By Melissa Whitaker

Inktober Day 20 “Tread” by Melissa Whitaker
“Tread softly because you treat on my dreams.” ~ W.B. Yeats

There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself.

Inktober is an artistic challenge that I have been observing for the past several years and always thought that it looked FUN. If a challenge was FUN then it must not be much of a challenge. That was naive me on September 30, 2019. Inktober is as big of a challenge as doing an Ironman marathon.

October 1st I worked most of the day and came home about 4:00 in the afternoon excited to do a quick drawing for the prompt word “Ring”. All through the day, my mind was brainstorming on visual ideas. I try to stay away from the obvious or at least attempt to twist the obvious in some way that visually tells a story. A simple drawing of a ring just wasn’t going to do it for me. I had spent several days in September with my sister, who lost her husband last year who was the love of her life. (She used to say he was her prince with Froggy tendencies). This inspired me to start off Inktober with an ink illustration of a frog.

Ink illustration of a Frog with a diamond ring on his tongue that is tied in a knot.  The frog is trying to catch a fly while he sits in the middle of a crown
“The Tongue-Tied Proposal” by Melissa Whitaker

I called it “The Tongue-Tied Proposal”

This illustration took a few hours to complete. Nothing too strenuous but dinner was a frozen pizza night that night. I enjoyed playing with my inks again, it had been a while since I had done any ink work. I posted the image on Instagram and on Facebook and started thinking of the prompt word for Day 2, “Mindless.”

“Mindless” by Melissa Whitaker

A friend of mine tried to emphasize to me to keep the drawings simple. Streamline the detail. That is what I attempted the next day. Again I spent the day pondering what to do and how to keep it simple. Then I thought of a question mark and realized that Donald Trumps’ hair from the profile kind of dips down like the top of a question mark. When I started drawing I came to the red tie and it started to appear to me that it resembled an exclamation point. It seemed to me to be an appropriate answer to the word “Mindless.” After completion, I posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Immediately I received a comment that “Art should not be Political.” Thus a debate started and what I thought was a creative interpretation of a word ended up in a brouhaha over art and politics. That’s what I get for keeping it simple 🙄

I’m not going to go into much detail about what artwork I did everyday if you want to see the whole months’ work visit my Instagram or Facebook page. For the first several days I spent quite a bit of time just thinking about ideas for each day’s word, but also dreading Day 12. That day was creeping up and the word was “Dragon.” I had never even attempted to draw a dragon before and the thought of having to do it scared me. The best dragons had a LOT of detail. Lots of scales and sharp teeth with magnificent wings. To accomplish that in a day I felt was going to be the day I failed the challenge. When Day 12 dawned I still had no idea what to do. The 12 days leading up to that day were spent on dreading the day, not how to conquer the day. Then I said to myself, “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” This Dragon that I feared needed to be made friendly and not so fearful. I remembered a stuffed Dragon that I had when I was a child. The dragon’s name was “Figment” and sat on my bed as a protector. There’s nothing to fear about Dragons the fear is in your head and minds are made to change. I started drawing circles and came up with a new figment.

The day I dreaded ended up being the day I LOVED. I fell in love with this dragon and her possible story. Other people seemed to love her just as much as I did and I started looking forward to each day’s challenge. That is until the half waypoint. Day 16.

“Wild”. I was exhausted and to the point of saying, “Really? I have to draw another one?” Maybe no one will notice if I skipped a day. I started off wanting to do the dragon again. A boy setting a cupcake on the ground to entice the dragon to be friends. I struggled with it and the more I struggled the more the hours ticked away. I had had a long day at work and I was exhausted. Inktober had taken a lot. I was not eating right and sometimes forgetting to eat or drink because I was in the creative zone in my head for 16 days. By 9:00 pm on Day 16, I was still struggling with “Wild” I had the boy and the cupcake, but I could not get the dragon positioned the way I wanted in a square Instagram sized picture. It wasn’t working. By 9:15 I was ready to give up. People would just have to accept the fact that I missed a day. Then I thought, “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

A boy drawing a magical circle with a stick to protect him from the wild beasts with glowing eyes watching him in the dark.
“Wild” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

I quickly changed the background to night time. (There are trees there and a forest path which may be hard to see depending on your current screen resolution). The boy needed to protect himself from the wild things lurking in the forest but all he had available was a stick because kids don’t keep salt in their back pockets to ward off evil spirits. A child, however, has a deep faith in magic and the power that it can create, so I had him draw a protective circle with a stick. There. It was simple and it was done and posted at 9:30 pm. I had made it past the halfway point of Inktober and realized that I could finish this just as long as I ate right I got some sleep. Time for a bowl of ice cream to celebrate.

