Last week, my roommate Maggie asked me to take a few professional photos of her for her resume. I happily obliged, and we had some fun afterwards taking goofy pictures and dressing my dog, Ramona (“Mo”), up like a flower child. Maggie has a close relationship with Mo and treats her as if she were her own, and I’m very lucky to have a roommate who cares for my dog in such a loving way. I think these pictures of the two of them help capture their special bond. Ramona is an exceptionally good subject for photography, because she’s happy to be still and pose, and she will wear just about anything without complaint- even sunglasses! She also has an adorable smile, obviously. I often experiment with perspective and depth of field by taking portraits of Mo, playing with lighting and trying to get different areas of her face in focus. I probably take more pictures of my dog than anything else, although I think this is a common trend among dog-owners. I’m very grateful for my two best friends, and wanted to post their photos today as a symbol of companionship and a gesture of my appreciation and love.
Kit and Oda King are a married couple who collaborate on incredible hyper-realistic paintings. Their work is certainly one of a kind, most often depicting the human form in various creative ways. The paintings are so amazingly done that one could easily mistake them for photographs, and people often do. I follow them on Instagram, and Kit’s work often gets removed by Instagram’s moderators- the “community guidelines” of Instagram state that paintings of nudity are acceptable to post, but photographs are not.
I respect and admire this couple because they have practically managed to create an entirely new genre of art. They have mastered hyperrealism, and the way that they depict their subjects with interesting line work and perspective amounts to an artistic style that has never been seen before. Most of their work illustrates the human form, and I especially appreciate their attempts to normalize the naked body. We live in a society where nudity is viewed as taboo- but why? No one should be made to fear or shame their anatomy… and yet the demonization of the naked human body is a strong undercurrent in our modern society. This is apparent in the aforementioned fact that Instagram repeatedly deletes Kit’s paintings, mistaking them for photographs. I’ve followed Oda and Kit for a while now, and I’ve been very excited to see their foothold in the art industry grow stronger over the past few years, with more and more followers and exhibits. Even though hyperrealism is very far from my personal style of art, I am inspired by their craftsmanship and the messages portrayed by their work.
In today’s post I’d like to highlight one of my favorite artists, Jeremy Collins. He works with a number of mediums, but mostly pens and watercolors, to create artistic depictions of different facets of nature and modern social/political issues. He founded the outdoor clothing company Meridian Line, where his designs appear on t-shirts and other merchandise sold by several outdoor retailers such as REI and Half Moon Outfitters.
I think Jeremy’s work is an amazing display of creativity and activism. I follow his instagram (www.instagram.com/jercollins_com), which he regularly updates with new designs that often parallel the issues going on in the modern world. The buffalo/Native American piece posted above speaks on behalf of the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle, and the drawing of the faucet jammed into the planet Earth is an emotionally moving representation of most people’s blatant disregard of the fact that fresh water is a scarce and valuable resource.
As well as works of art showing the need for activism, Jeremy also creates on-the-spot paintings and drawings of mountainous scenery before him. I think this is an incredible talent to have, and it’s something I’d like to start practicing once I move somewhere that has many natural subjects to offer. I have a lot of appreciation for the originality of Jeremy’s style of line drawing, and the way he’s able to spread powerful messages through his art. He is definitely a strong source of inspiration for me, and I would like to begin to use my own creativity and passion for environmental issues to create art of a similar nature.
For spring break, I went to Moab, Utah with my dad. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. The energy out there is palpable, and influenced in me a deep sense of connection with nature. There were incredible rock formations and evidence of the powerful sculpting forces of nature everywhere I turned. My dad and I spent all day, every day outdoors exploring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park as well as taking a few hikes scattered outside the parks. There were unlimited opportunities for adventure, and three full days in Moab was definitely not enough time for me.
