you spend your time sitting high up on your "mountain" with the best camera that YOUR money could buy convincing yourself that nobody could sit on the mountain with you and nobody can have a bigger camera than you? Well... you automatically devalue what is really important in any field of the arts (read: talent) that others will end up establishing and having more of while you are so busy feeding your insatiable ego.
  • Study as many other mediums of visual art as possible and it will automatically strengthen (and set apart!) your work in ways that can never be quantified except when people start being willing to pay you upwards of $350/hour for your time and talent. It's fine to be self-taught at the art of photography for a while but be willing to acknowledge that you can't possibly know it all an never learn anything from others. Be open to learning from what others already know and this includes those who are a different type of artist than you - graphic designers, painters, sculptors, architects, etc. etc. etc. Those photographers out there who think that success with their work comes from just knowing the technical functions of a camera are WRONG. Learn about color theory, visual armatures within artwork that uphold and STRENGTHEN composition, how to use space and contrast to show balance of different kinds, and how the emotions and perspectives of photographers (and other visual artists) can inform their pictures in ways that make images worth the thousands of words that that ol' adage says they are and always have been.
  • Never forget that in order for you to be a photography business owner, you MUST treat your art form like the business that it is. There is a reason why photographers (and other artists) end up being called "starving." It's because they insist upon trying to call what they do a business but then treating it totally like an art form justifiable and defensible only because they are the artists! Being "starving" is not as cool as it might seem. Take a business course or two OR align yourself with someone else who has found succcess much of what you seek. They will give you advice and steering in ways that you probably never considered in the first place and if you abide by what they say? You will likely end up in a place that you never could have dreamed you could end up in the first place. (This means you will find great success!)
And... I guess? That about covers it for me. I know this is hardly what you come for when you visit this blog but I feel like it's relevant to a certain degree with what seek to do here which is to encourage (and support) others to dream of what they can do with their art and creativity, contemplate and ponder how they can do what they dream about, and (ultimately) CREATE all that they have dreamed of to begin with and then worked so hard to work to be able to really make something out of nothing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How much of your blogfeed is vacationing for the holidays?

Hey there! I know I said that I was taking a vacation from this blog (and I am) but I wanted to let you know that I am not taking a vacation from blogging all together and I am just blogging somewhere else.

Remember that visual Bible study I said I was doing? Well... it's had it's ebbs and tides BUT it's stills standing and I have been attempting to invest myself with doing it every single morning (when the daylight hasn't even attempted to peek itself out!) in order to start my day in His word. Amazingly (but not surprisingly) it has done remarkable things for each of my days that start like this. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy but I notice my day going in haphazards ways when (for whatever reasons) I don't start it with His words. Even if you look at the record/archive on the visual Bible study, you will notice some pretty obvious gaps when I haven't done it and you can also note what/where I have reported I am in life. The evidence speaks pretty loudly that things have been disordered when I haven't had the Bible study to steady me and I am not trying to Bible thump about this. (Seriously.)

If you want to talk about patterns of human behavior (because I used to work in clinical and behavioral psychology and so I like to look at the life through these types of lenses), my patterns of behavior and ways of my life have   almost always ALWAYS been at their most "crazy" when I haven't grounded myself in some way with my faith. This isn't to say that when my faith is solidly intact and not waning that life is easy but more than when my faith is wavering or I am not looking to it to anchor me, I am floating all sorts of place that I should otherwise never try to venture even with the best map or compass. And so? I feel like it is loudly obvious that the visual Bible study has done a world of difference for me since I started it earlier this year and even in the times when it appeared like I was abandoning it? Well, I have always returned to it and found that I shouldn't be so careless to leave it out of my life.

All of that being said, if you are interested in it (joining it or just watching my adventures with it) OR you are curious about my faith (no matter what faith you are, have, or don't have) OR your daily blogroll is a little barren with this season being Christmas and people taking vacations and all from blogging - I am blogging there every day and you are welcome to have at least it keep your blogroll going until everybody returns from vacation!!! Now, I warn you that I am no Bible scholar and I didn't have a classic Christian upbringing (meaning go to Christian school or anything) and I didn't go to college for ministry but I currently do technically work in youth ministry since the school where I teach/work is a faith-based institution where it is my job to use the gospel of the framework for how I present things to my students so that they learn how to have a Christian worldview.

If you are at all interested OR curious, you can access access my visual Bible study blog called "How Great Thou ART" by clicking HERE or by entering the actual blog address into your browser address bar that is - http:// OR you can click through the screenshot below of the blog posting of today (and just posted less than an hour ago) where I am examining the parable of the sower as it pertains to my own actual brothers and sisters in my family.

And if you end up doing your own visual Bible study similar to how I am doing? (Meaning: you have decided to be your own "How great thou ARTist" (HA!) then let me know so I can link up my blog with yours!!! Strength in numbers right? And(!) to my knowledge and per Google searches, there is nobody else on the web doing this except me. *shrug* and though my searches have confirmed that people have attempted it at their own brick and mortar establishments, this is a new and possibly innovative approach to scripture study that you could be in on!!! So... if you are all about trailblazing and it tickles your fancy to be in the know before everyone else is? You and I (TOGETHER!) could be on to something really REALLY big that the world will eventually catch onto because it is really REALLY awesome.

You game? LET'S DO IT!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking stock of it all

I am less than a day away from Christmas break and I cannot wait to be done!!!! (Has it been so terribly obvious with my lackadaisical approach and publishing schedule with this blog?)

Still, while it might seem that I cannot wait to be done because I am so done for and fed up with school/teaching, that's not the case at all. Rather, I am ready to be done because I have been working incredibly hard and have been investing myself more completely than I ever have in my teaching and working artist career and I believe that it is time to take a nice long Sabbath from all of it that will enable me to be good and ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

After Christmas break finishes, once I get back to school in January, I will have less than a week and a half of instructional time with the student artists. This means that they are all working on final projects and otherwise being the almost completely autonomous visual artists that I have been working so hard to help them become. I am seeing them create in more original ways that require less of my explicit instruction. I am seeing them have more confidence in their skill sets in large part because they have serious skill sets to enough to carry them in all of their creative endeavors. They are showing exceptional examples of refined technique and showing inventive ways of manipulating materials and mediums that they know quite a lot about at this point.

