Lauren Bee

Conceptual Fine Art Photography for dreamers of fairytales. The FINE ART of Becoming. www.laurenbee.com

It Begins: The Little Mermaid

Once Upon a Time ....

That is how all fairy tales begin.  And my own real-life fairy tale is no different --

"The Little Mermaid" is in full swing. Gowns are being sewn, watery realm costumes are arranged, camera settings are pondered over, and shot lists have been made. The first of seven sessions is slated to take place tomorrow afternoon. It will involve a pool and several mer-people, a water-housing for my Nikon FX, and a cooler full of bottled waters for those on-set.  I'm fairly certain I've planned for everything -- and also fairly certain I've forgotten at least twelve necessary things.

Of course, I am beyond excited to be photographing something so near and dear to me, a lifelong dream in the making -- but more than that, the community of people who are volunteering to come together to do this Monumental Thing, regular folks turned models, mothers bringing their little mer-children to sessions, dads posing as sailors and castle folk, and fellow artists and photographers, actors and make-up artists .....

Sometimes, in the midst of nitty-gritty, hardcore planning and swelling rushes of excitement -- sewing gowns and sending e-mails, text-answering questions about hair and make-up, thrifting for fabrics, props, and accessories .... I just stop in the middle of it all and breathe it in and think what a BLESSING this is to my heart of hearts, the thing that pumps hot life into my soul --

And also what a blessing it WILL BE to other artists when The Fine Art of Becoming hits its full stride, ushering the way for other artists to create in mad and wonderful ways, unleashing a fullness of freedom for creatives who are currently struggling or standing in the shadows, creatives who question their validity and purpose.

The way I did for so many years.

I am overwhelmed by the unfolding of it all.

My heart nearly explodes for the hope I feel for them.  They don't now it yet, but they are going to experience an awakening.  They are going to Become.

And it all begins, in earnest, tomorrow afternoon, at a neighborhood swimming pool, with a few humble hearts and a wish embedded deeply inside of visionary souls.

And they lived happily ever after?  Not yet .... and yet, indeed.  Because this is living, this madness, this community, this shared passion and purpose.  It's glorious.  And with each new development, each challenge and inching toward success, I am reminded of why we're pulling together to do this.  And that is indeed happiness.

Up Next: The Sessions.

 

Plans and Art and Mermaids -- oh my!

"I must be a mermaid... I have no fear of depths, and a great fear of shallow living."  - Anais Nin

I'm sure it appears I've totally abandoned my website and my faithful readers because ... well I kinda did. 

But I promise I didn't!

The only excuse I can offer is that I suffer from two simultaneous and equally debilitating ailments:  "Lookit All The Things! Disease" and "I Can Only Do One Thing at a Time Disorder".

Being a creative has its drawbacks.  On the one hand I have a brain filled with an assortment of wonderful and magical ideas!  On the other hand, I am easily distracted by said wonderful and magical ideas.  So it's a constant struggle to understand my purpose, re-evaluate my intentions, and re-order my activities to align in a way that supports the taking of one step at a time toward the goal.

Hence my lack of appearance here:  I've been passionately pursuing The Goal!

Four years ago I had a secret vision with an intense drive and purpose to serve artists and thus make the world a more amazing place.  And recently, that vision has taken a more solid shape, allowing me to finally act on it!  Y'all this is it, The Big One: 

I'm designing a book.  A gorgeous book, with giant, full-color illustrations, telling the classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid".  It's going to be a literal work of visual art, for delighted lovers of fairy tales and imaginative folks passionate about story and art.  People like you and me, in other words.  

Why would I do this?  Because I'm bored or something?  Oh no, no, no.   This massive illustrative project is going to fund my bigger (more vital!) vision to support, encourage, educate, and equip future artists and creatives to push past boundaries and sing their truth!

As an artist, I've had the unique position and honor to meet many other artists, to speak with them, know them, understand them, and one thing is clear about this creative journey: art is opposed.

Art is demanding. It requires something from a person that is more than paint or paper or (in my case) turning on the computer and opening PhotoShop. Making art means culling forth something Other residing within – often very, very deep within. This takes work and self-awareness, and while it is good work, manufacturing as it does such beautiful things, it is difficult work because it exhaustively demands heart and soul.

Art is devalued. As a collective society we'll fork out millions to watch the latest C.G.I. mega-blockbuster, and some of us will even hand over a fiver-plus-ten to attend an art exhibit featuring a name we're familiar with –- but what about that gal working on a wall mural in a child's nursery … or the lady who designs really clever objects made of wood and stone, right out of her garage? For every “successful” artist deemed worthy of money and notice, there are hundreds more struggling to be acknowledged, struggling with self-doubt, doling out thousands for materials, giving countless hours to education, learning and growing and developing more fully in their passion and skill – striving to have a voice which sings of truth in color and lines. And these are the artists who are often overlooked and largely ignored, which explains why –

Art is lonely.  Meant to be partaken of communally, art is ironically a solitary thing. When you're alive inside of yourself and working so diligently to pull that out into the light of day, to reveal it in a way others can partake of, it has a strangely isolating effect. Working so intimately with something, be it brush bristles smeared with paint or kneading bread dough, an individual's art is more accurately described as birth. And birthing something to life can only be done in quiet, dark places. Our friends and family don't fully understand what is going on inside our brains, what is writhing just beneath the exterior surface, and we artists aren't always articulate enough to express it until the final work is produced, which means working solo until the Just Right Time.

Art is a mystery. Creation happens in places within that are sometimes dark and squirrely. Ideas are born of emotions and meaningful experiences, formed in the recesses of a human heart into that something Other. It takes a lot of digging, which can (and does!) consume years and years of a human life. It's an evolutionary process, this making art thing, hard to hack at and difficult to reveal.

