Monday, December 1, 2008

Adieu "Big Blue"

I just wanted to share that a couple of weeks ago "Big Blue" was donated to WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment). He no longer occupies that special place in my driveway (I have a feeling my neighbors have been cheering about this).

I had "Van Morrison" listed on Craig's List for a few weeks with the hope that someone might see the potential that this vehicle had underneath the many layers of peeling blue paint. It was not to be.

What I really needed was to move on and so I made the decision to donate the van instead of trying to sell it. As much as my checking account would have appreciated the cash, this felt like the right decision.

I was surprised at my reaction when they came with the tow truck to pick it up. I actually shed a few tears as the truck drove away. This symbolized an ending as well as a beginning. When I made the transition from mini-van to "show van" it meant I was taking my business seriously and ready to do what it took to become a successful "Art Festival Artist". While I am not saying I failed in this venture, I have realized that the success I was looking for came with a price. A price, at least for now, I am not willing to pay.

I mentioned that I am taking a year off from doing art festivals but I must admit that there is a small voice inside of me hoping that this "experiment"proves to be so successful that I take two, maybe three or...................years off from the "circuit".

Already I am feeling a certain amount of freedom as I toss the applications that started arriving in the mail last month. I am making plans for weekends next summer that would not be possible with my former schedule. I am taking a vacation with my family in July!

So it was with mixed feelings that I bid farewell to "Big Blue". Sadness, fear, excitement and regret, all wrapped up in one very big "Blue Van".

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Fun

I recently had some high quality scans made of a few of my favorite negatives. Up to this point my digital experience has been with images taken with a digital camera. I have really enjoyed this new way of making photographs, but I have quite a few images that I love from the “olden days” when I still shot film.

This week I finally got to work on one of the scans. I chose this image not only because it was one of my favorites, but also because it was very difficult to print in the darkroom. A lot of dodging and burning was required which was never my favorite activity. While it still required a lot of work, making adjustments in Photoshop was a dream compared to standing for hours inhaling questionable chemicals. I also experimented with a few edge variations on this piece. The possibilities really are endless and I love that!

The next adventure will be hand-coloring the inkjet print. I have worked on this image a number of times using oils on my fiber darkroom prints so it will be interesting to see how this turns out using the pastels.

Once again I am reminded how lucky I am. I find so much joy in doing photography and adding this new element has just sparked more excitement and enthusiasm. It is in this spirit of gratitude that I would like to express my wish that everyone take a moment and reflect on all the things that bring passion and joy to life. My list is extremely long and that fact alone is something I am very grateful for!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let the fun begin!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Occupational Hazard?

“So ……what do you do?” This should be a simple question but I frequently stumble over my words when trying to explain what it is “I do”. Of course what I usually say is “I am a photographer”. Easy - right? You would think so, but what invariably comes next is something like “do you do weddings?” or “can you take pictures of my kids?” After this exchange I usually launch into something about how I “hand-color black and white photographs that I have taken of flowers, landscapes and/or architecture". If they seem interested, I might talk about art festivals and my studio, but due to the awkwardness I feel, I usually l try to change the subject.

Now what would it be like if when asked, I say “I am an artist”? My first reaction is “oh I couldn’t say that, it sounds so pretentious” Why is this? Isn’t that what my art festival ID badges all say? Why can’t I say it? I would still have to describe “my art” because no matter what I call myself, I still feel an explanation is needed.

Maybe this dilemma is a result of a question I was asked at an art festival once. While viewing my work, someone asked “is this photography or art?” By the look on my face, it was apparent to them that they had asked the wrong question and they quickly mumbled something and left.

It has taken many years for photography to be recognized as an art form, and perhaps I am doing a disservice to the craft itself by my reluctance to declare with confidence and enthusiasm “Yes, I am an Artist!” Just writing this is hard. The committee in my head has gone into overdrive. “What do you mean you are an “artist”? “Your brother is the artist, not you!” “You never took art classes in school, how do you justify calling yourself an artist”. This is just a small sampling of the cacophony of voices in my head.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to have become an accountant. That would have rolled off my tongue easily………. but at what price?

Monday, November 3, 2008


It’s been a week since finishing up what will be my last art festival until 2010. Even though I had tossed around the idea of doing a few local shows next year, I recently made the decision that I was not going to do any shows in 2009. It’s been an interesting week. It feels like all I have been doing since March is working to “get ready for a show”. Not having that pressure feels great but it is also a little unsettling. I can be very focused and effective when I have a deadline looming, but give me time to think about “what to do next” and I start to feel very scattered and even a little anxious. I have a long to-do list but what I may need is time to regroup and relax.

