SOOOO many fantastic conversations are going on lately, all stemming from the whole “artistic voice” idea. I see it in communities where participants from my workshops and retreats gather… and in the greater artistic community, who is experiencing an even more persistent “Ahem!” from their creative souls than ever before. Continue reading “And Now For A Message From the Creative Force”→
Well hello 2018!
First up: here’s the audio version of this post, for your listening enjoyment:
Now then… let’s get this party started!
Yeah, I know we’re already an entire triad of weeks into the new year – but this time of year I often hole up for a bit to think things over. Everybody always says “You have to be consistent!” when it comes to blog posting, social posting and all that. But hey, I don’t always feel like doing the talking. Sometimes I just like to listen for awhile. That’s me. Call me an artist. Call me flaky. Just don’t call me late for dinner! hahahah. That was my mom’s fave joke. So dorky. Had to share.
Now I’m back and ready to chat wit’chall about all kinds of things. I may even have a rant or two up my sleeve, so buckle up!
But today’s post is pretty mellow. It’s about something I’m playing with over on Instagram. (I’m @karenhutton over there, in case we’re not connected all social-like.)
Having A Bit’o Fun With Series & Themes
Some of you know I’ve been doing 12-part series over there for the past few months. Why 12? Ohhh – because that’s the number that covers the screen pretty well on my iPhone – and I like themes. Scientific, huh? It’s also a number for spiritual perfection. So it works for me on both counts.
Last year I was doing visual themes, which is fun to do, if you haven’t ever tried that. Like: sunsets… the color blue… medieval towns in France… that sort of thing.
I did that for awhile, then thought it would be fun (my key word is always FUN!) to post in themes which might ALSO have some food for thought in your approach to your photography. They’re the things I do in my own work and also teach people in workshops and retreats and stuff, so why not share some of those notions in tasty little morsels? It still looks cool visually AND gives back in ways that might give folks something to think about.
My first such theme along those lines was “Single subject”.
When it comes to my own photography, I always think in terms of stories and movies. So this “single subject” thing would be like your central character. Your main dame. The one around whom your story revolves. Everything else is there to qualify, support and further define her. As the screenwriter of this little movie – your choice of who all the supporting characters are, what they do and say, has to pretty much all point back to this one grand dame.
The single subject notion seems stupid simple and obvious at the outset, but gets more complex as the view and the story (i.e. your composition) becomes richer and deeper. Which is why you gotta anchor the whole idea in your head solidly, securely… and simply.
Translated into photography, your single subject grand dame is whatever you choose as your focus. Some people call it the “hero” of the shot, but I think that’s too limiting. Because in real life, everything is more nuanced than “who’s the hero?”. And photography is alot like life.
What Do You Love?
This is why I always go back to “What do you love?” Because in art, what you’re trying to capture is the firefly called Emotion. What do you feel – and what do you want your viewers to feel? Gotta be clear about what that central emotional response is and how you’d most love to frame it, otherwise, your images end up as wandering generalities (another of my mom’s fave phrases) and they just won’t land in anyone’s hearts and souls. All you’ll hear is “NEXT!”
Here’s another thing: with so much visual noise going on all the time in our lives, an image with a single focus lets your brain relax. You can breathe. Then slowly start to notice all the other supporting players in its elegant and poignant soliloquey.
So here’s an idea to play with: Next time you go out to shoot, find your main character. Your grand dame. The ONE element that is your entire reason for taking that photo. You’ll find it changes how you see, how you feel, how specific your compositions become. Did I mention that the importance of being SPECIFIC is? Ahhh… that’ll have to be a post all unto itself then.
In the meantime, here are a few more single subject, single frame movies for your consideration.
Clearly, a flower. Yep, she’s the subject.
But once chosen, you decide how to light her,
frame her face, where to focus the lens.
Lots of decisions for such a simple notion!
Humor and surprise usually go together.
And remember: what you put into a composition around your grand dame
further defines and illustrates her. Chicken AND a wine glass? Why not?
But she’s our main focus.
“So this chicken walks into a bar…” Snort!
Her name is Genvieve, by the way.
She lives at Skylark B&B in Grasse, France.
In landscape and nature photography, don’t forget the intimate views!
They are usually exquisite in completely different ways than the grand views…
and further define your story of the glory of Nature.
Each of these photos are Single Subject ideas.
And they could easily be from the same time and location,
IF you remember to tune you eyes and mind to the entire experience of being out there in all this fabulousness.
Mont St-Michel. An icon. A fairy tale.
People see her from afar and gasp.
Yet to the sheep and the townsfolk, she is just part of everyday life in their village.
She possesses her own brand of magic – and has for centuries.
So sayeth my character description from the screenplay of this composition.
Then, as your compositions become more complex…
the single focus idea helps anchor the story.
