Shake Up Your Status Quo
This past month I have been both a teacher and a student. The teacher part came when I taught a photomontage workshop at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. It was a great experience - I hadn’t taught in-person for the past three years and loved being in the same room with my students - reading body language - having a conversation. One of the interesting aspects of teaching is you get the opportunity to see your material from a different point of view through their questions.
Then I became a student when I traveled to Tucson for a workshop on The Hand Painted Photograph with Kate Breakey at Photographic Works. I’ve been experimenting with adding color to images this year and have really fallen in love with pastels. While I have one of Kate’s books, I hadn’t gotten to examine a large piece in detail. By coincidence, the location had a massive exhibit of her work and I was able to get up close and see the actual strokes - how color was layered on - it made such a difference to see the art in person!
During those four days, my brain was exhausted, I could feel it reconfiguring as I learned about new materials and techniques, gaining a greater understanding of how all the pieces could fit together for me. It was interesting how many of the group found the experience gave us “permission” and faith in our existing skills. While I feel I have a strong visual “signature” when it comes to photography - I don’t in this new medium, so that’s also part of my learning curve. A complete surprise for me was falling in love with colored pencils - and the night before I returned home, I splurged on a big set of Prismacolor pencils. I adore that I now have 20 separate shades of gray!
Returning home I was faced with how poor the lighting can be in my studio, and so began an overhaul of the space. Realizing the best light was under the window - I got a small drawing table to place there … and that’s when the fun really started. Working all the elements I wanted into the space became a massive game of Tetris. Unfortunately being a visual person means I can’t really tell how something will work until I see it - so we moved a lot of stuff multiple times! A real upside to physically moving furniture around, is you start to question “What’s in that box under the desk and why am I keeping it?” It’s almost like the stuff around us has earned squatter’s rights and we just assume we need it. We might know the invisibles in our life need a good purge - but who has the energy to climb that hill unless they have to?!
But purge I did and what’s been startling to me is the new energy and excitement I have when I come into the studio now. My experiences this month, between the workshops, moving furniture around and getting rid of crap - has given me freedom to see my work and my abilities in a new light. There’s still a considerable amount of anxiety working in this new medium, but I value the opportunity to stretch.
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