One of my goals in the coming year is to learn all I can in an effort to improve my skills as a photographer and an artist. I just signed up for a one day photography workshop this Sunday. This sort of activity goes by the wayside when all my time seems to be spent on applying for shows, making hotel reservations, sending out postcards, producing and packaging inventory and everything else involved in participating in art festivals (I forgot to mention “obsessively checking every 15 minutes”). But now with this break, maybe I can slow down and devote my time to my craft and not just on my sales and marketing. Of course I am still going to try and get my work out there, but just not in the intense (and expensive) way I have been pursuing the last 10 years.

Another exciting aspect of this “sabbatical” is the opportunity to explore different ways of teaching and sharing what I have learned and developed in the last few years. My next workshop on December 6th is full, with a waiting list, so you can be sure I will be offering more classes next year.

So while I may be feeling a little “off” now that my shows are over, I am excited about the possibilities that could unfold as I explore this new way of not only working, but living with authenticity and passion.

Don’t forget to vote!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Workshop Butterflies

I recently taught my first workshop and lived to tell about it. I was extremely nervous about this class for many reasons. The obvious reason is, it was something I had never done before. That is always a little scary.

What I found most interesting was the anxiety I felt when I realized that this was a role I had never envisioned myself in. I was always the kid (and later the adult) in the back of the classroom praying feverishly that I would not get called on. I disliked being the center of attention and have joked that panic would set in every time my geometry teacher said the word “diameter”. I thought for a second I was being called on to give an answer that nine times out of ten I would not know.

So here I was, preparing to not only get in front of 10 adults and speak, but to speak to them because they had paid me to! Fortunately, I was going to be talking about something I was very passionate about and that was hand coloring black and white photographs. It turned out that I really only had to formally speak for a short time because once my students (that feels weird to say) started working on their own images, silence and calm took over. This is what hand coloring has always done for me and I was so happy that other people were having that experience as well.

I was also fortunate to have had the most accepting and generous first class a teacher could ever ask for. These ten women will forever be on my gratitude list.

Now’s here the really strange part – I had fun! I had so much fun I am doing it again. Yes, it would have been easier to have said “ok, been there, done that” and mark it off my list, but I am excited about tweaking the format and really finding out what works best for me and the students. I also truly believe that this experience will help to improve my skills, which is a big part of what this next year is going to be about for me.

Have I mentioned recently how grateful I am to do the work I do?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I am so happy to be home! Labor Day weekend was the Sausalito Art Festival and my last show out of town this year. I unpacked my suitcase on Tuesday and then packed it again Wednesday night. On Thursday my husband and I had an early morning flight to Ohio for a family wedding. I had five days to relax. I just enjoyed being away and basically told everyone to tell me where I needed to be and at what time.

I was doing a lot of thinking however, and as a result I have made the decision that for the most part, I will not be doing any art festivals in 2009. I may participate in a couple of small local shows but I am not going out of town for a show next year.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my van had given up on me and it was prompting me to do some serious contemplating. Many factors influenced this decision but what it comes down to is I need time to regroup, create and enjoy.

I will continue to show and sell out of my studio and online and I hope to offer more workshops, including the one I am holding on October 4.

In the meantime I will be trying to reduce the amount of inventory I have remaining and will be sending out an announcement about a special event I will be part of in October. I will end the month with the last show of the year at the Sacramento Convention Center.

I am excited and a little nervous about this decision but it feels right. I remember hearing once that excitement mixed with a little fear is a perfect recipe for growth. I am going to make that my mantra. I will be using my blog to document the ups and downs that will occur as I change the way I do business.

One thing I could really use help with is my online marketing. What do you feel would make it easier to purchase images off of my website? Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. You can leave a comment here or email me at

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'll Be Back!

Just wanted to share that I will be taking a little break from posting on my blog. I have decided to devote most of my time in the next two weeks getting ready for my biggest show of the year - the Sausalito Art Festival.

Right after Sausalito I am traveling back east for a family wedding and then my daughter is coming home for a visit before she goes back to school! It will be a nice break - time to relax, regroup and get ready for my first workshop on October 4th.

I will resume posting sometime next month with reports on how Sausalito went and news about my plans for next year. Later..........................

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Alternative Processes

Earlier this week I played around with a new (to me) process of making a photographic print. My friend Judy invited a few of us over to teach some of the basics of Van Dyke printing. This is something I have been wanting to explore for awhile and was very excited when Judy invited me to join the small group at her house.

Van Dyke printing is actually an early photographic process that uses UV light to expose the negative. What I found very intriguing is this early process is being combined with digital technology by creating the large format negatives in the computer and printing them out on transparency film.

After the negatives are made, the watercolor paper is coated with a chemical solution that becomes the emulsion on the paper. We used a brush to apply the solution which gives the edges a unique look.

The next step is to place the paper and the negative in a glass frame and take it outside where the "magic" happens. The sun was the UV light source we used that day. Once the paper has been exposed, it is fixed and washed just like we use to do in the darkroom.

