1. Who were your teachers or influences?
In photography it was a man that taught photography at the University of Michigan who first introduced me to a camera and darkroom, his name was Colin.
I went to a private alternative high school and he tutored there. It completely changed me, it gave me a new way to show others how I see the world so for the first time in my life I could finally express what I how I see the world. I did really well and took to photography like a fish to water. My great grandfather was very impressed so he bought me my first camera but eventually I had to sell it since we grew up very poor. It took me some years to start taking pictures again and I didn't do it regularly until my husband started to encourage me but after I picked up a camera I haven't stopped taking pictures since. Although I love taking pictures I have had no real formal training other than that.
There are so many things that influence me, more than people per say, my influences are very dark, romantic, and melancholic. I am heavily inspired by old world living for example the contrast between very dark and and light, the occult, silent films, folklore (especially folklore), old photographs, and the 19th century. I can however speak of those who inspire me to keep going and they are Zdzisław Beksiński not just because his works are amazing but because he also had no formal training and he also started his art journey in photography same as me and for the same reasons as myself which was because photographs could no longer help with expressing what was locked away in his mind so he started drawing which eventually led to painting which is my ultimate goal so if there is any artist that makes me feel as if I can succeed it is him. Secondly I would say that
Nicola Samorì is an big influence because of the darkness in his beautiful works and how he breaks the conventional rules of fine art by disrupting them when they are in their glory what he does is something very special in such a way only he can execute and lastly I am very inspired of Miroslav Tichy who is a Czech man who builds cameras out of garbage, spare parts thrown out and his photography although of a controversial manor is absolutely brilliant. He reminds me that I do not have to have all the fancy equipment ot a nice studio to make good art, that I can still make art without being wealthy because I am far from it, I live very meek and humbly.
As far as my drawings as with my photography, I have had no formal training and am pretty much a new comer with little knowledge but I draw regardless and when I do it is absolutely transcending for me, it is as if nothing else exists outside of what I am I am working on. As I breathe life into my piece it is almost as if I finally can share my imagination with others, limitless, without boundaries and that is something I never could do before. As far as my influences for drawing, well since I am new to it there really isn't any yet but I am inspired by artists who tend to draw or paint outside what is currently popular and by that I mean it seems that it is more common for people to draw what is most popular and safe like for example a beautiful woman who is usually naked or posed in a provocative manner, now I am not saying there is anything wrong with it I am however saying that it is very common, beautiful women are what I see the most being drawn or painted so for me I really enjoy when people draw less beautiful subjects like my dear friend Bill Crisafi who draws old crones with mounds and mounds of hair or Albrecht Dürer because of his ability to make imperfection into perfection.
2. What techniques or tricks did you find most useful when learning to make art?
This is a difficult question for me because I create art in such lawless and unconventional ways. Since I have never been to school for art or photography, the conventional rules and techniques are beside me, these common laws of art are foreign to me, my art is truly lawless or free style, a raw glimpse into my minds eye and that's what makes it mine and what helps me stand out in my own way. Be it an abomination to the art world or not, it is originally part of me but with that said I still will keep learning, I know I must keep growing as an artist to be able to improve although with that said not knowing all the rules has helped me to explore new techniques that are far from conventional for example one person just recently said to me that I "use charcoal not as someone would normally use charcoal but more how a painter uses paint to draw light in darkness", in other words I am painting with charcoal which is where thinking outside the box comes in handy.
Some techniques I do stick to with photography are for example if you are going to take landscape pictures wait for the right time of day, do not just take photographs in regular daylight and then try to adjust them in photoshop or with phone filters because it is never going to have that truly authentic and originally mysterious feeling so wait until sunrise or sunset, wait for stormy skies or foggy days also the saturation and lack of can be easily adjusted through the camera. I am not saying that one should not touch up their images in programs like photoshop or lightroom but there is a difference between photo manipulation and actual photography in my humble opinion and it is that blended distortion between digital fantasy and real life photography which is making it harder for photographers to live up to a certain standard while still keeping it real. Often people state that I am so lucky to live in Scandinavia, that I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful place but the reality is the world is full of interesting things to photograph and everything, everywhere has the potential to be interesting it just truly depends on how the artist perceives it, it is always up to the artist to look at the subject from a different perspective and then just about anything is possible. It is very important that you experiment with different unconventional angles.
