I, me, ( personal pronoun ) myself, (reflexive pronoun ) all words i am finally able to say that describe me, Karen, no carer or daughter added to it, just me. I have been ‘just’ me for 21 months now, yes i am wife, mother, grandmother, sister but i am finally free to find me and i feel like i am ‘finding’ me, finally. It is strange how everything has changed yet nothing has changed, i still live in the same house with the same people, i still hold onto the same dreams but my art has changed so much. Getting back to my To Do List, I’ve had and still have a desire to be a different me, do different things that the ‘old me’ wouldn’t or couldn’t do and over the last 12 months I’ve been kind of creating a list of things that need to be done as i haven’t been able to do them in previous years.
I began taking photographs for myself in 1995, the year my eldest child was born. We bought a Canon Sureshot to start documenting the life of our baby, lots of people do it. As he grew and more children were added to our family the photos continued. I graduated to a Minolta bridge camera and discovered i actually enjoyed going out exploring with my husband and taking photos of landscapes. After a while i borrowed a Canon D60 and that was my KERPOW moment, i finally knew what i wanted to be when i grew up, a landscape photographer!
I was encouraged by my friends and family and started to print photos, looking back they were so bad! Fast forward a bit, i’ve become a better photographer but now i’m a carer for my mum who has cancer. I fast became my mums nurse, taking her to appointments, scans, radiotherapy, chemo was by mouth so i became very knowledgeable about her drugs and i lost myself. Photography became a lifeline, a crutch that has helped me through so many things, while mum was well and the kids in school my husband and i would drive off for the day, just the two of us and pick a destination about an hour from home, here we could relax, be ourselves and i could take beautiful landscape photographs, no people allowed!
Fast forward to the present, im grieving and Covid strikes, no more trips out, forced to stay at home and there is that voice in the back of my mind, ‘Karen you don’t want to do this anymore’. Throughout the pandemic i have been very lucky to have the support of three incredible sources, the Wirral Chamber of Commerce, the Visual Artists Society and Independent Wirral, the webinars they have put together have been amazing and much needed. Every week there seems to be something to participate in and i have increased my knowledge base in social media, business, art practices and much more.
You know when every day is the same and it gets so frustrating? I was up to the point where i was considering wearing my pj’s all day, bored with life, a little voice getting louder in my head telling me things needed to change, i needed change when i booked a strategy meeting through the VAA with Karen van Hoey Smith. I didn’t know what to expect, Karen had spoken on several webinars i had seen and to be honest i felt she was rather intimidating with her knowledge and background. Our meeting came around and i hadn’t prepared anything for a strategy meeting but i took the bull by the horns and started just talking to her about my life. Towards the end of our 2 hour session Karen looked at me and changed my life! She had put 2 + 2 together and made 4, not 3 not 5 and having put all of the pieces together she made the analogy of me being a caterpillar pupating into a butterfly.
Yes it really is time for change, just like that voice is telling me. Why? Because i have used creating landscape photographs with no people in them as a way to decompress from the hospital visits and constant care for my mum, to be alone with no more people around me and now with the voice in my mind whispering ‘change matters’ i am pupating! turning to mush to create a beautiful butterfly that will fly far and wide photographing PEOPLE! My grief process has led me full circle and now i am slowly recognising that there are no people being forced into my life to crowding me and i am free to seek them out for myself. That is why the voice in my head has been telling me i need something new, something with human contact, why i am drawn to portraiture and why my mind has been recreating the images i want to photograph…..TBC
I’m sure Covid has given thousands of people in all walks of life, in all job sectors time to think about what they really want in life, what is important to themselves and their families, time to pause, take stock and realise they perhaps aren’t living their ‘Best Life’. We have ALL had the most horrendous 18 months of our lives and been affected by this pandemic in one way or another or perhaps even several ways. We may have had our eyes opened to the job that has never satisfied, the partner you no longer connect to, the home you never liked, to the life you feel very dissatisfied with and while the pandemic rages around us we find in the quiet of lockdown that we can do something about it, right now while the world battles this horrible disease.