Every piece created is a one of a kind image and it takes a lot of practice, patience and skill to perfect making a photograph this way. It is always rewarding to learn new techniques that may further your own form of expression. Besides, you can't beat a day spent with good friends, making art and being creative.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Booth Building

Last week I was in Bellevue, Washington participating in the Bellevue Art Museum ArtsFair. It was a long way to go for an art festival but I was able to spend a couple of days in Seattle visiting with my daughter - so it was well worth it!

This show is interesting because it takes place in a parking garage! I decided it would be fun to show some of the different stages a booth goes through before it is ready for "showtime".

The first thing I do is get my van close to my space and unload as quickly as possible.

Then the fun begins. I usually put my panels up first to at least get the "bones" of my booth started.

After the panels are up it becomes easier to work around what's left on the ground. I begin to figure out where the tables go and from there decide where I will hang my frames. This particular booth took me about 6 hours to put together. I took my time and changed quite a few things along the way. At one point the Fire Marshall came through and I was instructed to change how my lights were plugged in.

I was happy with the way this booth turned out and I slept very well that night. Good thing too - we were open on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm! Sunday we closed at 6:00 but I was still there until 9:00 tearing down. I was eager to get my van loaded and back to Seattle. My daughter had Indian food waiting and I was starving! Thanks Nichole!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On the Road Again.........

I left this morning for my show in Bellevue, Washington. I am spending the night in Eugene, Oregon tonight and then will drive to Seattle tomorrow so I can spend some time with my daughter. Nichole is going to school at the University of Washington and I have not seen her since I dropped her off at the San Francisco International Airport in March. She was leaving to spend her spring quarter studying in London and then flew directly back to Seattle last month. She is spending the summer participating in the 2008 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities research program at UW and wasn't able to arrange to come home before the seminar started. She has worked so hard and I am so very very proud of her! I can't wait to see her!

I picked up my rental van yesterday and then took everything out of “Big Blue” and loaded it into “Big White”?????. That sounds terrible! This van is so non-descript I can’t even come up with a good name for it. I don’t think I really want to bond with it anyway since I have to give it back next week.

My van breaking down has given me a lot to think about. I love doing art festivals but by this time of year I am usually exhausted. I start thinking about cutting back drastically on the number of shows I do each year, but by November I forget about that and start sending in my applications.

Have I been given a sign that I need to pay attention to? Perhaps 2009 will be the year I only do 4 or 5 shows and then look into some alternative ways of doing things. Trim my expenses to make it possible to create more time for making art instead of selling it. I don’t know. I had 2 hours on the road today with nothing to listen to (my iPod needed charging); maybe that’s why I have become so reflective. Silence has a sneaky way of doing that.

I think it’s good though. I feel energized when I think about other options. This could include new ideas about creating my art, changes in how I market my art, or just plain different ways of living my life. Stay tuned…………………

Saturday, July 12, 2008


One of the greatest gifts of doing my work has come from the people I have met along the way. I have formed quite a few friendships that began because they connected with my photographs and either purchased a piece or asked about future events I would be participating in. Over the years we visit when they come to shows or even get together for lunch or coffee. This has become an unexpected benefit of creating and selling my art.

I first met Marilyn at a show I do every year in Sacramento called the Town and Country Art Fiesta. This was probably 5 or 6 years ago. She shared with me that she was in remission from breast cancer and I could tell then what a fighter she was. She purchased a couple of small prints from me and asked to be put on my mailing list. After that she made a point to come to every local show and open studio event I had. She loved images of doors and windows and it is safe to say that every time I saw her she found a piece she had to have. The funny part was she lost track of the images she already had and on more than one occasion would come back to a show the following day and sheepishly inform me that she already owned the exact photograph she had bought and “could she exchange it for another”.

I always looked forward to seeing Marilyn and was upset when a couple of years ago she shared with me that her cancer had returned and she was going to have to cancel a trip to Europe. She seemed determined that this was just a temporary setback and in no time she would be able to reschedule any plans that may have been postponed because of the new diagnosis.

I wish this story had a happy ending but last year it became apparent that she was losing the battle. The amazing thing was she still came to see me, although this time a friend pushed her around in a wheelchair. And yes – she bought a piece she already had which her friend returned the next day.

In early June as I was getting dressed to go to the Town and Country show, I wondered if I would see Marilyn. I had not heard from her since a Christmas card I received in December so I was not surprised when her friend came to my booth alone. She came to let me know that while Marilyn was still fighting, nobody really expected her to last more than a couple of more weeks. Even when you expect bad news, it’s still hard to hear.

I learned shortly after that visit that Marilyn had passed away. I am still inspired by her passion and refusal to give up. In honor of her memory and her love of animals, my donation this year to the SPCA Auction will be made in her name. Thank you Marilyn for adding just another layer of sweetness to what I do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I was driving to a show in Danville, California, about 2 hours from Sacramento, when my van started acting up. It was stalling when I came to a stop. I drove the entire way in the slow lane – just in case. This was stressful. Since my biggest fear was that it would not start the next morning when I had to set up, I parked it at the show site the night before and got a ride with some friends. I figured as long as I knew I would be able to do the show, I would deal with whatever happened later.

