The Year’s Best – An Artist’s Time Capsule

In case you didn’t know, we just started a brand new year (I know, it’s quite a shock).  A lot of other artist blogs and forums have been asking – “What’s been your best work from the past year?”

This week has been very retrospective for me – and while looking through my photography over the last year – I find that I can’t decide on one photo that I like best.  I have experimented with many different styles and discovered a lot about my artistic style this year.  I’ve done some things I love, and some things I’m not so proud of.  I still think I have a long way to go in figuring it all out for sure – but here are a few of my (vastly different) favorite images from 2015.

Which ones do you think are my best? I’d love to hear some outside opinions – since it’s often hard to evaluate your own work.

I created this set on my personal flickr with the intention that next year, I can go back and see how far I’ve come and find 20 new images for the best of 2014. It’s a project that I think will give me a lot to think about as a photographer. (Plus, if the world actually ends, this could be my last year to do this.)

If you have a flickr – or even if you don’t! – I encourage you to join me in this project.  Find your top 20, top 10 – even top 5 images from the past year and save them in a set entitled “Best of 2011.” Better yet – print out small copies and save them in a small photo box to look back on one year from now.  As the years pass, you can compare your best images from each year to find out how your style has changed and gotten better over time.

And this isn’t just for photographers! Visual artists, songwriters, designers, chefs, and artists from every medium can keep an online time capsule of your best work to document your progress as a creative individual.

A Guide To Fantastic Holiday Photos

There are only a few more days until Christmas, and by now you’re sick of shopping, traffic, commercials, and all of the other bull that has become a necessary hazard of the season.  Seriously? It’s time to relax and start to enjoy ourselves. Time to do something fun and learn something new that doesn’t involve a mall or any major roads for that matter.  For me, that means I’m going to pick up my camera.  Haven’t you always wanted to have an awesome Christmas album that doesn’t just consist of photos like this?

I wanted to compile a list of photographic ideas that will keep you from a box of photos like that one and full of photos that remind you of everything great about the holidays. So the next time you get back from the mall in December and you want to burn the Christmas tree to the ground, you have photos that will keep you in the spirit.

1. Turn Off The Flash – Your camera’s flash ruined Christmas. And it’s your fault – unless you turn it off.  Think about it – there is nothing in existence that photographs *well* with a pop-up flash.  It’s too harsh!  Those photos of your tree and the softly lit front porch just won’t be as effective with a harsh flash.  So get out your tripod and set your camera for a longer exposure to capture the kind of light that reflects the Christmas spirit.  Be sure to use available light, like the light reflected from windows, snow on the ground, overhead lights and soft Christmas lights. Be sure to adjust your white balance to compensate for your environment! Read more

Is Turkey number 6 American Food Icon?

Benjamin Franklin famously wished the turkey had been chosen for the national bird and symbol of America.  I can’t blame him.  The turkey is the American version of the peacock.  And it is the tastiest of the pesky roadkill animals.

The turkey that we think of is native to North America and quickly became a popular poultry with early settlers because they were/are 1) delicious, 2) abundant, and 3) surprisingly dumb creatures which are fairly easy to kill.

In modern days, no holiday table is complete without the huge poultry centerpiece.  Obviously, that includes Thanksgiving.  It only makes sense to celebrate the (originally) uniquely American tradition with a uniquely American fowl.  I find it also serve as a subtle metaphor for the abundance and wealth America boasts.  Turkeys are one of the largest food-birds (the largest in North America.)  Tomorrow, millions of turkeys will be either overcooked or undercooked (aka wasted), placed on the table, and surrounded with copious heaps of sides that won’t see Saturday by one means or another.  A huge, fat turkey is the appropriate gluttonous symbol of the 4th Thursday of November. Read more

School vouchers and the NCLB conspiracy

I hope a lot of people are concerned by a $100 million voucher proposal recently announced by House Republicans. The bill would provide voucher money to poor communities where public schools aren’t meeting the testing standards imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act.

(And to think some folks wondered what the real strategy behind NCLB was. The law’s goal isn’t to fix public schools—it’s to show how bad some of them are doing in order to justify vouchers.)

Although the bill’s sponsors acknowledged that Congress isn’t likely to vote on it this year, the very attempt proves that the religious right and the Republicans who do their bidding are indeed one rascally group.

Getting poor people to buy in on the voucher idea is a smart strategy, because it hits the public schools where they’re most vulnerable—in the country’s most economically devestated areas, where any kind of school would have a tough time educating children. Pandering to the poor also creates the illusion of the G.O.P. as champions of the disadvantaged. (You may have just choked on your coffee as you read that last sentence, but, hey, money talks in politics.)

Read more

I Believe In The Power Of Print

What can I say? I’m the sort of traveler who brings a multitude of books on any plane, train, or automobile trip. I need my pop/vacation fiction; I love reading “normal books. I need my serious, highbrow fiction; I need something spiritual; I need something educational. The e-reader lured me with its light, slim build and its capacity to house an entire library.

But when I saw an e-reader for the first time, my paranoid reaction was primarily fueled by 1960′s science fiction. Have you ever seen the episode of The Twilight Zone where a librarian in a future society is declared obsolete and sentenced to death? Being a grade-school girl spent an inordinate amount of time in libraries, I was scared out of my mind by that episode. I had nightmares, in fact.

