I used to feel so jealous of artists who had a cohesive body of work and an artist statement that was clear and thoughtful. Art would bubble up out of me sometimes when I needed to process something I wasn't consciously aware of but I mostly just felt lost and unsure of how to fully share myself creatively with the world. For awhile, I tried to over intellectualize my work, wondering if I talked the academic art speak that maybe my work and my life would have more clarity. Nope, that just made me more confused and made me feel like I was pretending to be something I wasn't. I even applied to grad school with some of that work and got in but decided that something just didn't feel right about it (besides it being ridiculously expensive). Over the last two years as I've been devoting more energy and time to being an artist, I have come to learn that I make things spontaneously and am learning to trust that and create the circumstances to allow that to happen more often in my life. Traveling, for one. When I travel, I see things differently. I think we all do, that's what's so great about it. I notice plants and how the light hits things in ways I'm not used to seeing. I pick up a feather while I'm walking on the beach with my Dad in Florida. I ask my wife, Kelly to pull over along the side of the wooded road on Madeline Island when I notice Queen Anne's Lace flowers dancing in the wind and want to pick a few. In the moment, I don't know what I'm going to do with those things, I just feel something. I'm learning that those moments, those feelings, are the creative spark for me. I usually just tuck the little thing I find in my pocket or a sketchbook if I happened to bring it with me and move on with my day. It's not until later when I rediscover that thing that the creative story continues. Maybe I'll draw it or make a sun print out of it. Whatever form they take, those little things add up to art, to sharing something that I feel. Over time, I'm seeing that there are threads to the things I make and that's how my collections and bodies of work are going to come to be, not by over thinking them ahead of time. I'm trying to embrace that it's through the process of doing the things, of living my messy, layered life that beautiful things get made and I need to trust that.
I drew these sweet flowers in my sketchbook this week. I have been playing around with different botanical shapes lately and love the simplicity and the flow of lines together. The drawing process is so therapeutic for me, I have been craving it every day lately. These ended up looking like a big flower protecting a little flower. I like that.
I made this new drawing of flowers and am loving the combination of the graphic black lines mixed with the vibrant markers. I am dreaming about turning some of my drawings into functional pieces, having them become surface design on household things like mugs, towels and dishes. Timebwilv
I love sharing the sun printing process with other people. Watching others get excited and inspired by this beautiful technique that I love so much is really amazing. When I wanted to learn a few years back, I scoured the internet for classes and couldn't find any in New York, where I was living at the time. So, I opted for a few YouTube videos, reading the instructions on the back of the sun print kit I had bought and a lot of experimentation. While it was fun and exciting to learn that way, I really craved creating and learning alongside other people and was surprised that there weren't more cyanotype/sun print classes around. After getting the hang of the process for a couple of years, I decided that it would be fun to design some classes myself and thanks to some connections through my other life as a photographer, I have been collaborating with former clients of mine who run Education programs around the Twin Cities and am dipping my toe into teaching this process. So fun! A few weeks ago, I taught a class at Artistry at The Bloomington Center for the Arts. The class ran for two days and the first day was glorious-80 degrees and sunny! Perfect sun printing weather. The second day was SUPER rainy and dark. It was funny-not-funny how drastically different the days were. I got a little (a lot) stressed when I got to class the second day, knowing I would have to change my plan for how we could print. It ended up being a good thing that it rained so I could show them how to do this process with a UV light box and window light inside (and it was a beautiful reminder to practice patience!). We adapted, we experimented, we explored, we collaborated, we talked and we learned together. I got excited each time a print came out of the water, getting to see how each student chose to apply the cyanotype chemicals to the paper and how they laid out the plants and objects. I was inspired to try some different brush strokes in my own prints like the circle in the photo above. One of my students had such grace with applying the chemistry. She got these delicate, flowing, lovely strokes that were so beautiful! Her mom was one of my students too and she went right home and ordered some of the chemistry online to keep playing at home. Best news ever! Watching that spark of creation, that joy, that wonder and curiosity that happens when learning something new is addicting. It reminded me how good it feels to learn something new and how easy it is to get stuck in a routine of doing the things I already know how to do. That's dumb and boring! I'm on a mission to get more people to fall in love with this historic art process and keep it alive and evolving.
If you want to learn to make some sun prints and are in the Twin Cities area, I'm teaching another class at Minnetonka Community Education on June 16th and June 23rd from 12-2pm. You can find out more information and how to register here. I'll be offering more group classes in the Fall and will be launching some private classes soon too, so stay tuned for those!
