Chicago blogger

Image x Image || "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"

A giant part of my life is comprised of answering questions, and many come concerning my artwork. Questions range from what one might consider as normal to really, crazy-out-there. The truth is that I really like answering these questions and having a dialogue about my work as well as most art-related topics, and it's pretty common knowledge that I can be a relentless questioner myself.

Keeping that in mind and paralleling my goal of writing more frequently and about differing topics, I've decided to blog about images or work that I am asked about often, so "Image x Image" seems appropriate, kinda like an old school Behind the Music/VH1 type thing except with some of my single images.  My work is absolutely connected to stories, storytelling, and so much learning - so many lessons. So many areas of art have been valuable to me: my English major coursework and the intensive study of literature and writing that went along with it and the continual practice of it. My English teaching part of life. My music obsession. Film. Photography and all visual art. Especially throughout the last three years though, talking about it and analyzing it has helped to open what I already thought was an open mind, has taught me about people, has helped ground me when not much else can, and has helped connect me to people and experiences, both wonderful and horrible, and I am grateful to have it all in my life. It has, at times, literally become a life-saver.

In light of all that, one image I field questions and comments about often is from The Yellow Glove Series and is a part what I see as the pared down narrative body: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." 

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" | The Yellow Glove Series| 2016 

This bad boy right here: I get all kinds of interesting feedback on it. But I will address that as I incorporate what I can tell you about the image itself.

First, a lot went into the thinking and creation of images from this body of work. It was a true collaborative effort between Sam, who is the female (but actually male, yes) model and myself. Sam is amazing as an artist AND actor, which I think is quite obvious. This was a chance for him to showcase his passion for both things, and I cannot say enough about how incredible his artistic ability is. Some of the ideas for the shoots were more spontaneous than others, but at times we did sit down and brainstorm what scenarios we wanted to depict. The shoot that resulted in this image and a few others is one that was planned down to the clothes and props, location, the "husband," and the vignettes combined with the narrative itself.

One thing I do before a shoot like this involving models is to scout out locations for safety, the likelihood of getting into trouble if permission isn't exactly secured (which I am obviously tremendously careful about, but nothing is 100%), etc. I usually have a place in mind and fall in love with the idea of it, but sometimes I do have enough common sense and good judgement to decide it won't work. Usually heartbreakingly for me though. Not so with this place. I found it about 3 months before the shoot, just by keeping my eyes open and looking, and went through it very carefully. Because it was a home that had been partially destroyed from a fire, I was worried about the safety of the structure. Really, besides the smoke damage and the entire missing SIDE of the house, it was pretty safe, as far as being structurally sound, at least on the floors. The place had the feeling I was needing for this shoot, which was imperative. It is never a happy thing to see how a family's home, and obviously here a large part of their life, was destroyed by fire. But the message from this part of the narrative was obviously a little dark and the setting needed to fit. 

This brings me to the first couple of comments I usually hear concerning this image.

First: "Lisa, for some reason I love this one but it makes me feel uncomfortable."

Well good. It's supposed to! And it's supposed to make you think. A lot, hopefully.

Also: "Well. This is intense." 

It is. And shouldn't it be?  Isn't a situation where a husband is blowing cigarette smoke in his wife's face supposed to be intense? Yes. And yeah, it should make your skin crawl a little. Sam and Riley, who played the husband, did a fantastic job getting into character.

But we also had FUN during this shoot. I remember it as one of the best that we had overall because of the planning we did, the people who helped (Aubrey, Maggie, and Nikki!) the donuts and coffee we brought along and ate afterward, Riley's Pall Malls - for the sake of authenticity, of course!, and the weather. It was a little warm for April. I also didn't forget to bring anything along, which was a plus. I do have so many outtakes from many of the Yellow Glove shoots, and some capture some great moments. They really document the entire process, and taking those random photos have made it fun to look back. Case in point, here are a couple:

And so I explored and created some images of things that seemed interesting, figured out the best way to park and unload; all of those things that no one usually thinks much about when seeing the final product. It's hard work, but it's fun work.

From the scouting:

As long as I showed these images of the scouting, another question I get a lot concerns locations. Stuff like, "Hey. That place is incredible looking. What is it? Where is it? Can you take me there?!" 

Sorry, can't tell ya, and no, I definitely can't take you. It might be fun, but it is actually very stressful to bring people to a place when you aren't sure about how they will react to it, or when safety is a concern. This place is gone now anyway. Long gone. It was in McHenry County, and it was half burned down. Actually upstairs, the entire front part was completely missing. So in other words, the light was amazing! Ha.

This shoot resulted in many options as far what I saw as useable pictures, but there are a few in particular that I have singled out and shown, and a two others are some I feel a strong connection and liking towards; maybe a couple of others strike a chord with me too. I shoot more than 1000 images on a shoot like this, and I am happy when I get a few that work for what I am looking for. It's hard to get through them and to choose, but usually if I get 3-4 I feel good a bout working with, I am happy. 

