Wow.  Life.  Summer. Craaaaaazy… anybody else?  Damn, Gina!!

There are 4,598 things going on and while some days I feel like I am hanging on by a thread, most of it is exciting stuff– part of which, is what I am FINALLY sharing with you today.  🙂

I’d say the scales started to tip in my creative/exciting & time crunching/hair pulling favor, when I got to collaborate with THIS girl!

Everyone, meet Jess.  

She is ADORABLE.  

The fabulous Ms. Jessica DaCosta is an artist and ‘sculptress’ that specializes in copper, and more specifically, copper weathervanes.  So freaking cool.  You can check out her Facebook page here.

But she also does super fun stuff like pointed elf ears!

One of her sketches… 

And she does these fabulous masks… 

Jess was chosen by Methow Arts to be their featured artist for their summer magazine and I was lucky enough to get to do the shoot! 

A lot of her work is very magical which was a match made in heaven.  Some of her weathervanes have fairies or mermaids, phoenix (!!!) and so we decided to play with the whimsy and magic of her work… 

Her business is also called ‘CopperMaiden’ so I liked the idea of photographing her as such.  Those photos are later… In the meantime, we spent our time in some magical aspens and did our best to blow glitter.  Ha! 

I love the below photo… Not because it’s technically or compositionally great… I just caught her in this gorgeous moment laughing and you really get a sense of her girlish spirit.  

She also made this crown out of fantastic antlers… She’s such a sorceress!  🙂

Crystal balls… *swoon*

She was SUCH a trooper… We shot two days.  One was at her shop and the next day, we squeezed hundreds of photos into a few hours. 

This girl was up for anything and I think it really paid off.  

We had her wade in the river for some photos that weren’t my favorite.  But I wanted to include this one because you can see her fish weathervane below to the left and in her hand she’s holding a copper fairy!!!  I just love her work…

And then later, we got to transform her into the The CopperMaiden!  🙂 🙂 🙂

She let me put foil on her face and although you can’t tell too much, her face is covered in copper face paint.  We also through pieces of metal, glitter, crystal balls and God knows what else in her hair. Fearless!  It was so much fun… 

These turned out very Mid-Summer Night’s Dream to me… 

I really love to tell stories with my camera so I tend to gravitate toward documentary portraiture.  I looove to interview someone, hear their guts and really do my best to try and capture their story in a photo.  

The challenge with the Methow Arts’ shoots, however, is that I’m not the one doing the interviewing.  Jess and I had to get to know each other real quick, but she was so brave, fearless and trusting.   If these photos are successful at all, its all because of her! 

This is my favorite.  I love the light, the colors… it’s very summery to me. I think she looks gorgeous. 🙂  *swoon*  

If only she were prettier, ya know?  😉

And because I don’t get to do these more artistic, super creative shoots often, I really had a blast playing with any and every preset known to man. Ha! Presets are kind of to Lightroom/Photoshop what filters are to Instagram.  With documentary portraiture, you really want to stay as true as possible to the subject or the story you’re telling.  So I don’t tend to use them too much.  However, when a shoot allows for total, complete, chaotic and creative process? Presets can be SUPER fun.  🙂

This is super Lord of the Rings to me with her magical elven ears… *swoon*  🙂

It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s a super gorgeous girl! 

She also had this gorgeous dress with all this COLOR… Ugh.  Makes the job so much easier.  🙂

I think this photo is interesting, too.  Technically, her foil is blown out but the dreaminess of it, makes me come back to it… (Sometimes ya can’t help but like what ya like!)

Also, Jess is TOTALLY a shapeshifter!!!  In this photo, I think she looks a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt.  There are times she just looks like a Vogue model and other times, she was channeling Katy Perry.  I’m great at channeling Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, you know what I’m saying?  But I’ll take it…  😉

She took so many beautiful shots, and I had such creative fun, I had a really hard time which photos I liked most.  And even worse, knowing what to send to the magazine!

