Our artistic lives follow no particular pattern or shape. It is this meandering pathway which becomes part of the beauty of our artistry. Meet Allie, of AllieArt4Children, who has made a long journey to becoming an artist. She has brought with her the roots of her artistry as learned from her mother, brother and grandmother, and she has made a commitment to pass her knowledge and talent to her children.
Like many of us, Allie's passion began when she was quite young with a Kodak 110 camera. She always loved nature, and photography was a natural fit with her family's interests. Her mom recognized Allie's love for photography was more than a "passing interest" and gave her a 35mm film camera. A few years ago, Allie made the digital switch, and she plans to invest in a digital SLR this summer. Allie obtained darkroom experience when she worked as a technician in a neurobiology lab and as an electron microscopy technician in an EM lab, where she used microscopic cameras. A practicing pediatrician for five years, Allie decided she was missing too much of her childrens' lives and became a stay-at-home mom. Since that time, her creativity has blossomed and her Etsy shop has taken off.
No longer spending time in the lab implementing exacting procedures, Allie now takes her children to her local botanical gardens and learned some simple lessons herself. "After many trips at different times of day, I noticed the best lighting for portraits of the children and the flowers was either early in the morning or late in the afternoon -- when the sun is low in the sky. See -- not a very technical or conventional way to come to this conclusion, but accurate." Allie also sees Etsy and the POE as a way to learn: "When I opened my shop and joined the POE team, I started up a steep learning curve. Through the generous advice and comments from the very talented members -- several of whom have become my good friends -- I have learned tremendous amounts about post-processing, collages and layers and am now really enjoying the editing portion of working with my photographs."
We talked more about her decision to become an artist:
I think my decision to try had something to do with being away from home -- outside the box, so to speak. Trying to be an artist seemed more possible, less like a pipe dream, than it seemed while I was living a more expected life. I felt freer to try this after moving away from home. I basically spent my life doing what was expected of me, and when we moved to California, it was one of the first times I did something that made my parents unhappy -- something unexpected. I had the feeling, while I was a pediatrician and living at home, that photography just had to be my hobby, and that I couldn't really try to be a photographer. It seemed impractical and impossible. When we moved I felt freer to try, and I thought, 'why not?' So see, I think this is important. It was truly one of the biggest factors in my decision to give it a try.
Ann: You say you have had a steep learning curve. Your "eye" would suggest otherwise. Your sense of composition and your botanical knowledge is apparent in your work. You also show a childlike innocence in your photos, and it's really refreshing. Would you say you maybe felt your technical skills with photography had to catch up with your artistic side?
Allie: I would agree with what you've said, based on my experience and on those early comments about my photos. I am always surprised when someone likes my work. I shoot what I like, and my work appeals to me. When someone else appreciates it, and to have one of my photos strike a chord in someone else, is such an honor and always catches me by surprise. As far as technical skill goes, I still have a long way to go, and I'm learning every day.
Allie: Yes, I am. There've been several times I've decided to let a listing expire and then it sells. There are others I really love and think will sell, and they are never touched. One thing I've learned from the POE team is to shoot what I love and list it -- you never know what will catch someone's eye.
Allie: Wow, they influence almost all, if not all, of my work. My husband shares my love of nature, and fortunately, our children do, too. Seeing their joy in the discoveries they make, the little treasures they find and want to keep, reminds me of when I was little. There are also those fleeting moments of childhood innocence that are pretty universal -- a boquet of wildflowers, images of sharing and tenderness between a parent and child or between siblings -- that I want to try to capture. Since I've started on Etsy, my children have begun to point things out for me to photograph. They'll make little arrangements, spot a frog or bird, and think of titles for my photos. 'Oh mommy, look at that! Take a picture!' is not an uncommon phrase as we drive along.
Ann: Can you tell us a layering or collaging technique you've mastered?
Allie: I'm happy to share what's worked for me with some of my collages. Again, I mainly use trial and error here. I have a set of textures, some I've made myself and some from the flickr free texture pool (an excellent resource introduced to me by ajawin). When I have a photo I feel would make a good collage, I make several of them, using various textures and cropping, until I see something I like. Sometimes I like it immediately. More often, I wait a few days, look at them again and see if something really stands out. I've used Photoshop and Gimp, but I mainly use Picasa3 right now.
A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.