Where creativity grows

Tag: #52frames (Page 2 of 2)

Creativity Chat

How important is education to your creative process?

A willingness and desire to learn IS crucial to the creative process. This has been true in all aspects of my creativity journey. Most weeks I decide to learn something new in order to complete my 52 Frames submission. In most cases I could just click something that fits the theme and move on with my week. However, what is the point of that? I started this project to help my photography grow. In the 2.5 years since I started, I have made photos I never would have dreamt of because of my willingness to learn and try new things.

When I started crocheting, I made baby blankets and that was it. One day my husband asked me to make us hats for Christmas. My desire to learn and try something new has opened up many doors for me. Now I am learning to make dresses for my baby niece. 

For a long time when I started doodling, I had a small set of “birds” that I would draw. After I made my wood blocks for the Oddball Art Machine it would have been easy for me to just continue drawing those same designs. But I wanted to expand and learn more. I started drawing fish and robots and now my space birds. 

I never was interested in painting, but recently I decided to give paint pouring a try.

Does it matter if I choose to continue doing what I always did? Absolutely not. After all it’s my life and I can choose to live in whichever box I want. But, I can say for sure that my willingness to branch out and learn new things has made my creative life much richer and much more fun and rewarding.

Creativity Chat

Who or what inspires you?

The easy answer is everything. In a world where people can easily share so much via social media, I feel like I am surrounded by amazingly creative people. I love scouring Pinterest for ideas of places to start on a project. I have a laundry list of photographers I follow through 52 Frames. 

  • Jimmy Deresta. I don’t really like his style of videos that he shares on YouTube, but I love listening to his podcast called Making It. He and his girlfriend have created the creative lifestyle that my husband and I want to have when we retire. He is a no-nonsense hardworking artist.
  • Devin Champagne. Week after week Devin creates the most beautiful images of her daughters. Even though I am not a portrait / lifestyle photographer, I am incredibly inspired by her vision.
  • Gordon Ramsay. While he bounces around his kitchen a bit like a maniac during his show on Amazon Prime, I always feel like getting into the kitchen and trying something new after watching him.
  • Erik Weihenmayer is a blind athlete and founder of the organization No Boundaries. He is the penultimate problem solver. Nothing in his life is easy and it helps to put my life in perspective.
  • Matthew Maday and Cassandra Turner. They are both ultra-marathoners, who compete in races around the world. They recently purchased a farm in Spain and are learning how to rehab it into a working farm where they can live off the grid.

Creativity Chat

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

In my head I was confident that I did not get creative blocks, but then as I was typing I kept saying to myself “What about this situation” and “What about this other situation?” Hahah— it happens much more often than I realized. 

In terms of artistic endeavors blocks come primarily with my 52 Frames challenges. Over the past two and a half years, I have learned so many things about photography and myself from that project that I cannot see myself stopping any time soon. However, there are weeks when the challenges are REALLY hard. I am not one to enjoy a lot of post processing. I don’t have models regularly available. And. And. And. In my last mini group I was working with I would complain nearly every week that I had no idea what I was going to do for the theme and finally one lady said, “Don’t worry. I know you’ll come up with something. You always do.” That really goes back to a lesson I learned from my running club last fall as we were preparing to run through an Illinois winter. Our fearless leader said just show up and the rest will take care of itself. Time and time again I just show up and I always come up with something. Sometimes what I come up with is better than other times, but it is so incredibly important to just show up and be part of the creative process. 

52 Frames has a time constraint, so that makes having a creative block much more inconvenient. For other projects, I usually walk away for a little while and come back with a clearer head. Most of my projects are not high staked, so there is no pressure on me. I have a tendency to wait until the last minute on some projects, but that is my own fault.

When I am stumped at work, I am grateful that I work with a group of veteran teachers who are willing to talk through ideas on how to present a lesson or deal with a discipline issue or a difficult parent. As a German teacher, I have always had to rely on asking others for help, because I have been the only German teacher in my building for the majority of my career. 

I know it sounds like I am some zen totally unstressed person, who just goes with the flow. That could not be further from the truth, but for some reason creativity blocks just don’t get me down, because I know they are never long term. They are usually just a sign that I need a break and some self-care. Then I can get back to it.

2.5 x Warrior

52 Frames and why you should take on a challenge project

In December of 2017, I was preparing to deliver the last few copies of my book The Many Faces of Elgin. The previous 24 months had been consumed by writing, making portraits, editing, layout, sign-offs, marketing and so much more. It was everything I did during those two years. I squeezed in a for-fun photography outing every once in a great while, but it was not often. Landscapes, flowers, butterflies, etc were placed on a long-term back burner. When I was done, I wondered if I would ever pick up my camera again.   

When I randomly happened onto a post about a photography challenge called 52 Frames. The rules were simple– submit one original photo taken the week of the challenge based on that week’s theme. The goal is to be a weekly warrior (submit a photo every week for 52 weeks straight). It did not take much to convince me to sign up for the challenge. 

You can start the program whenever you want, but I was starting with the first challenge of 2018. Every year the first challenge of the year is a self-portrait. What on earth had I gotten myself into? Remember what I said about portraits and flowers and landscapes and such? Not only am I not good at portraits, but I despise being in pictures. The nightmare was real. I won’t lie— quite a few tears were shed that week, but I submitted my first image and my journey had begun.

When I look back at the two photobooks I have made so far (2018 / 2019), I am struck by how much this group has helped me to grow not only as a photographer, but also as a person. When I first started sharing my photography on social media, I definitely fell victim to the dopamine hits I got from getting likes. Because my family and friends liked everything I ever posted. I had an inflated sense of reality. 52 Frames challenged me to learn new techniques, shoot subjects that never interested me and most importantly to pursue my photography for me and not for anyone else. Each week I specifically seek out comments that help me improve and grow. I used to tell my husband that I was a fair-weather photographer. Now 52 Frames has me shooting 52 weeks a year. I have submitted a whole mess of self-portraits— even when it was not directly the challenge theme. I have taken pictures of M&Ms, soldering irons, flags, eggs, candy corn, Darth Vader, flowers, strangers, fire, graffiti and so much more. Most weeks are REALLY hard for me and I consider myself a creative person! I am pushed to my limits regularly and somehow every week I show up. I am more than half-way through my third year with this project and I cannot see myself stopping any time soon.

I highly recommend challenge projects because they force you to show up and practice. Here are some ideas:

  • 52 Frames– This is a photography based project, but you can see the weekly challenges on their website if you wanted to apply the theme to a different medium (writing, painting, doodling).
  • Project 365– Take a single photo every day of the year. The original Project 365 was to take a selfie every day. Some people choose to document food or just an event from their everyday lives. Again, you could apply the concept to anything you want to do every day for a year.
  • Project 52- same idea as project 365, but only once a week. 
  • 365 Thank you notes (based on this book). Write and send/deliver a thank you card every day for an entire year. You’ll be amazed by what this gratitude exercise does for your overall well-being.
  • 100 strangers. Take a photo of 100 different strangers. If you are not a photographer, perhaps you write a short scenario about 100 strangers. Snap a quick image with your cell phone and then write up your scenario.
  • Learn a new word everyday.

Here are few more ideas:

Everyone has creativity within them, but it is a muscle that needs to be used and flexed from time to time. These challenges encourage you to make having a creativity mindset a priority in your life. 

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