I also am also very strict with the amount of light I let in when I am taking pictures which can be quite tricky because unless you have a very good low light camera you are going to have excess noise, blur, and often bleed. I like to use those things to my advantage, if executed properly they can become part of the story you are telling. Which brings me to this, I do not consider myself a photographer even if I am mostly known for my photographs. I do not feel that I am the right person to come to when someone wants to learn how to take proper photographs, I use the camera to tell a story, I use it as a tool to share what I am seeing, I consider myself a visual storyteller above all and the camera is just a doorway into my minds eye. Contrast in photography, the key is this for me. Since I am autistic and have something called sensory processing disorder which means I see things in very vivid colors or very muted tones and I try to express that when taking the pictures, I have learned how to achieve this without a tun of photo manipulation (which is ever so popular today) so I can share what I am seeing with the rest of the world. If you turn down the contrast on a sunset for example the colors will become more vivid and the light will not wash out the the image, this is key when taking a darker more melancholy landscape images like the ones I often take. I am quite sure many will not agree with me on this but I truly feel suffocated by technicalities, when art becomes too technical and too structured for me it becomes like a cage locking me in, making me unable to create freely without constraints so I give the advice that while learning how to work with a camera is important do not put too much stock in buying the fanciest equipment and following the rules to the very T.
Movement is very important, especially when taking pictures of people in my opinion often I see a photograph that is very beautiful but lacks in feeling because the image is stiff and the model seems frozen, this can often even happen in images in which a scene portrays movement but yet the model is still to posed and stiff, this happens often for example in fashion magazines or in photographs where a scene was set up. Letting your subject move naturally is what creates a very natural good feeling, something that feels more authentic and powerful this is why I love to photograph my children being themselves.
Point of view is also very important, It is one of the hardest things to create depth in a photograph, especially in landscape portraits and to understand point of view is the key to mastering depth, point of view is a focus point one many have noticed without realizing, it is when the camera focuses on a point of view to create depth.
Tips with drawing are a bit more tricky for me since I am pretty new and still learning myself. When I first started drawing I used so many reference images and copied them identically so that I could learn the form and how to control the values and now that I have grown I am more confident to create my own works from that practice. But using reference images can also be tricky because if you are in fact duplicating an image so it is important to keep in mind that you should never copy someone another persons work and that the image you are using may be recognized easily. It's better to use photographs of friends and family to start.
At this point in my life I am really just working with charcoal and graphite, I feel such a strong connection when working with charcoal that I can't see myself working with anything else for quite some time although I do eventually want to work up to oil painting. For me what I have learned and what I hear from many people is that charcoal is very hard to work with, messy and out of control but I don't feel that way at all, I have learned to not rush it, to go gently and slowly with charcoal, working with tiny sections at a time, this is key to keeping charcoal under control. I also use a q-tip to slowly rub the values into the paper in tiny circular motions, this keeps the mess under control and the charcoal really unites with the paper. I also try my best to never ever touch the paper, whereas many others working with charcoal use their fingers for blending, fingers for me leave unwanted fingerprints which can disrupt the flow.
3. What are 3 key principles of making good art, in your opinion?
1. Stop comparing yourself and works to others, this is the key to success! You will never ever be satisfied with your own works if you compare yourself to others. It is one thing to take inspiration from other artists works and another to pit yourself in a competition with them. Be happy to be yourself, to have your own uniqueness even if it means embracing your flaws and disadvantages. We all have our own creative struggles.
2. Slow down, add details and layers. Too many people want to rush work but this can be absolutely catastrophic to what could be a potentially brilliant piece. Go slowly and steadily, not forgetting to add details and not being afraid to strengthen the piece with layers.
3. Original thought. I see so many people try to use the argument that everything has been done already and that humans are incapable of original thought but I call bull on that, if that was the case then we would never advance technically, medically, internally etc... We absolutely are very capable of original thought. Also many people use this theory as an excuse to plagiarize others works, saying that everything has already been done so what does it matter or that imitation is the highest form of flattery. My advice is although you can draw inspiration from others you should never ever copy someones work. Even taking somebody's idea and recreating it in your own way is not okay. Go ahead and be inspired but create new exciting things with your own original thought. I myself have been copied quite a bit and it is a really terrible feeling.
