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!
Here’s a paradox for you: When I go out to photograph nature, landscape and this gorgeous world of ours – I luxuriate in the experience. Every blessed second of it. I feel like I’m standing in the heart of creation, where I can mostly clearly hear the voice of the Divine.
I never thought I’d put “Me” & “DJI” in the same sentence, but there you go. I’m in a new relationship: it’s a new beginning. 😉
Life In The Air Begins
Recently, I announced that I’d been chosen be part of DJI Global‘s brand new elite group of Master Photographers. Cool fact: I’m the only woman in this particular program! In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: DJI is the global leader in the development and manufacturing of consumer and commercial drones. I’m now a quadcopter pilot!
My goal is to create beautiful images and art with my Phantom 4, Bob. (that’s what I’ve named my bird: Bob. A story unto itself!). I’ve long wished I could levitate myself to the vantage points that called my name… now I can fly Bob there!
Trust me when I say, it is another world entirely…
Learning My Way, At My Pace
For this post, I thought I’d share my humble beginnings and first steps. I’m learning at my own pace and in my own way to get super proficient and expert at all this; I look with eager eyes towards winter in the Sierras!
So I get this box with my new bird Bob in it. I call up my brother from another mother Barry Blanchard, who works with DJI and teaches new drone pilots. It’s handy that he knows me so well… which means he got me off to a great start in Santa Cruz, CA. We went through the unboxing, got everything charged up and headed out to the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The first day, all I did was focus on flying, not photography – even though I did take a couple of pictures. At this stage, it was ALL about just getting a feel for this crazy thing!
It’s no secret that while these new drones are a cinch to fly; there’s a TON to learn when you pick up a flying machine that can chop off your fingers! Besides fast-tracking me through the do’s and don’t of the basic flying skills, Barry also educated me to the fact that we’re not allowed to fly over wildlife and protected areas, which is why I stayed over the land, not the ocean in this location.
I don’t claim this as a great photo… but it’s memorable to me as one of my very first!
Back Up To The Mountains
Next, I took Bob back home to practice. I knew from the get-go that in order to get good, you not only have to know the rules, laws and guidelines that govern flying drones… you also need some fine motor control and muscle memory in order to call yourself truly in control. And THAT has become second nature, to the point where all the correct instincts take over, even (and most especially) under duress or an emergency. My biggest concern: keeping an eye out for my beloved hawks and ospreys.
I discovered it’s alot like athletics: it works best if you use a set of drills and exercises to train yourself, which I began in my own yard. At first, I stayed within our fenceline, practicing takeoffs and landings, making squares and figures, turning and doing other simple maneuvers till I felt comfortable. Can you see me in this picture?:
I also discovered I get a bit of vertigo when Bob goes up high! That was funny to find out about myself. It’s getting better the more I fly, so once again, I just take my time and only fly where and how I feel comfortable. I feel no need to rush… and that makes me excited every time I go out to fly!
Documenting My Progress
The very first photo at the top of this page is not far from where I live. After practicing in my yard for a few times, I ventured out early one morning to a place I love, where I knew there wouldn’t be any people to worry about. I made this video just for fun, to document some of my early progress as I took my drills and new skills to a new location. It’s not fancy or anything… definitely not 100% smooth… but hey, baby steps!
I always take a progressive approach when learning something new. From years and years of being an athlete and teaching, I understand how to break things down so that the simplest skill drills build into major proficiency. I’m applying that here too; it’s no different than learning to ride, dance, skate or ski in that way.
Barry admonished me to concentrate on flying the quadcopter first, don’t worry about pictures. I get his point – and I do focus first and foremost upon flying. But hey, it’s not my fault that I live in an amazing place that simply throws beauty into my lens like a giant spitwad!
This particular day, I branched out to visit Lake Tahoe. I picked a morning with virtually no wind and very few people around (tourist season is over – yay!)… and explored from on high. It was amazing to finally see what I could only imagine from my many photographic visits here. The best part: taking it easy scored another successful mission!
This was totally unexpected… Kayakers! It’s just the type of shot (or one of them, at least) that has captured my imagination. I’ve seen photos like these from around the world… and Lake Tahoe is a muse’s delight in this regard.
Yeah, I overexposed it… that was part of my learning curve too. But I’m now getting better enough at minor multitasking to get that right too. But hey, I’ll take this one!
So there you have it for now. First steps with a quadcopter named Bob. Hehheh. SOOOO much more to come!
