Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Walk in the Park

It was a risk. Going some place I have only been to once before. The mission - to evaluate emotions surrounding photography.  Turns out unfamiliarity and lack of emotional attachment were essential to an honest evaluation.

A friend and I are working through some exercises in the book Shooting with Soul.  We are both in need of a photographic kick-in-the-butt. She had recently purchased the slightly used book. I had the book on my photography bookshelf, the tassel of a bookmark protruding from a third of the way through. These kinds of exercises are better when done together.

Since it is Summer in both Michigan and Maine, we wanted to take advantage of the season. We started at Chapter 4 - Wanderings: Taking the Scenic Route.

The first exercise we are doing is No. 25 - A Walk in Nature.

It has been a while since I have taken my DSLR on a walk. There was some relearning to do. How do I change the Drive again? Oh yah, that button on top that says Drive. Since doing my Meadow Project the last two summers I prefer to use my tripod for nature shots. No, I don't enjoy carrying it, but I know I am a better photographer when I use it. I slow down. Something that is terribly hard for me.

For this walk in nature, I was suppose to photograph with a meditative state of mind. I will be honest. I will probably never get to that state of mind. I can't even get there in Restorative Yoga when I am lying on my back, eyes closed, listening to atomspheric cello music, covered by a cozy blanket. Within me lies a slight skeptical edge towards everything.

"Notice the harmony in all the shapes, colors, and textures and how the sun shines through the trees. Let your intuition guide you. Notice your emotions as you go and think about how you might want to express those feelings in your photos."
I was thinking about what to make for supper.

My personality type is more post-event reflective. I see the potential in my photographs when I process them. That is when the story that lies within them is revealed. 

If you had asked me that morning in the park - I would have said I hate photography. The bugs, the mud, carrying the tripod, nothing inspiring to photograph. Now, as I sit at the computer processing these images, listening to atmospheric cello music, and writing this story - I will say I love photography. 


For those participating in the Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt, please remember to tag your photos #sharewhereyoulive2019 both on Instagram and on Facebook. You can follow the hashtag on IG and I can locate your photos on FB via the hashtag. I want to see what you all are doing. Plus I love to post your photos from the week on my Facebook Page - Twisted Road Studio

Sunday, June 9, 2019

En Plein Air

Last weekend my daughter and I attended an En Plein Air workshop. To be specific an Outdoor Pastel Bootcamp at our local botanic park. Five hours of drawing with chalk pastels.

I signed us up for the workshop back in February after the great success of our two hour acrylic workshop held by our County Park system. I was so excited to continue to try new mediums. Two hours of acrylic painting had passed in a flash, so I figured five hours would be a comfortable, enjoyable amount.

But now it was the beginning of June, the Farmers Market was happening, the weekly Chef Series was happening. I was missing all of that to go sit on a little blue stool for five hours. And I am not a sit still kind of gal. Plus I have only used pastels in my art journal and mixed media pieces as little color accents, not drawing a whole landscape scene with them. My drawing skills are still on the Kindergarten level.

Still I had signed us up and paid the money, we were going to go. There is nothing like plunking down some cash to motivate the hesitant.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never even heard of plein air painting. But doing some research, I discovered it became popular in the the mid-1800's when artists became inspired to paint outdoor scenes in natural light instead of in the studio recalling from memory and charcoal sketches. The invention of paint in tubes and the box easel also contributed to the popularity.

We began the workshop with some instruction in the classroom. Perfect. A table and a chair with a back. That lasted for a half hour or so. Then it was time to gather our blue folding stools, our drawing boards, paper and box of pastels and set off outside.

We set up in the Japanese Garden, my favorite, after the Michigan Farm Garden. If I had to sit here for four hours at least the view was mesmerizing. Our instructor gave us a demonstration of sketching  and drawing a scene with the pastels, so we would have some clue as to what we were doing. That blissfully took up another twenty minutes or so. Then it was time for us to start. I positioned my stool so I was looking directly at the bridge, arranged my supplies, secured my paper, whipped out my iPhone to take some "sketches", discovered the grid app to lay over photos in the App store, applied the grid to my favorite "sketch". I was ready to begin.

My daughter, meanwhile, had taken her stool and moved as far away as possible from me, knowing I would be a pain in the arse, talking all the time instead of taking the drawing seriously.