4. What are the most common mistakes that you see other artists make?
First thing and the biggest of them all is do not give up keep going no matter how awful you feel you are because I see so many people including myself give up too easily because they just couldn't create like they wanted to in their fantasy but art skill is hard work and it takes a lot of devotion and time to get good. It is like that with anything in life really from playing the violin to learning how to cook or drive a car. You must not give up, you must practice every day.
Instead of addressing art techniques like many other may I think instead I should address this aspect of just starting out in the art world which is something my friend and fellow artist Christine Wu talked about a little ago which is pretty important when trying to get your foot in the art world is do not push yourself on galleries at the wrong times for example do not approach a Curator at an exhibit or outside the gallery, use the proper channels to submit your work and only inquire through those channels. Do not post links to your own artwork or website in places like the comments of other artists or galleries, again use the proper channels. Do not beg artists to share or like your page or works, If you want to get more recognized for your work you can find different mediums for example try to reach out to do collaborations with other artists by emailing them. When I was first starting out I was lucky to have some amazing people help me get where I am today but it took a lot of hard work and perseverance to get to that point. I am grateful to people like Jess from Blood Milk who was the first person to ever share and blog about my works and to Heather Gabel who I did my first ever collaboration with, these opportunities came to me later in life, they were not something that just fell into my lap, they were a result of hard work and dedication and it opened doors to work with other artists. I believe so many new artists come on too strong in the beginning, they immediately want a huge fan-base and when that doesn't happen they become very discouraged sometimes even giving up. It is extremely rare and pretty much impossible to become an over night sensation so just stand your ground and work hard.
5. Can you break your artistic process down into 10 steps (or less) for us?
Since I'm talking about both photography and drawing here I will split the steps into 5 each.
1. Always make sure your camera battery is charged and camera emptied so that they are ready to go, a moment does not wait for you.
2. Depending on the subject you may want to scout a site for a shoot plan on where and what atmosphere you want to have.
3. Preparation, you need to have everything you'll be using prepared ahead of time so that when the time is right you are ready to go for example if you want to shoot someone in the fog and you are waiting for a foggy day you make sure your stuff is ready for that moment and the person you are shooting will also be available. Since weather is unpredictable it is imperative to be prepared.
4. Settings, often modern digital cameras can have a few different custom settings saved you can set a few different ones while your shooting and move in between them but if you are using an older manual camera you will most likely not be able to do this. Just remember to adjust all settings prior to shooting including what format you are going to shoot in otherwise it could be a disaster.
5. Touch up's, rather you are developing your film in a darkroom or using a computer It is very important to work with the contrast for me contrast is everything.
1. I tend to look through books or old archives or watch a silent film to get inspiration because I often draw subjects that have an old world essence so I use images from the era to help myself imagine a piece.
2. Here I am most likely not following the rules but I do not create a sample sketch before I start my original but I think this is because I have yet to work on really big pieces so far so there is room for mistakes. Now when I work on bigger pieces or start painting I know I will change my mind. So my next step is to sketch out my piece.
3. Shading, Now I work with shading rather it is a portrait or a room the layers of shading are what brings your piece to life.
4 Highlights, adding the highlights where needed will add depth to your piece.
5. Once I am very sure my piece is finished I add an spray fixative because I use so much charcoal, but I wait some time before I do it so that I can make some changes if needed.
6. What art materials do you currently use?
I am using an older model of the cannon 30D with a Tamron xr di ii 17-50mm 1.2.8 lens, a canon sx50 HS, and an old Minolta manual (analog) camera.
Faber-Castell and Derwent graphite and charcoal pencils but any good quality will do and that goes for any supplies, Koh-I-Noor Charcoal Blocks, a Tom-Bow mono zero eraser, a kneaded eraser or putty eraser, a mechanical pencil, blending stumps, paper towel, 300 gram and up smooth heavyweight paper even though I have used lightweight and textured paper as well at times.
7. Do you have an art-related implement that is indispensable? If so, what is so useful about it?
Proper natural window lighting and good music, these two things are imperative to help me along with my piece.
Art Goop is a Q&A for artists by artists. We ask questions designed to examine the techniques and methods of some of the most inspiring artists working today.