January 26, 2011

Creativity - Photo Magic

In the final post in this series on creativity I'm going to do something I have been waiting almost two months to do: show off some of my wife's abstract art photographs. She had a display at our church last weekend and asked that I not use anything of hers until that was finished.

I am using her photos not just to promote her work, though that is a side benefit. What she has done with creativity fits with the theme of this series: look around you, see something common, and think of a way to make it different.

Betty took several pictures of water falling from our two backyard fountains. She used a simple point and shoot camera, on automatic setting. The original photos were taken at different times of the day to get different light hitting the water. She did use the closeup setting to keep things in focus. So far, nothing different from what anyone does.

Then came the creativity. She took several of the pictures she was most happy with and uploaded them into Corel Photo Shop. For those familiar with digital editing programs, this is one of the more versatile programs which works quite well on a standard home computer with an off-the-shelf printer. She began to warp and re-shape the pictures. She altered the colors and saturations. She adjusted contrasts, brightness, sharpness, and focus. By the time she was done, the photo of water falling from a fountain had become something completely different. She had taken an everyday picture and made it into an expression of her creativity.

Here are some samples (including the one at the top of this post):

I'll admit I am biased, but I am just fascinated by the ability to do what she has done with these photos. One of my goals for 2011 is to help her market her photos. What do you think? Is she on to something that people would want?

Creativity is really about the doing, not the end result, though in Betty's case I'm quite impressed with the end product! Not all of us have her eye. But, that shouldn't matter. Even if something you write, or photograph, or paint, or sculpt out of peanut butter is never seen by another human being, that is not important. The simple act of creating enriches you, broadens you, and gives you pleasure.

Where to get ideas? Go to a museum you have never visited. Maybe you are convinced you wouldn't like it, and you may be right. But, if you approach it with the desire to take something you see and twist it, or change it, or see it in a different way, your visit might be an unqualified success. I go to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) occasionally. I am not a fan of most of contemporary art. But, each visit does inspire. It may be a new sensitivity to light and shadow. It might be deciding a certain wooden bowl has a shape I like. I'm still not a fan of the actual art. But, I am an admirer of uniqueness.

How long has it been since you have visited a craft store. I'm not a crafty person, but I really enjoy walking up and down the aisles. I am impressed by the display of ways other people can turn bits and pieces of stuff into something pretty or useful. I am stimulated by all the colors and shapes and textures. I can go home from such a trip and see something completely unrelated to the material  at the store in a new way and think of how to re-purpose it.

The power of curiosity and creativity to enrich your life is real. Until retirement my idea of creativity was pretty much limited to how to increase my frequent flier miles. Over the last five or six years I have found a reservoir of creative ideas and output I had no idea I possessed. There was no magic. I just allowed myself to explore and fail and explore again. You have the same ability. Actor Alan Alda said it well: You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.”  Amen. Your satisfying creative retirement awaits. 

Related Posts

The first Facebook book giveaway is now underway. As I promised in an earlier post, as I learn more about FB I am giving away copies of the book I am using to help you start your own Facebook page or develop what you already have.

Just drop me an e-mail with Free Book in the subject line to enter.


  1. Your wife has an amazing talent Bob. The images would make great abstract art prints and I am sure they would sell well, perhaps on Ebay?

    Ashton-under-Lyne, UK

  2. Thanks, Bill. I'll be sure to pass along your compliments.

    One of my goals for this year was to help her try to sell her art. Ebay or a web site...not sure which would be best.

    The samples on the blog are just a few of dozens and dozens of photos she's produced in the last 6 months or so. What she does simply amazes me.

  3. Very cool shots - kudos to your wife! I got a nice Nikon digital camera for Christmas and have been taking some traditional landscape and closeup shots. I think it is time to venture into the photo disk that came in the box!

  4. Hi Dave,

    It takes her about twice as long to produce one of those photos as it does for me to write a post for this blog.

    So, if you are going to start becoming a photo wiz, be sure to protect your valuable blogging time!

  5. In a word, wow. These are amazing. I especially like the subject of water. These are really beautiful, mystical in a way. I'm so glad you shared them with us.

  6. Thanks so much, Galen

    I have no idea how she does it but the effect is rather stunning. She has a series of flower photos that are going up in the upstairs hallway soon. They will replace some 10 year old prints of Lahaina, Maui that have been up so long they are invisible.

    I think the effect of all that color will be great.

  7. Your wife's art is really inspiring! My daughter wants to do something similar with photos of buildings (she's an architect).

