{st}art: being inspired
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By Christie Stockstill
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I know I'm not alone in this. I know that it's not just photographers, painters, musicians, sculptors and writers who are seeking inpsiration- the next great idea. Where will it come from? When will I feel it? Will I ever create something again?!

I know I'm not alone in my seemingly constant search for inspiration. I read poetry, short stories and novels. I look at and study the paintings of the great masters and contemporary artists. I listen to classical music, emotive modern music. I watch my kids play. I get out in nature. 

Sometimes the ideas are everywhere. It seems like everything inspires me. That's when this seeking, searching artist-y type person I am seems normal.

It's those other times, where nothing is clicking, nothing seems interesting or inspired...  Those are the times where my search seems more like a madness and I feel like I'm going to lose my mind.

{Have you ever read "The Yellow Wallpaper?" It's a short story by Chalrotte Perkins Gilman about a Victorian woman who is confined to her room and bed by male doctors of the day AND her new husband, because they think she is suffering a mental breakdown. She isn't, of course, at the beginning, but by the end...}  

I don't want to ruin the ending, but, if you know the story, that's how I feel, for example, when winter has been dragging on and on, or everyone is sick and we can't get the household well again, or no one is calling for portraits because they are recovering from spending too much at Christmas and they really just want pretty, flowery pics of their family and kiddos?

There I will be, with my magnifying glass, analyzing everything, binging on emotional, visual and aural stimulation, feeling desperate for some sort of intelligent thought and creative idea lest the insanity takes hold.

You know what I'm saying. Right? Hmm. Maybe I've revealed too much of the insanity that has already set in.

All this to say, I found a little nook, a community of other crazy people on a journey to find what lights them up, and beyond that to let that thing, whatever it is, light them up on darker days. 

I could go on and on, but things might get weird. 

I'll skip to the part where I stumbled upon an online class that is everything I think about on a weekly basis, but my own practice is disorganized and irregular, and this course, called The Art of Observation, is four weeks of structure for my craziness. I never would have dreamed I could make the time for a four-week class, and we definitely didn't have the spare cash lying around, but it has been worth it. 

The first week we studied the paintings of a Dutch master painter. The week was filled with exercises meant to lend structure to our observations of a particular painting. We focused on one piece each and spent the week working with it, creating images based on our reading of the art work. This was great for me because I am already in love with the light and shadows of these old portraits, and many of them are of everyday scenes like a mother and her children, something happening in a market or a church, someone cooking or cleaning...  It's like... I knew this, but I didn't know it, or I had forgotten.

There were several paintings from which to choose, and I loved them all, but I chose this Gerritt Dou piece called Girl Cutting Onions. 


Initially I was drawn to the organic color pallet and the light from the window. I love the darkness in the shadows that still reveals a bit more about the subjects. I also could relate to the woman trying to complete a task while a young boy tried to get her attention. My first interpretation was rather literal, so I set up the tripod, threw on my blue shirt and waited for the kids to get home from school. He was rather cooperative. It only took a small bribe to get a few shots.


I happened to be at lunch the next day and looked over my shoulder to see this beautiful light and interesting characters simply eating their lunch. I snapped maybe two shots and got this. 


But the more I thought about that painting, the more I focused on the folds of the girl's apron. I love the drapey lines and, of course, the earthy blue. No one was home to photograph, so I thought I'd try capturing the feel using inanimate objects, in this case blue and brown pillows and blankets. I tried to capture those great lines in the blanket.

I guess I did capture those lines, but 1.) they weren't blue, and 2.) there is no person in this image, and I wanted a new photograph of my older boy, so the next day, he helped me with this portrait. This is what I submitted for my final image of the week.

I'm thrilled to have this princely image of my son. He still looks like his young, ten-year-old self, but I managed to get this wise and thoughtful expression from him. The blanket provides the delicious lines and folds I loved from the painting, and that deep blue. As an assignment, I'm pretty happy with it. As a portrait of my older son, who rarely lets me pose and style him, I'm thrilled.

To sum it up: 

1. Study art. (May substitute almost anything else here: naure, poetry, music, girls' night out, time with kids)

2. Let it simmer.

3. Create.

4. Repeat.

Leave a comment:
Christie Stockstill - I have been swamped with work and family since I got home from Arch Cape! I really need to get busy writing something, though! I'm glad you checked the blog! I would love to do some sort of challenge/support/networking/blog fun with you. It's definitely good motivation in the winter! I'll post more in the next couple of days as I have at least two days coming up with a bit of work time penciled in, then a fun shoot on Friday.

...and thanks for the writing compliment! XXOO
Crackle - Hey Christie came to see if news from Oregon up... but then read this... sounds a wonderful exercise and one I will try next winter when the dull grey doldrums set in... maybe we should challenge one another. xox BTW your other career could easily be writer