Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daily doing and weekly study

From The Free Dictionary, an artist is:

1. One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.
2. A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You are an artist in the kitchen.
3. One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts.
4. One who is adept at an activity, especially one involving trickery or deceit: a con artist.
The key words in these definitions (leaving out "trickery" and "deceit") are "imagination," "talent," "skill," "adept," and "exceptional creative ability." 
We can have the skill, but without the imagination and creativity, we produce lifeless work. And imagination and creativity will get us just so far without the skill. 

Whether we're photographers, ceramists, quilters, calligraphers, collagistas, painters, or gardeners, to excel at what we do, to be artists at what we do, requires the wonderful fusion of creativity, ability, skill, talent, and imagination. And all that requires practice.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Just another day. But it's the beginning of 2012. The start of a new year. A brand-new calendar. A "starting over" of sorts. I have no resolutions (other than to spend less time sitting on my butt here at the computer), but I do have plans. Do you?

My plans are to play this year. To play with a new project I'm working on in photography, which will show up in the next few weeks, and to play with learning how to be a better collage artist. Those are my plans. Each of those activities requires creativity, ability, skill, talent, and imagination. How to approach that?

My photography/Photoshop skills need buffing up. So each week I'll be learning a new Photoshop technique, trying to use it every day so that it becomes an automatic part of my repertoire. Because I have a mind like a sieve, a little cheat sheet of how-to info hangs on a clipboard on the wall by my desk. Easy for me to look at, to constantly remind myself. 

My collage work needs to be looser, more free. I need to worry less about careful placement of precious papers and just do it. And do it often. So every morning, for at least an hour, instead of sitting looking at blogs and seeing what others are doing, I will be doing the doing. (Did that make sense?)

What this boils down to (for me, and probably for you) is daily practice. Every day, create something. I don't care if it's a doodle on a scrap of paper, a photo of a piece of string, folding an origami crane, or gluing glitter onto macaroni. Create. Anything.
And study. Each week, learn something. How close can you get with this lens? With that lens? Open your camera's instruction manual and read just one thing. One. (If your manual's as miserable as mine, often that one thing is totally incomprehensible, but try it anyway.) 
Go to the library or a bookstore or online and look at -- really look at -- art other than photography (if you're a photographer). If you're a quilter, look at paintings. If you're a ceramic artist, look at quilts. Study the forms, the patterns, the structures. You may find yourself turning a corner in your own field as a result. Those carved and scratched patterns someone made on a clay bowl might inspire your quilt work, your photography, your painting. You never know. And it's never time wasted.

I'm going to shut up now. My point today is that 2011 ends in a few hours. Look at 2012 as a new beginning for you and for your art. Take it to the next level with daily doing and weekly study
For me, I plan on playing more. But I'll be taking this playing thing very seriously! Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. ©Carol Leigh, Artist

Friday, December 30, 2011


A new year is just around the corner. Here's hoping it gives us all something to smile about, even if the smile looks somewhat forced. Happy New Year to each of you. May 2012 exceed our expectations. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sweet dreams...

Wishing you sweet dreams and a quiet Christmas Eve. Special greetings to Las Tres Amigas in North Carolina, who read this blog every day, and to Bugsy and Sam, who do the same. And to all, a good night. ©Carol Leigh


Usually, when returning home after a trip, we're in "get home fast" mode and take the quickest, most direct route, no stopping. This time, because the light was so soft and pretty, and because there were SHEEP in the distance, we took a side road and stopped for a few photographs. Love the tree in this one. I added a soft texture layer and sepia toning to emphasize the quiet look of the scene. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Light in a long night

The nights are long these days, but there's light to be found. This ginkgo leaf fell out of a book today, a symbol of hope, longevity, peace and resilience. I placed it on a piece of paper I'd painted indigo blue, then added the stars. Wishing you lots of light when things look dark. ©Carol Leigh

Two from the "Wheel o' Pith"

Happy Winter Solstice to you... A new beginning of sorts... What are you working on? What artistic endeavors will you pursue this new year? Here are a couple of cards from my "Wheel o' Pith." (I've mentioned this Rolodex idea holder a couple of times this past year, here and again here.) (Click to enlarge.)