How, I wondered, could books, of all things, be declared obsolete? The Christmas that my dad gave my mom an Amazon Kindle as a gift, I believed I had finally seen how books could slowly be eased out of our society. Like those poor Mafiosos who join the Witness Protection Program, books would disappear quietly, and nobody would notice they were gone until it was too late. Read more

ABOUT FACE (& OTHER BEAUTY TIPS): VISUAL (NAIL) ART

For those who use fashion as a way to express themselves, you know that style isn’t just about what you wear.

When analyzing an individual’s style, it’s more than just the clothes on their body that completes their look. All parts, from head to toe, are an integral part of my favorite sport of “people watching”.  In fact, self-expression has been taken to new heights (or lengths!) this season with recurring trend of nail art. Fashionistas and trendsetters have taken to a new medium this spring, artistically elaborating on a seemingly understated canvas like never before.

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Usually, I like to stick with neutral, matte shades that can be worn at the office rifling through papers or out at a chic city lounge with my friends. Fire engine red, ballet pink and coral are my go-to shades. However, once I saw this gallery from Lucky Magazine, I decided to get crafty and try some more creative designs for myself.

Of course, not all nail art is created equal, and your boss might have a thing or two to say about multi-colored digits. But if you’re willing to invest in a “Peter Pan collared“-mani, I say go for it! Cute nails always make me feel more, well, polished!

How Pinterest motivated me to work out

Pinterest is  my newest to-go source. After a long day at the office, all I really want to do is go on Pinterest and get inspired. Turns out, not all hope is lost the minute I cave and start flipping through pinboards. Yesterday I found an awesome quiz about personality and jobs. Who knew that if you answer a bunch of simple questions you can get your professional profile, apparently there are 6 groups of jobs. It’s a great tool if you want to change a career like I . So I was pretty happy to find this test. My second discovery was about motivation for workout.

I’m off to the beach for the weekend in a couple of weeks so naturally I’m trying to figure out the easiest way to look buff in my bikini while doing the least amount of work. It’s not that I really hate working out, it’s just that. Read more

Winning the Consuming vs Creating Battle

“Our mantra: brutal prioritization, maniacal focus.” – Jeffrey Kalmikoff 

Last time, I talked about how there’s a battle you face every day between consuming and creating.  As artist, we often have trouble organizing and making the most of the time available to us.  We have to fight against temptation from the constant stream of information we have before us, and make the decision to create for ourselves. The Resistance rears it’s ugly head and you’re locked in a fight that determines the rest of your day.  Here’s how I win.

Brutal Prioritization

I have a daily action list for every day of the week.  I’ve kept this list on paper, in Basecamp, in Evernote, and a text document in my Dropbox.  It doesn’t matter where you keep it – just that you keep one.

On my list, I have every day of the week along with what I want to accomplish that day. Everything gets ranked with what I have to get done (high priority) down to what would be nice to get done (low priority).  Along with that priority, each action also has a time limit on it.  I know, time limits sound childish but it’s how I structure out my day.  My list might look like this:

  • Start work day – 8am
  • Check email, social media, and Google reader – 25 mins
  • Edit some recent work in photoshop and backup online – 45 mins
  • Draft and refine one blog post for publication – 25 mins
  • Get out (photo walk, excursion, or anything to get out of the house ) – 1 hour
  • Brainstorm/journal for personal projects and series – 25 mins
  • Explore (see what others are doing that inspires) – 25 mins

Read more

Avoiding the Ruts

As the wheels of a great idea turn, there are inevitably ruts left in the road.  If you aren’t careful, you can back-track and easily fall into one.  At some point or another, every artist finds themselves in a rut.  Or worse, a series of ruts with no solid ground in sight.

As a photographer, you may find yourself taking pictures of poses A, B, and C in locations 1, 2, and 3.  A painter may be really good at realism and find their work turning to ducks and deer plastered in motel rooms around the country.  As cooks, we may exhaust our creativity on certain events and realize our personal menus have become taco Tuesday and stir-Friday.  (Archer, anyone?)  Ruts are steady, safe, reliable, and…. boring.  Mind-numbingly boring.

I have found myself in rut cycles, and I look at them as a challenge.  Accepting that you’ll find yourself in such positions (probably) many times throughout your life is a good thing.  As soon as you realize the comforting walls rising, you can take the opportunity to break through.

My favorite way to break the habits of a rut is to take the ingredients (because I get in cooking ruts) that I use in my rut-dish and turn them into something different.  It’s harder than making a completely new dish, but that is the fun of it.  Transforming your safe elements into daring, new things.  This helps me from crawling back into the same rut because I can look at the same item from many angles from there on out. Read more

Does Skipping Breakfast Affect Kids Weight?

Research shows

Kids who skip breakfast tend to weigh more than those who eat breakfast regularly. Why? Eating breakfast may help to reduce snacking and avoid overeating later in the day.

Not all breakfast are created equal

Your kids will get more mileage from an English muffin with scrambled eggs, fruit and a cup of fat-free milk than they will from a bowl of sweetened cereal and a large glass of juice. A smart breakfast choice includes whole grains, lean protein and some fruit or veggies.

One of my favorite breakfast

Growing up my kids loved “The Girl-Scout Egg” have you heard of it? It’s fast and easy and a great start to a day.

Lightly butter (real butter) a piece of whole grain bread (not whole wheat, there is a big difference) both sides, place on a skillet on medium heat and grill slightly (about 1 minute), turn over then with a small round cookie cutter or something that will cut about a 2″ circle cut out the center of the bread (you can do this prior to cooking if you choose), then crack an egg into the middle of the open hole, cook to your child’s liking if they like the egg over medium you should turn the toast over to cook the other side. Read more