Should you sign up for this year’s Mentorship?

T H E R E ‘ S    N O T    M U C H    T I M E    L E F T   .   .   .  

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 by Sue Dawson

I’VE BEEN having some great conversations with potential Mentorship students over the past week. They’re deliberating about whether to join this year’s program, which starts on Monday afternoon. They have questions about what to expect, what they’ll learn, how they’ll grow. I love these conversations – I’m sure they can hear me typing sometimes, trying to precisely capture their insights, so I can remember them later.

I thought I’d share some insights with you…

– One person said he loved Alison’s critiques in the workshop he just took with her. In other workshops, he hasn’t always agreed with the teacher’s critiques, and walked away confused, unclear about what’s “right,” and what’s “wrong.” With Alison, she’s so clear in her critiques, even if he doesn’t 100% agree, he totally understands why she’s saying it. He doesn’t have to wonder whether he’s “right” to disagree, because her clarity empowers him to make educated decisions. My take is that her teaching style leaves room for interpretation. She’ll say whether or not she likes an image – don’t get me wrong – but you’ll understand why. So you can decide your own take on it. She’s not saying “this is how to think,” or “this is how to see.” She’s educating you, so you can think and see for yourself.

– Another person said he’s been shooting a lot, and worried that he’s “all over the place” in terms of subject matter and style. But then he wondered, “Or am I? Is this all moving me toward something else?” He’s concerned about not having a “singular style,” a unique voice. Because his direction isn’t clear yet, he’s listening to advice and trying different things. This is a huge reason we added Masterminds to our Mentorship program. At each retreat, you’ll have a half hour to present something to the group, and get feedback from everyone. We’ve seen incredible things happen as a result of this process.

One time, a student presented some selections from her work at different stages, and was looking for a new focus. There was one photo she threw in at the last minute, of a wooden chair sitting in the corner of a room, with a beautiful pattern of light streaming across, from a window above. She said “I don’t know why I tossed this one in. It’s from my Quaker meeting. It means a lot to me, but it’s a one-off.” Everyone loved the image, and wanted to know more. So she talked about her faith, and what it’s meant to her. This image really spoke to her deeply. We all encouraged her to pursue this further. So she started taking more photos of meeting houses near her, and getting gorgeous, evocative images. She decided to visit all the meeting houses in Massachusetts, and I encouraged her to write about each one too, in a blog. Thus began a labor of love that has culminated in two Blurb books of images and text, that are her portfolio of the project. She made these to show at galleries and museums, and to potential publishers.

This is just one example of many. It’s hard to explain the energy that’s created in your Mastermind, where the whole room is focusing on you and your work. Alison and I just did a Mastermind of our own, at last weekend’s Advanced Mentorship retreat, and Alison’s more inspired than she’s been in years.

– One person said our price felt high, and gave us a couple examples of mentorships that cost less. We’ve done a lot of research on other programs, but just to be sure, Alison jumped in and did the research again. She looked at prices, duration, and what you’d get for your investment. Each one that cost less, delivered less. There are some great teachers out there, and wonderful programs. She just didn’t see another like ours. Our Mentorship is truly one-of-a-kind, and we’re very proud of that. Here’s what you get:

