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 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 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.
Last summer, I volunteered for a neighborhood project called Plant Grow Share, which is how I ended up getting this grant. The organizer of that program asked me and another artist to do a project related to Plant Grow Share and other than that, left it really open to each of us to do what we wanted. We each decided to do our own thing based on what our creative interests were. With that freedom, I ran with my idea to teach free sun print cyanotype activities throughout the neighborhood!
My vision evolved and I landed on two different events: 1. Community Garden Day, an event already happening throughout Minneapolis. I envisioned folks coming to a community garden, walking around, chatting with each other and picking plants that they were drawn to that I would show them how to make sun prints with and that's exactly what happened!
I decided to team up with The Little Free Farmers Market crew, which is a component of Plant Grow Share, and set up my activity in one of the community gardens in South Minneapolis where they harvest organic produce to give away for free. We got rained out twice but the third time we pulled it off! It was overcast but we were still able to make beautiful sun prints. Everyone had a lot of fun and wanted to keep making more, a good sign I'd say.
2. Join up with the Central Area Neighborhood Association's Central Neighborhood Fair and lead another sun print activity in a park for any folks who wanted to learn. There were some hiccups (like no water source, yikes!), but we pulled it off and I got to connect with a lot of kids and adults while teaching them how to make sun prints in a city park in Minneapolis.
Leading these activities is about helping people make beautiful art with their hands but is also about:
-Encouraging and demonstrating the rewards of patience in a time when we all want immediate gratification.
-Empowering people to trust their visual and creative instincts, follow them and learn from them.
-Encouraging play and pushing through the desire for perfection. I see this mostly in adults because kids are more trusting of themselves and are willing to experiment and explore to see what they can create. I love nudging adults to do that more through art making because it feels so freeing and exciting when you experience it!
-Encouraging people to enjoy the process while also being focused on the outcome. Finding that balance is a beautiful way to continue to learn and grow.
-Teaching people to notice opacity, composition, chemical reactions which look like magic, contrast, using different materials to create meaning in a final print and how to explore all of those things to develop your own artistic style over time.
-Encouraging people to practice articulating what they like and don't like about the final prints as a way to develop a refined eye, understand and use artistic terms like "composition, opacity, depth, color, contract, etc" and to continue to grow and expand their creative identity, opinions and expression.
I hope to do many more classes and activities in the future like this!
I got to lead two sun print cyanotype classes and a nature printing class at the Minneapolis Institute of Art over the last month and they were so much fun! I got to teach kids and adults these two creative processes at Family Day and Third Thursday. We got to be outside for the first one and inside for the second because of rain but that just meant we got to play with some UV light boxes instead of the sun! It was great to see everyone get creative and play.
I'm so excited to share that I received my first art grant from The Pillsbury House and Theatre in Minneapolis! It's called Art Blocks and there are a lot of amazing artists doing all kinds of projects within the neighborhoods of Minneapolis. In collaboration with the incredible program, Plant-Grow-Share who I volunteered with last summer, I'm going to be teaching a free sun print cyanotype class this Saturday, August 20th at Hosmer Community Garden. Plant-Grow-Share will have their Little Free Farmers Market set up for folks to come and take free organic produce home with them. I'll be there to guide people through the process of making a sun print cyanotype from something in the garden! I love sharing this beautiful process with others and watching their curiosity and excitement when they see the results. My intention is to help folks notice and celebrate to the beauty, patterns, textures and colors in our yards and gardens and open up a new creative outlet! I'll share some photos from the experience shortly afterwards.