These are shots that I have used in shows, as a part of the narrative itself, or considered using and the vignettes scouted beforehand. I liked for the settings to be used as found for the Yellow Glove shoots, and although we brought props, I didn't alter the places themselves. Because the abandonment is an essential symbolic component of the series, I wanted the settings to be as they were found. 

Vignette for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

Vignette used for below images. The pink walls, the chair, and the 1947 had me from the start.

I understand the images from this part of the body may be a little dark. Once a person who I did a some work with, whom I have known for awhile - since high school age - asked me a question a little shyly but honestly. He was curious about where this stuff comes from, like, how are these images becoming things? From me? He just didn't see that within me as a kid when he knew me. And he didn't see me as a "dark person." 

To answer that, I don't think I am necessarily "dark" although I have been called a "pessimist" at times. That's not really it either. I like to say I am realistic. Things happen all the time. And I am  interested in reality. I'm also very interested in the ideas of universality and collective memory and collective consciousness - always, always have been. So the work that I enjoy making - I want it to be important work. Work can be specific, but I do love it when it has a universal aspect so that people, whether I know them or not, can relate in some way to the tone of the work, and especially in The Yellow Glove Series. There IS a serious, and I think, important message there. Some people might understand it as it relates to ME and why I made it better than others, but that doesn't even really matter, and that's what I want. I want it to be something that carries a universality within it so that people, in general, can relate to it, and that relation may be different than another person's way, but no matter what, the feelings associated with and emitted from the work can "get to you" and be recognizable, by many, if not all, who view it. I'm attracted to art like that. So I guess that's one of the main reasons why I try to create it. 

Other shots, largely unused from this shoot:

I also had lots of inspiration from the shoot to experiment with mixed media - mostly image transfer, painting, and stitching. This is something I enjoy doing - working with my hands. These are framed and in my studio as a set of four. 

"Break the Cycle" 

Not all "Image x Image" posts will be this length. But so much came from this image, and because it is the first post of the bunch, it seemed like it needed a little … more. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Spring Break 2018: Restarting the Insane Abandoned Place Checklist.

When you can't go to the beach, you go to Savanna, IL.  It is on the banks of the Mississippi River. Or you go to Harvey. There was standing water in a basement of an old power plant.  Or is that just me?

I'm pretty sure it isn't just me. I might just be the only person you know who does it though.

After a great week with the kids, I had a little bit of time to go exploring. A long time ago, I wrote about eventually making my way to Thrillist's Most 28 Insane Abandoned Places in the Midwest. Here's the link if you need a refresher. 

https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/chicago/the-28-most-insane-abandoned-places-in-the-midwest

I've been slowly checking these puppies off of my list. I have more to visit, but I am happy with my  recent efforts. Ha.

These places can be checked off: 1. City Methodist Church in Gary, IN; 2. Damen Silos in Chicago, IL; 7. Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, IL; 17. Searsboro Consolidated School in Searsboro, IA; 27. Alexian Brothers Novitiate in Gresham, WI; and 28. Solvay Coke & Gas Company in Milwaukee, WI (now demolished). 

And after this last week, you can also add two other great spots: 5. Wyman-Gordon Power Plant in Dixmoor, IL and 13. Savanna Army Depot outside of Savanna, IL.

Exciting, I KNOW! 

Both spots were definitely worth the research, planning, and in the Depot's case, a somewhat extreme effort, but both also came with a little risk-taking, so I guess what I am saying is that if you decide to go to either of these locations, make sure you research and think ahead. 

So actually, I want to show a little of what I found at the Savanna Army Depot location, which I found to be surreal. Let me say that I have actually been a little … scared … to go to this site, mostly because of what it was used for and because of what I read about it from beginning my research of it over two years ago. I decided to go actually go for it and to try to experience it for a couple of reasons.

First:

It was Easter. I don't have the kids every year. I hate sitting around all day, so instead moping, I have decided these are perfect days to go to places I usually don't have time to hit up.  I go early and take a long-ish trip to a place where I hope (and was correct this time) that I will be the only person around. This method of operation has it's advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that on holidays, most people are eating big meals with their families and friends, so it's a good time to explore a place that might usually be monitored carefully. The overriding negative is that if anything goes wrong and you're alone, you could be toast, especially without wireless service, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE FOR HOURS, and I have had service just about everywhere the last year or so. My provider is AT&T. Maybe it's different for other carriers. But this is doubtful. I was literally in the middle of nowhere. The good news is that I lived. So count that as a win for me.

