Revelation sharing time. I had a thought today that transcended any anxieties I have been having about my work, what I will create, and what I will share:
I choose to let you see me.
I often ponder if I would still create art the way I do if I had no one to share it with. The answer is almost definitely yes, but a very large part of why I love creating is because I love sharing. I used to think that made me selfish. I thought I had to hide that because people would think I was an attention-seeker. But now I realize that it is an integral part of my process. The more we recognize important parts of ourselves, the more we can grow with them rather than push against them.
I spent my whole life hiding from people – in school, choosing to sit alone rather than talk to anyone, and even now, going to stupidly weird lengths to avoid eye contact in grocery stores. I grew up believing that I wasn’t special, not because of anything anyone told me (quite the opposite), but because I simply wasn’t particularly good at anything. I struggled through school in a big way my whole life. I never made the top sports teams. I was never the fastest or the smartest or the tallest or the skinniest or the bravest. I always felt normal, which, for someone who has desired to be abnormal, is like a cage.
Sidenote: I remember getting braces and I was excited to finally have straight teeth. About a year into have them, I completely regretted it. My desire to find something that made me different took hold in a bigger way and I wished I could go back to having four teeth where there were supposed to be two. (I had vampire fangs, and it was freaking awesome). My parents deemed that ridiculous and since so much money had been spent to correct my teeth, there was no way I was going back. Now I’m holding out hope that I lose a tooth so that my teeth shift back to some strange configuration.
Enough about my teeth. Back to my revelation.
I have been so worried lately about creating new, darker work that I couldn’t see this new way of thinking. Now I do. And it goes like this.
Artists have a choice: let people in to see their creations, or not.
In fact, people have the same choice. Let others in to see who they are, or not.
And really, that is the heart of the artist’s crisis – what if no one likes my art actually means what if people don’t like me? After all, our art is a true representation of a piece of ourselves.
I never before thought of sharing as a choice. I have always done it, I never questioned it, it was a reflex. But it is a choice, and the more conscious we can be of that decision, the more we can control it, own it, and define it.
I choose to let you into my world.
I can choose to let you out of it, too.
But I won’t. Because, now that I am older, now that I’m not as scared, now that I am as abnormal as I want to be, I can make choices that are braver and bolder and more empowered.
I choose to let you into my world because it is honest, and kind, and vulnerable. Take a look at who I am, beat me down with your words if you must, I won’t break.
And, after my last blog post I am certain, I’ve got a herd/gaggle/murder/group/FLOCK of individuals behind me, holding me up and reflecting my own courage back at me in their faces. You are my soul-family, the ones who tell me to be myself because everyone else is taken, and, and, etc., etc.
I have a new definition of creative bravery. It is not only looking within and creating what you see, but taking control of your creativity in every facet. It is not leaping with blind faith into your work, but taking control of the work you do, how it is pieced together, and the way it is presented.
It is incredible to me that after so many years of creating, the acknowledgment that I have control is a revelation. Why should it be? Why did I not realize that ages ago? The answer is simple: the Internet would have you believe otherwise. Not “the Internet” as in a big monster that hides in your computer, but the very nature of how we interact online. You feel that you have to share, because that is the culture we are all living in. There is a push and pull of your creative energy to produce, create, share, do MORE.
And on top of that, there is a semi-problematic view that what we create is ours and ours alone, despite our constant willingness to share it. So, I am changing two ways of thinking from here on out.
- I choose to let people into my world.
- When I release my art, I truly release it.
I’m not saying I’m letting go of my copyright claim, or that it is any less mine, but simply that it is equally everyone else’s. Not only do I invite you to see what I’m doing, I invite you to feel how you want to feel about it. Be as angry as you want, as understood and delighted as you can be, but for goodness sake, do it wholly.
Thank you for your indefinite and unwavering support of what I’ve done so far. This is going to be a wild journey.
