The Foundation Series: A Journey Begins

And so it begins…

Over the past few years I have been on a personal journey to learn photography, and to discover who I am as an artist. Along the way I have gained a lot of insights into the art and craft of toy photography.

I was asked by Shelly to create a series of posts that share some of the things I have learned with the readers of this blog.  The idea is that you, the intelligent good looking readers of this blog, may also be inspired in your own journeys of discovery.

So, approximately once per month, I will be doing just that.  Creating posts that cover many of the concepts of photography I have learned along my journey.  I will focus on  tools, techniques, and concepts that really create a compelling photograph.  I’ll also cover things like finding inspiration and examples of compelling images. Many of which come from outside the photographic world.

But first I wanted to go over one of the experiences that gave me the most insight into how to be comfortable in my own skin as an artist.  That place is a quirky online educational program known as The Arcanum.

What is The Arcanum?

The Arcanum is a unique program designed to follow the model of old school craftsman apprenticeships. Students, called apprentices,  study under the guidance of an experienced photographer called a master. In a modern twist to the concept, each student follows a program, called a sphere, of 10 levels, and each apprentice slowly works their way up all to levels until they complete the sphere.  

A cohort is a group of apprentices, students, who are all working on the same set of skills (or sphere), under the same master. Students join cohorts at different times, so each person in the cohort may be on different levels within the sphere, but in general they are all on the same journey together.

So if you put all these pieces together, progressing thru The Arcanum is simply completing tasks to level up thru spheres, spending your time within each sphere with others at the same level, and the same master.  

This cohort system is the secret sauce that makes The Arcanum so effective. Cohorts are a close-knit community of like minded artists who share their artistic journeys.  That shared experience accelerates and enhances the learning process for everyone involved.  You become a member of a set of folks who are all working together to learn from each other, supporting each other, critiquing each other, and celebrating successes together. That is a very powerful and empowering learning environment.

How does a Cohort work?


From a technical perspective a cohort is really just a bunch of members of a private Google Plus community. All communication is done in that community.  From there it is a simple matter of each member progressing thru the levels.

Some of the levels are pretty simple.  For example a common one is to shoot 10 images, and have them commented on by other students in the cohort.  A follow up level is to take 3-5 of the best images and get a critique from the master over a video Hangout.

Other levels require one to examining what makes them tick as artists.   The details of these assignments I will spend the next year covering in a lot more depth than I have room for in this post.  Suffice to say cohorts are designed to be safe spaces where one can feel free to make mistakes without being judged. 

So over the next year I hope my series of posts will create a virtual cohort among the readers of this blog, that will take us on a journey of discovery  to uncover some of the mysteries of creating photographs and other digital art.

At the end of it I hope you will be able to take those concepts and work them into your own art.  That they will help you create something beautiful using your own artistic voice.

Sound good?  If so, stay tuned.  This year is going to be a fun ride.  See you next month!

8 Comments

  1. Thank You very much for these words of wisdom. I hope I’ll learn from You, especially when it comes to techniques and the technical skills, cause I have an impression that I’m still surfing on the surface and taking photos using instinct, not the knowledge and skills. See You next month!

    • Thanks thereeljames

      I’ve been lucky in that I’ve found several great groups of photographers that have helped me along my journey. The Arcanum was a very formal version of that. I’m glad I am getting this opportunity to share some of that with the toy photographer community.

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