In this flurry of holiday activity, take a few quiet moments and think of one artistic thing you wish to pursue this new year. Just one. Maybe it's getting up the nerve to photograph people, something that might really scare you. Or maybe it's to take one good photo a day. Or a week. Or maybe you want to learn one new Photoshop technique every month and really master it. Or perhaps you will give yourself an assignment every couple of weeks. Buy flowers for the house every two weeks and photograph them. Shoot the cat. (You know what I mean!)

DO something, CREATE something, and do it CONSISTENTLY this coming year. The time's going to go by anyway. Have something to show for it.

©Carol Leigh (who pretends she's talking to you, but she's really talking to herself)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Got color?

While in San Diego I saw a bright red building. When I see color like that, I immediately begin wondering what I can find in FRONT of it. I first tried focusing on the bark of a palm tree, but that didn't work so well. What DID work was this giant bird of paradise plant growing right in front. (Click to enlarge.)

What makes it stand out? A few things...

First, there's the magic number of THREE. Three stems branch out from the base of the plant.

Then there are the diagonal lines, which give a feeling of movement.

Then look at all the red triangles here: left, lower right, another to the left of that one, and the tiny one at the very top.

Finally, we've got complementary colors of red and green, each of which makes the other look especially good.

The final result is colorful, bold, clean, simple, and smooth with just a hint of contrasting texture along the raggedy edges of two of the stems.

©Carol Leigh, wishing you a colorful, bold, clean, simple, and smooth life with just a hint of contrasting texture along your raggedy edges . . .

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ho! Ho! Ho!

My friends Rich and CJ have wooden Santas placed strategically around their house this time of year, some whimsical, some oh-so-artsy, some adorable. Here's a little sampling of three I had to photograph during my visit. ©Carol Leigh (a Santaphobe but curiously drawn to these wooden figures)

Friday, December 16, 2011

"P" is for "PLAY"

A "P" found on a railroad car combines with a picture of a boat reflection, resulting in an extreeeeeeeeemly colorful photomontage. (Thinking of you, Janet G.)

This is an example of the alphabetical pictures I'll be continuing to create next year during my "26 in 26" alphabet class that begins January 1.

©Carol Leigh, who believes "P" is for "PLAY," which will be my word for 2012

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dark and sexy . . .

I took this picture at an antique car show, but darned if I can remember if this is the actual car or a reflection of the actual car. And I don't even know what PART of the car this is. All I know is that I love the sexy curves, love the mystery, the darkness, love the bit of reflection there as a focal point and how the metal below it seems to be softly squished.

Has that happened to you? Where you shoot something and then later, in the cold, clear light of day, you haven't a clue what the picture depicts nor why you took it? No? Well then it's just me, with my "softly squished" brain. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, December 12, 2011


Sometimes when I create my photomontages, I'll create two different versions, one rectangular and one square. And it's interesting to see the different feel between the two. Sometimes I like one version, sometimes the other, but it's always good for me to create them both, just to have a comparison.

I'll often begin these pieces and then walk away from them for a week, a month, a year, to revisit them later with new eyes. That's what happened here. I knew I had SOMEthing, but wasn't sure what, when a couple of months ago I began working on this. It all came together yesterday.

This photomontage was made from a variety of photographs, including typewriting on onionskin paper, peeling paint, a scratch on the side of a train car, a bit of red paper, part of a wall in Mexico, an adding machine tape, etc. 

This "squarification" concept works well in "normal" photography as well. Let's say you have a landscape and you've composed your photo so that the barn is more toward the left side of the horizontal frame. What if you were to crop away some of the right-hand side? You may find that now your barn looks pretty prominent; all of our attention goes to the barn rather than wandering around a larger frame. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not, but the key thing is to THINK about the possibility of squaring your frame when you're taking the photograph.