All of this being said? I am so incredibly proud of what I am seeing of all of my student artists. I am continually amazed at their talent, their deep investment into the creative process, and their exceptional abilities to CREATE and not simply make "things."

As for me? This past weekend (as I mentioned previously) I wrapped up two graduate level classes and I also was able to do a number of other things on my "to-do" list. One of them was to both start AND finish a commissioned painting from picture reference. I had been going back and forth with the client for a while about what should be painted and although the final painting ended up deviating from the direction that was first established, the finished painting is one that we both are very happy with and I (especially) feel like speaks well of both my personal style AND the general direction that I have been taking anyway with my fledgling aspirations as a fine art painter. Here are some stills of the painting in it's different stages...

Blocking it out and just layering paint/color

Refining the different areas in order to build the correct value and establish better structure overall

Almost done but the tree trunks still need some work

Still wet but I call it finished with the heavier brush work on the tree trunks and the value absolutely the way it should be

The last thing to do with the painting to finish it off was to sign it and this is how I am going to be signing my work from here on out...

Does it look like my name? It shouldn't. It's something that could be thought of as just a graphic that I am also now using on my fine art portfolio website but for me? Well, it's much more a visual reminder of how I am managing to do all that I am doing in my life - for work, school, and creative art endeavors. No matter what I am doing, I am trying my best to point it all back to the sovereign Lord who has provided me with all that I have. All that I am creating IS so much for Him and it's not about me and I feel like (for my purposes) "signing" anything I create with a visual representation of the holy trinity and excluding myself definitely puts credit where credit is due to to begin with.

Since tomorrow starts my Christmas break, I'm going to be devoting myself to thinks of His works so that means there is definitely going to be some charitable events in there (I might share some specifics them at some point but I am hesitant to because I don't want to appear as if I am tooting my own horn for myself) but also a lot of time with my family and plenty of painting to establish the new series that I am embarking on in my own personal studies of visual art.

And so? I guess this is my way of saying Merry Christmas to you all and may you be blessed in whatever way you choose to celebrate this season.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where's my fork?

Decided I am going to sign every painting with this instead. Couldn't be happier with my decision.

Finished a commissioned painting over the weekend and also two graduate level classes in the very long list of courses that I have taken and will continue to have to take. *wooo*

Anybody who believes that awful saying that goes something like "Those who can, do; Those who can't, teach" is RIDICULOUS and should try being a teacher (or at least attempt to complete the coursework to be a teacher) before they venture to make such a truly cutting judgement like that. *sigh*

Other such things that are keeping me occupied are:
  • Finalizing two weddings that (when done) will have me officially retired from my professional photography career
  • Prepping and getting super excited for the early Christmas that I am having with my family next weekend!!! 
  • Finishing out school/work with only two and a half instructional days this week because of a school-wide service project focused on giving as much Christmas as possible to local area families in need!!!! (I AM SO SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!!!)

Will be back to regularly scheduled postings tomorrow, OK? Thanks a bunch!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wrapping something in scripture doesn't make it any more of a gift than it already wasn't

I only just heard about the Connecticut shooting about 15 minutes ago otherwise I would have mentioned it before now.

I am sure people would beg to differ but I firmly believe that there are no words even in scripture that exist that could possibly be comforting enough for anybody right now (either directly involved or not).

People like to do that. They like to just quote scripture and call it enough, call it done, and assume that life can and will be all better as a result of them just quoting scripture or even repeating it over and over again.

Here's the thing: There is a time and place for people to receive scripture and you can't just assume that for someone else? That time and place is NOW.

Even for Bible scholars, scripture is very difficult to wrap your mind around enough that it becomes a part of you so much that it still lets you be yourself but informs who you are at the same time. That being said? Rocketing scripture at people during a time like this when tragedy so terrible you could never imagine it has happen is just no good.

It's inappropriate.

It's insensitive.

It's as INEFFECTIVE as it EVER could be.

And in all honesty? This applies just as much as if it isn't a major tragedy and devastation on such a grand level as when it is more personal like when someone finds out they have stage four cancer after they just buried their wife who died of breast cancer and they have to tell their only daughter who is just 14 years old that this will easily be the last Christmas you will ever be with her among other things that ensure that the end is very imminent.

I know I reference in scripture all the time and reference a sovereign Lord and an incredible savior named Jesus Christ pretty regularly and I basically weave and braid it into the things I am telling you about or the way I am trying to explain something. I want you to know that if I have ever offended you by appearing like I am launching "scripture rockets" or proverbially standing on a Bible in order to feel higher/better than you with and how what I am doing? Well... that was wrong of me and I am wrong. I do my best to try not to be too self-righteous and to show (rather than tell or, worse yet, demand) what I believe as a way of offering you a different perspective on how to regard something like some of the major and minor challenges of life. That's my intention even if it seems like I am just Bible thumping about.

Still... I just wanted to say something about what all is going on right this moment as a result of the Connecticut shootings this morning and say that I don't believe that scripture is so appropriate right now for this situation because sometimes? Sometimes the only right thing to do is not say anything and cry if you can't help it or let others cry if they want to or all cry together and hold onto one another to remember that it IS OK to cry and be devastated because this is devastating and no person should ever have to live in a world with this happens.

Review of the double-decker drying rack for the studio classroom!

Not entirely sure how this will come up for you but thought I would try it! 

I am posting from email publishing complete with a picture of what I wanted to post and share anyway: a review of the new double-decker drying rack/dish rack I snagged on some months ago but only just recently got. (Zulily is awesome for steals and deals but you do have to wait for a while sometimes in order to be able to get your packages.)

Anyway, this type of drying rack is something I pinned on Pinterest originally because I thought it was so amazing but I was hesitant to get it because it was priced beyond what I was willing to spend - with shipping it would have been slightly over $40. Still, the price tag did not deter me from virtually "stalking" it and hoping that I would find it more in my range which I did eventually and that brings us back to square one of me sharing this information.

And as for the details of why I like it so much? Here it goes:

The upper level is great because it has a grate that would otherwise be used for dishes but it works just wonderfully for the purposes of drying freshly scrubbed wooden platforms for the 3D Design class' current clay sculpting endeavors. The lower rack provides a place that would otherwise be great for bowls or cups but for our purposes I have spread have spread out freshly scrubbed clay tools and I have also place them in the dual drying cups at the one end of the rack that was otherwise meant for utensils. At the opposite end of the rack there are places that would work for classes/cups but in the picture I have here you see I have hung a single water basin/reservoir there. One last thing about this drying rack? It is so compact that I can easily pick it up and put it out the way (because I share a classroom) so it can be a storage vessel for art tools/equipment as well! I suspect this would work for someone in an "Art on a Cart" situation or someone who has to work going from building-to-building. This drying rack is so solid and easy to move that it's hardly a pain to deal with if you have to. 

