“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time,
Hopin’ I would see the world through both my eyes,
Maybe I will tell you all about it
When I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”
(John Mayer)

I’ll have to beg your forgiveness for beginning this piece with song lyrics, but it is among my favorites songs, and every time I hear it, it takes me down the same path.

A few years ago, I officially retired from IT and decided that I’d pursue photography as a profession rather than the hobby it had been. While I have enjoyed the work most of the time, I now find myself having learned an unexpected lesson. The business of photography sucked the joy out of the art of photography, for me. I wanted to capture a story in every frame. That is not what happened. It became rote. It made me very depressed. Most inquiries wanted cheap, quick, painless and Photoshop. I wanted to create. More and more of my friends are leaving the “business,” as well, for the same reason. In an effort to love the art again, I cut jobs down to only a few a month. It has been a relief.

I have had several heart-to-hearts about this with a friend. He is my creative conscience, and he gives my fears no quarter. Stop taking your gear, he said. Just use your phone. See things. And this weekend, on a trip to Minnesota, I did as he said. The process was, at first, frustrating as hell. I know my gear, intimately. I know the buttons and dials. I can control depth of field, and ambient light, and compression. With my phone, I could only control composition and focal point. It was a bit like someone had cut off my hand. I forged on, nonetheless. And I did, in fact, see small things I might have missed. As usual, my friend was right about what it takes to get out of my head space.

All of these images were shot using my iPhone. It is proof of two things: (1) seeing requires your eyes first, (2) the camera is only the tool.

I’m slowly getting my mojo back, and for that I have to thank my friend. I don’t enjoy looking inward, because that’s where the heavy lifting is. But I’ll do it every time for the payoff. It’s priceless.

More on these images individually, in later posts. Some warrant their own.

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Pinus Contora 

Ouch, I thought, a splinter?  As my hands caressed the weather-worn, greying plank, turning it, examining it for weaknesses that might eventually compromise the finished piece, a tiny prick made me drop it as though it had opened a vein.

It was, after all, a good excuse to walk away.

I had sat down expressly to transform it. I had had some idea of what I wanted, but no inspiration. I saw red: not in the angry, metaphorical way, but the color red filling my imagination, bursting, a clouded Holi festival in every shade from rose to sanguis. It is in that space where all the joy and wonder of a creative moment, all of the air that fills my lungs spreads to my waiting hands, only to explode from my chest in a rush of despair.

“Why” begins to interrupt. Do I have a voice? Is it worthwhile? Who will want to see this? 

The answer is an apparition.

It is often said of artists that narcissism is the first requirement. Thumbing through even the thinnest of art history books, one finds edgy, erratic, often abstruse behavior among the great masters. Art, it seems, requires a dance on the tightwire that hangs between sanity and genius.

Having grown up in a household where art had no value, I now find myself opening every creative vein I can just to find the one that flows freely. So far, none have. I push, every day, learning the tools and techniques. With each new medium I touch, with each surface I alter, I understand better and better the act of love that art truly is. Even as I write these words, I am utterly gripped by creating a melody within them that will compel you to keep reading. These are experiences I did not have at a time when painting a pig blue or a tree purple was the process in which one idea might fluidly transform into another. Occasionally, I color outside the lines, and I don’t feel the need to correct it and then, as I let go, more and more, I begin to love what I am touching and changing. It comes down to that one nebulous moment when I give myself permission to do whatever I want without needing a reason why. It is the moment when the wildfire clears the way for the new seeds.

To the many whom I’ve heard say, “I have no talent for art,” I say, expressing yourself doesn’t require “talent” in the traditional sense. It requires that you somehow package what you feel in a way that makes you happy. A year ago, I said I couldn’t draw, but I’ve changed that. I’m learning about the many mediums and tools. I’m immersing myself, and therein lies the danger.

Just as when I began to write publicly, I now study, rather than just view art. I find myself hyperfocused, deconstructing method, material, meaning. I become so lost in the detail, that I must navigate both the joy of understanding and the defeat of accepting that I will never create something so exquisite that it moves mankind century after century. And that is the moment I burn.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who is a successful artist. He spoke candidly about having an artist’s statement and an idea of the theme in his work. I realized that, fundamentally, art is a commitment to visually communicate something for which the artist has no words. Ultimately, I am compelled by an unusual tendency to assign color to emotions. I reach my roots into that fleeting moment, and that is when I grow.

Over and over, I’ll burn when I despair over how much time was lost to fear, but in between, in fleeting moments, new roots grip the ground as from my hands, something lovely comes.


Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #82 – “Pinterest”

I remember a couple of years ago when I was begging my friends to “invite” me to Pinterest. I’d like to reach back through time and slap myself for my haste in submitting myself to that level of torture.

