The Power of the Porfolio

You know that feeling, of having something in the back of your mind that you need to do? It’s not a priority so you write it down, you put it off, and it sits there, waiting to be done. Sometimes for a very long time. But when you finally get to the project and finish it, it feels sooooo good, doesn’t it?

Spring Tree Blossom Blue White Oregon Kat Sloma iPhone Mobile Phtoography

That happened to me this weekend, as I finally got around to updating the Portfolio section of my website. Ever since I updated website themes early last year, I haven’t been happy with the way the porfolio worked. It just didn’t allow you to scroll through images easily or show off the work nicely. Add to that, most of what was in the portfolio was old work from my dSLR days, not even close to the style I’m currently creating with the iPhone. But it wasn’t a priority between art fairs and writing a book and living life, so I didn’t do anything with it other than write it down on a “do someday” list. Getting it updated felt like a lifting of a weight, or the relief of a low level tension that I’ve been carrying around with me. I didn’t even know that tension was there!

You know what I felt on top of that relief? Pride. There is something wonderful about choosing my best work, pulling it together in one place, and presenting it beautifully. Whether it’s an exhibition or an art fair booth or a portfolio on my website, it’s my opportunity to say to the world, “This is who I am as an artist.” And I feel really good about it when I look at my work that way. Strong and confident in who I am and what I’m doing. That’s an awesome feeling.

I’m especially happy with the Transitions portfolio. I’ve been working on these images of trees in transition for two years now with this series in mind, and it’s the first time I’ve pulled them together in this way. It is so exciting to see it as a whole! I love many images in this series but seeing them as a body of work, I love them even more.

You can visit all of my portfolios by clicking the Portfolio link on the top menu bar of my website. From there, click on any portfolio to view the artist statement/explanation and images. Be sure to click on the thumbnail images to see them larger and scroll through the entire portfolio. It’s all mobile responsive too, and looks great on any device. Can you see why I’m so excited?? Come visit and let me know what you think!

PS – If you have a WordPress site I highly recommend the gallery plugin I’m using for my portfolio. It’s called NextGen Gallery. Easy to use and very functional!

Looking for Art in Oregon? Got you Covered…

Oregon is wonderful in the summer. Sunny days, cool nights, low humidity, few bugs. And lots of art! Last week I finalized my art fair schedule so I can finally share it here with you. I’d love to meet you at an art fair this summer, share my work (it looks even better in person), and chat about art, photography, creativity… or life in general. Mark your calendars!

KatSloma_2015NewWotk_Postcard_Front

Lake Oswego Art in the Park
June 26 – 28
George Rogers Park, Lake Oswego, OR
More Info

Salem Art Fair & Festival
July 17 – 19
Bush’s Pasture Park, Salem, OR
More Info

54th Annual Clothesline Sale of Art
August 1
Benton County Courthouse, Corvallis, OR
More Info

Northwest Art & Air Festival
August 21 – 23
Timber Linn Park, Albany, OR
More Info

Corvallis Fall Festival
September 26 – 27
Central Park, Corvallis, OR
More Info

Philomath Open Studios Tour
October 24, 25, 31 and November 1
My Studio, Corvallis, OR
More Info

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You can always see a current listing of my events and workshops on the calendar on my website. Fall workshop dates are posted now too!

PS – If you’d like to get a copy of my 2015 schedule postcard (shown at the top of the post), email me your address. I’ll add you to the list!

Oregon Coast Travelogue

We spent the weekend unplugged from the Internet and plugged in to the family at our favorite spot on the coast, Washburne State Park. We hiked, we walked on the beach, we played, we made photographs. It was a wonderful break from our normal lives. We need to do this more often!

Enjoy a few pics from the area, all edited in Stackables with a formula I created called “Heceta.” It works great on landscapes!

UPDATE 3-June-15: If you would like the “Heceta” formula for your own use, do the following:
1. Make sure the Stackables app is installed on your iOS device.
2. On your iOS device, download the formula file from this link. (This is a Dropbox link, and you may be prompted to save the file to your Dropbox account, if you have one. Go ahead and save it to your Dropbox and then download from there.)
3. When you go to download or open the file, use “Open in…” and choose the “Open in Stackables” option.
4. Stackables will open and ask if you want to import the formula, click “Import.”
5. To use the formula, load a photo and then go to Favorite Formulas (the ones with a heart!). You will see the “Heceta” formula there. Have fun!!