So that's my review of the double-decker drying rack that while made for home and kitchen organization is very ideal for the studio art classroom. I originally wanted to get one of these for you and do another giveaway but two things kept me from doing that:
  1. I didn't want to give something away that I otherwise didn't know was good, great, or (thankfully not) terrible
  2. My Christmas budget is just about tapped at this point and I didn't have the "funds" to do it just that. (I am praying that God will provide though and I will be able to do this giveaway at some point).
And that's it! Other than the fact that if you want to snag one of these before God makes it that I can do a giveaway, HERE is one like it that you can get for yourself and use a lot more immediately. It is exactly the one I have reviewed here but it is definitely more than I paid for it via Zulily.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Love wins

A lovely picture from the easel of my 4yo daughter

I have lost count of how many times I tell people that I am a high school teacher and they tell me things like:

  • "I could NEVER do that/be that."
  • "Why do you teach high school? If I were a teacher, I would only want to teach anything by high school."
  • "Better you than me because all high school kids are [insert something mostly negative]."
You know what? I beg to differ. I am a fan of most any kid - whether they are literally of the age of being kids OR they are just plain grown up kids (meaning they are young-at-heart) because kids are AWESOME. 

As I cited in previous postings, I have been really really challenged with some unique trials but none of that is changing the fact that I still very much love my jobs AND the student artists I get to work alongside on a regular basis AND the parents of all of those student artists. Don't get me wrong - I have my bad days but they are a lot more few and far in between than what most people would suspect with their preconceived notions about teaching and high school students at that!

Recently, I had a very challenging situation arise at work and while in the past (before I came to work at my current school) I would have felt completely out of my element about how to deal with it, be in it,  or navigate beyond it - none of the aforementioned is anything of what I felt. Why? Because despite the unique trials I have shared with you frankly and in no uncertain terms, I have also been doing very specific things that I feel very specifically prepared me for the moment(s) that made up the specific challenge presented to me. In other words, my feathers weren't the least bit ruffled and I was able to (even in the midst of the situation) feel like I was standing on stable ground and not come even close to being rocked from it. I was able to conduct myself in a way that I felt was the way God wanted me to. I  was able to walk away from it feeling like I did the right thing - not that I was right but that I did the right thing. (There is a difference between the two of those things and I work very hard to teach all of my students how to be wise and discern between the two.)

Being a teacher and being a visual artist are two very tough things. I don't presume to be an expert in either areas but in all of the ways I am learning how to be better at both of those such things, I am humbled by the opportunities that are constantly presented to me in order for me to (ultimately) be more of the teacher and/or visual artist that I know the amazing Lord Jesus wants of me. Because that's just the thing: It's not about me because it's completely about HIM. And because of that truth, it never matters to me whether I am right or wrong, only (in the words of a very wise and respected colleague of mine) that He is using me as a vessel to deliver His peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and LOVE that covers any and everything forever and ever. 

Like I said before and will continue to say until the day when the Lord chooses to end my earthly time, I love my job and all that comes with it that I have already outlined. And for me? I don't mean to say love in a way that it is a noun but in a way that is just as much a VERB and an ACTION that can be experienced. I pour myself into my job with LOVE every day because it is my understanding that the Lord pours into me so that I can turn and do the same for others - no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. This is because I know that the Lord doesn't sit up where He does and Jesus didn't walk the way He did when He was here and dole out only this, that, or the other thing based on a metric of any sort that eliminated anyone from being denied to receive it. I firmly believe that every last one of us has the opportunity to show, tell, and BE the love of Christ on every given day and with every passing moment that might present itself. It's all a matter of choosing to do so. It's ALL a matter of letting your will be God's will. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which I confess to you all that I haven't been painting

... becauseI am really really struggling right now.

Kind of ironic, huh? Especially considering the fact that I just showed you all yesterday a video tour of my home studio storeroom that is literally packed (almost) floor-to-ceiling with enough raw art materials to last me if ever there was some crazy visual art holocaust that wiped out any source of visual art supplies for the rest of time and space.

A very old piece that I started and never finished because I would do anything to forget it and what inspired it.
I would tell you that I don't know why my life is like this - why I hit this severe and (honestly) debilitating creative blocks that make it darn near impossible for me to look at a paintbrush much less pick one up and put it to canvas but telling you all of this would hardly be any kind of real disclosure. So you want it? OK. Here it goes:

I am a survivor of severe trauma from my childhood years that resulted in me being diagnosed with PTSD about six years ago that got so bad that I had to quit "life" (meaning: I couldn't work a job and I had to move back home for about half a year) so that I could undergo intensive outpatient treatment in the way of multiple layers of therapy - both cognitive-behavioral and psychiatric.

I won't go into the nature and details of the trauma but I will tell you it was related to very severe abuse at the hands of multiple individuals who were entrusted to care for me during numerous occasions during my early years of childhood. Those people did everything else but anything trust worthy (involving me) and this includes robbing me of the innocence and purity that is being an unassuming little girl. (Read between the lines with all of this and I can guess that you still won't be able to imagine the horrors of all that I am alluding to. Seriously. It was horrific.) While the guilty parties are not in my life now or recently and haven't been for quite some time, I still have to deal with a multitude of consequences that have ensued because of the things they did to me. And it's only because of my faith in a sovereign and merciful God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that has put me back together (time and again) and continues to fill me with the healing that I struggle with every day (for probably) the rest of my life.

Is all of this surprising to you? Perhaps it's not. I mean, it's my understanding that many artists - whether visual, musical, performance, literary, etc. - commonly struggle with severe madness within their lives deriving from outside of themselves and also coming from within.

I'm not sure why I am sharing any of this with you all. For the record: this isn't the first time I have done this and I don't worry what my coworkers and administrators at school might think of me. Why? Because about three years ago I shared my testimony with all of the female student body and faculty/staff members and every year since then I have touched lightly upon it with my individual classes (an abridged testimony, if you will) so all of this is old news to them.

