Keep Creating

I’ve been quietly struggling with my art lately. For some reason, I’m adrift. I’m not clear about what direction I’m going, what I’m trying to learn, or what’s the next challenge.  And one thing I know about myself, I need learning and challenge as part of my creative process.

So… I slowly continue to create. To look at the world around me and see what catches my eye. I’m waiting for inspiration to show me the way. 

This one came along yesterday, and I love it. 


 But it feels as if I had to be dragged kicking and screaming along the entire way. It’s as if inspiration reluctantly showed up for a moment, then ran away. “That’s all you get,” Inspiration says, “I’m outta here.” No clues left as to how to get it to stay.

So, dear blog friends, I’m looking for a diagnosis, and a cure. What’s wrong with me? Is it the seasonal blahs? Is it a creative rut? What will get me out of this funk?

All I know how to do is keep creating. If I keep creating, maybe Inspiration will stick around long enough to show me the way.

Spring Abundance (A Mobile Tutorial)

I can’t believe the trees this spring. They are covered in blossoms. Just covered. Maybe last year they were too, and I was so busy mourning the loss of my bare tree branches I didn’t notice. But this year, I’m not missing them! Most days you’ll find me out snapping a photograph or two of these amazing blossoms.

On a neighborhood walk on Saturday, I photographed this amazing tree. The branches looked like garland, they were so covered by flowers. It was perfect for a little new app play!


Here is the original photograph, captured in ProCamera 7.


I liked this original photograph, showing the abundance of the flowers, but it wasn’t something I was inspired to do a fancy edit on. Enter a couple of new apps, Vintango and Classic Vintage. As I played with these apps, I realized that my great exposure in the camera was leading to overexposure in the processing, so I took the original and decreased the contrast and brightness in Snapseed. It may seem odd that I needed to do this, but if things are coming out too bright in processing you always have this option to adjust the starting photo.


Next, I pulled the Snapseed-adjusted image into Vintago. This is a color filter app, just applying film effects. It is very simple and does not offer any filter adjustment, but I’ve found so far that is fine, because the film effects don’t seem to overwhelm the photograph.


I used the “Basic 09″ Effect. There are 25 effects in the basic pack that comes with the Free app, and then you can purchase additional packs in-app. I like to switch to the “Live Preview,” a selectable button at the top of the screen, to see my image with the effects. Also, I went into the “Options” menu and choose my output file size as “original” so it wouldn’t decrease my image resolution when I save.


From there, I edited the photograph in another new app, Classic Vintage. This app allows you to apply paper textures, crackle effects, borders and sepia tone. This app provides a lot of variety and customization. The free app comes with a great beginner pack and I very quickly assessed its possibilities and purchased the additional packs. For this edit, I applied one of the Free papers at 25%:


And one of the Montana pack borders at 100%:


I found this app has the possibility to completely overwhelm the photograph with its effects, so playing with those percentages is important. I set Crackle and Sepia to 0%, because I just wanted some texture and the border. Here’s the final image again:


I like the color shifts provided by the Vintango filter and how they are pulled through the frame border applied in Classic Vintage. I don’t know that I love the final image, but the starting image was not one of my favorites from the day either. That makes it a perfect image to play with. Since I didn’t have a strong feeling on it, wanting it to come out “good,” I could let myself explore and play more freely.

That’s a little creativity tip for today as well: If you find yourself stuck in a processing rut, pick something you don’t care much about, get a new app or two, and play. You never know what might happen! If nothing else, I explored the possibilities of two new apps.

This month’s mobile recipe is a simple exercise in app stacking, and here is the graphic sequence for you to download and save for future inspiration:


Happy App-ing!

Two Years, Two Months, Two Weeks, Two Days

Two years, two months, two weeks, two days. That’s how long we lived in Italy. As of last Monday, that’s how long we’ve been back from Italy. Ever since passing the two year anniversary of returning home this summer, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since moving back from abroad. How I’ve grown and changed since then. What’s been easier, and what’s been harder. Today I will share a few thoughts with you… Two years, two months, two weeks and two days later.

