Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Portraits (and why I like them)

My first 'professional' art job happened when I was just a small girl. My brothers paid me some small fee (probably a quarter, or an ice cream cone or something) to draw a picture of my sister. Easy money, I guess, because I was hooked.

When I went to college, I knew I would be an art major. There wasn't even anything else I'd considered for a minute. I was a big fan of Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Degas and the other impressionists, M.C. Escher, and...Norman Rockwell. There are other artists, too, of course...but those are the biggies.

The thing that brought me back to those artists again and again was their ability to give the subject a life. They didn't just paint how a person looked, they painted who they were. They conveyed their souls straight through into the paint. You could feel yourself there with them, wanting to know more about that person across from you.

A broader, yet intimate, representation of their culture is also available in those paintings. For example, in Norman Rockwell's The Homecoming, which is the painting I keep above my bed, he depicts a young soldier coming home to his neighborhood after WWII. You can't help but feel happiness for the young man and those that so obviously fretted and worried for him during his absence. It symbolizes what so many people went through during WWII, and gives us the ability to empathize with our elders. This picture is worth millions of words, because it sums up what would be the memoirs of so many.

While I'm not claiming to be that accomplished, it is what drives me to keep doing portraits. I want to make the person looking at the portrait have that sentimental moment of their own, even if they've never met the subject. I want the people who have met the subject to look at it and recognize the person in the picture, not just their face.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Picking and Choosing Photos

I'm taking some time today to go through my photos and edit out the bad and not-so-great shots. I was already working on this when I got a call from a friend asking me if I am nervous about sharing my photos, and how I choose which photos to share. I took the question to mean I should blog about this today.

In today's culture where so many have a decent or better camera and feel pressured to share the pictures they take with the world, too many people have photo archives that are overwhelming. Some solve this by posting all the pictures - good or not. This leaves the viewers overwhelmed because they have to sort through all the photos and soon become disinterested. Others only post the really great photos occasionally, and despite potential interest in their other good photos, they are left un-sorted. Yet others upload their photos from their cameras, rarely to see them again.

I'm in the second category, and have been forcing myself to go through these so I can share all my great shots with the world instead of just a few. As an added bonus, I'm making more room on my hard drive so I don't have to go buy a new one yet.

How to define the not-so-great shots? I've discovered over time that despite a photo looking good for light, focus, or composition, I can still consider it a loss if it doesn't do well in two out of the three areas. For example, if your lighting is great, but the focus and composition are both off, you don't have a shot. If you have two out of the three, you have a not-so-good to good shot, which is still good enough for sentimental pictures and sharing. The GREAT shots, that have all three elements (plus often a lot of luck on timing), should be tagged or moved to a different folder altogether. Other photographers might have different criteria, but I'm sticking to my own rules for disposing of unwanted photos and simplifying my life.

It is much more difficult to get rid of even a bad photo if someone you love is in it. Trust me, do it. In the long run, you'll still have enough pictures and memories to satisfy your love. You'll also have a lot less regret than you think about the lost photo, and when you reminisce years from now, you'll appreciate the beauty of what you kept.

If you have doubts about posting a picture, get a friend whom you consider a decent photographer to look at a few with you (again, filter out the photos you know are bad - don't make your friend/s sift through those) and before you know it, you'll have a well-organized album that you actually enjoy going through.

Here are some good choices for further reading: a great blog with beautiful pictures and great advice. another great blog that offers the best advice on lighting I've seen beautiful examples of nature photography, plus advice from experts on getting out there yourself. a great portrait photographer here in MN who writes a blog with advice, and I believe offers classes on photography, as well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Creativity Exercise, Con't.

So...last time I posted I very tediously described a glass with cola in it until I came up with a metaphor that wasn't bleh. I was told by a friend that I finally nailed it on that last one - which is good, because I was really out of time on the fifteen minutes I gave myself.

The reason for this exercise wasn't just for fun. I have a real need to improve so I can actually sell my products. I know my photography is good and that my jewelry is pretty. So what am I doing wrong? My writing style, that's what. I tend toward just basic descriptions because when I go crazy and decide to be all creative, I instead end up with some horrifying cliches.

Reading through my product descriptions, I found an example of a basic description AND horrifying cliche all in one: "Lampwork blue flower glass beads with additional blue beads set on sterling silver hooks. Large enough to get noticed while staying elegant and fashionable!"

For this:
So here is my metaphor exercise: a beautiful pair of earrings that are described in such a way that someone wants to purchase them.

The earrings are:
Persian blue lanterns with wisps of cloudy sky.

Chris says it's a fish bowl with a Pepsi can in it.

Crystalline hot-air balloon with sterling silver rigging. (okay, I kinda liked that one!)

Of course, I keep coming back to a cloud city, but I can't figure out how to describe the blue beads below them...

A spool of crystal thread inlaid with delicate floral pinwheels.

Okay, which of you readers want a job writing this stuff for me? lol My real opinion of these is simply ooh, shiny. ;)

An oceanic world with floral clouds.

Let me know which of these you liked or if you have something to add...this exercise actually took me about 3 days, though admittedly with much distraction. I will probably re-visit this exercise later if I find a metaphor to be appropriate. However, I think I'm going to move on with other subjects and posts now so I don't give up on this blog just from the frustration.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And now, to start...

I'm one of those people who can start a thousand projects and keep at them only until something else catches my fancy. I will return to old projects when inspiration strikes, or someone reminds me there was a deadline. Hopefully this blog will let me share those fancies with you, and at the same time remind me to keep up with them!

I've been reading my friends' blogs trying to figure out how I'm going to do this. Humor isn't my strong point, nor do I like 'cutesy'.  I'm a nerd. actually, so if my blog tends toward science fiction references or Monty Python, bear with me

Over time, I will be adding my projects and how-tos, listing my own projects and products; some that I will have available on my etsy shop, sharing favorite products from other blogs and etsy shops, sharing the process and results and of creativity exercises, and much more.

I was just looking at writing creativity exercises so I could get inspiration to describe my jewelry that I want to sell on etsy.  This is a difficult subject for me, so the creativity exercise I found tells me to play with adjectives and metaphors while describing something I'm looking at.  Hmm...metaphors are especially hard for me because I'm such a literal person, but here goes:

I'm looking at a glass with cola and ice in it.  How do I describe it? I'll give myself fifteen minutes.

This glass is a deep and murky lake with icebergs.  This glass is a dark well infused with cold crystals.  This glass is getting emptier as I describe it.  This glass is a series of connected crystal pillars holding in a dark secret and cool treasure.  This glass is a vessel of sweet delight.  This glass is a black blot on my diet.  This glass is a tube of cascading bubbles crashing against floating islands as they escape into the atmosphere.

You should try this exercise, too, and see what inspiration strikes you!

My next post will contain actual product descriptions I've developed as a result of this exercise.  Wish me luck and success!