Why Create?

Why do you create? Do you know? Is there some inner drive that compels you? Are there external motivations?

This is a question I’m pondering for myself today. Why do I create?


I create because I love it.
I create because it expresses something I can’t express another way.
I create because I learn about myself.
I create because it helps me understand who and where I am in this world.
I create because it brings me joy.

That’s why I create. It’s not because I’m in the business of creating. Because I want to make money from my creative work.

I’m pondering this question today because yesterday I was reading about a new class being offered that will teach about what kind of art sells, so that you can create work that is more commercially viable. This looks like a great class, but it didn’t resonate with me. This morning I sat down and considered why, and it comes back to the reasons why I create.

First, and foremost, I create for me. And if I ever shift that to create for others, whether it’s to sell more prints or gain more followers or whatever, then it seems like I will lose some thing essential in the work I create. Me. My connection to heart.

This is no small question to ponder, especially when you have a business that is linked to your art as I do with Kat Eye Studio. Your following is built on what you create. Part of the fears that have come up for me over the last few months, as I’ve been exploring mobile and more non-representational forms of photography, have been due to this. It’s such a dramatic departure from my old style, will people stick around if I change? Will I have to start all over and rebuild to get to this same place? They may seem like silly fears, but they are there.

What everything comes down to really is pretty simple. The whole idea behind my classes, the whole premise that led to Kat Eye Studio in the first place, is that when you create from the heart good things happen. You learn about yourself. You are happier. You are filled with gratitude for who and where you are. And yes, the quality of your work improves. Because that’s what I’ve learned, through my own creating.

My creative journey takes me onward. It changes me; my art changes too. As long as I’m creating from the heart, I know I will be in the right place for me. That may never mean huge commercial success or my art as my main source of income. Maybe I’m lucky to have the luxury that doesn’t have to be my goal or purpose right now. I think a lot of us have this same luxury: We can create what we want to create, without worry about selling our work for a living. There is a certain freedom in that.

Why do you create? It’s a good thing to stop and ask yourself this question once in a while. Ground yourself in the reasons why you create. Because as long as you stay true to your own heart as you create, you are in the right place for you regardless of how you answer the question.

Creative Connections

A month has slipped by since my England trip and I’ve barely written a word about it. I’ve barely looked at the images. I’ve moved on to one thing or another, my recent obsession taking up my brain space and creativity. And I need to spend some time on the trip to England, because it was a marker of sorts. A milestone with teaching my first in-person workshops, but a trip of creative connections too.

In fact, the creative connections are the reason I went in the first place. I had met so many lovely people in the UK, online and in person, that I felt drawn back. I wanted to renew these connections and deepen the friendships. The only way to do that is with time. So I plan to share a few stories here, of the people I connected with and the places we visited together. The things I learned from each of them.

First up, the Hebden Bridge crew: Fiona Pattison, Hannah Nunn and Rhiannon Connelly. I met all of these lovely ladies at the Do What You Love Retreat in May 2011. Fiona and Hannah both live in Hebden Bridge, and Rhiannon came to visit from Holland via Scotland. I spent most of my time in Hebden Bridge with them in some combination, and we took a walk together in the woods one morning of my visit. All of the photos in this post are from that lovely walk in the hills around Hebden Bridge.

Fiona was my host in Hebden Bridge, sharing her flat with me and my workshop. While I met Fiona at the retreat, I started working directly with her last fall on Public Relations. I was thinking she could help me get the word out on Kat Eye Studio, but it turned out she does so much more – business coaching and mentoring. Through our working together we have become great friends, so it was wonderful to deepen the connection in person, talking non-stop over a bottle of wine (or two!), great dinners and walks in the woods. She has so much wisdom and enthusiasm for living a creative life. She has a special gift; her art is helping creative people develop businesses that thrive. I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of her talents.

Hannah is an amazing artist, bringing beautiful light to the world. She creates handmade lamps with simple yet gorgeous flower motifs that cast beautiful and subtle light. She loves lighting of all kinds, so her shop, Radiance, showcases beautiful lights from different designers. Walking into her shop you just smile from the warmth of the lights. Or maybe it’s the warmth of Hannah! Being around her seems to bring a smile to my face and a sense of calm to my soul. It was so much fun to see more of her lamps in person and spend time with her. I’ve been dying for one of her lamps since I saw them at the retreat, even looked more than once online, so I was excited to finally buy one directly from her shop to have sent home. Now I have two beautiful pieces of Hannah’s art, bringing cheerful light to my house through the gray Oregon days. Is there anything better than having art you love, made by a friend, gracing your home? I don’t think so.