Jessica Anne Breisnes - I’ve been following your journey for about a year now, Brooke, and am so excited for this new path you’ve chosen. This blog post speaks to me SO much. I’ve recently started blogging about my writing, life and art for almost identical reasons. I’ve chosen to stop hiding. From myself and others. Thank you for being brave and lighting the way!
brookeshaden - Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for sharing that. I’ll definitely have a peek at your blog and see what you’re up to – it sounds like a wonderful, deep journey. XO!
Vicki Kurasz - Your side note about your teeth really cracked me up. Part of why I love you. Thank you for letting us into your world. It makes so many of us feel better about our thoughts and insecurities.
I share my stuff but don’t really know why. The thing I noticed is 100+ people will “like” a crappy out of focus candid photo but only 20 will like a photo that is actually good. Friends and I have joked about this because we have all seen it. So I don’t put stock in the number of likes I get on anything. I guess I just put my stuff out there for people’s enjoyment. I want to share what I think is good (for now, a year later I learn more and like it less usually).
Keep pushing yourself and sharing with us. We love you and everything you give us.
brookeshaden - Aww Vicki thank you, I appreciate your thoughts and your friendship <3
Geetha Slock - It’s kinda creepy how much I can relate. I had one vampire fang which made me scared to death to laugh out loud because people would make fun of it. I share my work online because the ultimate dream would be for it to become meaningful for someone else in a way (I seriously wrote a blogpost for this which I was set to release in two weeks. Not kidding :o) I’m not an attention-seeking person either because if people praise my work I will always be doubtful. Compliments scare me. Anyways, your epiphany was an eye-opener. I love this journey you’re on and you letting us be part of it. Lots of respect. Thank you!
brookeshaden - 😀 I love that Geetha!! We must be distant siblings! hehe 🙂 thank you for your words of encouragement!
Alicia - Brooke, I have been following you for several years now. Your work, your words, and your rawness have always inspired me. You inspired me to be my true self, to be vulnerable enough to share my art but strong enough to also know that it doesn’t matter what others think of it. Someday I hope to meet and thank you in person. Please keep sharing your journey with us. It truly is greatly appreciated.
brookeshaden - Alicia, that is so kind and wonderful of you, thank you for uplifting me!
Margherita Introna - Oh dear Brooke… You totally made me giggle about the braces! I also had those fangs! Although I was very grateful to my parents for being able to have had my mouth corrected at such an early age. It was hell wearing the braces… they hurt, they looked awful… but without them I would not have been able to close my mouth and the extra row of teach would have eventually caused major issues later in life. But you really touched me deeply when you spoke of your childhood. I had a hard time as a child for many reasons, which I will not go into, but the way you described it really hit a nerve…
I am so looking forward to hearing more and seeing your new series unfold! It is making me even that much more excited to work on a series I have been sketching out for the last few months. It is not scary or dark, but it is about an incredibly personal journey I am currently facing. Only two people are aware that I am facing this journey. As it stands, I have no idea how the journey will end, but it is going to be the most intense roller coaster of emotions I have or ever will be on. I have chosen to deal with these emotions through this new series. I do not let people into my world very often. In fact, more and more I have been withdrawing from the world as I become more and more solitary. But my work, and the older and more whimsical fairytale world I create in my images, makes the emotions conveyed easier to bear. And that is what gives me the courage to share. Because for some reason it must be shared. There is a need for it to be shared. I am not always sure why this is, but for me there is a release of the emotions by sharing them in this way that makes them easier to bear. This has always been my philosophy and what inspires my work.
I know this differs somewhat to what you described in your post and how you work, but it touched me in the same way. Does that make sense? Your post made my heart sing! It seemed to lift an imaginary burden of some sort. I am not sure why. It echoed what I feel in my soul. This is definitely one of my favourite blog posts! Thank you dearest soul friend <3
brookeshaden - Ah Margherita! Tooth twins and beyond. I love that you are channeling your current situation into art. If you ever want to talk, I’m here – anytime. Lots of love to you!