Second:

I have a reason to go to some of these places now. I recently signed with a publishing company known for its photograph/history heavy titles. They are publishing a new series of books, "Abandoned America." I picked up Illinois and one other state. So, I have to get my a$$ going. The first draft is due July 31st for Illinois, and I know nobody thinks I have enough to do, so I added this little project onto my "to do" list. It's actually been a goal of mine to write a book - like my entire life - so this unsolicited opportunity came out of nowhere and actually fits with my love for exploring, history, writing, and photography. It also motivates me to get out and do something I love, and it's something I haven't made enough time for recently. It's also a valid reason to be exploring when explaining WHY I am at a location if questioned. It's exciting for me. And I want to thank my friends Dave, Chehalis, and Michael for helping me make some decisions regarding it. I'm so grateful. No idea how it will turn out, but I knew I needed to get to at least four more significant sites in Illinois in order for me to feel good about content, and this is one of them. 

A Tiny Bit of History and Context:

This place is so interesting to me. I often don't understand how there are some places out there that still exist, especially massive places with hundreds of buildings that are left to disintegrate. This is one of them.  I guess I do understand that cleaning this site up isn't necessarily a priority for the DNR, seeing as I read there is currently ONE full time employee overseeing the entire area. It makes sense because it is obvious that this is a place where not much money is flowing in effortlessly, and The Savanna Business Park is a little different than any other business park I have ever seen - no offense to anyone there. It's just the way it is. That's kind of unfortunate because the actual land sits overlooking the Mississippi River, and the land contains the largest natural dune system in the state of Illinois. It is 7.5 miles long and sits 70 feet above the river. The land is also known as the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. So far only around 3000 acres has been transferred, as the remaining acreage needs to be freed from environmental contamination and will be turned over when deemed safe. This could take forever though, because it is a long-term clean up plan, and the plan will supposedly be updated every 5-10 years through information gained by monitoring habitat, wildlife, and recreational use (www.fws.gov).

The Lost Mound is pretty intriguing too. It is this geographic oddity and is part of local folklore concerning a post-glacial hill set as the backdrop for the sand prairie found around it. Funny enough, "the mound did not appear on early maps of the region, however the lost 'mound' has since been found as is {now} featured on recent topographical maps" (www.fws.gov). This mound is super easy to find. It sticks up high above the rest of the land, although the area in general is hilly, and it is kind of oddly shaped and placed, but the land is aptly named, for sure.

Really quickly, the Savanna Army Depot had about 3 different titles from the time it opened in 1918 until the time it completely closed in 2000. It also had many different uses. This depot is often called the "Area 51" of the Army because of it's secret operations and missions, and because of it not being well known. It was also easy to confuse with other bases having "Savanna" or "Savannah" in their names. Savanna, OK; Savannah, SC; Savannah, GA … Savanna, IL? You get the picture. In basic terms, this place was used mainly as an ordnance, or a branch of the Armed Forces that deals with the supply and storage of weapons, ammunition, and other items related to that. This specific place was used to test and store different types of highly explosive and powerful ammunition such as 75 and 155mm howitzers, or short cannons that shoot on high trajectories in order to reach targets behind cover or within trenches. It was also used to produce, test, and ship out explosives during and after WWII. Later, it was also used as a U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center and School that provided technical, logistical, consulting, engineering, training, and other types of specialized services to the U.S. Department of Defense. HAD NO IDEA, right? There are lots of interesting little facts about this little known of place, but one that sticks out to me is that this Depot contained a plant that loaded bombs and explosives during WWII, including the that were used in General James Doolittle's raid on Tokyo in 1942. Also, this area contains over 400 steel-enforced, earth-covered igloos with up to 2000 square feet of storage underneath  that were used to store such things as highly explosive ammunition, "mustard" gas, Ammonium Nitrate (actually over 260,000 tons of it for war reserves), and actually later and still today, data and computers. Crazy right? These are highly visible, all over the place, and are covered in grass so that they were undetectable by air. 

Needless to say, this land is highly contaminated. Scary too, is that there are said to be unexploded devices in some areas. That's what scared me most. I wore a respirator because I knew of the contamination, yes. I have heard many of the unexploded devices are taken care of, but you know, after being there, I'm not so sure. There are still signs explaining what to do when you happen to come upon one. Backwater areas are also still closed to the public due to "unexploded ordnance" being present, so I stayed far away from that space. I know 1948 was a long time ago, but there was actually and explosion that left a 150 foot wide by 50 foot deep hole you can still find. The 4 ton door from that steel-enforced igloo was never found. That says a lot.

It really is a beautiful location on the edge of the River, and it only took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there. Easy drive.

My start at the overlook at the end of the "public permitted" part of the Lost Mound Unit path. Cold but beautiful.