Heceta Head Lighthouse

 Low tide at Heceta Head.

 The beach at Washburne.

 The bridge at Heceta Head beach. Oregon has the best bridges!

 Zoey loves fetching on the beach.


Hello from the Sloma family!

I forget we have this amazing place, the Oregon Coast, just an hour from our home in Corvallis. One more reason to love where I live!

How to become “known” as an artist

Last week, my son said to me, “Mom, I want my art to become known. How do I do that?” I laughed and then told him to keep creating his art, that’s the start. But it got me thinking, how and why do we become “known” as artists? I came up with three steps. These are the basic steps, but don’t start thinking they are easy ones.

 
1. Find your own style.

You have to figure out your voice, what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, in your art. It has to be unique and authentic. That takes time. It takes a lot of experimentation. It takes risk and openness and a willingness to go in unconventional directions. 

Ultimately, what other people resonate with in art is something at a primal level. You have to bring YOU to the process, wholeheartedly. It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out how to do that, so keep working and be patient.

Oh, and once you feel like you’ve gotten there, that you have a style, remember that feeling, because it lasts about two nanoseconds. Then it’s time to evolve again. But as you evolve, you will have some thread that stays constant throughout your work. That’s your style. That’s what you become “known” for.

2. Sustain your creation over time.
Keep creating, because you have to develop a body of work. That’s not ten images that work together. It’s piece after piece, some finding a place within a larger group and some just experimentation. Maybe some are created with intention and some come out unplanned. But you need to have enough that work together to show you have committed yourself to the process.

You can’t create one or two good pieces, no matter how unique the voice, and become “known.” It takes sustained creation of good work. Something that people can connect with and rely on, over time. They want someone they can trust and build a relationship with. 

3. Put your work out there.

Here’s where things get sticky. There is no one-size-fits-all way to get your work out there, and there is no ready made audience waiting to receive your work. You can exhibit in galleries, go to art fairs, blog, use social media (so many options there!), join local or online groups, have a newsletter, etsy shop, enter contests… Shall I go on? I probably don’t even know all of the ways to get art out into the world. 

You have to choose the right venue to share your work, or you won’t connect in the right way for you. So before you decide how to put your art out there, answer these three questions. I’ll use myself as an example in the answers, so you can see what I mean. 

What do you want to become “known” for?

I want to be known for create simple, compelling work that evokes a pause in the viewer. I want both my imagery and my words to connect with others and bring something positive into their life.

Who do you want to become “known” by?

I want to be known by two groups: People who want a piece of my art in their life and this homes, and people who want to learn how to create similar art. These groups may have some overlap, but they are not fully the same.

Why do you want to become “known?”

I want to become known because it helps me achieve my goal of connecting with others through my art. It helps me to fill my classes, it helps me to reach more people with a message that creativity is beneficial in everyone’s life, it helps me find other kindred spirits in this wide world. 

This last question, if you haven’t already guessed, is really the biggest one of all. It should probably come first, but we aren’t always ready to examine our motivations when we start something. It’s only later, when we’ve discovered some confidence in ourselves and our work, that we can ask and honestly answer whether we are working from internal motivations or looking for external validation.

Because the thing about wanting to become “known” is that you can get tricked into using numbers of followers, or sales, or exhibition acceptances, or contest wins, as an external proxy for confidence. We can use it to tell ourselves, “I am an artist, because all of these people believe I am an artist.” 

That’s a house of cards, because all it takes is one change — either to your art or an algorithm a social media platform uses to share your work or to the interests of your biggest patron — and your whole foundation crumbles. But if you know why you are putting your work out there, and you know who your audience is, you will find ways to reach them. 

It’s been a long road, filled with lots of experimentation, for me to finally discover what feel like the right venues to get my art out there. To discover the right connections and interactions, for me and my art. Yours will be different.

Where to start?