  • FOCAL POINT TOOLKIT – Set goals, and track your progress through the Mentorship. This sets your intention for the six months, and creates the velocity for your experience.
  • YOUR OWN PASSWORD-PROTECTED PAGE (new this year!) – You’ll have your own page accessible via our website, where you can find all program info, upcoming appointments you’ve scheduled, your list of goals, downloadable notes from your calls with us, and a personalized to-do list for your reference
  • SEVEN CALL HOURS with ALISON – These calls will be all about you and your work – developing your own unique creative style, staying consistent and keeping focused. You’ll send Alison jpegs of your latest work before each call. During the call, you’ll see her screen live on your computer, as you both discuss your photos, and she makes suggestions shown in Adobe Lightroom. Learn how to be your best editor, get custom training, feedback, motivation, and brainstorm ideas. Alison will give you customized assignments that will keep you inspired, and define your next steps toward your goals.
  • FOUR CALL HOURS with SUE – Get an Art Director/Gallery Owner’s eye on your body of work, and advice on your portfolio, graphic identity, website, book ideas, writing, and marketing. Talk about mindset, and open up your creative flow. Brainstorm project ideas.
  • SEVEN TRAININGS – Our in-depth trainings cover a number of topics,which have included: getting in touch with your deepest creative self; writing an artist statement and bio; marketing your work; communicating with galleries, and having a show of your work; Alison’s digital workflow; publishing a book of your photography; and a fine art printing Q&A with a master printer.
  • TWO 2-DAY RETREATS on MARTHA’S VINEYARD – Experience the island off-season, when all the locals can relax and truly enjoy this unique place. Starting with a Friday-evening drinks and hors d’oeuvres get-together, and culminating in student Masterminds on Saturday and Sunday, you’ll meet other students, learn a lot, and have the unique opportunity to get feedback from the group. Develop your artist statement, body of work, and project ideas with the support of other artists. Alison often talks in-depth about her work, sometimes showing edits, images that didn’t make the cut (and why), and her creative process. Sue will bring her designer’s eye to the discussion.
  • PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP – This is a great opportunity for feedback and technical support, from all past and present Mentorship students. Post your photos and questions, and get feedback, answers, and encouragement on your progress. Sue and Alison monitor the group page regularly.
  • 20% OFF IN THE GALLERY – For the duration of the Mentorship, you’ll get our best discount on all fine art prints, books, posters, and cards.
  • YOUR WORK ON OUR WEBSITE – Take advantage of our international audience. After the Mentorship ends, we’ll post a photo of you, your artist statement, and a slideshow of your best work during our six months together, with a link to your website if you have one.

I’m making appointments for calls, and have times available from now until Monday at noon. I’d love to talk with you! Just email me, sue@alisonshaw.com, and we’ll set up a time. Here’s the pdf with more info. And here’s the link to our student pages, showing their work and accomplishments. One more thing – we almost decided not to do the program this year, so we could focus on a couple projects of our own. But we’ve put those off for now. This means we may not run the program next year (not sure yet), so if you’ve been wanting to join, this is the year!

From one of our retreats

From one of our retreats  (Photo by Vincent Chahley)

So much to think about …

by Sue Dawson

WE’VE BEEN thinking a lot about teaching lately. Alison just finished teaching her week-long workshop here on the Vineyard, and we’re planning a weekend retreat for our Advanced Mentorship group. I’m also just starting to email people on the “interested” list for our 6-month Mentorship, which starts soon. But it’s funny what Alison and I talk about a lot these days…

First, picture us sitting at a cafe, drinking a latte (me) or a short latte with an extra shot (Alison), after a morning walk on the beach. Or maybe we’re hanging out on our back deck in the evening, with a drink and a deck of cards. Or working together in the kitchen. Usually, we talk about work, kids, family, cats, friends, and ALL THE STUFF WE NEED TO DO. See how I put that in caps? There’s always a lot to do, and it mostly fills the conversations we have, in a good (responsible) and bad (uni-focus) way.

But around this time of year – when the gallery season is almost over, the crowds of tourists have one more weekend of fun before things start to close for the season, there’s a chill in the air, and leaves are starting to crunch underfoot – we start to talk about what we want. Now that summer’s over, how do we want to spend this fall, winter, and spring? After such a busy season, what do we need? What will fill us back up again?

Alison wants to shoot more. She wants inspiration. Accountability. A project. A mentor – to push her, support her, and bring out the best in her. I want to create my own art – painting, writing, maybe try new media. I want inspiration. Accountability. A project. A mentor, to get the juices flowing, and support me in my creative life. And we both want to spend time with other artists, inspiring each other, and pushing our learning curve steeper, more challenging, and therefore more fulfilling.