Margherita Introna - Yes! Channelling my current situation into my art is one of the main inspirations for my work. It was what led me (I always say “led” as that is how it felt to me) to conceptual fine art photography in the first place back in 2012/2013. I did not just wake up one day and decide to become a conceptual fine art photographer. For me it was a journey and a process. And that journey, both photographically and my life experiences, influences the work that I produce. Photography has been a passion of mine for over 20 years and I have enjoyed many different genres, but when my life led me to conceptual work, it felt like such a homecoming to me. It was what I was searching for in all those years behind (and infront) of my camera. I think that is why I am so passionate about what I create, because that discovery was such a massive turning point for me…
But I am rambling… I get so excited talking about these things!!!
I have been meaning to write to you… You have been on my mind the last few days and so I will email you tomorrow!
karimparris_photo - As I read the blog post, I saw so much that I could relate to. Beautifully worded I might add. It was only recently that I choose to be more active in sharing my work using social media as a platform. In that way, my experience was slightly different because I always viewed it as a choice and usually went with not sharing and much later came to the conclusion you did. Because there is a business side to what we do as well, I eventually felt slightly pressured to unveil a bit more but now find comfort in giving my work freedom and life outside of my own thoughts for people to experience it as they choose. It’s also one of the few reasons I rarely ever name my images and allow the viewer to see what they see and possibly shape new meaning for each one or share my vision. That doesn’t apply to my commercial work quite as much but you understand I’m sure. Thank you for inviting us to see and feel your work and parts of your day in a wholistic manner. Side note: bring back the fangs / let the fangs hang. – karim p.
brookeshaden - Karim, I really admire how thoughtfully you’ve gone about all of this. That is A+ in my book. And I’m glad you’re sharing more 🙂
Howard - Thank you Brooke for sharing your deep insights. I am sure I am but one of thousands upon thousands of people who support you 100%. I once read somewhere, “It’s abnormal to be normal, and normal to be abnormal.” Normality is over rated, in my opinion. It’s not normal to have boundless creativity burning inside your heart, as you have. It not normal to bear your soul through your art, as you do. And it’s not normal to be such a kind and loving human being as you are. Thank you for being you!
brookeshaden - Your words touch the very core of my heart. Thank you truly, Howard.
Michelle - Thank you so much Brooke for letting us into your world!!! Your work has inspired me up to this point in my life, to be more open to other people about what I create. I too have been afraid to show people my work for fear of that I was trying to be an attention seeker. I had many mouth surgeries as a kid and I did have fangs too. lol I am super excited to see your new work and anything else that you have to share in the future!! I hope to learn more from you and your photographs!!!! Keep inspiring others!!! 🙂
brookeshaden - Aww thank you Michelle, that means so much! And I am proud to be part of the fang club! 😀
Hope - Hello Brooke, I just wanted to say…thank you really!! You truly are an incredible human being and not just in your talent with words and imagery. When I’m feeling panicky about what on earth I think I’m doing I look to you and how amazing you are, your willingness to be vulnerable and open inspires me to try and do the same and not feel bad about it. There’s a certain type of joy you get from sharing work and words alongside it, making your own unique mark upon the world. I’m about to take a major leap of faith tomorrow in my own life and I’ll be taking your words along with me.
Thank you as always for being you,
Michael Giberson - I have followed you from your break-out days, when you were stuffed in your oven, covered with mysterious brown goo. I loved your woodland phase and your cephalopod creations. Your worldwide rise in the art photography world is remarkable and your blog posts are often inspiring.
I normally do not critique the art of other persons; their art is their art. But something you said in this blog moves me to comment.
You mentioned that you go to extreme lengths to avoid eye contact in grocery stores. I recall that I once complimented you on one of your works where your model (not you personally) made bold eye contact with the observer. The effect was striking – and (to me) refreshing. You very kindly thanked me for my compliment, but I don’t remember any other posts where your subject makes eye contact with the viewer.
I, too, sometimes avoid eye contact with strangers in public places. I recognize that such behavior in my case is rooted in caution and the fear of negative reaction by others. I don’t know if this is the same for you, but if it is, then your two new ways of thinking, (i.e. “1. I choose to let people into my world,” and “When I release my art, I truly release it.”) must necessarily somehow engage or embrace or examine your fears. All artists do this, consciously or not (just look at the paintings of Heironymus Bosch as an extreme example).