And yet, art is natural. It's as ingrained and necessary as breathing. Humanity exhibits this insatiable drive in a variety of ways, from baking in the kitchen and setting the dinner table, to sewing or knitting gorgeous wearables or putting up special made curtains in the family room. The urge to create is strong in us. One could even say it's a driving force, this thing that holds us firmly entrenched in either self-doubt or outright dismissal … but it is also the very thing that is the catalyst for life itself.

I believe in God, and I believe He is the Creator of all good and beautiful beings – and I believe we, the crowning glory of God's creation, are created in His very image to create.

We just don't always know how. And as difficult as art is – isolating, devalued, mysterious, and demanding – many of us don't even want to partake of the creative process. So we just –

don't

And yet ….

How many times have you looked at someone's This or That Thing of Beauty and thought to yourself or even spoken aloud, “I wish I knew how to do that” – but then shrugged it off as outside the realm of possibility? I'm guessing a lot. I hear it all the time, when someone admires what I do, wistfully yearning they could do it too, and I just hurt for that person who is more wrapped up in defeat than she is in victory. Because art is important. If it wasn't, so many of us wouldn't be (or want to be) doing it!

A while ago I experienced a very profound thing: I realized my Calling was not just in “being an artist”, but it is also in helping others experience the joy of creating art themselves. I am built to guide others to the source of their creative energy. I'm designed to help others act on the natural creative force already hardwired in their souls.

That's how “The Fine Art of Becoming” was born, a specialized retreat weekend for the purpose of supporting, encouraging, educating, and equipping artists on their creative journey – which also includes those amazing people who don't (yet) see themselves as artists but who secretly believe (and rightly so!) they could be – they just need that little extra something to prove it to themselves. “The Fine Art of Becoming” will consist of structured, creative experiences and restorative solitude, encouraging talks by experienced artists and creatives active in the field of their expertise, and specialized lessons built to whet the soul's appetite and instill the courage to go forth and make art! It's an entire, immersive weekend to enliven fellow sojourners to their possibility, find their voice, and learn how to bravely go about singing and sharing their truth.

You want a spot on The Fine Art of Becoming retreat?  Registration opens in June of 2018.

[insert record scratch]

I know.  It's a long way off.  But it has to be.  You see, this kind of long-term goal planning takes time and prayer and a whole team of people -- and gobs of money ... something which seems to be in short supply around here.  Guess that whole "starving artist" thing is an Actual Thing.  Dangit.

Hence my illustrated book! Call it Phase One of The Fine Art of Becoming.  A fundraiser of sorts, this thing is gonna be crafted from the highest quality materials with gorgeous illustrations, sure to entertain and captivate lovers of stories everywhere. It'll be a work of art in itself, this book. Just you wait and see.  Especially by artists, for artists, to support artists.

So why “The Little Mermaid”?  You mean aside from the fact that I've been obsessed with mermaids since I was a little girl, even wanted to be one ... but sadly I never learned that breathing under water trick?

Because The Little Mermaid is someone so many of us relate to, even if on a subconscious level. The Little Mermaid belonged neither here nor there. A creature born of water and salt, yet longing for land and air. She never quite fit in, but never let that stop her from becoming who she knew, deep down, she was supposed to be. Her voice was stripped from her, she lost her way, but in the end, she discovered the core values set in all hearts, human or sea creature: vulnerable love, self-sacrifice, deeper belonging and holy purpose.

And that, my friend, is the very definition of Art.

That's why it's important to tell her story and share it in a way that we can all cling to. Because her story is our story.

When will “The Little Mermaid” book be complete?  Well, the process has already begun -- and you get a ringside seat to the whole show!  Parts have been cast and plans are already in motion to complete all thirty-five illustrations and have a publisher secured by May 31, 2018. It will take a great deal of orchestrating the scheduling of sessions, shooting all of my models, shooting additional photographic elements (such as architectural bits or clumps of flowers for a particular scene, and so on), after which each image must be sorted and cataloged. All of that has to happen before I can even begin putting all of the visual bits together in photographic form. Each illustration will take a minimum of six hours to complete – and that's just the final editing!  It is a highly processed, thoroughly detailed undertaking -- but don't worry! I'll keep you up-to-date on the goings on, so you can be the first to know when the final product is released.

Are you in? Good. Let's dive!

Featured Artist: Chantal Kerkhof

You've probably heard of and seen many beautiful examples of art journaling, but if you're like me, you'd never before seen it done in a Bible.  Growing up, the idea of writing in my Bible was sacrilege, and then as I got older, study Bibles became more mainstream with the sole purpose of being marked up and written in -- but only for study! 

But the idea of turning the Bible into a work of art?  Never!

Except it not only makes sense, it actually makes the most perfect sense, from a spiritual and faith-led place.  This is exactly what artist Chantal Kerkhof does.  She creates art in her journaling bible under the name of OnYourWingsofLove, in addition to creating other pieces of art via her business, Darkest Raven Designs.

Tell us about yourself.  Who do you share your life with?  What is a typical "day in the life" at home?  Do you have any hobbies or interests worth noting?

I moved to Australia in 2010 and became Australian citizen in 2015. In two weeks time I will be married to my wonderful fiance Lee. We’ve met via community theatre. He was musical director and I was in the ensemble for the musical. I work as a project secretary in Perth CBD. I have been with the same company for nearly 6 years now and this year it will be time for a change. I would love to spend more time on my art projects and making music so perhaps another job closer to home or a part time job would be perfect.

Now tell us about your art!  What do you do?  What is/are the medium/media you use?  What is your artistic process?