After a sweltering weekend (a whole other story that involves paramedics) I did manage to get it home Sunday night and to the shop on Monday morning. They assured me they would have it in tip top shape before Thursday which was when I had to leave for my show down in La Jolla.

My van is a 1990 Dodge Ram Van with a great stereo. I bought it from another photographer about 5 years ago. He had already built platforms and cubbies for all the paraphernalia needed to do a show. A place for panels, a place for the ez-ups and places perfect for safely getting the art to the final destination. While this van was not the prettiest kid on the block, I took care of it and it got me where I needed to go - until last week.

The shop called to tell me there was no way they could get the part they needed to fix “Big Blue” (one of various pet names this van has been given) before I had to leave on Thursday and even if they could, it probably wasn’t worth putting that kind of money into.

Needless to say I was not prepared for this news. I thought that if I took care of “Van Morrison” and loved him with all his imperfections, he would transport me wherever I needed to go.

I am sad to announce that “Blue Van” will never again fly down the freeway, it’s driver singing along with the tunes coming out of the great stereo, and everything packed tightly in its proper place.

For the rest of the season I will be renting a non- descript, white van, just like everyone else drives. While this may sound boring and dull, it does come with some perks. Power windows, locks and mirrors, a rear view mirror (never knew how handy those were), better gas mileage and a certain sense of security that comes when driving a new vehicle. I don’t know what I will do next year. I really don’t need to make a decision right now. All I know is that I am really glad it started acting up when it did because breaking down on Highway 5 going south toward San Diego would have made me very grumpy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is Balance Overrated?

It’s not hard to understand why I love what I do. When creating new images, I find myself totally in the present moment, unaware of time and filled with an energy that is hard to explain. I also discovered early, that the hand coloring aspect of my photography was therapeutic. When my Dad was dying of cancer I would find a certain amount of peace and acceptance come over me whenever I sat down to work on an image. While that was one of my first experiences with that particular benefit, it was not the last. Like most people, I have had my share of “bumps in the road” but I continue to find healing through my work.

Having explained some of the positive experiences I have had while working on my art and the passion I feel toward it, it’s no wonder that at times, working is all I want to do.

I have found though, that this sometimes obsessive desire to work does not always feel like a good thing. I find that when I am engaged in too many outside events and/or obligations I have a tendency to get grumpy. Many of these activities are considered very enjoyable by most people, including myself, but when I start to feel like working would be more fun than going to a party or to the movies with friends, I start to question my priorities and motives.

It’s a classic stereotype – the artist as a loner, anti social and introverted – but I believe there may be some truth to it. My need for solitude is not very far down the list after my need for food, water and shelter. If I go too long without time for myself and my art I become slightly depressed and irritable. It’s not pretty. My family and my good friends know this and they respect it.

But it’s hard to live like this and not feel guilty. My need to retreat into my studio has nothing to do with making money but it may look like that to someone who does not know me very well. There are many times I do things because I think I “should” not because I really want to. Compromise is part of living in society and participating in activities we may find “unappealing at the time” is what “adults” do – right?

I hope I don’t sound like I am complaining or whining but I am curious as to what other people, not just artists, do when feeling conflicted about choices they have made or about to make. How do we find balance or should we even attempt to? Is balance overrated?

But really, when it comes down to it, how can finding peace, joy and passion in what you do (and get paid for it) be a bad thing? It’s not – I surrender. I have some new peonies shots I have been dying to get to all weekend. Could be a late night…………………

Friday, June 6, 2008

How Did I Get Here??

I was not one of those people who dreamed of becoming an artist as a child. I also did not dream about a career as an accountant either but that’s where I was headed. Anybody familiar with Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” knows about the limiting belief that there can only be one artist in a family.

My brother laid claim to that title at a very young age. His talent was evident even as a preschooler. My brother, Joe Murray, went on to create and produce award winning animated shows such as “Rocko’s Modern Life” for Nickelodeon and the Emmy winning “Camp Lazlo” for Cartoon Network. On top of all that (and more important) he is an amazing father to his two daughters and the best brother a girl could ask for. He is currently working on an independent animated film titled “Fish Head”. Can you tell how proud I am of him?

While his career path was fairly direct, it was unusual because he never worked a job that did not involve his art. He never got to experience the joys of waiting on tables or making coffee for the guy that signed your paycheck. My own path, on the other hand, could have circled the planet a couple of times. Since I was not the “artist” in the family or the “athlete” (that would be my sister), I was the designated book worm. Every family has one – don’t they? I loved to read and still do. I was also fairly good in math so a business degree seemed to make sense.