Our try at glitter again… Note to self:  Next time use strobes.  Also, who wants to carry around strobes?  😉

All in all, it was SUCH an honor.  You can read the Methow Arts Magazine article here written by Marcy Stamper.  

And while I’m saying a lot about how gorgeous Jess is, it speaks nothing to who she is as an artist.  And even moreso, just the fact she’s a doll of a human being.  

This girl is ALL heart.  I can tell she’s intuitive and connected.  She manifests her own magic… A ‘sculptress’ indeed!

AND TOTALLY ADORABLE!!!!

I hope you enjoyed these photos!  Please be sure to check out her work!!  She is currently taking orders WORLD WIDE!!!  I will say I knew her when…  🙂 

Thanks for the honor, Jess!  xoxo

 

JESSICA DACOSTA INFO: 

Instagram and twitter:  @coppermaiden.

Her Facebook page is @weathervaneartistry:  https://www.facebook.com/WeathervaneArtistry/

And her website is:  http://www.coppermaiden.com

 

Yesterday, I got to teach three workshops of kids at our local elementary school’s Young Writer’s Conference.  While I was terrified at the start, I left feeling exhilarated! 

To teach the kids that everyone has their own unique voice and it’s good to think outside the box, I had the younger kids draw ‘abstract apples.’  They were a hoot.  🙂

 

I decided to talk about Living Creatively:

“Living Creatively’ is a workshop that helps provide a solid foundation for a lifetime of  creating.  In this workshop, you’ll learn some myths about what it means to be an artist and come up with your own goals and intentions that will last a lifetime.”

I asked all of my artist friends what they wished they knew in 5th and 6th grade.  With their amazing help, I came up with a ‘Top Ten List’ of how these kids could live a creative, artistic life and do so in a healthy way.  Reading the students feedback I was grateful to know that maybe– to a choice few, we really made a difference. 

While some of them were completing the task at hand because that is what proper students do and some were providing feedback in the way of winning Teacher’s Pet, I was grateful to find a few that were more thoughtful and sincere.

 

I could tell the class meant something to this one. She left with a big smile and walked with a bit more confidence. Gutted me.  

 The day kinda broke me in the best way.  It was amazing to watch these kids. Can you imagine being able to redo the start of your life to know that rejection is something to be excited about?  Or that if it looks like fun, you should try it?  Or that art is worth creating not for cultural success but because our voices are unique and important????

As adults, we learn these things too late.  We wonder why our goals haven’t worked out and one of those reasons, I believe, is because we never created art in our lives in a healthy way.  Watching some of these kids take it all in, was a balm that healed a bit of me in the process.  

This girl is totally an artist. She drank everything in.  I could see the determination in her eyes by the end of class that read, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do this and no one’s gonna stop me.”  Bring beauty to the world, sweet girl!

 

Getting to teach these Top Ten Tips reminded me of how I want to create as an artist so I thought I would share them below.  Thank you to all of my friends for your brilliant suggestions.  So much that resonates in life is so painfully simple and yet we miss it.  It feels good to be reminded. 🙂

 

I got to read part of my children’s story at the start of each workshop.  I was so nervous but totally psyched to see them into it and paying attention.  Lots of them raised their hands and asked if it would be published.  Bless their little hearts… Makes me want to keep writing!

 

 1.  IF IT LOOKS LIKE FUN, TRY IT!

Myth:  “You can only be one thing.”

           “You don’t have the build of a ballerina.”

           “Focus on what you’re good at.”

           “It’s your brother’s thing.  You should try something else.” 

Example:  In my family, I was the dancer.  My older sister was the singer and my other sister was the artist.  I was scared to sing because it was my sister’s thing.  It was my childhood best friend’s thing.  It was my roommate’s thing.  When I finally decided to start singing, it gave me such joy.  I no longer wanted to put myself in a box or limit what I could do.  An accountant can be a writer, a poet can be a mathematician.  There is a little bit of everything in all of us.  These things need nurturing and give us balance.  