I guess I share all of this with you all to (perhaps?) give you the whole picture of what I am dealing with. Recently, I noticed on my statscounter that a very nice and highly respected person nominated this blog and me (in a way) in a very big competition (of sorts) of art education blogs.  Also, last week, another very nice individual and highly respected individual (to me) left me an incredibly affirming and complimentary comment that I accidentally deleted during the comment screening/approval process. *shaking my head at myself*

The way PTSD works and the treatment of it is that it all goes in stages. I have already gone through about two stages - the initial intensive treatment and then a "check-in" when I entered motherhood - but lately my life is telling me that perhaps it's time for me to go and do the next stage of it. (There's no telling how many stages of it there are) Basically, as you hit different milestones of your life or when your life is really stressful, it's always important to go in to therapy and touch base with someone who can help you to "deal with" the curve balls (almost always originating from the PTSD) that are happening to you but you don't realize are affecting you. I have sneaking suspicions that this is happening to me and I am in need of a "tune-up." And I am thinking this is why it is such a struggle for me to paint lately or even do anything other than everything that will distract me from painting. What can I say? I have a lot of baggage.


Now you all know where I am with all of the "stuff" that I have been putting out here for you all to say such nice things about or nominate me for honors and stuff for. I just... I just want to be clear and honest with you all so there are no preconceived notions that it's so easy for me to do all of what I do. (It's not. It's SO not.)

Also, if You are struggling at all with things that are keeping you from creating? I just wanted you to know that even if you don't tell me about it, even if we never meet, I will be praying for you to overcome your challenges in the way that the Lord has helped me AND I know will continue to help and carry me through all of this.

Thanks for reading all of this and continuing to support and encourage me and my blogging and creativity efforts. All of that will help me just as much to get back to my easel and paint as I know I was created to before any of us know it. God bless each and everyone of you all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

From the home studio | a Tour of the "Storeroom"

I think it's been a month since I gave you a pictorial tour of my home studio space (see it HERE, HERE, and HERE). I had previously promised you a peek at the studio storage space but not delivered because it took me a LONG time to get what I now call the "Storeroom" camera-ready. Thankfully, the weekend was semi-productive for me and I have a video tour for you to see of it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lesson idea: Extra-dimensional | 3D Design OpArt study

It's been quite a while since I shared a lesson idea and/or a video with you all so you all are in for some real treats today!! ;)

This lesson idea is a spin on something I have been doing with the 2D Design classes (OpArt studies) that pairs with things I have seen on Pinterest as well as it being something that has made the rounds on the art education blog circuit. It takes the geometric 3D form (the cube) and  expands on the idea of dimension by applying Op-art patterns and designs on the different faces of the cube so that the finished piece looks incredibly dimensional. You can see some of the works-in-progress of this project HERE and also HERE.

This project was incredibly labor intensive for all of the student artists because OpArt needs to be so carefully thought through and then even more carefully created and colored. Whenever I do OpArt projects it always takes me a lot time to evaluate the work because looking at it makes my head spin and I have to take a whole lot of breaks. I told the students this and they thought I was being dramatic but when they started working on their pieces? Well... they totally understood. Ultimately, the project ended up taking almost a solid month for us to complete (including a bunch of random days when our class time got shorted for one reason or another). Just the same, I was fine with it. I'm doing my best to just go with the flow these days.

While I could show you only still photos of the finished pieces of student work, I don't feel like still photos will do the presentation of this lesson idea the justice it deserves. As a collective and the way it is being displayed is quite something to see in real life and the closest way I can come up with to show it to you would be to do a video. And so? Here it is! The school's senior visual art prefect joined me for this one and in the video I will be sharing with you some of the inspiration behind the overall collective of work. It's quite thought provoking in the way it all came together and it might be my most favorite exhibit we have done so far. Go figure - it's pretty much another exhibit of installation art!! (It just happened like that.)

Just in case it was hard to see the student work, here are two stills I also took in the midst of taking the video...

And because outtakes are always fun and it IS Monday, here is a quick outtake that otherwise would have ended up on the "cutting room" floor because I am so bad at using my video camera on my phone. *shrug* ENJOY!!! (at my expense)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mixing and changing things up in 2D Design

This week has been such a gauntlet for 2D Design class and me (personally).

The current project for 2D Design focuses on using color theory in order to create patterns with great visual diversity and variety in order to create very contemporary-style portraits of animals. Sound like some craziness? It is. It really really is. But the great thing about it is all of the student artists are REALLY sticking to the challenges presenting themselves and turning out amazing work!!!

One of the major things of this project is that I am requiring students to design and then draw, color, and detail (with the most precise technique) a set number of patterns that they will ultimately use in their final portrait of their self-selected animal. I originally started out requiring them to do at least nine unique patterns but after about two days of class time, I realized that they all were struggling in one of two ways:
  1. They weren't stretching themselves far enough to make the nine completely unique diverse patterns
  2. They were stretching themselves and they couldn't narrow things down and were becoming indecisive.
I took "tabloid"-size paper (I don't know the exact measurement but it's called this as a standard format measurement in Microsoft Word) and made a grid of 21 blocks as a giant worksheet for the students to be able to stretch themselves without feeling disorganized. They were able to take as many worksheets as they needed while I allowed them as much time and space as possible in order to let them really stretch themselves.

This week was even so nice that I was able to take almost all of my classes out two different days (Monday and Tuesday) because it got up to the 70s!!! What a treat to be able to let them work en plein air. I really feel like it helped them within their own creative processes.

 After giving them pretty ample time to devote to just designing and coloring, I pushed them to the next stage of the creative process (so stage two and three in the methodology I have been using) in order to facilitate them being intentional and decisive with what they will ultimately use in their final work.

All of the working en plein air and otherwise really REALLY helped because a lot of them had not only 14 different pattern blocks to choice from but so many that they filled up all 21 blocks!!! I am SO proud of the way they have invested themselves!!!  I encouraged them to tidy up their worksheets but cutting out their decided upon pattern blocks and pasting them on fresh worksheets so that they would have a nice clean and organized inventory of what they would end up using...

The goal with this project was to try and have it completely finished before we break for Christmas but I don't think it's going to happen. And why? Well... because my student artists and I are not a bunch of work horses and if we convince ourselves that we can just run on fumes then we might end up losing our minds and trying to cut off our own ears a la Van Gogh. (There's your daily art humor, eh?)