Last, but certainly not least, is my lovely friend and fellow photographer Rhiannon. I was so excited when she said she’d be able to make it down to Yorkshire for my visit. Her life is a bit crazy, splitting time between her permanent home in Scotland and her temporary home in Holland, so getting a few days with her was fantastic. She and I spent much time wandering Hebden Bridge with our cameras, discussing art, life and our respective creative journeys. I have always loved her painterly photographs created from Polaroids, and enjoyed watching her capture images with her iPhone while we were together. Now that I look back at it, I’m pretty sure our time together had a strong influence on my sudden adoption of mobile photography and editing. Seeing Rhiannon work and hearing her talk about her process planted a seed that burst free a week or two later.

And that, truly, is the beauty of creative connections. They plant seeds. They nurture growth. They encourage us and influence us, maybe sending us in new directions than we otherwise would have gone. I am glad that I heeded the call of my soul and spent the time to renew these connections. My heart is full and my journey is better as a result.

Getting Creative

This weekend I had the fun of getting creative with my camera. I took a “Creative Camera Techniques” class at Newspace Center for Photography in Portland. The class involved a lot of techniques for getting blurs and images that are more painterly and less literal. It was fun to get out of my comfort zone, and even more fun to go with a couple of new photography friends from my area. It’s so nice to have local photography friends!

Here are a few of my favorite images from the day…

Creating blur with long exposures.

Moving the camera during a long exposure created "shelves" of light.

Plastic over the lens creates neat effects.

Painting with light. A projected screen saver is behind, creating a silhouette.

Painting with light to create a silhouette.

By far, my favorite was the light painting. There were so many possibilities I could see for this technique, especially in the dark of winter. I left the class with an arsenal of new, fun techniques to explore. Most techniques I had read about before, but hadn’t tried. It was great to have the nudge to try something new. I’ve always been a big believer in play and experimentation as a tool for learning and creativity but have been too busy doing other things. The class reminded me how important it is to let go and just play!

How about you, have you been out playing with your camera lately?

Seeing the Light

The difficulties are always the most important ingredients in the total picture of a creative experience.
— Shaun McNiff in Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go

I started a new book for my “morning practice reading” in the last few days, Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff. This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, probably back to 2009 or early 2010. As in anything, my reading goes in cycles and I found interest in going back to the basics of the creative process. How nice to have this great book waiting for me, with gems like the quote above sprinkled liberally throughout the first chapter alone. It resonated with where I am right now. Here’s another:

Creativity cannot flourish and reach its deepest potential without the participation of its demons as well as its angels.
In other words, there is no such thing as a free lunch. We don’t get the good stuff without some bad stuff thrown in. Some challenge, some struggle is needed for the creative process. That’s what helps us find new ways of doing things.

These statements struck home, after my struggles with the “down” part of the creative cycle this month. As I come out of it and see my creativity picking up, as I see my inspiration begin to flow as it usually does, I see what the down time has been giving me. A respite, a time to go within. A time to revisit the process, with all of its ups and downs.

I’m off from my corporate job this week, a planned holiday shutdown. I have been frustrated about the inflexibility of forced time off at work because I don’t have any vacation time left this year, but I find that I’m enjoying the space to focus on my creative pursuits. Not to mention hanging out with my family, doing things like learning to fly an RC helicopter from my son and getting addicted to Glee on Netflix with my husband.

But under it all, after coming through the down cycle, I find that new stuff is brewing and I have some space to create. It should be interesting around here!

When a Plan Comes Together

Cheerful flowers and colorful paint make me smile!
Carbondale, Colorado

Guess what today is? Monday, yes. The middle of August, that too. It’s also the day I link in to Creative Every Day and the Creative Exchange. But it’s even bigger than that: Today is the first day of my part time work schedule. Woohoo!!

Last week everything was finalized and agreed, and as of today I will be working at my “day job” Monday through Friday ~11am to 5pm-ish. I am so excited. I have been working toward this change for a very long time.

