Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reworking Images

Last night I sat down to remove some borders from images that I have for sale on my website.  I used to put borders around all of my images, but that was before canvas wrap around prints were available.  Since my art work is so painterly, it is well suited for printing on canvas.  However, the images with the borders don't work on canvas since the image can no longer wrap when it is confined inside a border.  Anyway, because of this I was going to remove the borders from the images online.  I started with one of my favorite images, "Lone Lotus".  Once I had the image open in Photoshop, I could not fight the temptation to play around with it.  I started mixing and stretching some of the colors with a technique that I have been dabbling in lately.  Before I knew it, I had completely reworked the entire image!  I still like the original, but I really like the new piece that came from it as well.  I couldn't decide what to do.  Should I upload both images to the website, take down the original and replace it with the new image, or put them both on the website but in different galleries?  As I was trying to make this decision, I started feeling a bit guilty about changing the image.  Yes, ridiculous, but if you know me, you know it doesn't take much to make me feel guilty.  I started thinking that in changing the piece after I had already printed and framed the original, not to mention made greeting cards and magnets, that I was devaluing the original piece.  Then I started thinking about what constitutes a finished piece.  Is it the fact that it has been printed, or is it only finished once it's been framed?  Is it a finished piece after someone purchases it, or can I, the artist, just decide and declare, "It is finished," while it is still only in existence as a file on my hard drive?

What about us as people?  What constitutes us as finished?  In my way of thinking, we are never finished.  We are constantly changing, growing and learning new things.  God is continually molding and shaping us, little by little, layer by layer.  I think that every now and then we reach points where we are more presentable to the public, or "frame-able" and then we go through another re-work, because even though we may look complete or appealing, we still have  a lot of rough edges or beliefs that can be smoothed or refined.  Does the state of completion that we are currently in negate the previous state?  Of course not.  To those that knew and loved us then, we were already quite becoming and yet, maybe the re-work is even more attractive.  Of course, there may always be people who liked us much better before the re-work, when our beliefs more closely matched their own. What do you think?  I know that many artists think of their artwork as their "children", so I considered my own kids.  What do I do with old versions (images, video, written memories) of my kids in the different stages of their lives?  I treasure them!  I loved my kids in each and every stage (although I'm the first to admit that some stages were more trying than others), and I also love the people they are becoming.  I wouldn't even consider getting rid of the older images or the past experiences, because they all represent a phase of their lives that was precious to me.  In fact, the more they grow, the harder it is to hit the delete key on even the images that aren't as great as others taken on the same day.

For this reason, I've decided to keep both versions of the images (that's plural because I did the exact same thing to the second image I opened to remove the border from) on the website.  Even though they both started from the same original and have many of the same qualities, they are completely different pieces and will mean different things to different people.  Just because one is newer than the other, and may be more refined, doesn't mean that I, the artist, didn't give the first version my all or that I appreciated or loved it any less.  I think that as people, we have a tendency to negatively replay in our heads the things we've said or done and we think thoughts like, "If only I'd known then the things I know now."  I don't think that is how God feels when He looks at us.  He knows what we will become and how He is going to use our current condition to get us there.  Zechariah 4:10 says, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand." (Zerubbabel was rebuilding the Temple).  Even though the temple wasn't complete and only the foundation had been laid, God was happy with where Zerubbabel was in his task of rebuilding.  Let's join God and rejoice in the seasons of our lives, our accomplishments, and ourselves no matter how "unfinished" we may appear.

Below are the two versions of each image, what are your thoughts?  You can find larger versions of the  original images here and the more painterly ones here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back to Blogging and Subconscious Revelations

Hello!  For any of you who have missed me over the past couple of years, I'M BACK!  You see, I had a REALLY big job to do for a friend, and I just felt too guilty blogging when I could be working on that job, so I took a long break from this in order to finish that, and it is now FINISHED!!!!!

Some of you may remember the job, I posted the first image that I completed on here a while back.  My friend's daughter had gotten married, and somehow the professional photographs that were given to her had horrible, dark shadows across faces in a lot of the images.  It was distressing to say the least.  If you know anything about Photoshop, you know that removing shadows isn't easy!  Fortunately, it is doable, and now, it is done!  Here is one of the images, before and after (I should note that I didn't take the pictures, I just fixed the shadows- I'd give photo credit to the photographer who did take them, but I'm guessing they probably wouldn't want that in this case).  :)

  Well, since it's been a few years, yes YEARS, since I've done more than quick posts and Sneak Peeks on here (with a couple exceptions), it's hard to know where to pick up!  Instead of trying to fill in everything that I've missed, I think I'll just start with where I am at now.

Our church just finished a sermon series on prayer.  We were challenged to really consider what it was we wanted, to figure out what our biggest prayer would be, and then to pray it, in faith, even if it seemed impossible.  Especially if it seemed impossible, because with God all things are possible!  Well, I figured out what my prayer would be/is and I've been praying.