But seriously. If the good Lord Himself took a rest on the 7th day of creation then we certainly need to rest ourselves and not work ourselves into burn out. For this reason, I have given the students some rest time to be able to do things of leisure so they learn that part of the creative process is learning to give your brain, imagination, heart, and soul some time and space to take a breath.

A really cool game I scored from Zulily that is kind of like Connect Four but uses primary colors tiles to make secondary colors to make patterns in order to win the game!! It's called Color Scheme and was just made for the art classroom.
We are so SO close to Christmas break but I'm feeling the stress within myself and seeing it the faces and of the artwork of my student artists and when I announced this staycation (of sorts) for them to relax a little, they were all so relieved to hear it. I feel like this might be something of the creative process that I will do way more often now.

And that brings me to the weekend! Hope you all get some good rest and play time in as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Drive safely, right?

And as if all of the previous from yesterday and the day before isn't enough, over the weekend I was surprised by the Lord with an even more thought provoking and heart inspiring prospect...

A new member of my church congregation and a long-time friend/supporter of the school where I work reached out to me via email last weekend and offered me something incredibly unique: a full set of organ keys from the 1970s that once belonged to his father.


When I opened the email I was immediately catapulted in thought processes of how this was happening and what I was supposed to do with it all. I, of course, graciously welcomed the opportunity to take these keys (to what, I am asking the Lord) in order to give them a new purpose and life by way of visual art! I have an inkling of how and what the Lord wants me to do with this all but (again) it has not totally solidified yet so I am going to hold off on sharing any of it just yet.

So exciting. So amazing, exciting, and mind-boggling strange and wonderful this life of being an artist is sometimes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Special delivery from Jerusalem - Pt. 2 of 2

Want to see what was specially delivered from Jerusalem? 

Here it is...

Four hand-stretched canvases with belgian linen over heavy stretcher bars sans priming/gesso.
A little underwhelming? Expected something different? I assure you. There is much more than meets the eye here.

In the midst of my asking and seeking for what the Lord wants of me, creativity, and creation right now, something stirred inside of myself that led me in a few overlapping directions...
  • Focus on His creation as it is so beautifully discussed in scripture
  • Use materials for supports like what the old master painter used to
  • Root my technique from what has previously been done so masterfully by painters from hundreds of years before me
  • Use my own efforts and endeavors to support and uphold other currently working artists as much as possible
All of the above led me in the way of finding hand-stretched, unprimed belgian linen canvases from a wonderful fellow artist who lives and works in Jerusalem. Yes, yes. THAT Jerusalem in Israel. Friends, I cannot tell you how much of a "God-moment" it was for me to have been able to be led in such a way as this. If this isn't a signpost from the Lord that this is precisely what He wants me to be doing with my life then I don't know what is.

I am still asking and seeking out what the Lord wants me to paint on these canvases. In the midst of Sunday sermon of just this past weekend while I was running the projector for service, something the pastor said sparked something in me and offered me a bit of a pearl of what comes next. It's still all brewing so I can't quite share it with you yet but I will tell you it is requiring me to really study and meditate the words He gives us in scripture. It was almost like He gave me inspiration this past weekend and then just said to me, "Now sit with this. Be still and wait. I will tell you when and what comes next."

And so I am doing just that! Kind of a good thing for me to do because I continue to feel really overwhelmed with all of this. God-moments are like that, you know? And when I get bombarded with them like how it has been happening recently (it also has happened like this one other time in my life about 6-7 years ago), I truly feel like my heart and soul can barely take it. Why? Because how gracious and forgiving and provident is He that after all I have done in my life apart from Him - even at some points outright refusing Him to be in my life - He is here with me now and giving to me so abundantly and freely. It's truly humbling and I can't help but be totally overwhelmed where it makes me feel like it couldn't possibly be happening like this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Special delivery from Jerusalem - Pt. 1 of 2

While the title of this posting could definitely suggest something different since we are officially in December since the next major occasion cause for celebration is the birth of Jesus Christ? That's actually not what I meant. Just the same, it's hard to ignore how timely what I actually am talking about is regarding the aforementioned.

That picture up there is of a package of some items that I ordered around the time I announced my (now old news) retirement from being a working visual artist of the photographic sort. I had just finished "The Covenant" painting and I was feeling both uplifted and overwhelmed by the prospects that the Lord had something different for me to do that would still allow me to answer His calling to be an artist for Him. On top of all of that, I was getting to oil paint again - the one medium of art that I love more than anything else - and I was just in all kinds of bliss because of it.

While I was reveling in the things that the Lord was doing, I was careful to try no to forget to give every ounce of it back to Him. I knew that the only reason why I was suddenly able to create the way I was - the new style and technique of painting, the materials to be able to paint, the time to be able to paint, and the newly established peace, love and support in my life to inspire and encourage me - it all came from the Lord above. And because I am a firm believer that whatever He gives is a gift to us and what we do with what He gives us is our gift back to Him, I prayed and waited for direction about how and what He wanted me to do with it all.

Do you know what it's like to have your prayers answered in such a way that there isn't a shadow of a doubt that God has really heard your requests and cries for help? How about when you can really feel His presence in a moment where you are needing Him? How about when you can really feel His presence AND see Him so much that it feels like the time has stopped and the world has stopped moving and you feel like it is so carefully designed and then orchestrated that it couldn't possibly be happening? Do you know any of these moments? I (and some others who are believers) know them to be "God-moments" and while (in the past) they have been rare - I mean, moments so special as that can't just happen constantly because I am convinced that our hearts and souls couldn't take it - they happening to me and it has only affirmed and confirmed the fact that the Lord is here delivering on His promises and then making even more to deliver upon. The special delivery from Jerusalem? It was all of this put together.

To be continued...

Monday, December 3, 2012

How is Social Media affecting your Creative Mojo?

Question for you: 
 Does your creative mojo outpace the fierce fandom and regular (and loyal) usage of social media?
[Social media being: blogging, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Deviant Art, etc.]

My creative mojo used to be much like this plain black canvas largely because of the influence and impact of social media.

I believe I have breached this topic before but I thought I would talk a little more in depth as I have recently stumbled upon some situations that have really made me think more critically about it. 