For those of you who may be new around here, I fell in love with having my mornings as my personal time while in Italy. My work schedule was afternoons and evenings, due to the need to work with both the Italian and US folks on a daily basis, which left my personal time as the mornings. Some time ago, as part of a series called Lessons from Abroad, I wrote about how changing my schedule this way led to some great realizations for my creativity. Mornings are my creative time.

When I finalized my schedule and transition date with my new manager last week, I realized how long in coming this transition really was. It was almost a year ago, last October, when I first started talking to my former manager about going part time on my return to the US. It was before that, while writing the Lessons from Abroad series for Jenny Shih‘s newsletter and blog, that I identified the schedule change and aligning to my creative energy cycle as a key factor in my personal transformation. And it was part of writing the specific article, Change up Your Schedule, that I really started to think about how I could maintain my “mornings free” schedule upon my return.

So, over the last year I’ve been having periodic conversations with my husband, my management at work, and myself about how this could work. I’ve played with different schedule ideas, “trying them on” in my imagination to see what would fit for me personally and at work. The Monday-Friday/11-5 schedule is the one I settled on recently, and when I proposed it last week it was a win-win for everyone. My new manager likes that I will be there every day instead of taking a day off; I like that I have 5 more mornings a week for myself. Can’t beat that.

This is a great example of how long it can sometimes take an idea to come to fruition. The idea of part time/ mornings free was a seed planted a year ago. Nurtured, the seed grew into a plan that I took small steps on over time. It is a good reminder that if you stick with an idea, turn it into a plan and take baby steps toward it along the way, you can make it work. Things may not happen immediately, but with action, things do happen. Without action, it’s just daydreaming. Yes, I was nervous when I first started talking about part time at work. Yes, I was nervous to have the conversation on my schedule last week. But all of my groundwork and planning and patience paid off, and here I am this Monday morning, free.

What will I create today?

A Few New Tools

These old tools look well used, don’t they? They were part of a display in the Marksburg Castle in the Rhine River Valley in Germany. I loved the light and contrast, but just as much I loved that they represented the hard work of the people who once lived there. Imagine back when these tools were new. Imagine the lives that touched them, and how they supported and improved those lives.

Today I want to share with you a few new tools, through sites that can help link you up with online resources to further your creative journey and connections.

Finding Photo Link Ups

Yesterday Exploring with a Camera was featured on the blog Through a Photographer’s Eyes. Misty is featuring a different link up every Monday, with a resource list of the link ups you can access here or by clicking the button below. It’s a nice way to get an overview of the different link ups along with a list, so check out her features so far and remember to see who she’s featuring every Monday!

There are so many link up opportunities out there for photographers on the web, it can feel overwhelming at times. You might want to participate in them all, but I believe you have to find the ones that are right for you. I know that I resonate with some and not others, based on my style and interests, and I keep that in mind when I choose where to participate. Check them out and see what fits for you!

Finding Blogging Artists

How do you find new and interesting blogs of other artists? If you’re like me, it’s an organic process. You visit one site, follow a link to another site and over time find a few that you really love.

Geri Centonze has decided to help speed up that process of linking blogging artists by creating artseebloggers.com. On this site, you will find blogging artists grouped by category – Digital Art, Draw/Paint, Fiber Arts, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Paper Crafts and Photography. You can look around and visit the sites, and add yours too!

Artsee Bloggers

Geri says this is just the beginning of her vision and I can’t wait to see where she goes next. I love the idea of connecting artists to each other in new ways! I hope you will check out her site.

Finding Retreats and Online Courses

I know I mentioned the new site, Seek Your Course, a couple of weeks ago but I wanted to call it out in today’s “tools” post again. This new site is a fabulous resource to find courses that cover all aspects of art and creativity – everything from creative blogging to film making to personal growth and so much more. This is my kind of resource! I love to learn as much as I love to teach, and this opens a whole new way to find great learning opportunities.    

Before you had to click around, follow the organic route and, if you were lucky, stumble upon a link to a course that is perfect for you. No longer! How lucky we are to find these courses in one place, and who knows what new things you will find. I hope you will visit and check out the offerings. Tell Jess that Kat sent you! :)

A big thank you!

I love that in all of these cases, someone thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” and then did something about that thought. They saw a need and filled it by creating something we can all use. A big thank you to them!! It takes hard work to create tools like these that everyone can use.

I’ve created a new “resource” section on the left sidebar, and will add reference resources like these as they come my way. I’m all for anything that helps us connect with our art and creativity, and each other, at a higher level!