Today, I interview my first photographer for In the Studio With…, Diane Varner of the fabulous photoblog, Daily Walks. Her photographic record of her walks with her dog is stunning, covering a wide variety of techniques and subject matter.
If you enjoy the photos she has graciously allowed me to run with this post, please visit Diane’s site and sign up for her e-mail list at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be notified when she is able to offer her photos as note cards and prints for sale!
Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.
Varner: I have always had my hand in something artistic throughout the years and have been fortunate enough to generate an income via several creative occupations. I started out as a graphic designer combined with illustration and then moved into web design, which I have done for the last nine years. The pursuit of photography came as a bit of a surprise, but was a natural evolution, as it combines all my skills that have I used along the way with my other endeavors.
Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?
Varner: I have drawn and painted my entire life and studied fine art at UC Santa Barbara. Although there has been no formal photography training, I believe my art background has enabled me to create images that are visually successful. In art, one learns about composition, colors, lighting, moods, etc., all of which can be applied to any creative medium, including photography.
Since my career has been in the graphic and web design field, I have spent many years working with Adobe Photoshop which is the post-processing software that is used on digital images today. This experience has given me a huge advantage as I have mastered this software program prior to using it for my photography.
So, do I feel that training is important? I suppose the answer would be yes. Having said this though, as an artist, I understand the desire to bypass the formal training and jump right into the act of creating. Perhaps the best of all worlds would be to get some basic art, photography and computer training as a foundation and then move on one’s own exploration and style as soon as possible.
What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?
Varner: With my photography, I start out each day with the promise to myself that I will go out and take images. This commitment alone keeps the “flow” going. There are days when I just don’t “feel it” but take myself and my camera out anyway, and start walking (of course, my dog Boomer, nudges me along!). Inevitably, something appears before me that catches my eye and generates excitement; it’s not long before I’m completely engrossed in the act of capturing images.
I also write on a daily basis. These writings are quotes, thoughts and meditations on the images that I take each day. The writing is often more difficult than the post-processing of the images but for me, adds depth to the overall experience. Again, to keep the flow going, I choose one photo a day and write about the feelings it evokes within, while attempting to allow the thoughts to emerge without judgment. I go back later and fine-tune the writing for my website and future books.
What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?
Varner: As a photographer, I think that this is an easy one. Pick up your camera gear, go to a place that feels safe and makes you happy (this could be a new place or not) and start taking photographs. Don’t worry if they are any good. The goal is to remember what it feels like to be creative; to get yourself back into that “zone”. Once this feeling is restored, the fears and other things that blocked you, tend to fall away.
More advice would be to let go of the technical boundaries that have been dictated for photographers and think creatively. By all means, take chances! Each of us has our own exclusive way of looking at the world and it’s only by experimentation that one eventually develops their distinct, personal style.
Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?
Varner: I am currently working on two projects. The first one is a new business and website for my photography called Leaftracks Press. I hope to have several products to sell via this site: cards, prints, journals and books.
The second project is a series of books that will combine my imagery and writing from my Daily Walks. I’m extremely excited about these.
How do you select your creative projects? What elements of potential project tend to intrigue you the most?
Varner: I have learned to listen to that voice inside that can’t wait to get to that “next” project. When I hear it, I know it’s time to pursue it.
I suppose what intrigues me more than anything on any given project is discovering the mystical in nature that is quite often, just a step outside our front door. Being able to do this and share it through my photography and words gives me profound joy.