I don't remember exactly when it happened but in the last few months I started noticing some things both about social media that I really didn't like because of how it was affecting my life. General things I noticed about it were this:
  • It made me lazy in my relationships. This includes both people and "things" (like creative endeavors).
  • It made me jaded and easily unimpressed which, in turn, made me passive-aggressive and "judgey" in the way I was thinking or reacting to what I was taking in. 
  • It made me feel both inspired and inadequate at the same time, which, in turn, made me unnecessarily envious and frustrated with the fact that I couldn't achieve/do/create/design in the same way as someone else.
  • It actively contributed to me being inactive - with my body, my mind, and (most importantly) my heart & soul.
Because of all of these things, I made what some folks have called drastic an unnecessary, the decision to cutback on how and what social media I use. The biggest thing of it was I removed myself from Facebook. I took a ton of flack for this and I even still get it from people on a regular basis. I also stopped bothering with Twitter - not that big of a deal because I already wasn't using it a ton. And, I seriously examined my blogging activity - though it might not seem like it because I have managed to keep a pretty regular schedule of Monday-Friday posting since the school year started with some recent exceptions.

Now, I don't bring all of this up to say that social media is bad or that anyone who uses it is bad either. I mean, you are reading the blog that I keep right now and that definitely is something of social media, right? (And I'd like to think that this blog isn't bad otherwise it would have gone the way of Facebook months ago which it didn't do.) My point in bringing this up is to perhaps inspire some internal conversation (in myself as much as for you) about the call we all feel to be creative and create but how it ends up existing dormant inside of us because of the noise and activity of so many other things these days and ultimately? It ends up slowly and painfully shriveling up inside until that feeling starts to suck up the rest of us as well. (So, I am talking about this as it relates to creation and creativity.)

I cannot tell you how many folks I come across on a regular basis - my student artists, my colleagues who are incredible artists outside of the non-art/creative content areas they teach, and fellow artists I meet by way of this blog and just general adventures of real-life - who have been impacted in seriously negative ways much like the ways I shared with you above about how it has impacted me.

Just the other day I had a conversation with an incredibly talented student artist who is just a freshman and has had very little formal training in the way of drawing. It has taken her months to finally bring in her personal portfolio for me to just look at (much less critique) and when she finally did it, I literally had to tell her in a very blatant way, "Do not talk while I am looking at it." Why? Because all of the narration and explanation she was giving me was negative and seriously untrue. This is because (I found out) she spends a ton of time trying to be a part of an online community of artists by the name of Deviant Art and rather than it inspiring her to create, it has only made her feel inadequate, unfairly critical, and incapable of designing or creating anything worthy of anything more than hiding away or discarding.

Now, like I said before, I don't begrudge the many conduits of social media or its vast communities of users. That's not my point in saying all of this. I am only trying to offer a perspective based upon my own personal experience and observations about how it is perhaps doing something to our innate capacities and yearnings to be creative and be creators. As a believer in the gospel, I believe it exists because the Lord (the most supreme creator and intelligent designer in all of existence) created man in His image therefore giving each of us seeds of being visionary like Him and the power to create like Him and this goes for people who are believers and not yet believers of the gospel!

I believe every single one us was created to create! This is why people who will openly profess to not be artists doodle in their folio pads during conferences/class instructional time or play with office supplies at their desks when they should otherwise be doing work. Creativity and creation is inside of us and it simply needs to be roused awake and then fed and cared for so it can thrive. But when you introduce social media into the equation? Well, that kind of media ends up pushing out and ultimately eliminating other kinds of media from our otherwise creative and creating selves.  The unfortunate thing is that it happens in such a way that we are far from being keenly aware of it because it convinces us that it's not so bad and then it starts seeping into and all over parts of our life without us until it's everywhere and everything. I mean... I make this sound kind of extreme but it sort of us like that. Harmless at first but can eventually be smothering the way it exists.

Anyway, if you are feeling stifled (or smothered, or wilting, or disintegrating) with your own creative inspirations, efforts, and overall investments, perhaps you are dealing with a similar situation as I was. And if you are? Well... it doesn't have to be that way. It really doesn't have to be that way at all.

ADDENDUM, 12/4/12 => Found THIS via during my morning blogrolling. It is so relevant to this topic! It speaks specifically about how to establish and maintain balance between your Online and Offline social lives rather than letting one dominate and replace the other.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Discipleship for the Christian visual artist

My first student for this discipleship experience that I am offering! He is doing a mastercopy of a Peter Max work while our amazing custodial staff looks on. (They are teaching ME Spanish! I am kind of bad it though.)

This year I am trying something new: Private art instruction paired with a discipleship relationship for the young, promising (and hungry) Christian visual artist.

Private instruction you probably know about but are you familiar with discipleship at all? In the Christian faith, it is a very special and highly regarded path that a follower of Christ takes in their journey of walking in faith. (Here is a little bit of detail about it.)

I don't know how many people have ever ventured into the world of visual arts discipleships before but I wouldn't be surprised if I am one of the few, if not the only one. *shrug* I don't say this to toot my own horn or anything but perhaps rather to say the following...
  1. Where was such a thing as this when I was looking for it?!!
  2. Why are there not more distinctively Christian visual artists who do this sort of thing? Because (as mentioned in #1) I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOR SO LONG!!!
  3. Is the reason why this exists only because I am starting it? Does this mean that I am crazy for doing this? (Don't answer that.)
  4. Who in the world do I think I am trying to do something like this? I mean... I have never been in a discipleship myself, how in the world can I possibly think that I am a good candidate to disciple others?

