30 June 2013

Unseen World: More Macro Photos

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Oh, man, this macro thing is fun! Recently I tried my hand at capturing a bumblebee buzzing around some milkweed. Trying to get a clear shot of a moving subject in a very shallow depth of field is incredibly challenging; after scores of shots, I ended up with three really excellent, focused photos; many more almost focused photos, and a whole bunch of totally out of focus photos.

Macro photography allows you to enter into a beautiful, secret world: that of the small, the intricate, the usually overlooked. It amazes me to look at the furry coat this bumblebee is wearing. If I were much smaller, I would love to ride on its back, my hands burrowing into its softness, buzzing from gigantic flower to gigantic flower, overwhelmed with their sweet scent. What a lovely way to live one's life!

Below are some of the outtakes that I still find lovely, if not quite perfect.

If you give this technique a try, please share! I'd love to see what miniature secret gardens you stumble across.

27 June 2013

This is Your Life: An Essay on Guilt, Selfishness, and Happiness


One of my goals this summer (a post about that soon!) is to immerse myself in lots of books. The two that are on my bedside table right now are Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It is fascinating to read them simultaneously, as many of the subjects overlap and complement one another. For example, both Cain and Covey write about society's view of success shifting from a Character Ethic (internal qualities, such as Benjamin Franklin's emphasis on self discipline, humility, and hard work) to a Personality Ethic (a focus on exterior presentation: body language, confidence levels, and ability to persuade). While Quiet focuses on how this new paradigm has impacted introverts, 7 Habits looks at how one can achieve happiness from within, not from asking others to change.

I should say that I haven't finished either book yet; I'm about a third of the way through each. However, they call to my Soul so much that I can't help but set them down often and reflect on the messages and advice within.

7 Habits has been particularly influential. Part of Covey's message is that you always have choices, and how you react to others (not how you can influence them to act) determines both your character and your happiness. In other words, he to some extent believes that one's character is determined by the conscious and unconscious choices made in reaction to one's environment. The author also emphasizes that, while not an immediate process, change in your own behavior and attitudes can shift those of others'.

I'm sure you've heard similar adages:
  • No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Attitude is everything.
  • Happiness is a choice.

I have mixed feelings about the message that you are completely in control of your own happiness. When I came across these in my teens in the midst of deep depression sparked by years of emotional abuse (read more here), I felt that I was being blamed for the situation I was in, even though I was a victim. How can one be happy or choose happiness while walking through a darkness that has been created and enforced by others, where there is no end in sight?

On the other hand, I know now, intellectually, that no one else controls my own happiness. It is futile and unhealthy for me to determine my mood on others', and I dearly want to learn how to believe in my own potential and goodness, not rely on others to build me up. Neither can I control others' happiness, for to do so would be to control all factors in their lives, an absolute impossibility.

I have a bad habit of feeling guilty. I feel guilty when I make the "wrong" decision, when I make someone upset, when I think I've made someone upset, when someone I love isn't happy, when I put myself first, or when I can't make everyone happy all the time. (My goodness, loves, how much pressure I am putting on myself!) I feel guilty when I choose my own happiness over someone else's. I feel guilty when I think about following my own dreams, doing something I love, or indulging – whether it be in sleep, painting, writing, or something else entirely. And for much, if not most, of my life, I have let this guilt determine the things I do, the choices I make, and the dreams I follow. I have blamed those who I see as the source of this guilt for "making" me forfeit what I really want. Worse, when I say yes when I want to say no, I enforce the idea – both on others and on my own subconscious – that what I am doing is unimportant and unworthy of my time; in essence, I am saying, "I, my passions, and my time have no value".

I'm trying to be gentle with myself, to learn how to say what I mean and stand by it, to practice empathy without having it consume my own Self. I am trying to balance my independence with others' needs. I am trying to give myself permission to feel and to want things that is incongrouous with others' ideas of what I should feel or want. And I am repeating my mantra over and over: I am loved, I am lovable, I am whole... and I am enough.


I would love to know your thoughts on this post, on guilt, on giving yourself permission, and on happiness. Leave a comment below or write me at ingrid(at)mypeacetree(dot)com. (Did you notice that I took a leap and bought a domain name?!)

Further inspiration: Leonie's post about permission made me cry. This post is inspiring, too. And check out my words of wisdom board on Pinterest.

24 June 2013

Macro Photography Hack

Riz just wrote about the macro cheat that I had attempted here. The process is pretty simple: take your lens off, turn it around so that the front of the lens creates a seal against the body of the camera, manually release the shutter, and snap a photo. My Nikon has a 18-55mm lens, and while I didn't find it too difficult to get a photo that was in focus, it does take some patience and a few attempts to get the shot you are aiming for. Because the camera is taken apart, you will have to manually focus by moving closer to or further away from your subject.

I love that the highly-zoomed-in nature of macro shots transforms the subject matter into an abstract piece, dismantling what we think we know about a Thing and rebuilding it out of texture and color and shapes organized in a more unfamiliar way. Really looking at something and seeing it for what it is, instead of seeing it as a preconceived notions of how it should look, is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received on rendering a drawing, painting, or sketch to be true to life.

Each of these photos – except for one – is of a plant or flower, though most of their names elude me. Can you guess what the second-to-last photo is? I'll give you a hint.

Let me know what you think of this technique if you do give it a shot (no pun intended)!

21 June 2013

On Blogging

I have been blogging now for four years as of last month.

