Art for Heart's Sake

Today, I got to make ART.

For the sake of art. In the spirit of collaboration and creativity.


Even better, I got to make art ... in a museum ... with a treasured co-conspirator in the arts.

My muse was my gorgeous, extraordinarily talented friend Valerie. A life-long dancer with unparalleled grace in her movement through life. Someone who shares the calling to create art with her life's work... and sometimes purely for the sake of art.

We got to make art that was inspired by art. Giant, abstract expressionist art came to life in a whole new way before us as Valerie danced.

We made art inspired by the “life-lines” that run vertically through so many of Clyfford Still’s vibrant paintings. Inspired by the movement we found in his colorful canvases and the sumptuous light in this special space, a museum designed specifically to house this one artist’s prolific body of work.

Downloading the photos tonight brought me intense happiness (I may or may not have shed a tear) -- watching what we had created come to life image by image on my monitor. What a liberating experience it is to create art for the sake of seeing, for capturing a moment, feeling depth of color and composition with no agenda outside of discovery, and possibly a desire to share (if anything ends up being worth sharing). The act of sharing would be like icing on the cake. For what it’s worth, after today, I'm so excited to share what we found in there that I'm here with a sneak peek, something I hardly EVER do.

SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

My heart is full. And I'm left with a strong emotion that, especially given the uncertainty and unrest in the world, we all need to remind each other to make moments for those things which make our hearts full. Discovery, creativity, adventure, love.

Thank you, Valerie, for your beautiful heart, for your life’s art, and for coming to Denver to share this crazy idea with me. And for letting me collaborate with your dance today. I can’t wait to share the final photographs!

100 Days of 10 : Lessons in Sketching

I graduated college with one of those “completely useless” degrees in… The Arts! (gasp!)

Since I wanted to be an architect, majoring in Art & Art History seemed like a logical choice. Darkroom classes, learning to make pinhole cameras, sketching, drawing, a bit of painting, history of the Renaissance and Impressionist painters… history of pop art and architecture... it was my world for those years.

I went on to earn an architectural degree, and practiced in the field of architecture for the better part of a decade, designing, building models, learning to render in AutoCAD… before I found my second (first) home in the art of photography (via architectural photography).

A recent re-ignition of my love of sketching has me thinking quite a bit about how a background in the Arts has impacted everything from my career as a photographer… to how I see the world around me. I was enormously happy to hear on NPR just a few days ago that the prioritization of THE ARTS in education is making a comeback!


It all started when, just over 2 weeks ago, I joined a group of people who committed to doing a project - something - ANYTHING - for 10 minutes a day, for 100 days. Completely intrigued by the concept, I weighed this commitment and thought about what I'd do with those 10 minutes a day for that long.

I considered many different kinds of projects (yoga, meditation, decluttering, writing, etc.)... but in the end there was really one thing I simply couldn’t NOT do...

You see, I’m one of those people who collects blank sketchbooks. Little ones, big ones, bound, spiral, lined, graph, blank… square, landscape, fine paper, recycled paper… They are in my bedroom, on my bookshelves, even on my desk. I stare at them. They tease me. They tempt me. They call to me... If I could LIVE in an art store... oh man...

But, where I used to sketch nearly daily in college and in architecture school, my entire world for the past 2 decades (!) has been fingers on a keyboard, touchpad or camera… eyes on a monitor.

As a result, I’ve become totally, completely, 100% intimidated by putting a mark -- ANY MARK -- in any of those sketchbooks. Those beautiful, calling-to-me, waiting to be filled up sketchbooks!

This 100 Days of 10 project sounded like the perfect excuse to grab one of those sketchbooks and just START.

No more excuses, no attachment to whatever my hands would or would not do any more... just draw. Marks on paper. Every day. For at least a few minutes. I could do at least that, right?

So I bravely grabbed the ABSOLUTE TINIEST sketchbook in the house (haha -- not as brave as you'd think, but way more challenging than I thought!)... all the while telling myself I chose this one because it was exactly 100 pages (yeah, ok, it was totally because it was tiny)... and from the first line on the first piece of paper, I was hooked.

I mean, I went to sleep, and woke up thinking about it kind of hooked.

So... here's what has been happening, in chronological order:

What I’m LEARNING from this project, especially as I attempt to move from architectural sketches (which come more easily to me) into the push-way-out-of-the-comfort-zone area of portrait sketches, is how much my arts background really has had a significant impact on how I see.

How I see light, shadow, composition, form, perspective, solid, void, shape, expression…

I am finding an all new gratitude for the things from my education in the arts that sunk in without me even realizing…. things that have shaped who I am as a photographer… how I see the world around me as an artist and appreciator of this incredible planet.

Anyway… so there it is. I’m in this project now. For 10 minutes (ok, sometimes maybe a few MORE than 10 minutes!) a day...

And I'm already FEELING how it is improving my photography to be pushing through creative project like this. I'm SO EXCITED and GRATEFUL. Grateful for my roots in the arts, grateful for the fact that my fingers still know how to hold a pencil, and grateful for having found the tiniest nudge to push me to pick that sketchbook back up again.

Oh, sweet and tiny sketchbook... where will you take me next?

By the way... if you happen to wish to follow along, I've been posting them daily on my TUMBLR account. I don't really know what I'm doing on Tumblr, so please come say hello -- I'd love to follow you, too!

Just ten minutes a day (or more) for 100 days.

It’s a fascinating concept FULL of creative growth potential… What would YOU do with that time?


ABOUT THE ARTIST: Jennifer is a portrait photographer who struggled for years to actually call herself a photographer ... in a world FULL of people who call themselves photographers. Using the word "artist" here is most absolutely pushing a personal envelope for her. Please excuse her for trying something out and seeing if it fits...

The Artist Studio | Redthreaded Editorial Photos

For quite some time now I’ve been dreaming of a series of editorial / documentary style photos essays on Artists in their Studios...


... a photo from our editorial STYLED SESSION at Blanc, Denver

Seamstress and costume designer Cynthia Settje opened Redthreaded in 2009, and recently moved her workshop and studio to its new home outside of Boulder, CO. Her historically inspired costume work is of the highest caliber, and has earned her clients from university stages to television to Broadway.

I have been loving collaborations with this talented woman ever since photographing her work this past summer for Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

In case you missed it, THIS styled session featuring a new line of her corset designs was an opportunity to create pure collaborative magic.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to photograph Cindy’s headshots in the space she has designed for her incredibly successful costume shop.

Since Cindy invited me to come to her studio for headshots, I couldn't resist the opportunity to turn the photoshoot it into a bit more of a story than just taking "headshots."

I’d like to think of this session as the first in a series that I’ve long dreamed of photographing... artists at work in the spaces they've designed as their creative homes.

Perhaps it's the former Art Major in me... perhaps its the former architectural designer, but whatever the origin, I’m drawn to the idea of documenting the magic of a creative soul in his or her environment.

How artists design and work in their spaces to best foster productivity -- both from a functional perspective, and to keep themselves inspired -- is a fascinating study in personality, creativity, light and design.

I invite you to visit Redthreaded online, as well as Cindy’s etsy shop for more information and to see more of her extraordinary work. Her instagram feed is also amazing… and it all happens right in here!

Thanks also to the amazing Sara Duffey for beautiful hair & makeup!

And if YOU are an artist with a studio or unique creative space, or if you know someone who might be a good subject for this fun artist's studio series, please let me know!!

I’m a Denver based portrait and editorial photographer specializing in bringing out connection, personality and story for my clients and their stories. I love to create empowering photo session experiences, custom tailored around the personality and interests of each individual client. I would love to chat with you about documenting your creativity or story!