In short, we want to take a Mentorship like ours. Seriously. We’ve fallen in love with the program we created, and we want someone to do this for us! I know, Alison’s already “there,” right? Wrong. There is no “there.” As an artist you need to keep growing and learning. And there’s nothing like doing that in a group of like-minded artists, keeping the bar just high enough to inspire, and holding you accountable to your dreams.

eelpond2016

I’d like to say we’re all setting the alarm for pre-dawn and jumping out of bed when it rings, so that we can be on location for that amazing sunrise we’ll be hearing about later on Facebook. Or making the first phone call to set up a shoot for a project we’re excited to start. Or writing that first draft we’ve been musing about for ages. But most days, to be honest, we’re going through the 12,893 emails in our inbox, folding laundry, or troubleshooting a hard drive crash – all things I’ve done today (and yes, I have that many emails in my inbox). We all need something to lift us out of the everyday grind, get us inspired, motivate  – and sometimes validate – us creatively.

So while we’re busy looking for a program for us, I’d love to talk with you about joining the program we’ve created for you. As of today, there are 9 spaces available, and I have 85 people on my “interested” list (I’m in the process of emailing each one). This year, we’re starting on October 24th, and taking a break between Thanksgiving and the new year (nobody gets much accomplished during that time anyway). We’ll pick up again at the beginning of January, and go through May 19th, 2017. All the info is here, but I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Just email me (sue@alisonshaw.com), and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Funny timing: As I write this, it’s flat calm, and the early evening air is cool. Alison just ran down the stairs and is heading out to shoot…

EPILOGUE
Just thought I’d share one of the photos Alison got, when she went out to shoot at Poucha Pond that evening…

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Hard to believe it’s been 10 years

by Sue Dawson

ALISON SHAW GALLERY began on July 20, 2006. Our first sale was a notecard, to Alison’s cousin’s wife, Jana. I tried to just give her the card, but she insisted on paying, so I asked for a dollar bill. It’s still in my desk drawer in the gallery, so I see that dollar every day. It’s really hard to believe it’s been there for 10 years already!

Ever since we moved into our little building in the Arts District of Oak Bluffs, we’ve been fascinated by the history of this place. In honor of our 10th anniversary, here’s some of the history we’re proud to be part of:

1914sm88 Dukes County Avenue used to be a one-engine firehouse – one of several in town, including the t-shirt shop across from Nancy’s Snack Bar (Engines 1 and 2), “Highland Hose” near the Ocean View Restaurant (on Church Avenue, Engine 3, now the home of one of our customers), and the building in town that’s now “Cottagers Corner,” which was originally Town Hall from 1882 to 1966, and over time also a police and fire station, before the Cottagers acquired it.

So let’s go all the way back to the beginning – in 1880, “Cottage City” seceded from the town of Edgartown, and established their own fire department. In 1907, the town name was officially changed to “Oak Bluffs.” Our building was built in 1914 – we found the date, along with three initials, on the shiplap upstairs that was uncovered during our renovation over 90 years later. 1914 was also, of course, the year World War I began.

Our building was “balloon-framed,” which means the studs went from ground sill to top plate (roof), and the second-floor joists were nailed to the studs. So the second floor was basically held up by a bunch of nails. This would turn out to be a problem for us, but I’ll get to that later. The piece of land we’re on is part of the MVCMA, or Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association – the “Camp Ground,” as locals call it. Turns out most of the cottages in the Camp Ground were built using balloon framing, which was the standard at the time. We believe the Town of Oak Bluffs built our building to house Fire Engine #4, in what was called the “West End” of town.