I have been working on trying to be more fully myself in the world and be at peace with that recently. It's HARD. I started therapy a few months ago and feel like I'm slowly peeling back the layers of myself and my life to try and understand it all and make peace so I can move forward with being more vulnerable in my life. I felt for a long time, for my whole life actually, that I'm not fully me with everyone and I long to be that, to share myself completely. I'm really weird, quirky, sassy and sensitive but I find myself watering down those parts because I'm afraid that people won't like them, which just leaves me feeling unfulfilled. I'm finding more and more that whatever I'm working through internally comes out externally through my art, often without me realizing it until later. I want to try to fill up more space with who I truly am and have been making some new drawings where I try to fill up more space too, playing with going to the edges of the pages. It's really fun and challenging. I'm also playing with more color in my drawings. I love how colors play with each other. I've always been a color snob and notice colors I love and hate while out in the world all of the time. I'm challenging myself to play with different combinations of colors in my drawings to see what happens which is turning out to be a great lesson in taking more risks in general. Onward, my friends.
I sat outside this morning with some coffee while the dogs played in the yard and did some drawing and thinking/feeling about the power of fear in my life. Fear is such a manipulative bully who convinces me of things about myself that aren't true and become blind to and I'm starting to get pissed off about it. Fear stopped me from trying things as a kid from different foods to reading books to making art. It told me I was fat, ugly and stupid and shape shifted into an eating disorder for many years. It told me I wasn't good enough on my own and if I was loved by someone else like in the movies, I would feel complete and happy. It has stood in my way of being fully myself in the world, has made me believe that people won't like my quirks, my sass and my sensitivity if I show those parts all of the time. All of that has lead to so much anxiety, insecurity and people pleasing throughout my life and I have slowly been trying to figure it out through books, therapy, podcasts and conversations. But Kelly pointed out last night that it's not as complicated as it feels and we all actually have the tools inside of us already to do whatever the hell we want to in this life but we actually have to DO something about it, not wait for something to magically change, that it's the practice of the thing that will actually make it change. That sounds like something I feel like I already know in theory and would say to someone else who was struggling with this but man, I really needed to hear and feel that. As the Indigo Girls said, "the hardest to learn was the least complicated." How does fear show up and stand in your way? Have you figured out ways to put it in it's place so it doesn't have power over you? Feel free to message me if you want to have a conversation about this and prefer not to comment publicly. Onward, friends.
I made this new cyanotype sun print with two gorgeous, big feathers. I love how the feathers turn out with this process, they are always so ethereal and lovely. I made the original print in my backyard last week when the sun was strong, which has not been happening a lot lately here in Minneapolis. When the sun does come out, my immediate thought is always, "I can make cyanotypes!" This was my first experiment with the painterly edges and I love how they turned out! Applying the light sensitive chemistry can be a little tricky and can lead to interesting and inconsistent effects, which can be exciting and frustrating. I'm going to keep experimenting and making more prints with this kind of edge and will share them as I make them. There are now some 8x10 fine art prints and greeting cards of this available in my Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/emmakfreeman. Happy Spring and Happy Friday, everyone!
I'm so surprised and excited to have my work featured in The Simple Things, a lovely, thoughtful magazine and blog put out in the UK each month. They found me through my Etsy shop and asked to include one of my feather cyanotype sun print wall hangings in a story that they were doing about sun printing. Duh, of course I said yes! It's so fun to see my work alongside other artists who love this process too. One of the first pages has a "Could Do List" and it made me laugh immediately because it sounds like something I should start making because I hate being told what to do even by a to-do list! I love the tag line on the cover too, "Taking time to live well." Such a great moto to live by, right? You can read their blog at www.thesimplethings.com and subscribe to digital or print issues there too.
I taught my first Botanical Notecards Class this week at Minnetonka Community Education and it was such a wonderful experience! Five of us sat around a table, playing with plants and inks, stamping on notecards and talking about being creative. I learned this process from two books, Hand Printing from Nature: Create Unique Prints for Fabric, Paper, and Other Surfaces Using Natural and Found Materials by Laura Donnelly Bethmann and Lotta Prints by Lotta Jansdotter, my new favorite artist/designer. It is a simple, beautiful process that can be used to make stationary, curtains, pillowcases, napkins, dish towels, clothing...so many possibilities! I'll be teaching another one of these classes at Artistry in Bloomington, Minnesota, if you're in the Twin Cities and want to learn!
