Wide Open

 
What do you see in this image?

Kat Sloma Photography Tree

When I first saw this tree last week, I saw arms wide open, ready for a hug. I saw a mother tree, offering a sheltering embrace for her children. So I photographed it a couple of ways, but nothing came of them. They were flat, uninteresting.

But this week, after writing about arms reaching in my Photo-Heart Connection, I saw something else. I saw arms open wide, in celebration. Sending into the universe, receiving from the universe. And so, that’s what it needed to become. Arms wide open, in joyous celebration.

Hugging, sending, receiving… it can be all of those things. What do you see?

As I worked on the image, a line from a Gary Go song, Open Arms, kept running through my head: “It’s like open arms to me… Ready to… Ready to receive.” This was a favorite song of mine while I was in Italy, and it spoke to me deeply, connecting with where I was at that time in my journey.

In the way of beautiful art, it continues to speak to me, several years later, as I think about having arms uplifted, open. Ready to receive.

What speaks to you in this song, this image? What is it you see?

Finding Your Artistic Vision

I had a thought-provoking conversation in the comments of last week’s Dealing with Disappointment post. Jack and I chatted on our capacity to deal with disappointment being correlated to our artistic vision. The gist of it: The stronger your personal vision, the less disappointments can effect you.

That rings true to me. The more I know why I create art and what I’m trying to achieve in my art, the less I care what other people think. Feedback from others is always colored by their personal values and opinions. If they have a different vision than mine for what art should look like, what it’s purpose is, then their feedback doesn’t need to be absorbed as truth. It can be registered and evaluated, then filed away if I decide it doesn’t apply to what I’m trying to do.

There is strength and clarity in having an artistic vision. It makes me sit up a bit taller, represent my art to others with confidence.

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I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve had a clear vision of what I want to achieve in my art until sometime this last year. Or maybe I had one before and it shifted this last year. Either way, it’s taken lots of journaling, discussions with others, writing here, and looking critically at my art to help me clarify what it is I want to achieve with my art; to know what it is I want to express and communicate to others. I knew I had a vision when I could finally write an Artist Statement that rang true.

I certainly don’t always achieve my vision with the art I create. But it’s nice to have a personal standard I’m working toward. A goal for each piece. The artistic process becomes an ongoing cycle of “create, then evaluate,” deciding after the fact whether or not something fits my vision. I don’t want to mess up the creative process by putting too many judgments and filters on it up front, but I’ve discovered the pieces that end up in the long-term “keep” file are the ones that best fit my vision. Every time.

So, do you have an artistic vision? Do you know why you create what you create, and for whom? How did you get there? This is a worthy topic to give some thought to.

Photo-Heart Connection: October

There is beauty in autumn. And no, this time I don’t mean the vivid colors that some trees and plants use to herald their demise. I mean the quiet beauty of transition.

The beauty of a graceful exit.

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I love the lines of the bare trees of winter, that is no secret. But as this fall has progressed, I’ve enjoyed the emerging lines which are accentuated with the receding leaves. Some leaves go out in a blaze of glory, falling from the tree en mass in their bright colors, still flexible and pliant until days on the ground. One day the tree is full, the next it is bare. It’s startling. But other leaves age in place, slowly and quietly making their transition, losing a bit of themselves here and there with a whisper until one day they are all gone.

It’s these leaves I’m noticing. They speak to me of tenacity. Of a will to continue, even with the inevitability of the end. And wow, aren’t they beautiful? In their demise, they are so graceful. They accentuate the beauty of the bare tree beneath, rather than covering it, as the summer leaves do. It’s almost as if this is their finest hour, their greatest contribution. This is when the tree and leaf are truly one. They tell me that a tree is not either/or, bare or full, it’s both. I can see both seasons, appreciate both, together in this brief moment. These leaves chastise me in my wishing for one or the other; in my desire to hurry or slow time. They remind me there is only this moment. Can I not see?

This time, as any other, I look to the trees for lessons. This season’s lesson for me: How to appreciate the transition. Regardless of what is coming, it can be approached and experienced in the moment, with grace.


“Graceful” is a word that keeps coming to me, over and over, to describe the lines that I want to capture in my photographs. The way I want to live my life. Lately, I see grace all the time in the lines around me, whether it’s in the trees or the sand or extension of a human hand. This month it’s been especially clear to me in the transition of the seasons, as my Photo-Heart Connection expresses. It seems so dramatic to say this, but I ache for the beauty of it all. I do. I am deeply touched by the grace I see in the face of inevitability. I want to have that kind of stoic strength in my approach to the transitions of life. I observe it, I photograph it, and I know I fall short. But I keep going, hanging on, working toward that kind of being. I wonder: Do you have to first see, before you can be?

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? Do you see deep longings or light playfulness in your photographs? Your heart is telling you something. Explore the message. Share it with us here.

August’s Fun Finds

Lately I’ve been adding to my arsenal of iPhone apps and accessories, and thought I would share a few fun finds…

A New App

I’m a sucker for an app that helps me integrate interesting geometric shapes with my photographs of trees, and my latest find is Tangent. It has a wide range of shapes, patterns, colors and blending modes that create interesting effects on your photographs. I’ve been playing around this weekend, figuring out how to integrate it with my creative workflow. Here’s my favorite creation so far, called Rising:

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Apps Used: ProCamera, XnSketch, Tangent, Aquarella HD, Image Blender


A New Case

20130818-104213.jpgI’m always looking at interesting iPhone cases at the store and wondering if I could live with the design every day. Instead of buying another artist’s case, I decided to take the idea of “living with my work” to a new level and created a custom clip case for my iPhone 5 through Decal Girl. It took a bit of experimentation to find an image that worked with the aspect ratio of the case. The real thing has a little bit of color shift from my original image, Vanishing, but came out great otherwise! Decal Girl is having a sale right now, use code BACK2SCHOOL for 25% off.