We stayed at the most perfect bed and breakfast called the Red Moon Lodge, operated a mile or two outside Moab by a wonderful couple. The carbon footprint of the place was very low, being
powered by solar energy and watered by natural sources located on the property. I meditated daily sitting in the “Medicine Wheel” (a native American circular structure constructed of rocks on a raised circular dirt platform used for invoking good health in the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual realms), and my experience with this Native American tradition has inspired me to build my own miniature wheel at home. My dad and I enjoyed home grown eggs and home made pancakes, waffles, or french toast every morning, and worked off the big breakfast by hiking all day.
The above pictures are just a glimpse of my beautiful time in Moab. My breath was taken away, literally by the immense strength of the winds out there, and figuratively by the awe-inspiring beauty of the canyons and valleys. I felt as if I were walking on Mars. I had my camera with me at all times, trying desperately to capture each and every glimpse of Mother Earth, but as most people with experience trying to photograph mountains know, pictures simply don’t do it justice. Nevertheless, nature is my favorite thing to photograph, and I wish I had more learning opportunities to improve my skills in this area, because I feel that I have so much more to learn.
Returning home from Moab, I felt as if I were leaving a piece of my heart there. Saying goodbye to the red dirt and the humbling mountains was incredibly hard for me. This trip was a much-needed change of scenery for me, and my dad was the perfect travel partner to experience with. I hope to be back soon to explore more and more of this stunning place.
In my truest form I am a painter. Creating works of art with oil paints is my deepest passion. When I sit at my easel, no thoughts fill my mind, but rather, I am taken over by the unimpeded flow of joy and creativity that allows me to take a few globs of oil paint and turn them into a nature scene, an animal, or an abstract work that speaks for itself in colors, textures, and shapes. If I could spend every day tucked away in a little artist’s studio in a peaceful place surrounded by nature, I would. Instead, though… I’m earning a practical degree in our society of practicalities. That’s not to say I don’t like what I’m learning in school, but everything I do comes second to the art of paintbrush on canvas.
The above photo is my most recent work. It was done upon paid request from a client, and I’m going to have to bid it a sad farewell next week as I pass it along to its new owner. I hope she enjoys the aesthetic benefit of having it up on her wall as much as I enjoyed the deeply spiritual process of painting it, star by tiny star.
One day I hope to be an art teacher. I want to teach middle schoolers how to tap into their creativity, which is so stifled by our modern education system. I want to provide an hour per day’s worth of creative experimentation to the budding minds of adolescents; an outlet into which they can pour all of their joys, frustrations, and dreams. The appreciation of art is dying a slow death in America, as our society becomes more and more mindless, industrialized, and driven by material gain, not to mention the recent government initiatives to defund the arts. My goal is to make art my life’s work, whether it be painting, photography, drawing, graphic design, or any number of other mediums. I want to spread the bliss and fulfillment that art provides, and hopefully get the chance to deeply touch and connect with other lives through my greatest passion.
Translated from Sanskrit, this means “may all beings find peace”. It’s my meditation mantra: a phrase repeated continually, either silently or out loud, with the intent of cultivating intense focus on awareness and quieting of the mind.
I first started practicing yoga here in Columbia my freshman year of college. I would go to the free classes in the Green Quad a few times per week. I picked it up seriously last summer, when I discovered the foundation of yoga, which is centered around meditation and mindfulness (contrary to popular Western belief, the physical workout that yoga offers is only secondary. Yoga isn’t yoga at all without intense presence and focus on the breath). Devoting myself to meditation naturally brought yoga into my life as an every day practice to strengthen my mind and body at the same time. I bought a membership at Yoga Masala last August, and since then I’ve been an active and passionate yogi, setting aside time to practice almost every day.