I am loving making these small pen and ink drawings lately. This one of three pears is now available in my Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/emmafreeman. Happy Tuesday!
This week I was feeling overwhelmed and stuck while thinking about how to make a sustainable living as an artist. I have so many ideas, so many notes in different places and things I could be doing but I felt frozen. Making a living as an artist feels like a constant puzzle, which is often times really exciting and fun to try and plug away at each day, but there are moments, a lot of them, where it is just really hard. So, the other day, I was trying to think about what else I could make and share that I would enjoy and may bring in some income. I have been making hand drawn notebooks for a few months that have been really fun but I realized that I hadn't yet tried making original drawings on art paper and sharing those. A light bulb went off and I poured a glass of wine, put on some music, shut my studio door and cracked open some of my sketchbooks to see if anything sparked inspiration and voila! A new series of pen and ink drawings has been born. Each one is 4x6, because I want it to be really easy for people to frame them and I also really like working on a small scale. The paper is thick and slightly textured, which I love the feel of. All of them are black and white and the contrast is so satisfying to my eye, I can't get enough! These are the ones I have drawn so far of food. I think I'm going to continue with these and try to build a bigger collection, but we'll see where I end up going. For now, these have been a wonderfully therapeutic, calming part of a week full of so much political madness. If you're interested in any of them, they are available in my shop, www.etsy.com/shop/emmakfreeman. Happy Friday, friends.
In 2012, I traveled to Hawaii to take a photography workshop with Doug Beasley. It was at a time in my life when I felt really lost and lonely, which nobody in my life knew. On the outside I was social, running a successful photography business, outgoing and optimistic but on the inside I was sad, confused and depressed. When I got to Hawaii, I was hoping to find ways to create deeper meaning in my photography work, to find ways to express my feelings through such a literal medium. Doug's work is all about that, so when he invited me to come along, I jumped at the opportunity. I found that I was really drawn to the banyan trees that were on the Big Island, where we stayed. I had never seen trees like them, they were massive and their roots were intertwined and haunting looking. I saw this tree one day while wandering around Hilo and as I walked up to it, I felt it's powerful presence. I felt like it was hugging and grounding me and I started to cry. For most of my life, I have desperately wanted someone or something to make sense of things for me, to make me feel like I know what I'm doing and to have some sense of peace with myself. That feeling has come in waves but has never stuck around consistently. For a long time, I was jealous of artists who had found a way to creatively express what was going on inside of them with what looked like such ease and confidence. I was privately struggling with the two parts of myself; the public one that was running a successful photography business based on pleasing others that was made up for emotive, beautiful, happy, colorful images and the private parts of me that felt so emotional, dark and alone. I wanted a way to express those private feelings creatively and have found that while looking backwards through the archives of my work, that I see those feelings bubble out in images or other artwork here and there, like they were seeping through the cracks without me noticing.
In 2010, I visited my siblings in New York and was wandering around at night with them in the city and we walked through Washington Square Park. I loved how the chess tables looked lit by the streetlights. They looked like they were sleeping, waiting for the next day when their people would come and play and complete the visual story of the scene. I intentionally blurred this image to make it feel more like a memory, to feel more ethereal and moody. I love that it looks like it could be a print with ink.
My parents have a house in Naples, Florida that used to be my grandparents' until they passed away a few years ago. I try to travel there at least once a year now to see my folks and get a break from the long winter in Minnesota. My dad loves to take beach walks and it's one of my favorite things to do with him when I'm there. This old pier sits in the Gulf and looks so cool when you walk past it. It's usually full of birds in various formations throughout the day. It's only the beginning of winter in Minnesota right now but I'm already craving being on that warm beach! I'll be there to celebrate my 35th birthday in a couple of months and I can hardly wait.
In 2015, I was living in Brooklyn, New York and had recently quit my full-time job and was piecing together freelance photography again while I figured out my next steps. I decided to venture out one very snowy, cold January day to the Brooklyn Bridge and wherever else I felt like wandering. I got up to the bridge and there were only a few other folks there. The city was hiding in the snow and fog, it was windy, freezing and incredibly magical. I took a few photos with my iPhone including this one before the battery got too cold and my phone turned off. When I got back to my apartment, I looked through my photos and loved this one so I edited it a bit and knew it was one of my favorites.