Nelson Amaral was one of the captains of Engine 4. From his January 2012 obituary in the Vineyard Gazette, “(Nelson) began as a junior firefighter at the age of 14, and spent 56 years in the department, 35 of them as chief. The Wing Road fire station in Oak Bluffs is named for him.” Nelson Amaral’s first cousin, Steve Amaral, worked with Engine 4 for 38 years, beginning in 1956. He succeeded Nelson as captain of Engine 4 in 1975, and stayed captain for 23 years, until 1994. Steve’s pictured below in 1961, in front of the station, next to Engine #4. By the way, Steve will be fishing in his 70th derby this fall (MV Bass and Bluefish Derby) – he’s only missed one, when he was in Korea. If you see him, say hi for us, and a big thank you for his many years of service to town and country.

Engine 1

In 1996, the building had been vacated for a few years, after the centralized fire headquarters was built at County and Wing Roads, to house all of the engines in one place. The MVCVA (Martha’s Vineyard Center for the Visual Arts), which was “formed in 1991 as a non-profit, non-competitive, unifying organization for visual artists,” bought the building from the town. The group of energetic and creative women who ran the MVCVA painted the interior, put in the glass doors we have today, and opened the Firehouse Gallery. They sponsored workshops, classes, and talks with local artists, and had a weekly drawing group (with model) that met upstairs. As you can see from the photo below, the group celebrated the building’s legacy with more than the gallery name!

mvcva dog

In 2006, we got a call from a member of the MVCVA and local painter, Renee Balter. She said that the group wanted to sell the building to a local artist, and encouraged us to submit a proposal. It wasn’t an ideal time for us, so we thanked her and said no. A number of weeks later, Renee called again. “I’m sorry, but I just see you in there!” She asked us to reconsider, thinking we’d be a good fit. Alison and I stayed up all night to do a proposal, buoyed by Renee’s faith in us, and submitted it literally in the last hour before the deadline. As you can surmise, the group chose us, and allowed us to rent the building for a few years first. We moved in at the beginning of July.

MVCVAthis

We had a LOT to do in order to open our gallery. We painted the walls white, and the floor teal. We used a deck paint for the floor that was pretty toxic, and I remember our neighbor Annie came by late one night and thought we were a little loopy from the fumes. I designed a sign using one of Alison’s seascapes – we had the sign printed as a huge sticker, so it’d be the actual photo rather than a painting of her photo. I knew it would fade over time, not being an archival print. So, I thought, photos fade to blue, so why not just start there? It worked. Melissa, of About Signs, made the sign, and her husband hung it, just before opening day.

signhangvertical

But there were a few setbacks…. Mold in the basement (bleached). Termites in the baseboards (exterminated and wood replaced). Rusty oil tank outside (removed). Lots of stuff upstairs (we’d deal with that later).

studio before 2

After builder Todd Leuenberger sheetrocked the center shelf unit to make a display wall, and built doors for the back so we could hang more photos, we managed to open our gallery!

firstopening

Our two kids were as excited as we were. Sarah (left, below) and her best friend Hallie (right, below), and Jesse (that’s his back, in the second photo) with Iris and Miles Albert, were here for the opening.

sarah&hallie

jesse&alberts

We were thrilled. And then…

This is the part where the balloon framing comes in. When gallery season was over, I asked our architect, Chuck Sullivan, to survey the setup, and see if he had some ideas about the upstairs. He came over to take some measurements, and I said “… and we’re ok with the weight of all our file cabinets, flat files, and shelves, right?” Um, that would be no. He went upstairs and jumped up and down a few times, and said “Not only should you not move any stuff up there, I don’t want YOU to go up there.”

So we moved it all out. The whole gallery we’d worked so hard to create. And we asked Harold Chapdelaine of Stonebridge Building and Design to fix things. He and his crew gutted the entire place. It’s an historic building, and needed to be preserved, so basically our building is one huge cabinet. It was a little wonky. Crooked. Settled. So they firmed it up by sistering things, bolting things, installing huge steel beams held up by wide supports in the walls and 6-foot concrete footings, and hurricane ties to keep storms at bay. We had a metal roof put on, and two square windows out front where there had been one. The radiators were removed, and a propane heat and a/c system installed. And I did my thing on the computer to design the upstairs space (see below), just as I had for our last studio on Circuit Ave.

studio layout

 

The upstairs studio turned out beautifully:

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fire lightHarold found clapboard under the shingles out front, so we asked him to put new clapboard on. We picked a paint color we still love (and give out at least once a year to people who want to use it). And we did one more important thing. We asked them to preserve the red fire station light. They kept it in place, and fixed it so we could turn it on if we wanted to. Jokes about our “red light district” ensued.

