Creative Stroll: April 26, 2014

Note: Congratulations to Lisa Brown, who is the winner of The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery from my blog post. Send me  (email is on my Work With /Contact Quinn page on this blog) your mailing address and the book will be on its way to you. Enjoy the book!

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Rachel Sussman is a photographer who loves science as it shows up in nature. She photographed the oldest living things on earth (and wrote a book about it), not only so we can see them, but also so we can help keep them alive for a few more years. The book contains 124 photos and 30 essays.

the-oldest-living-things-in-the-world-by-rachel-sussman-5(Above) Llareta, a plant related to parsley. It is made up of thousands of small blossoms packed together.

The ancient organisms she photographs live on all seven continents and range from Greenlandic lichens that grow only one centimeter a century, to desert shrubs in Africa and South America, a predatory fungus in Oregon, Caribbean brain coral, to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah.

Kerry-Miller-a-hand-book-to-the-order-lepidoptera-by-w-h-kirby1Kerry Miller is a UK artist who saves discarded books. She carves them and paints them. But these are altered books like you haven’t seen in a long time. In her artist statement, she writes:

I use only old books as they lend themselves to this treatment in a way that modern ones do not and particularly enjoy the fact that I can even make use of books in a condition which most people would dismiss as unusable.

earth-from-space-on-earth-day-2014-nasaAnd finally, a photo of mother earth on Earth Day taken by NASA NOAA’s GOES-East satellite. Take care of your mother, she’s all we have right now.


–Quinn McDonald is finished with the studio upgrade, part 1. Part 2 will start once the futon and paper rack are sold. And she figures out a few things about the third dimension.

Raw Art Photography

Maybe you could call them altered photos, but they aren’t really altered. They aren’t as much altered as they are found, like found poetry. When I see something more in an ordinary photo, it’s found art photography. I take the photo, and then print it out. Using colored pencils, markers, pastels, I bring out what I see. Sure, I could do this with Photoshop or some other digital program, but there is something profoundly interesting in using my hands and colored pencils or markers to bring out what I see in a photograph.

Art photographers show the world what they see through their viewfinders. I take photographs to document something I don’t see. . .yet. And then I allow it to appear. Camera as art tool.

Here is the photograph of the crack in the pavement–note the small vertical line on the middle and the slanting dark line on the right.

It looks like an ordinary crack in the pavement, until you take a closer look. . .

Here’s what I saw when I took the original photograph. I just coaxed it out with pencils and markers:

. . . and see the lightning storm and the washed out road.

What’s hiding in your photographs that needs to be seen and let out?

Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach.

Tips for Photographing, Describing Your Handmade Products

For the last several weeks, I’ve been browsing Etsy for a purse. ( is a website for artists and functional crafters who want to sell their handmade work.) I’m looking for a comfortably large purse, in leather, with interior pockets so not everything bunches up at the bottom. Ideally it will have an outside pocket. Because the sun is so fierce here in the summer, I’m looking for a brown or neutral. It will shut with a zipper. Right, no magnets. You’ve read the other post in which I discover that magnets erase hotel room keys, metro cards and mess with your iPhone.

two spouted teapotFor some reason the same generation who spends the entire day on the phone or texting, grows strangely reluctant when it comes to describing a purse. There are lots of adjectives (“awesome”,” big”, “useful”) and much space spent on color descriptions, although the photographs should manage to convey most of the color information. “A really awesome mustard-like yellow, not like Grey Poupon, more like oaker, but not dark,” reads one description. “Oaker,” I am assuming, is what passes for “ocher” if you are thinking in wood tones.

Conspicuously missing are what a customer finds important before purchasing: dimensions, the color of the lining, if the strap is adjustable, how long the strap actually is, the exact material of the purse, the number of inside pockets, and how it closes.

The purses are often shown hanging in a featureless room, from a nail. There is no way to tell how big this thing really is. The same is true if the purse is being worn by a woman who is standing against a white wall. We can make certain guesses, but if the woman is short, the purse looks larger than it is.

Some simple tips for photographing your functional product:
1. Light it evenly so the entire product can be seen well. This is not time for dramatic shadows.square egg The photo on the right could be a pat of butter or a fold of paper, but it’s a square egg.
2. Fill the screen with the product, not the model holding the product.
3. Show the product in use. A purse hanging in a tree, from a fence, or lying on a table doesn’t give the additional information that someone holding it would demonstrate.
4. Show the inside of the bag, too. I hate black linings, because my stuff disappears into the bottom of the bag. So I want to see the lining and the pockets.
5. If you claim you made the bag, and I can read a popular brand name on the label in the picture, I won’t believe much else you say about the bag.
6. Show the bag closed in one shot, open in another. That helps me decide if the bag is functional.

Write descriptions that help a reader make a decision about buying:
1. Include dimensions and which way they are given. Across, down and deep is a good order. If the purse tapers, say that.
2. Don’t use words that those of us who aren’t functional crafters don’t know. “Popper,” “drop,” “slip pocket” are familiar terms to you, but not necessarily to your clients.
3. Tell us the material. If there are many materials, tell us what is where. “Made of leather, pleather, naugahyde, cordura and brass” isn’t nearly as useful as “Leather on the outside, lined with canvas and brass rings on the straps.”
4. Keep it short and use lots of verbs.
5. Link the characteristics of the piece (features) with how the client can use it (benefits). Saying, “the straps are really long” is not as effective as “You can hang the purse over your shoulder or wear it across your chest to keep your hands free.” That helps browsers visualize themselves carrying the purse.

Using clear photographs with simple descriptions will help you sell more of your work quickly.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at
(c) 2008-9 All rights reserved Images: 2-spouted teapot: Square egg: