Category Archives: Stretching

What inspired you today?

Inspiration is vital to maintaining any sort of creative flow.   It is also what keeps life interesting.  It had been suggested to me that people might be interested in where and how I get inspired, all the little (sometimes big) things that come into my life and provide some inspiration.  It’s not always immediately evident where that inspiration may or may not lead but it’s all fuel for the creative process.

I was thinking that, of course, everyone knows what inspiration is. However, I’ve long been a gatherer of information (in a previous job my nickname was Research Queen) so I thought it would be interesting to see exactly what the definition of inspiration is.  According to, inspiration is:

1.        stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity

2.        the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused

3.        someone or something that causes this state

4.        an idea or action resulting from such a state

5.        the act or process of inhaling; breathing in

All 5 of these are part of the ongoing garnering of creative inspiration, even the last.  Often, something that inspires me to a new idea does literally feel like breathing in.

As I was thinking about this post, knowing that I wanted it to be an ongoing series I was searching for an appropriate title.  In a quick break (otherwise known as procrastination) I decided to check out Facebook for a few minutes.  On the Superhero You FB page was this question, “What inspired you today?”    That’s a perfect title, I thought, not just what’s inspiring me but a conversation about where inspiration comes from and all the different forms it may take.

So that’s the foundation of what I hope will be an ongoing conversation about what inspiration looked like and where it came from, at least for today.  Tomorrow it may be something else.

The images that follow are from some time that served as inspiration for me a couple of weeks ago.  One thing I know that I need to do to stay inspired is to be with other creative souls no matter what their art form may be.  A friend of mine is a fiber artist as well as a most creative and generous soul. She invited me to spend an afternoon in her studio playing with fibers and/or just observing.  Being in the presence of other creative minds as well as being surrounded by the “stuff” of her art always opens up the creative pathways.  These are just a hint of the explosion of color and texture and creative energy that I experienced that afternoon.

So, what inspired you today?


*Check out the Superhero You website too! It says that it is “a community dedicated to helping you unleash your superpower.”



The Bow

Yesterday I wrote about having two images accepted into an exhibit at the Shoe Factory Art Co-op in Rochester, NY.  I’m excited to be going to the opening reception this evening.  This is a new venue for me and a couple of hours away from where I live.   I am interested to meet the other artists involved and see the community support.

When the SFAC has a call for artists they allow you to submit 2 images for that particular theme.  I knew right away that Entering was a good choice for the theme of Minimal Art but decided to look through my files and see if I have anything else that would work.

The Bow was taken when I was in Cape Cod for a class last year.  We headed to the waterfront to see what sorts of images could be made.  I don’t usually photograph the large scenes but look for details within.  I’m also always drawn to water reflections and liked the graphic nature of the lines that this boat created and the way it was reflected in the water.

The image right out of the camera was a good start


but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind so with some fairly minimal editing in Photoshop, the final black and white version was created.

If you’re in the Rochester, NY area, check out the exhibit through November 2012 at the Shoe Factory Art Co-op.



Mandala Monday 3

When I first started creating mandalas I used whatever images I had in my library.  I didn’t always like the first attempts but it was helping me learn the process.  After a while I could see what types of images yielded interesting mandalas (for me) and which didn’t (usually … I qualify that statement because you truly never know).  I began to notice that the ones created from images of trees were ones that particularly appealed to me.  I began seeing and photographing trees specifically for the purpose of creating mandalas.  The majority of my mandalas over the last year were drawn from tree images.  I would purposely head out when the light was interesting and photograph those spreading branches with light painting the sky beyond in unusual colors.  The first 3 images in the gallery show some of  my early mandalas created with images of trees.

Lately, though, I’ve been looking for different ways of seeing and envisioning the mandalas.  The beach at Lake Ontario last weekend provided some possibilities that I hadn’t previously considered. When I say beach, do not think of a white sandy expanse calling you to lounge in the warm sun with a good book and a nice cool drink.  This beach was a mile long expanse of nothing but rocks, beautiful rocks that had been tossed and rolled and washed over thousands of times to create smooth rounded surfaces, rocks anywhere from the size of a robin’s egg to that of a basketball.   It was tough walking, as the rocks would roll under your feet as you stepped on them.   I love rocks, and in fact collect a few everywhere I travel.   I picked up some great rocks to add to my collection and took some interesting shots of the rocks.  Very occasionally there would be small pockets of dirt/sand that had sifted down from the eroding cliff above the beach.  The image I used for the mandalas this week is what I called a Beach Still Life, one of those small pockets that had a bit of sand  as well as an assortment of rocks, leaves, and sticks.  It’s a very different sort of image than I usually use to create mandalas but then the resulting mandalas are very different than what I usually create.  It’s fun to occasionally change something in your work and see where it leads.

Do what you cannot do

I have a confession to make:  I am easily bored.  Well, not exactly bored.  I can’t actually remember a time that I was bored.  It’s more like I am always searching for new ways to do things.  Once I know how to do something well, I find myself wondering what else could be done.

In my first blog post I wrote about this as Stretching.  It’s so easy to get comfortable with what you know and what you do and what you think. That’s also known as a rut. 🙂 It takes a certain amount of courage to try new thoughts, new ways of being or doing but there can be rewards. Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

I’ve been intrigued with long exposure photography for some time but hadn’t  had (or made) the opportunity to play with it.  I was at a cottage on Lake Ontario for the weekend which was the perfect place and time to try this.