I attended junior and state colleges up and down the state of California and when I was in my mid thirties and the mother of two adorable preschoolers, I finally ended up at Sacramento State University. Here I was, on track to fulfilling my requirements for an accounting degree, when I decided to take a photography class to satisfy an art requirement.

I had taken photography classes before and loved to take pictures of my kids but something about this class, taught by Ralph Talbert, ignited something in me that many would say was an obsessive but passionate love of photography. I could not get enough. I was the first to come to class and the last to leave. I read all the books I could get my hands on and even talked my husband into turning one of our bathrooms into a darkroom.

It would be a few years before I would actually sell a photograph I made, but that’s another story........

I never did get my accounting degree but I am one of the few artists I know that can do their own sales tax return!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Photography is all about light. Sometimes waiting for that perfect lighting situation can test even the most patient photographers. The making of "Illuminated" is a perfect example of this.

I took the original black and white photograph that became "Illuminated" on April 23, 2008. I was on my way back home from leading a class in hand-coloring at Marin Catholic High School. It was a perfect day - if you love clouds like I do.

I got off at highway 12 going toward the Sacramento Delta region of northern California. I made a right turn on this dead end road right around Suisun City. This had to be one of the longest dead end roads I had ever seen. I would pull over every once in awhile and take out my camera but I wasn't very happy with any of the shots I took. The clouds were keeping any of the light I so desperately wanted, off the hills. At this last stop, I shot a few photographs and then decided to wait and see if the situation would improve. After awhile I decided it was time to put my camera and tripod back in the car and get on the freeway and look for another location. This is an example of what I was seeing:

The clouds were great but without the sun hitting the hills, the whole image just looked flat to me.

As I was putting my equipment away I looked up to see the hills light up as the sun peeked through the clouds. I quickly got out my camera and decided to not even bother with my tripod - I had no idea how long this light would last. I took a few photographs before the sun went away and then got in the car. I couldn't wait to see what I had captured.

"Illuminated" is June's "Image of the Month" and is posted on the home page of my website as well as under "New Images".

I never did find the end of that road........................

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Festival Musings - Part 2

My first weekend home in 4 weeks. It feels good. Doing yard work, cooking, walking - I think these are things people do on the weekends when they are not getting up at 4:00 am to set a booth up in the dark. I don't have to get up that early for every show. As a matter fact I am trying to limit the amount of shows that I do that require a morning setup. This year I only have 3 shows on my schedule where I get to experience the joy of being half awake while I try and think about how to set things up. To add to the experience is knowing that I look like I have been up since 4 am and will probably wear my sunglasses and a hat all day to hide that fact as much as possible.

All of the other shows on my schedule this year, let us set up the day before. I love this! To be able to take your time trying to decide where your panels are going to go, setting them up and then changing your mind - can be a lot of fun. It's only fun however, if I am by myself. If someone is helping me they usually start getting irritated by the third design change. It's funny how I can set up an entire booth in 3 hours or less if I have to, but give me 9 hours and I will use almost all that time to create what I feel has the best flow and presentation.

The other advantage to setting up the day before is I don't have to worry as much about getting in a situation where I can't get my van out of a tight spot. I will usually get to the site as early as possible, unload everything and then move my van and breathe a sigh of relief. My show van is a 1990 Dodge Ram Van and while I have had it for 4 years, I still have trouble navigating it around other cars, backing it up and parking it. On more than one occasion I have let other people take over. They just jump in and seem to be able to slide in or out of what I thought was a very tight parking situation. Amazing!

One other thing that can stress me out before a show is the weather forecast. I start logging on to and then as early as 2 weeks before a show. I do this sometimes just to torture myself. They really don't know that it's going to rain that far in advance. All it does is give me another excuse to be obsessive. Did you know that accuweather can give you an hourly forecast? Does it do any good to know that there is a 30% chance of rain at 9:30 in the morning? Can I wish it away? No - all I can do is be prepared for anything - so that's what I do. It's all anyone can do.

Anyway, I am going to go take a walk - I think that's what people do on weekends.....................

Monday, May 19, 2008

Festival Musings - Part 1

I just finished a run of 3 art festivals, 3 weekends in a row and I am tired. This past weekend it was 100 degrees while we were setting up. It cooled down a bit for the actual show but it was still pretty brutal.

The thing is - you just do it. It is what it is. It's what I do and for the most part - I love it. Yes, it's hard work - physically and emotionally - but it is also rewarding in so many ways.

It's been fun all month to reconnect with old friends - artists I have met through the years while participating in the shows. It's like a family in many ways. We go through heat, rain, wind and recessions together. An artist friend was not feeling well this weekend so a bunch of us pitched in to help her tear down and load her van. (Actually, I wasn't that much help because by the time I finished tearing down and packing my own van, she had so many helpers that they finished before I did.)

