shawn vandaele

So, well, THIS happened.

When you stop looking for it is when it will find you.
— Anon
It's not everyday that something you've done becomes popular on  TrendHunter

It's not everyday that something you've done becomes popular on TrendHunter

Timing is weird.  Coincidences are weird.  The universe and the Law of Attraction is weird.  If you've read any of my recent posts you'll know I'm sort of in a limbo-phase right now - looking for that niche for my art and balance for my life / creativity / work / pay the bills situation I think every artist struggles with.   I've been trying my best to just let it go - to let it come to me.  

Then, something like THIS happens.  TrendHunter picked up The Drawing Hope Project, and in less than 2 hours it surpassed 5000 views, 100+ shares, and jumped to the #1 most popular post on their site.  Um, wow - and weird - and awesome.  Trouble being - I've been struggling with completing "round 1" of the project for over a year - the ultimate culmination of the project, and the completion of the actual hard-copy storybook.  SO much harder than I anticipated, and I admittedly took a good "year off" to recollect myself after all the photos were complete, and my Dad passed away (I'm a slow healer apparently).  Add to that fear of failure - and success - and you have a whole lot of terrified procrastination that has created a serious delay that haunts me daily.  Enter my Mom (thank god!) who has offered to help me wrap it up, and help string all the photos together into the perfect storybook as each little hero in the project deserves.

Now - here's why I think all of this is weird.

I have never ever been more fulfilled in my life than when I was working on The Drawing Hope Project.  Meeting these kids and their families - supporting their causes and helping them see their imaginations come to life = priceless.  Seriously, there aren't words for how that makes you feel.  And yet, here I am, looking for something creative that will fulfill me?  Am I an idiot?  

Honestly - ya, I think I am.  I've spent so long caught up in the opposite intention of the project - beating myself up and in turn, NOT seeing imagination (my own, and others) come to life.  Huh.  Meanwhile, if I just rewound back to the original reason I started the project in the first place - to create magic - and did it for that sake alone (forget future story books, as I'm apparently not a great storybook writer-and-put-together-er)...but just continued on creating the magic for these kids and their families...I think I'd rediscover that sense of creative and soulful fulfillment I've been looking for.

I stopped looking.

The moment I stopped looking for that creative outlet that would bring me fulfillment is when the answer came to me (this morning, actually).  I stopped hunting and trying to find it.  I just let it go, and ignored it.  And ta-da!  Well wouldn't ya know, I had it all along, but I'd tucked it away.  I think it's time to bring it back and do it simply for the sake of doing it.  An ongoing series of magical photos that will make little heroes and their families smile.  It doesn't need to become something great or wildly popular - because what's more great than being able to give that gift to someone who needs it?  Art for the sake of love.  The world could use more of that.

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  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.