Grateful (2/3)

I’m sure this one is pretty self explanatory, but I am thankful for my family. I’m not foolish enough to think that I could be taking lego photos, volunteering, running 1/2 of Stuckinplastic as well as 1/3 of Brickcentral (as well as my regular life and job responsibilities) without some serious family support.

Not only do they support my photo antics, they actually encourage them. My husband will buy me unusual mini figs as gifts, my daughter keeps my up to date on the doings at the Lego store she works at and my son helps me build props as well as accompanies my on my photo adventures.

They all know that when we go on a family adventure there is a good chance my Lego friends will be coming along as well. They are all happy to hang out for an hour or more while I take advantage of some interesting local to snap a couple of photos. This past weekend was no exception. We went on a hike and I had some quality photo time at our destination as well as some quality time photographing at the lake at the base of the trail.

It’s not easy to be an adult playing with toys. Not having to explain myself to the ones I love is a blessing I don’t take for granted. Of course many of my friends fall somewhere between enthusiastic and skeptical, but they are slowly coming around. My parents…now that’s another story altogether.

~ xxsjc

How do your family and friends react to your hobby?
Do you have a photographic support system? If so, who are they?

Taken on a gloomy day at the end of a lovely hike.

Grateful (1/3)

I’m out of practice blogging, but +me2‘s last post put me in mind of a series of posts about gratitude. I know it’s not the holidays, but sometimes it’s nice to sit back and take stock of where you are and why.

Even though I graduated from university with a degree in photography and had a successful art career, I never felt like I knew what I was doing. I would joke that if the subject wasn’t under water I wouldn’t know what to do. This was shockingly close to the truth. 
When my art career ended I was at loose ends and struggling to find my place artistically. Through a random series of events I ended up volunteering at my local independent radio station KEXP. The gentlemen I work with have been generous with their patience, guidance and willingness to share information. I felt like I was in school again. Over the past five years I’ve learned how to handle my dslr, light a room, video like a pro, work as a team member and most importantly travel successfully with nine distinctly different and mostly male personalities. 
Our last adventure together was to a nearby music festival, Pickathon. Since we always travel short handed I volunteered to not only help with video but to take care of still photos of the bands. Basically I would be doing double duty. I took all my lenses with me: 70-200 for video, my favorite wide angle lens, my go-to 24-70 and on the off chance I could sneak in a lego photo my 100 mm macro (which is also a great portrait lens).  The upshot of taking stills for three days, 100’s of photos and multiple lens changes is that I actually understand how and when to use each of these lenses. I also learned each lenses strengths and weaknesses. It was glorious. 
Since I’m an art / casual photographer I rarely have this kind of intense photographic experience. I left mentally exhausted but happy with my efforts. It was also gratifying to find out my current toy photography editing work flow also worked great in the field. It is mazing to me how much these two hobbies of mine, toy photography and music videos, inform and influence each other. In many ways I wish my stills could be as good as the work I turn in with video. I am sure in time it will.
In the mean time there is never a day that goes by that I’m not grateful by this volunteering experience. I have learned so much over the years, made friends and met more than a few amazing musicians. 
~ xxsjc
Where did you learn your photographic skills: traditional school or the school of hard knocks? 
Have you considered sharing your photography skills as a volunteer?
If you want to see the entire set of photos I took, look here.
Pickathon’s main stage at night.

Checking In

I for one have not been lost these past few days, I was merely exploring a different rabbit hole. I am back and caught up on our current adventure. The photos by +Me2 have been incredible and I am excited to see even more as our adventure continues.

Pirate treasure, aliens in hot pursuit, mystical Sjaman and of course our wonderful traveling companions; have all made this a trip of a life time. But how will it all end??

~ xxsjc

Have you been enjoying the quest?
How would you like to see it end?
What images should we ask Me2 to take for us?


Image by +Me2 

Toy Photo Safari

I am looking forward to my upcoming journey with +Me2 and our other Stuckinplastic friends. I hear we leave on Saturday for 16 days of travel through some amazing countryside. I am not sure what to expect but I am sure some beautiful photographs will be forthcoming.

A little closer to home my friend Jon (who you may know by the IG handle of Dinoczars) and I are planning to host a toy photographers meet up in Las Vegas Nevada the weekend of January 16-19, 2015. This event will include an initial meet and greet, two photo outings, time to swap tips and a photo exchange. We have a few more surprises in store depending on the response we get.

If you would like more information about the event just click here.

We already have a few brave souls signed up for this epic journey and I am very much looking forward to meeting them in person:  Krash Override, Captain Kaos, Papajov, Wikitoybox and of course reconnecting with Bricksailboat. If you have any desire to join us and make this far flung world of Instagram a little smaller and more personable let me know in the comments, G+ or on Instagram.