I had just gotten the lid of my box of pastels when I felt the first rain drops. The instructor quickly came around and reassured us that the light shower would be over shortly. We could get our umbrellas out, or move our supplies to the covered area by the tea house. I quickly carried my supplies over to the covered area. The rain didn't lessen. We decided to take our scheduled break a little early and go to the cafe for lunch.

While in the glass windowed cafe, it was clear the rain wasn't going to go away. The classroom assistant had had the foresight to gather everybody's supplies and transport them back to the indoor classroom.

Back to that lovely table and chair with a back. I had my "sketches". I was ready to work. And there were only 2-1/2 hours left to endure. My poor daughter though was stuck with me again.

Artwork: Mallory Huizenga

I had to endure my own hardship with my daughter, that being that she is very talented, and makes others wonder where she gets her talent from - certainly not her mother. Some of us are just more naturally gifted than others.

Artwork: Sarah Huizenga

Truthfully though, I had a great time, and learned a lot, including some patience. While my creation was no masterpiece, it wasn't half bad, thanks to the instructor's help. What I really enjoyed about pastels and what may encourage me to continue on, is that they felt like abstract drawing with color. I liked using my hands and fingers instead of a paint brush. Having handy wet and dry paper towels nearby, or a classroom sink are the perfect way to limit the messy feeling.

I have been working on another piece at home. Carving out a half hour between breakfast and our morning walk to work on art. This is the result of four mornings of work. I worked on this in thirds, starting at the top, with each third I grew more confident in my ability. I am going to call this one done. I could keep worrying it to death, but I think it would be better to take my growing confidence and move on to a new piece. Thank you to Carola Bartz for the original inspirational photograph. I had initially planned to use the photograph for a watercolor paining, but that only got half finished. This is complete. It feels really good to finish!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Share Where You Live Scavenger Hunt

What place do you know the best? Your home town right? Or you should at least, you live there. But when was the last time you got in the car and went for a simple drive? Just an hour or two driving around to all your favorite haunts. Or even better yet, parking the car and walking the main street of your town and venturing off into a neighborhood or two. It is more likely one day when you are driving from work to a doctor appt. you see a new building and think, "when did they put that up?" Surprise, it has been there for two years already.

Too many of us sit inside the safety of our four walls and never even explore our own yard, let alone our neighborhood. Do you know the name of your neighbors three houses each way of yours? I don't.

I know the usual excuses. They are mine too... I'm busy. I'm tired. My _______ hurts?

The beginning of May was the first time I used my big camera since January. How did that happen? Didn't I just do a 365 day photography project last year? Yes I did!  My excuse. I have been busy. I have been training a puppy almost non-stop since December. Trying to make sure I don't fail with this dog where I failed with previous dogs. No pulling on the leash when we walk, loving to ride in the car, not being anxious when we go new places. But I think it is time for him to see the inside of his crate a bit more, and I need to get out with my camera again. I have a feeling he might grow up to be an even better dog without my training him every second. He might actually have a chance to miss me, and they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In that spirit, I am going to do a Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt. I love summer projects and this one seems to be calling me this year. Random enough that I am not stuck in one technique or subject, but with a real opportunity for growth in my skills while having fun at the same time. I am also hopeful it will give me some material for blog posts because training your dog all the time really limits what you can write about.

I am also hopeful to meet some new people and strengthen my small talk skills while getting to know the people in my town, or the people that are visiting my town. I might even learn my neighbors' names in the process.

I want to contribute something to the world, and the only way to do that is to get out in it.

I am including the Scavenger Hunt I will be using this summer. I would love for you to join me. Take a picture with your phone, your big camera, just take a mental photo, whatever works for you. But also share it - if you use to write a blog - revive it - show and tell us about where you live. If you love Instagram share it there, or if Facebook is your thing share it there. I think the sharing is important. I know I am curious about you and where you live and others probably are too. You never know what connections can be made through the simple act of sharing.

It is worth noting, when you are out hunting, how the experience makes you feel. Do you feel excited, joyful, anxious? It might even be good to keep a small notebook with you so you can jot down some thoughts. I have mine tucked into my bag.

My plan is to start today, Sunday, June 2, and finish on Labor Day, September 2. I don't know about you, but, I work better with a deadline.