Plot description: The story of wonder, impossible color, grandeur and light. A tale of time spelled out by eons. And of a single moment where nothing else mattered.
Without a single focus (the lighter colored, taller peak) for such an epic adventure…
who the heck is leading the charge?
So there you have it. Single subjects which start simply singular, but which – like the Matahara or Luke Skywalker (depending upon your generation) – serve to anchor your story, no matter how many sequels you write.
Just a little food for thought.
I’d love to hear yours in the comments below!
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I’m passionate about many things. Among them, having a voice. Owning it. Using it for good and not evil. And using it to collaborating for good!
It makes my heart sing when I have the opportunity to weave those things together.
Welcome to the final episode of “The Everyday Genius of Your Artistic Voice”: Storytelling
Wow! Today’s the final episode of our 8-Part series about artistic voice in Photography. We’ve been all about turning what might seem like an ephemeral concept – into practical application. My fondest hope is that it’s the beginning of a great conversation – one that’ll last a lifetime!
For once, I’m not going to preamble… I’m just going to say… tell the GOOD story. The best one you can. And remember that your images and words exist in resonance – and can affect everything around them for the better. If you so choose.
Hey, it’s Karen Hutton. And welcome back to The Everyday Genius of Your Artistic Voice. And today is Part 8, the final episode: Storytelling.
For this series, we’ve covered alot of territory. We talked about what we mean (for the sake of THIS conversation, anyway by artistic voice, some thoughts on the inner game – and how to prepare yourself to step out to photograph, being as present and focused as possible. We explored the importance of asking yourself “Why?” and maintaining a “kindergarten mind”. Then we had a chat about how choosing the right cameras and lenses for YOUR vision can help you more easily create emotion in your art. And art is, after all – a means of conveying emotion and feeling. It’s a language!
Lauri Novak and I shared our personal thoughts and tips about how your artistic voice can be an incredible guide for moving into the professional photographer space with your soul intact, should that be something you’re interested in exploring. Then… post-processing. I shared 3 photos and their accompanying thought process and the tools I used to create them. Hopefully that got your imagination going!
Now… we’re going to wrap up this 8-part series with the topic of Storytelling.
Photography is, after all – a means of storytelling. Sharing yourself, your life, your point of view, your dreams. It’s the story of you.
As with each of the areas we’ve explored, I’m considering the notion of Storytelling from a particular perspective, since everyone has their own take on this one.
3 Kinds Of Stories
So. story. Certainly, there’s a visual component. I mean, we ARE talking about a visual arts in this series. But you see, in the broader sense, storytelling also means Words. See I passionately believe that words have power. They can heal, they can wound – and they ALWAYS evoke. We should all choose them – and your story – as powerfully and wisely as you can. Here’s why:
Story, Image and Words all tie right into your signature. And if you recall, by Signature, I mean your stance, your point of view, your own “spark of divine fire”. Story, image and words are three of the most powerful tools used in storytelling.
Now. The way I see it, there are 3 kinds of stories:
Stories that give
Stories that take
Stories that report just the facts, ma’am.
What the heck do I mean by that? Well…
Stores that give
The stories our ancestors passed down about how to live, how to farm, how to care for one another, how to know truth from lies – are all stories that give, because they’re trying to make life better or easier somehow. Stories of inspiration, told to give the listener new ideas about what’s possible are another kind of giving story. They build the listener/viewer up. Over the ages, great stories that last are the ones that impart some wisdom, some truth, some kind of inspired idea. Something that is meant to elevate others. Stories of how I overcame something – and so can you.
Great stories impart some wisdom, some truth, some kind of inspired idea. And those are the ones that tend to last over time. Stories that give are meant to elevate others. They’re stories of how I overcame something and so can you. These are stories that give because they are told to empower others; to give something to raise them up.
These are stories that give, because they are told to empower others.
Stories that take
Well, examples of these often start on the inside. For instance, stories you tell yourself about how stupid you are, how uninspired you are, what a crappy photographer you are, or how fat, how ugly, how dumb that thing was that you said – and how you can never get it right. You can never have a great relationship. You never make enough money you certainly can’t take a day off; those kinds of stories. You know them, because they tear you down in some way and you feel worse after hearing them.
Examples of these would start with the stories you tell yourself about how stupid you are. How fat, how ugly, how dumb that thing was you said. How you can never get it right, have a great relationship, take a day off, make enough money. They tear you down in some way… you feel worse after hearing them.
These can also be stories that are told out in the world either by you or other people to dramatize bad or difficult things for the purpose – whether this is conscious or unconscious – of gaining supporters or validation for a “less-than” point of view. You know that saying misery loves company? Yeah. That’s based on stories that take. And I’m not judging here. But what stories that take really speak volumes about is how dimly the speaker, the storyteller, views themselves and life and the possibilities contained therein.
