My Awkward Little Canvas

At the end of last month, I attended an artist’s salon hosted by my mentor and photography teacher Marty Springer. At these monthly events, a group of photography students and artists come together to review each other’s work and provide feedback and critique.

The ticket for entry is that you bring a printed photograph for review.

I’ve been feeling pretty unartistic lately, so I went to the salon, but I was unable to bring a print (long story involving the horrific lack of possibilities for serious photographers to have their work printed) and endured the mild chiding from my mentor.

We went forward and had a really good session. The people in this group are fantastically talented.

As we wrapped up Marty issued us a challenge. In addition to teaching, mentoring and being a well-paid professional photographer, she also curates a small gallery at a local public library. This is the venue where we have our annual photography show, and the rest of the year the gallery hosts all manner of art pieces including photos, paintings, mixed media, quilts and more.

Marty told us how she had booked an artist for a show to span the month of February, but he had shown up with all of his pieces so poorly and cheaply framed that they fell off the wall moments after she had hung them. The artist didn’t have the desire to fix his errors, so Marty was left without a show.

This was Sunday night and the show was due to open Thursday.

She told us she wanted to go ahead with an exhibit and we were all invited to contribute. Something was going up on February 1. She spoke to us about February and celebrating Valentines, but more than that, Marty wanted to put a show on the walls that was about love and about healing.

In the wake after the very tense election and then the horrible tragedies in Sandy Hook, Colorado and Oregon, she wanted to have a show that wasn’t all lacy Valentines and light, but something that showed love and strength and healing.

She asked us if we were up to the task. Turns out we were.

I had an immediate idea for a mixed media piece that had been simmering in my mind for a while and seemed perfect for this show. I asked if mixed media was ok since most of the pieces would be photography. She told me not only was mixed media welcomed, but encouraged.

That night I came home, pulled out a blank canvas and gesso’d it (to dry overnight) wondering just how in the HELL I was going to get this done in time. At that point I was two weeks into a new job and still adjusting to a pretty long commute. My hours of free time for working on art were pretty severely limited, but I wanted to try.

This meant I had to edit myself A LOT. I guess watching all the seasons of “Project Runway” had put that thought in my head. “Edit yourself,” I kept saying as I wanted to add more, embellish more, get more complicated and advanced in the few hours I had to complete this piece.

If I was going to make it in time, this needed to be simple, quiet and powerful.

On Wednesday night, only two days after I started the piece, I turned in a mixed media canvas with glue and varnish still a bit damp. My mentor gasped and danced a little when she saw it.

It’s a bit hard to see, but the canvas is actually ripped through, then closed up with thread and staples.

I was so very unsure about turning in this piece because it felt a little…intimate…to be sharing with the world. There is a lot of me in that canvas. Also, other than a county fair a couple years back, I hadn’t exhibited any of my art pieces and showing my creations to anyone other than The Good Man makes me a bit shy.

As I handed it over, I could only see all of the many errors I needed to fix. If only there was time. My nerve began to waver, but I relinquished my canvas to my mentor with the belief she’d find the right place for it in her exhibit.

This past weekend The Good Man and I finally got a chance to get over to the gallery to see my little humble canvas. I almost cried. She found a great spot for my piece and it flows into the show really well. It both stands out and blends in.

It is so very gratifying to see my little mended heart hanging proudly on a gallery wall.

Side note: No wonder the cartoon I posted for Valentine’s Day got to me so deeply! This idea of a broken and repaired heart has been on my creative brain for a while now.

Much gratitude to The Good Man, the great State of New Mexico, The Crafty Chica for the inspiration and know-how.

Photo and canvas are both Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Met A Childhood Friend

Was sorting through all of the photos from my recent trip to New York when I found a set that I wanted to share. In fact I’d meant to share this a couple weeks back but I just got lost in the back-to-the-real-world on top of the hectic pace of the hellidays.

One of the days that The Good Man and I were in New York, I requested the chance to spend a few hours in the New York Public Library as I was still rap-tap-tapping away at my NaNoWriMo.

The Good Man indulged me and I had some time to sit in the Great Room and write, which was both fun and inspiring and is something I will never forget. The Good Man went exploring as I worked because there is much to see in that amazing library.

That was when The Good Man stumbled across something interesting. It turns out that in the basement of the NYPL, there is a children’s books section, and in that area there is a display case containing several stuffed animals, but not just any stuffed animals.

In the case are the original stuffed friends that were the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh. These toys belonged to Christopher Robin Milne, the author’s son.

The toys were brought to the United States in 1947 and remained with the publisher of A.A. Milne’s books, which then donated the stuffed animals to the New York Public Library in 1987.

In this photo, from left to right, is Lottie the Otter who shows up in a more modern Winnie the Pooh book sanctioned by the Milne estate. Then we have Tigger, Kanga in the back, the small Piglet, then Eeyore and finally on the far right, the man himself Winnie-the-Pooh.