In 2015, I traveled to Rhode Island to photograph a wedding and the next day, I wandered around this cute little, quaint town before heading back to Brooklyn, New York where I was living at the time. I loved how calm the water was and how all of the boats looked sitting so still. It was such a welcomed peace compared to the chaotic city I was living in. I snapped two photos on my iPhone and moved on to explore more.
In 2014, I had moved to Northampton, Massachusetts with my partner at the time for a job she got. The transition was really hard for me, harder than I expected, having left my life and my career that I had built over 10 years in Minneapolis to go on an adventure and try something new. I was ready for a change but thought it had to do with not being satisfied with being a full-time wedding and portrait photographer and longing to make art, which was a big part of it, but I also realized that I was deeply unhappy in my relationship and very out of tune with myself and what I wanted and needed in order to feel like my best self. That Thanksgiving, about a month after I had moved, I drove to Brooklyn, New York to have Thanksgiving with my family. I was feeling very lost, which is how I've felt most of my life, but when I was in New York, I felt more like myself than I did in Northampton. I felt alive, I felt excited, I felt inspired, I felt invigorated. Al lot of that had to do with my people being there and feeling safe with them to be fully myself but it was also being a place that was so full of possibilities. I took my dog for a walk outside of my brother's apartment and noticed this tree across the street. I love how the trees in the city are such an integral part of the visual landscape...tucked between buildings, bending over sidewalks, squeezed into parking lots. I snapped this with my iPhone and edited it in the Hipstamatic app.
When I was living in New York, I wandered around a lot. There are endless things to notice and wonder about in that city. On this particular day, I got off the train at Union Square/14th Street to go to a photo store to buy film for a wedding I was photographing and as I was walking down a street, I looked up and saw this vintage dress hanging from a fire escape. The door behind it was open and the entire scene filled me with so much curiosity and joy. Who's dress was it? Why did they hang it there? Were they trying to catch peoples' attention as they walk by? If so, why is the door open? It was such a random, magical visual moment that made me smile so I made a photo of it with my iPhone before continuing on my way. I processed this in the Hipstamatic app and then made more adjustments in Photoshop. Prints of this and all of the images from the travel photography series that I'm sharing are available in my Etsy shop.
"Brooklyn Buildings, New York, 2014."
I lived in Brooklyn, New York for a year and a half from 2014-2015 after leaving a long term relationship and desperately needing a place to figure my shit out. I chose New York because my siblings and some friends lived there. It was an overwhelming, challenging, fun, wonderful, hard, expensive, exciting time living there. I loved taking pictures with my iPhone whenever I was traveling around the city because there was SO much to look at all of the time. I had no plan for a series or intention to go out and take pictures, I just did it when I noticed something visually exciting to me. The day I took this picture, I had just eaten brunch at my brother's restaurant with some friends and was waiting for the train to take me back to my weird, dark apartment that didn't feel like home at all. The train platform was above ground and as I was waiting, I turned around and saw these colorful building against the blue sky and...click. I don't think I ever took my professional cameras around the city when I lived there because I was feeling super burned out on photography for a lot of reasons but my phone was with me all of time and I loved the freedom I felt when I took pictures with it (even though the quality wasn't always amazing). There wasn't the same pressure I felt when I picked up my other cameras, there was a lightness, a feeling of play and exploration that I needed. I took this on an iPhone 4 and edited it in VSCO.
I'm going to be sharing some of my travel photography from over the years here on my blog and on Instagram! I'll be sharing more about each image here including the technical details and the story behind the image. I'm kicking things off with some images I've made in New York over the last 10ish years. I've visited many times and lived there for a year and a half and each time I go, I am simultaneously inspired and exhausted by all of the layers of stories that exist there. I made this image of the Brooklyn Bridge when I was visiting my siblings in 2010. We had gone out for pizza and walked down by the water to look around afterwards. I loved how the lights on the bridge looked and the feeling of possibility that seeing the giant city from afar gave me. I wanted to try to visually create the feeling I was having in that moment rather than a technically perfect image of the bridge so I set my camera on manual focus and intentionally blurred it, changing my composition a few times until one resonated. The originals were in color but they didn't feel right that way so I played around with black and white versions in Photoshop until I landed on this one. Digital details: I created it with a Canon 5D digital camera and a Canon 50mm 1.2 lens.