Because in this crazy world that we live in, we need to take every opportunity to make connections and enjoy the time we are given. Which of course means playing more with our toys.

~ peace, xxsjc

photo by Jon Aiken (Dinoczars) 

A Brave New (Toy) World

Have you noticed how much toy / childhood imagery there is in the art world lately? Maybe I’m just fine tuned to this genre due to my involvement in the Instagram toy photography community.  I noticed that at the art show I was recently attending there were more than a few artists working with toy / childhood imagery in a variety of mediums.

For example there was the titillating photography using HO scale figures called bodyscapes, the crazy 3-D toy collages by David Burton (seriously check this guys work out) and more HO scale photography by Audrey Heller. But my favorite by far was Joachim Knill’s paintings of imaginary stuffed animals.

I first met Joachim many years ago when we both created photography to sell at arts & craft shows. His work has alway been compeling and nicely off kilter. His latest series of paintings is titled “National Treasure”. The idea behind National Treasure is that these paintings are artifacts from another world inhabited by stuffed animals. Just imagine a formal gallery that has been dropped in the middle of your street and these portraits of stuffed animals in gilt frames are there to be “shared, viewed and consumed, ” and you might begin to understand the concept.

These renaissance styled paintings are slightly disturbing yet endlessly intriguing. They are beautiful haunting images that take me back to my childhood and my own well worn stuffed animals.

Talking with Joachim and hearing him refer to his paintings as cultural artifacts was fascinating and certainly rang a familiar bell in my head. I think that whenever you are dealing with mass produced consumer goods in your art work that some aspect of the cultural artifact will naturally occur. It only remains to be seen how you interpret and reflect back your own culture using these ubiquitous objects. Will you become a social commentator, a mirror into the past or create a path into a parallel universe? The possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to look around and see what other artists are creating. It feels like there is a brave new world of toy art upon us.

~ xxsjc


Tripping Horse Battle Scene by Joachim Knill 
oil painting
38.5″ x 48.5″

No One Ever Said This Would Be Easy

Did you take the time to listen to the TED talk suggested by +Me2 yesterday? I did and I was mildly amused by Sting and his talk. Maybe I was not as taken by it as Me2, but that can be explained by the fact I was also working.

I think it is important to realize that every artist struggles with the artistic process. No matter if you are a multi platinum musician who makes enough off his royalties to live in a chateau and grow his own grapes or the beginning photographer. The creative issues are the same if not the income stream.

So, yes we are all in similar (I will never say: “the same”) boats. The goal is to make relevant art that speaks to who ever might view, listen or read our creative works. There is no magic formula to success, I wish there was. But I do know that if you speak from the heart and are true to your own voice you will make a connection with your audience.

I think it was interesting that Sting had to go back to his roots, the ones he had been denying, to find the motivation and his voice again. Sometimes you have to go to the dark places, the places you want to avoid to do the work that needs to be done. I think the trick is to take your viewers on your journey with you, but still allow them to find themselves in what you are saying. To be personal, but still universal.

By creating honest work we will find ourselves a little closer to the answers and hopefully maintain our inspiration.

~ xxsjc

Where do you get your inspiration?

I leave you with a song by one of the bands that has inspired me the most: Cloud Cult. They managed to take a personal tragedy and create some of the most beautiful music while working through the pain.   Craig Minowa is a testament to the “Art Saves Lives” motto. Remember: no one ever said this would be easy. 


Building Community (One of the Hardest Job You Will Ever Love)

I’ve been thinking a lot about community this past week. As I have mulled over my limited time resources and the energy it takes to move any project forward, I actually contemplated shutting down Brickcentral on Instagram. It has been saved from the chopping block for the foreseeable future by the willingness of wonderful new volunteer.

Back in the early days of the social media frenzy you heard so much about “creating a brand” to sell yourself or your product. That drum beat has changed to the “build your community” chant. It has not escaped my notice that the majority of experts who extol the virtues of an on-line community are men. I think there is a very good reason for this: most women build community naturally and don’t need a name for what we already do. We just call it something else: making connections or simply making friends.

Community is an incredibly hard thing to create and maintain. It is an ephemeral and constantly shifting set of personalities and priorities. At least that has been my experience. What might be true one month won’t be what the community needs six months later. It’s a very complex friendship that needs lots of attention.

For most people delving into this community building quicksand is not a possibility; most people have jobs, families and more important priorities than creating an on line community. But when the community falls silent a hole is left. Maybe it will be noticed, maybe it won’t.