This photo is Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth

Turns out the stuffed bear was bought at Harrods in London as a present for Christopher Robin’s first birthday.

It also seems that this stuffed bear is named Edward. Who knew that ol’ Winnie-the-Pooh was really a very posh Brit bear? I did not.

This photo is Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth

This Winnie-the-Pooh looks much different from the Disney-i-fied version that we all are used to. This Mr. Pooh has very kind eyes and a pettable nose.

But still no pants.

This photo is Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth

I was pretty excited after seeing the original Pooh gang. It was like meeting a group of celebrities.

As a writer it was pretty cool to see how inspiration can turn into a rich and beloved story.

Combined with a marathon writing session and then seeing Charles Dickens’ pen and inkwell, it was quite a happy literary day for this little ol’ writer.

All photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Getting The Hang of this Panorama Thing

When Apple introduced the new iOS6 for iPhones, it came along with a new camera feature called Panorama.

It’s a way to take really wide angled photos. The OS has a pretty clever little interface to help make it easy.

As I’ve been traversing this big ol’ city of New York, there are a lot of great views that are hard to capture in just one frame.

I posted a fun panorama view of the New York City Public Library a couple days ago.

And herewith, are a few more of my favorite panorama shots from the week:

This is the beautiful Lincoln Center where we saw War Horse. I took this as the show let out and New York was bathed in that magic hour light. This is by far my favorite shot using the new technique.

Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the onboard camera app using the panorama feature.

Here is a shot from the American Museum of Natural History. I’d tried doing the panorama technique on the TRex skeleton, but the buggar was just too darn big. This was an awesome display of various skeletons ranging from a dino-era horse to a small dimetrodon. It was pretty nifty:

Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the onboard camera app using the panorama feature.

And finally, we have Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side. You know, where Harry met Sally?

It’s also about the most amazing deli in New York. Oh the corn beef! All piled high on a reuben with swiss and sauerkraut. Yum! The perfect egg cream. The knish to die for!

This photo just makes me drool. I may lick my computer screen…

This photo is also a bit of an amazing feat considering how many people are in the photo and everyone is moving around. That would usually cause weird pixel jumps and odd stuff, but other than one woman with a distorted head, it turned out pretty good.

Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the onboard camera app using the panorama feature.

Digging this new feature! More NYC photos to come.

In The Great Room

It is a mild and sunny Monday afternoon and I am happy and healthy here in New York City.

At the moment I’m working on my NaNoWriMo trying to increase a word count that currently sits at just past 45,000 words. I gotta get 5,000 more written by Friday to make it past the goal line.

I think I can I think I can.

In order to inspire myself, I’m sitting in the great room at the New York City Public library tapping away at the keys to my MacBook.

It really is a great room:

Copyright 2010, Karen Fayeth. Taken with an iPhone5 using the onboard app and the panorama function

Downstairs there is a free exhibition of some artifacts from Charles Dickens. Among these treasures is the late Mr. Dickens pen and inkwell. Now that really is inspiring.

Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Here I lament tapping away at the keys, trying to make the words accumulate into something good while our man Charles scribbled them all out longhand, dipping pen into ink every so often.

I suppose one might be a bit more thoughtful about the words if one had to write them out one by one in pen and ink, eh?

For me, I can’t imagine going back to even writing on a typewriter. I remember having to type up papers for school on my mom’s old manual typewriter and being so head bangingly frustrated at having to type each page perfectly with no mistakes. Argh!

No, I’ll take my beat up old MacBook, words slopping out from the edges of my Word document like water in an overfilled and somewhat leaky bucket.

I can veritably shower in the words here as they fly free and easy from my fingertips.

Then again, he was Dickens. I have yet to fully be Karen Fayeth.

Back to tip tapping away in the great room.

Many words and many miles yet to go….

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

The news this morning felt heavy on my heart. Via Twitter, I learned that author Ray Bradbury had passed away at the age of 91.

91 very productive years is one hell of a good life.

Even though I never met Mr. Bradbury in person (The Good Man did) I consider him to be an essential part of my own writing life.

Fifteen years ago I took my first few fitful steps into writing a full length novel. It was an effort that far transcended any type of writing or story crafting I’d ever done. I was tortured by demons, a flighty muse and painful, quavering self doubt. About halfway through the work, just attempting to put words on a page became massively frustrating.

Looking for inspiration, I went to my local library to see what was what. While prowling the aisles, my eyes traveled across a book title, “Zen in the Art of Writing.”

I read Mr. Bradbury’s essays on the art and magic of writing cover to cover and quite literally cried my eyes out the whole way.

Because his book unlocked something inside of me.

Something that will never be locked away again.

For that, I owe Ray Bradbury a deep debt of gratitude. He saved my (writing) life.

A few favorite quotes:

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

My stories run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.

I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love remake a world.

Ray Bradbury in 1984. Photograph: Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/Corbis

Image from The Guardian and used here under Fair Use.