I've been an artist for decades. Whether the endless unicorns and mermaids I drew as a child (I'm talking notebooks full!) or the two years' worth of pastels, acrylics, and graphic drawings and paintings I created in college as a Fine Arts major, I've always felt this near-manic drive to create visually. Even when I was a writer, my words attempted to invoke the visual-emotive through effusive comparisons, similes, and allegory, words flooding the page like a thousand drops of liquid rainbow, mingling with a thousand more splashes of warm honey-glitter. (See what I just did there?)
I suppose it's only natural that something inside of me shifted when I began to use a DSLR to full effect. At first it was just playing around with a Kodak point-n-shoot, but then the Nikon D3100 became "a necessity", followed by the D7000, the D7100, and now the FX D700 (two of them in fact -- yes, two). Don't even get me started on the quest for quality glass; my current obsession is the Sigma Art line, the 50mm 1.4 being the most frequently wielded weapon of choice.
The learning curve didn't stop there. Along with self-propelled education in the use of manual mode and Kelvin white balance, I ripped through editing software with a hunger akin to Edward Cullen on a vegan diet. Lightroom was a very good investment, along with a few Creative Live classes, watching assorted and sundry YouTube tutorials, and picking the brains of several excellent photographers. It's been painful and maddeningly frustrating at times, with sudden stops and starts, moments where I just didn't understand (!!!) and even the occasional (violent) urge to just quit it all!
And all of that in just four years.
Around this time last year I signed up for Creative Cloud. And then I just quietly paid the monthly fee, terrified to dip my toe into the waters of all things Adobe. I wanted to try Photo Shop; truly I did. I just didn't know where to begin. So I didn't. I just stared at it. Weeks went by, more payments made. I tried to find the time to start playing with the buttons and whatnot... but it was just so terrifying, so daunting. So I ignored it.
Until about eight months ago, when my creative spirit just sort of said to me, "Lauren, look. If you procrastinate any longer, you're going to stagnate -- and artists don't stagnate, you hear? 'Cause when they stagnate, they die. Long, horrible deaths, moaning and wailing in pits of darkness and despair and --"
And that's when I told my creative spirit to shut-it because I got it (and she was being way too melodramatic anyway .... which yeah, is what creative spirits do...)
So I started playing with Photo Shop (PS). The first few attempts ended in tears and much bemoaning to a friend who is very well-versed in PS and who just swore up one side and down the other that it's pure magic. Bless her, she tried to explain some things to me, but I just was not getting it. I didn't even know words for things, so I couldn't so much as Google for information. I mean "how to use that swipey thingy that does The Cool Thing in PhotoShop" didn't yield such great results. Still, I tried and tried on my own, hacking and sawing, reading up on things, watching more tutorials, taking more Creative Live classes, hacking and sawing some more amid wailing and gnashing of teeth ...
And then, one day, it just started to click.
I began layering things, adding on textures and pushing buttons and using brushes (I think that's what the swipey thing is called), creating clipping masks, adding and manipulating text, and, and, and ...
I also found that those long-distant semesters spent in Fine Arts school started to pay off. I brushed up on my fairly decent understanding of shading, lighting, shadows, and two-dimensional depth, making the painting in of finer details an intuitive process.
As my confidence grew, my ideas started to gain some steady momentum, becoming more grandiose by the week. Ranging from the dark and emotive, to the light and whimsical, one day it was fairy wings and solar flare, the next day it was head swaps and 19+ layer composites with excessive Gaussian blur. It became a sort of game where I dared myself to see if "it" could be done (whatever "it" happened to be at the moment) -- and that creative spirit of mine, not one to back down from a dare, said to me, "Challenge accepted."
I have so much more to learn and so far to go -- but I can't wait to learn all the things and go all the places PS will take an eternally budding artist! I've even got my sights set on Adobe Illustrator; I hear it too does miraculous things -- and miraculous things, that's where it's at! I love more than anything the process of creation, of plumbing the depths of a human heart and pulling forth beautiful and amazing worlds and emotions and stories. They've been there all along, but the act of bringing life to it all.... this is why my creative spirit exists.
Want to see how I do it? Enjoy this warp speed video of a recent edit, taking my daughter from sweet blond Jerrica to "truly, truly, truly outrageous" Jem!: