Photography

I got my first “real” (interchangeable lens) camera for my birthday and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve always liked taking pictures and had an inexpensive digital point-and-shoot as a pre-teen, then a better quality point-and-shoot with more manual options as a teen, and now an iPhone. Despite my love of photography as a hobby, I’ve never really had aspirations of doing it professionally, so my mindset has always been “convenience/accessibility is key.” Phone cameras may be rendering point-and-shoot cameras obsolete, but for good reason: the wonderful convenience of being able to take pretty decent quality photos without needing to carry multiple devices on a day-to-day basis. Of course, it does beg the question of what is really worth documenting on the daily, and now we probably all have thousands of excess photos that we’d be better off without, and there’s certainly the issue of getting so caught up documenting life that you forget to be present, but I won’t get into all that now.

Because now, I’m putting a bit of that convenience aside and loving the experience of getting back to “slow photography” as I’d like to call it. Tapping a couple times on a screen to take a photo can make you forget how satisfying it is to look through a viewfinder, adjust settings and dials, hold a lens and press down to activate the shutter. It’s like creating an illustration on a computer vs. drawing or painting, or listening to a spotify playlist vs. putting a record on; neither is better or worse, but I think in this digital age, sometimes you just need to experience the analog version. It’s more psychologically satisfying, probably (I didn’t research that statement so don’t quote me haha).

The camera I got, after a brief but thorough research session, is the Fujifilm X-T1 with the 18-55mm kit lens. It’s an older model with many favorable reviews from professionals and hobbyists saying they still love using it even alongside the newer version. The last time I bought a camera, mirrorless technology was still in its early years, but I knew that this time I wanted a mirrorless because I’m just not the type of person who would want to lug around a bulkier DSLR for hobby photography, plus I love the classic film camera look. Mostly, it feels good to have the option to take high quality photos, especially for potential future trips. I’ve heard good things about the pancake lens, so that’s next on my wishlist as it seems like a great option to make the camera even more compact and travel-friendly. So far I’m super impressed with the quality of the kit lens and how quickly I’m learning to navigate the camera controls (it has dials on top for all the main stuff so there’s no need to go through a bunch of menus, which is really nice and adds to the tactile appeal). I still love my iPhone, but it sort of feels like getting a new pair of glasses with a stronger prescription and everything is way more crisp and clear.

Also, it reminds me of my grandpa, always with a camera around his neck from the late 1930s to the ’00s. I have several old “toy” cameras from his collection on my bookshelf and I think he’d appreciate how many of his grandchildren wound up loving photography. Most of us seem to have inherited the affinity (or perhaps deep-seated need) to document our lives. I also perhaps inherited my favorite color from him (always comes back to green), and a love of nature, which is my favorite thing to photograph. Now if only more blooms would arrive, they’re running late this spring and I am anxious to have more subjects to practice on. 🙂 Happy Earth Day (and birthday, in my dad’s case)!

Twenty-two

Today is my birthday! My first birthday with this blog, I guess that’s a small milestone of some sort? It’s funny how once you’re past twenty-one, all those momentous years of coming-of-age have pretty much happened and now it’s just a slow roll approaching thirty. Not to be cynical, because I’m very much a fan of birthdays and I think every year feels momentous in a way, but I do tend to have a moment every birthday where I wrestle with my emotions and expectations. Every holiday comes with excitement and the desire to spend the day in a joyful and meaningful way, but a birthday is like a private little holiday just for you, with no guarantee of time off or the participation of others.

Maybe you can relate to these odd feelings. I’m not the type to seek attention, so while I definitely appreciate being appreciated, I find that I enjoy this new kind of birthday that comes with being an adult, the kind where it falls on a Monday and you have your regular obligations and you just sort of go on with your life, though maybe everyone is extra nice to you for the day. 🙂 I always end up feeling super loved, which I’m grateful for, and I really enjoy just seeing that pretty little date everywhere…4/16. My own special significant set of numbers. I do love April as a whole, though, because I happen to have quite a few family members that share this month of birth, so it’s a string of happy little significant calendar dates.

Something that has hit me in the last year or two is not to get so hung up on individual dates, though. Sure, you may have those days on the calendar that make you feel like you have to do something exciting or feel a certain way, but they come and go like any other day, so why not try to value every day instead of stressing over the ones that “should” be important? For me, having a pet oddly helps with that mindset. As far as my little rabbit is concerned, holidays are no different from any other day (except maybe they’re worse because we leave him all alone while we’re extra busy celebrating!) Benjamin Bun doesn’t care that it’s my birthday, he just wants more head pets and playtime like always, and honestly, that’s a really grounding concept to me. We humans over-complicate our lives and could benefit from some reminders of simple living from our small furry friends. Anyway, you know me, I could go on. Another day, another analysis of what lessons I can apply to find more peace in my life.

