When I started drawing as a child, I usually wanted to achieve realism. That is to say, I learned how to draw strictly by using references. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly “good” realistic drawer – shaaaaading! – but I do know scale, and balance, and accuracy in that regard. When I draw a face, you see who it is immediately. While it’s a calming and satisfying exercise to achieve likeness, it never stimulates me enough creatively.
On the other hand, in photography, I want to “work with what I have” and take beautiful photographs of places, people and objects just as they present themselves to me. Sometimes I’ll use a filter (such as for my fractal florals project) but for me the challenge is in using light in a way that uplifts scenery, or capturing the right emotional expression and moments.
With conceptual photography, I usually work with what I have, too. I prefer make-up to editing. I prefer using props to photoshopping them in. I think probably… because it puts me in the zone better. It may have something to do with doing a lot of theater when I was a teenager. (Don’t think I ever mentioned that I was a theater kid!)
Method photography, haha. That sums it up a bit. Having the set-up as tangible as possible allows me to better visualize, get into, and portray the story (especially with self-portraits). And I like that in my work – particularly my older work – the focus is on the emotive aspect, the photo snapped in time speaking for itself. It is usually performed, and looks like a movie still. That’s what I like. And I carry that forward in all of my photography work.
But sometimes, my imagination requires me to let go of this “method” way of working, and find different ways. And that’s where I struggle.
Until I started drawing again… and drawing differently. A few years ago I did a daily doodle, just a micron pen drawing, itty bitty, no perfection, no realism required, nothing. Just something every day that came up in my mind at the time. I’m not sure anymore how that started. Might have been that I wanted to see if I could? Let go of the pencil-drawn portraits and sketches that maybe looked exactly like this or that actress, but that I couldn’t draw in a way to make a statement about who I am as hobbyist artist. I wanted to see if I could bring it out by drawing DIFFERENTLY.
So the daily doodles started. Mostly just figments and fragments of my imagination. A lot of the time I found myself reacting to current events by drawing about them (Time’s Up, hurricane season, mass shootings, the murder of Anne Faber) and realized that I found this way of drawing very fulfilling because it allowed me a way to process what was happening in the world while also leaving something behind to remember it, always.
And then of course came a new sort of ambition: wanting to put myself out there as not only a photographer, but an illustrator. Which sounds easy: pick up a pen and draw! But I struggled with having a love for two entirely different media. Watercolor and digital illustration. They can absolutely mix, but with the right tools. I didn’t have the tools. So when I realized that only a small investment was needed to buy a digital drawing pad, I went for it, and immediately… it was such an eye-opener to me. I think maybe apart from my steam cleaner (it literally wipes the floor with mops haha), it was the best investment I have done in this shithole year of 2020.
I’ve already written about how starting up in illustration is going (and will leave any follow-up for future posts), so I won’t repeat that now. But I do want to share a few works that were born out of my imagination recently.
One of my favorite subjects to work with in photography, is pills. Medicinal or recreational, it doesn’t matter. I find them all interesting and it’s a subject I keep coming back to. What I like about it is that it allows me to explore, quite directly, the notion of an altered state of being (physically, psychologically, emotionally), which of course leaves so much room to conceptualize within one theme.
One of my doodles was of a sleeping pill. I liked the idea of connecting space, the universe, a galaxy, with a pill to symbolize sleep, a dream state, restfulness, night. And that idea was achievable, with ease (I mean, it took time to create, but I had the right tools at hand). When I was finished I was actually surprised at what I had managed to do based on that quick 2 minute doodle. These Space Capsules patterns are a dream realized for me. I can be an illustrator, too. I can do this.
So in short – the desire to work conceptually and currently, is met with the desire to draw meaningfully – I am satisfied with my photography as it is – coming together in illustration. Maybe it won’t open any doors any time soon (I consider myself a hobbyist beginner in this field) but it’s opening up… myself 🙂