Instagram Hashtag will be #sharewhereyoulive2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Aiming for the Middle

This week I completed a large project that has been hanging over my head since December. It seems I like to spend a lot of time in the concept stage of a project, overthinking it almost to the point of death. The actual doing doesn't take me that long.

In the last three weeks, I have shot, edited and uploaded all the video clips needed for the workshop I am teaching at the end of the summer for Dirty Footprints Studio's Summer Studio. The title of our summer session is - Capturing Moments. My workshop specifically is called: A Personal Note: telling the story. In a nutshell, it is about taking your favorite photographs into your art journal and telling the story behind the photograph using carbon transfer, words, and paint.

This is the first workshop I have ever filmed. Being in front of the camera is very uncomfortable, at least from a talking perspective. I would much rather write than talk. But I knew that I had to give this a try, and I am glad that I did. I learned a lot. All those films I shot last year in Xanthe Berkeley's film course paid off though. The editing portion was a breeze.

As I was preparing to upload them to Dirty Footprints, my husband asked if they would come back with any critique., it is a deadline for a reason. I have watched enough e-courses, and done enough filming that I was comfortable with what I had done. I told him that I wasn't aiming for perfect. That leaves no room for growth. I was aiming to settle in the middle.

Time to move on to some new projects and overthink those to death.

Early Bird pricing for the Summer Studio goes live on June 7. If you are interested, I will have a code for you to use when it goes sale. Stay tuned to my FB page and Instagram, as well as here. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Shadow Day

Photo Credit: Zeeland Christian Schools

A friend recently asked me if I would be willing to let her daughter "shadow" me for a day, part of a school project for 8th grade students. Samantha is interested in photography. Without a moment's hesitation I said, "Yes".

Photo Credit: Samantha Meyer

Last Thursday, May 2 was our "Shadow" morning. I had texted Sam's mom earlier in the week to find out what she enjoyed photographing. Being a good mom, Rebecca sent me a folder of Sam's photos.
Flowers, low to the ground shots, shooting into the sun for sun flares. Sam and I would get along just fine.

Photo Credit: Samantha Meyer

It has been a rainy, cold, crappy week here in Michigan, and Thursday's forecast called for a 60% chance of rain. I prayed real hard the night before. My initial plan was to shoot in our downtown. Our town is host to the Tulip Time Festival every May, it is starting this weekend. All the tulips to photograph, along with food vendors, bleachers, and carnival rides. A photographer's delight. I did make an alternative plan if my prayer didn't work. Greenhouses were our next best option.

We made it half way through the morning before the slightly annoying mist became very annoying rain. We stopped at one greenhouse. The rain gave us enough time to go to a coffee shop and load her photos onto her computer and play a tiny bit with editing.

Photo Credit: Samantha Meyer

Even though my role was teach Sam about what I do and photography, I think in the end she taught me much more.

What Sam taught me:

  • To fall in love with what I do once more
  • To look up
  • To be brave
  • To love being a teacher/mentor
  • To continue my own photography projects/series
  • To find the words again
  • To get out and wander without the dog once in a while
  • To see life through the fresh, unjaded eyes of youth
What I taught Sam:
  • Composition and the rule of thirds
  • How to hold and lock focus on her phone
  • Snapseed editing app for her phone
  • The art of wandering
  • Coffee shops are a great place to hang out
  • Build a body of work - shoot a series and keep building it. 
  • Don't be afraid to put your photos out there
  • Look at other's photos to learn more about your own
  • Good rain gear will always serve you well :)
She deduced herself that this was much more fun than school :)

Photo Credit: Samantha Meyer

Thursday night lying in bed, I was thankful for at least a couple hours of minimal rain. Also, for the revelation that I much prefer walking alongside someone on their creative journey then standing in front of them. 

Have a great week!


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Fixing What Was Broken

I never imagined when I ended this blog that I would so completely and unequivocally lose my way. I figured I would have the time I needed to devote to my fledgling business, and to a small degree that was true. But without blogging, I lost the motivation to make photographs. I lost the ability to share in the way that is truest for me.

Yes, since December somebody has been taking up most of my spare time and energy. But when my husband and I went on a cruise in early March, and I had a whole week without him, but still couldn't find excitement in taking photographs or editing them; I knew something was seriously broken and I had to figure out how to fix it.