I've seen many shots of this Depot from the outside, and maybe a few shots from the inside of a barrack or a mess hall, but I have never seen what I got into Sunday. I'm not saying to do it yourself. I was actually relieved to get home, as I felt like I was constantly pumping adrenaline. It started as a pretty boring expedition actually, since I couldn't figure out where to go to find what I was looking for, and then it got frustrating because I wasn't seeing what I wanted to photograph. But, after I kept searching just "one more time" or for "one more thing," I finally figured some things out, and without getting into the details of how I accessed these things, I can only say wow. I am glad I went, but I am just as happy to have finished exploring it. I wanted to do more, and I could have done more because I basically had access to all that I wanted in the end, but I felt like I needed to get out of there. One thing I have learned through all of this abandoned hunting is to not push my luck. A lot of it is based on instinct, and my instincts were telling me to get out and to go home. So although there is a lot more to see, and I have a feeling it is a lot more of the same of what I will show, there is still a little curiosity there. It is such a huge area; it's hard not to be curious about what else there is out there. But I am done. I saw enough, and it was worth it.

If you look at the link to this map below, I was all over the place, but many of the most interesting shots came from within the CL and CF Loop Roads. The entire area  is over 14 miles long and over 2.5 miles wide, so I'm sure you can imagine how overwhelming the size is. The question for me was where to start.

https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=da2d1d2d-8124-46c5-9155-351f6031ba0c&cp=42.19038~-90.280748&lvl=16&style=h&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027

There is so much more history I have learned about this place, and it is really fascinating, but I'll save that for another time. 

Here's the easier-to-get-to stuff:

Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Storage facility by tracks.

storage.jpg
One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

A little more challenging and interesting ...

So far, it was ok. Interesting, but if I didn't know why it was interesting, a pretty far drive for some crumbling buildings. Until I searched the grounds for about an hour. 

And then it got much better - on the outside and inside of the buildings.

This was an amazing place, but like I said, everything in me was telling me to leave. So I left the way I came. It was enough for me. I actually hope that someday this place is cleaned up properly. It is a beautiful area of Illinois, largely undisturbed, full of wildlife, and on a gorgeous riverbank. Maybe in the not-so-far future clean up will become more of a priority for the remaining 5000+ acres of land that can be transferred over once safe for public use.

Studio 204D | Starline Factory | This Friday Night - 1/26

Studio 204 D will be open during this Friday night from 6-10pm for the  new season of 4th Fridays at the Starline Factory!  

Lisa Davids, Peggy Gannon, and myself have been working on new projects, new pieces, and we are excited to have them on display.  Lisa Davids works with mixed media collage and encaustic art, Peggy works with mixed media, and I work with fine art photography, mixed media, and also have been involved with a number of other types of photography in recent months. Below is a sampling of what you will find available in our studio Friday night:

Lisa Davids: Mixed Media Collage and Encaustic Art



Peggy Gannon: Mixed Media Art



Lisa Beard: Fine Art Photography + Mixed Media


There will be more of our work posted before Friday night, so be sure to check back.  Hopefully many of you can stop by the studio and we will see you then!

"Hey, so do you still have that one print of the snowy clock up on the square…?"

Yep!

Here's the link to my "Available Artwork" page, which is also on this website: https://lisa-beard.squarespace.com/available-artwork

"Woodstock Winter" | 2016

While out this weekend, I had more than a few people ask me this question - probably because it SNOWED! YES! Yeah, I love it the first few times or until it turns yellow. I also had a few people ask me about the Yellow Glove image of Gigi shoveling: "All She Had Were Heels." I do have that available too, yes. 

"All She Had Were Heels" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2016

"All She Had Were Heels" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2016

I also have some other wintery prints available, so I will put them on the "Available Artwork" link on my page.  Some are older but have not been seen often, and some are brand new - mostly some Yellow Glove Series prints from a wintery shoot last year focusing on Gigi's Christmas decorations and a shoveling session in a blizzard. Some YG prints are editioned, which is a newer endeavor of mine, and some are not.  All images can be printed and matted for different sizes of frames, and if you have any questions, please do ask me.  

Since I was asked about them, I figured I would throw this out there, since I definitely don't think it's too early to start feeling a lot like Christmas this year, for whatever reason. Here are the images:

"Country Blizzard" | 2015

"White Out" | 2015

"White As Snow" | 2015

"Tree Tunnel" | 2015

"Blown Bare" | 2015

"Snowscape" | 2015

"Four Degrees" | 2016

"Drifter in the Snow" | 2016

"Treelined" | 2015

"Winter Gazebo" | 2016

"The Opera House" | 2016

"The Outer Wall" | 2015

"A Solvay Christmas" | 2015

The Sam Study

Yeah, I know it's understood that The Yellow Glove Series is the artistic project I devote most of my time to, and that Sam is my muse. But what's not understood is how much time it takes for this guy to transform in to Gigi Goode for these shoots; I'm not even sure I completely understood it. So I decided to do a Sam Study, to go to his house early in the morning on the day of our most recent shoot before he took off for school again and to photograph the progression of the transformation, which is pretty amazing, given that so many people still don't realize that Gigi is actually a man in drag until told because he looks so damn good. 

The Sam Study day ended up being a great shoot day. The image below is one a few that we ended up with by the end of the morning. 