After around five years, we officially bought the building from the MVCVA group. Because it had been a fire station, we got an environmental study done, to make sure there were no issues with oil or gas on the property. Then we found out there was a cesspool – no septic. Bummer. So we tied into the new town septic system for a cool $20,000 fee. That’s the commercial fee, including everything a restaurant might need – even though we just had one toilet and one tiny sink.

We also asked the MVCMA (if you’re getting bleary-eyed from acronyms, that’s the Camp Ground, which owns the land) to please move their access road over and remove the asphalt from out front. It was a safety issue for our customers, as cars used to cut across right in front of the building. At first we just dumped some shells out there, for timing reasons, as this GoogleEarth photo shows:

gallery with shells

Then we hired Crosslands Landscaping to install our gorgeous bluestone walkway, lawn, and garden, which Working Earth has been maintaining and improving ever since. Ta dah!

this gallery

If you’ve read this far, thank you! And please join us tomorrow evening (Saturday, August 6th) from 5 to 7 pm, for our 10th Anniversary Party. Alison and Lew French will be signing their new book. Herring Run Kitchens will provide fantastic food. Joanne Lambert will pour you a drink. And Sue will be behind the front desk and her wall of computers (don’t ask). Hope you can come!

Join us on Saturday: Book launch, and P A R T Y

I JUST DUSTED OFF some old binders of medium-format transparencies, did a little digging, made a few calculations, and realized I’ve been photographing the work of stonemason Lew French for nearly 25 years. Wow, talk about time flying. In the course of those 25 years Lew and I have spent countless hours together, traveled many thousands of miles to photograph his work, completed two book projects, and he even built a wonderful beach stone fireplace in our old Farm Pond house.

I’m proud to announce the launch of our second book together, Sticks and Stones, at our gallery this Saturday, August 65:00-7:00pm. Lew and I will be there to meet you and sign books.

Our first book together, Stone by Design, was published in 2007. Every single photo was shot on Martha’s Vineyard, where Lew had created all of his master stonework and gardens. Nearly 35,000 copies sold, and the book really put him on the map as not just a craftsman, but as an artist. CBS Sunday Morning did a fabulous segment about Lew, he’s been piling up awards and honors for his work, and he now has fans all over the world.

As a result, Lew’s not just a Martha’s Vineyard stonemason anymore. His well-deserved reputation has far exceeded the shores of the Island. So the stonework that graces the pages of Sticks and Stones took us to places like Brazil, the Adirondacks, Maine, Washington DC, Cape Cod and Boston.

My most memorable trip for this book was, without a doubt, my trip to Brazil in January 2015. I left the Island in near-zero temperatures, and photographed “sea smoke” on the ferry trip across Vineyard Sound  (caused by frigid air meeting slightly warmer water). You might need to “like” my Facebook page to see the video below:

Sue captured Alison’s adventure shooting “sea smoke” in frigid weather, on her way to Brazil in January 2015. There’s even an appearance by Chris Morse, owner of the Granary Gallery, who took some photos of his own.

When I got to Brazil 24 hours later… well… let’s just say that Brazil in January is hotter than anything we can even imagine here on the island. After picking up provisions from a market in a remote small village, we headed many miles up into the mountains on a deeply-rutted, tortuously-bumpy red dirt road. We finally arrived at Lew’s home, nestled in a valley, at the base of thousands of acres of Brazilian rainforest. Lew built the home he shares with wife Claudia, and has created stunning stonework and lush gardens on their property.
 

