When I think Iím done, I keep goingÖ
All my life Iíve been an artist, but for many years I was an artist without a technique or focus. I grew up in extreme poverty and with a mentally ill and untreated parent at the helm of the ship we called a family. My parents, as much as they struggled always valued creativity, my rich imagination. I learned to use my mind as a vehicle for taking me away from undesirable situations and to channel my creativity into a means for survival I wrote and spun stories, I drew a lot and I even got a set of paints when I was a child from my grandparents, however at the time I didnít know how to use them and everything I imagined that might draw from my rich and colorful mind onto canvas was met with disappointment, I ended up with the muddled and mediocre paintings that one would expect from a child with no instruction on how to use a tool that had such great potential. I won a couple of contests for my artwork in school, but I was never happy with my work. As a teenager I largely abandoned art and focused on poetry as my main vehicle for expression.
As a young adult I met and married an abuser and had a child with him, at the age of 24 I ran away from home, narrowly escaping with my life and a young son and began to rebuild my confidence and my life. During my marriage I had written a lot as a means of coping with the violence and chaos however I found that when I left my husband I had very few words leftÖ when I picked up a pen it was always the same story and I realized that my poetry was not serving me anymore. Suddenly I was a woman without an art form, a woman without a country. Like many artists, when I didnít have a place to channel all of that imagination and creativity, a place to channel the pain, I fell apart, I created drama in other areas of my life and generally fumbled through, unhappy and discontent.
At the age of 25 my parents got me a digital camera as a means of documenting my sons early years. I took tons of pictures that were riddled with pixels and were only bearable for viewing in wallet size, I liked to do fun things like crop them creatively or recolor them however I didnít have much ability beyond that. On New Years Eve, 1999 I was at a friends house when I discovered Paintshop
Pro and the ability to combine images. I was hooked. I rang in the year 2000 on the computer while everyone else drank their spirits and raised a ruckus. I found some freeware on the computer (Ultimate Paint) that gave me control over images and like a DJ I mixed away spinning one song into the next. A couple of years later I was introduced to Photoshop and the possibilities grew. I learned how to create layers and to have complete creative control over every aspect of my work. I learned to do digital collages at that point and cut and pasted away. I no longer needed all that drama in my life and things began to calm down for me, I began working for the state where before I had been unemployed and it had at some point been questionable if I would ever be able to work again due to my health issues. I truly feel that art has a power and ability to heal our lives. I worked my pain into photographs with series after series of self portraits, I added in other photographs with rough textures like concrete and plaster and rusted walls and learned that I could make things as dark as I felt on the inside. With my first paycheck from the state I upgraded my camera to a Sony and with more pixels had a bigger surface to work with and I
learned how to employ more techniques as a result. I realized that the possibilities were endless. At some point in my internet wanderings I discovered information that taught me how to create my own custom brushes (Gillian has great instruction on that here in her pages as well), I taught myself how to use my own photographs as stamps. Early in my work I borrowed most of my elements from others, stock photographs and brushes from the net, however in time I learned that with a scanner, a stockpile of personal photographs and the knowledge of how to create my own brushes there was no stopping me. I was able to make artwork where every element was my own.
I showed my work at local coffee shops in the small town where I was living to great reception. My very personal work had brought an emotional response from people. I continued to grow, my life continued to heal from decades of abuse and the nature of my work began to evolve as well.
Currently Iím shooting with a Panasonic camera which is a great balance between economy and creative control with a manual focus ring and 10 megapixels. I use Photoshop CS2 for post processing and creating artistic compositions out of photographs. I could have stopped there, but through my friend Destree I met another artist, Dayna Collins (also featured in this post holding an apple and covered in text from a telephone book, I was very honored to have the opportunity to photograph her as well), I took a visual journaling class from her locally and learned to employ paint techniques to the page, I had been playing with paint again but always felt somewhat frusterated with the results. Among the mariad of things I learned from her was how to create great backgrounds that became a jumping off point for my non-digital art. Just this year I have learned how to meld the two together, creating a journal which strayed from using magazine images (there are a couple of images on this page that are from magazine photos) and hand drawing to one that is enhanced by my photography. I discovered that using neocolor crayons on the hair yields amazing results on paper, and that I can use my friends pictures to convey my personal emotion.
Although I had always photographed friends and neighbors I found that I was never able to employ the same techniques to them, that I couldnít make them into art that reflected my personal visions. Moving to Salem, Oregon in the winter of 2008 I took some pictures of a friend one day and some of my neighbors came over to see them, they were impressed with my work and excited and spurred on by this ego boosting (yes, I admit it), I showed them some of my more personal work. What I discovered is that there are others who want to be a part of this, that they were not only comfortable with the transformation, that they WANTED to be a part of this process, to see this unique vision of themselves. Prop heavy I began to photograph my friends, neighbors and fellow artists Destree Rudolph & Candace Coyle. I learned to look at them as though it were a self portrait, to use them as vehicles to set the mood and tone of the photograph, they made great models, full of emotion and depth and slowly I became more comfortable translating my vision outside of myself which gave me infinitely more control over setting and poses, etc. than taking self portraits with a self timer
In the examples of my work that Gillian has chosen, there are a variety of techniques, most of which at their core involve a simple brush stamp made from a photograph or scanned objects in photoshop. I have incorprated my personal handwriting and snippets from old family letters (Iím praying for you was part of a paranoid rant from my schizophrenic father, it is layered with photographs of myself and the tower of the state hospital for the mentally ill as well as a handful of Xanax and some personal handwriting constructed for the piece), there are altered magazine pages with neocolor crayons, vintage text from books found at the Goodwill Bins (a thrift store where you sort through bins of materials hunting for treasures and ultimately pay for most items by the pound), cut outs of birds from vintage books, self portraits layered with Greys Anatomy illustrating female plumbing, pages from the phone book, bits of handmade paper, stencils and stamps (sorrow), lots of black gesso, lots of brushes made from metal and concrete photographs, photos of painted canvas in progress, hand prints, my curtains and lots of white gel pen. The journaling possibilities are endless and as an ever evolving artist, I can only imagine where this melding of art journal and creative photographic processes might take me next. I am three quarters through my most recent handbound journal which I started in late January already!
You can view more of my work on www.loveinstitution.blogspot.com and www.shelbykoning.phanfare.com as well as on facebook. You can find more about my teacher and mentor Dayna Collins who taught me the art of visual journaling at www.alleyartstudio.blogspot.com we also have a visual journaling group called OrangeDream Monkeys that has a facebook page where you will find most of the models from this page and a means to view their personal artwork. My art is a collective and my photographs are always a collaboration.
Shelby Koning 0 603 2010
Shelby's Blog. www.loveinstitution.blogspot.com
When I think Iím done, I keep goingÖ
All my life Iíve been an artist, but for many years I was an artist without a technique or focus. I.......continued below