My prayer is to be a professional artist.  Not just someone who does art, but someone who is paid to do art.  Someone who is paid enough to do art that the income is more than enough to cover our family's financial needs.  This, to me, is a huge prayer, because I've been an artist for some time now (I even have a college degree in art) and even though I've been fortunate enough to sell pieces here and there over the years, I've never come anywhere close to being able to support our family through my art.  God would have to make it happen if I were ever to be a professional artist, and it seems that He is working on just that, little by little.  He's started by pointing out a few things that I've believed that have held me back from being successful.  I realized the first as my husband and I were driving home from a meeting with a group of our close friends.  At the meeting, one of our friends had been moved to tears when talking about their desired future career.  On the drive home I caught myself thinking that there must have been something in their past that had put some kind of wall up in their mind, making that person believe that they could never be in the field they desired to be in.  That is when it hit me, one of my own personal walls.  I have long believed that I could never make a living as an artist.  I had agreed with my parents when they told me that very thing, years ago.  My parents were not being harsh or intentionally trying to crush my dreams at the time, they were just trying to help me be practical...realistic.  I was in college and wanted to major in art with an emphasis in photography.  They fought me on that desire for years, saying that it would be almost impossible to make a living as an artist or a photographer and that I should instead major in something that would make a good career for me to "fall back on" when I failed in the arts.  I never realized it, but somewhere in my heart, I agreed with their statement, that I would never be able to make a living as an artist or photographer.  They eventually gave up their dispute and allowed me to major in art photography, but somehow that belief was stuck in my subconscious and a lot of my actions in my attempts to sell my artwork failed before they even started because I believed that I would fail.  Upon realizing this subconscious belief, my husband and I prayed that God would reveal to me His thoughts on the matter and who He created me to be.  Since then, I have been doing my best to immediately push out any negative thoughts that come calling regarding not being able to make it as an artist.  Believe me, there are several coming at me now, as I type this proclamation.

The second wall that I have noticed in my subconscious became obvious to me a couple of nights ago.  Once again, we were meeting with a group of our friends (we've been blessed with some pretty great friends).  We were watching a video from our pastor on the current sermon series our church is doing.  It is called God@Work, and it is just what I need right now, of course!  Anyway, there were a few things that Pastor Terry Crist said that really stuck out to me.  The first being, "Work is an expression of what's in our soul."  The second, "Work is an invitation to divine partnership."  When I heard those statements,  I once again had flashbacks of college.  This time it was the classes or more specifically, the critiques that were brought to mind.

There were several art professors that I could never please in college.  They thought that my work lacked substance and that the meaning behind the work wasn't deep enough (which, back then it probably wasn't).  What I understood them to mean was that the meaning behind my art wasn't dark enough, or that it wasn't a statement in direct opposition to something.  One comment that I heard all the time in art school was, "It's not art if there isn't meaning behind it.  You can't just make a beautiful picture and call it art."  I believed that statement, but was always troubled by it.  There were so many things that I wanted to photograph or paint, just because they were beautiful, yet I would never be able to do that and receive a passing grade unless they had a deeper meaning behind them.  Now, there were always students there who made up their meaning on the spot during critiques then laughed about it later, and students who had really deep meanings, but not the technical ability to back them up.  I was always caught somewhere on the outside, wanting to show the beauty that I saw around me, but not having a deep enough reason to justify my choice to do so.  Anyway, in college, I learned to go a little dark, to photograph social injustices and comment on the fears of life.  After I graduated, the desire of my heart turned my art back to the beautiful, the lovely, the nostalgic and serene.  When I heard Pastor Terry's statement about work being an expression of our soul, it hit me, it's okay to photograph something just because it is beautiful, especially if it's God's beauty that is reflecting through it.  The images that I create are life as I've experienced it and as I've seen it experienced by others.  They may be fanciful renditions of reality at times, but they speak to my heart and to the hearts of others that have seen them of God's promises to those who love Him.  There doesn't have to be a dark meaning behind something for it to be art, just a meaning.  The purpose in my art is to reflect the Creator, to capture an image of how I imagine God sees or feels about  His creation.  Even when I'm photographing family portraits, weddings or corporate events, I always pray that I would be able to capture, in camera, what God sees in the hearts of the people that I'm photographing.  That I would be able to illustrate who He had created them to be and to show the gifting that makes them unique.  I am realizing that for years I've discounted my art and my artistic ability because my images didn't have any intentional statement behind them.  They were created out of admiration and love for His creation and I'm finally realizing that not only is that okay, it's what God has put in my heart to do, to illustrate His presence and His love for us.  Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--His eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."  If my artwork can speak to others of God's existence and His love for them, then for me, work truly is, "an invitation to divine partnership," and my ministry.  I'm am so thankful for this gift.

Now, since I've talked so much about my artwork, I'll share a piece that I finally finished last night!  It was started many years ago and left uncompleted.  I discovered it again last night, hidden on an old hard drive and I was able to bring it to a completed state.  I hope you enjoy it!

Antiqued Bridge.  This pond can be found at the Japanese Gardens of the Huntington in San Marino, CA.
You can purchase prints of this image and other Japanese Garden images on my website, here

Oh, I almost forgot!  Since all of this discovery about my subconscious beliefs has begun, I've stepped out just a bit into the art world.  I now have artwork hanging at Talebu Coffee and Wine Cafe located at  2095 N. Alma School Rd. Chandler, AZ 85224.  There will be an artist reception on Friday, Sept. 20th at 7PM.  If you live in the Phx. area, I hope you will come check it out!  Here are some images of the work that is hanging.

You can find some of my other artwork online at Fine Art America.  Click on the slideshow below to check that out!

Art Prints