To answer all of my own questions as posed:
  1. There is likely not something like this and hasn't been something like this ever though I don't entirely know why it's like that. I suspect it's because artists tend to be islands unto themselves without hardly trying. 
  2. Distinctively Christian visual artists are hard to come by for a myriad reasons that I might present for discussion based upon my own observations and unique experiences. Distinctively Christian visual art galleries are certainly few and far in between so it's no wonder that it's so hard to find artists to fill them up! 
  3. Yes. I might be the only one starting this. Yes. I might be crazy. However? Well... most of my "craziest" ideas have turned out to be some of the best ever!! (This comes from other people saying so and not just me.)
  4. Uhmmm... I don't really know who I think I am. Honestly? Sometimes I see myself as the most unlikely person to disciple others. I'm certainly no Bible scholar and I only became a devout believer in my mid-late 20s. I have been told that I have very abstract and even uniquely mature understandings of the gospel and though I take that to mean something positive about my walk in faith (so far), I don't know. I guess I always try and sell myself short by not believing enough that whatever I am/know/can do is enough so this situation applies for that as well.
Anyway. All of this is to say that I am wholly investing myself in this process of trying to disciple some young (and willing and eager) student artists who are wanting to learn how to oil paint. (We don't offer oil painting at my school.) As with all that I do during regular school time, I am attempting to use the vehicle of visual art in order to teach them more about the gospel in order to be able to apply it to their own walks in faith in trying to be distinctively Christian visual artists. This doesn't mean that we are only painting things of Christian subject matter though. Rather, my main goal is to help them steer through understanding and using the creative process as colored and framed out by the gospel. My goals are other to teach them how to develop good technique and then refine it so it is of very high quality and they are (in turn) producing beautiful artwork that can then be connected back them them, a visual artist who seeks to glorify the Lord with what they are creating.

Other things I am doing include:
  • Helping them to heed and answer the callings that they feel are being given to them to be creators as they truly believe they have been called to create.
  • Helping them to see and embrace themselves as distinctively Christian visual artists.
  • Showing them that with the Lord's infinite wisdom, intervention, and supremely uplifting inspiration, they can really create things that are both anointed by Him and are astounding to behold - both in its actual creation and when it is viewed in its finished state.
I offered this discipleship opportunity up to a select number of students that are mostly upperclassmen. This is because I was attempting to maintain certain structural elements that other discipleship "programs" (if you will) already have within the school and local church communities and because this is how it's been done and worked and I haven't done this before, why reinvent the wheel? The other thing of doing this with primarily the older students is that it doesn't limit them/me as much since most of them can drive and have greater liberties within their schedules. I also have built relationships enough with a lot of them that they feel comfortable with me already to steer them in the very specific way that this discipleship experience requires.

As things are going, I only have one student who has started (the senior student pictured above who is painting) but I have another student (another senior who is female) will be joining in after choir season finishes its big concerts this weekend. There is a possibility of an alumnae from last year coming in and also giving a go at it in addition to informally shadowing me to figure out if she wants to perhaps go into art education. (I think she would be a GREAT art teacher so I am really praying that she entertains the opportunity for both discipleship and shadowing!)

I will admit to you all that I am intimidated by what I am doing (for all of the questions and answers I have posed already) but I am just as much certain that this is what I am supposed to be doing and this is part of why I retired from my former career as a professional photographer. I'm delighted to report that this path that the Lord is now inspiring, leading, and enabling me to take is an answer to prayers because I have had the thoughts in the not so recent past in the way of, "Well... if I am not a working visual artist in the way photography work the way I have always known myself to be - what am I?!!!"

I know. I know. I am lame and silly at convincing myself I have to BE something specific to be able to identify myself so specifically AND that it has to be something of visual art. What can I say? I am petty like that and my silly little ego cries out for feedings more often than I care to admit.

Whatever and however the case, GOD WILLING - I am DOING THIS.

(I'll let you know how it goes, of course.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

We are HERE.

Both the 2D & 3D Design classes have been working on long-term projects that took almost twice the time I normally schedule for a project (about 2-3) weeks. I already shared the painting project called "a place of Grace" with you and I will be showing you the Op-Art project that 3D did called "Extra dimensional" once I get the work hung/installed in the student gallery.

In the meanwhile, 2D & 3D Design have both been working on new unit projects!

For 2D, they are working on combining what they have learned from color theory to create and assemble interesting pattern combinations that will eventually be used in a poster picture of an animal in order to show how the design principle of variety works. Each them is allowed to pick out whatever animal(s) that will be focused on for their final piece but their biggest challenge is trying to select, draw, color, and then pull together as many patterns with as much diversity as possible.

So far they are being both challenged and a little bit frustrated because they love working with all of the patterns but they are dealing with either indecision within themselves OR annoyance because they are realizing that maybe they don't have as many patterns as would lend themselves to a completed project of this type. (One of the major standards of the project is that ever space of the whole 11x14 surface needs to be covered in pattern and color!)

 The 3D class is loving their new unit of sculpting in the round. (Well, for the most part. You won't be able to walk underneath of the sculptures so it's not totally in the round, I guess.) They are working with clay in this unit and doing the ever popular clay cartoon bust project! Each of them gets to pick their own subject matter (so long as it isn't offensive either obviously or questionable) and then they take it from 2D plans and drafts to 3D form in clay and eventually they will detail and articulate it with acrylic paint. We are using air-dry Boneware clay and something new that I am both permitting and maybe even requiring this year - they have to make wire armatures to help ensure that their finished pieces will be that much more structurally sound.

I'm honestly kind of excited about the armatures since it draws in wire sculpting (that I would have ended up running out of time for) and also shows them a little more about the whole business of the art of gestural sculpting. As 3D is getting started they are required to get pictures of their sculpture ideas and then draw/sketch AT LEAST a front view and then side view of each idea.

Both of these projects might easily carry us through to the very end of the semester and that makes me kind of sad because I never like saying goodbye to a semester with any of my student artists but I'm also realizing that doing the kind of work I have been/can now do with all of the classes only means that they have come so far and learned so much! That's never a bad thing, right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Home studio, sweet home studio

I'm happy to report that since converting my daughter's playroom into a family art studio - where I can paint, my daughter can draw, and my husband can sculpt - it's become what some people call their kitchens: the center of our home where everything else revolves around.

Seriously. If you ever have the notion to convert one of the common rooms of your home to a home art studio - DO IT. It is SO worth it!!! It keeps you from isolating yourself when you are creating, invites others to join with you in creating, and it also allows you to be able to create first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I recently received an early Christmas present from my parents that is a Daylight lamp (you can find the one I have HERE though I didn't pay such a price for it since it was a gift and I also watched the prices to wait for it to drop down around $120 before I steered the efforts to purchase it). Here it is in action the other night when I was doing some late night painting on a newly inspired series...

I initially was not super impressed with the lamp but after using it late at night and trying out the detachable magnifying glass for detail work in the way of impasto, I am slightly more pleased with it. For my purposes, so I can stand while I work, I have found it helpful to place the tiny canvases I am working on on an overturned Artsphere (Originally purchased for a steal because I thought my husband would enjoy it for charcoal and sketch work. I was wrong though. *shrug*) I cover it with wax paper to try and keep it clean because I have a tendency toward being a real mess of a painter.

