I never planned to become a fine artist or a fine art photographer. Although I graduated from Parson’s with a fine arts degree my only goal was to become a professional Art Director/Graphic Designer. After doing that in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I pretty much retired from that career and raised my kids and did very little in the visual arts. But in 2006 before I even had an iPhone, I got a phone with a camera and started shooting out the window of the car in the rain (no, I wasn’t driving).
My phone shots looked interesting, so I uploaded them to my computer and played with them on the computer. I saw something in these low-resolution shots and enjoyed altering and enhancing them. Eventually after about 3 other phones I got an iPhone. By this time, I was also shooting with a Canon DSLR and editing in Photoshop. I loved making artistic effects and painting effects out of my photography, even though I didn’t think it was very good. In fact, I didn’t think any of it had any real value as art. I was just having fun. I decided maybe these could be something “decorative” as I still hadn’t put two and two together and come up with the fact that I had a fine art degree, years of art direction experience and yes, I knew something.
My point in going into this detail is vital in the healing aspect of what I do. You see, when I was a professional and thought of myself as such, I put tremendous importance on every design job I did. I wanted to do the best for my client and therefore never felt anything was good enough. I tried to create as others, more successful than I, had done and of course this didn’t work. By the end of each project I would get an acceptable solution and be thoroughly stressed out with a lot of wasted time in between. Starting a project was usually the hardest part even though concept was my strong point. What I’m saying is this wasn’t a “healing” art for me. And I never understood how anyone could do something like this so many hours of their lives. I worked to get the job done. However, once I started this photography “hobby” I worked to have fun. I would spend hours without even noticing it. Part of the reason was I didn’t have a clear idea of where each piece was going. Just an inspiration, and some tools to explore. This took away the “deadline” or premeditated concept and replaced it with the free spirit of adventure. I could go anywhere. An analogy could be the difference between taking a car trip in the rain when you have a set appointment and there’s traffic, to taking that car trip with no appointment, and the ability to choose the route, sight see and stop and have ice cream. One is relaxing one isn’t.
This was the beginning of some difficult years for myself and my family. Within just a few years we lost my mother, our business and our source of income just as my children were getting to college age. For the first time in my life I started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t a good place to be, but I realized that while doing my artwork I was relieved of this stress.
Two events created a turning point. In the winter of 2012 I bought my first iPad. At the time I had no idea how significant this would become as I didn’t know I could do any artwork on this completely mobile, light weight device. Then, in May of 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My cancer journey was a fairly simple one. I had a stage one tumor and I opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction. My hope was it would be a surgical cure and not need chemo or radiation and I was lucky as that turned out to be the case. However, after surgery there is a period when one is mostly immobile and cannot really use one’s arms much. That iPad I bought kept me busy and entertained. During that time, I discovered a plethora of apps that edit photography and make art. Some were quite good. I was able to spend a good deal of time playing with them during a time no one expected anything else from me. (the silver lining to my illness). Creative worlds opened as many of these apps could create effects easily that would take months to learn on a full system. My work took on a more expansive style but even more important kept me excited, happy and calm during these days of recovery and beyond. I realized that during the time I was doing this artwork, whether propped up on my bed or on the couch, I never thought of my illness or my surgery, or any pain. I didn’t have to tell myself to do this art, I just naturally gravitated to it. My philosophy (which is to this day the motivation behind my art and my teaching) became “You’re not sick while you’re creating” In many ways this was really the inception of everything I do today.
This doesn’t mean that artwork suffers as result of this somewhat “aimless” approach. Since beginning to exhibit in January of 2015, (despite my previous amnesia on my professional credentials) I have won somewhere around 15 awards, with at least 6 of them first place and one best in show, have had work accepted into many juried shows, and have been admitted into the oldest women’s art group in the country, NAWA (National Association of Women Artists).
I knew at one point that this was something I could share and help others to enjoy. And then the opportunity came up.