Onyourwingsoflove is purely here for my bible journaling journey. I spend my time with God journaling and drawing as for me this is a perfect way to meditate on His word and growing closer to Him. God gave me creativity so why not use it in the best way possible. He created us to create. Before starting a new page, always thank God. Ask Him for direction, love, inspiration. Thank God even if it doesn’t go as you planned or hoped for. You art is for you and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s about the process and the time you spent with God. This is how you will grow closer to Him and his ways. Then pray to him to fill you will love, ideas and creativity.

Everyone wants to know:  where do you get your ideas?  What fuels your passion?  Are there other artists who inspire you?

For my bible journaling I get a lot of my journaling prompts from bible journaling groups on Facebook. Also Pinterest has some good prompts if you search for Bible Journaling or Scripture writing. For Darkest Raven Designs I get my inspiration mainly from Burton-esque style movies and other artwork. My passion for drawing or creating has always been here. I always look for new ideas to bring my creativity to life and onyourwingsoflove is the latest result of that.

What are your "credentials"?  Do you have a degree or specialized experience doing what you do?  How did you get your start?

I don't have any degrees or specialised experience. Everything is self taught and I believe I got given this gift from God to create and make people happy with my art. Everyone can create. It takes practice and patience but every one can do what they love if you put your heart into it.

What makes you excited to "go to work" each day?  What are the specific challenges in your field or expertise?

Actually my work is not that exciting at the moment. I am a project secretary in the city of Perth but I am looking for another job in 2017 to perhaps work part time and concentrate more on my creative projects. I am sure God has a plan for me. I just need to be patient.

Who is your ideal client?  What kind of product is this client looking for?  What does she need or want from you?

My ideal client is one that describes exactly what they want. Colour/theme/kind of drawing. Then I know I can really personalise it the way they want the commission to be. This way they can cherish the piece of art for the rest of their lives and it truly means something to them.

Do you incorporate any spiritual practices in your daily life?  What keeps you sane?  Favorite comfort food or hot beverage?  What is your "center"?  What is your higher purpose or calling?

I do incorporate spiritual practices in my life. The whole point of setting up onyourwingsoflove is sharing my creativity with others but it’s mainly my journey and how I grow closer to God. I read daily devotionals which I get via email from www.raystedman.org and there are loads of other devotional sites where you can sign up and get prompts in your email. The thing that keeps me sane is mainly my art. If I haven’t done anything for a week I feel restless until I pick up my pencils again. Also, Lee is here for me. He is the world to me and I cannot imagine my life without him. My favourite comfort food…. tough one. This could be anything… from a biscuit, a cracker, cake or just a proper meal. Anything but chocolate. I love food. I tend to eat less when I am occupied with my art though. Favourite hot beverage can only be coffee. Tea in the evenings. My centre of my life is God. He comes first. My purpose? To serve God better tomorrow than I did today. In a ‘help others’ kind of sense: I hope that my art makes people smile.

Can you give us one to three "random facts" or juicy tidbits about yourself?  Have a funny experience to share?

When I was in high school I used to absolutely hate history classes. Now I love reading books about English (Victorian/Edwardian) History and I own over 20 books about that era. I can really recommend "How to be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman. I absolutely love Lacey Sturm's music. She is such an incredible source of inspiration to me. If you ever lost, listen to her music or read her books. It will keep you on the right track and you will find the love of God again. Another fun fact about me: I am Dutch! I grew up in The Netherlands, Rotterdam.

Where can we find your business online? Please include your social media links and e-mail address as well!

Featured Artist: Jenni McCarty

I do not tread lightly when I say I would absolutely not be the artist I am today without the friendship and mentorship of this week's featured artist, Jenni McCarty of Jenni M Photography.  Jenni "found me" in the parking lot of Cosco, where we almost instantly clicked, forming a bond over coffee, motherhood, faith, and all-out camera geekery.  I don't know if she's benefited nearly as much as I have from our relationship, but I can assure you she has been a powerful influence on me in so many beautiful ways, stretching and pulling me (sometimes against my will), encouraging me and at times just putting up with my grumbling and complaining.  She's a tough gal with a heart of solid gold, and I am very thankful for her friendship.

Jenni, tell us about yourself.  Who do you share your life with?  What is a typical "day in the life" at home?  Do you have any hobbies or interests?

A day in the life of "me"? Well... Sticky fingers, grocery shopping, doctor appointments, friends, dishes, Bible study, teaching, laundry, 4 kids (one more on the way), kisses, toys, cooking, naps, dress up, field trips, Awana, family, editing, holding, hugs, sadness, happiness (Especially when my husband gets home from work!) and lots of just trying to keep up! I have been happily married for 13 years and a while back we decided that I would home school our kids. We take it year by year but so far it is working really well for our family and as much as they drive me crazy sometimes, I really love getting to spend the extra time with them. (I also love getting to sleep in!) ;-)

Can you tell us about your art?  What do you do?  What is your artistic process?

I am a photographer... Simply put, I take pictures. UN-simply put, I create images that bring you back to the moments that make your heart the happiest. The little details that you never want to forget and the emotion that reminds you of your simplicity and the beautiful every day moments. My favorite images are always the ones where no one is looking at my camera but instead completely immersed in the moment. I use a lot of prompts, games and movement to accomplish this.

Everyone wants to know:  where do you get your ideas?  What fuels your passion?  Are there other artists who inspire you?

My muse? Well, the reason I started down this crazy path of entrepreneurship was because of my kids! I was so tired of not having or forgetting those gorgeous every day moments that disappear so quickly. As I got better (and sucked a little less) friends and family started asking me to take photos for them. It kind of snowballed from there. I would say that some of the people who have influenced me the most are Sarah Hill (posing/light), Sarah Cornish (posing), Meg Loeks (editing), Jacky Acosta (editing) and Dan Rohrer (business). I personally feel that you can't talk about making money with art without talking about business as well. Honestly, sometimes I feel like that side takes more creativity than the photos do...