If you have read back into my blog you will know that i have been a carer for a very long time. That i have been the dutiful eldest daughter and looked after my mum from the time my dad died, through her diagnosis of Multiple Myaloma Cancer and ultimately her death. When my mum passed away quietly holding my hand i felt, grief yes but also relief. Relief that finally i was going to get my life back, relief that my husband and family would finally be a ‘normal’ family and the relief that finally i could be who i wanted to be, not who i had become.
Four months is all i got then Covid struck us all. Then i became a struggling artist just like so many others. Our ‘amazing’ government did step up to save our economy, they gave millions of pounds to the big corporations to ‘keep them going’, PPE contracts to their best buddies and family members, they helped businesses furlough staff and financed small businesses but they did nothing for artists! I fell through the cracks, literally, i don’t pay tax as i don’t earn enough so don’t qualify for any help as im not a real business. My husband is self employed but pays no tax as he is quite early in his career as a writer, so no help there. We have been living on Social Security benefits which is basically hand to mouth poverty.
Yes i have a car, its a disability car as i have Fibromyalgia, yes we own our own home with a small mortgage but we haven’t been able to pay our mortgage for months, all this on top of GRIEF, well damn something’s got to give………. Try creating Art when you have energy companies, credit card companies, mortgage companies etc literally knocking at the door, IT JUST DOESN’T WORK.
At first i tried going down the learn it all route and as a member of the Visual Artists Society i have learnt a lot but nothing is helping my creativity. I’ve tried creating with Polaroid film, got a few images out of it, ran out of film, have no money to buy more, that stopped. Tried to be enthusiastic about photographing my local landscapes, been there done that so many times, i’ve approached other photographers for mentoring, they wanted me to PAY! for something i would have done for free given the circumstances. And all the time at the back of my mind i’ve had this voice getting louder and louder yelling ‘I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE’ and a quieter one asking me what do i want and i’ve come to realise its just NOT this!……………………TBC
Finally, after how long? I’ve broken the back of my creative drought! It’s taken long enough and i have had to battle long and hard to break through but I’ve actually made new work. Mind you it was a battle to get the camera out, so i have been leaving my bag by the side of my chair in the hopes that it would make me go out. It has kind of worked, i have sat and watched countless sunsets while wishing i had the energy to move and when i have moved the sunsets been terrible! Murphy’s law i suppose. I’ve taken to walking the dog with my camera, he still uses his lead 😉 and the camera gets in the way but i HAVE used it and have started to experiment with filters too.
The craft fairs are starting again now, I’ve a bit of a conundrum as i’m in a bit of a catch 22 situation, I need money to make money and unfortunately have missed out on a three day fair over the Bank holiday due to lack of funds. It is so very frustrating! I also need to print new work as I’m fast selling out of the old stuff which is exciting as it will be great to see customers reactions to my new work. Looks like i will have to start skimming off the housekeeping money!
Just a reminder that the VAA International Open Exhibition is on until June 30th and there is still plenty of time to visit the exhibition and voting is still open on the peoples choice award. My photograph ‘Formby Beach Pathway to the Sea’ is receiving plenty of views and hopefully plenty of votes, use the link to visit the exhibition and visit the Peoples Choice Award page here. There are over 250 amazing artists showing there work from all over the world and i am very proud to have a photograph in the exhibition.
The VAA International Open Exhibition has a PEOPLES CHOICE AWARD!
Will you vote for my photograph please? Its easy enough to do all you need to do is go to the website here and scroll down the page to the Peoples Choice Awards vote button, click the button and follow the page 3/4’s of the way down to KAREN LAWRENCE and click on my name, easy. It will also mean a lot to me, i am growing my ‘Tribe’ slowly, why not become a member and follow me on facebook, instagramlinkedin. Be the first to know what i’m doing, where i’m going, what i’m publishing, where i’m selling, become a ‘Spike’ and share my journey and perhaps pick up a new piece of art on the way. Thank you.