    I love going to craft stores! I am now into knitting so I always check out the yarn sales but it is amazing the things you can make or do yourself. They have a product or tool for just about anything.

    I used to take my daughter with me on my visits to Michaels and Hobby Lobby and when I had my own home daycare, I had some shelves in the kitchen filled with craft supplies for the kids to use.

    Now I've started taking my 4 year old granddaughters with me to the craft stores and getting them little projects to do. It's a really nice thing to share with children and they don't get much time for art in schools.

  8. Morning Joan,

    You are exactly right about art in schools. In fact, I think it is pretty much all gone in the public system. So, creativity and artistic expression becomes something a grownup must provide access to.

    Betty has her own parking spaces at Michaels and Hobby Lobby! They have an amazing range of products and ideas.

    I encourage your daughter to try something interesting with building photography. The ability to turn virtually anything you can photograph into art is limitless (or so I've been told).

  9. Yesterday I read your blog for the first time (on prison ministry) and I really enjoyed your writing style and your views, so I decided to venture deeper into your blogs where I found these... Wow! To say I'm impressed is a huge understatement... There is no doubt your wife is very talented and I know she could definitely profit from this hobby! I saw you had mentioned you didn't know if you should do ebay or website.. my opinion is both. Sell on ebay but have a link that takes you to her website. It's much easier to deal with paypal rather than get a merchant account with a credit card! Do a little homework and find out when and where the yearly "Art Festivals" are held. I know Az is home of many of these "Festival of the arts", "Arts and Craft shows", "Tempe festival of Arts", just to name a few. I know there is a cost to have a booth at these so find a reasonably priced one and start there. Maybe you could even get your daughters to go and help. A little bubbly attitude will definitely pull the customers to have a peek and once they peek I'm sure they will be intrigued to buy. My suggestion is have some printed on smaller paper(like 5x5 or 8x8, remember square is always better in the art industry) and sell those for a modest price but make sure to have her website and info printed on the back of all of these prints. When people see these at their friends houses they will ask.. and word of mouth is the best thing you could ask for! Also have a couple of her faves printed on a very large canvases.. You don't have to have them all printed out large (it's quite expensive) but have it all priced and ready to go, so if someone sees something they like from the small (cheaper) prints they can order it in the large canvas. (Do your homework.. most of the normal Photo websites will not do this work justice, find a place that specializes in landscape and photography art.)Now for the big one... take a few of your favorites that are done nice on canvas and take them into bookstores and/or coffee shops, most of them will hang them in their store with the buying info underneath. Free advertisement for you, free art work for them, it's a win win situation. I would also make brochures with a couple samples in it, with Betty's info and website info and talk to some smaller local shops about leaving a small brochure display at the counter, in exchage for maybe a modest sized picture for their wall. The biggest mistake most business minded people and or artists make is "wanting something for nothing" find a way to make it a win win situation and you will do just that! I hope to see more of her work soon and please do a follow up blog on your wife's progress and success (which I'm sure she'll have.) P.S. She's very lucky to have such an encouraging husband... God bless you and your family!

  10. Anonymous,

    Speaking of Wow! What a tremendous contribution to this post. Thank you very much. You have provided Betty and me with a treasure trove of information and things to think about.

    Betty has read this and is even more excited to get going. She did have one question: why is square better? Frames generally are for standard 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 photographs. What is the benefit of using non-standard sizes?

    If you could leave a follow up comment she'd be very interested in your thoughts.

    I'm so pleased you have discovered this blog and provide such detailed, thoughtful, and helpful comments.

    Keep them coming!

  11. The fact that most standard frames come in "non square" format is actually the true benefit of choosing square... If a person walks into a room covered with tons of pictures of their family and friends in 8x10 frames, wouldn't you want yours to appear "different".. Yes, it is a photo.. but it is a masterpiece, it is a product of you; your talent, your time and your expression. Stop thinking of this as a photo and start thinking of it as a piece of "art". My suggestion is walk through an art muesum and get some fresh insight on how to present your work! Honestly your work is amazing and it will stand out regardless but you need to set the bar upfront... Don't sell your self cheap because your new at this! Also I stated before that you should get a little spot at an "Arts festival" but I really think it would be beneficial to attend a few first and get some ideas of how others in your market are presenting their work... Hope this helps!

  12. Anonymous,

    Thanks so much for stopping back to answer the question about "square" versus standard size photos(art!).

    Your comments have been so supportive and helpful. Betty and I appreciate your interest and will keep you and the blog readers up to date on her progress.