What are your "credentials"?  Do you have a degree or specialized experience doing what you do?  How did you get your start?

I have taken art classes in all different mediums over the years. I affectionately refer to it as ADCD (Attention Deficit Crafting Disorder. I just love creating, however, I have found that I love learning even more. Once I would get "it" figured out and it wasn't challenging any more I tend to loose interest and move on to the next learning curve. Knitting, crochet, dying processing and spinning yarn, stained glass, scrap booking, quilting, sewing, origami, jewelry making, bead weaving and drawing... I love them all and proudly carry the skills I have learned from them all to be used as needed. Photography has been the only one that has held my interest ... I still, even after 4 years of constant immersion feel that there is so much to learn. While I was going to college for my Business Administration degree, I took a black and white photography class. It was there that I fell in love with the editing process. The dark room was like magic to me. It was many years later (5 years ago) when I got my first DSLR and an editing program on my computer that my love of post processing and my passion for my children collided and it all came together.

What makes you excited to "go to work" each day?  What are the specific challenges in your field or expertise?

I love not having to go to work! lol One of the biggest perks that this business has provided is an extremely flexible schedule. It has allowed me to be a full time mom and teacher to my children while also allowing me to invest in my creativity. My biggest challenge is also what I listed above. It is a constant intentional effort to maintain balance just to keep it all working together smoothly.

Who is your ideal client?  What kind of product is this client looking for?  What does she need or want from you?

My ideal clients are Moms that want to remember their kids/family just as they are. Moms that want to see how their family looks at them. Real women who aren't looking for a magazine cover, but instead, something more personal and unique to their family's own beauty. They want a time capsule for their memories. I work very hard to give them images that will trigger those memories as often as they want to relive them.

Do you incorporate any spiritual practices in your daily life?  What keeps you sane?  Favorite comfort food or hot beverage?  What is your "center"?  What is your higher purpose or calling?

Without Jesus none of this would matter. I often have long running conversations with him throughout the day. Sanity? Who said anything about being sane? I will soon have 5 kids, home school, run my own profitable business and my husband is finishing up his degree... Everything comes at a cost and sometimes I think my sanity is the currency I am making payments with. lol Comfort food --> Iced Coffee <3 My calling? Is being a compulsive "helper" or "fixer" count?

Can you give us one to three "random facts" or juicy tidbits about yourself?

I lived in Alaska for 12 years before moving to Alabama.  I was home schooled.  I am a nerd when it comes to spreadsheets and Excel.

Where can we find your business online? Please include your social media links and e-mail address as well!

Every Friday, Lauren Bee's the FINE ART of becoming features a sister artist -- and her amazing work.  Who is she?  Of what does her soul sing?  Why does she do what she does?

Would you like to have your work featured?  We thought you'd never ask!  Check out the submission guidelines and be a part of our thriving, creative community.

 

Featured Artist: Lorette C. Luzajic

As an artist myself, I'm always hyper aware of what other artists are putting out into the world.  I follow many Creatives on Instagram, peruse websites galore, and keep my eyes open at trade shows and art fairs.  I absolutely love bearing witness to what others are doing, effectively "listening" to the song of another human heart.

This week's featured artist, Lorette C. Luzajic of Mixed Up Media is absolutely one artist who has grabbed my attention.  Not only does her work truly speak to me (always a wonderful thing when another work of art can grab the deeper portion of my soul) but she and I have a lot in common: self-awareness, a meandering journey, a passion for art history (and the human story).  I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her -- and you will too.

Tell us about yourself, Lorette.

I'm a visual artist and writer in Toronto, Canada. Most of what I do centres around these twin passions. I write about art, and my art uses writing. Every day includes computer time, studio time, and "field" time. Computer time is marketing, customer service, submissions, social media, writing, researching, or editing my literary arts journal, The Ekphrastic Review. Field time can be fun stuff like going to the art gallery or an opening, or mundane stuff like hauling my art from one venue to another. Studio time is the best time, of course, where I cut and paste and paint to my heart's content. 

Tell us about your art, the medium you use.  What is your artistic process?

My art is collage and painting based mixed media. I glue layers of images and text among paint, pastel, wax, crayon, graphite, ink, marker, anything I can find. I mine books, magazines, and the street for images, and pillage the arts, culture, religion, and history- the whole world, really- for themes, allusions, and references. 

Where do you get your ideas?  What fuels your passion?  Do you find inspiration from other artists?

The very nature of my work is appropriation and remix, so literally "all" artists are sources of inspiration, of one sort or another. I am constantly culling, sorting, snipping from the world around me as I go, with scissors or pen, or the "file folder" of my psyche. From the chaos of all this data, I make new things. 
My work is raw and a little surreal and doesn't need to be fixed or cemented to a particular interpretation. More like Rorschach or dreams, and transmutable in meaning with the input and response of the audience. They are puzzles or mysteries to unravel and discover rather than solve. Some people may "get" a reference or recognize a line of poetry, others may remember a personal emotional experience, and another will unearth an allusion to a show or song. Even music makes its way into my work, as I listen to diverse compositions while working so that the rhythms inform my gestures and energy.
One thing that is very important to me is the pursuit of beauty. I enjoy the random absurdities of life, and I rail against its evils, but inside all of that is a quest for the beautiful, to participate in creating that. I notice obstacles to beauty, but my art is not about shock value or about anti-art, even if I use scribbling and cutting and raw energy. I want to bring attention to beauty that someone may have missed. It may be untraditional or unconventional, but through colour, composition, theme, and poetry I do intend to evoke the sublime and divine.

Where did you get your start?

