My sister was very good at art. Taking nude charcoal drawing classes when she was barely a teenager, creating pottery, and painting. I watched her excel at this, and silently, I decided I was not good at art. I let myself be “good” at other things – writing, for example, which I had never known to be an art form. These things don’t always occur to young people. I took a photography class, and I was the worst at it. I tried hard, and it didn’t help.
And so the narrative grew and grew until, without ever realizing it, I had decided I would never paint or sculpt or draw. I decided I could not. I was beyond help or skill or talent. Learning was not for me.
I regained my confidence as an artist when I pursued film-making. And then again when I became a photographer. But, in some way, those mediums were distinctly different from the raw talent of handmade art.
Up until two weeks ago, I would have continued to tell you that I can’t draw, that I can’t sculpt, that I can’t paint.
In fact, not a month ago I sat with my sister playing with Play Doh. Fast as lightning she made a fish, and then a dinosaur, and so on, until she demonstrated how quickly and easily her brain works in 3D, how she can collect the likeness of reality into clay.
I sat staring at my whale flattened to the table, entirely 2D, and not realistic in the slightest, and that feeling came back to me from childhood. And I joked that I was bad at this, and we all laughed as we do, and I moved on.
But a few weeks ago I saw a class pop up in my email from my local art center.
Ceramics for Beginners.
I clicked it, left it up in my browser for days, debating.
And then I enrolled. Without hesitation or further thought.
And I went to my first class. It was terrifying.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story. I tell it better in my video. I hope you’ll watch and let me know what you think on this idea of labels and how destructive they can be. I think it’s an important video to watch to…
Take control back of your narrative. & Cultivate a positive story for your life.
In the comments (either here or on YouTube), let me know…
See how these 3 images were edited in my new video!
In the photo world, there seems to always be a debate about technique vs. concept. Some people feel passionately about technique and are very technically minded. Some people focus on the concept and say to heck with the technique. I fall into the latter category, if any, but that doesn’t mean that I dismiss technique altogether. In fact, for a while there I was so far on the side of dismissing technique that I had to pull myself back, and one big thing did that for me:
Portfolio reviews and competitions. I review a lot of portfolios, and I noticed two things.
A lot of people have great technique but not-so-great ideas, and…
A lot of other people have great ideas and not-so-great technique.
It really does take both. If your technique is flawed, the concept won’t really matter. The viewer just won’t get past the technique.
I’ve always been a believer in editing a picture until it looks and feels right; that doesn’t mean I’ve always followed through with that. I’ve certainly posted pictures online that could have been better, but impatience got the better of me. I’ve shot pictures in poor light or of bad quality simply because it was easier or faster.
But over time, I’ve come to appreciate pairing good technique with good ideas. The combination is the only thing that will propel my career. So, today I’m focusing on technique!
I won’t go into too much detail here because the video is lengthy and really shows in detail what my editing techniques are like. This isn’t a how-to, per se, but it is a comprehensive look at how my images are edited.
In this video, I…
Pull back the Photoshop layers to glimpse at the original images before editing.
Take a look at what my SOOC (straight out of camera) pictures were like, what decisions went into the edit, and how they ended up the way they did.
See how I made stuffing come out of my back, created a long, swirly dress out of a bed sheet, and changed a nearly white dress to deep red.
And more, of course.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse inside. And tell me…
What technique from the video did you like best?
What is your favorite technique in your craft?
These images are available as limited edition, fine art prints on thick, matte fine art paper. Each print is proofed and signed by me, as well as numbered. Print prices begin at $450 for my small size. A number of galleries carry my work, and if you are interested in owning a piece, get in touch with the gallery nearest you: http://www.brookeshaden.com/prints
If you would like to see how I edit more in depth, check out one of my Creative Live classes for hours upon hours of photo, editing, business, and inspiration education: http://www.brookeshaden.com/classes
This is the image I began creating in the video below!
How, I asked myself, is it relevant to share what my days are like as an artist when everyone is different? The answer came simply: If I share how I structure my time, it might help someone else to shape their routine as well.
Comment below how you would categorize yourself:
A – Creativity is your hobby B – Creativity is your dream career C – Creativity is your career
Meaning, do you practice creativity for fun? Would you like to turn your passion into a career? Or, do you already make a living from something creative?