I created a few more dragon pieces that week on Days 18, 19 and 25. I was truly enjoying her, but I still was having trouble sleeping. My mind was constantly running non-stop with ideas for Inktober so when Saturday, Day 26, came around I decided to do a serious piece and it was going to be the traditional way. Ink on paper. The word was “Dark.” I had made it this far and I several ideas in my head for the word Dark. I just could not decide on which one would be best. What is it about the dark that unnerves people? A person often feels alone in the dark and the people who have lost a loved one I believe feel that loss mostly at night when they are laying in bed and the other side is empty. That is what I wanted to portray in ink.

Ink illustration of  a man sleeping with a blanket of the night sky pulled over him.
ItInktober Day 26 “Dark” by Melissa Whitaker

It didn’t work. I sat on my bed working on it. Absorbed in watching the ink flow on the paper. I had a night sky appearing on a white background. I love working with a negative space of white, it makes the colors POP in my opinion. I was so absorbed that I did not notice someone come in and sit down on the bed while I was working. That is, not until the black ink dropped in the white space under the man’s left arm. Ugggghhhhhh. The utter catastrophe to an artist, but I said, “it’s ok, I can make this work.” I forced it. I kept working at it trying to make it work instead of accepting the fact that it didn’t work. What I should have done is left the black spot in the white space and let it speak for itself. It might have been a powerful image then, instead of a complete muddy mess. Artists don’t always get it right, we just normally don’t see the messed up pieces. It was Inktober though, so I had to post it to social media in order for it to count towards the challenge and I posted it grudgingly, then had a glass of wine. (OK, maybe 2 glasses).

Digital illustration of a fashion model wearing a flowing coat swirling with colors.
Inktober Day 27 “Coat” by Melissa Whitaker

Only 5 more to go. The next day I was still trying to get over Day 26 and the word was “Coat.” I went back to my foundation of fashion illustration and went to an obvious choice, a coat. It was simple and fun and enough to get my confidence back to finish out the next several days of the Inktober challenge. There is nothing like a bit of flair and color to put confidence in my stride. We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up to other people’s expectations and when you don’t measure up to your own expectations it can be a bit disheartening. The important thing is to move forward and not stay in one spot because you are afraid you’re going to mess things up if you continue.

I final prompt word on October 31st was “Ripe.” I finished the challenge with a return to the Dragon that I had come to love. The thing I most feared came to be the one thing from the month that I hold most dear.

Digital Illustration of a dragon in a princess dress sitting on the ground and holding a bouquet of broccoli.  A large pile of dragon fruit is beside her
Inktober Day 31 “Ripe” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

This illustration sums up the whole month for me. Sometimes I feel like a misfit who doesn’t quite fit in with the other kind of Dragons, so I dress up as a princess and go trick or treating through life. Life can be beautiful and give a person a pile of beautiful, tasty dragonfruit, but then there is always that one ornery one who puts a bunch of broccoli in your trick or treat bag. The thing to remember is broccoli is good. It’s full of vitamin C and a strong antioxidant that protects the body from the wild things that may attack your health, so eat your broccoli and embrace the fears. They only make a person stronger in the end.

An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision. ~ James McNeill Whistler

A final glimpse at the Cast of Characters.
Cast of Characters for Free Agent Source by Melissa Whitaker

I want to take you on a journey of conceptual character art. It is a complex journey full of alterations and complete U-turns. It all began with a consultation with Steve Pruneau, CEO of Free Agent Source. He was interested in getting away from the Stock photo look on his website and wanted something that could be continued through with promotional and presentation material. Free Agent Sources’ business is comprised of people and the creative, knowledgeable, leadership skills that they supply. Their product is solutions to problems that are often encountered in the business world. They are the Heroes that sweep in and save the day. Through the consultation it was decided that the personality of the people and the company needed to be front and center.