I began throwing parties at home with a DJ and covering the walls in my own art. I literally thought, "Good grief, you could build things the standard way and hope for the best- or you can throw your own damn solo exhibition." 
Before too long, some creative friends and I were hosting regular events, showing my work along with that of other artists, turning apartments and other unlikely settings, like the local dive, into arty hotspots for a night. It was all about the fun, but when people bought my work, it fuelled my drive to make more and expand my ideas.
Now I juggle regular group and solo shows at galleries and other venues from cafes to laundromats to museums, and online. I participate in all kinds of creative ventures- collage workshops for birthday parties, kindergarten class, Pecha Kucha, anything I can try out. My work has found its way into shows not just at home in Toronto, but in Ireland, Australia, India, Chicago, Edinburgh, and beyond- and even as a 20 foot billboard in New Orleans.
I have a journalism degree. I didn't formally study art. That my artwork became more dominant than my writing side was a surprise.
I think what makes my work unique is that I skipped all the "critical theory" and "art theory" garbage when I was most impressionable. I was also out living the requisite tragic artist's life for real. It wasn't lab manufactured. I lived through some stuff, and tamed the wild streak, and am giving it all I have for whatever time I'm given.
I've always been voraciously curious about everything, reading and taking in and trying out all kinds of experiences, having friends from every walk and curious about human behaviour and cultures. I've been studying art history on my own for as long as I can remember. I think art history is extremely important, and that a great deal of "art theory" taught today- deconstruction and post structuralism, for example- is toxic garbage.
I do respect totally the study of technique, craftsmanship, and practice, the actual making of art. Whether in class or out, we learn by doing. I have managed to create something that takes from everybody, but doesn't look like anybody.

What makes you excited to go to work each day?  Do you find there are specific challenges in your field?

Not knowing what I'm going to make next is exciting. Even when I have a plan, there are too many variables and the finished work will be a surprise. 

Do you have an "ideal client"?  What kind of product is she looking for?

Every client is ideal. Every person who looks at my work, every person who considers buying something, or who does buy something, merits my gratitude and respect. 
photo courtesy of Bryce Murdoch Photography

photo courtesy of Bryce Murdoch Photography

Do you invite spiritual practices into your space?  What is your center, higher purpose or calling?

I am like the seeker in Ecclesiastes. I have sought meaning in everything, in many kinds of religions. I have also chased hedonism and nihilism with gusto and desperation. To quote the writer of this tremendous book, I denied myself nothing. 
After a lot of spirituality-hopping, I tried very hard to be an atheist and spent many years in this bleak place. It was a tremendous learning experience for which I'm grateful.
I have in the past few years taken some travels, to Mexico, Jordan, Israel, and Peru. I was looking for inspiration, for art. I kept finding God. I'm coming to understand that they are the same thing. 
Creativity, culture, art, music, imagination, architecture, language, poetry, even cuisine- these are gifts and blessings. I'm happy to accolade humans for their brilliant ideas and accomplishments- but it's worth noting that nowhere in the also incredible world of animals is there complex language or culture or invention. A cat will never begin toying with various spices, or grinding up stones in oil to create a pigment. Birds will sing, but they won't change their song or begin writing stories instead.
To find myself back in church, tentatively, occasionally, I have had to change my thinking. To stop expecting the people to be perfect. The frustrating arrogance or intolerance that can sometimes be found there isn't new- it was rampant in atheist communities, too. I have to stop trying to always be right, or certain, and simply respect the value of mystery. 

Where can we find you?

* * use code BEE30 at checkout for 30% off, expires March 31, 2017 * *

Every Friday, Lauren Bee's the FINE ART of becoming features a sister artist -- and her amazing work.  Who is she?  Of what does her soul sing?  Why does she do what she does?

Would you like to have your work featured?  We thought you'd never ask!  Check out the submission guidelines and be a part of our thriving, creative community.

Featured Artist: Hannah Ratledge

This week's featured artist just so happens to be one of my photography clients.  You see, on occasion I am surprised to find out that the people I photograph are also in possession of killer skills, talent, and blossoming artistic vision.  Hannah, of Hanna Ratledge Art just so happens to be exactly that!

Hannah, tell us about yourself.

I live with my husband, Tyler, our cat Audrey, dog Roscoe, and two goldfish Obadiah & Maxwell.Tyler is finishing up his degree in Electrical Engineering and I work as a full-time cashier. So our days consist of him going to class, me going to work, and us ending the day by watching Netflix, playing a board game, or reading together. Which brings us to interests.... I love books! I almost never leave home without one. My idea of a perfect day is one spent at Barnes and Noble with a cup of coffee in one hand and the hand of my husband in the other.

Tell us about your art.  What do you do?  What is/are the medium/media you use?  What is your artistic process?

My art is mostly pencil on white paper or colored pencil on toned tan paper. However, I recently started using acrylic on canvas for my commissioned paintings. My drawing process generally starts with a photo or picture that I find inspirational. Once I’ve decided what direction the picture will take, I begin to draw a rough outline with a graphite pencil. Once I’m happy with my outline, I will start to shade with my graphite pencil or begin to lay down base colors using colored pencils. I follow up by filling in fine details and ending with a final outline in ink. Most of the paintings I do are commissioned by parents for their kids rooms, so the first step is talking to the parents to see what ideas they have for the picture. Then I try and accumulate the ideas into one concise theme. After I know what the overall idea is, I try to find reference materials to base my design on. I then create a rough sketch using colored pencils which I show to the parents to make sure it fits their vision. Once I get the go ahead I use watercolor pencils to outline my picture on the canvas and add the paint (the best part!). The final part of either medium is getting Tyler to look it over so I get feedback and suggestions so that it turns just right!

It's the age old question: where do you get your ideas?  What fuels your passion?  Are there other artists who inspire you?