I started out with photography as my hobby. A few months later, I really wished it could be my career. And then a year after that, it was!
I’ve been working as a full-time artist (meaning that I make my living from my photography and related items) for the past 8 years. I make my living via the following avenues: print sales, image licensing sales, lecturing/teaching, and commissioned images.
Favorite quotes from the video:
“It takes being creative about how you are disciplined and being disciplined about your creativity.”
“It takes a lot of good days to make a great career.”
Since so many of us in this community are interested in how to maximize our creative time (at the least), or to make our creative time into our full time work, I thought it would be great to share what my day is like as an artist.
For me? 50% admin, 50% creativity. Look at the to-do list I managed to complete on the day I filmed this video:
BROOKE'S TO DO LIST
Film a day in the life video Update my CV Write TLS email Release blog/video/newsletter Update licensed images list Write pitch for grant Yoga Novel outline Reading Photo shoot Clear emails Build registration system Build prop
The only thing I didn’t finish was that last item. And, I finished by 4pm and had the whole evening for cooking and personal time.
What’s that? You hate admin work? You thought creatives only created?
Oh. Ohhhh. Let’s chat.
I believe that the most successful creative people you see, at least for the most part, have a really awesome mind for business. Take my BFF Lindsay Adler. If ever you have wanted to meet an insanely creative person who is equally, if not more, savvy in business – you’ve found your girl. Take note. (No, seriously, take notes.)
I’m not that great at it. Not Lindsay Adler great. But, I don’t strive to be. I am extremely motivated in business as well as creativity. I strive for a solid, happy medium between the two.
I get equally excited about a career move or endeavor as I do a photo shoot. And that is, in part, what I attribute any success I’ve had to.
Be it my 24 hour email policy, the contracts I’ve hand-written, the outreach I’ve done for opportunities, or my willingness to fail – I always put myself out there and give my business 100%.
Again, I’m still not the best at it. But I have managed to build a business for 8 solid years that has supported my lifestyle. I’m really proud of that.
Come with me behind the scenes in this video. It’s an in-depth look at my life with the curtain pulled back. What it’s like to go from hour to hour in the life of a working artist.
And please, tell me your top tips for maintaining creativity in your everyday life. I am always looking to improve!
And remember to share:
A – Creativity is your hobby
B – Creativity is your dream career
C – Creativity is your career
Freedom. What a huge topic. Working with refugees this year opened my eyes to so much. I began to question if I actually understood what freedom means. If I have never fought for it, know nothing else but it, am of a color that in my country means no discrimination, have never had to flee because of someone challenging my rights…do I understand freedom?
I’m not ready to answer that question. I may never be.
Instead, I’m inspired to get to know what freedom means to other people.
I’m inspired to celebrate the freedom I do have. This video has such a sense of freedom to it.
It allows me to help others in ways I may not otherwise be able to do. In my world, art is freedom. Creating is control. That is why I am so passionate about giving tools to create to people who may not otherwise get them. That is why I started The Light Space. That is why I started teaching self-expression workshops (called If I Could Fly) to underprivileged groups. Why I am inspired to continue working on behalf of people around the world to give a voice to those who feel silenced.
Because when we can create freely, we can express ourselves freely.
My video this week brings the idea of freedom to life. On any given day I can wake up, get in my car (that I can afford), drive to a beautiful location (that I am allowed to create openly in), take pictures of myself dressed however I see fit (because I live in a country where, as a woman, I can make those decisions without fear), and share online without worry of what people think.
What a LIFE.
Seriously, what a life.
I take this for granted. I want to take the freedoms I am given with a full heart and a serving of gusto. I want to take them by the horns and blast full steam ahead, because if I gave these same freedoms to some of the people I have met in my travels, they would do so, so much.
Which do you prefer? Monochrome or Color?
I had a meeting with The Light Space teacher in Greece this week. The Light Space is a photography school for underprivileged groups that I started alongside Laura Price of Blossomy. We began in India and now have chapters in Thailand and Greece. Our Thai chapter serves anti-trafficking organizations in the area, teaching photography so that they may create better images for press and fundraising. Our Greek chapter serves refugees.
During my meeting with Olga in Greece, she told me about how one of the students got approval to move to Sweden. Many of the refugees in Greece are there for a safe haven but are looking to relocate somewhere permanently. It is a joyous thing when they are able to move on.
