Now that I have completed my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, my daily life will be significantly different… in both good ways and not so good ways. Starting with the not so good, I will seriously miss the camaraderie with like-minded artists that I had in school. There is something really special about having trusted friends critique my work. At first, like most students, I found the critiques painful. “What?! You don’t think my photographs are amazing?!” But once I became accustomed to the idea of peer critiques, I discovered the true benefit and joy of having someone look over my shoulder and point out both the good and the bad. Initially, like most human beings, I liked the “good” much more than I liked the “bad.” It wasn’t long, though, before I discovered the real benefit — having someone help me find ways to improve. During the period when I was experimenting with ways to print my photographs of water reflections on silk, I discovered how amazing it could be to have a whole group of people brainstorming with me. I will miss that.
There were actually times when I received only positive critiques — and I was disappointed! I know that sounds strange. While a pat on the back is always nice, constructive criticism can help us grow as artists (and as individuals, for that matter!) I have joined a private Facebook group of Academy of Art graduate students and graduates. Here we can continue to post our work and ask for critiques from trusted colleagues. Since I was in school with most of these people for over four and a half years, I feel comfortable with them and respect their comments and critiques. I also know that I can post work in progress and be assured that these folks are not going to “steal” my ideas. These are the people that really want to see me succeed — just as they are the people that I want to see as successful artists of the twenty-first century. It isn’t the same as the daily interaction we had in school, but it is as close as I can get at this point. I will miss the daily interaction with my peers. I’ll also miss the “forced” assignments that kept me growing as an artist. Fortunately, I am self-motivated, and I love what I do. I know that I will keep photographing and continuing to experiment with new forms of art.
Undoubtedly, I will return to wildlife photography. Other than times with my family, my most thrilling life experience has been photographing grizzlies in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park. My sense of danger and safety is, perhaps, somewhat unusual. While I was in Alaska, I was with a small group of photographers. However, when I travelled to Minnesota to photograph black bears, I was alone. Photographing the black bears by myself was not nearly as frightening for me as an assignment in my Contemporary Landscape class where I attempted to photograph the sunrise over a pond, only yards from a well-‐travelled road. I learned that I am much more frightened by the possibility of a human approaching me in the dark than I ever have been around wild animals!
More than anything else, I will continue to study, explore new techniques, and stretch my creative wings. I will remain a lifelong student. I love learning, and photography has become my passion. I also love teaching. Sharing my knowledge with others has always been exciting for me, and I hope to do that with photography as I have done with other subjects.
Having the time to focus on the types of photography that I am really drawn to will, most definitely, be a plus in my “new life.” However, what I am really looking forward to, though, is time to spend with my family. I am sure that my husband has thought many times that he was more cook and errand runner than husband while I sat glued to my laptop until all hours of the night. He has been incredibly supportive throughout this long endeavor. But I think it’s his turn, now. I’m really looking forward to that.