I do want to check in briefly regarding my resolutions, because technically a birthday is like your own personal New Year’s Day, so it seems like a good time to allow myself another reset. 🙂 I will say I’m doing pretty well with my personal goals so far! I have a streak of over 100 days of practicing French using my Duolingo app, I’ve been attending ballet class again regularly and improving steadily, and I’ve only bought one article of clothing this year (with a gift card for my birthday), so that spending fast turned out to be way easier that I expected. The ones I need to work on more: being online less, digital decluttering, and actually attempting to illustrate a story. I’ve slowly started going through my hard drive of photos but I haven’t devoted much time to it; as for the illustrating, I’ve done enough miscellaneous practice and need to start working on a concrete project and give myself some deadlines. And to be honest, being online less has not happened at all, I’ve been pretty horrible lately about being glued to my computer for the majority of my spare time, I really need to change that.

So, twenty-two is my new lucky number. I really do think every new year is my new favorite age and I hope I keep up that mindset, because it must mean that I’m learning and getting better, little by little.

 

Simplicity

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of simplicity. I’m a believer in minimalism and less-is-more as I’ve mentioned before. However, when it comes to art, I think simplicity is the trickiest thing. I still generally believe simple is better in art and design, but it has to be done well otherwise it feels like cheating in a way. I’ve been kind of struggling with that lately as I examine the things I create and the works of other artists that I admire. Sometimes when you step back and look at more minimal art, it starts to beg the question of what constitutes art, and whether you can really communicate a vision or higher skill level with something that is not outrageously detailed or complex.

I mean, this is coming from someone who wants to be a children’s book author, so I guess I admire art that is almost childlike in simplicity no matter whether I think it’s a particularly impressive type of art. But still, sometimes I get that little bit of pride creeping in and I think, hmm, I should draw something really detailed and photo-realistic just so I can share something that proves I can do “real” art. Which is silly, because like I said, I’m a believer in simple art as well as complex art, and I don’t necessarily think one shows more skill than the other, because they’re both tricky in different ways.

Ultimately, I find that my favorite artists hit that beautiful balance of simplicity and complexity–there is enough detail in their art to keep the eye moving, but not too much that it becomes overwhelming. I like just enough detail to make an image feel alive but not so much that it feels like reality. Sort of an alive-but-in-another-world kind of vibe, the kind that makes you wonder how it can feel so real and yet so unreal at the same time. The ones that come to mind are all my favorite 20th century children’s book illustrators, such as Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Dahlov Ipcar, Tove Jansson, Ludwig Bemelmans, Maurice Sendak, Beatrix Potter, even Tolkien. Some more detailed than others, but all with an inherent simplicity of spirit. (Beatrix Potter and Tolkien, you might argue, put quite a lot of detail in their illustrations. I would argue back that though more realistic in style, they still maintain some restraint, keeping to simple vignettes with not too much going on in one frame.) All with the alive and otherworldly quality to their images. Modern illustrators that I enjoy following on instagram for the same reasons are Oana Befort, Teagan White, Dinara Mirtalipova, Maggie Cole, Anna Bond, Jon Klassen, Jacob Escobedo, and Rebecca Green.

Now that you just skimmed over all those names, rolling your eyes and thinking “what a geek!!” haha…I must say, it’s true, I’m a total illustration geek. It’s starting to feel like my industry. Just like I admired and researched the innovations of Charles and Ray Eames when I was interested in industrial design, now as an aspiring illustrator I find myself drawn to poring over the work of artists that inspire me, some that captured my eye even before I could read. As much as I feel the need to prove myself by doing a little bit of everything, I think I can’t escape an inherent simplicity in my own work. Is it laziness, incompetence? I don’t think so. I think those inclined to complexity will just make everything complex, and those inclined to simplicity will not be able to go into extreme detail without it feeling forced. Neither one is more “real” art than the other; the opposing style can be a good exercise but it does not “prove” true skill, per se.

I know I’ve hit another slow period on the blog, this is just what’s been on my mind recently, waiting to be worked out in writing, on the topic of art and my future aspirations for my own illustration style. Lots of pondering direction and not enough actual experimenting, which I will hopefully start to change soon, though my calendar is starting to pick up with a lot more events and plans lately. I still have a long way to go, but I’m going to embrace my natural inclination for simplicity, enjoy the journey and note the progress along the way. I’m not sure this post will be all that interesting to anyone not inclined to nerding-out over illustration, so if you actually read this, merci beaucoup, many thanks and kudos to you for supporting my rambling. 🙂

(P.S. Christ is Risen and Happy Bright Week!)