Rough draft for Free Agent Source for their cast of characters.
Rough Draft for the “Orchestra” by Melissa Whitaker

We began with a list of characters and their skills. A Software Developer, Solutions Architect, Agile Coach, Database Administrator, Marketing Director, Trainer, System Engineer, and a Robotics Programmer. The concept of an orchestra being led by a conductor (aka. Visual Storyteller) became the foundation for this team of professionals. The process began.

A truly rough draft of the software developer.
Rough Draft of the Software Developer by Melissa Whitaker

In order to keep this post relatively short, we will stick with one character for now. The Software Developer. He’s the fourth guy from the left in the above photo. It is important to create a personality to a character. It is personality that gives a character life and makes them interesting. Each character must have a unique quality in order to support the future narrative. In the first draft he was a sloppy dresser in gym clothes eating a bag of chips. This guy I could have fun with. Free Agent Source said, “Let’s see where you go with this.” He’s interesting.

Now it was time to start having FUN. Time to color and make him come alive so the client could get a better visualization of him.

Digital color version of rough draft of the software developer.
2nd step in concept character design of Software Developer for Free Agent Source.
3rd draft of software developer
3rd revision of the Software Developer for Free Agent Source.

At this point Free Agent Source liked the character, but felt that he may be too casual. “What if we nixed the bag of chips and gave him a business jacket?” they replied.

I had to admit that they were right. We were moving in the right direction. Yes, the software may have been ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ but he was not ready for the business world. He was more ready for MLP gaming than developing software.

After much discussion we decided that this character needed to be a bit more Saavy with a little bit of swagger.

4th revision of software developer
4th revision of the Software Developer

A little more detailing and shedding of clothes he began to look a little more business like, but he still wasn’t right.

While working on the characters for the “Orchestra” I also created some more vignette type of characters for their website. These solo characters were done in a Noir style with a slight pop of color and we thought the rest of the characters should be cohesive with the entire look. The feel was a bit more edgy. It was also decided that it would be best if there was no design on the t-shirt.

5th revision of the software developer.
5th Revision of Software Developer

I can be a bit persistent at times when it comes to my vision. If I had to do away with the t-shirt design then I had to put some FUN somewhere else on the character, so I changed the footwear to Converse style shoes. Still he was considered a bit too casual and there was one final change to the software developer.

Final digital illustration of the Software Developer.
The Final Software Developer

In the final revision the pants were turned into trousers, shoes became dress shoes, (but I still had to add my little bit of fun and quirkiness), a striped scarf with a nod to Dr. Who.

Most of the cast members did not take this many revisions, but it is imperative that the characters work for the client and the company. With thorough collaboration with Free Agent Source, characters were created that can be used for multiple uses and a continuing story line to explain about their company. This could not have been achieved with the typical stock photos that are often used for company websites. The characters and artwork create a brand, a connection, and a reason for customers to keep checking back with Free Agent Source to see what may be coming up next. What is the rest of their story?

The evolution of a conceptual character for Free Agent Source.
The evolution of the Software Developer

Take a look at www.freeagentsource.com

It’s All a Masquerade

Illustration of woman with Mask over her eyes.
“Masquerade” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

Mardi Gras. A time of living it up before you have to live it down. My first visit to the Big Easy was this past weekend and I was taken in by the extravagance that was displayed. The people of Louisiana do not do things in small quantities and that includes dressing up or down, whatever the case may be. On Saturday, I attended my first Mardi Gras parade, the Krewe of Iris, which is considered the oldest and largest all-female Krewe in New Orleans. Iris members always wear white gloves and masks, as proper ladies are suppose to do according to traditional southern customs, and they did not disappoint.

As I watched the parade march down the street and the people reaching out for beads, doubloons, and other paraphernalia I was handed a mask to disguise myself with. It was as if the act of putting a mask on would make me a different person. A person that was accepted for their anonymity. This made me think about the masks we wear everyday in the attempts to fit it to society and what is expected of us.

When I was a child I attempted to be just like the others in order to be accepted in to a group. My sister, who was captain of the cheer leading squad, appeared to be popular to me, so I tried out for the cheer leading squad every year in the hopes of belonging. Never made it, I was too much of a klutz. I auditioned to be a baton twirler, because of the cute boots they wore, only to be hit on the head with the baton. (You would think that would have knocked some sense into me). Nothing I did seemed to work. I was destined to be a loner on the sideline.

