Friday, August 28, 2009


“Keep it Simple Stupid” is one of the first things you learn about composition. It’s also good advice when it comes to living.

A few months ago I signed up for Alyson Stanfield’s Blog Triage class for artists. As part of the class, it was recommended that we sign up for Facebook and Twitter. One benefit to social media is just that – it’s social and artists tend to isolate. I have really enjoyed this aspect of these tools but I have noticed some of the pitfalls as well.

Besides taking up precious time, I have discovered that Facebook and Twitter also leave me feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. As I read daily posts, I am constantly amazed at how much people seem to get accomplished in one day – and they have time to write about it!

Not only are they celebrating career successes, but they have time to go hiking, work in their garden and actually cook a meal! I don’t think anybody is making this stuff up. I truly believe they are doing what they say they are doing, but I keep asking myself - do they sleep?

I may be a little jealous but I am also curious. Why can’t I get that much done? I am very organized and accomplish a lot during a day but it never seems to be enough. The important stuff – the big ideas and dreams I have, never seem to make it on to my to-do list.

Facebook isn’t really to blame for my tendency to slip into overwhelm. I do it to myself. Not only do I want to photograph flowers; I want to grow them too. I would love to have a weed free yard and freshly painted walls in my house. A perfect day would end with a healthy meal, cooked from scratch and a brisk walk as the sun sets. Guess what? That’s not going to happen.

When the feeling of overwhelm stays with me longer than is comfortable, I tend to reach for one of my “simple living” books. These books remind me to slow down and focus on what’s important. Besides my family and friends, photography is very high on my list of what I value. I cherish the time I get to work on my images and try to protect that time as much as possible. But like everyone knows, life happens and I accept this, but I also know I need to prioritize and let some of other stuff go. I want to concentrate on getting the big ideas and dreams out of my head and on to my to-do list. This won’t happen if I keep believing that I can have it all and do it all.

This is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit, but something happened this morning that freaked me out a little, and definitely got my attention.

I put a load of towels in the washing machine and after awhile heard a clanking sound. Strange, but I didn’t think too much about it. Later, when I took the towels out of the dryer, something fell onto the floor. It was a stone that is part of a larger collection of rocks with words of inspiration on them that I keep in my office – far away from the bathroom where the towels came from. The rock that ended up on the floor said – Keep It Simple………………………………..

Guess the weeds will keep on growing, and someday the walls will get painted. Takeout food can be healthy – right? I don’t have time to cook. I have better things to do………….

Monday, August 24, 2009

Comfort Zone - Part II

I have shared before about the times I have tip toed out of my comfort zone to face my fears and do things I may not have done before. One of those times was a few months ago when I had to be filmed introducing myself for I wrote a post about it back then, but what I did last week was not tip toeing out of my comfort zone, it was vacating it completely.

A little background on - this a new venture started by two of Sacramento's top photographers, Jeff Burholder and Ginny Giles. The description on their website explains their vision: “Together they saw there was a need to help others in their desire to learn the craft and art of photography, and late in 2008 they combined their efforts to create an online community to inspire, educate and create a sense of community for the art-form of photography. is not only an online community, but also has hand-on one too; with on-location workshops and programs that too help to inspire and grow the photographer’s vision”.

I was honored to be invited to participate and was under the impression that at the beginning, it would be more of a vehicle for introducing and offering live workshops here in Sacramento. I knew there was an online component but thought I had awhile before I had to worry about it. I was wrong. The tutorials already posted on flash, exposure, depth of field and filters should have been a clue as to what was to come, but I think I was in denial.

A couple of weeks after I returned from Paris, Jeff emailed me about scheduling my “video tutorial”. Now I have taught my workshops quite a few times, but it’s not the same thing as teaching while being filmed. I decided the best way to do this was to be prepared. I wrote a detailed outline and started practicing because even though I know the material, and I am repeating myself here, explaining it in front of a video camera is not the same as talking to a roomful of students.

So last Wednesday, Jeff and his assistant Dani, came to my studio and set up all their equipment, put a mic on me and then they were ready. The preparation I did before hand helped keep my nerves at bay a little, but I also have to give Jeff and Dani a lot of credit. They were patient and encouraging and helped make me feel as comfortable as possible.

The tutorial was filmed in two parts with the first part being more of a description and explanation on preparing to hand-color and the second part a demonstration of the technique.

Pretty soon we were finished and they packed up their equipment and I celebrated! I did it! It was over!

Now for some people this probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, but as the kid that sat in the back row praying she would never get called on in class, you can bet this was a big hurdle to jump over.

I am not sure when my tutorial will be online and I am pretty sure I won’t watch it, but I hope to continue to stretch myself like I did. In doing this, I believe my comfort zone will grow and hopefully allow for many more new experiences and opportunities. I will keep you posted!

Friday, August 21, 2009


After taking my first darkroom class and discovering my passion for photography, one of the first things I did was buy a book, then another one, and another………………………….. I wanted to learn everything I could and this seemed like the best place to start.