I have no answers as to the why people crave “community”, especially one as specialized as ours, yet they do. I see this desire all the time when I post on Brickcentral and the comments often include a “thank you for being here” sentiment.

I hope this doesn’t sound critical, because it isn’t meant to be. In my own experience creating, nurturing this online community of LEGO photography enthusiasts has been an incredible experience that has enriched my life immensely. I plan on sticking with it, probably longer than I should, and on the way I will keep thumbing my nose at the “experts” who talk about community building as if it was something you can do in your spare time. You don’t create friends and family in your spare time.

~ xxsjc

Do you converse with your followers wherever you post your photos?
Have you made any friends through social media?
Is creating friends and community an important aspect of your social media participation?

I seriously want to know what you think. I would love it if you could take the time to comment on the social media platform of your choice. 

The Fallacy of Validation

“Validation is for parking” ~ from Steal Like an Artist

This made me laugh, because it’s so true! I often see people grousing that their posted photos aren’t getting enough likes or comments on Instagram. Another popular complaint is that their photos never get featured by any of the toy groups.  All I can think to say to this is that you shouldn’t look to Instagram, Flickr, Google, Tumblr or anything else for validation. Because you aren’t going to get it.

What people like or don’t like is a very fickly enterprise. It is based on their own tastes coupled with their own experiences and occasionally these will intersect with what you are creating. Think of it like a vin diagram with a very small sliver of overlap. Whether or not what you are creating is good enough, has nothing to do with it. Being good is only half of the equation.

Oh did I mention luck is the other half? It’s that weird intangible that separates those that get recognized and those that toil away in obscurity. Life is fickle and art is a temperamental task master. So don’t get frustrated, roll with it, and make some art. Trust me, you will feel better.

So get out your toys, have some fun, take some pictures and look for your validation inside yourself. If it makes YOU happy, then it is good enough.

Did you take any toy photography pictures this weekend like Me2 did?
When was the last time you got a parking ticket?

~ xxsjc

I’ve bored you all enough with my philosophical ramblings. The rest of this week I will be posting on technique. I didm’t play with my camera this weekend, but I did play with my printer. This was almost as good!

Sometimes a “like” is more than just a “like”.

I know there is some controversy on Instagram about “likes” and when to give them. I have plenty of friends among my followers who never like any photos and are quite proud of this fact. When they tell me this I just look at them quizzically and wonder “Why?” Why do you even bother participating in this community?

I will freely admit I like almost every photo I run across. Maybe this means my “likes” are meaningless, but they aren’t to me. I am not liking them for there stellar quality or there creativity (even though that is often the case), I am also liking them for the effort. I know how hard it is to get up each morning and be creative. Some days you are more successful than others; and to me it’s the effort that matters most.

I have a friend who works in public relations and one of her duties for her clients is to tell them they are wonderful…every day. Artists are often in a crisis of self confidence, self doubt comes with the territory. Putting your work in the public to be judged is hard on the psyche. Sometimes I want to add her to my payroll so I can have her do this same service for me on a daily basis. I guess I will settle for our occasional beer and pep talks.

So to everyone who shares their images publicly, I applaud you. You are doing the work and it isn’t easy. Know I will always be there to like your photo and cheer you on because we all need a cheering section.

Are you a “happy liker” like me?
Do you have a cheering section to help you get over the rough patches?

















My best friend Kitty with her dogs Kipper and Minty. 

It’s not all about the art.

Sometimes I think the goal is to make a great emotionally packed image and sometimes I don’t. If it was all about the perfect photo then why are we sharing on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+? These are all social media sites aimed at connecting people with like interests. People you know and people you don’t know…yet.

I recently received in the mail a very special print from +Me2. It is my favorite image of his (amongst many) and I will cherish it for many years. He is someone I wouldn’t even know existed if it wasn’t for this amazing thing we call the internet. This past weekend I went out photographing with good friends, all of whom I have met through the power of social media. A few weekends ago I met a couple of lovely Instagramers from a town three hours away and because of mutual interests became fast friends.

Suffice it to say, my life is filled with new, old and future friends met through my interactions on multiple social media platforms.

I may not be able to sell a photograph to save my soul, but I know my life is all the richer for the friends and connections I have made all over this planet. My only goal now is to make enough money so I can take a world tour and meet everyone in person.

Now that would be a gift of inconceivable value.

What is most important to you as you play on your various social media sites? 
Why are you participating? 
What does it mean to you?

~ xxsjc

Now if only Me2 would drop by the blog soon, I am starting to get maudlin. I dread how far I might sink tomorrow