I’ll say it right here and now: “Good riddance, summer! Hello, sweet fall… ”
Sometimes, It’s Just Tough
I’ll admit it, summer sucked. I’m frankly stoked to be moving on from those hellish weeks. Over these past summer months, I needed to focus on backend admin/business systems stuff that had to be done, but am SO not gifted at doing myself, nor do I enjoy it. UGH! There were big learning curves and they were slooowww. But I plugged away at it for weeks – and eventually got it done. Not much photography got done, not much else besides slogging away behind a computer. REALLY not my happy place.
Where it went sideways was in my head for some reason; I had this weird stumble in terms of confidence and feeling good about stuff. Like, everything. It went to a dark place. Somewhere along the way, I got all off and judgy about myself, to the point of considering quitting and doing something else entirely. Luckily that last one didn’t last TOO long, only for the length of… summer! Blech! 😝
Mind you, I have really great self-care tools, from years and years of personal development work. I used ALL of them. Then had to get creative and develop a few more. Those voices in your head… man, you gotta stay on your toes to not start listening to them! I have a friend who says “My mind is out to kill me”. Mostly I think she overstates. But a few times over the past couple of months I actually thought she had a point!
Life itself really hadn’t changed, but suddenly I felt intense pressure about everything – and like a failure in certain areas on top of it. Like I’d made too many mistakes to recover from – and like my life just was never going to be as wonderful as I dreamed. And on and on from there. #Misery.
The ICK Overlay
At the same time, in the very same breath, I counted every one my blessings, looked around and saw the amazing things I’ve accomplished. What an amazing home I have, fabulous husband, friends. Yet, I couldn’t tell ANY of them how tortured I felt – and how I had feelings like nothing I do matters and how I felt like my dreams were slipping away.
It was like having this nasty overlay of ICK pressing down on top of what I really know is true and real in my life (the good stuff)… and having two clashing soundtracks playing LOUDLY at the same time. Definitely one helluva rackety dirge of misery!
My Bettylou-ism Of the Day
It was weird, I’ll tell you that. But something my mother taught me stuck with me (I call these “Bettylou-isms”). Even on the worst days, this one was my shoehorn into eventually allowing a shift: “If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.” I kept thinking; “OK, so here I am… a talented, blessed person who has friggin’ LIES spewing in her head 24/7, keeping her awake at night, gnawing at her soul by day. Awesome!”
But knowing they were lies helped. I mean, I’ve had times like this in my youth, but not in a loooooonnnnng time. Back then I didn’t know those nasty critical voices weren’t really mine. This time I did, even if they had me by the short hairs for awhile.
So I did the one thing I know to do: focus on the light of all-that-is and hang in there. Just… Hang. In. There. EVERYTHING gets better, everything changes… and I’m not in control of how and when. I just know I have to choose the highest Light and focus on that.
One thing I finally had to step back from: social media. It is so NOT a confidence builder! I even stopped writing here on my blog for a bit – and spent as little time on my computer as possible. Every time I sat down in front of either or both, the voices got louder. My skin felt hot and prickly. It made me want to walk away and never look back.
On the bright and somewhat amusing side: all this crapiola was certainly not without humor ( if a little dark) and the appropriate theatrical expression. You’ll appreciate that I have THE movie moment (it played in my head ALOT) for this entire episode. You know how I movie moments.
It’s from “Inside Daisy Clover”, starring Natalie Wood – complete with French subtitles:
Yep, some nutbar moments there. I love how it all happens in a recording studio, which is kinda perfect in my world! Anyway, there it is: my summer in a nutshell.
Now: I’ve rolled over the hump and am motoring down the other side. WHEW! I’m sooo freaking glad! Right now, I’m not back on social as much as I was and I’ve had to simplify things in my life. I’m getting back to my roots of photography… both on the ground and in the air. I’m starting to feel energy and excitement over what I do again… and about sharing it with all with you. I care about my purpose in life again… and love the way that feels in my veins.
So, bring it, fall… and HELLO to all the awesome stuff that has just happened and that’s coming up. KelbyOne, DJI, my Artist’s Voice Retreat in France, my stepson’s wedding at the end of October… me ‘n Valerie Jardin‘s photography project in Mexico in December, guest appearing on her new podcast: “Hit the Streets”. All upcoming, all will be shared… and all happening because I managed to remember a few simple things:
If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.
Focusing on Light is key.
This too will pass. (another Bettyou-ism)
My humble thanks to God and the angels… and to those who love for as I am. Not perfect, but amusing to hang around. 😉
PS… Here a couple new recent pieces (one impressionistic, one more based in reality) I made after NOT creating anything new for WEEKS. It felt really good. Welcome back, creativity!
Both photographed with my favorite camera: the Fujifilm X-T2. Love that little beast like the old country! It gives me ideas and encourages me to try things… DEFINITELY my happy place!
"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!"