Saturday, July 18, 2009

Photo phobia

Beach Series #49
5X5 acrylic textures

Hi All,

I know I seem to have it all together to everyone else, but shocking as it may be, there are some things I am not good at, and some things I am downright afraid of. (I am pausing here to give you a chance to absorb this stunning news.)

You know how artists hate to market their work, well that is not a fear to me as much as it is an annoyance. and a dislike. My greatest fear, well, maybe not my greatest, I mean there is the fear of having the next painting turn out to be crap and then the fear of putting your work out there, and then the fear of sounding stupid in an interview and don't get me started on the pictures they take of you and publish in magazines, books and newspapers. OK, sure, there are a lot of things I am afraid of in this career I have chosen, but I digress. The one I am talking about today is my PHOTO PHOBIA. Technically I think that means fear of the sun or light or something, but for me it is fear of taking photos of my artwork. This is really hard!!!!

All my life I have had a problem understanding the whole f-stop thing, even when I was young and my memory was good and I could still learn new things. You know, the aperture gets smaller as the number gets bigger and the light must be compensated by the yada-yada-yada-yada.... Whatever. I have tried, I really have. I've taken classes, I've practised, I even have a very supportive husband, Greg, who once drew a really good diagram to explain it to me and help me remember it (I am a visual learner). It really helped, but I didn't retain it.

Anyway, fast forward to today. My creative partner (in books, teaching, blog, Etsy, blah, blah, blah) Carlynne Hershberger had to learn to photograph our artwork for our first book(Creative Colored Pencil Workshop). I say "she had to" because if we had depended on me to do it, our publisher would still be waiting and I would be under my bed in the fetal position sobbing and mumbling to myself. You remember how in the old days, artists used slides to enter competitions and also to publish work in magazines and books. Well, ours was chosen for publication just about the time that digital photography was getting really big. Our publisher, F & W Media, gave us the opportunity to be their first authors to do all of our photos digitally. Carlynne was magnificent (we do tell each other periodically that we are brilliant or genius, but magnificent is a new word that we have not used before.) She acquired a new camera (Canon 20D) and learned to use it with very little help from me, although I did read the manual aloud to her, but the translation from Chinese was not very helpful.

Carlynne became wonderful at it and we both benefited from her expertise. Well, eventually I had to learn to do my own. So when we started our Etsy shop, she did the beginning photography to get us started and then she gave me a lesson in doing my own. I had nightmares before we got together to do this. I thought about checking myself into a hospital and having a triple by-pass instead. I needed a root canal, but didn't have the money to pay for it. My other alternative was to change my name and leave town with no forwarding address. But, being the responsible person that I am, I did show up. She was so kind to me (I get teary just thinking about it now) and she gently lead me through the steps and then I realized it wasn't nearly as bad or as hard as I had thought. In fact, I knew right then, that I had nothing to fear but fear itself! (At this point, there are angels singing and a ray of strong sunlight beating down on my head.) I would like to take a moment here to thank, not only Carlynne, but the person who invented digital photography.

So, what have I learned from this experience? That I am not stupid, or old or have a bad memory? No, that is not what I learned, in fact I may be all those things. But I did learn that fear is of the unknown, once it becomes known, the fear can disappear quickly. It was my mind telling me I could not do this, in short I was not good enough. We are all good enough, we just have to tackle our fears head on. And if you are an artist, you need to learn this fast, because unfortunately, our art lives are filled with possible phobias (this post, paragraph 2, lines 3-7). I wish I could give the author credit, but cannot remember where I read one of my favorite quotes: If you are not frightened and depressed, you are not growing as an artist.

Love and peace to all,


Nancy Moskovitz said...

I love this photo. It really shows the textures in this beautiful piece. Pat yourself on the back cuz it's no small feat for a digital image.

Teresa Mallen said...

First off, I am slowing catching up on my blog reading so this comment is not exactly timely...

What a great post! You made me smile and I can so relate. I think most artists fear photography. Back when I wanted to be an artist but was stuck in my excuses phase, I used to whine to myself (and my poor husband) that I would never be able to take my own reference photos. I knew I would need some understanding beyond point and shoot but every time I tried to learn all of that technical stuff my brain would freeze. I read books and I had my husband try to teach me. God bless him, he is a photography buff and he has professional photographers in his family. I had access to a really good camera! :-)

Finally I decided that whining wasn't going to cut it and I set out to learn by doing. I took rolls and rolls and rolls of pictures. Being visual, I studied great photos. I didn't want to know how they did it (I wouldn't have understood it anyway), I just wanted to observe for myself what made a good photo.

I can't say I caught on quickly but I can say that with determination and perseverence I did manage to become a darn good photographer. I still don't know all of the technical stuff but I can compose a shot, crop it and handle lighting like a pro. Yippee!!

My students often ask how they can learn to take better photos. I recommend reading books from the library etc. but the main thing I tell them is to just go do it.

Success in anything in life requires that we go ahead and do it, even if we do it afraid. The fear will subside. Kudos for sharing that we are all good enough. Indeed we are.

Having said all of that, I just posted a photo of a wip on my blog that once uploaded looked kind of dark. Because it is a wip, there is uncovered white paper which is reading blue. It looked better on my husband's computer screen so I left it. Now someone has commented that the image was so dark that she had to alter it in order to see it better. Yikes! Posting photos on computers does bring fresh challenges!

Finally,(sorry for the long post), Beach Series #49 is very captivating! Love the texture and the colours!!!

Kelli said...

Hi Teresa,

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I always feel better when I know someone else has the same struggles I do.

And, yes, posting on computers is another whole challenge. Everone's monitor is callibrated differently or not at all! We can control the quality of our work but not how others receive and view it.

I visited your site and enjoyed the work very much. And you went to the CPSA convention in tlanta. I saw some of my friends in your photos. Thanks for sharing that!