When someone tells you stories like this, it can feel like they’re ensnaring you, sliming you. You might suddenly feel tired, a little depressed… and just not as good as you did before hearing said story.
These kinds of stories disempower you, because they’re all based upon a perspective of powerlessness – and they make you feel lousy.
One of my best teachers and mentors in the personal development field had a very simple and powerful thing to say about these kinds of stories. She said: “If you it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.” Pure and simple. It’s taken me YEARS of personal discovery and personal work… but I’ve finally learned she was right.
Stories that give are based on a certain universal understanding that we are all sourced from love, light and beauty. Stories that take are based upon a warped sense that life will fail us every time.
Stories that report the facts
These are more like reports, devoid of emotion. And there is a place in the world for them! Like… the DMV accident report, the home inspection, an obituary. They all tell a story… but with only facts. And like I say, there is definitely a place for these kinds of stories… but art probably isn’t one of them.
Stories that give and stories that take contain emotion. Emotion moves. Emotion conveys. People connect through a resonance of feeling. Personally, I like aiming to feel good… but the point is, there aren’t many neutural stories that stand the test of time, unless it’s in someone’s file folder.
“Signature” involves Feeling
When someone asks me “What is your signature”… the first thing that crosses my mind is that Signature and feeling go together, because Signature contains a point of view, is like a ray of who you are, is your own spark of divine fire.
So signature is emotional. And it contains a point of view.
To illustrate this, to make it a little bit easier to think about – in the transcription for this episode, I’ve added a video that I made back in 2012 for a project I called “LIL Galleries”. LIL stood for Life is Light, which is one of my personal signatures. If I were to say what my tagline is overall that would be it. This video tells my story. The one that informs my every day, regardless of the challenges. It’s represents my basic believe, my basic signature that overlays everything.
Because you see, I believe that Light Prevails.
The Impact of YOUR Story
So you see, when I talk to you about storytelling, I’m asking you to consider what kinds of stories you’re telling yourself, the people and the world around you. These stories – and their images and words carry forth your signature. They have impact. They have power. They affect everyone who sees and hears them, whether you OR them realize it or not. You are that powerful.
Your artistic voice is way more than your photographic style. It’s your signature, your mark, your resonance. It contains your feeling, your thoughts, your perspective on yourself and life, it contains your “Why?”.
You can’t help any of this. It’s simply how we are hardwired.
What I’m asking you to consider, though, is to become more conscious of this powerful construct of yours – and to find ways to use it intentionally. Hopefully, to create more light and beauty in the world, because god knows we need that.
But to be a voice of something greater. Your own spark of divine fire and exponential creative energy it contains.
Becoming conscious… focused… knowing – and acting upon – what you love… carefully speaking from the highest truth you can. To empower yourself – and others.
That is the gift we need right now.
The one that only YOU can offer.
And that right there, is your most artistic voice.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series! I hope it has sparked your imagination and inspired you to go out and try things you never have before – and to speak clearly in your own voice.
I don’t want much. Just that. 😀
Anyway, thank you for being a part of all this. As always, I love your comments! Let me know your thoughts, your ideas, your real life stories, questions, any topics you want to explore. I read them all! I try to comment on them all as well.
Until next time, get out there and photograph with your heart, your soul and your entire artistic voice!
See ya! Bye!
THE OTHER EPISODES IN THIS SERIES:
Just catching up? Here are ALL of the episodes in this series:
Today’s episode of “The Everyday Genius of Your Artistic Voice” gets into the shark infested waters of cameras and gear. But with a light touch! It’s really ALL about getting priorities straight: voice and vision first, the gear to best do the job second. Always.
Every week in our fun 8-part series, I throw out the invitation to ask questions, make comments and share thoughts. THANK YOU one and all for doing so! As part of the awesome shares, a question was raised I thought warranted its own post. Thanks to Elizabeth for posing it! Continue reading “The Everyday Genius of Your Artistic Voice: Q&A”→
“Create Different”. I decided to do just that and record my blog post. See, my morning began today with the startling realization that it’s time to shift gears with how, what and why I create. “Whoa!” I thought. “What game is afoot now?” Welcome to my newest experiment!
The Fujifilm X-Photographers Nature and Travel Summit happened last week. So I packed up and headed out to Townsend, TN as one of four teachers for the inaugural event, held in the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Eastern Sierras of California have their own kind of magic. I’ve always known that. And of course, there’s a reason why Galen Rowell chose to call the town of Bishop in the Owens Valley home.
This past week, I ventured down that way as a sort of mini-retreat to clear my mind, heart and soul. After being nose-to-the-grindstone preparing and giving presentations, writing articles, birthing my newest work (which continues), getting ready for teaching travels to the Smoky mountains, Florida and France – AND masterminding new projects… I was ready to start singing the Inspiration Blues!