Two events in April/May have been catalysts for me being back in this space today.

The first event was our 2nd Annual Huizenga family vacation at the end of April up in northern Michigan. We rented the same that we rented last year, thankfully minus the snow this year, and with an additional dog in tow. It was still great, but very different from all my other trips to the north country. I have never had a dog of my own along. This changed my morning routine. Instead of going out shooting every morning, we drove in to town and practiced his loose leash walking. I brought my dslr along, but never once took it out of its bag. The best camera is the one that is always with you. I shot a lot with my phone. I also shot a lot of video clips that will be complied into this year's vacation films. This creativity made me very happy, and was one giant step towards fixing what was broken.

The problem was that I had all these great mobile photos and films clips, but I had no way to share them other than FB, which is fine...but...I need to tell the stories as well. A FB post isn't the space for that. I didn't realize until this trip, a trip we have taken many times, how important the words and the stories are to me.

The second event was in early May. I was asked by a friend of mine if her daughter could shadow me for a day. Eighth graders around this area usually have a Shadow Day towards the end of the school year where they get to pick somebody in a profession they are interested and follow them around for a morning. She is interested in photography. Since I have a "business" I counted as somebody she could shadow. I said yes immediately.

I am nearing the finish line, or at least the finish date for the videos I had to shoot for the Dirty Footprints Studio summer workshop I was asked to do. On our Shadow Day, I had some interesting revelations about all of that as well. I will be sharing about our Shadow Day in my next post. I wanted to give it its own breadth and light.

Eventually, I will be moving my blog to my new website for Twisted Road Studio. Once I get these workshop videos finished, I will have the time to work on that. I have decided the new blog will be called Tales from the Twisted Road.

Stay tuned! I will be back.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Don't Quit on a Dream

This past week I had to bring my parents into the city for a doctor appt. It was a follow up to my mother's hospitalization in November for a couple of mini-strokes. On our way home we stopped for hamburgers at Wendy's. My parents are of German and Italian decent, one is the work hard, no emotion mentality, and the other is all about yelling and criticism. My parents are not that severe, but it was how they were raised and some of that carries forward. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of encouragement for creative endeavors as a child. But now at fifty, I don't need my parents approval or encouragement to know that I am following the right path for me. I debated all through the car ride to the city and the doctor's appt. whether I would share my exciting news or not. Finally, seated across from them, hands wrapped around foil covered burgers, I gathered my courage and said the words, "I've started my own small business as of the first of the year."  The smile that lit my dad's face warmed my heart. Explaining the concept of teaching an online art workshop and eventually selling my photography integrated art pieces via a virtual shop may have been a little beyond their comprehension, still, the look of pride on my dad's face meant everything to me.

I have had the dream of having an art business since the early 1990's, before my daughter was born. At the time, the only crafty skills I had were rug-hooking, counted cross-stitch, and collage using mod-podge, stencils and the decorative paper of the time. It was the mauve and green era so I covered everything paper mache in that color scheme.

The only place to sell your handmade art was at craft fairs. I dreamed of long rectangle tables clothed in black fabric, artfully styled with my paper mache creations and framed cross-stitch pieces.

But then our daughter came. There was no time for cross-stitching or collage work.

Eventually though the child grows up, goes off to college, graduates and starts a life of her own.

I have spent the last seven years learning photography, a more marketable art than counted cross-stitch. Craft fairs are no longer the only option for selling your art, thanks to the internet. It is easy to get your work out there and test the water before you ever make the decision to actually set up an Etsy Shop or a website to sell from.

Almost thirty years of holding onto a dream, never willing to completely let it go.

January 1st, 2019, I finally fulfilled the dream. I applied for my LLC for Twisted Road Studio, the name of my new creative business. The beginning of the next week it was official, I had a small business. Since then I have been busy setting up a bank account, a credit card, securing the domain name, an Instagram account, and a Facebook page. Things are coming along well. Next steps include getting my logo and branding done, and getting a website setup.

In my last post, I said I was going to create some postcards for an exhibition at a local art museum. I completed four postcards for the Postcard Salon exhibit and hand delivered them almost a week before the deadline. I am excited to go see them hanging on the wall. The exhibit opens January 24 and runs until February 7. The postcards are small versions of the art I hope to create integrating my photography and sell via Etsy.