Chasing Fireflies

I'm a HUGE fan of Ray LaMontagne, and after reading an article about his upcoming album this morning and finding this quote of his - I am an even bigger fan than I ever, ever was before.  It's refreshing to hear from artists you admire that they face the exact same challenges as everyone else.  The creative block, and the elusive "a-ha!" moment.

For the longest time these songs were eluding me. I felt like a kid trying to collect lightning bugs. I’d catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and run for it, but the light would go out just as I thought I’d gotten hold of one. But eventually I caught on to their game. I stopped chasing them altogether. Instead I just sat there as if I were completely disinterested in them. And wouldn’t you know it, one by one they came to me! Flew right into my jar.
— Ray LaMontagne
 
 Ray Lamontagne, by the talented  Danny Clinch

Ray Lamontagne, by the talented Danny Clinch

 Fireflies (2010) -  "I think that people who can't believe in fairies aren't worth knowing." –   Tori Amos

Fireflies (2010) - "I think that people who can't believe in fairies aren't worth knowing." – Tori Amos

It reminded me of one of my first and favourite images (above) from my 365 Days Project - Fireflies.  I was in a very experimental stage with photography and photo manipulation when I did this, and to this day I don't know whether the fireflies are coming to me, or if I'm releasing them into the woods in the photo.  Perhaps a bit of both?  

Anyways - Ray's quote rang so true to how I've been feeling lately - chasing ideas and concepts and trying to pin them down, always seeming to lose them through my fingers and watching them flicker off into the night.  When you think of all the truly good things you have in your life - they are likely all things that just came to you.  They aren't the things you went looking for, they aren't the things you brought home.  They're always the things that surprised you, that found you, and that you attracted.  Ideas - the good ones - are just like that.  You (well, myself anyways) - can't sit down and force a great idea.  All the good ones arrive when they want to and when you're (hopefully) ready for them.  The only photos of mine that I actually love are the ones that were inspired - not the ones I did for the sake of creating something.  

I’ve always been inspired by visual artists of all mediums because, as with Music, Art is not a job you can go to and leave from; but it is something that defines who and what you are.
— Tori Amos

The quote I originally used for Fireflies was by the love of my life Tori Amos, who shares my attitude that all of her songs (like any piece of art anyone creates) - are like people.  Ghosts, even - that choose when they want to be seen, or heard, or have their story told.  Just like the faeries and fireflies - leave them alone, and they will eventually come to you.  It's just our job to translate what they want to say.

Tori's album "Under The Pink" (it's right over there on the right - listen to it!) is one of those albums that teleports me to a different time and place - 17 year olds and not yet big enough to make sense of all the ideas in my head and not yet smart enough to make art from all the emotions in my heart.  Back then, there was no chasing fireflies and lightning bugs - they swarm to you when you're young.  As you get older and more self-aware - that's when the chasing starts to happen, when you start reaching for inspiration that wouldn't leave you alone once upon a time. 

I think I'm finally learning to simply stop trying.  It's funny that trying less could be the answer to doing more.

The World Spins Madly On

 The World Spins Madly On...

The World Spins Madly On...

March is a hard month for all sorts of reasons.  First, we're all waiting for spring, and this year it's the spring that will just...not...get...here.  Then, as the month goes on, for me it's my parent's anniversary and what-would-be my Dad's birthday.  The anniversaries and holidays and memories never stop.  No one is ever gone - somehow they find a way to be more here than ever before.  Life and love and regret is weird like that.

Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.
— David Grayson
 Regret (2012) 

Regret (2012) 

I did the photo above (Regret) 24 days before my Dad passed away. (I like to think of it as 'graduating' instead of passing away, by the way).  It's still one of my all-time favourite pieces because it reminds me of him (he was my biggest fan!) and because it's so raw and honest as to how I was feeling then (and still do, now).  My entire life, I knew my Dad as someone who raised birds - pigeons, exotic birds, doves - which is where the falling feathers come into the photo.  The rest is pretty self explanatory!

I need to Rumpelstiltskin my attitude and turn some straw into gold - turn regret into gratitude, turn sadness into celebration, channel devastation into inspiration, distill loss into love.  I think that would be the greatest tribute to my biggest fan.

