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Am I really an "artist"?

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” - Charles Horton Cooley

As I've been building my business, people have been asking how I got into photography. I suppose that question has prompted a little self-discovery and self-analysis. So please bear with my on a selfish post where I talk about how I arrived here.

I discovered my abilities as an artist very late in life. I loved art as a young child. It definitely helped that I had an elementary art teacher who I adored. Miss Bellamy - she was beautiful and creative. I've had some excellent teachers over the years, but I don't think any of them could top her. At the time, I thought Miss Bellamy just had us make fun art projects. But looking back on it, she encouraged us to create... not just to replicate. It was such a wonderful experience for me.

Let's just fast forward through my junior high and high school art classes. I did not excel, and I did not enjoy them. I don't know why, but I only found frustration, not inspiration. My need for art was found through a performance art - music. I played flute and piccolo. I will readily admit to being REALLY bad my first few years. So bad that I was only allowed to practice while my dad was at work. LOL. But practice I did... hours and hours. And over the next few years, I made significant improvements. So much so that I truly enjoyed making music, and I like to think that people (including my dad) enjoyed listening to me. But even then I knew that my success was not due to any innate talent - it was primarily because of hard work. (And the encouragement of a few outstanding teachers. Mr Martin especially!)

But I always had a need to create something. I've done scrapbooking and loved it. I've dabbled in jewelry making - beading and wirework mostly. I still enjoy those activities, but definitely hit the limits of my talents. But my favorite parenting time has been "crafting" with my daughter - no matter what we were working on.

Which brings me to the creative endeavor that makes my heart sing like no other has... photography. I've taken pics throughout my life, but definitely not seriously. I bought my first DSLR camera in my 30's - specifically to capture photos of my daughter dancing, Since I had the camera anyway, I'd take it along on vacations, outings, etc. But I'll tell you the truth, my pics were not very good. I still enjoy looking at them because they evoke wonderful memories. But trust me when I say that no one else would want to see them.

I suppose that my technique was improving over the years, just out of practice. Then we went to the Brookfield Zoo one day and I captured this picture. It changed my outlook and awoke a passion for photography...

Seeing it at home really stirred something in me. I loved seeing the individual droplets of water. The fact that I froze time fascinated me. It was a picture I truly loved looking at. (Is it any healthier to stare at a picture I've taken than to stare at myself in a mirror? I sure hope so!)

I really started studying photography. I read books, searched out websites, watched videos. I gradually learned more about my camera. I took if off automatic mode and went to Aperture value - playing with the effect of different settings. Then I moved to be primarily a manual mode shooter. Perhaps that's a control issue??? I spent way too much on equipment.

Over the last few years I've augmented my self-taught skills with classes from true masters and from highly skilled photographers. While I improve technically in those classes, I am inspired to try new things and that is invigorating. For me, it's the real value of taking the class. I also continue to study new skills on my own - lighting, editing, night photography and more. I will admit to many days when I feel like a "poser" thought - and those just inspire me to learn and practice more.

Once I improved my technical skills, I found that I had a style. I love capturing color and texture. That started with my nature photography, but has definitely carried over to my other efforts. I can see it in my macro work, as well as my landscapes. It influences my product and heirloom photography as well. In my mind, this is where it became an art for me. I started putting my vision into the photographs and it became even more satisfying.

What's interesting is that photography went from being a hobby, to becoming something I NEED to do. I joke around that it's my therapy, but there's a lot of truth to that. I can tell my mood worsens when I don't get to use my camera for an extended period of time, and it gets better when I pick it back up.

Here's to many more years of picture taking (and sanity!). I'd love to hear about your artistic endeavors.


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