Yoga has brought me so much peace, love, and perspective. It’s one of the most important aspects of my existence, and something I know I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life. The picture above is of my favorite teacher at Yoga Masala, Haley Duggan. She’s been an inspiration and a role model for me throughout my yoga journey, with her happy attitude and positive perspective on all aspects of life. With the help of Haley and the rest of the Yoga Masala team, I’ve been able to establish a strong foundation in yoga and meditation, advancing my practice far beyond what I could have imagined was possible last summer. A year ago, I could barely touch my toes, and couldn’t fathom the concept of a mind free of thoughts. Now, I can fold over in half, and I come home from school every day desperately craving the peace of mind that 30 minutes in silent meditation brings me. Next August I hope to complete a yoga teacher training course with at Yoga Masala to follow in the footsteps of all the inspirational teachers there. I’m deeply grateful for the beautiful practice of yoga and all of the wonderful people it has brought into my life.
Taking moon shots is very difficult, as I soon found out when I was attempting to photograph the incredible Hunter’s Super Moon last October. The Super Moon rose on the night of my birthday, October 14th, which made for a very special 21st. I was in North Carolina at the time, on a camping trip with my boyfriend. We camped on top of a bald with so many other people who had come from all over to view the Super Moon from the perfect vantage point- it felt like some sort of night festival. It was magical. The moon rose, giant and orange, over the tops of the Appalachians lining the horizon. Hunter’s Super Moons look extra big (up to 50% bigger than normal) and have an orange tint because of the special location and path that they take across the sky. I only had a 70-200 mm lens, and it took me a good while to set up my tripod and figure out the exposure and focus, so I didn’t capture any great shots of the Super Moon in its prime as it was just starting to rise. This was one of my best shots, taken a few hours after the moon rise once I figured out the best settings to take photos of it. I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky. Star, moon, and planet photography is definitely something I’d like to add to my list of photography skills!
The weekend of Trump’s inauguration, January 20th, 2017, I drove to Washington, D.C. with one of my closest friends. Both of us had been shocked and emotionally drained by the election season. When we heard about the Million Women’s March, we knew immediately that it was something we needed to do. So Frances and I packed our bags, made a few calls to friends and acquaintances in the D.C. area, and made the eight-hour trek from Columbia to the White House to let our voices be heard.
The march was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of women, men, and children holding touching and creative signs stating their reasons for marching. People marched for women’s rights, for the environment, for immigration, for the welfare of the LGBTQ community, and most of all, for equality. Throughout the entire day, I didn’t witness a single episode of conflict or disagreement. Everywhere I turned, people were smiling and lifting one another up. We marched all day on the streets of Washington with other like-minded Americans, and I have never felt so empowered and unified with fellow citizens of this beautiful country.
I am a strong believer in the idea that the right to protest and speak out against injustice is at the core of a functioning democracy. I never expected to change the election results. But I refuse to sit back and passively accept the direction that America appears to be heading. I marched for all the marginalized groups of people throughout the world who feel that they cannot be heard. The Women’s March showed me that through love, unification, and the power of our voices, we can truly make an impact.
*photos were taken with my iPhone 6. I really wanted to bring my Canon along with me…but I was too worried that it would get stolen or broken.
Meet Ramona! She is my furry little angel whom I adopted about a year and a half ago, as soon as I moved out of a dorm and into my very first apartment. She may not look it, but I recently did a DNA test on her (Yes! You can buy these for your mutts! Check out DNAmydog.com) and found that she is a Shih-tzu/Husky/Beagle/Bullmastiff mix. To say the least, Mo is certainly one of a kind. She’s sassy, spunky, sweet, and cuddly…. all I need in a best friend. As well as being a proficient lap dog, she’s the perfect camping and hiking buddy, and we try to get out there as often as we can. The picture above was taken at Max Patch near Hot Springs, NC (it’s our favorite place on the East Coast- so don’t tell anyone about it!). I don’t know how I’d get through college without my little pup. Just a fair warning- if you keep up with my blog, chances are you’ll become very well acquainted with sweet Ramona. She’s my favorite photo model, and my camera roll is filled with shots of her doing everything from running around outside to simply posing like the beauty she is. I’m forever thankful for my girl!