"This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

"This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

This photograph is on display at Perspective Gallery in Evanston and also at D & A Salon + Apothecary in Woodstock and is one of my first editioned prints.  People have seemed to like this image a lot, but have had lots of questions about it because Gigi doesn't seem sad or suicidal like usual.  I've even been asked if we are going in a new direction. The answer to that, those of you who wish she would be happy, is NO! Gigi isn't happy. She can't be. She looks ridiculous happy and it doesn't fit the series. It's called "This Must Be the Place" yes, because I thought of the Talking Heads tune, but also because this place is either heaven or a dream for her.  Sorry to disappoint some of you. Ha. 

So, here is the study: from Sam who woke up in the morning to Sam who is Gigi Goode.

1. It takes Sam about 3 hours to get himself ready. That doesn't count the time it takes for him to style and set whatever wig in whatever style Gigi will be wearing for the shoot.  He has to get started early.

2. Sam is ridiculously skilled at applying makeup. Most people who know him already know this, but for those of you who don't, I completely see why girls are jealous that Sam is so good at this.  

3. There aren't any shortcuts for him: fake lashes, curling the fake lashes, perfect eyeliner and mascara, lipstick … everything.

The transformation was already pretty amazing, but hisdressing process is also more complicated than it seems. 

1. This guy has to wear four pairs of pantyhose. FOUR. I can't even handle wearing one, ever! This is like, extreme sacrifice for the sake of art, in my opinion. He won't shave his legs, and I don't blame him. He does this so that his leg hair doesn't show. That, and I don't have to get rid  of it while editing, so it is much appreciated. 

2. He sometimes wears a corset. Not this day - just a bra and the dress. But the dress was fantastic. It was vintage, blue with horses and stamps on it with a cinched waist. I'm thinking very Pony Express. He started out with his own heels, but ended up with a pair of Louboutins. Not even kidding. And my intern, Emmy, ended up with a sweet George Constanza poster that is going to make her the coolest senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

3. He has to make sure his wig and accessories are perfect. This time, we were heading to a long-closed salon, and we were excited because we had been looking for older hair setters and salon stuff for awhile. Also, we had permission to be in there when earlier that week we thought our only choice was in an abandoned and frightening mental institution that was so large we couldn't even FIND the beauty salon in the place. I honestly wasn't really looking forward to going back and scouting around for it alone that weekend, so this was a lifesaver, thanks to a good friend of mine (funny enough, who helped me because she didn't really want me going back there either!) So, we had to have some pink foam curlers and a head wrap. Later though, they needed to removed when moving to another location where they weren't necessary. 

This image is memorable to me because of Sam's mom reaching in to give him a little help. I love that.

And after a few hours, Sam was Gigi. I guess the way I can describe how I felt was impressed and really grateful that Sam and I decided to combine our creative thoughts and to keep going with them although some of our ideas are waaaay out there. I'm also grateful for the support of his mom and dad. Pretty awesome story of a continuing great adventure. Plus, Sam makes a beautiful man or woman - honestly doesn't matter which. But as many of you know, he is a very convincing Gigi.

From the shoot: at TWH and a longtime, unused hair salon.  Sorry. Semi-secret locations ...

This last month ...

It's been busy! That's a good problem, right? I'm going to try to update this more often; my original goal was weekly. That was lofty at the time, but that's now the new goal. It might still be lofty...

But anyway, good things have been happening. Plus, it's been fun. Can't ask for more than that? So, what's been going on? I'll have to pick and choose, but here are the more exciting things:

Numero Uno:

Fashion,fashion, fashion 

photography

Gallery 19, Chicago, May 2017

Besides working on random projects, this has been what I have been working on most. It's kind of funny when I think about it because I haven't had much experience in the high fashion and designer department, but I have had lots in the very casual and occasional "I tried" departments.  But, I love it. I have learned A TON. Fashion photography has been suggested to me before because of the currently popular narrative/editorial aspect of it, and that is exactly what I do with 99% of my photography work; I just never considered it seriously until I was approached by a designer who was serious about having me try it out, and she was right: it's an entirely different world than the one I am used to. You know how you should practice what your preach but you usually don't? Yeah, that's what's happening.  I usually tell my high school students that they have to get out of their comfort zones or they are boring. I tell them to take risks. I've asked kids what the worst thing is that would happen if they actually raised their hands and GUESSED when giving an answer, like would they be struck by lightning? I've also made kids repeat themselves louder when they have been right and given an awesome answer, much to their embarrassment. So they will be glad to know that finally, I've definitely LEAPED out of my comfort zone (school, Woodstock, my friends, etc.) since about February, and this has been good, albeit hard for me, but it is becoming easier each time I travel to meet a stranger to talk about a shoot, am interviewed by individuals or teams of people, talk with all kinds of people who will be helping me, and doing things I never, ever imagined myself doing. I'm lucky to have a great mentor who is a designer and former professor at the SAIC, and so far, so good. And besides learning all of these new things, I have met great, great people, and that's what it's all about.