Another example of the camaraderie we experience was at the end of the show, I left my booth to go check on my friend that wasn't feeling good. While I was gone a woman entered my booth and wanted to make a purchase. One of my neighbors, another photographer, noticed her and was ready to write up the sale and take her check for me when I showed up. I know for a fact that this artist did not have a good show and here he was, willing to do what it took to make a sale for me! Incredible!

I also have a good friend that has referred me to art consultants, coached me while I was on the wait list for a show I really wanted to get into (and did - thanks to her), and is always ready to share the wealth of information she has about what it takes to succeed in the art world.

I am not sure if this happens between competitors in the corporate world but I would be surprised if it occurred as often as it does between artists.

I am so grateful to be able to do what I do!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fight is Over

I mentioned in another post that it took me awhile to surrender and start exploring digital photography. I fought it for a couple of years. I love the smell of fixer - why would I want to give up the darkroom? "Real" photographers are still using film. Anyone can make a digital photograph - but you are an "artist" if you are still creating in the darkroom. I have since come to the conclusion that to make a compelling and satisfying image in Photoshop is anything but easy and takes quite a bit of knowledge and even more commitment and practice.

Of course my biggest obstacle had to do with hand-coloring a digital print. How I solved that problem was covered in another post. Now that I have a handle on that issue, I have fully embraced digital photography.

With this new found acceptance I have also experienced a renewed sense of passion and excitement about my work. I am taking more photographs and the more I shoot the more I learn. Every time I master something in Photoshop I get giddy and can't wait to try something else. While most of the manipulation I do in the computer is very similar to what I did in the darkroom - adjusting contrast, toning, and using filters - there are now more options that enable me to create an image that is close to what I visualized in the first place.

I do get asked all the time "are you still shooting film?" - and I feel like the "right" answer is yes. Until recently, I found myself getting very defensive. I would start explaining how my Konica infrared film was discontinued or how they stopped making my Agfa paper and on top of all that, I was becoming more sensitive to the chemicals. These are all perfectly good reasons to switch to digital photography. The truth is I am having so much fun and have absolutely no desire to go back into the darkroom. This is in spite of the thousands of dollars I have spent in the last year and the countless hours of frustration I have experienced. It's worth it!

I once read that if Ansel Adams were alive he would have loved Photoshop. If I were still making excuses I could use that little fact to justify my journey over to the "other" side. Why should I have to justify doing something that is giving me so much pleasure? I don't!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Time To Slow Down

Last weekend I was at the Saratoga Rotary Art Show. This was the first of 3 shows, 3 weekends in a row. I worked pretty much non-stop right up to the time I was leaving. This is my normal mode of operation during show season.

Saturday night I started to get a sore throat. "This could not be happening" I told myself. "I can't get sick!" Trying hard to convince myself it was just allergies, I attempted sleep. I was not very successful. Before the sun had a chance to rise, I accepted the fact that I was coming down with something and I would just have to power through and do the show. Fortifying myself with Advil and Sudafed, I managed to make it through the day, tear down and drive two and half hours home.

I woke up on Monday still feeling pretty lousy but there was work to do! Another show this weekend - no time to take it easy! I managed to get quite a bit done as I ignored my body's plea to rest.

Tuesday morning - I feel worse than I did on Monday. Exhausted actually. This was not part of my plan. The plan was to feel completely healthy by Tuesday. Oh well - I need to go to my studio. I have no choice - right?

Later on that day my printer starts acting up. Then it stops working all together. I can't get anyone over to look at it until the following morning.

As I am gearing up to go into full crises mode - it hits me. Getting sick was not enough to slow me down. The printer breaking down was a sign from the universe I could not ignore. Now I had no excuse. It was time to rest and that's what I did. Funny thing - I woke up Wednesday morning feeling much better!

I need to pay attention to this. I can get pretty crazy before a show. In response to being yelled at, my son would often ask me "do you have a show coming up". I am not proud of this. Friends come to see me at my shows because they know that's the only way they will get to visit with me.

I want to do things different this year. No one is forcing me to have a certain amount of inventory. It's my choice. I want to choose balance and fun over obsessive, frantic and stressed out.

I will report back and let you know how this is going. If you see me at a show and I look weary, remind of what I just declared.

I think I will go take a nap....................

Monday, April 28, 2008

Image of the Month

Last year I started sending out a monthly email that included a new "Image of the Month". Usually those receiving the email were the first to actually see this new image. I also post it on the home page of my website.

I started doing this for many reasons but the main reason was to motivate me to create new images. When I start getting really busy during show season, I have a tendency to spend most of my time building inventory for each show. After awhile I start to feel like I am constantly in "production" mode and very rarely do I feel like I am being creative.