Try it. Take the perfect landscape shot. Then think, "what if this were a square format?" Recompose your photo and take it again.

And think about photographs you've already taken. What if, on a cold and rainy day, you were to rummage around in your computer, looking for images that might benefit from being presented in a square format? You might be surprised (pleasantly) at what you find.

©Carol Leigh, who squarifies more often than not . . .

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Macro jewelry

One of the lessons coming up in my Mini-Macro online photo class is about photographing jewelry, exploring lighting and depth of field. I have this old silver and amethyst necklace in a glass jar on a shelf in my studio. I kept the necklace in the jar and shot through the glass, filling my frame with beads and silver. Weird? Yes. Cool? Yes. Fun? Yes.

©Carol Leigh, who is usually weird, infrequently cool, sometimes fun...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Frozen in time

It's been cold and clear at night here on the Oregon coast and mornings are sparkly with frost. I got up around 3:30 this morning and looked out to see the moon shining silver on the ocean, lots of stars, lots of beauty, lots of cold!

In keeping with the chilly temps, here's a photomontage I created of a close-up of an ice cube combined with a photo of a clock (of sorts). I made the clock myself, piling up various parts, and then shot straight down onto it. (Click to enlarge.)

Looking at this clock, I'm either extremely early or very late, so I better get moving.

©Carol Leigh, who has no concept of time . . .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Snowy Leaves

You know how sometimes you start off with one concept and it turns out completely different? Well, that's what happened here. I'm still going to work on my original concept, but in the meantime, I like this shot. (Chris didn't like it at all, but says it's now growing on him. He's SO diplomatic!)

These are cherry leaves that I pressed flat, photographed, and then combined with a photo I took of scratched aluminum. I like the cold, fall-into-winter look. Click to enlarge. ©Carol Leigh, flattening leaves wherever she goes...

Monday, December 5, 2011

What are you working on?

When you ask most artists what they're working on, they have an answer. Maybe, "I'm experimenting with encaustic painting right now," or "I've developed a different sort of glazing technique," or "I'm using plant dyes to create patterns and designs on fabric," or "I'm working on a series of collages using old player piano rolls."

When you ask a photographer what they're working on, the response doesn't seem quite as defined. "I'm trying to get out more," or "I'm playing around with a new lens," or "I'm learning Lightroom."

Is it time for us photographers to focus more sharply on what we're doing? Rather than wandering about looking for things to photograph, what if we had goals, projects, concepts to pursue? More clearly defined projects to work on?

A new year begins soon. What will YOU be doing next year with your photography? Still wandering around looking for things to shoot? Nothing wrong with wandering. In fact, I live for that. But maybe in addition to that seemingly idle wandering we would learn more, expand our vision, hone our craft by consciously looking for something in particular.

One of my goals for the coming year is to work more with extreeeeeemly shallow depth of field. My fastest lenses are an f/1.7 20mm (which focuses quite closely), an f/1.8 50mm, and an f/2.8 100mm macro lens. In addition, I've got an old Lensbaby which deserves a bit more time, and shallow depth of field is what that lens is all about.

I also have an idea for a book, a book that is handmade and will incorporate physical papers and photographs. So I'm going to be doing shooting that's specific toward the concept of the book and I'm going to have to learn how to MAKE a book!

And I also have an idea for "mail art," a series of photomontage postcards/messages that look real but aren't. And will also continue working on my letter photomontages, such as you see here.

So. I ask you today, just a few weeks away from a brand-new year, what will YOU be working on? Is 2012 the year you conquer your fear of photographing people? Is it the year you begin your "photo a day" project? The year you put together a book of your tree photos? Your "faces in nature" photos? The year you spend a month searching for compositions incorporating the color blue?

Having a specific goal will make you a better photographer. It will encourage you to look at your surroundings differently, with a different focus, a different purpose. By narrowing your vision you will actually expand it. Stick with it and by this time next year you will be a different person, a more confident photographer, and a more creative photographer.