Oh, it’s a bittersweet form of torture, without doubt. For hours, I can get lost in the sheer brilliance of the millions of creative minds that contribute to the hoards of content. I stare in wonder and my heart breaks a little thinking I’ll never be that good. It drives me absolutely insane.

Why do I keep going back for more???

Well, inspiration, I guess. I see something, many times something really simple, that inspires me to create something else. It seems to me that all art has to be somewhat derivative. Not fully imitated, but inspired by something the artist found appealing.

So, as much as I am inundated, and often overwhelmed with Pinterest, I am always hopeful that the spark hits my eye and my creativity is satisfied for just one more day.

I know I am not alone in this. I know that it is to a well-membered sorority that I belong.

Hello, I am Lisa and it’s been ten minutes since my last pin. Yes. I feel my shame.

A Moment of Appreciation

I am new to blogging. Very new, as in 6 months new. I didn’t read a book on how to become a successful blogger because when I began, I wasn’t interested in monetizing the product. The purpose was to finally succumb to a driving desire to write. Encouraged by a couple of friends, I finally stripped bare and leapt off the cliff, arms aloft, screaming bloody murder the whole way down. But the water is warm and inviting. Turns out it’s crowded, too. An element I hadn’t expected but find welcoming and delightful. I’m sure I’ll hit some cold springs now and then, but I love it so far.

I want to take a moment to recognize two bloggers who have given a little of their time to help me. The first is LindaGHill for helping me through my email issue, and the second is Dark Night Chronicles for the prompt and then the resulting reblog of my piece Sheets.

Until this past weekend, I didn’t realize how much we need other bloggers, not only for validation but for that camaraderie that is so vital to the creative mind. Thank you both, genuinely, for leading me to the nooks and crannies in this little pond. I will repay in kind.



Spinning in the Sun

Through my eyelids I see the riot of gold that warms my face, my outstretched arms, the palms of my hands as they break the crisp March air. Not quite warm enough to be called Spring, but I’m sleeveless nonetheless.

two, three, four

I feel it, then, the wave that says it’s time to stop twirling, spinning, abandoning gravity for as long as I can. Finally crumpling, letting go of my reverie, landing softly in the tall grass, waiting for the world to stop, too.

This is the madness of creativity.

Screw you.

Yes, that’s right. Screw all of you whose talent was celebrated and encouraged, and yet, squandered: all of you who have a complete brilliance, a view of the world so lucid that it pours forth in words and phrases that drag the reader willingly behind, struggling but longing to keep pace. I’m not well known for disingenuous, overly-complimentary missives, so people, take ’em when you can get ’em. Read on, there’s more…

From the moment I learned to read, I have consumed words in every manner of ways at every available moment of the day. Yes, even at stoplights. I cannot get enough. Each MOMENT I spend reading is peace for me. TIME is a rare commodity: one we can never recover. So, if I decide that I’m going to spend my TIME reading your work, it is a compliment of the highest order. No, I don’t like everything I read, but I recognize when it is written well, and I respect it. Out of that respect, I will keep reading, because those of us who lay bare our hearts as artists deserve to have at least a few moments when our work makes its way into someone’s consciousness. And perhaps, during those few moments, it makes an indelible impression.

If you refuse to recognize that often, we are so mired down by our own demons that we cannot see the beauty that we are, then you are cheating yourself of the moments that carry us through the chaos we call creativity. We cannot always see how someone else might recognize, hell, even love the images we conjure, but it happens.

So, keep writing. Someone IS paying attention.

Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #99 – Collaborations

Mardi Gras Weekend
Mardi Gras Weekend banner.

Once a year, my beloved friend Shannon and I bury our heads in the charity sand and don’t come up for air for six weeks while we plan…
panic again…
until finally, we fall into a heap at some bar after the last runner has left the field, and our annual fund raising event is done.[1]

Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I LOVE collaborations. I love the feeling I get when creative energy is thick and there is happening. The world can be an incredibly shitty place, sometimes, but when people come together for something positive, it washes away the emotional sludge we all feel when we’re bombarded by the evil humans can perpetrate on each other.

Today, we finished billboard and t-shirt designs, and started the heavy campaigning we do each year in the name of charity. We collaborated. We laughed. We cried. And through it all, we built something beautiful.

I am fortunate to have a few people in my life who understand the power of collaborating and who genuinely enjoy the process. We understand it. We thrive on it. Without them, I have a genuinely difficult time feeling inspired, so I am truly grateful for them.

Maybe it’s because I’m empathic. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I feel like I’m bathing in creativity when I’m around them. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a groupie when it comes to highly creative people. Everyone has their rockstars. My creative collaborators are mine and I’ve always been that way.

[1] If you’d like to know more about our event and the foundation we support, please visit mardigrasweekend.org.