I found that besides useful information, what these books gave me was inspiration. This was especially true after I started hand-coloring. I probably have every book ever written on the subject. Most of these books, though written by one or two photographers, have sections where they featured the work of other hand-color artists. This was usually my favorite part.

I purchased most of these books before “surfing the net” was a common phrase. Soon after my first dialup modem was installed I started searching for the websites of these and other artists. I discovered that many of them were teaching, had books out, a few were on the festival circuit and all of them seemed to have a steady career doing what they loved.

I soon realized that in addition to inspiration, the work of these photographers gave me hope. Hope that making art your full time pursuit (I can’t really call it a job) was possible.

Over the years, with the help of the internet, I added more photographers to my list of "favorites". I thought I would share some of these websites with you.

Most of these artists hand-color their photographs and many of them work with infrared images, but what they all have in common is that their work and their careers greatly influenced and motivated me. I hope they can do the same for you.

So in no particular order here a few of my favorites:

Jill Enfield

Thea Schrack

William Vanscoy

Elizabeth Opalenik

Brigitte Carnochan

Paul Kozal

Kathleen Carr

I would love to hear about artists that influenced, inspired and motivated you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hand-Coloring Inkjet Prints

I have been getting a lot of requests for tips on my technique of hand-coloring inkjet prints with pastels, so I thought I would just share a little bit here.

Here are the tools and pastels that I use. When I first started experimenting I would make a powder out of pastel sticks and then apply that. The powder allowed for the detail of the photograph to come through the color. I was very happy when I discovered Pan Pastels which has eliminated the job of having to make the powder. The applicators and art sponges also come from Pan Pastel.

Use a piece of matte foam core or a paper towel to wipe off excess pastel before applying it to the print. I also recommend using a daylight balanced light when hand-coloring. If this is not possible, take your print to a window or outside every once in awhile to check on your color.

I also suggest that when hand-coloring an image for the first time, make an 8 x 10 practice print and try different colors and make notes that you can go back and refer to when you begin your “official” print.

Begin in the middle of the print. Start with the darker areas and carefully apply color. Use a very light touch. It is easier to add more color than to take it away.

You want to think of this as a layering process. Apply the pastels with the applicator and then use the sponge to gently spread the color more evenly. Use a rubber kneaded eraser to gently lift and blend color. Apply your base colors first, usually the darker colors. Use the tones of the black and white print as a guide. After that, come back and add lighter color as highlights.

Start studying nature. Look at all the colors in a leaf. It’s not just green. It has greens, yellows, blues and peaches. Use this knowledge to improve your coloring skills.

I know this only a small amount of information but I wanted to share it anyway. The most important thing is to have fun. Hand-coloring is a personal expression and there is really no right or wrong way to do it. Just enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Comfort Zones

"Do not resist events that move you out of your comfort zone, especially when your comfort zone was not all that comfortable." -- Alan Cohen

It’s been almost a year to the day of when I announced my first hand-coloring workshop. It was an idea I thought about, but not too seriously, until the bottom started to fall out of the art festival circuit I had been on for over 10 years.

I was tired, frustrated, disappointed and scared. I knew I needed to make some changes in the way I did business, but at first did not know what direction to go in.

The decision to hold a workshop was not an easy one to make. I was terrified, but I created an email with information about the class, hit “send” and then held my breath. Within a couple of hours I already had two people signed up. My first reaction was “sh#%, now I really have to do it!" That class filled up pretty quickly and I soon had a waiting list and another class scheduled.

I wrote about that first workshop in an earlier post so I won’t go into to detail, but let’s just say I was soooo happy when it was over with.

Fast forward a year and I have now taught this class about six times, as well as a more advanced version of it twice. I have made changes based on things I learned from previous classes and as a result, get a little more comfortable each time I do it.

I have also discovered that I really enjoy teaching! I have formed a lot of great relationships with people that have taken my class and I love seeing students discover their own creativity, sometimes for the first time.

In the last couple of months I have been trying to come up with ideas for other workshops. One idea that I tossed around was a two day class on floral photography. This would be in a studio setting where on the first day we would work on setting up and then photographing flowers, and then on the second day, each student would hand-color their favorite image from the day before. I was a little nervous about such an undertaking and was debating whether or not to set a date and make an announcement, when I came across the above quote. So again, I hit the “send” button and held my breath. Well, as of the other day it has sold out and I am excited about the ideas I have for teaching this new class.

I am a big believer of stepping out of your comfort zone once in awhile. It’s how we grow. At first, I thought I was offering workshops as a way to supplement my income, but teaching has opened up a whole range of different opportunities for me, some of which I hope to share in future posts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pleasant Surprises

One of the things I love about walking around with a camera in my hand is you never know what you will find. What is around that corner, down that alley or behind those gates?

