November 19, 2012

Bad Flash Photography & Touched By Fire

Today is Monday, which means I have photography class tonight. I also have some creative decisions to make, but I’ll get into that later.

So this week’s photography assignment was pretty simple and complicated at the same time. Take a picture without flash and then take a picture with flash. All I have to work with is the popup flash on my camera, which is pretty crappy I think, so my pics are pretty crappy this week. Also, I realized at 10:30 last night that I’d forgotten to do the assignment so I didn’t get all fancy with my lighting or anything. I just used the light from Madison’s bedside lamp and the flash. Here we go:

No flash. f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/30 sec.
(I cleaned up the noise in Lightroom, but that’s the only editing I did.)

With flash. f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/4 sec.
This one was taken pretty close up, within maybe 3 feet or so?


Obviously with flash. f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/19 sec.

Flash, f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/24 sec.

Flash. f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/15 sec.

I think this last one is the best one and it was taken from about 6 feet away so the flash wasn’t so bright in her face.

So those are my horrible flash pictures because my flash is terrible and I didn’t have time to light her room properly. (Not that I could have lit that corner any better with what we have, honestly. I want a flash for Xmas and lighting for my birthday haha)

Honestly, I didn’t really get a lot of what he was talking about last week. He talked a lot about his crazy light setup, which none of us have, and showed us how to use an external flash, which only one person has, and it was kind of information overload so I’m not sure what we were supposed to take away from it. Except that I have no intentions of using my popup flash for anything, ever, until I have an external one that I can actually bounce off of things because these pictures are awful. I also didn’t know what ISO to put it at when using the flash or if the flash would compensate for what the ISO was set at. He never told us that or if he did, I missed it. He was playing with a light reader but I didn’t understand any of what he was saying because I don’t have a light reader and have never seen one and just…no idea what he was talking about. That class was just a total clusterfuck of information thrown at us.

I am curious to see what tonight’s class will be about and how well everyone else does.

Thursday night was Touched By Fire which, for those who don’t know, is an annual art show put on by the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. 419 pieces were submitted for the show for consideration and only 96 were chosen. Apparently there were 620 people who came to the show, which is the 2nd biggest crowd the show has ever had (with the first being the time they had it at the Royal Ontario Museum – I didn’t get in that year because all I submitted was my happy fantasy glitter girls and this show wants paintings that reflect mental illness).

This was my piece this year, which I painted in 2009 and gave to my shrink as a gift who lent it back to me for the show:

“The Two Sunnies”, 2009

The show was very claustrophobic and I had a hard time being there. The whole way there I was like, “I really don’t want to do this” while chowing down clonazepam and honestly, if I hadn’t have invited Charlie to come with us and have dinner beforehand and everything, I probably wouldn’t have gone. (Dinner was awesome, btw. Garlic mashed potatoes and a weak, but good, strawberry margarita ftw!)

The main thing that was interesting about the show this year was that there seemed to have been more pieces by who I call “the usual suspects”. I mean, the show definitely has its people who are pretty much guaranteed to get in because they always do and a couple of them have even become volunteers for the show. At this point, I kinda think I’m one of those people but only if my work reflects mental illness.

I’ve been saying for months now that I’m not going to paint anymore and I’ve put away my paint and painting supplies in a bucket at the end of my desk. And I also said that this year’s Touched By Fire would be my last time doing the show for that reason. The show accepts photography but most of it, in my opinion, is pretty good, and mine is not, but I have no interest in creating photos or god, self portraits, that reflect my mental illness because like I’ve said a million times, I’m medicated and “better” now. I think for the most part my mental illness is under control. Or at least as “under control” as is possible with straight up medication. Now we’re trying to work on the things medication can’t help with.

The thing is though, that being creative is part of my mental health plan. I’ve been creative my whole life and it’s always been a way to cope with the unpredictability of my lying brain. Idle hands and all that. But right now photography fulfills that life requirement and since I feel like I’m done with painting (mostly because no one’s buying anything, even after greatly reducing my prices on every older piece in my Etsy shop and I need the money from those sales to make any more plus we’re really out of wall space in this house, but also because I’m just not inspired to paint right now), I decided that this year’s Touched By Fire was going to be my last.

So me and Blake and Charlie go to the show and Charlie bought a painting called “A Bad Case of Stripes” from a girl named Sarah Hopper who goes to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (there’s a sister Touched By Fire event in Chicago, I did a commission for the family behind it the first year I did Toronto’s Touched By Fire).  I liked a lot of the artwork this year, whereas I haven’t so much in other years. There was one artist, an abstract artist, named Whitney Taylor, whose work used metallic paints and foils and a thick, glossy glaze varnish of some sort, much like my own paintings. I loved them. And I’m not even a huge fan of abstract. They were super expensive (and rightly so!) so I couldn’t afford one, but they were my favourite out of the whole show. She (?) had several pieces in the show, taking up almost one entire wall and they were all big ones. And it was a prominent wall, too, I mean, she got massive exposure. I didn’t notice if she sold any of them.

My painting was in a busy part of the gallery and I didn’t wear my nametag or hover around my painting (except the one time Charlie made me) because I just don’t like the attention. In previous years there were wandering photographers stalking artists and I wanted no part in that. I didn’t see any of those this year, though many people were taking pictures of themselves with other people  just with their own point & shoots. I did my best to keep a low profile and no one recognized me from previous years.

