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Monday, March 16, 2020

Productive and Creative Amidst Chaos

We know these are uncertain times with COVID-19, but I’m optimistic and hopeful. I won’t let fear get the best of me. Most of the country is practicing social distancing, self isolation or self quarantine (the new catch phrases of 2020). Events like these bring out the best or worst in people. 

When was the last time you were given the unexpected gift of time? Yes, that’s how I look at it. If you’re healthy be GRATEFUL. How are you going to use this time? When was the last time you: read a book, chat with friends on the phone, wrote a letter to a dear friend or spend time enjoying lunch in your backyard? When I get tired of all this rest and relaxation I can always get to work around the house: clean out closets, go through old files, organize photo files on the computer, clean kitchen drawers…the list is endless.

Let’s be honest…I’d rather paint and be creative! I have stacks of sketchbooks I need to photograph and document. In fact the sketches you see in this post are from my trip to Maui one week ago. I planned on writing a different kind of post but the world has changed in a very short time. The sketchbook you see  is the Stillman & Birn, Beta, soft cover, stitch bound. When closed its 8.5 x 5.5 inch and opens to 8.5x11 inch. 

As I started to photograph these sketches I realized it was a good opportunity to share how I photograph my artwork. Years ago I made a set-up to photograph my sketchbook. It’s easy to make.

Natural softer light in the morning is the best for photographing watercolors. I usually set up in the back yard or on my front porch at 9am. I use push pins to hold the sketchbook open. Avoid having shadows in the valley of a sketchbook or shadows from curled edges. Turn sketchbook towards the sun (not angled towards the sun). The most important thing is to be straight on to the sketchbook and not keystoned (keystoned is when parallel objects shot from above or below will appear to converge). Make sure the edges of the sketchbook look perfectly straight when viewed on the camera screen. 

Example: A  Keystoned                                                     Example:  B Correct

There's a lot of expensive lighting equipment and bulbs but I prefer natural light. I have a flat bed scanner but I’ve never liked how my images looked when scanned. The colors are flat and miss the gentle shifts in color. I’m sharing what has worked for me. Some people may differ in opinion…that’s okay. I’ve used this process to photograph art for two of my books, countless other books, magazine articles and major art exhibitions. It works for me.

This may surprise you but I use my cell phone camera... iPhone XS Max. I love the big screen, easy ability to make adjustments before and after I've taken the picture. Sometimes I use a cellphone tripod  but not always. Inexpensive cellphone tripod adaptors are easy to find on the internet (if you want one). 

How will you look back at these days of self isolation and self quarantine what will it look like? Wringing your hands in fear or will you use your time wisely as a healthy, productive, creative person. The choice is yours...Who will you be? 

Stay well my friends,


  1. Thanks for sharing, Brenda! This is a great project and your philosophy about this unexpected gift of time is wonderful. Thank you for the positivity!!!

  2. Thank you, thank you! I love how you affix the pages with the pins. Holding it with paper clips is not always the right look, but the pins is perfect!
    Enjoy the spring!

    1. Anna,
      The pin heads are easy to remove with photo programs or crop out. ๐Ÿ˜
      Happy Sketching!

  3. Yes yes yes... and some of us are getting the gift of being able to work at our business without interruptions (me and my husband). Being raised in So Cal (4th generation) we always had water, beans, rice, applesauce or some canned fruits and peanut butter on hand for an earthquake -- enough for several weeks. My family lived through the Long Beach earthquake and they were without water. Soooo, that habit has carried forth. It isn't a panicky feeling, just a hunker down feeling, and if this goes on for ages maybe the food will get boring feeling. I wish I could trust the government more but we will just take care of us and anyone around us that needs help as we see fit. And yes, not having interruptions means that I have an extra hours or two to draw every day.

  4. Kate,
    I’m a third generation Californian, too! Earthquakes have taught us a lot about being prepared.
    The year ahead has changed drastically for me. Gotta keep positive and count my blessings ๐Ÿ˜‰ It will be bright and sunny again!

  5. Thank you sooooooo much for this. I struggle taking photos of my journal work so rely on a scanner. I too prefer how cameras pick up the variations in color that scanners can't. Also appreciate where you explained time of day you find best and lighting angles. I'll have to give this a try. :-)

  6. Yes, I'm with you on the gratitude, and I am enjoying time to create and catch up at home. I'll come back to your photo techniques. Thank you!

    1. Wonderful...Attitude of gratitude is so important during these trying times. Stay well my friend!