“I think art comes from some sense of discomfort with the world, some sense of not quite fitting with it.” ~ Yann Martel

The only place that I ever felt I truly fit was in the art room. That was my safe place and the one place I felt accepted for who I was. I could enter into my own little world that I created. The only place I could honestly be me. I still joined clubs, made a few friends here and there, all in the vain hopes of belonging somewhere, only to realize that life is often better on the fringes of society.

The truth is we are all chameleons, we adapt to what is around us. We put on masks everyday to disguise our true selves, because when the masks come off, our biggest fear is we may be rejected for who we are Not. “I am not pretty enough. I am not skinny enough. I am not witty enough. My clothes are not the correct brand. I’m not popular enough. I’m not as good as they are. I’m not worthy.” A constant cadence under the mask.

What I have come to realize is there are some of us who do better standing on the fringes of society because we are NOT part of the krewe. We are the ones who take a different path. We are not afraid of the unknown, because we live there in our heads everyday. We are the ones who often set the trends that the others follow. We are the ones who see what needs to be changed and make the difference.


“I came to terms with not fitting in a long time ago. I never really fitted in. I don’t want to fit in. And now people are buying into that.” ~ Alexander McQueen

Everyone has a desire to “fit in” at some point in their lives. The desire comes and it goes, but we all have to take our masks off at some point and accept who we are and not be afraid of who we are not. We all have idiosyncrasies, that’s what makes us unique and interesting. I for one am a klutz and must endure a lot of bruising, but it has made me learn to laugh at myself. I am cute, curvaceous, a smart ass with several different sizes of clothes in her closet. I have a wide range of friends who I can count on to be there for me when needed and I am very much worthy of this life.

Now take your mask off. I double dog dare you.

Between Two Elephants

“Heebie Jeebies” Digital art by Melissa Whitaker

The above artwork is strange and bizarre, but an anxiety attack can be just as strange and bizarre. For as long as I can remember this particular vision would pop up out of nowhere. I say vision because it would happen while fully awake. I would be quietly sitting in math class and then, without any warning, I would be stuck between two elephants boxing. My heart would race and my head would throb with every punch that was thrown. As a child, I had no idea what was happening but I knew the elephants were not real, so I kept quiet about it. It was not real, so I did not have to address it.

The elephants would enter the arena with their satin robes draped over their massive shoulders. The crowd would start cheering and the first punch would be thrown POW!! The crowd would roar with excitement as I would cringe in fear of being trampled. WHAM!! my head would pound with the resonance of a timpani drum. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. My heart would march along to the rhythmic tempo and accelerate as the cheering would get louder. Meanwhile, those sitting around me casually went on with the math lesson not knowing of the battle going inside of me.

These attacks would strike at some of the oddest moments. I could never be sure when the elephants would appear, but the one place they never appeared was when I was drawing, so the art room became my sanctuary and comfort.

Art to me is extremely therapeutic. There is a zen-like quality to immersing oneself into a creative state of mind. Allowing the emotion to ebb through and come out on to the canvas, paper, tablet, or the pixels of digital art, is a release of the anxiety that can get bottled up within. When my life gets chaotic or stressful and I don’t make time for my creativity to flow, that is when the elephants make their appearance and can stampede through my mind. Exercising the inner muse is my way of calming the herd of judgment and self-doubt that can accompany the anxiety.

I have a friend who is always scolding me for putting others before myself. He sees the destruction that happens to my soul and ultimately my art when I neglect myself. The anxiety builds up to the point where I feel trapped between two boxing elephants. That is the time to stop, take a moment, breathe, and realize that I am in control and not the elephants. I have the choice of crouching in fear or standing up and proclaiming myself as the champion in the ring.

I choose.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18-54 have anxiety disorders. 54% woman and 46% of men experience anxiety in some form. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sites that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety.

Inspire Your Heart

Today is Inspire Your Heart with Art day. It happens every year on January 31st. It has become my new favorite HOLIDAY.

“Tangled” Digital Drawing by Melissa Whitaker

Take a moment today and feel some art. What kind of emotions does it evoke? Art surrounds us even when we do not realize it. It is the music we listen to, the packaging on the products we buy, the painting hanging in the museum, the car driving too slow in front of you, the book or the article you just read, the icicle hanging from the gutter. Today is the day to examine that artwork and think about what it makes you feel.