After all of this thought, the answer I gave my son stays the same: Keep creating your art, that’s the start. Everything springs from there. And while you are creating, start to share, experiment with methods, try things on for size. Ask yourself the three questions above. As your style develops, so will your understanding of how and why you want to connect around you art. Along the way, you might become “known” to a group of people. 

If the connections are genuine, based on a give and take of heartfelt expression, it doesn’t matter if that group is large or small. It will be the right one for you.

Thanks for being here, for reading my words, enjoying my art, and being part of my little pocket of being “known.” I appreciate the connection with you.

Developing your Wisdom

Wisdom is like marinade. First you take what a book said, or what a teacher said, and then you mix it with your own ideas. Then you add experience and pour in a few buckets of tears. Add memories of lost love, a pinch of personal humiliation and a teaspoon of deep regrets. Add to that a cup of courage. Leave it to soak for a few years and — voila — darn if you have not become wise.
— Marianne Williamson, author of A Year of Miracles 

 

At the end of every yoga class, when we are all relaxed and open after the final shavasana pose, my teacher reads a quote for contemplation. I love this moment, when I’m able to stop and listen long enough for a new idea to sink in. When I’m able to quietly contemplate it against my experience; see where it fits.

We need quiet moments of contemplation. We need time to think through ideas, and transform them into our own. We need time for our experiences and lessons to soak in, to “marinade,” as Marianne Williamson says. 

Wisdom does not come through experience alone. Experience is an essential ingredient, but it also comes from the seeking of new ideas, and the contemplation of where they fit amongst the library of our experience. Those are the secret ingredients, nothing more is needed.

Experience + Ideas + Contemplation = Wisdom

Sounds easy right? Of course, it’s not. We get busy. We don’t have time for contemplation or energy to seek new ideas, two of the three essential ingredients. It’s easier to buy the ready-made wisdom, to let others tell us what to think, what to believe, how to live. It’s easier to go with conventional wisdom than to develop our own. 

Like anything else, the simplest recipes are often the best, and the hardest. 

Start with a simple quote for contemplation, like we do at the end of every yoga class. Let it sink in, see where it fits in your experience, how it might shift your perspective slightly. Journal or talk to someone else about it. Make it your own, file it away for future reference. 

It’s a simple beginning, but with this step, you are developing your wisdom. You should be able to follow your own path from there.

The Mess in the Middle

Last weekend, I taught “Advanced Blending Techniques,” the last in my workshop series on mobile photography, for the first time. The purpose of the course was to dive deep into blending modes, and how they can be used to create cool art from photographs, like this:

 
But I think what I might have really taught, to both my class and to myself, is how important the mess in the middle of the creative process is.  

One of my examples was a complete disaster. It stemmed from an idea I’ve used before with great success on a few pieces, combining a blurred background with another image using an Exclusion or Difference mode, but the outcome using recent Images was terrible:

 
What was I going to do with that? Nothing! So I laughed about it, moved on and told everyone it’s ok to make messes. That’s part of the process of creating. And while you may spend a lot of time getting seemingly no where toward a finished piece with your experimentation, you are learning things you will use later. This disastrous outcome influences what I do, or don’t do, when I sit down to work on the next photo.

The top image, Emerald Forest, is the eventual outcome of the mess I made in class. I didn’t use the mess in the final image, but it frustrated me enough that I experimented with other similar blends and found something I liked. The mess in the middle turned out to be a valuable step in the creative process.

As an instructor, I often have canned examples so I can show how things work. But if someone sees it work perfectly every time when I do it, and the theirs don’t, will they give up in frustration? Maybe. Some will, some won’t.

Maybe my job as an instructor is really to help people see not only what they can achieve with the techniques, but how important it is to make the mess in the middle. To try, and fail, and try again. To truly learn something, you’ve got to do it wrong a few times so you internalize what it takes to make it right. 

That’s the creative process. That’s where we become the artist we were meant to be. It’s not all finished pieces and accolades, it’s a journey of hard work and messes that no one ever sees.

Are you making messes right now? If not, you are sitting in your comfort zone. You aren’t learning anything new. It’s time to push yourself and make a few messes. Let me know how it goes.