First, I must talk about the time in Italy a little bit. You see, I went to Italy with a small personal goal: To figure out who I was. The year before my assignment started, there were several rounds of layoffs at my corporate job. That can be scary, but even more scary if it makes you realize how much of your identity you derive from your work. I started to realize that if I were laid off, it would be like the rug being pulled out from under me. Who would I be? How would I define myself? And I knew that was not a good situation to be in. I needed to figure out who I was, beyond external definitions. Who I was beyond being a mom, wife and engineer. I honestly didn’t know.

So I took lots of books with me to Italy and I made time to read and journal. Following my intuition and growing interests, I began to explore art. I started visiting art museums and exhibits, dabbling in painting, and taking my camera with me wherever I went. I wrote about what I was discovering in my journal and on my blog. And, lo and behold, I slowly uncovered an artist underneath all of the layers of self I had put on over time. I discovered within myself someone who could take observations of the world and re-form them into something new and different through words and photographs. And I began to understand who I really was, what mattered to me and what I struggled with, in unexpected ways through these expressions in words and photographs. It was wonderful. I felt powerful, and I knew, just knew, that I had found the key piece of who I was that would continue beyond the unique time and place of living in Italy.

I was right.

Monet's Water Lilies

Monet’s Water Lilies at l’Orangerie, Paris

And I was wrong.

Because when I moved back here to Oregon, I began to have an identity crisis of a different sort. Who was I as an artist, without living in Italy? Would I still have words to write, photographs to take? I hadn’t realized, until returning home, what I was gathering up during that time in Italy was a different set of external definitions and expectations, wrapped around this new identity as an artist. I had tied myself up in thinking “what” I was photographing or writing about defined me as an artist the same that “what” I did as a career defined me as a person. Damn! Maybe I hadn’t made as much progress as I thought. I had traded one thing for another, and I still had lots of work to do. Personal work, artistic work, to discover who I was, independent of a place.

It was make or break time. Either I would come out the other side, still defining myself as an artist, or I would move on and look for something else. Because as you’ve undoubtedly noticed, Italy and Europe is no longer at my doorstep. I’m not a huge world traveler anymore, hopping to new countries every couple of months. I couldn’t rely on travel to fuel my artistic and personal growth any longer. As much as I love travel, I knew that always wishing to be “somewhere else” wasn’t how I wanted to live my life after moving back to Oregon.

So returning to Oregon really just continued me on the journey I had started in Italy. The last two years haven’t felt as much like trial by fire, with the intensity of change I experienced in Italy, as trial by slow cooker. It’s taken me longer to figure things out, probably because the landscape of life is more familiar, the pace of new experiences is slower.

I’ve come out on the other side of this transition from Italy to Oregon, and yes, I am still an artist. I’m not the same artist I was when I left Italy, and that is a very good thing. I look back at that point in my life and that person I was fondly, but not with longing. “Italy Kat,” as I’ve called that version of myself, didn’t know what I know now. Even though she thought she had it all figured out, she wasn’t as balanced in her life or grounded in reality. She didn’t understand that she would continue to grow and change in ways beyond her wildest predictions, and that growth and change, continual reinvention, is an essential part of being an artist. She didn’t yet understand that you have to learn to be happy with who you are, no matter where you are, what you do, or who you are with. You have to find the grounded, centered confidence of who you are at your core, or external things – the place you live, the job you have, the relationships you are involved in – can define you. And all of those things are transient, they can go away, taking huge chunks of your identity with them. I’ve learned that I don’t want to always be looking to elsewhere for my identity, as an artist or otherwise. That gives up control of who I am, and my happiness, to others or to circumstances.

My Water Lilies

My Water Lilies, Oregon

To be honest, I know I have a long way to go before I really get to the independence of identity that I’m talking about. I may never really get there. But through this journey to Italy and back I’ve at least learned a bit more about myself, discovering myself as an artist and finding out where “place” fits in for me. I’ve learned I can let places, people and circumstances in my life influence and change me, without letting them define me. I can take them in, use them, and always, always come out with something new that is of my own making.

Because I am, at my core, an artist. And that’s what artists do.

Creating the Sun

It’s summer again, and I’m so glad. For about a week there, it wasn’t summer around here. A lot of rain and grey skies; muddy trails and wet dog. I wanted to wear my summer clothes – not my rain jacket – but didn’t have much of a choice.

I did have a choice in what I created, though, so I created my own personal sunshine through my art. Summer-y flowers and leaves in bright colors filled the bill. I could change my mood with a choice of brilliant oranges and reds, like this one…


…or lemon yellow and lime green, like this image “Looking Up.” Ahhhh, hello sun.