©Carol Leigh, who is conducting an online class beginning January 1 where we'll be photographing letters of the alphabet, one a week, for six months. Could be just the perfect project for YOU in 2012!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Remains

Photomontage created using pictures I took of an old building in New Mexico, the cover of a Japanese book, and part of a red boat hull. ©Carol Leigh, who knows she's weird but is old enough to enjoy being so . . .

Friday, December 2, 2011

Faces on the beach

The first thing I need to say is that none of these was altered in Photoshop to create the faces — all were "as found" on the beach. It's weird. Some days you'll find no faces at all and on others, well, seems like you're being watched all the time. I particularly like the look and feel of the last photo, an angry raptor of some sort, complete with a highlight in the eye created by dried seaweed. Fun stuff, no?

©Carol Leigh, who is comfortable photographing faces in nature, but terrified of taking pictures of actual human beings...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New collage: "Red River"

I finished this one-of-a-kind handmade collage last night. Thanks go to CJ Middendorf for the "red river" running down the top two-thirds of the piece — a beautiful piece of bright red handmade paper. The grey, black, and blue papers were given to me by Kathleen Amt, who is quite an artist. She also made the bone-like flat disks. The red disks come from a jewelry artist in North Carolina named Nina Bagley. Thank you all again.

For a larger view, please click the image. This collage is for sale in my online store at

©Carol Leigh, who is having so much fun making both these physical collages as well as digital photomontages. May you derive just as much pleasure from whatever creative things you're producing.

Pi Squared

One doesn't think of gulls as being mathematically inclined, but when I saw this one sitting next to a cleat (pi), I was most impressed. Naturally, a square format worked the best. Since pi = 3.14, I'm looking forward to celebrating Pi Day on March 14.

©Carol Leigh, who knows nothing about math, but who recognizes the symbol for pi when she sees it (and apple pie when she eats it).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Northern Lights

This photomontage began with a picture I took of a cement wall. That didn't work, so I tossed it out, but it LED me to what DID work. All this is is a combination of a photo I took of a very old Japanese book and a photo I took of a scratched boat hull down the coast. Ta da! Click to enlarge.

©Carol Leigh, who knows she makes this sound easy, but it actually took a few hours to create.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No "Black Friday" here

As is our wont on holidays (when it's not raining), we went for a little drive. First to the fishing boats to see what's going on there, where I found a blue buoy/bumper hanging down against an equally blue fishing boat.

Then we followed the river road toward Toledo, stopping to photograph the remains of an old train trestle. Then to Toledo to photograph graffiti on the sides of railroad cars — a favorite photo subject which I try not to mention very often because it's weird and I hate graffiti but love to shoot it, which is also weird...

Steam spewing from a smokestack at the Georgia-Pacific facility caught my eye because of the beautifully textured cloudlike formations the steam created. Powerlines even looked good silhouetted in front of the "clouds." And finally back to South Beach to photograph multicolored buildings.

We did not contribute to America's economy by lining up at 0-dark-thirty to purchase anything (thereby avoiding nasty pepper spray and trampling possibilities) and we bought nothing except lunch at a local restaurant. It was a TERRIFIC day, though! Peaceful, nobody on the roads, and beautiful things to see.

©Carol Leigh, who is thankful for being able to wander, look, and take photographs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

End of the day

Just before sunset, while there was still just a bit of light in the sky, we left the sand-covered houses and headed over to Waldport Marina. Warm lighting on the "caution" sign caught my eye and I quickly shot it, knowing that the quality of light would be fleeting. They're not kidding about outgoing tides — the current was screaming past.

Walking down on the docks, I photographed this gull using a 20mm lens at f/1.7, focusing on him and letting the rest of the scene go soft. It's a pretty look, I think. The photo of the sign above was taken the same way. Loving this 20mm f/1.7 lens!

This was a quiet, peaceful way to end the day, especially after all the sturm und drang of the storms, which should begin again today around 10.

©Carol Leigh, wishing you all a happy and quiet Thanksgiving.