“Enough!” I cried. “It’s time for a pilgrimage!” (that’s what I call road trips.)
February, New York City. Fujilove LIVE. What the heck is Fujilove, you ask? Well, it’s a website, a Facebook group, a magazine, a podcast, an academy – a movement! It’s the passion and brainchild of professional musician and photographer Tomasz Trzebiatowski, who is one of the loveliest and most genuine people I’ve met in recent years. He lives in Lucerne, Switzerland – and we allllmost met when I was there last year. But a freak late spring snowstorm made me change my plans, so we missed like ships in the night. Continue reading “Fujilove LIVE, NYC: 2017”→
I just got back from New York. What a trip. It was as much about the inner journey as it was the outer one.
Let me start by saying 2016 was a packed year. Full of surprises, breakthroughs, a few frustrations, lots of growth and new experiences. And now… lots to think about, feel into and make decisions about.
And I’ll admit it, I took a blog break. Just a little one. Even I need to step awayyyyy and take a breath now and again. Y’know, get a new perspective. So I did.
The Value of A Personal Trip (for art’s sake)
New York was a personal trip. I made it with my friend Valerie Jardin. We thought it would be fun to just take a trip and not have an agenda (which turned out to be challenging for both of us!)… and just see what came our way.
Now, I love NYC, but personally I find it challenging. It’s alot; alot of energy, alot of distractions, alot of input on so many levels. Artistically and photographically, I find it harder to find my balance, focus and voice there than almost anywhere in the world. And that’s always bugged me.
So this time, I decided to “embrace the horror” (as a friend of mine refers to his approach to almost any challenging situation).. and let myself be uncomfortable. Dwell in possibility, not expectation. Allow things to happen in a new way. Ask to be shown the way. NOT KNOW. It all sounds so noble on paper… but it’s incredibly uncomfortable when you’re in the middle of a process like that. Days when you delete everything on your camera. Times when you feel like you suck at this and should just take up knitting. Moments of doubt and agitation on a level that have you questioning everything including your sanity.
Not that I speak from personal experience or anything.
Embracing The Horror Leads to New Perspective
So. New York.
Like I say, it was challenging for me. But I chose to embrace the horror, take no shortcuts – and was rewarded with a renewed (refreshed and deepened) perspective… which honestly, I can’t entirely put into words yet. It’s still unpacking into my being. I do see it in my photographs though. From subject matter to post-processing, I wiped the slate clean and did my best to follow the quieter voice on the inside. The one that never fails me. Tried new lenses, new approaches.
As an artist it’s how we expand and deepen our art.
As a human, it’s how we create a life we truly love.
It’s also how we survive in times that push us to our limits. We have to walk past the outer clamor and chaos, past the inner mind chatter and continue on till we find our stillpoint. Easier said that done. And even when you think you know how to do that… you have to then be willing to take it further than you ever dreamed possible.
So… this was my journey. Make of it what you will.
Comments, questions – as always, welcomed.
Love what you see? Well, join my tribe of light-seekers! When you do, you’ll get a free eStoryBook, textures, free quote images – plus 50% of any print from my Sunsets Aglow gallery!
Ever wondered how to find your artistic voice in photography – or anything else, for that matter? Well, I’ve got 3 ways to go about it right here. No, they’re not the ONLY ways… but what I’m beginning to slowly roll out is a system. A way of thinking about this – and system of working from the inside out to discover what it means for YOU. Continue reading “Finding Your Artistic Voice, 3 Ways!”→
"Love your blog. I stop by for the photography, I linger for the philosophy."
Kelley Morgan, Portland OR
"A beautiful mind will produce beautiful results. And to say the least, yours is a beautiful mind! Thank you for your wisdom and your inner "speak," as they both produce true art from the heart …"
Joe Hudspeth, Prineville OR
"Thank you Karen. A wonderful story but only the tip of the iceberg, the bigger part below the water is all the thousands of photographers you have inspired to chart their own journey, I know as I am one of them."
"Karen, thank you for the wonderful two day post. Your insights are truly thought provoking. I have never been a teacher, nor will I ever be, but to see someone see the light is a wonderful moment. Thanks again."
"As usual, another terrific story. I’m glad I found you but I have to be honest. I didn’t find you on Google + but did on Scott Kelby’s “The Grid”. Thanks for the inspiration in both images and by the pen/keyboard."
"Gads-what a girl! Thanks for the story, it is beautiful."
"Awesome story Karen — I loved reading about your life transformed. Of course I loved the photography theme and the geek in me is forever curious about the power of tech and the power of social platforms. But … for me it is the arc of lives transformed that inspires. Thank you so much for sharing. See you on G+ and in the Arcanum!"