Photography, Time for Art

Creating With Light and Memories

Preperation

 

Cyanotypes – Printing With the Sun 

Lazy summer days. These are the days I long for. Summer days hold the most beautiful treasures. Summer is slow and hot. Sometimes it brings the adventure of long-awaited vacation, sometimes endless days of boredom. And somewhere in between something magic happens. An unexpected new interest pops up.

Summer memories linger and stick together and ask to be seen and thought of in a different way. Those moments of lazy boredom mixed with adventure become inspiration for new creations.

Three summers ago I picked up a sun print kit when my family and I were camping along the shores of Assateague Island State Park  –a long and beautiful barrier island off of Maryland and Virginia, with wild horses! You may know her famous sister island from Marguerite Henry’s children’s book Misty of Chincoteague.

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Since that trip three summers ago, I’ve wanted to experiment with the sun print . The alternative photography process is called a cyanotype. Paper is treated with an iron solution which is light-sensitive. Here you can place an object directly on the paper and expose it to light, creating a photogram or essentially a negative image. You can also use  large format negatives to create a positive image.

For my first experiments I opted to order Cyanotype Paper from B&H Photo Video  and create my own photograms.

 

I grew up in the days of film and I miss creating this way. Photography in high school and college was a full hands-on experience in creating art. There was a slowness to the process which necessitated a lot of thought; selecting–and knowing–which film to use, loading the film into the camera, being limited to 24 or 36 frames, and thinking about each shot as a single image.

Once the shots were taken, a delicate and particular process began to even be able to see what you had selectively captured.

As I type this I can’t help but think of the time spent for a single image and how much I enjoyed that process.

The process of photography itself felt like a meditation in creation.

Now when I head out with my camera–whether it’s with my always-with-me and most accessible iPhone 7plus, where I share my photos on Instagram, or my Canon–I am no longer limited by the number of photographs I take. The way I interact with each image has a vastly different feel. I no longer spend this meditative time with a group of images, unless I am purposing to use them for a specific project.

A few weeks ago I found a local artist who was offering a workshop making cyanotypes. My summer start making sun prints had left its mark. I couldn’t wait to sign up and learn and create.

The process of creating cyanotypes brought back those memories and feelings of just starting out in photography.

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We mixed chemicals and waited.

I looked at each object I wanted to make an image of, I considered the paper I had and cut it to the size I wanted for each image, I brushed on the chemicals in a darkroom and waited for my paper to dry. I then composed my image in the darkroom before bringing my paper out into the sunlight.

 

I waited for the sun to expose the image and then brought the paper back into the workshop to wash and stop the developing.

 

This process was slow and unhurried. We met from 12-5. Those five hours flew by. I could have stayed in that space for hours more.

Now I can’t help but dream up ways to take over and convert a small portion of our own  house into a mini darkroom and get lost in the creative process of making more cyanotype prints.

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What is it that you love to create? The thing you could spend hours doing and it feels like no time has gone by?

 

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Books, Inspiration, Time for Art, Writing

Why Write?

Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2

“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”

I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal.  Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.

I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.

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Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.

The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.

But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?

What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?

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The question remained: Why write?

And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.

We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.

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I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”

She answered me quickly,

“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”

Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.

As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.

Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…

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I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.

I have a goal now for my little board books.

That’s what they are. No permission needed.

 

If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.

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Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM

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Fear, Time for Art, Writing

Time Is Ticking

Thoughts on writing, fear, and time | Part 1

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I saw my friend and fellow writer, critiquer and encourager, Belinda at church. She told me she had sent her second query out to an agent. We attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference together this year. Since the conference she was the first to send out her work. And now she’s sent out her second query. Belinda two. Me zero. She’s on a mission. I’m still nervous to hit send.

Later that day I headed out to the beach for some time with my family. They were here for a visit and their lovely condo was right on the ocean. A week of beachfront lazy days together was in order. At least that’s what I envisioned for the group.

My husband had a different idea in mind. Somehow he and my son decided an hour jet ski rental would be great fun for the whole family. Aunt Heidi, the cousins, little sis, my husband and I, gliding across the surface of the ocean at reckless speeds.

I was terrified.

Listening to the safety rules and ocean regulations didn’t help calm my fears-

Don’t get too close to the swim markers, best to stay a hundred feet out since swimmers don’t pay attention and often go beyond the markers. Don’t pass the buoys. Don’t go over the reef. Stay 300 feet away from scuba divers and other boats. If you flip over, stay calm and try to turn the jet ski back over before it sinks. If you ride over too much seaweed you need to be able to hop off and reach your hand under the jet ski and pull the seaweed out of the intake.

Riding a jet ski is the opposite of relaxing at the beach.

My husband and son rode first. Next was our daughter. Then we switched drivers and my sister took her two girls. We still had time. She came in and Mike and I went out. Our guide steadied the jet ski for us while we were getting on.

“Hop on!” my husband says. I do, but completely nervous I try to hop on the back.

“No, you’re driving. Get up front,” he says.

“No, you drive. I’m not getting up front.”

“Yes. Yes, you are. Get up front!”

And then our guide chimes in, “Time is ticking!”

Whoa. Really? Who does he think he is? We’ve already paid for our time. I can take a few minutes here. If I want to waste part of our time being afraid, I can.

And then I realize just how stupid that thought is. Our ride is paid for. Just one hour. Time really is ticking and then the opportunity is gone.