My husband complained that some of the colors were too bright. They hurt his eyes.

That sounds just about perfect to me. If they are too bright for you, just put on your sunglasses. I’ve achieved my goal, and created some sun.

Inhale Spring


I inhale
Fresh scent of spring
Tickles and tingles my nose

I exhale
With the earth
Matching her breath through branches

I step
Along hard-packed earth
Winter’s mud only imprints in my path

I blink
Flashes of sun
Revealing forests of white petals

I see
Joy in sunshine
Leaves sprouting with wild abandon

I pause
One last tree
Waiting sheltered in earth’s shadow

Not long now.

Medieval Connection

Today I’m continuing on with my stories of connection, this time from the medieval town of Shrewsbury. If you look at a map of England, Shrewsbury might seem a bit out of the way place for a stop between Yorkshire and London. However when your primary purpose for a trip is to meet people, then it all starts to make sense. I had someone to meet, so I was headed that way. And that someone was Gilly Walker.

Gilly and I have been in contact online for several years. I first ran into her on Flickr while I was in Italy, then we shared comments on blogs and for a short time we were both Mortal Muses together. I’ve always loved her photography, her thoughts and philosophy, and – bonus – she teaches photography too. We seemed to have much in common, so she was on my list of connections this trip to England. She’s recently moved north, not far from Liverpool, so we had a bit of a struggle to figure out the best way to meet. Should she come to London? Should we meet in the middle? Finally she just invited me to come stay at her house, and then we could visit Shrewsbury the next day. Perfect! She apologized that it was a two hour train ride, but I assured her, after traveling 12 hours to get to England, a two hour train ride was no problem. That’s why I was there!

So from Hebden Bridge it was off to Hooton, to stay the night with Gilly and her husband, and then on to Shrewsbury the next day together. All of the images in this post are from our day in Shrewsbury.

I have to admit, on the surface it seems a bit strange to visit and stay with someone you’ve never met face-to-face. Here Gilly was inviting me into her home, and I was staying there, without knowing more about each other than our photography and writing. But I’ve always found that when you meet and develop a relationship with someone online, one that is built over time and around a common interest, that relationship is real and your gut feel about a person is accurate. So while we were both a bit nervous to meet in person, I had a feeling it would go just fine. And it did! Better than fine, we talked non-stop and had a lovely visit.

I knew Gilly was knowledgeable about photography, but I hadn’t realized the depth of her study until I visited her home. Staying in her home office, I got to peruse her bookshelves which had an amazing array of books on photography and creativity. I was in heaven. She had many of the same books I had, but also many, many more I had never even heard about. It was exciting to hear about her creative journey and what has influenced her along the way. I wanted to know which books were her favorites, and why. (Since I knew you all would want to know too, I asked her to write a guest post sharing a few. Come back tomorrow to read her recommendations!)

The next morning we were off to Shrewsbury, known for its medieval architecture. The day started off partly sunny, transitioned to mostly cloudy and then the rains settled in. It was interesting to wander the tight alleyways and see the mix of timber-frame and brick buildings side by side. It is always shocking as an American to see buildings that have existed for such a long time. It’s hard to fathom. Our idea of “antique” is on a different scale. The mix of the modern and historic gave this city a wonderful visual feel.

I’ve found that when you spend some time with another photographer, you get to know more about them through what catches their eye. Their work makes more sense to you, because you see how their heart and soul comes through. Ask anyone who’s gone on a photowalk with me and they will tell you: If there is a scooter sighting I will stop, with enthusiasm, to capture it. For Gilly, she has a series called “Fallen Things” and she stopped often to capture things fallen on the ground. I couldn’t help but capture one or two as well, and here’s my homage to Gilly’s Fallen Things series.

As I write this I start to wonder, if you spend time learning about another photographer’s point of view, does that affect you too? Did the time with Gilly get me started with looking down on the ground? Did that influence my current mobile photography series, As They Fell? Probably. As I talked about yesterday, the time spend with another in creative connection influences us in ways we don’t always realize. Everything we see and everyone we connect with becomes input that informs our output. Choosing our connections is as important as choosing our input.

For me, Gilly is a great source of inspiration. I am grateful to have have this connection with her. Thank you, Gilly, for a lovely day!