Intention:  “I am grateful that I have a mind, body and soul that is interested in so many things!  Trying new things enriches my life and excites me.”

 

2.      YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT!

Myth:  “It’s already been done before. Why bother?”

           “I’ll never be J.K. Rowling.”

           “What makes you so special?”

Example:  If I asked everyone in the room to write a story about an apple, every story would be different, wouldn’t it?  One might write a fairy tale about a poison apple, one might write a story about a farmer’s market, and still another might write a crazy abstract poem.  How cool is that?(It turns out, 3rd & 4th graders write about a lot of death and destruction by apples, apple cannibals, etc.)  Our voices are unique and important because there is only one you.  How cool is that!?  

Intention:  “My voice brings something to the world because it is unique.  There is only one me!  Whatever I do creatively, no one will ever do it like me.”

 

I love that she quoted the intention like a mantra.  *swoon*

 

3)  CREATE FOR THE LOVE OF IT/ CREATE CONSTANTLY!

Myth:  “If I’m not making money at it, what’s the point?”

               “I’m only a real artist if I sell something.”

               “People won’t respect what I do unless I’m famous.” 

Example:  Lots of artists in the world create to get somewhere rather than for the joy of it.  Why do you think that is? How many people here play basketball?  Would you consider yourself a basketball player? So clearly you don’t need to be Michael Jordan to be a basketball player, right?  And yet, playing more and more makes us better.  

Intention:  “I am a successful artist because I am always creating constantly.  The process is valuable and brings me joy!  My art brings beauty to the world and gives me balance. I am always creating new things!”

4)  MAKE THINGS YOU LIKE!

Myth:  “This person I admire doesn’t like it.  It must not be very good.”

           “What I do isn’t popular!”

           “People don’t understand my art.”

Example:  I was listening to a podcast recently about a girl that spent her life writing poetry.  When the time came, she applied to 12 graduate programs for poetry.  She was rejected from all twelve!!! She respected those opinions as they were amazing schools.  Can you imagine her disappointment?  Can you imagine what she must have thought about herself as artist?  Eventually she started writing poems again and while I’m not sure what became of her, I know that it brought joy to her life and those around her.  While constructive criticism is important, YOUR opinion is the only one that matters.  Not everyone may understand what you’re doing.  And that’s okay.  They’re not your audience. 

Intention:  “I love what I create and I understand what I do.  I create for me because I think what I make is fun and super cool!”

5)  DO WHAT SCARES YOU!

Myth: “You can’t possibly do that.  That would be insane.”

             “It’s irresponsible to trust your gut.” 

             “I was born this way.  I can’t change how I am.”

Example:  Sometimes in our lives, we pigeonhole ourselves into one thing.  We forget that we’re capable of more than we realize.  Sometimes doing what scares you means swimming with sharks but sometimes it can be a conversation.  It can mean being honest about your feelings and being vulnerable.  Not many of us have gone swimming with sharks and yet we all know what anxiety and fear feels like, right?  Sometimes even being a shy person can make us afraid to step out of our comfort zones. Powering through anxiety, worry and fear, makes us stronger.  It makes us more confident and it’s so rewarding. Whether it’s our families, society or our own inner voice, don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something.  You have it in you!  Go beyond your fear!  

Intention:  “I do what scares me!  I am capable of more than I realize.  I do not allow myself or others to put me in a box.  Being brave stretches my limits and makes me stronger!”

6)  HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF

Myth:  “I’m going to fail.”

              “I could never call myself an artist.”

              “They probably have somebody else that can do it better.”

Example:  What we tell ourselves on a daily basis can be really negative sometimes.  We see others succeed and we get jealous.  Maybe we think someone has all the luck or more talent than we do.  Having confidence in yourself is everything!  Trust your instincts and trust your gut.  Let your muse lead the way and stay on track to accomplishing your goals.    