One of my favorite things to do is to scrape things down - canvases, my glass painting palette. It is so cathartic for me sometimes and I actually sometimes paint with the intention to scrap what I do to help clear my mind of things that are clouding my view of the inspirations I know I am supposed to be spring boarded by.

Other things I do? I like to watch Netflix instant of old reruns of series like My So-Called Life or Felicity. Recently I discovered that Lionel Richie made a cameo on Felicity and I just about choked on the leftover banh mi I was eating!

 One of my new favorite things to do though is to study the works of the old masters. I have pared down my art books to just the ones that are most informative and inspirational to me and one I bought for super clearance at a major bookseller who was going out of business is called ART by Ross King and it is chock full of full-color images AND background information of a huge number of artists and their works of all mediums. I think I got the book for less than $20 and it is one of the best resources for art education and history I have. It's so great that I honestly thing it might be one of those few things I would grab if ever there were a fire and I needed to do so.

I have never done a real series/collection of paintings but I am getting ready to embark on one (definitely) and another one might be in the works. I am feeling really uplifted by the Lord right now and encouraged with what I know He wants me to do even though I am quite intimidated by the fact that He sees fit for me to do such things. Just the same, when I fall short I know He will be there for me to see me through it all. That's the point of it all, y'know? It's not my creation to have anyway. It's His. It's all for HIM.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More finished pieces of "a place of Grace" landscape painting project

As I previously promised, here are the rest of the student work examples from the landscape painting project "a place of Grace." The original positing discussing the lesson and showing the first round of student work was HERE.

Monday, November 26, 2012

creating art for Him

In the past it's debatable (at least I think so) of whether or not I am a Christian artist. I mean... what does that mean anyway? Does it mean that I create distinctively Christian artwork? OK, then what is distinctively Christian artwork? Perhaps it means that I profess myself to be a Christian and then I, in turn, create artwork and because I professed myself to be Christian in the first place then that automatically makes my artwork distinctively Christian?

I have been thinking about this and discussing it with my fine art department colleagues (at school/work) for quite some time now and none of us have know any of the answers. Something I do know (or at least am figuring out) though, is the fact that while I seek to glorify Christ every day with my life - what I am doing, saying, being motivated by, even how I think and feel - I really have questioned whether or not it all directs people specifically back to Him. 

Years ago when I first discovered my calling to believe in Christ, I also discovered a Christian music artist by the name of Nichole Nordeman. She sings a song called "Legacy" and it talks specifically about what she hopes to leave behind her that tells about her life. (The song is not embedded for playback here because of some youtube restrictions - sorry about that. Click the link above though and you can see it on youtube.) 

The song talks about how she wants to do great and wonderful things in her life that are remembered but what she really wants to do are things that distinctively direct everyone to look to the Lord above as the inspirations, reasons, and purpose of it all. That is pretty much how I feel and want I want for my time spent here CREATING art. I want it all to be for Him, by Him, and pointing to Him. This isn't because I'm trying to "Bible thump" around "draft" people into being Christians before the world is alleged to end or anything. (Seriously.) I do this because of what He has done for me in my life for me to have what I have. 

I know I have alluded to the nature of what I am talking about before but I haven't ever actually really really discussed it in great detail and spelled out some of the intricacies of it all. It's actually not because I don't want to do that it's more because I almost can't. My testimony so hard to explain and it also takes a long LONG time. I think that the Lord is working in me for me to learn how to do this in words but as it is happening, He is showing me and teaching me how I can use my creativity and creation of visual art (in the meanwhile) to explain things best. What it boils down to is this: He took nothing and made it into something. Honestly and truly. 

Before I discovered what is now an unwavering faith in the Lord above, I was doing a whole lot of nothing type things that only begat more nothing type things that only made my life empty as far as the eyes or imagination could see. It's hard for me to even openly acknowledge that here and now and see those words spelling it out as clear as day because I don't want to hurt anyone or anything that was somehow included in all of that that might suggest that they (too) were nothing in my life. (I don't think that's how it works anyway.) What I'm talking about is what I was doing way back then and what I personally had because of it. Even the artwork I was creating in that time was so labored through and (honestly) I don't know that any of it was all that good much less great. It was just... there.  *shrug* Even when people would remark about it, there was nothing all that special or interesting to note of it. That's just how it was. And, for that reason, I questioned myself about whether or not I was worthy enough to even create artwork much less show it to anyone after it was done. 

Things have very much changed since then. I mean, I am about seven years beyond a period of time that was very dark for me so a lot could certainly change for me but even this year? It's going to be ending on perhaps one of the highest notes I have ever known of my whole life. This is despite the fact that this year I have also experienced some of the deepest depths of despair of my life (not talking about art here but personal). Still, I firmly believe that the Lord has delivered me and will keep delivering me because - in the midst of it all - I professed Him as my Lord and savior even when I felt like things were being taken from me. I hailed Him as the sovereign God that He is even when things were happening that I felt like I didn't deserve and definitely didn't understand. I was tested and (I believe) He is affirming to me through my creative inspirations and abilities that I did pretty OK with all of those tests. 

Below is a screenshot of my new website. It's got a new logo and visual branding, it's own very carefully selected custom domain that doesn't include my name, and it is intended to serve as a place where I will openly share the creations of His hand (through mine) for as far and to as many as the worldwide web will allow me to share. 

You can click the image above to access the website
The site is intended to serve as a fine art portfolio for me to show what I am doing for Him. Irony of ironies, I have been working for close to two straight weeks to get a custom domain to work that was and it would not work!!! I even went in through the backend of the site coding and tried to manually code it. (Didn't know I was such a computer geek with such skills? Ha! You have no idea how geeky I am.) Well... none of it worked. But through it all it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't what the Lord wanted for what I am doing. So just before midnight some time ago, I registered a NEW custom domain that was And lo and behold? It WORKED. It actually worked inside of an hour - which is amazing because if you anything about setting up and establishing websites it can sometimes take as long 48 hours for a website to be fully set-up.

Anyway, you will now find this website in the center of the navigational bar of this site if you want to access it and follow the fine art endeavors the Lord is inspiring and enabling me to create. I will share some of it here (of course) but the finished pieces will reside on the creating for Him portfolio site. Please feel free to bookmark it or link to it! Thank you!

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