Lois Bryan, photographer / photography-based digital artist, Charles Town, West Virginia USA
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Interview with Lois Bryan
What qualities of your work would others comment on first?
Lois: I think color. I grew up … well … a while back. Color film was a luxury in my humble home, so most of the shots from my childhood are black and white. I remember a day spent at my grandparent’s farm (I was probably pre-teens?) shooting the old barns, rusty farm equipment, the undersides of buttercups … the whole creative deal … only to discover once the pics were developed that the film was black and white. I’ve never forgotten the disappointment. At that time television was black and white, as were a lot of the movies. So all the drama and excitement of today’s fabulous black and white artwork goes right over my head. I do have pastel and neutral toned images in my portfolio … even a couple of black and whites. But mostly … color.
What are your challenges in doing your work?
Lois: My challenge is probably a common one … and that’s time … both lack of and use of. Though I’ve been working diligently to simplify my life in the past few years, just like everyone I have other obligations and commitments.
Plus, we can’t really dictate when the creative spark will hit. My best times are usually pretty late at night. I’m sure a neurologist or psychiatrist would have a theory, but it seems like there’s an invisible line … a zone. I’m still awake but my brain has tripped over that line and is in a fluffy-float-y place where anything’s possible. That sounds a bit woo-woo, I know. But time … as a definable, quantifiable thing, completely disappears when I’m in the zone. Hours fly by … storms rage … wars begin and end … (my husband says goodnight and the dog wants a cookie) but I’m oblivious. Though I don’t have a life where I have to be at an office at 8:00 the next morning (thank goodness), I do have a “real” life that needs my attention when the sun is up … my wide-awake attention. So playing in the zone until too late at night (or too far into the wee hours of the am) isn’t practical.
Your works cover many different subject matters. Do You Have a favorite? Why?
Lois: I really don’t. Each has its own appeal, and I love each for different reasons. I think a lot of what I produce is a direct result of chance. When the camera and I are in the same place at the same time, and something catches my eye, the shutter button will get clicked. Yes, I go out to specifically capture an autumn landscape, or soaring eagles, or colorful spring flowers and gardens. But even the sun gleaming on the chrome of a stool in an old-fashioned diner can be magic. It’s more a matter of opportunity than anything else. If it’s there and the light is right … I’ll snap it.
Beyond that, my choices of whether or not to publish an image depend on many factors, but I like to say emotion, subject matter, light and “bones” are critical. Whether a piece stands on its own as straight photography or whether I edit heavily depends on the image itself. It will tell me what it wants me to do, and I’ll try to oblige. Lately I’ve been experimenting with getting back to my first love … freehand drawing, sketching and painting. I’ve been creating digitally using Corel Painter instead of traditional pencils, paper and paints. I’m thrilled that my eyes and hands can still work together.
Are there themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?
Yes, I think so.
Sadly, I’m all over the place with style. I’ve often fussed at myself for never having developed an identifiable style, but it’s only because I keep evolving what I’m doing. The experimenting is too much fun. Over the years I’ve gone from straight photography to HDR to Orton to textures to filtered work to digital hand painting of photo-based images to freehand digital sketches and paintings … and more. They say it’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey. Both are important, but I do get a kick out of the journey.
Over the years, I’ve hit on a couple of styles that have been popular, and it would have been easy and probably smart to keep producing those, but I just can’t. I mean, yawn. I don’t know how other people do it. I have to keep learning and trying new ideas.
Even admitting the above, I do think there are consistencies. I’ve already mentioned color. Love color.
But I think the most consistent theme would be hopefulness. Yes, there are a few pieces on the cranky side … but that’s normal. By and large, I believe what’s seen in my stuff is uplifting … images filled with serenity and a sense of fun.
Do you think it is important for photographer / photography-based digital artist to have their own website, in addition to another gallery they appear on? Why?
Lois: Yes I do. I’m on several art POD sites (that stands for Print On Demand). And I’m sure a good bit of my success is thanks to the search engines there. This includes sales but also being “found” by various companies looking to do everything from licensing images to interviews in magazines. Not to mention the benefits of being in an environment of like-minded individuals who daily inspire and encourage, as I hope I do for them as well.
But in order not to get lost in the crowd, my individual marketing efforts are mostly directed back to my own website. It’s far too easy in the world of online art sites for a potential client to wobble off onto someone else’s pages and not even realize it. More than once I’ve made a personal contact … had them Google me … and instead of finding my personal site, they find me on one of the POD sites. Images they described to me later weren’t all mine: my client wobbled!! (Lesson learned: always have business cards on hand.)
The answer is a nice balance of both … a presence on reputable art sites that produce quality product … and my own website where my clients can’t wobble.
If you do use social media platforms to promote your work, which one(s) work the best for you?
Lois: Yes, I do. I don’t know of any out there that I haven’t at least tried. However, my marketing on them can be quite time consuming and I have no idea which work best. I think there are analytic programs that track visitor’s origination, but I haven’t had much luck making heads or tails out of those. Not really my thing. So I plod along putting in time on the ones that seem to create a buzz (hits, likes, responses – nothing scientific) … promoting my images and also promoting the work of others. I’m a big believer in the Golden Rule: do unto others. By that I mean, in promoting other people’s work, I hope they’ll promote mine as well. It’s like dropping a pebble into a pond … those ripples can reach far and wide.
Do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?
Lois: In my opinion art … good art … is all about emotion and connection. When you look at the right image … the right image for who you are at that given moment in time … you feel it. You’re connected with the art and with the artist. Visual art is all about a message or a mood that is conveyed without language barriers … it’s a universal that reaches across space and time.
Next time you’re out and about, take an extra moment to look at the art around you … if you’re lucky and find something you connect with, try to figure out what the artist or photographer is saying. Maybe he’s just waving hello at you from years ago … or maybe he’s trying to tell you something. If you’re already feeling that ethereal bond, chances are his message might be important.