And the world in it's chaos doesn't stop for your sadness or your grieving.  The world is polite for awhile, but forgets quickly - and we're all equally guilty of it.  We all move on from our empathy for others.  The trick is moving on from our sympathy for ourselves, while the world spins madly on.  And if you can make a little art while you're at it - that's the best eulogy you can give someone you love.

The Weight of Words

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.
— Orson Scott Card
 The Weight of Words (2014)

The Weight of Words (2014)

Words are a tricky thing.  Typing them is easier than saying them, that's for sure.  And sometimes NOT saying them is harder yet.  That's why I loved this quote by the novelist Orson Scott Card.  Interpret it how you like, but I believe the true value of 'words' is found in between what you say.

I had originally thought this pic "The Weight of Words" was going to be in a sun-lit field with orbs of light and warmth and rays of sunlight.  Then, like usual, it all went in it's own direction - and literally laid itself on the table.  Words work the same way.  Sometimes your brain thinks one thing but what comes out of your mouth is the cruelest deception of what you intended.  Words can be dangerous if you use them correctly - and they can be deadly if you don't.  What you don't say...can do more damage than what you do.

You can bundle up all your secrets and put them in a diary.  You can unravel them all and spill them into social media for the world to see.  The weight of words is determined by how you use them, or don't use them.  They can take on the lightness of air and ride the wind, or sink like stones into an abyss.  You can craft them into a literary embrace that can transcend miles and decades and warm whoever receives them, or whittle them into an arrow that can pierce the hardest heart.  

So, choose your words and silence wisely: words are weighed on the scale of your heart, too.

Waiting For My Ship To Come In

Oh, the irony!  I had such a great (and awesome) blog post written.  I hit a wrong button, and poof! It was gone. Forever.  It had much to do with things happening (and not happening) when you want them to.  And for what is supposed to happen, happening when it WANTS to.  And here I am, writing what I think was supposed to be my original blog post, afterall.  And admittedly, hitting the save button WAY more often.

I sat down the other day to create my self-anticipated awesome photo inspired by A Great Big World + Christina Aguilera's song (that shreds me) "Say Something".  Until it Just. Wouldn't. Happen.  Like, a massive 80 ft thick wall erected itself between me and creativity and would not crumble until I abandoned it and moved onto something else.  The shoot happened, the ideas were flying wildly all through me (and driving Clint insane with my indecisiveness).  Then, I sat down to pull it all together...but it wouldn't come together.  It refused.  And instead, "Waiting For My Ship To Come In" (pic below!) happened, and it was absolutely, perfectly, exactly what was supposed to.  Here's why.

You can't force it.  It's all (and I mean ALL) going to happen - when it's going to happen.  Art, life, love, career - it's all a) going to happen when it chooses to and b) when you enable it to.  "B" back there, being the most important.  I can't shake the chance encounters I had with a tarot reader, and a separate palm reader, 4 days apart, in New Orleans just a couple weeks ago.  Clint had readings as well, and his were so different from mine but so perfectly appropriate for him - and both had the same things to tell him.  My readings were no different - both women (gifted!) told me the exact same things.  I need balance.  I need to let go of the expectations I put on myself.  I need to accept the love I'm given.  I need to let soul and spirituality into my art.  I need more transparency in my life.  I need to (here's the kicker) take better care of myself.  Both picked up on that - and it wasn't a surprise to me, either.

How can you expect everything to fall into your lap, while you're busy filling your lap with clasped fists and head down and all bundled up refusing to let anything in?  How can you welcome in abundance and awesomeness into your life when you (sometimes) don't think you deserve it?  You get exactly what you think you deserve.  And changing how you see yourself, can change what you get from (and allow into) your life.  This is why "Say Something", the pic I really sat down - ALL DAY - to create, didn't happen.  What was more important than dealing with the idea that people could be giving up (or have given up) on me?  Dealing with the idea that it was all JUST GOING TO HAPPEN.  Admitting that it happened, and here I am.  Accepting that this is where I am NOW, regardless of what I have, or haven't, accomplished, finished, created or made happen.  Letting going of - or reclaiming - promises made and unfulfilled. "Waiting For My Ship To Come In" decided it was it's time to come out, and when it was finished (it was the easiest pic I've ever done) it made me think...

Click through the slides to see the making of...