So, I've been to lots of fashion events, gone through tons of fashion magazines for inspiration, made mood boards, test shot, have done my first "real" shoot for a designer where I am the main shooter, have planned and canceled shoots, and have made tons of connections. Honestly though, I have to thank my friends. I am so lucky to have the friends I do - they have helped me with securing locations, modeling, makeup, hair, hauling crap places, laughing with me when I'm a total dork or shooting in the most awkward positions imaginable, plus lots of encouragement and other things as well.  Thank you to all of my old and new friends who have helped me out so much!  Here are some glimpses of a few happenings:

These were test shoots. Thank you Evie, Kurt, Cam, and Clara! 

Oh yeah! And I have an intern! Yep. I do. She's helped ME a ton so far, but now she's going to help me AND have her own assignments. Lucky girl. Meet Emmy, a fine arts major with a focus on printmaking and painting, from MIAD (The Milwaukee Institute of Art an Design).

What up, Emmy?! :) She's lugging stuff down from the tower at a shoot.

What up, Emmy?! :) She's lugging stuff down from the tower at a shoot.

The first shoot. This was up at Black Point Estate in Lake Geneva. Thank you Dave, for allowing us to shoot here. So grateful for Andrea and Alberto and D&A Salon and Apothecary in Woodstock, and obviously to Andrea, Patricia, and Emmy. In all, I think it went well.  Can't wait to see what I will be editing from this, but these are a few randoms from the shoot. I'm excited for the next shoot, which was supposed to be today, but I canceled it due to the probable chance of rain downtown. My idea is complicated enough … no rain allowed, so that'll be next week instead.

Numero Dos: 

Still exploring ...

and doing other stuff.

Besides all of that, and my regular life, I've still been exploring and shooting, planning for the next two Yellow Glove Shoots (cannot wait), and experimenting with different types of photography methods and art. Today I took down work at Ethereal, but will be having it displayed in three places in the upcoming week: Conscious Cup in Crystal Lake, D&A Salon and Apothecary in Woodstock, and also in the Creek Gallery Show - opening night is next Friday night, the 7th from 6-8 pm, and it's free. It is going to be a great show. I have one piece in the show itself, and was honored to be asked to display additional work in the venue room. 

Other things I've been working on and trying are lots of creative senior picture sessions, exploring new places (duh), storm chasing, continuing a b&w series focused on bodies and natural light, creating image transfers combined with encaustic art, and this process of using slide transfers to Polaroid film using a Daylab Jr., which is much harder than I imagined it would be of course, and then using the positive and negative emulsions as the centerpieces for artwork. Who knew Polaroid film is that expensive AND that they discontinued producing the 669 film a long time ago...

Also, it's been a good week for sales. A lot of people ask me what's for sale and how do they go about seeing about a piece. Well, just ask me or email me at lisabeardart@gmail.com. I will be updating this site's product page as much as possible so it's easy to see what I do have if you are  interested. Here is what sold in this past week: 

"Dangling Prayers", 11x14; "The Wedding March", w/SE Hologram, 18x24; "Muffled", 11x14; "Dirty Dishes", 11x14 "White As Snow", 11x14; "Corner Chair", 16x20, "Landline", 11x14; and "Searsboro Stool", 12x12 mixed media image transfer with acrylic

Last but not Least:

What I learned this week

by Lisa M. Beard

How to shoot fashion: look like a total dork. Because if you are worried about looking like one, you will be one, but if you look like one before you can be called one, it doesn't hurt a thing. :) Photo courtesy of Emile Reynders. Thanks for that.

Also, be very serious and if you can, wear multiple hats. Literally and figuratively.

Also, be very serious and if you can, wear multiple hats. Literally and figuratively.

Places I have been lately. Location 1: happy we aren't dog meat. Literally.

This must be the place. Hmmm. Here's a song for that - I always have a song for that, but this one is especially fitting and one of my top five favorites: 

I guess that this must be the place?

I guess that this must be the place?

Most people know I love scouting out places - whether for focus and calming myself after or before a stressful week, for possible shoots, even unfortunately for an adrenaline rush when I'm feeling a little um … bored … so I figured I'd share some of the most interesting places I have been lately since a lot of you wonder about them, and yeah, I have been pretty quietly active these last few months exploring. Haven't really been active on the blog though. It's hard while teaching and grading. One thing you have to know is that I rarely go alone. Maybe once in awhile, because I have learned a lot in the last two years, and one thing I have learned is to go with someone you are 100 percent comfortable with and whom you trust in any situation. I also go early, early in the morning. The light is beautiful if you catch it just right, and I like morning light better than evening light. Plus I wake up early and I'm shot by about 3pm. I'm like 85 years old. Maybe 90. So this is the most recent place I explored, and it was early in the morning, this past Sunday, at a McHenry County location which was obviously heavily wooded. 

First, walking up to the property was awesome. There was just so much STUFF outside of the house, and I wanted to go inside, but decided to look outside first because the light was ridiculous AND there were so many little "areas" I'll call them, to explore. I don't think the pictures I ended up with even do this place justice.