My painting was not for sale this year because it was on loan from my shrink, whom I gave it to in 2009. This caused a bit of a ruckus, I found out on Saturday but I’ll get into that in a minute.

Apparently at the show, there were oysters that people were eating but I didn’t see any and wouldn’t have eaten one if I did. I only saw one tray of potato and cheese appetizers, which Blake had and said they were cold. Cold mashed potatoes. Ew. I had a $2 Diet Coke and while I didn’t have one of the $10 fire and ice martinis, I saw lots of people with them in their hands. Blake and Charlie didn’t drink anything. (Charlie had beer with dinner and Blake just didn’t feel like having a drink.) The proceeds of the entire event go to the Mood Disorders Association, although the artists keep 100% of their sales, with the exception of the following:

This year they had two Fire and Ice fundraising things.

The first was, they wanted the artists to solicit donations for the MDAO and the artist who received the most donations would be invited to their black tie gala event in January and their artwork would be prominently displayed at the event and it would be on all of the promotional materials. They advertised this offer as being “big exposure” but I didn’t bite, despite the fact that I was pretty sure I could win that competition through my site, primarily because A) I wouldn’t want to be the featured artist at a black tie gala. I don’t think I’d be able to do that. People would want to talk to me about my work and stuff and while rich people with kids is kinda my audience, see B) I kinda don’t think it’s right to pay for exposure like that and that’s what this felt like. Normally *I* would get paid for having my artwork on their promotional materials, not the other way around. Yeah, I realize it’s charity but see C) The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario has never done anything for me or my mental health and until Touched By Fire THIS YEAR, I wasn’t even sure what they did. I’ve never been involved with them, but what I got out of this year’s show is that they do art therapy in Toronto for people with mood disorders and from looking at their website just TODAY, they have peer support groups across Ontario. I’ve never been involved with anything like that and probably wouldn’t be but I can see how that may help some people. It’s possible that next year I may do fundraising for them but I dunno if I’d want to “win” and honestly, I know that the only way I’d get people to donate to them in my name through my site is if I was actively trying to win the top prize.

Anyway, the second thing they asked us to do was to create 12 x 12 inch pieces with the theme “fire and ice” that they would sell for $150 a piece, splitting the profits with the artist and the rest would go to the MDAO. But they only gave us a week to do that and it takes me 2 weeks to make a painting. Nothing I’d already done could even remotely be considered “fire and ice” so I just didn’t submit anything to that. Maybe next year if they give us more time, I would do it.

So like I said a few paragraphs ago, my painting apparently “created a lot of buzz” according to the voicemail I got on Saturday from the MDAO’s executive director. I knew the MDAO had called on Friday but I figured it was just about coming to pick up artwork when we’d already taken mine home after the show or about fundraising, which they’d already called about before, so we just ignored it, especially since Blake wasn’t home and he’s the one who usually answers the phone if it’s not someone expressly for any of the rest of us. (He even picks up the phone for blatant telemarketing phone numbers…)

On Saturday Blake took Madison and her boyfriend to see Twilight and I had to call him to tell him to bring something home but when I went to do so, the dial tone was like, “boop boop boop boop”, which means there’s voicemail. So I listened to it and there was this executive director of the MDAO calling saying my painting had “created a lot of buzz” and that she wanted to talk to me.

The curiousity all weekend just about killed me because I couldn’t imagine what she would want to talk to me about. I knew it couldn’t be fundraising. I just didn’t know what it could be.

So this morning I took two Ativan and called her back. She said that there was two people at the show who really wanted my piece and who were dismayed to find that it wasn’t for sale and that there wasn’t anything else by me in the show that *was* for sale. One of them wanted to buy one for their daughter and one of them wanted to put a piece for their niece. One of them was the main sponsor of the show from Raymond James who, as it turns out, bought my piece from last year’s show too. The other guy, I’m not sure how he fits in, but it was someone within the sponsors or the organization because Ann Marie used his first name like it was someone she knew well. She asked if I did commissions and I said yes, even though traditionally I hate doing commissions, mostly thinking that with how bored I am with my girls right now, maybe some ideas from other people would interest me. Also a commission is a sold piece so that would be killing two birds with one stone as far as my reasons for not wanting to make any more paintings. I gave her the link to my Etsy shop and my e-mail address and said that I would welcome contact from anyone who was interested.

She also asked me how I liked this year’s show and I told her that my favourite part was the wall they used to showcase artwork made in the art therapy classes they offer. That wall was like, “the happy wall” whereas the rest of the show, with very few exceptions, was pretty dark and moody (which has always been my issue with it, they don’t want paintings from level, medicated artists whose mental illnesses are under control, but I didn’t tell her that part). She said that in the coming days, a survey was going to be coming to us via e-mail on ways to make the show better so I figure I’ll get into that aspect then.

This positive reinforcement has made me sort of rethink my painting strike and whether or not this really would be my last year doing Touched By Fire. All afternoon, since getting off the phone with her, little trickles of ideas have sort of been flowing through my brain so I guess we’ll see what happens.

Work meeting in 8 minutes. Better go get ready.

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