An owl woven out of cords and ropes using the art of macrame


I’m one of those people who sings to the songs in my car while driving down the road. You may even spot me doing some crazy arm gestures while dancing in the driver’s seat. No worries, I am not having a seizure, I am just feeling the music. I find it relaxing and liberating. It is my time to be “ME.” Too often the stress of everyday life can make me feel like a macrame owl, a little bit wise but entirely made up of knots, and art helps untie those knots. Today on your way home crank up the music and dance. Instead of yelling at the guy in front of you going too slow, look at his car and the design of it. Those brake lights may actually impress you with the engineering of them. For dinner tonight, play with your food, you might create a forest out of that broccoli.

Art is made to inspire and make you feel. It can transport you to other worlds and take you back in time with memories and the playfulness of childhood. It can help you understand other cultures and see other perspectives on life. Art can transform people, places, and things.

Today is Inspire Your Heart With ART Day, it could transform you.

The Art of Disappointment

“Disappointment”

Digital Media Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

Ahhhhhh.  Disappointment, the gum on the shoe of every artist.  Difficult to remove and a constant reminder of a step once taken.  It clings to your soul and gives you a feeling of inadequacy.  A nagging persistence that your art or even you are not good enough.  It is a struggle that everyone must deal with from time to time.  It has become a constant companion that is stuck to my shoe and I have learned to incorporate it into my walk.  Every now and then it gets a little sticky, but most of the time it’s just an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The artistic way of life is really quite masochistic.  The muse inspires one to create, but the creation seldom measures up to what the mind has envisioned.  Leaving an artist feeling disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and dejected.  Then that artwork is put on display for all the world to judge.   If the piece is accepted the brain is flooded with endorphins that will give the artist a temporary high.  A high that is desperately sought after, to the point that rejection is the price that is willing to be paid in order to achieve a personal validation.

This week I received another email that will be added to the collection of rejection letters in my file cabinet.  (I keep thinking that someday I will make a collage of all of them). It felt like I had just stepped on a tarantula size wad of gum.  No matter how much I tried to shake it off,  it would not let loose.  This was not the same as entering a juried art show where the judging was based on your work and whether or not it would fit in with the rest of the show.  This felt personal.  A judgment of me and who I am.  No matter how many times I told myself, “It’s nothing personal.”  It stuck to my soul as a constant reminder that I was not worthy.  I would be happily preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then BAM!  it would remind me and I would start crying.  (The blessing was, I could blame the crying on cutting onions).  It took a few days and a few bottles of wine to accept the fact that it wasn’t personal.  It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, it’s simply that I wasn’t ready YET.

It is extremely tempting to give up and not submit oneself to rejection over and over again, but then there would never be that ultimate high of validation.  That wondrous ecstasy of achievement that I strive for.  If we let the disappointments fester an accumulate we become stuck and never move forward.  Disappointments can fool you and stretch to make you feel like you are moving forward, but they will inevitably pull you back to where you were.  I will scrape the gum from my shoe and leave a bit of the residue to harden, to remind me that life has its disappointments, it’s what we do with them that makes the difference.  The important thing is to keep moving forward, that is the only way to arrive at where you are going.

Now then, please excuse me while I go to the store to purchase a pack of gum.  I seem to have dropped mine.

False Truth

“Each person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We’re all limited by our perspective.” ~ Siri Hustvedt

The last few years has had me examining the question, “What is true?” That question has taken over my life in the last month. Not just in the political atmosphere, but in business and personal as well. When long held beliefs turn out to be false there is a foundational shift that occurs. An earthquake of the conscience that makes one re-examine everything that they have been taught. What we perceive as truth is based on what we have been taught to believe. Our perception of the world is based on our life experiences, what we consume in media, and who we socialize with. Each one of these will bend the truth to fit into what we perceive to be accurate, if it does not fit in to our preconceived notions, then it is often ruled to be false.

I am not a degreed scholar, and I do not sit around and drink coffee with philosophical individuals (although that would be nice). I am an artist who examines everything from different perspectives. I have learned to examine things and life from all angles, because I will always notice something that I did not see before. Recently I discovered that my perception had been a bit skewed by folks who I believe meant well, but ultimately caused a tilt shift in my view.

Let me explain.