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Two years ago, maybe even one year ago, I would have run straight into that sucker because of how cool it looked; however, I'd like to argue that I have become smarter after doing this many times and running into different issues or thinking about what could happen. I'm glad we stayed outside. But anyway, there was so much to look at. Whoever lived here made different little areas on this huge property. 

Coming onto the land was even interesting. I don't know how old the raised American Flag was, but it was torn, weather-beaten, and faded. The light was perfect though.

A partial flag …?

A partial flag …?

Then it was into the gate. Everything was overgrown, and there was so much scattered around. It's hard to say when this place went abandoned, but it had to be awhile ago.  Lawn chairs, Christmas lights, a gazebo, sheds, a bomb shelter, garden tools, an exercise bike - you name it, we saw it.

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

I mean, you never know ...

I mean, you never know ...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

Unfortunately, after this point, I was ready to go around to the other side of the house to check out even more cool stuff and then possibly go in, but not alone. Many of you know I talk to myself, especially when I am nervous or trying to figure something out, and I actually, at this gazebo, said out loud, "Ugh. Why am I scared to go in there?" But I kept walking, and as I did, I heard the absolute worst dog snarling, growling noise I have ever heard. There was a dog tied up inside of the house, on the end, with a not so strong rope and it was pulling to get to me and foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, my stomach dropped and I was worried about where Nance was. So I backed up as slow as possible and then TOOK OFF, panicked and found her. Then we got the hell out of there. Turns out my gut was right. I know that when you go onto the property, it is a wreck and the house has a caved in roof, and it looks totally abandoned. Evidently either someone is squatting there and has a guard dog - because it actually is the perfect place for that, being so far removed from everywhere - or someone puts a dog in there overnight to guard the place. I'm leaning toward it being a person's "home." And yes, we were here and it wasn't our property, but I'm still glad we didn't get mauled because that would be a painful way to go. 

The reason why I am also saying this is because I got this address from kids who graduated. DO NOT GO THERE. AND ESPECIALLY DO NOT GO THERE AT NIGHT LIKE YOU DID! BECAUSE THERE IS A MEAN AND STRONG DOG THERE! I know you guys went at night and didn't go in, and thank God for that. I'm glad I found it and not you. But thanks for the sweet address because I liked the outside probably more than I would have liked the inside. But go with your gut. Turns out mine is right sometimes, and that I have learned to listen to it. It has taken me awhile though, because I get overly excited about things. That was a first for me, and I never want to hear a sound like that again or to worry about a person I care about possibly being in danger. We both felt lucky and blessed. Just be alert!

With that being said, I will for sure show you the next exploration! 

Learning: when your life gets to be like constantly studying for a final exam. In math.

What's that like for person with a brain that is heavily unbalanced towards the right side? Here. Upon coming across the one math course I took undergrad, "Math as a Human Endeavor" I thought, "Hell yes! This is going to be the easiest math class ever!" and I signed up. No. Two grades of equal weight: a midterm and a final. 200 students in a lecture hall. One not-so-easy-to-understand professor who insisted it was easy. One math term I will never forget: olive-knot?! I have no idea how to spell it. I have asked my math teacher friends about it; I have googled it. It's like I have made it up, like it never existed! So I took the midterm. I tried. I cried a little. I wrote, "I DON'T GET IT!" across the front and turned it in. I was devastated. I had never earned below a B in any class. Ever. So I studied like heck for the final and earned an A. I have no idea how. And then that nice, nice, professor allowed me to write a paper about a mathematician. I ended up with a B. Moral of the story: writing is important! Ha! YES for writing! 

But I know learning is good. And it's a damn good thing that I have always loved to learn about a huge variety of things. 

I know I would not have an abnormally high knowledge of state capitals, weird facts about how different countries bury their dead, Native American Mythology (wolves are important), MLA Citation rules, on which page and in what paragraph Mrs. Dubose tells Scout she is a "dirty little girl" in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the Shameless house is located (thanks, kids!), how to do an image transfer 10 different ways for 10 different effects, and strangely enough with music: a song, the artist, the grade I was in, year it was, how old I was, and parts of the music video when a majority of the songs in my lifetime came out.  I have to try two favorites.

Example 1:  "You Might Think" by the Cars:  5, 1984, preschool. I remember a huge fly in the likeness of Ric Ocasek buzzing around a very 1980's colorful and cheesy setting while bothering a woman I assume he liked. I think maybe there was driving a car involved too. Or that could be the album cover they had with "My Best Friend's Girl" on it. Or maybe because they are the Cars? I guess I'll find out. But for sure, the fly.

Example 2: "Under the Bridge" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 11, 1991?, 6th grade. I loved, loved this song! Still do. Anyway, I remember Anthony Keidas never wearing a shirt, but that was ok because he was buff and had a nice tattoo.  I also remember him sprinting towards the camera and thinking, "Man, he's fast!" I remember Flea under a graffiti bridge that looks a lot alike one I have a picture of myself. I also remember a winter hat I wanted! 

