Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Self Help Selfie

As a lover of self portrait photography, the phenomenon of the "selfie" is fascinating to me. For anyone who doesn't know what a selfie is, it is a self portrait taken with usually a cellphone which are appearing all over Instagram and Facebook. There is an argument that as a society we are very self focused and promoting yourself on social media in this way is only adding to it. My question is perhaps this self focus can actually be used powerful way.

I've recently been re-reading Susannah Conway's book This I Know and she speaks quite a bit about how experiment self portraiture can be incredibly healing. With all the self portraits you take, she advises, there will be some you will look at and say, "Well, that's not half bad." As a woman, I know how incredibly empowering it can be to look yourself in the mirror and be comfortable with what is staring you back in the face, when society is constantly pointing out what I need to "fix".

Admittedly, there was a long period of my life when I was not at peace with what I saw.  As a teenager and in my early twenties I was extremely self-conscious. I aways looked in the mirror with a list of if onlys. If only my nose wasn't so wide. If only my eyes didn't squint up when I smile. If only my face were more narrow. If only I was thinner. Now that I am much closer to 30 than I am 19 there are times when I wish I could go back and shake that poor little girl to tell her nothing at all was wrong with her.

Two weeks ago I was experimenting with lighting and self portraiture when I took one of those, "Hey, this is pretty good" shots. In this face I don't see flaws; I see a person. The lines at my throat from almost 28 years of bending and a deep parenthesis carved into the corners of my mouth are badges of who I am, not something to be worried about. I'm happy I've gotten the opportunity to age. Not everyone has been given the luxury. I'm curious about the other badges I'll carry in the next 30 years. I can assure you, I will have earned and enjoyed every minute of getting them.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Filling the Well and Letting it Rain

Since my long vacation from blogging it has taken me awhile to get back into the habit. Chuck Close once said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us get up and work." Hard work is 90 percent of being a creative. However, there is such a thing as getting burned out. The most difficult thing about being an art school graduate is getting over the exhaustion that comes from working in a studio to make your dead line and getting every work you created picked over in critique. These are valuable experiences that push us to grow as artists (and as people!), but after five years making things lost the joy it once had.

After graduating I didn't paint for nearly two years. I drew some for my science illustration class in grad school, but other than that: nothing. For the last few months I've been itching to work creatively again. The problem is that, I let my well run dry. When you get out of the mindset of creating and plug yourself into just getting up in the morning to log one more twelve-hour shift, it can, quite honestly, drain the life out of you.

Beat it.

Don't let the bastards pull you down.

Get out there. Do what you love and surround yourself with what you love. The more I gorge myself on reproductions of my favorite paintings, wonderful books, and endless nights laughing it up my band of misfit toy friends, the more I want to create. If you want to your best work to rain out of you, you have to be full of something to begin with. Make sure it's good stuff.    
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