Olga told me our student moving to Sweden wanted to take a camera with her to continue her photography journey, but we couldn’t let her take one of the school cameras. I’m sending her one of my older cameras to her new home in Sweden so that she can continue her artistic life there.
When I agreed to be sponsored by Sony, it was only after a big condition – that they provide cameras to my schools in various countries as I continue to run The Light Space program. They agreed happily, and so raised my respect for a big company that didn’t have to agree to anything of the sort.
Another big factor has come into play. Because a perk of sponsorship is getting new equipment so that I have the latest to shoot with, that means I can give my older cameras to graduating students of The Light Space to further support their dreams of becoming photographers. The camera I’m sending to Sweden will be my third personal camera donation to a graduating student of TLS.
Which brings me to this: If you have a camera you want to donate to a graduating student of TLS, please let me know in the comments or email me. Because the students often move away from the TLS headquarters after graduation, they can lose access to cameras. Giving a camera to a graduate of our program ensures that they can continue to express themselves through a medium they have come to love. Plus your camera is going into a specific person’s hands, and you know it is going to be thoroughly loved.
If you feel in any way moved by the work I’m doing with The Light Space, you can donate here.
Finally, congratulations to Ale Fragosofor winning the free mentoring space this month! Signups for mentoring will take place on August 1st, 2018.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter a chance to win a PORTFOLIO REVIEW and a 45 MINUTE MENTORING SESSION!
I’m writing this from a plane traveling from Philadelphia to Phoenix. I’m on my way home after a week in Pennsylvania visiting family and shooting for my new series.
I rented a house that was built in 1723. Falling apart, filled with character, it is a photographer’s dream. Especially in America, where old (truly old) is hard to come by. I had rented this particular house for a couple of workshops years before so I knew it was golden. I called a few days before arriving, agreed on a price, and got to work.
My goal in this house was to experiment. To let myself play. To shoot without care. But, the practical side of me kept speaking up. She said, “You paid to be here. You are paying models to be here. You had better create something worthwhile.”
Then I wrestled with what worthwhile meant. How can I experiment if I expect myself to produce?
Expectation is the death of creativity.
This I know. This I have suffered before. And yet, some part of myself could not be quieted. The first day I created physical art with my hands. I prepared for the second day of shooting where I’d have models I didn’t know and limited time to get the finished products. I took test shots. I assessed the light like a good photographer would. I found the space that looked nicest.
And everything felt wrong. I left after a 12-hour day of experimenting feeling like I had taken two steps back. I wasn’t ready. I knew in my bones I wasn’t ready. It felt wrong.
I’ve felt that gut feeling before. One was when I moved to LA and the moment I did, I knew I didn’t want to make films. I felt it again when I was asked to shoot commercially. I knew I shouldn’t. And of course, there have been countless times that were smaller, more insignificant, like this past week, where I felt I was doing the wrong thing.
Everything about the shoot felt wrong – the location, the images. It wasn’t coming from my heart. It was coming from a sort of desperation to be different, to surprise myself, but for what?
And, more than that – I couldn’t! I had been trying so hard to do something different, but at the end of the day, everything I shot looked like it always does. My vision is so singular. That has allowed me a career that grew quickly and successfully, but that limits me when I try to break from it.
I’m being long-winded to make a relatively simple point, but I’m being long-winded because there are so many details that go into an artist’s decisions. Here is the heart of what I want to tell you.
We are artists. Even if you’re reading this and you don’t think so, don’t count yourself out so quickly. It doesn’t matter if you make things with a camera or your hands, music or baking, spreadsheets or daydreams. What matters is that you have the potential to create, and that is enough.
We are artists. And artists, often, are sensitive about their art. We have a hard-enough time as it is being accepted, being understood. We put pressure on ourselves to create. But, we don’t just put pressure on ourselves to create. We put pressure on ourselves to create something brilliant.
When we don’t deliver, we let ourselves down.
And, if you are of the Interneting or networking folk, you let others down.
And, suddenly, we are not just artists, but we are normal people playing as artists. We are frauds. We let ourselves fall down a hole so deep we may never recover.
I say that you are an artist because when you were a child you created without thought or self-consciousness. You created whatever you wanted without a frame of reference for what is good and what is bad. You created because your hands willed it, because your imagination begged you to do it. And then you learned what good art is and what bad art is. You learned what makes money and what doesn’t, what is practical and what is weird. You learned too much and created too little.
