Thank you for all the kind comments on my studio space. I enjoy hearing from everyone and it's been a pleasure to keep you updated. Now that I've finally moved into my studio, however, it's time to get to work. Thank goodness for my "image files." Without them I'm afraid I would still be sitting around admiring my shiny new tables and art supplies, so overwhelmed by ownership I could easily succumb to a bad case of "artist's block."
Image files are not something I keep on the computer. Instead these are my actual files of magazine cut-outs that I have safely stowed away in a wooden filing cabinet. For easy access, the files are divided into 6 distinct categories: People, Places, Animals, Things, Background Colors, and Artistic/Creative Inspirations.
Each category is stored in a plastic see-through, sealable folder and labeled accordingly. For instance, "People" is a collection of Old Master's reproduction postcards, magazine portraits of the famous or infamous, advertising photographs with unknown models, candid shots of family and friends, and hundreds of photos I clipped from magazines just because they were interesting to me. The poses range from the formal to the absurd to the surreal.
My "Animals" folder is full of baby wolves, dinosaurs, flying cats, as well as some very strange pictures of birds wearing evening dresses. "Places" includes scenes of the desert, a Hollywood mansion, a Gothic cathedral, and the interior of Hearst Castle. "Things," my general catch-all folder, is filled with stuff I love: big bright gemstones, unusual pottery, floral dresses, Egyptian artifacts… It's often the folder I use and fill most quickly.
"Background Colors" is my term for those amazing photo shoots you find in high-end glossies: giant roses covering a double-page spread, wallpaper samples, a fold-out insert of sparkling water. I call them "backgrounds" mainly because that's what I use them for, backgrounds to my collages or as the idea for a watercolor background wash.
My final file, "Artistic Inspiration," is another favorite. In it I keep photos of paintings, sculptures, furniture or clothing designs that encourage me to experiment with, or adapt (and yes, copy!) the ideas for my own work. All of these files together are great sources of pleasure and usefulness to me, especially on the proverbial rainy day, or when I just need a quick boost to get the writing/art wagon rolling. Some other reasons for keeping my files are:
1. I immediately have the basis for assembling a “visual novel draft" whenever I want to storyboard characters and scenes before I start writing.
2. Writer’s groups: I always have something to bring as a prompt for the times we write together or need a between-meeting writing assignment.
3. At home I am never without an instant writing/art prompt--no excuses!
4. I'm always ready to make a collage at the drop of a hat (not that I own that many hats to drop).
5. Same for painting or drawing at any time. I can also easily put a photo or two in my purse or sketchbook for when I'm on the go.
6. Dreaming: I love to just look through the various pictures and place them in strange combinations whenever I'm feeling stuck or too tired to start a serious project. It's a creative way to use time I might otherwise feel I've wasted.
7. You can quickly make a prompt journal or sketchbook as a special gift for a writer or artist friend. Simply paste in a small picture at the top or corner of each page, decorate the cover, and tie with a nice ribbon.
8. Create your own inspiration cards. Paste single pictures or mini-collages onto any size of cut card stock. Write an accompanying affirmation on the other side. Next time you need some encouragement, shuffle, pick a card, contemplate, and create.
9. Sudden, unexpected invitations to teach a workshop "tomorrow night." It happens, and I've never said, "No, thanks." Having my image files ready means I can produce an "instant talk" without obsessing about the limited time to prepare. I've used my images in numerous workshops on a wide variety of subjects, from finding your muse to researching a children's book.
10. Same with school visits; my image files have been great aids for engaging and helping kids to write.
11. Pictures you like can become the templates for your book covers, either when you need to make one yourself, or when you want to convey your ideas to a professional designer.
12. Help out a fellow creative. You just never know when someone might ask you for an image of a person, place, animal, or thing. It sounds weird, but there have been dozens of occasions when someone has said something to me, like, “I need a picture of a goldfish…” Hey, presto, I've got it!
Tip of the Day: Start your image files now. If you don't have a magazine subscription or an extensive collection of past issues, ask friends to help out--you'll be amazed how glad they are to clear their cupboards and shelves. Other good places to find magazines are at your library or thrift store.