Intention:  “I am proud to call myself an artist.  I am passionate about creativity and what I create!  I believe in my ideas and myself with enthusiasm and excite those around me.”

7)  BE EXCITED ABOUT NO’S!

 Myth:  “They didn’t want me. My work is terrible.”

               “It’s a sign.  I should give up.”

               “I just think you need to be more realistic.”

              “It’ll never become anything.”

Example:  My friend Dena is an independent filmmaker.  When she has to get funding for movies, she makes hundreds of calls. To not get down about rejection, she takes a sticky pad of notes and sticks them to her wall.  On every post-it is written the word ‘NO!’ and only on one post-it is the word ‘YES!’  Every time she is rejected, she pulls a ‘NO!’ off of her wall.  She gets so excited because she gets closer and closer to that ‘YES!’  What a great way to think about life, huh? How many of us get down after just being rejected once and she does this all of the time!  You can, too!  

Intention:  “I am grateful for all responses to my work!  I get excited by hearing a ‘no!’  It means I’m one step closer to getting a yes!”

8)  BE CURIOUS AND INSPIRED BY EVERYTHING AROUND YOU!

Myth:  “Get your head out of the clouds.”

                “Stop dilly dally-ing.”

                “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

  Example:  My husband and I go for walks everyday.  When I’m out for a walk my mind is on a hamster wheel thinking of everything I need to get done.  I just want to get home so I can start checking things off of my list.  He, on the other hand, is incredibly observant and curious.  When I’m thinking about laundry, he will pick up a cool looking stone and say, “Look at this cool purple streak, hon!”  It always reminds me to take time to stop and smell the roses and to be grateful for the world around me.  Not to mention that purple streak could be inspiration for a painting!  You never know… 

Future psychologist, maybe? The next Ernest Hemingway? I never mentioned creating due to poetic things like ‘tragic moments’ but dang, if that doesn’t work as well.  

9)  MAKE TIME TO BE ALONE/ TAKE YOURSELF ON ARTIST DATES

Myth:  “You never hang out with us anymore.”

               “It’s weird to spend time by yourself.” 

                “You went to a gallery alone?”

Example:  As a creative person, you might need more alone time than most and that’s totally okay!  Being alone can help get us out of our heads.  It’s a time to play!  Being alone can help us connect with our muse and let’s our imagination run wild.  It’s also great to read all sorts of books, watch movies, reach poetry, paint, draw– things that you’re not entirely interested in!  It enriches our lives and you never know where you’ll find inspiration! 

Intention:  “I am so grateful for my alone time.  I make this quiet time for myself to get in touch with my muse and create ideas.  It allows me to chill out and be open to inspiration.”  

10)  BE PASSIONATE 

Myth:  “It’s really hard to make a living at that, you know.”

           “You should go to school for that first.”

           “She’s been singing for years. You’re only getting started now?”

Example:   When you’re passionate about something, people want what you have.  Imagine if I came in here today like Eeyore to tell you all about living creatively.  But if I’m excited and passionate because I believe in myself and creativity, it’s way more exciting isn’t it?  When you’re passionate about something people want to support you and get behind you.  Use that passion in life to propel you forward.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make a living creatively or that you have to do your life a certain way.    

Intention:  “I am passionate about creating and open to being a successful artist. I even inspire others to create!”

 

There are self portraits included in this post that are of me messing around for my lighting class and a couple of shots I did for a different homework series about shame.  They’re not specifically about this post but I thought I would share them for the sake of the topic. –MC

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At the lowest of my lows, I was living in Los Angeles, very much in debt and super depressed.  Each day I would pray for God to get me through another day.  I was clearly living in ‘survival mode.’  Psychologically, spiritually, emotionally– you are surviving, and anything more than that feels like an impossibility.  