Oh, goodness. I guess most of my ideas for my drawings come from what I enjoy- especially animated media and books. For my paintings I’m usually given the ideas by clients and I make them my own. My passion is fueled by my excitement of creating something from nothing- from having a blank slate and knowing when I'm done it will be something more than what I started with. I am really inspired by the amazing artists who illustrated the books I read as a child because of the way that they made a world of their own. I remember going to the library with my family and coming home with 20+ books. I just couldn’t wait to open then up to see what was inside!

What are your "credentials"?  Do you have a degree or specialized experience doing what you do?  How did you get your start?

I didn't go to art school (or college in general), I have just been drawing and doodling since I was young- it's just something I’ve always loved to do! I really got started when I was 16 or so when I started doing some photo realism. I did a couple of graphite pencil portraits but I didn't keep it up, I guess because there wasn’t really much creative freedom. This year I really found where my heart was at- doing animated and colorful projects. One of my dreams is to write and illustrate a children's book.

What makes you excited to "go to work" each day?  What are the specific challenges in your field or expertise?

I do pretty much of all of my drawings at work when we're slow- I have great employers! I paint at home in the evenings when I get off or on the weekends. I am excited anytime I start a new project- I can't wait to see the end result. The in between isn't always easy- If I get stressed or things aren’t working right, I take a break... lots of breaks (especially for coffee)!

Who is your ideal client?  What kind of product is this client looking for?  What does she need or want from you?

Anyone who has children, who knows children, or who is a child at heart! I'm concentrating on painting, but I could also do a small colored pencil drawing. Do you need some art for a children's bedroom, playroom, nursery, or bathroom? If you have a specific idea for a piece, I will work with you to create it. Or if you have a more general idea I will come up with a design for you. I always start with a sketch to make sure everything is the way you want before the painting begins. Does your granddaughter love unicorns or does your little boy adore trains? We can make something special just for them.

Do you incorporate any spiritual practices in your daily life?  What keeps you sane?  Favorite comfort food or hot beverage?  What is your "center"?  What is your higher purpose or calling?

My husband keeps me laughing. ALL. THE. TIME. He encourages and supports my dreams and ambitions. He keeps God at the center of our marriage. I don't know what I would do without him. He's my best friend. Also, coffee. Coffee. Coffee. I love my coffee! Coffeeee. God has blessed me with wonderful opportunities and relationships. When I get discouraged or things aren't going smoothly, I remember this verse: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

You can find more of Hannah's work (and even commission her) via her Facebook page and on Instagram @fairestsquire89.

Every Friday, Lauren Bee's the FINE ART of becoming features a sister artist -- and her amazing work.  Who is she?  Of what does her soul sing?  Why does she do what she does?

Would you like to have your work featured?  We thought you'd never ask!  Check out the submission guidelines and be a part of our thriving, creative community.

2017 Project 52: Traditional Landscape & Leading Lines

Sometimes as an artist, you have an idea that is simply too brilliant not to be shared.  So you plot and plan the piece, and then you proceed to pull it off with nary a hitch, producing a work of art that is exactly as envisioned, in perfectly designed, highly detailed, and sublimely skilled purpose.

Today's post showcases absolutely none of that.

Week 2 of my 2017 Project 52 ("P52" for short) started out a simple thing:  produce a traditional landscape.  I knew I wanted to bend the rules where "tradition" was concerned, invoking a fantastic element to the idea of "landscape".  I began to brainstorm, pondering on possibly creating a landscape with fairy tale design elements, a castle perhaps, possibly with a menacing dragon to heighten the visual story.  But then I began to ponder on just exactly what a landscape is:  typically a sweeping, epic scene with mountains and rivers, trees and a sky that goes on for ages.  What would be the opposite of such a grand vista?  Why ... a delicate scene in miniature of course!  So I decided to create the sort of landscape a fairy might see: a tiny world unto itself, full of wonder and diminutive magic.

I dressed my daughter in a pretty green dress, brushed her hair, and bade her remove her very modern eyeglasses.  I positioned her on the hard wood of the living room floor and grabbed my camera.  Kneeling didn't give me quite the perspective I was going for, so I flattened myself as low as I could go, laying my camera on the surface of the floor -- and that is when I saw it:

the SOOC image

the SOOC image

She wasn't a fairy.  She was a mountain.  A slumbering mountain, looming peacefully over a vast and verdant valley.

Presto!  Change-o!  My "traditional landscape" was born, entitled "Slumber Mountain".

"Slumber Mountain"

"Slumber Mountain"

Not what I'd originally envisioned, but I think it worked beautifully.  Here's the speed edit video of how I did it.

A few days later, I shared the image on a Facebook Group where another member of the board told me of the The Legend of the Sleeping Lady, an Alaskan Folktale about a woman waiting for her warrior -- and waiting and waiting and waiting ... until she fell asleep and became a part of the landscape.

Perfection.

The third week of my P52 presented a new sort of challenge: Leading Lines.  It's a pretty basic composition technique incorporating straight lines that lead the viewer's eyes directly to the subject of a work of art.  I don't use a lot of this in my work, and I was quite frankly not super excited about creating something so ... well basic.  So I decided to spice things up a bit by introducing some mystery into the image.

My original idea included (picture this) a vast negative space, in the center of which was a young woman with flowing gown -- leading your eyes to her would be the gown itself in swirling lines from the base of the image to her form.