Alison shot this video with her iPhone in January 2015, in Brazil, where she took photos of Lew and Claudia’s house for Sticks & Stones

The next four days were spent rising early and pretty much devoting the entire day to photography. I worked hard to capture the wild and dramatic setting of the house, the massive interior stone wall and fireplace, the many unique features of the home (including his own version of the traditional stucco and stone wood-fired cookstove), and even furnishings which Lew crafted of wood and stone.

In whatever down-time we had, it was much too oppressively hot to hike up the mountains and into the rainforest, but it was just the right temperature for an occasional shower beneath the waterfall on Lew’s property. We ate fruit I’ve never even heard of before, from some of the thousands of fruit trees Lew planted on the land. Geckos and other critters skittered through the house in search of a cool place to hang out. Wild horses ran in the distance, and monkeys chattered at dusk, far up in the mountains. At night I was grateful for the mosquito netting that surrounded my bed. “No, Alison, you’re not on Martha’s Vineyard anymore….”

Five days later (far too soon) I did the whole trip in reverse. It was a heck of a lot easier getting down the mountain that it had been going up. That is, it was easier until I got back to the winter temperatures I’d left less than a week before. That transition was a little rough, I must admit.

Please join us this Saturday for our book signing, and to celebrate our 10th anniversary season of Alison Shaw Gallery. Sue and I are very blessed to own this gallery together, and we want to share our celebration with you.

Join us this Monday, July 4th, from 10 to 2

by Sue Dawson

4th morning crop

PLEASE JOIN Alison Shaw Gallery and gallery josephine for 4th morning, our impromptu way of celebrating the revitalization of the Arts District in Oak Bluffs, and our newly-installed sidewalk! The highway trucks finished up today, just in time to toast the completion of our safe walkway between the Arts District and the Oak Bluffs harbor.

We’ll be open from 10am to 2pm on Monday, July 4th, serving delicious breakfast beverages, and tasty snacks. It’s a perfect way to start your morning – drinking a latte, sitting in our beautiful garden, and looking at stunning art.

We also just hung Alison’s new photo of her favorite Oak Bluffs jetty (the one on Inkwell Beach) on the main wall. We used our premium framing, with museum glass – I really love this one.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday!

Alison Shaw Gallery’s 10th anniversary season

may2016signblog

by Sue Dawson

WE’RE OPENING for the 2016 season tomorrow: Saturday, May 28th, between 10am and 5pm. This year promises to be different. We like to shake things up occasionally (keeps it fun for us). To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re hosting two parties – one on July 9th, and one on August 6th. Instead of hanging a full “show” each month, we’re going to just hang new (and retrospective) pieces when we feel like it. So the walls will be changing often. If you want to buy something right off the wall, you can take it with you. We’ll just hang a new piece in its place. We love the fluidity of being able to move things around, and hope you will too!

This summer, I’m planning to write a series of blogs about our building, which began as a one-engine firehouse. And by my count, Alison’s been a professional photographer on Martha’s Vineyard for 40 years (another milestone!), so I’ll do some posts about her too. We’re really looking forward to sharing this season with you.

Four workshops to choose from this year

by Sue Dawson

EVER WANTED to do a workshop with Alison? This year, there are four locations to choose from. Alison loves teaching, and has been doing it for decades. The workshops are a great way to immerse yourself in photography for 3 to 7 days, and really get inspired creatively. You’ll learn tips and techniques, make new friends, and take some awesome photos. Click each location for more info.

DALLAS, TEXAS
May 19-21, 2016
Sun to Moon Gallery
Alison’s really excited to do her third workshop for Sun to Moon, which she co-teaches with photographer and gallery co-owner Scot Miller. There’s still time to sign up!

White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

Alison teaching in Sun to Moon Gallery, Dallas

Alison teaching in Sun to Moon Gallery, Dallas


ROCKPORT
, MAINE

July 17-23, 2016
Maine Media Workshops
This is Alison’s 16th consecutive year doing this workshop. Shooting on the Maine coast is near and dear to Alison’s heart. Her family has lived in Brunswick for many years, and she really knows and loves the area.