Forgive me if my words don’t apply to you. But chances are, they do.
Expectation is the death of creativity.
So, I return to my story about the abandoned mansion and my failed attempt to create art.
Test shooting in the mansion last weekend.
Let me correct myself – my SECOND failed attempt at creating art.
I dreamed up this series over a year ago out of necessity. I won’t talk about that necessity now. That is for another time. But I knew I had to make it. And as I started to plan, the gravity of the series become too much to bear. I started to grow heavy under it’s weight. My back bowed.
I created, and I failed.
I created again, and I failed.
I felt I should be something different. I felt I should break away from what I’ve always done.
Test shooting in the mansion last weekend.
I was guiding my art with logic, when very little art was ever created out of such a space.
I started to believe that simplicity is a tool for mediocre artists. I believed that grand locations and luscious props would elevate my work to a greater height. And once I climbed that latter and saw those locations and gathered those props, the view wasn’t any good at all.
Artists, let me speak to you directly. This is what I now know, what I have failed two times through six pictures and $3,400. Your instincts never create bad art. Your techniques may falter, your vision may not be clear, but your instinct will guide you to the most authentic art you can create. Authenticity is not the same as realism. Authenticity is not the same as groundbreaking. Let us not confuse innovation for authenticity.
Authenticity is our most basic selves, boiled down to our essence. It cannot manifest in any one visual, in any one concept. It is, simply, the heart of our creations, the feeling of our art. Trust in it. Please, trust in it.
Model: Nicolette Barreto
My journey through this series has been disheartening at times. I got on this airplane thinking about my failure, thinking about what I could have done differently. But, I know, in that most authentic place that my art comes from, that this week couldn’t have gone any other way. Some people may think I squandered my money away just to play in a mansion. This could not be farther from the truth. What really happened was an artist decided to experiment, and those experiments showed her what her heart would not say loud enough:
You must travel the long road to learn about the world. You must learn about every thorn that sticks in your foot, every wild wind that chills your bones. You must suffer for your art, because the best things are not easy.
And when you finally begin to create what feels right in your heart, you will experience the joy of that long road. Your art will shine with the depth of it.
We are all on a long road. Some are just beginning, others have been stretching on forever. Our demons come to us in many forms. For some of us it is family, for others it is health, for some it is addiction, heartbreak, jealousy, fear, loneliness, inadequacy. They fill that long road with pain, and through it, we search for our joy. Our art. What we make when no one is looking, what we created when we were children and we had no concept of good or bad. That is the manifestation of ourselves, and it is that self that will pull us from the road when we are too beaten to move ourselves.
This series I am creating is emotional for me. It is a painful one to create for many reasons – some personal, some creative – and it is because of that pain that I am gaining the most incredible insight into my joy.
Even as I write this I am unsure of my worth as an artist. I am unsure of if I will ever create anything worthy of my expectations. And, as I write this, I know that expectation is an illusion we create for ourselves because the world has taught us to do so.
When we were too young we drew a picture and someone told us it was amazing. Or, someone told us it was terrible. Or, someone ignored it and we felt the sting of rejection. And we learned, through positive or negative remarks, what was good and what was bad. And we kept those judgments in our hearts and we put those judgments on ourselves and we struggled to create even though we knew the expectation of the world was on our shoulders.
Or, we didn’t create at all. Because the judgment is too much, and we cannot bear it.
I feel the weight of expectation on me today. I feel it lessening as I write this, because we are all of the same flock. You are my people, and you understand what this is like. You are an artist, after all.
Onward, to the next iteration of my series, and onward, to the next manifestation of my artist soul. May it change forever and gain the courage to create no matter the judgment that accompanies it.
And you know what? I’m excited.
What do you think about expectation & creativity?
How do you deal with the pressure to be creative?
I will share each of these pictures in due time, with their own blog posts and care and love.
Starting August 1st, I will be offering 10 mentoring spaces per month. This includes a 1-page written portfolio review and a 45-minute mentoring session for a value of $150. I am giving away the first space for the mentoring program today!
To enter, comment below with:
1) Any creative blocks you’ve been facing lately, and… 2) How you think this mentoring session will help you.