I finally found out which photograph has been accepted into the VAA Online Art Exhibition! Its only one of my most favorite images and just happens to hang on my living room wall! ‘Formby beach, pathway to the sea’. Taken back in 2012/3 i think, on a days respite with my husband Chris when we just got into our car and drove, something we love to do. We were wandering the sand dunes and happened on a gap down to the beach, so we went down it. It was quite a steep incline which was easy to get down and we were able to explore the beach taking numerous photos as we went. Upon closer inspection we realised the tide was actually coming in and quite quickly too so there was a bit of a mad dash back to where we had entered the beach, only to find it was easier to go down than it was to get up. Especially when your laughing at each other, it was literally two steps forward, one step back as the sand shifted under our feet but we made it in the end and i managed to capture this lovely image.
The exhibition is online and free, you just need to register here for your ticket and you should receive updates etc until the start of the exhibition on April 12th until June 30th 2021. All the work is for sale and is an opportunity to purchase art from up and coming artists and photographers.
Well, i ran out of Gold Foil and on my shopping trip i bought, 100 sheets of Gold Foil, photographic spray mount, a pack of A3 foam board and half a dozen frames. Nice shopping list but what is it to do with you? Nothing, just making conversation. The project i have been not really giving my attention to keeps calling to me and every so often i will go and attempt to draw something from my stagnant creative heart. An exposure here an exposure there, maybe a deconstruction of some Polaroid film but im not really feeling it.
Anyway, i have a Polaroid Lab (on SALE now) and I’ve been taking photos on my phone whenever I’ve walked the dog, so throughout the Autumn (Fall) i have collected some really nice photos. This day i exposed a film on my Lab of a beautifully coloured leaf, the Lab is so easy to use, you have an app on your phone which allows you to do single images or up to nine images creating a beautiful collage, you open the app, select how many film you want to make up your collage, pop your phone image down on the Lab and press the big red button.
Once i had my film exposed i had to wait around 10 minutes for it to develop full then i took it into the kitchen and deconstructed it. You slice the edges off with a sharp blade, cut the black strips that hold the film together and peel the backing off carefully. The developer is toxic so dont put your hands near your face and dont let it come into contact with anything edible.
You then pop the image into a dish of hot water and watch as the emulsion floats off the plastic front, this jelly like thing is the image you will then transfer into cold water and place onto a piece of watercolour paper. However, i didn’t do that this time, i left the image on the plastic front and played around putting Gold Leaf on to the back. (This is the bit where i ran out of Gold Leaf). So now i have this piece of film covered in gold and for the life of me i just dont know what to do with it next. Inspiration has left the building.
I feel such envy for those artists/photographers who are creating at the moment, the only thing i am doing is arguing over the rights to the photographs i took for someone as a favor. If you think you can help drop me a message in the comments. I feel conflicted, torn in different directions, do i have a go at hand making a photo book of my Polaroids, do i have a go at filming, just with my phone, do i spend the night over in Liverpool doing night photography, or forget my camera and just wallow in social media, go and learn something new on the internet? Its just push me pull me.
I’m sure im not the only person in a funk, 2020 has been the worst year ever which is an understatement. My mum passed away at the end of 2019 and we are coming up to the anniversary of her passing so that doesn’t help but i am grateful that i have not got troubles as bad as some. Lockdown eases on the 2nd December and the shops will open again, hopefully that will help with sales of my work, there are actual physical markets happening again, yippee, i miss talking to people about my work, oh yeah, Christmas is just around the corner. Turkey, mince pies, family, gifts, love and time together, maybe its time to forget about work and time to concentrate on family and myself, have a drink or three and just have a bit of fun!
You never know if its any good until you try. Quite a good mantra to live by. The craft fairs i would normally sell my work at have been cancelled due to covid 19, this is the time i would have been able to sell to the public so i have had to find a different way of selling.