Rockport Harbor, watching the lobster catch come in

Rockport Harbor, watching the lobster catch come in

Pemaquid Point, Maine

Pemaquid Point, Maine


MARTHA’S VINEYARD

September 18-24, 2016 – FULL
Alison Shaw Photography Workshops
This is Alison’s home, and her favorite place to teach. She started teaching on the Island in 1993, and has taught every year since. Just a few spaces left in this one, so sign up soon.

Students with workshop assistant Wayne Smith, Lucy Vincent Beach

Students with workshop assistant Wayne Smith, Lucy Vincent Beach

Lucy Vincent Beach

Lucy Vincent Beach


TUCSON
, ARIZONA

November 6-11, 2016
Madeline Island School of the Arts – West
This will be Alison’s second time teaching in Tucson, and her third workshop for MISA. Tanque Verde is a top-notch dude ranch with great food, ambiance, and weather.

On Tanque Verde Ranch, shooting a wrangler

At Tanque Verde Ranch, shooting a wrangler

Spanish mission on the outskirts of Tucson

Spanish mission on the outskirts of Tucson

 

Realizing your dreams

by Sue Dawson

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. The holidays. But this year it’s also the time we’re filling the 12 available spots in our 6-month Mentorship. The past two years we’ve started the Mentorship at the beginning of November. But things got all mucked up with the holidays, to be honest. Between turkey and shopping and wrapping and cooking and cleaning and baking and doing it over and over again several times in one month, we were exhausted. So this year, we’ve decided to start the Mentorship on January 4th, and jump into the new year well-fed and ready to focus.

I’ve been reading through the Mentorship Facebook group page, past emails, and worksheets our students have submitted, and I came across this great quote, that I placed over one of the author’s gorgeous photos:

debquote1

Goals without a plan. I know this well. I’m good at reaching many goals, but the creative ones always seem to get kicked to the bottom of my to-do list. This is the stuff that means the most to me (after family, of course), but I don’t make time to pursue it. Maybe it’s because it can be a little lonely to work on my art, and I’m a people person. Maybe I’m scared of failing. Or maybe I’m scared of succeeding … didn’t expect that one, did you?

We’ve designed the Mentorship exactly as Deb hoped. It’s a roadmap – customized for you – to identify your dreams, and create a plan to achieve them. There are trainings on things like creativity, and putting together a portfolio of your work. You become part of a group of 12 peers, who support each other via our private Facebook group, and at the two weekend retreats. The highlight of the retreats are the Mastermind sessions, when each student has a block of time to present your work, get support, feedback, suggestions, and the group’s full attention. It’s a powerful experience to have 13 people (11 other students, Alison, and me) focused exclusively on you and your work – some of the best insights have come from Masterminds. Throughout the Mentorship, you’ll have one-on-one sessions with Alison, focused entirely on your photographs, your workflow, and your goals. And sessions with me, where we look at your website, writing about your work, and getting your photography seen and appreciated by others.

It’s hard work. It is. No sugar-coating that. Your results will be directly proportional to your investment of time and effort. But this is about your dreams, after all. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and thinking you’ll be able to focus on your dreams some other time.

23 people have done this before you, each of them full of reservations and excuses, each of them nervous that they picked now to jump in. There’s a section on our website where you can see a list of some Mentorship student accomplishments, look at portfolios of students’ work, and read their thoughts on the Mentorship experience. I encourage you to look at all they’ve done, and picture yourself on this list next year.

For more info, go here, and click the blue link under the photo to download a pdf. Or email Sue: sue@alisonshaw.com. I’m looking forward to talking with you!