Photographers often speak of capturing a moment in time.  But what happens when you capture many moments all together?  In one image?  That’s what long exposures do.  Normally, when the shutter clicks it is open for a fairly short period of time, like 1/60th of a second.  Actually 1/60th is considered on the slow end of shutter speeds.  Shutter speeds on my camera go up to 1/8000th of a second.  That’s really capturing a moment!  So if you slow the shutter way down and keep it open for 1 whole second, or even 30 or 60 seconds what would happen?

Partly that would depend on whether the camera was still or moving.  In this first attempt I put the camera on a tripod to keep it very still and pointed it toward the horizon looking directly out over Lake Ontario.  The shutter was open for 60 seconds.  The movements of the clouds and the water are recorded and blend together and smooth everything out.  Pretty cool!  I have some ideas of other moving objects that I would like to try this with but was happy with my first attempt.

What new thing have you tried lately?  How have you pulled yourself away from the comfortable?   What could you do that you cannot do?

PS…This blog in general and this post in particular are also evidence of “doing what I cannot do”.  I’ve been taking part in a great online course lately, Flying Lessons: Tips and Trick to make your Creative Business Soar .  I’ve become connected with creative women all over the world. A small group from the class decided to start a blog circle.  At the time I didn’t even have a blog, let alone know what a blog circle is.  But, I thought, why not?  In the doing is the learning.

My understanding is that our 13 blogs, one by one link to each other and we will all be discussing our thoughts on courage.  So check out what  Janice Perdue Smith, a mixed media artist from Texas, has to say today about courage and see where that leads you.  I’ll be figuring it out as I go along, also. 🙂

Mandala Mondays


Is anyone else fascinated with patterns and puzzles?  I’ve always loved doing puzzles, all these seemingly random pieces and little by little, one by one, you discover how they fit together (if you don’t give up).

Patterns are a bit like puzzles to me.  I try to extract the little parts that make up the pattern.  I’m fascinated with how shapes or colors or lines, when repeated in some way,  create an interesting pattern.  I’m sure there’s all sorts of theory about patterns (seems I remember a very fascinating program on tessellations at an honor society dinner when my daughter was in high school).  I’m less interested in the theory of patterns than the way they look and make me feel.  There’s something very calming about working with patterns.  And I love to discover hidden patterns.  Mandalas are typically tremendously pattern laden, so it makes sense that I would be intrigued with the mandalas that I saw a couple of friends creating. (More info on mandalas )

I belong to a Creativity Group that meets monthly (more about that another time). Two of the women in the group were always coming in with mandalas that they had either colored from a predesigned pattern or created on their own.  I was intrigued with the intersection of colors and lines.  I bought a mandala coloring book but coloring the mandala, to me, wasn’t enough.  I scanned the mandalas and imported them into Photoshop and filled up the spaces with colors…  again, somehow not enough.  So, I thought, there must be a way I could use my photographs to make mandalas.  Googling  “photographic mandalas” yielded a binder full of possibilities and methods.  I took a bit of this one and a bit of that one till I had a couple of systems that worked for me.

Creating mandalas is a very calming activity for me.  I love the process as well as the unfolding of and the surprise of the pattern that was hidden within an image.  Many of my photographic mandalas have been created in the wee hours of the morning when my thoughts have created a barrier to sleep.  During the day, it’s often what I do to clear my mind.   After the creating, it’s the pattern that draws me in and shows me something new each time I look.

The mandalas shown here were just created a few days ago when I needed a break from the technicalities of setting up my new website and store.

The last image  was the source image I used, taken while on a hike  in Switzerland (we have family there), hence the name Swiss Roots Mandalas.

What do you see when you look into these?

Have you played with patterns?

What do you do to calm your mind?

Uetliberg, Switzerland

A Beginning

So… a blog.  Not something I ever thought I would be doing.  Many “reasons” not to.  I’m not a writer.  I’m quiet and shy.  Who would care what I have to say?  What would I say?  I don’t have time.  Etc. and etc.

But… I do like to do and try things that make me stretch and grow, see things in new ways, connect with new people and ideas.

So… why not?

In thinking about “What would I say?” I thought about the  what and the why of my life and work as a photographic artist.  Most of the  what and why seemed to fit into one or more of these categories:

Seeing:   What inspires me; the sights, ideas, thoughts, connections from my everyday life that somehow cause me to See not just see. One of my daily mantras  is courtesy of Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Practicing: The doing of my art; the tools, the techniques, the skills and habits that allow me to create.

Stretching: The learning of my art; experimenting, trying, growing, discovering, pushing to know, to understand, and to be more.

Celebrating: Because I believe that life is to be celebrated: the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Sharing: Making connections, getting my work “out there”, being generous with my skills and gifts.

So… what do you know?  There’s, perhaps, a framework for a blog.  And, wouldn’t you know that writing a blog actually fits into all those categories?  Funny how that worked.

So… here I go. Hope you’ll join me.

Path to Uetliberg
Outside of Zurich, Switzerland
©Gail S. Haile, 2012