Hopefully I'm right about these. I don't know for sure. I didn't cheat and I haven't seen these videos in years. Is there anyone else out there that can do this like I can? Had to do it to test myself. I'll look later. Sorry. So. To the things I've been studying and learning: 

Learning Goal #1: Uncertainty

Recent learning has all been about advancing in what has now definitely become my second career and something I'm in love with, photography. I've been doing a lot of research lately, different types of shooting, making contacts where I can, and trying to plan what needs to be done. I've always been a planner, and for some reason I can't plan this, so it's been driving me nuts. This means NO SET PLAN. I have always been a risk-taker, but I have always liked to have some kind of plan, too. This is different, and when you're at an age where you think you should probably have more figured out and you don't, it can't be unsettling. That's where this idea of uncertainty comes in. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. I recently read a part of a book that claimed uncertainty is actually a good thing. I think I'm with that. I think uncertainty actually drives a person who wants success as long as that person doesn't get so scared they end up stopping and getting too comfortable. No idea if that makes sense. Instead of fighting it, I'm doing my best to accept it and maybe actually welcome it someday. When I'm like 80 probably. One simple idea that I remember from that book is true: "The only thing we know is that we know nothing."  Nothing is guaranteed. 

Learning Goal #2: Setting up a studio and preparing for an intern

Studio 204D: Soon to be finished! Come on April 28th!

I'm finally into a studio at Starline Gallery, sharing one with my wonderful friend, Peggy Gannon. She's an amazing artist. We will be open for the first time during this month's 4th Fridays, April 28th. We want to pack our new place. So come! We are excited. But setting up a studio is not easy. No, it's not even closeti done.  But it will be soon. Plus I have also agreed to take an intern who is majoring in fine art this summer at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She seems creative and great. But it will be a learning experience. I think we'll both learn a lot.

Learning Goal #3: Fashion, which is funny considering I am all about comfort

I love this coat. This one is a flip coat. It can be worn one way so that it is shorter in length, but flip it upside down and it can be worn so that it is longer in length. Crazy!

Also, I'm studying up on fashion from Pinterest to find and look at the work of the best fashion photographers I can around Chicago and the rest of the world, tearing out pages of both American and European fashion magazines, looking through books of designer art, finding models, and collaborating with many different people.  I have learned so much about fashion as an art. It's fascinating what concepts designers come up with and their creative processes associated with them. I'm blown away by the ideas one creative designer I've been lucky enough to get to know. I often ask, "How did you come up with this?" Her answer is amazingly similar to how and when I come up with stuff: when I'm really not thinking about it - running, in the shower, sleeping, etc.  Plus it is intriguing and almost comforting to hear about what someone has to do vs. what she really wants to do.  I've only thought about fashion photography a couple of times: when other photographers have mentioned I should try it. I think I might actually love it.

Lesson 4: Dealing with Discomfort

Speaking of new people, I have had to meet and speak with many new people about new and important stuff: opportunities, critiques, budgeting, second shooters, lighting, taxes, travel expenses, running a small business, having access to things I need at the time, "how to" questions … you get it. That's always been hard for me. Can I do it? Yes. Do I like to? Umm, yes and no. I have terrible anxiety at first, for weeks if I know something is coming up. The good news is that it fades once in action.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not an extrovert. I think I am an introvert who can demonstrate extroverted qualities at times. But I always need time to recharge or I'm in for a whole lot of trouble. "But you're a teacher!" Yeah, I know. Teaching students is different than meeting with potential clients or pitching ideas to a roomful of people when you've never had that experience before!

Lesson 5: Being grateful and learning from others (if you listen. Note to self: fricking listen!)

I have always felt great appreciation to people in my life, and I have tried to express it. But I have learned a ton about people in general, and I need to say thank you to the few people I contacted through email, messaging, or personally because all of you are very busy and very successful people who have been generous with your time and answers/suggestions when you could have easily told me you were too busy to help. It helps me so much to have some information before I make major decisions. I'd love to thank specific people for making even just a little time for me, but I'll feel like a jerk when I forget someone, but everything has helped in some way. Reaching out and asking is the hard part. I have never liked to ask for help, but I also never give up just because it's not easy. What is there to lose? You never know until you ask. I started realizing this the last few years when I finally found enough courage to ask, and I wish I would have understood earlier.

Wish me luck. I'm heading downtown and it's an important day. Step 2 in probably what will be a long process. I'm going to have to pull some of this learning together and apply it the best I can. I am a little bit nervous, but I feel confident, and that's what learning does for me: it makes me feel like I can talk without sounding like a complete idiot. Mostly. Because I will spill or trip or break a glass at some point that day. I like to call THAT charm. 

Charming, yes?

Charming, yes?