What about life? Time ticks here too. We just don’t readily see it. I’m busy being afraid to hit send on a dream because I want my query to be just right. I don’t want to fail.

But time is ticking.

I hopped on the driver’s seat and adjusted to holding down the throttle. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t graceful. I hit a few waves. I screamed a bit. I drove the jet ski though. My husband and I ended up switching places somewhere out over the water. I got to see what fearless driving really looked like! It wasn’t so bad…

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And we all made it back to shore.

I’ve read about other artist’s journeys, I’ve listened to podcasts on fear and productivity. These were good, but not a kick in the pants kind of good that I needed. Who knew all I needed to do was drive a jet ski? The thing I fought against doing was the thing which taught me the greatest lesson. I’m thankful for the kid who steadied the jet ski and reminded me time is ticking.

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What fear is holding you back?

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Inspiration, Photography, Time for Art, Uncategorized, Writing

Cliché Photography

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I read someone’s post on Instagram which stated the biggest cliché  in photography are sunrise and sunset photos.

As a photographer I wondered about this statement.

I thought about all the photographs that have ever been taken. Photographs taken by masters of photography, like those of Ansel Adam’s photographs of the American wilderness or Clyde Butcher’s photographs capturing the beauty of the Florida Everglades.

I thought about all the photos snapped a millions of times by traveling tourists.

I thought about all the sunrise and sunset photos on Instagram.

Why do we continue to photograph when it’s all been done before?

Is it all cliché?

Cliché: something that is overly familiar or commonplace *Merriam-Webster Dictionary

No. I disagree.

But I believe this thought hinges purely on the perspective of the viewer.

I believe the sunrise and sunset, the flowers, the clouds, the oceans, and the mountains we continue to photograph are because of a deep response within us to the awe and beauty of God’s creation. Each time we see, we bear witness to these displays of beauty in nature. We are captivated.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”   ~Romans 1:20

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If we believe a sunrise or sunset is commonplace than maybe we have lost our vision or sense of wonder.

Walt Whitman wrote about wonder and beauty in the everyday and commonplace in his poem called Miracles

“Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan…

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water…” ~Walt Whitman

 

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Shenanhoah National Forest

Annie Leibovitz, with her masterful career, has photographed notable people from rock stars to the Queen of England. And yet she has gone on to photograph for herself the places that capture the wonder in all of us. It seems her desire for some of these places (in part) started with a visit to Niagara Falls with her daughters. A photograph of Niagara Falls (not the celebrities she’s famously photographed) is on the cover of her book Pilgrimage.

Imagine your own trip to Niagara Falls. Imagine the feel of the cool mist spraying your face,  the sound of  the water rushing loud as you take in the power and beauty of the waterfall. Then you take out your camera to try and preserve some part of this majesty to carry back home. Someone walks up and says, “No photos allowed. It’s already been done. These falls have been photographed too many times, by too many people. They’ve been seen and visited since 1678. Niagara Falls has been written about and photographed by famous authors and photographers. Please put your camera away.”

We know its been done. All you would have to do is look to your right or left and you’d see hundreds of cameras all taking it in, recording memory.

But we come and we see and we feel and we capture these moments in our own photographs.

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I recently attended a seminar given by a National Geographic photographer. His career has spanned more than forty years. He’s traveled the world from America to Antarctica and there are still countries he would like to visit. The funny thing is, he qualified this with the fact that friends and colleagues in the field have been to these places he’d like to visit. Masters in their own specialty of photography, sometimes spending months photographing these places. He doesn’t want to go to these places to compete with their work, but to see and experience the place for himself. And when he goes he’ll still take his own photographs.

And wherever I might go, I’ll keep taking mine.

I’ve seen the sunrise and the sunset, but it makes me pause and I can’t help but take in the beauty of this world. It’s a gift. I stop and notice. My photographs are a response. A thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Art

Art Vs. Math

Don’t tell my kids, but I prefer art over math.

But they may already know that.

I try a positive approach when it comes to homework and study time. I really do. But I realized this week I may need more than a positive attitude.

My cute boy had two of his art projects at school chosen for two different art shows this week. He is beyond excited about it. And well, I’m pretty proud of him.

My husband and I met at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. He was studying design and I was studying photography. It’s fascinating to watch our kids now enjoy their own creative process. We love seeing them create and draw and dream big things.

(Monsters with Dad inspired by Stefan G. Bucher’s Daily Monster and Africa for her Daddy’s trip to Liberia)

So where is the struggle? My son’s math grades this year. It’s those silly times tables. I feel a bit uncreative in helping my son learn his multiplication.

And then it hit me. The art! It could be natural. But maybe it’s learned.

Since my kids were tiny we’ve given them pencils, brushes, and watercolors.

We read stories and look at the art. And then sometimes we paint or draw that art together. There is always a supply of watercolor paper, paints, and brushes on hand. Bins of crayons and colored pencils are always full and out for use. They draw in sketchbooks at night in bed.

(Inspired from Tao Nyeu’s Bunny Days and Oliver Jeffers’ How to Catch a Star)

So, is that it?

What if I spent more time and detail and fun with numbers? Is it that simple? Should my table have a steady supply of math flash cards and calculators and um… numbers? Maybe my struggle isn’t as big as I’ve imagined it to be. What if I incorporate math into the everyday in a casual way like I do with art?

Maybe I should give it try.

For now though I’m pretty proud of my son. And so are his dad and sister.