I scrapped that idea in lieu of something a bit more complex.  I hemmed and hawed about doing a mash-up between two of my favorite fandoms: Disney's Beauty and the Beast and the concept of "Bad Wolf" from the Doctor Who series -- the beast being a wolf, and Belle standing in as metaphor to the Doctor's Rose Tyler.  But I wasted a lot time hemming and hawing, and it was Saturday (the very last day of my weekly challenge) by the time I made a decision -- forcing me to rush the photographing, design, and editing in one massive fell swoop.

one of three SOOC photos used for the final form of "Belle"

one of three SOOC photos used for the final form of "Belle"

I finally settled on an image that played with the concept of time, titling it "Tale as Old as Time".  I know the Whovians and Disnerds among us would catch the subtlety.  Belle, trailing rose petals behind her, while an open T.A.R.D.I.S. looms, inviting her to "adventure in the great wide somewhere."

"Tale as Old as Time"

"Tale as Old as Time"

In hindsight, I see so much wrong with this piece, on a visual and technical level.  I feel like it had great potential -- and I just didn't do it justice, what with my gaps in skill knowledge and haste in putting it together.  It's not the sort of "quality" I would ever, ever, ever provide a client as a final piece.

I did learn some new things (how to change the color of an object in Photoshop, for example), so in that sense it is success of a "growth" kind, but I really would like to take it back to the drawing board, so to speak, and make it better -- finish it.  I may have to work on that in the coming weeks.  Be on the lookout for a better, more skillfully presented version.

Featured Artist: Christine Kapuschinsky

I won't lie:  I'm totally fan-girl'ing over today's featured artist.  Christine Kapuschinsky is a fine art photographer with total "WOW!" factor.  I've been drooling for ages over her dramatic, emotive black and white work -- and after today, if you've not already heard of her, you too will have an art crush of your own.

Hey, Christine!  Tell us all about yourself.

Hi! Thanks for the opportunity. My name is Christine and I'm the artist behind Kapuschinsky. I chose to use my maiden name for my art as a way to pay homage to my father for sparking my love for photography when I was still a child.
I am a wife, a mother. a homemaker and a teacher. I married my best friend back in 2004 at the ripe old age of 18. My husband likes to joke that he hooked me before anybody else could. I literally turned 19 twelve days after the wedding. Our 13 year anniversary is actually the 17th of this month. Since getting married, we've traveled across the country and back twice, and now reside in Northeast Pennsylvania with our four children- 2 boys and two girls, ages 8, 6, 4 and 16 months. We home school, so the majority of my time is currently spent teaching, correcting homework and lesson planning, all while attempting to maintain the sanity and order of the house, make dinner and continually take my Houdini of a baby down from some sort of precarious high point. But life is good:) Aside from photography, I enjoy anything outdoors- camping, hiking, fishing, exploring the woods and fields that surround the outskirts of town, and anything pertaining to plants and gardening. I also enjoy building dollhouse furniture and model rockets. I've passed that latter interest onto my kids, the eldest in particular, as he loves anything pertaining to aviation, whether it be building planes, flying kites, or shooting off rockets into the sky. I've played the clarinet since I was eight, and performed with the local Philharmonic Orchestra throughout high school and college. I also like to collect shot glasses from around the world, and write when I have the time. I guess I'm kind of all over the place!

Tell me about your art.  What do you do?  What is/are the medium/media you use?  What is your artistic process?

Since photography is just another expression of my artwork, my imagery often reflects how I used to draw. Monochrome is my new charcoal. Painterly colors are my pastels. Although I predominately work in black and white, I don't like to box myself into one category or another, because I dislike the constraints of doing the same thing over and over again. To me, it's lackluster, it's mundane, it's too ordinary. Picasso once said, "Style is often something that ties the artist down and makes him look at things in one particular way, the same technique, the same formulas, year after year, sometimes for a whole lifetime...I can never be tied down, and that is why I have no style." I can relate to that, being one to jump around instead of sticking to the same subject or edit. That's one of the reasons why I hand edit everything, instead of using presets or actions. It guarantees one piece will never have an identical appearance to another. That's also why sometimes my work is raw and real, other times dreamy and surreal, while still others abstract or even painterly. Instead of going for a particular "look", I prefer to go for a particular outcome: pure emotion.

Everyone wants to know:  where do you get your ideas?  What fuels your passion?  Are there other artists who inspire you?

Where do I get my ideas? Hah! I have no idea. I just like to take pictures. It's always fun to see an image as it slowly transforms from straight out of camera to the finished product, and watch my vision as it unravels and changes along the way. Sometimes my pictures come out the way I intended, but other times they don't at all. Granted, I generally shoot for black and white, so there are specific components I look for that I know work well in monochrome- interesting patterns and textures, dramatic light, deep shadows, strong lines, sublime curves. Even when my work doesn't end up the way I thought it would, I just kind of roll with it. And if I hit a wall and can't figure out where I'm going with it, I'll just shelve it for a day, a week, sometimes even months, until I can get it to come together. Regardless of the finished piece, my end goal is still the same- I want my work to strike a chord with the viewer. I want them to look at life in ways they may not have before. I want it to speak to their soul. Honestly, I don't closely follow a lot of photographers, as I prefer to study and appreciate a wide range of imagery and art as a whole, but one that I've admired for quite a while is Hengki Koentjoro. He's the only modern day monochromatic fine artist to make a lasting impression on me. I also have huge respect for Marius Vieth and his unique approach of capturing street photography.

What are your "credentials"?  Do you have a degree or specialized experience doing what you do?  How did you get your start?

I have no academic credentials, but art runs in my family. My father is an artist, and I recently found out that his father loved photography as well. I am completely self taught. All the stuff I learned was from many years of drawing, observing other's work, perusing through numerous tutorials, and trial and error. As a kid, I would often tinker around with my dad's Minolta X-700, photographing everything from my pets, to my potted green beans, to the clouds. I took pictures of everything. Even in college, I was always the one at the party walking around with a disposable camera. I've still got a shoe box of all the photos. Talk about memories! Nevertheless, I didn't really get serious about photography until I purchased my first DSLR close to 4 years ago. I have always been an artist, and up until then I spent any of my downtime drawing- mostly with charcoals, water color crayons and oil pastels. But once my kids were born, I no longer had the adequate time and attention to devote to drawing, so photography inadvertently became my new artistic outlet.

