Many of you sought out this wonderful profession after picking up a camera and falling in love with the images—that incredible feeling of seeing a scene from a different perspective or of capturing a spontaneous moment of someone you love. No matter what led you to the profession, I think we can safely say it ultimately comes down to a passion for the creative process. Waking up that small child within us to create something uniquely ours is a remarkable gift. Unfortunately as time passes, it’s easy for us to suppress that inner child, dampening our creative spirits.
Creating and sustaining a business is hard work, and dealing with clients is even harder. The need for processes and routine tends to overshadow the need for discovery. Putting clients first and working to please people can land us in a rut that saps our joy, our creativity, our life. What if I told you there’s a way out of that rut? A way to rediscover your creativity?
For years I heard and read about the need to stand out from the crowd, to be different from competitors, to offer a new twist. It sounded good, but the how-to-do-it piece was always missing. I attended amazing seminars and conventions where I learned tons of great things about our craft that I implemented every year. Our business grew to be one of the most successful wedding studios in the country. But something was missing. I was falling into the rut of producing products for everyone except me. Haunting me was the advice to be different. I knew I needed to make a change before I burned out.
Giving myself permission to connect with my inner child and revisit creativity changed everything. I explored my childhood memories, recalling how much I enjoyed a new set of crayons—the box of 64 with a sharpener—and the joy of tackling a new Batman coloring book. Tracing books were a special treat, and creating a masterpiece from a blank piece of paper filled me up. During visits to the library I would flip through art books in awe of the brilliant colors and shapes.
During this time of tapping into my inner child, my wife, Lesa, and I would visit art galleries whenever possible. Then it happened. We were visiting an art gallery in San Francisco showcasing artist Guan Zeju, a realistic painter. On display was his collection of ballerina paintings, which drew me in because Lesa was a ballerina. I loved the gallery and how it showcased each individual piece of art with spotlights. Each work had texture and vivid colors.
One work titled “White Gauze Skirt” was priced at $80,000, a bit out of our price range. But there was one just like it for $6,000. We asked about the difference in pricing between what seemed to be identical pieces. The young man described a new process the art world had discovered called embellished reproductions. The artist photographed their art, then used Adobe Photoshop and a digital printer to lay inks onto canvas, and hand finish the piece with acrylics and oils. I turned to Lesa and said, “This is it! I can do this in our world.” This was in the early 1990s, when digital was beginning to affect our industry. New programs like Photoshop and Corel Painter as well as archival inkjet printers provided the perfect tools for the embellishment process. We immediately began transitioning to the art gallery’s business model, transforming our branding, products, and services.
I would have never created our dream business if it weren’t for all the PPA seminars and convention speakers consistently sharing their wisdom. That encouragement to look within and tap into my creative inner child was the pivot I needed to escape a rut and avoid burnout. I encourage you to look to your own inner child. Thinking back to the art you loved as a youngster can open the door to new creative possibilities.