My first posts were brief and gentle, pictureless, and full of imagination. I had dreams a life in which I was independent, happy, and comfortable with who I was, and for years I wrote love notes to my readers and the Universe in hopes that they would bring light to others and, in turn, myself.

Maintaining a blog, especially during some of the busiest and most challenging times of my life, has been.. well, there really isn't an adjective that accurately summarizes this experience. I have changed so much in these past four years, and witnessing my personal growth here – or realizing how difficult it is to portray here – has been illuminating. I've struggled with this space: how do I remain authentic? Does authenticity mean remaining true to the original voice of this blog or adjusting and growing with my changing worldview? Questions of consistency (how often, on which topics, should I post?), "theme", organization, and for-profit projects have come up, and my sense of design and cohesion – as well as my skills to execute visions of design – have shifted dramatically (note the ever changing layout of this blog). To be honest, I haven't yet found the answers to any of these.

I have no intentions of leaving this space. I have thought about it: a new name, a new vision, a new place to ground myself. But this is where I have spilled my heart, reached out to those in the aether-net, grown tremendously in my artistic pursuits, and grown ever more into my Self. My Peacetree is a record of my persistence and my belief in my Soul, and it is here that I feel that I have come to embrace all parts of myself, both the positive and the negative. Perhaps it is this – the sense not of resolution but of continuous progress, a world away from the stagnation where I first found myself – that leaves me feeling unsure of which direction I should now turn. That might sound oxymoronic, inspired during stagnation and X during progress, but if you were to ask me what, at this moment, I most want for myself, I'm not sure I'd be able to give you an answer. I need to practice dreaming.

I am anxious to remain authentic both to myself and to my readers, should they drop by occasionally or often. I want to share my life here, though I suppose I am still searching for the next Dream I will pursue (or is that, really, the entirety of life?). I want to rediscover those things that I am passionate about and have the courage to let go of those things that no longer thrill me the way they once did. I want to complete, once and for all, a cohesive, polished look that I will stick with for, well, a while. Yes, I have so many hopes and dreams for this space, and I love it still.

In any case, loves, thank you for sticking with me through all the ups and downs, the bursts of creative energy and the absences. Big hugs, my sweets – you amaze me.

11 June 2013

A Few Thoughts

The above is a photography experiment I found on Pinterest: shoot macro by detaching the lens of your camera and holding it a few inches in front of the body, manually opening the shutter to take the shot. (I'm sure that I repinned this, but I can't find it anywhere! Here's another cool way of making your own macro lens. If I find the original one I used here, I'll be sure to let you know.) I'm looking forward to experimenting more with unconventional ways to use my camera.

I saw jumbo marshmallows at the grocery store the other day; this wouldn't be news, but these were at least twice as big as the original "jumbo" size. They definitely won't fit in a mug of hot chocolate, and I doubt they'd work well on s'mores. Why do we have this obsession with gigantic things? How have we not realized that big is not always better? This trend is not just seen in semi-artificial foods: apples, I've noticed, are now the size of grapefruit. I can't eat an apple that size in one sitting; what, really, is the point? Our endless pursuit for more than we need is going to be the death of the planet.

You can get all your art journaling supplies at the dollar store: watercolor paints, tape, post-it notes, pens and markers and pencils, craft paper, glue sticks, and even composition books. When you're just starting out and are intimidated by the prospect of creating, fear of "wasting" your supplies can be a big obstacle in getting started. With super cheap materials, you have no excuse not to start: you'll only lose a few dollars if it goes really, really awfully (which it won't!). And really, the cheapest supplies can be a lot of fun to use and produce just as magnificent art. I'm thinking about putting together a workshop or an ebook on how to use these resources; would you be interested?

I thought that, once I got my Bachelor's, it'd be like going through a magical gateway into the land of Job Opportunity. Not so. It's silly for me to have suspected that, but I am disappointed at how unchanged my prospects seem, and I worry about the consequences of not finding work: a delayed trip to Germany (and mounting student loan debt, too).

Summer is just beautiful. The fireflies, the crickets, the sun, thunderstorms, bare feet.. I wish I could hold on to it forever.

05 June 2013


Today, I spent several hours outside with five chickens, two pups, and my art journal. It's always a happy reunion when I dive into painting, collaging, sticker-ing, and creating again; the practice of letting my intuition take over and getting lost in the process is very meditative!

I painted the girl's face several months ago, but the page sat unfinished for a while, waiting for a burst of inspiration. Today, I added several magazine clippings, stickers, a flap made of watercolor-painted paper, library cards, Sharpie, and some writing with a ballpoint pen, as well as some fresh washes of acrylic paint in red, yellow, and metallic gold.

I really love the results: it's fun, vibrant, busy, and full of texture both visual and physical. I did take more photos, including more detail and what the underside of the flap looks like, but they turned out blurry; unfortunately, I think something is wrong with my camera lens, because I've been having this problem for a while.

Remember how I experimented with a tablet a few weeks ago? My brother, whom I consider one of my best friends, very, very generously gave me an Intuos4 Wacom writing tablet for a graduation gift! It's a model up from the one I wrote about a few weeks ago and is a smaller size, which means it's a lot easier to carry around. I'm so excited about all the possibilities this presents for my artwork. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lij (check out his business here)!

Using my new plaything, I've made a visual of the tools I used to make the page above; I hope you can read my handwriting! Click here to see a larger image. Please ignore the vitamins, bubbles (!), and other bits and bobs that have nothing to do with my art that are on the table.


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