Behind the shot: “Rock Harbor II 2014”

by Sue Dawson

RockHarborII2014

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Rock Harbor II 2014. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our third show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s such a stunning, painterly image, I’ll have to convince people that this is a photograph. This is one I’d like to hang in our own house. Here’s what she said:

“I took this shot last fall, right before teaching a workshop for the South Shore Camera Club on the Cape. I had just done tests comparing the new Nikon D810 and my old D700. Being the picky, in-search-of-high-quality person that I am, I test all of the new equipment that comes along. I’m really frugal, but whenever I find something worth the leap, I’ll be first in line with my credit card at B&H. As soon as I ascertained that the 810 produced images with much higher quality, I ordered it. My new toy arrived the day before I left for the Cape – I was like a kid in a candy shop.

In doing last-minute scouting for the workshop, I hit all of my favorite places along the Brewster flats. These days, I’m drawn to shoot images that are either all neutral, or predominantly neutral with flashes of color. So I was looking for low tide, and flat, uninteresting light – that’s the neutral backdrop. Fall is my favorite time, because the plants in the marsh have interesting, often warm-toned flashes of color. In the summer it’s all green, but in the fall, there are gorgeous color variations.

For me, this shot really tactilely feels like I loaded a paintbrush with some cadmium yellow and a little burnt sienna, and applied those brushstrokes. That’s what it looks like on the finished print, but it’s also what it felt like when I was shooting. My technique really feels like painting. I’m carefully composing the shot, and then going on instinct as I create the “camera stroke.” As with my other painterly images, the effect is entirely done in-camera. There’s no post-processing that creates the painterly feel. The D810 enables me to print larger, with amazing resolution, and captures the nuances of color that drew me to the shot.”

Our opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, August 8th), from 5 to 7:30pm. 

Behind the shot: “Oak Bluffs 2015”

by Sue Dawson

OakBluffs2015blog2

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Oak Bluffs 2015. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our second show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s mesmerizing – it looks like it’s just floating on the wall. Here’s what she said:

“That’s the direction I’m going in now – a more muted palette, fewer primary colors. It doesn’t have to be dawn or dusk for me anymore. I used to look for a stronger color palette, which you’ll find early or late in the day. But now I’m watching for the really subtle things that are happening. Quiet things, like the two different flat calms going on in the water in this shot. I love the height of the tide – almost covering the rocks, with just a few of them poking through. If you could see all of the rocks, it’d be really seaweedy, really messy-looking. This just gives you a hint of the rocks.

It’s a location that’s so subtle, you’d never stop and take a touristy picture there. It’d never be subject matter that you’d hear, “Oh, honey, let’s stop and take a picture.” I feel like what I’m looking for now is something that’s evocative, but understated – something I think is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. A scene where a little change of light, wind direction, wind velocity, the tide, will make me screech to the side of the road, get out my camera, and ignore my appointments for a half hour.

I drive by this spot every day, and pay attention to what the tide’s doing, what the water’s doing, what the light’s doing. I stop there once a month and take pictures. But this particular day was unique. The sky was almost white, and the water took on two distinct tones. In the distance was flat calm, and up close, the water was moving over the rocks. So you really have this gradation from the whitish sky up top, to a sliver of the most distant water that’s moving, to flat calm water reflecting the sky, and into the moving water in the foreground. Beyond the end of the jetty, that flat calm is like a mirror, reflecting the sky. And nearest to me, the water was choppy, so I used a long exposure to make the moving water look soft and smoothed out over the rocks.

The centered one-point perspective draws you into the photo. And I kind of love the fact that the thing in the middle of the jetty is completely practical – not picturesque – and yet becomes the center of interest in the shot. It’s totally mundane – not like the fishing pier, which is beautiful unto itself.

I love the concept of the contrast between extreme sharpness and extreme softness in the same picture. And I already mentioned the two types of water – the flat calm, and the choppy waves I smoothed out in the foreground. There’s a duality throughout, really – a complexity that you see, the longer you look into the picture. At first it’s simple, calming, deep. But as you’re drawn in, there’s so much more to see, so much more to feel.”

Please come by tomorrow – Saturday, July 11th – and see it in person. Our reception is from 4 to 7pm, and this show will be here through August 7th.