When photographing architecture with a wide angle lens a distortion will appear in the photo. Straight lines will look curved and there may even be some vignetting at the corners due to light bending on the lens. With an adjustment in Photoshop or Lightroom this can be corrected, or a person can invest in a tilt shift lens that adjusts enough to obtain the correct perspective when the image is captured. Much like the distortion that happens from a camera lens, what one learns from another person has been distorted by their preconceived notions. On closer examination and independent research I discovered that a serious correction was needed in what I thought was the truth. I had to look at things from all angles. Some may call this overthinking, but I prefer to call it getting the right perspective.

In this crazy, mixed up world we live in where we are told that everything is FAKE news and that, “The truth is not the truth,” it is becoming more and more difficult to correct the distortion.

“Perception” by Melissa Whitaker

The Curse of Being Nice

I am often accused of being too sweet, too pleasant, too accommodating,  too quiet, and too nice.  That last one, too nice, that’s the twisted knife.  It appears that in today’s world in order for a woman to achieve success the label “Too Nice” is the hemlock in her cup of caffeine each morning.  Do you have to go for the jugular in order to succeed in life?  Being nice and accommodating is how I was raised.

Oxford dictionary defines accommodating as: fitting in with one’s wishes or demands in a helpful way.

The question then becomes, is being accommodating a good thing?  Who is it benefiting?  I watched my grandmother spend all day cooking a meal and then serve it at the table for the family.  She never sat down with the family, she just hovered over the shoulder or sat in the kitchen waiting to serve in case anyone needed anything.  I did not think much about this growing up possibly because I watched my mother do it.   My mother would sit at the table with us, but she was always ready to get up to retrieve something.  My mother tried to teach me to do this and some of it took and some of it didn’t.

What I learned was to be accommodating and to put others needs before mine.  This accommodation can be beneficial, but it can be even more detrimental to my own personal well-being.  I no longer look at it as being accommodating or nice and sweet.  It’s enabling.  I am an enabler.  By bending to others wishes or demands I am enabling them to continue controlling MY life and MY wishes.  That control is a powerful thing and breaking free from it is extremely difficult, but in order to achieve success in my life,  I have to be in control of it.  Do I have to go for the jugular?  I don’t think so, because ultimately it is my own neck that I am sticking out and I am kind of attached to it.

It has not been easy taking control of my life and telling people “No.  I’m not doing that anymore.”  They are stunned and even a little angry but they will get over it.  I only have one shot at this life and it’s time to make it my own.

What about you?  Have you broken free?

Hey Jude

Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

I have often felt that the art world does not consider artists who must work a second, third, or fourth job as a serious, professional artist.  I have been a REALTOR since 2002 and an artist all my life, but I still have bills that must be paid and a family to feed, so yes, I have another job.  Matter of fact, I have a LOT of jobs.  Artist, Photographer, Illustrator, Realtor, Property Manager, Landlord, Mother, Wife, and I even sit on a couple of company Boards.  Life is Chaotic, and from that Chaos comes art.

A gallery manager in Santa Fe, New Mexico, asked me, “Why do you paint?” Not “What do you paint?” but Why.  I looked at him with a befuddled face and said, “Too breathe.”  It’s that simple.  I work to pay the bills and to pay for some of the extras in life, (I’m kind of partial to food and never could do the starving artist thing).  But to paint or to draw, that is LIFE itself.  It calms the soul, and helps the mind soar off to other places.  It is an escape.  It is a DRUG.

A friend recently encouraged me to venture into the new territory of digital art.  I now call him my Drug Pusher, because once I finish a picture on my iPad Pro, my skin is crawling for the next project.  I often have to set a timer to remind myself to eat something and to step away and socialize with people (for some reason that is still required these days).  The truly great thing about drawing/painting on the iPad Pro is, you can take it everywhere with you.  I can do my job and do my passion at the same time.  The highest accomplishment of multi-tasking.

Yes, I have another job.  I have several jobs, but foremost I am an artist to the depths of my soul.  I am an artist who has bills to pay.  Now, who wants to buy some Art and if you don’t want to buy art, perhaps I can interest you in a 6 bedroom, 6 bath home, shaped like a riverboat with a salt water in-ground pool for $1,180,000.00.  The Realtor

#Inktober2019

Doodle by Melissa Whitaker

“Don’t try to recreate something you’ve done before. Challenge yourself constantly.” (Suzanne Partridge)

Inktober starts tomorrow. I have been trying to psych myself up for it for the past 10 days. I have never done any kind of challenge like this before so I can already feel the anxiety building up.