Since I am happiest when I feel creative, I thought if I go public and say that I was going to have a new image every month that I would actually follow through it. I am happy to report it has worked! May's new image "Filoli Gate" was shot last July but I just recently hand-colored it. In past years I usually didn't have the time (or took the time) to make new images in July, which is in the middle of my busiest time. Knowing that I had made this intention to deliver something new every month was just the motivation I needed. It helped balance out the craziness of getting ready for shows and slowed me down just when I needed it the most.

You can sign up for my monthly emails on my website.

You can also drop me an email -, to let me know you would like to be added. I sometimes include special offers that are only available to those on my email list.

Back to work..................

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Search Of........

For various reasons, most of which involve my children, I have made quite a few trips between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area in the last month. On these little excursions I bring my camera and then search to find the perfect scene to photograph. This can be dangerous and with the price of gas going up every day, it can also be very expensive.

Recently while taking the back roads home, I got a little lost between Petaluma and Winters. Trying to navigate winding roads and keep a look out for places to pull over at the same time is tricky. It is easier when there are two people. One driving and one searching - however, this didn't help my cousin and I when we were Italy. We still managed to get into an accident after I ordered my cousin to "go back! I want to shoot there!" That's another story.

Today I drove to San Rafael via the "scenic route". I wanted to find "Steamboat Slough" which is along the Sacramento Delta. I have been there once and have the pictures to prove it, but I don't remember how I got there. I thought I had good directions today but when I came to where it was suppose to be, I think I was on the wrong side of the river. I went down the same road twice, thinking I had missed it. Since it was getting late, I thought I better start driving west toward the Bay Area. After going a short distance I see a sign for Sacramento and it's pretty apparent that I need to be on the other side of the river. All of a sudden I see a little ferry designed just to do that! It was a little strange but it got me to the other side and on my way.

I managed to take a couple of shots before getting too lost and that is what I am showing here. Don't ask me where I was - I have no idea!

I am here in San Rafael because I am going to Marin Catholic School tomorrow to demonstrate and talk about hand-coloring black and white photographs. I then pass out some of my old prints for them to play with. It's great fun and inspiring to see what they come up with.

I plan on going on another photo scavenger hunt tomorrow on my way home. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The waiting is over!

At the beginning of every year a ritual begins. The applications start coming in the mail and you know it's time. While many shows are now utilizing digital applications, which has made things easier, applying to shows can feel like a full time job for the first few weeks of a new year. You do the best you can, make sure all the directions have been properly followed, say a little prayer and send it in.

I can be pretty sure I will be invited back to many of the shows I have done before - but that is not always the case. In addition, there are always a couple of shows that I am applying to for the first time - shows I really want to get into. This is when stalking the mailman and obsessively checking emails becomes a lifestyle.

Well, I am happy to report that my 2008 show schedule is now complete and posted on my website.

Waiting to find out if you were accepted or rejected from a show can be torture! I found out this week the results of the last two shows I was waiting to hear from and it was good news! I was invited to participate in the Sausalito Art Festival and the La Jolla Festival of the Arts. It feels great to know what I am doing now.

Better get to work............

Friday, April 11, 2008


One of the challenges with going digital was trying to figure out how I going to be able to still “hand-color” and produce originals. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered that I liked working with pastels on the digital prints.

My black and white images start as archival pigment prints made on 100% cotton rag, acid-free paper. The first step is to shave down soft pastels to a fine powder.

I then apply the powder using various tools designed for

pastel artists. Color pencils are used to add highlights and fill in small areas.

I still have prints that I printed in the darkroom on fiber photo paper.

To color these I use photo oil paints.

I find hand-coloring very calming and meditative and time seems to fly by. This is one of the reasons it was so important that I find a way to hand-color digital prints. I am still learning all aspects of digital photography. I probably will be for the rest of my life. It's a little overwhelming at times but I am enjoying the journey.................

Monday, April 7, 2008



Above is "Repose" in it's "before" stage which was a full view of the vase in black and white. This photograph went through many changes before I arrived at the final image. I thought I had a vision of how I wanted this to turn out, but it's great fun when something else evolves out of your original intention.

Now before I continue, I feel I must explain something. The way I approach my work has progressed into something very different from what I started out doing. Yes, I went digital. I admit it. It was a tough fight and the explanation of that journey will be covered in another post.

I will clarify one thing - I still "hand-color" my originals. More on that later.

In order to have images that I can offer as "prints" and to create the jpg's I post to my website, I first hand-color an image in photoshop. Contrary to what I originally believed, it is not any easier coloring on the computer than doing it by hand, at least the way I go about it. I am still layering colors, adding highlights and spending quite a bit of time on each piece. Major differences between an original and the one I create in the computer are - I only do the print version once and my neck hurts a lot more as a result of all the computer time.

Anyway, back to my story about "Repose". I started coloring the original black and white version of this image and felt unsure about it. I liked it but did not love it.

Something wasn't working but I kept plugging away at it.

In keeping with my original vision, I adjusted contrast, toned and softened it. Getting better but still not working for me.

