My photo "Land of milk and honey" led me to some creative epiphanies

Land of milk and honey

The "recipe" for the above photo "Land of milk and honey":
Used my own textures Emerald Isle at 35% Soft Light and 
Lace Camisole at 65% Screen with strategic erasing

A couple of years ago, I was just getting into the groove of creating photographic art using techniques I'd developed through trial and error while learning Photoshop CS3. The above image is one that I produced back then (some of you may recognize it). The past couple of weeks, I've been revisiting this image in order to turn it into a suite of wedding stationery (hence this post).

When I first started honing the technique I now think of as digitally painting a photograph, I wasn't being conventional in my use of Photoshop.  I use what is known in Photoshop vernacular as "destructive" techniques of erasing, burning (darkening), and dodging (lightening) directly on the layers of an image instead of using masks that were "non-destructive". I couldn't get my head around mask layers (still can't). I think it's because I need to see the result of every stroke of my stylus as I make it the way I see the result of every stroke of the paintbrush when I paint traditionally.

Secretly, I've felt like I'm "cheating", haunted with thoughts like, "If other Photoshop users knew what I was doing they'd be appalled because I'm using this tool the wrong way!"

Over time, I realized I'm not "destroying" anything with my technique, because I always work on duplicates of the original photo layer. Using the word "destructive" is... well... destructive.

When I decided to think of what I do as "strategic" erasing instead of "destructive" it changed my perspective. I've come to the conclusion that if it works for me, then it's okay. No one is here in my studio staring over my shoulder going "tsk tsk".  The result is what matters. And if my techniques free me to create something I couldn't create otherwise, then I say, "So what?!?!"

It seems that life lessons I learn often come around full circle. Just as I had to get over a mental hurdle with embracing my way of digitally painting photographs, I've recently had to get over the mental block I've had about creating suites of wedding stationery. And the above photo is what led me through that journey.

Imagine me being a stationery designer but having a mental block about creating suites of wedding stationery! I'd tackle and conquer the designing and layout of a wedding invitation no problem. But when it came to designing the coordinating stationery (e.g., save-the-date cards, enclosure cards, response cards, etc.), I'd just poop out. I'd get a bad case of creative ADD and frolic on to the next pretty and shiny creative project that came along. Doing the layout of the same art again and again seemed too repetitive. And repetition=boring.

I decided that wedding stationery wasn't really my thing. I'd do other stuff instead.

That only worked for so long until I was approached by someone asking me to specifically design suites of wedding stationery for a new online venture in which they wanted me to be a featured designer. Talk about a good swift kick in the butt. It was time for me to get over the hurdle that I'd been avoiding.

In most of my creative pursuits I engage in a great deal of "mulling"--a process of thinking and thinking about something and letting it form in my mind. That's what I did.

I mulled...

and mulled...

and mulled.

If not reined in, mulling can transform from a stage in the creative process to a stage in the procrastination process. It almost happened that way for me this time. Fortunately, the image of "Land of milk and honey" swirled around in my head in all that mulling and began to form into stationery designs that intrigued me so much I had to get them out onto the computer and see them come to life.

Click the image to see everything larger

Again, when I changed my perspective from thinking of designing a wedding suite as a "repetitive" process into thinking of the process as "evolutionary"... things changed. The creative ADD went away and was replaced with a fervent creative drive that kept me at the computer designing (often into the night). Nothing really changed except my perspective and the accompanying vocabulary with which I approached the creative task.

It's made me think... what else in my life could be approached with a slightly different "vocabulary" that would make all the difference? I suspect quite a lot.

What about you? Has this experience ever happened for you?
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  1. Cindy, I've been saving this post for when I had a few minutes to really sit down and read it. What a gorgeous wedding suite, and you have a new adventure.

    Don't you think we are the hardest critics of ourselves...? Banish those bad thoughts, this is superb work, and what you do in the creative process is amazing...

    It's your STYLE, not destruction. And I like the way you are evolving, learning that a different word can make all the difference, you inspire me.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    1. Oh yes Jen! I definitely think we are our worst critics. I have a friend that calls those critical internal voices "gremlins". Fitting term.


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