What makes you excited to "go to work" each day?  What are the specific challenges in your field or expertise?

What makes me excited to "go to work" each day? Which job, mother or artist?;) I find the best way to keep my passion for photography alive is to not overdo it, not to over analyze, or compare myself to others, and see how they're getting ahead quicker than I. That just sets me up to become discouraged and burned out. I also limit the amount of sessions I book a year so that I don't make more work than I can reasonably handle. My first job is here at the home. These kids are going to be grown up and on their own in the blink of an eye. I don't want to look back and realize I missed so much of their childhood because I was too obsessed with advancing my career. Granted, if I was put in a situation where I needed to be the "breadwinner" this would be a whole different ballgame, but I've been blessed with a very hard working husband so I don't need to worry about that. One of the biggest challenges I've found so far is that I've come to the point where I've "outgrown" my camera. I spend lots of time fixing things in photographs that I know wouldn't have been an issue if I had a camera with better IQ and high ISO performance. Thankfully, this has recently changed, as I have acquired a pro level full frame, so after shooting for the last 3 years with a semi pro APS-C DSLR, I think this is really going to be a game changer.

Who is your ideal client?  What kind of product is this client looking for?  What does she need or want from you?

My ideal client is the one that loves and appreciates my work for what it is and puts all their faith in my judgement of the outcome of their images. I'm also not a fan of bargain shoppers. The interesting thing I've found is that the most grateful and satisfied clients I've ever had are the ones where price wasn't an issue, and they came to me because they've seen my work and fully rely that I can deliver.

Do you incorporate any spiritual practices in your daily life?  What keeps you sane?  Favorite comfort food or hot beverage?  What is your "center"?  What is your higher purpose or calling?

God is my sanity. Second, my husband. He is my polar opposite, the level headed, optimistic, rational one. I need that balance. Third, coffee. Seriously;) A higher purpose in my work? Well firstly, I recognize and acknowledge that any talent I have is given to me by God, and I respect that he could take it away at any moment if He wanted. I want to use my abilities wisely and honor Him with what I produce. I want it to point back to Him. I like to create work that makes you think beyond the tangible present, makes you think about life. I want it to move you.

Can you give us one to three "random facts" or juicy tidbits about yourself?  Have a funny experience to share?

Okay, here's something funny about the kids. None of our children were "planned", per se, but the first three are exactly 2 years apart, and have birthdays literally days from each other- Oct 29th, Oct 30th, and Nov.1st. Each one managed to miss Halloween. As for the baby, well, she broke the cycle. Haha!
I took the most incredible trip across the country by train early on in our marriage when we moved to the West Coast for the first time. I left Pittsburgh, stopped in Chicago, headed down to Kansas City and the Midwest, then to Colorado, New Mexico, and lastly curved up to Southern California. It was the first major trip I had never done solo and it was exhilarating. Seeing the terrain and weather change along the way was fascinating. Everything went well until we hit Kansas. There, in the middle of nowhere, in the blackest of night, the train struck something that was lying on the track, which then got thrown up under the dining car, and shorted it out. We were broke down for hours, the nearest civilization miles away. It was slightly terrifying, kind of one of those scenarios where your imagination goes wild and before you know it, Freddy is stepping out of the field and coming straight toward you. When another locomotive finally arrived, they swapped out the dining car with the caboose and we eventually went on our way. But the accident was actually a blessing in disguise. Since we no longer had a properly working dining car, there was no way to feed us, so Amtrak made up for it by giving us free meals at every major stop, and I ended up saving lots of money.
[And] here's something crazy from college. My friends and I used to be obsessed with everything paranormal, and growing up in this absurdly dark and peculiar coal mining region, we had our fair share of it. Well, there's this granite stone couch that randomly sits alongside a wooded, winding back road just outside the old coal mining patch town of Eckley. All kinds of rumors circulate this accursed couch, but every one of them draws the same conclusion: never sit on it, or tragedy will strike. Well, being young, dumb, and reckless, my friend and I threw caution to the wind in the middle of one crisp autumn night and proudly situated ourselves on it, our confident, carefree faces smiling at the camera for a picture. The next evening as I left work, doing about 50 down a quiet, forested state route that I always traversed, casually chatting away on my cell to a friend, a rock about the size of a softball fell out of the sky from straight above my car and hit the windshield with such force it cracked the entire thing. The only reason it didn't crash through the glass was because it hit right where the rear view mirror attached so that took the brunt of the blow and sent it flying to the back seat. The windshield was destroyed. I pulled over at the nearest lit spot which was a gas station about a quarter mile down the road. One of the security officers from my place of employment happened to be there, saw the car, heard what happened,and could only utter some choice expletive phrases over and over again in complete disbelief. Of course I had to get a new windshield, but here's the clincher: I had just replaced it the week before for a separate incident. Car- 2, Me- 0. My younger years were full of lots of stupidity and rash decisions, but I stopped tempting fate after that day.

Where can we find your business online?

I'm on a lot of different social networking platforms, but the ones I frequent the most are Facebook, Instagram as @kapuschinsky, Flickr, Viewbug, 500px, and my website: www.kapuschinsky.com

Every Friday, Lauren Bee's the FINE ART of becoming features a sister artist -- and her amazing work.  Who is she?  Of what does her soul sing?  Why does she do what she does?

Would you like to have your work featured?  We thought you'd never ask!  Check out the submission guidelines and be a part of our thriving, creative community.