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but bare with me… I began to take classes that taught you to examine your thoughts and feelings.  By becoming aware of those thoughts and feelings, you could see your unhealthy patterns and change them in a loving way.  My mind was blown.  I was waiting for my life to begin when God was whispering, “I already gave you the skills. Take responsibility. YOU got this.” With this new set of keys, my life did change drastically.  Some might call this mindful or positive thinking. 

When you are a student of life, however, truth is like an onion. There is always another layer.  You work up the courage to peel off a layer and you feel great.  Then you dig deeper and you realize there’s more.  It isn’t easy but you do the work, feel great and dig deeper again, peeling off another layer in the name of awareness.  There is always more work and more truth and more bliss– a teacher in everyone and everything. 

Me?  I’m a digger.  Since that class, I’ve always got a shovel.  I know the deeper I go, the more is revealed and the happier I am.  I’ve seen my life change… More of that please, thank you!  However, there are so many people in this world that hate digging.  It’s such a scary thing!  Their journey hasn’t taken them to a place where they can hear that they have the power to dig.  They don’t yet have the tools. 

So here’s the thing… I’m seeing a lot of this idea on social media, first of all, is that to have feelings is a negative thing.  It means your not ‘being positive.’  Ex:  Me posting these photos could potentially be viewed as uncomfortable, negative, sad, depressing.  “Poor Mandi, etc.”  Do some of these photos make you uncomfortable?  Why?

My response to that idea is remember you’re human.  To say you don’t have moments of fear, worry, anxiety, etc. in life is a lie.  Through photography, I’ve learned to linger with them.  It’s all beautiful because it is all truth.  It is what we have in common.  The more it is embraced, the more we’re able to accept each other and relate. 

Let me be clear… I think ‘positive thinking’ is GREAT.  Yes, you can go through life much happier and lighter by being aware and examining your thoughts.  Joy is absolutely a choice and mantras are terrific.  But what about deep fucking trauma?  Indoctrination?  Societal constructs?  It’s like people being told to eat healthier when what a person might need is  major hospitalization for a triple bypass.  Years of therapy might be required for them to recognize what a shovel even is and their existence is just as valid as yours.

The second thing I’m noticing is that to be negative means you are a toxic person and “I can’t have that kind of negativity in my life.”  These folks make me laugh.  Let’s get real… There are soul suckers, for sure.  People that you truly cannot be around.  I am all for cutting out unhealthy people from your life.  But a majority of this toxicity is an unwillingness to allow for humanity.  It’s grounded in fear and judgment rather than love.  We don’t want to get our hands dirty with a fellow human being because it makes us uncomfortable.  This usually comes from people that have found their answer and if you’re not not the same brand of bandwagon, you’re icky.  It’s positive thinking at its most baby-spiritual. 

Like any good intentioned person, there will always be those telling you you’re doing it wrong.  Out of ‘awareness’ will tell you, what you’re doing is something else.  There might be those on a bandwagon that can’t handle your honesty or reality– or even worse, view it as negativity. Everyone’s story is different and trauma is trauma, folks.  People that don’t understand aren’t meant to be around for your journey and that’s okay.  Feel free to set aside anyone’s rules about what it means to be spiritual.  Feel free to set aside people that want to put out the fire in your soul that you know to be true.  Honesty is integral.

Also, if you’re not big on shoveling, feel free to listen.  More often than not we are very stubborn people and our fear is so deep rooted we can’t see our own programs.  We believe a mantra is doing it differently but we make demands about how our life should be.  It is a limiting ruse. Fear feels good and right because it is comfortable.  It is what we know and allows us to maintain the status quo out of survival rather than take part in real change.  Cheating yourself only leads to more misery.  (Also, being open is a hell of  a lot easier than kicking and screaming). 

We are all on our own journey and hear things in our own timing.  If you have you eyes to see, be grateful.  Have compassion for those who aren’t where you are.  And keep your eyes open. There’s probably more going on in the mirror than you might be willing to admit. xoxo