It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.
— Elizabeth Taylor

You can't stand at an abandoned pier waiting for a ship that may not even coming.  In a fog, alone, simply hoping for the best.  You honestly do "get what you give" in this world.  It's how the universe works - just like a boomerang - what you send out, you get back.  Just waiting there for something to happen - will just net you more waiting for something to happen.  It's in the doing, and the giving, the creating and the feeling - that you will get that back tenfold.  Waiting for something to happen will never beacon any ship to dock itself at the pier under your feet.  

I had my hand slapped a few times by the palm reader after I told her what I was - or wasn't - doing, or had done and stopped, or tried to, and stalled.  She basically wanted to grab me and shake me (but would probably have been arrested - it was New Orleans afterall).  It's funny how you can be waiting to board the cruise of your life, get distracted, and end up on a pier waiting for a ship that isn't even coming for you anymore.  Here's hoping 2014 changes that.

Creative Process...What Creative Process?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the whole process of creating art...and the method of getting what's "in" (my head) - out.  When you actually give thought to something that you always just let happen, it's easy to draw a big, fat blank.  Like dialing a phone number you've dialed 8000 times and someone asks you what the number is, you can't come up with it without looking at your phone and dialing the number.  I guess that's the long and short of my "creative process" or whatever you want to call it.  It's not as much of a process as it is a habit.

First we make our habits, then our habits make us.
— Charles C. Noble
 The Puppet (2010) 

The Puppet (2010) 

What I (and others) Think My Creative Process Is:

  1. Awe-struck genius vision hits me
  2. Magic happens
  3. The end

What My Creative Process Really Is:

  1. Music.  Lots and lots of music.  On repeat.  One song, probably. 
  2. Continue listening to that song for 3 days up to a week until it drives everyone around me insane and never want to hear it again
  3. Picture scenes from the most epic, dark, lovely music video ever to go with said song (there's usually lots of wind and flowy fabrics and stuff happening in them.  Think Marie Antoinette)
  4. Enjoy wine.
  5. Listen to the song again.  And again.
  6. Distract myself with emails, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  7. Ooo!  Maybe I should check out 500px.  There's usually lots of lovely inspiration there.
  8. Oh, dogs need to go outside...
  9. Sit back at computer, contemplate whether my mouse needs new batteries.
  10. Enjoy more wine.
  11. Slowly develop the nerve to approach my camera.
  12. Smoke break.
  13. Who drank all my wine?
  14. Click through all 43 new Facebook notifications.  Like and comment on everything.
  15. Listen to the song again.  Maybe watch the video this time.
  16. Damn dogs pee a lot!  Have to let them out again...
  17. Ooo!  May as well top up the bird feeders while I'm out here.
  18. Seriously, who is drinking all my wine?
  19. Re-assess lighting situation.  It's getting sort of dark now.  Consider postponing shoot until tomorrow.
  20. Google sunset times.
  21. Realize I should probably check my camera battery levels.
  22. Charge dead batteries.
  23. Wardrobe change.  I can't honestly do a shoot wearing this.
  24. Change into 87 potential outfits before I'm satisfied.
  25. Look for wine glass.
  26. Hear The Golden Girls on tv in the living room.
  27. Oh, Sofia!
  28. Marathon watch 4 episodes of The Golden Girls.
  29. Fall asleep on couch.
  30. Re-assess and try again tomorrow.

And, my friends, that is the honest-to-God truth.  I wish I was disciplined enough to have a beautifully simple and reliable routine to get what's in my head, out.  To have "Photo Friday" or Let's-Go-"Shooting-Sunday".  Life is just not like that.  Creativity is not this endless waterfall that just continues to deliver.  For me, it's more like trying to get an 8 month old to eat peas.  You know they're hungry, you know they want to eat.  And despite all your routine "here-comes-the-airplane!"'s and "seriously-kid-just-eat-it-before-I-cry"'s - sometimes, baby just don't wanna eat.  Other days, baby ain't seen nothing more appetizing than that there bowl of peas.  

Creativity and the process of creating art is something you have to have the hunger for (not unlike peas).  You can't force it, you can't make it happen.  As with all good things, it happens when it is supposed to happen.  So if it's not happening today, it's time to put that baby to bed (good thing peas have a long shelf life).