Not so long ago several people had the great idea of using their instagram following to host on line craft fairs, wish i’d thought of that! Bringing together creatives, charging a small sum for the privilege and banging out post after post with the most amazing crafts! I’ve found the amazing Bronte’s Gnomes , she makes the most delicious gnomes from Harris Tweed and i want to buy them all they are so cute!
So i have joined in with the selling and have posted and shared and liked and followed those who have intrigued me, now its YOUR turn, show some love, shop small and join me on instagram Look out for me on the Maker Bee on-line fair on the 28th and 29th of November, the @Handmadehour on-line fair on the 19th November and the Winter Arkade, Regents St, Liverpool on 13th December which is a physical market.
Shop small businesses this Christmas and support local artists and artisans during this very trying time, thank you.
I had very vivid dreams last night, of being young and being introduced to a world i hadn’t been admitted into yet, one where you held power if everyone knew your name, you held power if you were associated with that name. I know what it means and this morning i have woken up feeling pretty powerless over my future.
I am trying pretty hard to create a new future for myself and my family, i am studying social media, watching webinar’s and reading up on best practice, finding representation in shops to sell my art but it is all so frustrating. I wish Covid would just fuck off, why now when now is the time i am finally free to do what i want, go where i want, any time i want, why now?
My creativity is coming in fits and starts and i seem to be relying on older work to get me through this, i just find the frustration levels so hard to deal with. I could sit in the corner and do nothing all day and feel bad if i let it get too much but im made of stronger stuff than that and the corner can just go and do one! I have money to make, bills to pay just like everyone else so why do i feel as if i am standing still in one place?
Deep down i know what i want to do! I want to have my own shop/gallery and i want to help other struggling artists to grab the attention of collectors, shoppers and anyone else just passing but it feels like its just out of my reach. I know what i need, a shop, money, artists, money, stock, money and oh yeah money and a shop. It just goes around and around and makes me feel like im failing, it is the perfect time now, christmas is around the corner, people are buying gifts etc and i feel like i am missing the biggest opportunity of my life.
If you have any useful ideas drop them in a comment please, i think one of the real reasons why im struggling is because i no longer have my sounding board, my back up, the person who believed in me no matter what…. my Mum and i need her. This time last year she became so poorly, her cancer so aggressive and hospital admission was just around the corner, ultimately her passing away early December. I miss her and feel like im floundering around in life at the moment, free but not quite free because of covid holding things back. I suppose i could use that as an excuse for a long time but ultimately it stops at me and i am the only one who can make this happen. I need to pull on my big girl knickers ( pants ) and just do it, so i will!
Today was one of those rare days when i had the house pretty much to myself, husband off on a film shoot, kids on half term but hiding in their bedrooms playing computer games, so i decided that i was going to take this as a sign that it was ok to make art. I had been looking at some of my Polaroid images and decided that i could sacrifice two in the name of art. I wanted to experiment!
I can safely say that the first experiment was a complete and utter disaster! I put one of the Polaroids into the microwave and turned it on, within seconds it had burst into flames and i couldn’t turn it off in time to save it. I ended up with a small plastic lump, no way was that going to become a photographic image. In the bin it went.
Experiment two was better, i didn’t put it in the microwave this time, i held it over a flame on my cooker top, just enough to heat the back up, then i cut down the sides and peeled the back off leaving the developing chemical residue on the back of the film. This meant i could then do a ‘Lift’ of the emulsion and put it onto paper.
I decided to use gold foil on the paper so applied that first, then i placed the film into a bowl of boiling water and waited for the emulsion to bubble and lift from the film. I then used the clean film to place the emulsion into cold water and slipped the paper with the gold foil under the emulsion and removed it from the water. After a little maneuvering i had the image on the foil in the place i wanted it, i then dried it off with kitchen towel and after it has dried and been flattened i will mount and frame it in a simple black gallery style frame.
Maybe tomorrow i will get enough time to use my Polaroid Lab and print off some of the images i have on my phone!