Inktober was started in 2009 by artist Jake Parker. He initially started it to help improve his drawing skills and to develop positive drawing habits. It has since become a movement for artists and non-artists to draw a picture in ink once a day for the 31 days of October. This will be challenging for me, but I’m game. The rules are pretty simple:

1) Draw a picture in ink (an under drawing in pencil is accepted. As well as digital drawing)

2) Post it* on social media

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2019

4) Rinse brush and Repeat

Jake Parker provides a word prompt list (as seen above) to help artists get inspired. My head is already spinning with thoughts and I’ll be thrilled if I get through the first week.

Ink illustration of a Victorian Manor house in Eureka, California.
Ink Drawing by Melissa Whitaker in 1984

I choose to look at this as a challenge to discipline myself to draw everyday and to stretch my imagination. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind once stretched never returns to its original dimensions.” Stretching always feels good……….in a painful sort of way.

“I believe in someway that Photoshop is the contemporary darkroom, the creative area that all photographers have available.” ~ Douglas Kirkland

A man who had the privilege of photographing Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot.

It has been almost a year since I wrote a post about photography as Art and I find myself having to argue the point again, except this time it is the Photoshop is art and not photography debate. Is using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to process photos really any different from the chemical processing in Darkrooms of the past? I don’t think so. It is the evolution of photography in the 21st century.

The basics of taking a photograph have not changed much over the years. It is mostly digital instead of film, but the overall shooting of a picture has stayed the same. A photographer must still set aperture, ISO, and shutter speed in order to capture the vision of what they see. They still have to adjust for lighting, frame the shot and seek out the best composition. That in it self is an art form. Photoshop is only another tool in the photographer/artists toolbox. It has replaced the darkroom.

I missed out on learning how to develop photos in a darkroom. (My basic design instructor in college cornered me in the darkroom during my second lesson and I never went back). However, I did learn the basic instruction and purposes of development of film. With the use of time, chemicals and light exposure a person could manipulate a photo. With the use of a paint brush, airbrush, or pen they could retouch photos to enhance or diminish areas of the picture. Truly not much difference from todays digital processing, just a longer turn over time.

Girl holding thistles.
“Bravery” Digital Photo by Melissa Whitaker © 2019

The photo “Bravery” is one that I took this week of my niece for her Senior pictures. Before I met with her, I went out and picked the thistles specifically for this shot. It was planned out the same way that an artist sets up a model or a still life for a composition. The camera settings were 1/200 sec., f 3.5, ISO 100 on a 85 mm lens with no filter or flash.

I shoot everything in RAW, because once you go RAW there is no going back. A RAW file is basically the digital equivalent of a film negative. It captures all the image data taken by the camera and allows for the photographer to post process the image in order to achieve their vision/interpretation of their view. It also allows for a higher quality image after processing.

Screenshot of "Bravery" Before and After Lightroom/Photoshop processing
“Bravery” Before and After Lightroom/Photoshop Processing

As you can tell from the Before and After image, the RAW file is dull and flat. This is because the camera has not processed the image yet. Shooting in JPEG format compresses the image and the camera processes it for you based on what it has interpreted the captured view to be. I personally do not like objects or people deciding on what I see or think, so I will continue to shoot RAW.

I post most of my images on Facebook and I continuously have people asking me what kind of camera do I use and why is it that their pictures of the sunset or people do not have the same intensity. It’s not the camera folks. It’s the way the camera is used and the way the image is processed.

Now back to the original argument. Is Photoshop Art and NOT Photography? Photoshop is both. It’s all in how you use it. If a person is using it Photoshop/Lightroom for post processing of images it is photography. It’s the same as developing film in a darkroom (only the room is not dark and there are less hands involved 😏). Retouching blemishes on a beautiful teenagers face in Photoshop, it’s the same as airbrushing a photo in the 1890’s. There is an art to it, but times really haven’t changed that much. Vanity is still alive and thriving. One of the advantages of Photoshop is it does allow for imagination to run wild and creativeness to explode. An artist can take a photograph and manipulate it to create a fantasy world, or to enhance an already existing one. Marketers can use it to manipulate the public to believe in their ideas of beauty. Photoshop is just a tool in an Artists/Photographers toolbox.

As an artist I use photography to help with my artwork. It often inspires me and gets my creative energy flowing. It helps me create my interpretation of the world I see around me.

This illustration is what I had pictured in my mind when I pricked my fingers while picking thistles for the photo.

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