Say Something

I wake up every day with this song in my head, and I finally sat down to watch the video this morning...wow.  Music inspires me so much and it's always as though my heart makes it's own videos for songs I love, so when I finally do see the 'official' video I'm usually confused or disappointed because it's not at all like what I imagined.  "Say Something", by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera however was such a happy (and so very sad) surprise.  

I don't even know what I could create to do justice to that song, it tugs at heart strings that I didn't even know I had.  The line "Anywhere I would've followed you" reminds me of Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" that inspired my pic below, "Into The Dark" with the lyrics:

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied,
Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs

If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks,
Then I’ll follow you into the dark
— Death Cab for Cutie
 Into The Dark (2012)

Into The Dark (2012)

I just can't separate visual art, and music.  You should be able to look at a photo and hear a soundtrack, or hear a song, and see an image.  And sometimes, a song gets stuck inside me (in a good way, not a "What Does The Fox Say" sorta way)...and I think that's usually because you're supposed to listen to what it's telling you.  I think the hardest part of that song to hear is "I'm giving up on you".  Ugh.  Those five words get you in the gut.  Florence & The Machine has a way of doing that to me - with EVERY SINGLE SONG.  Her song "Leave My Body" inspired this pic below, "The Abduction".  I took the "Leave My Body" idea pretty literally, but am thrilled with how it turned out (and it was fun using Clint as a model for this one).

 Leave My Body (2012)

Leave My Body (2012)

So, this weekend, I'm going to try and get "Say Something" out of my head, and into a photo, and actually "Do Something".  

I don't necessarily see it coming together as two separate individuals like in the video, but more of an inner battle with yourself...it's easy to give up on yourself, too.  Your conscience can spend a lot of the day rattling you into action, while your hands keep busy deceiving the best of intentions.  I'm even interested to see how this one turns out.

An Empty Page

There's an old 'writing' approach where you 'close by return' and come full circle to the beginning of your story, when you reach the end.  Turning that concept inside-out, here I am starting again where I began in the beginning.  It's not an end but a new beginning.  Sort of.  I think.

Years ago I started my photo manipulations with this image below, called "The Price You Pay".  It's redefined itself for me over the last few years, and my recent trip to New Orleans has left me totally inspired (read about it on my "About Me" page).

The Price You Pay (2010)

I've started this new website and blog as part of my new commitment to myself to stop committing things to myself.  To stop creating expectations of myself I can't necessarily keep – and to just let the art happen and create itself as it always did.  I have filled 1000 journals full of promises to myself and to others...and in the end, it doesn't matter what you say you are going to do.  What does matter, is what you actually do.

It's really easy to say that everything happens for a reason - and to be honest - a lot of times that reason is YOU.  Or me, in this case.  You put into motion something fuelled by your heart, but eventually, every gas tank runs empty and sputters to a stop. 

The trick is driving that dream down the right road that is lined with gas stations so you can keep going. Sometimes you take a backroad and the tank runs dry.

I bought two wicked leather-bound, hand-stitched journals, full of magical blank pages full of possibility.  I came across them first at Yesteryears in NOLA, and I seriously got all light-headed when I first walked in there.  I have an obsession with paper and pens (I bought a Retro 1951 Tornado Wooden Rollerball, and it is all kinds of awesome).  It's serious magic if you use paper and pens the right way.  There's a perfect mystery that makes up paper, like a hidden story inside if you hold it right, or the most wonderful masterpiece of art if you want it to be.  There's honesty and magic in an empty page.

  Seriously. Are these not the most epic journals you have ever seen?  Don't judge the horrible iPhone-ography.

Seriously. Are these not the most epic journals you have ever seen?  Don't judge the horrible iPhone-ography.

This blog and website, my new journals, my new commitment to not-committing - they are all empty pages that I can't wait to talk to and see what secrets they feel like revealing.  I used to write in a journal every single day, and I filled them with doodles and drawings and designs, words and rhymes, confessions and curiosities.  I eventually left out the words and picked up a camera, I left out the doodles and sat down at a computer with all the things I used to pour onto pages, and instead, poured them into photographs.  One day, I stopped, as though my pen ran out of ink, my camera out of film, my computer out of power.

So I'm not making any promises - to you, or myself, or to anything.  I'm just opening a new book full of empty pages, for the first time in a long time.  Time will tell what stories those pages want to tell.