July 14th was my birthday and Bastille Day in France. I shared in an earlier post how my family honored my wish to walk around and take pictures that day. When I am by myself or with another photographer it’s easy and fun to just wander aimlessly looking for the next shot. When you are with your family it’s a different story. I felt like I needed a plan.

A good friend of mine gave me an early and very appropriate birthday gift before I left for Paris. It was a book titled – “Quiet Corners of Paris”. This book was filled with pictures of courtyards, gardens, churches and all sorts of places that really spoke to me. When I found a place in the book I wanted to visit, my husband would pull out the map and point us in the right direction.

Since my birthday was a national holiday in France, quite a few of the places I wanted to visit were closed. In addition, the book had been put together a few years before and there were some courtyards that had looked very enchanting in the book, but gates had been put up that only allowed access to residents. It was still fun and I took many photographs along the way. It was definitely a case where the journey was just as much fun as the destination.

On one of our first days in Paris I picked up this vintage postcard at one the stands along the Seine.

I knew this was a place I wanted to visit and hoped we would find the time.

Once we had exhausted all our options within the walking radius of our hotel, I decided I wanted to go to “the gates” - Parc Monceau . My husband pulled out the map again and to get to the park we had to get on the Metro and venture out a ways.

I was a little nervous, because while the gates looked great, I had no idea what we would find inside the park. Also, as much as I was enjoying being “queen” for the day, I was starting to feel a little guilty about dragging my family on this scavenger hunt.

When we got there it was pretty obvious that a shot of the gates would not be possible because of cars parked inside and outside the park. I didn’t really want to duplicate that photo anyway but I was a little afraid that what was inside would be disappointing.

Walking into the park and along the first little path, I turned a corner and this

was what I found.

©2009 Dianne Poinski

Jackpot! Relief and delight!

After what probably seemed like an eternity to my family, I told them I was finished shooting for the day but what I really wanted now - was an ├ęclair……………….

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Reflections

I have been back from Paris almost three weeks. After recovering from my jet lag I jumped in and immediately started working on images from the trip. I was excited and couldn't wait to see what I had. I edited, printed, and even hand-colored 6 small prints in that time. And then the other day I hit a wall.

I woke up on Tuesday and felt like cleaning. This is usually a sign that something is up, and while cleaning my basement I identified it and have been reflecting on it ever since.

I have been moving too fast, trying to do too much and in the process began to feel burned out, resentful and bored with myself.

On a deeper and more personal level I also knew I needed some time to grieve. Until now I haven’t been ready to publicly talk about it, but six days before I left for Paris my dear friend Susan passed away after a very courageous fight with leukemia. Susan was a bright light in so many lives, a very talented photographer and too young to be taken from us.

In the days before I left for Paris I had a million things to do so I really didn’t have time to think about it. I didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready. Every once in awhile, usually while driving, it would hit me and I would shed a few tears, put myself back together and do what was needed.

Paris was one of Susan’s favorite cities and so I went with the intention to honor her spirit and celebrate our friendship. I lit a candle for her in Notre Dame which felt so right.

Her memorial took place while I was away and I was very sorry I missed it. I think I could have used the closure and the connection with mutual friends. I am trying to get a few us together to do our own little memorial for her.

In the meantime, I gave myself the time this week to let the reality of all this sink in and feel what I needed to feel. As a result, I am feeling more grounded and centered and ready to do the “slow” work of hand-coloring some 16 x 20 prints and reflect on how grateful I am for having had Susan in my life for the last 10 years.

©2009 Dianne Poinski

Monday, August 3, 2009

Paint Brush Award

Thank you Kim Bennett for this award!

So now what I am suppose to do is share 7 random things you may or may not know about me and then pass it on to 7 other bloggers. So here we go:

My first creative pursuits as a child were sewing and guitar. I have my old guitar book signed by the teacher saying I was “the first girl student he had complete the third book”. August 1969

I broke my right arm 11 years ago in a rollerblading accident.

I hate to fly.

I can’t eat chocolate – it gives me migraines.

I have always lived in California – both southern and northern CA - but someday would like to try living on the east coast.

I have been to 3 World Series games.

My first concert was “Day on the Green” in 1976 with Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac and Gary Wright.

With pleasure I hand the brush over to:

Bob Ellis - he continues to inspire me with his dedication and passion for photography!

Dee Wilcox over at Creative Perch - I am just getting know her but I love her spirit of creativity.

Rachel Greig - one my first "commenters" and a wildly creative photo artist.

Rhiannon Connelly over at
Starry Blue Sky - She has been creating beautiful photographic, Polaroid art as part of her 12 City Project.

Gabrielle - A new friend and very talented painter. I love her banner: "Selling my Soul - The career my Mama warned me about."

Rosie at Ruminations, Rambles, Reflexions - Another photo artist with great energy.

Last but not least - my brother
Joe Murray. His blog has served to inspire not only me but countless aspiring animation artists as well.

I could keep going. I have loved finding this spirit of community in the blogosphere (spelling?) and look forward to connecting with many more artists and creative types all over the world.