The point here is not eye contact. The point is examining one’s fear in one’s art. I address it because you seem to be declaring that you are soaring into new territory, and because exploring one’s fear in their art interests me and I have addressed it (obscurely) with you before. I won’t belabor the point. I just hope it means something.
I don’t know where you’re heading but I’ll be there to see.
Tanya - Well, I can’t say I had fang teeth so can’t be part of the ‘fang club’. However, I can be part of the ‘fan’ (silent ‘g’!) club that is deeply inspired and moved by you and your work. Glad you’ve decided to go down the wild journey pathway and I, for one, will be looking forward to seeing the results 🙂
Caz Harris - You are like a flower opening it’s petals for the first time, you will get bees and you will get wasps, but all have input.
This is gonna be one hell of a ride…..
Go for it, we’ll ride the tide with ya.
Gallagher Green (Fit BMX) - I have always had trouble sharing my work, but the creative challenge classes of yours have helped me so much!
This new journey of yours is so exciting, and it is even more so after reading this post, which is very inspiring by the way. 🙂
I loved the story of your teeth. If you still wanted to be weirder you could file you teeth, or maybe get you tongue split!!! 😉
Thanks for including us in this journey and all of the previous ones as well! <3
Dave - Attention comes and goes. Popularity comes and goes. People rush in and rush out, in ever faster cycles it seems. Especially with social media. The Eagles song “New Kid in Town” kind of covers that phenomenon. At the end of the day, all you have is yourself and what you’ve created. What you create should truly please you because the ones that only loved you when you were popular or because they were told they should, don’t matter. They’ll have moved on to the next big thing. And you’ll still be Brooke. The Brooke that was true to herself.
Paul Johnston - Hello Brooke! Just keep doing what you wish and keep sharing. All your well-wishers and your delightful soul will cancel out whatever negative energy the world wishes to dish out. Loving your smile and knowing it comes from your heart, well, that’s pure sunshine!
I think I first became aware of your art style when you were on Creative Live. It was wonderful to see that your creations came from your mind versus using lots of fancy equipment, wardrobe and props. Your editing is done using basic tools that results in wonderful masterpieces! This lesson of being creative from the heart, accomplished through simplicity is a valuable one for any artist!
Keep on smiling, creating and sharing!
Rose from Norway - How curious and wonderful that you write about this topic today. I have just awnserd your creative live survey, and now when I reed this blogpost you have hit the the same essence of what I was trying to convey in the survey.
My childhood was kind of opposite of yours. I was very out going, great at sports, prom queen, I did very well in creative subjects at school (but not so much in math, Norwegian and english ..hehe). I was always very open, vulnerable and honest. I think in English you call it wearing your heart on your sleeve? I think I have always shared becouse I feel I have to, and sometimes, that makes me feel exposed, raw and taken advantage of. Sometimes I think to my self, why in the world did I get so personal with this person i don´t even know!?! Why did I make my self so vulnerable for this person? I don´t owe him or her anything, and still I kind of give them everything I am, every raw emotion, believes and being. I need to learn how to protect my inner self more. I want to spread love, and light, and make people feel good ( most likely becouse I want this for my self ) .
It is so true what your are writing. I need to be conscious about the fact that it is MY choice to let you inn, or to let it be. And if I let it be, then it do not mean that I am a lier, or mean, it just ment that I did not want to share in that moment in time.
Thank you for this blog post.
Hope you have a lovely day Brooke and the rest of you guys. So fun to see that I am starting to know so many of you guys that write here <3 Lots of love to all of you.
Russ Sprouse - Hi Brooke: I’m enrolled in your Fine Art Photography course on CreativeLIVE, and I just discovered your blog. This post really resonates with me, because I have been hesitant (afraid?) to share my work for *years*, but I really do want to put it out there. You have such tremendous insight into what goes on in a budding artist’s mind, and you are a great inspiration! In addition, you are such a good and generous person… Thank you for being you, and sharing yourself with us. Warm regards, ~Russ