This image could have gone the way of many pieces where I just stop working on it but I didn't. At one point I zoomed in to get a closer look at one of the flowers and it hit me. I needed to crop the heck out of it and make it a square! Now I was happy.

Next: Hand-coloring an original with pastels. Can't wait? Go to FAQ's on my website.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Studio & The Capitol Area Studio Tour

In celebration of the Open Studio Tour this weekend and Second Saturday, I am recycling an older post about my studio. This is one of my earliest posts so there is a good chance most of you have not read it. (To be honest - I am also crazy busy getting ready for this weekend so I am cheating a bit - but recycling is good - right?)

Anyway, for those of you in the area I hope you can stop by this weekend. More information about the Capitol Area Studio Tour can be found on their website - as well as on my website -

I finally got around to taking some decent shots of my studio. I love this space. I moved into this studio last November. I had a smaller space with my friend Lori Emmington who is taking a break while she completes her Masters degree. She is also a full time high school art teacher - not sure how she does it!

The light during the day is amazing. The downside to this amazing light is the heat that comes through the windows when it starts to get warmer. I am debating on whether or not to get shades for the summer. I really don't want to. A new vent for the air conditioning should be installed soon - maybe I will wait and see how that works before I decide on the shades.

Another advantage to having this studio is that I get to participate in Sacramento's Second Saturday every month. The galleries in town, including the Art Foundry Gallery downstairs, hold their opening receptions on this night. It's quite an event. Every month all of the studios upstairs are open for people to visit, enjoy and possibly purchase art.

The studio is where I do the actual hand-coloring of my photographs. That is all I do when I am there. There are no distractions like I had when I worked out of my studio at home. No email to check, no laundry to fold, no dishwasher to empty - you get the idea. I just put on my Ipod, start coloring and completely lose track of time. I love it!

If you live in the Sacramento area or passing through, let me know. Second Saturdays are very enjoyable, but visiting the studio when you can actually watch the process of hand-coloring can be fun too. Visitors are always welcome!

1021 R Street
Downtown Sacramento

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm Back

I am trying to get a routine going here but it's been hard. I was out of town for a week participating in the La Quinta Arts Festivals down by Palm Springs.

Both of my kids are home this weekend for spring break. My daughter leaves on Monday to spend her spring quarter studying in London! I am so excited for her. My son will be home the rest of the week and that will be fun.

So while there has been a lot going on, I am going to try and not make any excuses for my lack of posts. Like I said - a routine needs to be established. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 7, 2008


Ok - I got into the show I was waiting to hear from. The funny thing was the acceptance came in my large self-addressed stamped envelope with all of my jury materials in it. This almost never happens. Rejections usually come in the large envelope. What a roller coaster that was! So at least I don't have to stalk the mailman anymore. What a relief!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Still Waiting............

Nothing in the mail today. Now I really don't know what to think. I emailed the coordinator for the show and I have not received a reply. I also emailed someone I know that also applied to see if she had received anything and I have not heard from her either.
So I wait and work on getting ready for the big show I am doing in La Quinta, California. I leave in a week and still have quite a bit of work to do.

Maybe tomorrow..................


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Waiting For The Mail

For the last couple of days, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my mail. As I was getting ready to leave today, I spotted the postman walking down our street. I quickly went back in and waited. Would I see a large envelope that I had addressed and stamped? You don't even have to open that to know that it contains a "thank you but sorry" letter.
As I watched the mail come through the slot, I was relieved to see that there were no large envelopes. Unfortunately, there were also no regular envelopes containing letters that started out with "Congratulations!".
One of the art festivals I applied to listed February 28th as the day the "invitations to participate" would be mailed by. In most cases, mail sent from that city should arrive the following day. Of course all I can think about is that the "rejections" are being mailed out at a later date and that is why I have not received anything. Stay tuned..........

Friday, February 29, 2008

An Extra 24 Hours!

It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the first day of March. All day I felt like I was getting this treat of an extra 24 hours. I wish I could say an extra day to "just enjoy" but like many people, it meant an extra day to "get things done". Starting this blog has been on my list of things to do since the beginning of the year, so it felt like the perfect day to begin.

Why do I want a blog?

I have become a great fan of many blogs out there. I feel connected to a whole community of artists, dreamers, teachers and risk takers and I want to participate.

I also want to begin to share my art on a more personal level. Hand coloring black and white photographs in the digital age has been both challenging and rewarding. I plan to share the frustrations as well as the inspirations and the techniques.

The business of being an artist is also a subject I would like to address. I have my first art festival of the year coming up in less than 2 weeks and I feel fear and excitement as the season begins.

I feel out of my comfort zone here, but I believe most personal growth takes place "outside the zone" so I am going to push past the fear and just do my best.

What more can we expect of ourselves?

I hope everyone enjoyed their "extra 24 hours"!