A New Magazine

20130818-104150.jpgI ran across this new mobile photography magazine for iPad over the weekend, iPhotographer. I decided to subscribe after looking through the free preview issue. It’s beautiful, interactive, and looks like it is going to be a great resource for those of us loving the world of mobile photography. You can purchase single issues for $3.99 or subscribe to the year for $18.99. Check out the free preview issue through the Apple Newsstand on your iPad. I already can’t wait for the first issue to come out!!

Technicolor Skies

We have been having some gorgeous mornings lately. Technicolor blue and yellow and pink skies. I am torn between being out, hiking and photographing, and staying in, journaling and editing. There are only so many free morning hours. This morning was an “in” morning, but I saw the pink skies out the window and found myself wishing I could be two places at once.

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I’m a bit out of sorts these days… My Smartphone Art workshop was last weekend (workshop report to come!) and there is always a void after completing a big project like that for the first time. Always a period of “Now what?” I have a number of possible things on the list, and the fall eCourse Journey of Fascination is coming up in September, but I’m really in an indecisive swirl. I’m telling myself to go play a bit more, see what bubbles up to the top, but it’s hard for me not to just jump on the next idea that comes along.

So I’ve armed myself with a few new apps to play with, and am looking through the list of random errands I need to run, and I’m trying not to overcommit in my desire to be doing something, anything, with intense focus. In writing this I’ve just realized: It’s so much easier for me to manage one big thing than lots of little things. I’m comfortable with intense focus to reach a goal where I’m not with scattered actions that don’t feel like they are moving me ahead.

But, I think I’ll stay here in this soupy mess of random actions and small projects for a while. I’ll enjoy the technicolor skies and the fleeting summer days. Somehow I know, it’s the little things I should be doing right now. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

What You Don’t See

Ahhhh, summer.
Sitting in the backyard, watching evening come on.
A peaceful moment.

Is that what you see in this?

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I see that, but it’s not quite the whole picture. What you don’t see is that the fence is about to fall down, and it’s been that way for years. You don’t see the power lines and drive-through coffee place behind our house, along with the sound of the traffic on a busy street. You don’t see me, laying on the couch, binge-watching Arrested Development because I was so worn out from my seven mile hike that morning. Yes, I’m proud of the “seven mile” part of that, but the rest could all be cut.

So that’s what I did. I saw this potential photo out the back door and went out and framed it the way I wanted to see it.

I do that a lot. I focus in on what I do want to see, the good stuff, and ignore the rest. It helps me in creating photographs, because I’m always evaluating what should be in and out of the frame. The more I can get rid of distractions or unneeded elements, the better the photograph. It helps me in life too, because I focus on the many things I really want to do and the few things that need to be done regardless, and release the stuff that doesn’t really matter. The fence is falling down? OK. It hasn’t fallen down yet. It’s not a danger to people or property. So I’m not going to worry about it. When it does fall down, we’ll take care of it. It’s out of my mind otherwise.

Some might call this denial, or turning a blind eye to reality.

I call it a philosophy.

You see, I believe you can focus on the good stuff, and be happy, or you can dwell on the bad stuff, and be forever depressed. It’s all in where you choose to look, and what you choose to see. We always have choices. Sometimes I can’t help but see the bad stuff, and then I still have a couple of choices to make: Does it need to be dealt with, and does it need to be dealt with NOW? Sometimes, the answer is, Yeah, I need to deal with this now. But many times, the answer is: It’s not so important right now. Or even, it’s not so important ever.

This doesn’t mean I don’t see or deal with real, hard, painful, messy things, ever. I do… when it’s important. But it doesn’t have to be all the time. It doesn’t have to be “just because” it’s there. It doesn’t have to be a way of life, always down in the muck. Thinking, If I just do this one last, hard thing, I will be happy. That doesn’t work.

You have to be happy first, regardless of all of the muck. And to be happy, for me, often means ignoring the muck. I watched this great TED talk this week, which helped me realize my approach to life is not just denial but a healthy outlook. Take a quick watch – it’s 12 enjoyable, laugh-filled minutes:

Aha, I thought. I’ve shifted the way I frame the world over the last few years, allowing myself to focus on the positive, and it explains a few things. It explains why I’ve been happy at my job, while other people around me are swirling in the worry and stress of what might happen. It explains why I was so much happier when I stopped watching the news a few years ago. It even may explain why my art comes out the way it does – usually positive and showing the beautiful in the world around me – even when there is a fence falling down, or power lines, or a traffic-filled street. I just cut out the stuff I don’t want to see.

You might think I’m lucky, that this is just naturally the way I’m wired. I think that is partly true, but it’s also true that I’m wired for achievement. For accomplishment. For seeing the work that needs to be done and making sure I do the work first, check it off my list, and then focus elsewhere. It’s taken a conscious effort on my part to shift toward focusing on the good stuff first, and ignoring the muck.

I want to see the good stuff, so that’s what I choose to look for. That’s what I frame with my camera, that’s what I write on the blog, that’s what I share with you.

And what you don’t see? That stuff… it doesn’t even matter.


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