From penmanship to photography

Southern Belle

Note to visitors from Beyond Layers: I’m combining the posts for “Your Story” and the “Just Enough” image in one entry because I posted in the wrong place. If you’re here about textured images, I hope you enjoy the bright orange flower I’m adding to this post (used  Kim’s “Awaken” texture with blend mode set to multiply at 70% and a layer mask to remove some of the texture over the flower). If you can, stay a minute and read my creative story as well…thanks so much! 

Like many other baby boomers, I was taught the Palmer Method of penmanship. The space above the chalkboards in the classrooms of our parochial school was covered with A-to-Z exemplars of Palmer lettering and, beginning in the spring of our second grade year, we were expected to model our handwriting after those examples. The Palmer Method advocated the use of arm muscles to form letters rather than relying on the more constrained motion that resulted from using only finger movement for writing. As you might imagine, our teachers had lots of exercises to encourage us to develop the rhythmic motions that were so important to the Palmer Method.

One of my favorites, often employed during indoor recesses in snowy or rainy weather, was when the teacher would give each child a piece of art paper and then play a record, the idea being that we would use our pencils to draw large circles on the paper in order to relax the muscles in our writing hand/arm. The reward came after the music stopped, when we were allowed to use our 24-count Crayolas to color our circle drawings. Though I enjoyed  these exercises, I can still remember thinking that my circles weren’t as nice as someone else’s and that another person’s color choices were much prettier than my own.

As an adult, I’ve engaged in any number of creative pursuits. Decoupage, ceramics, macrame, crochet, and quilting are a just few of my short-term hobbies; more long-lasting pursuits include cooking, sewing, and counted cross stitch. In retrospect, it occurs to me that each of these pastimes is fairly restrictive because successful completion depends on a process, pattern, or recipe. Though there is some flexibility for each of them, steps generally need to be done in the proper order, stitches have to be made just so and just so many, and ingredients should be the ones specified. So…creativity in these activities is somewhat constrained.

It wasn’t until 2006 when I discovered digital scrapbooking and Photoshop Elements that I really began to feel independently creative. There is a wide variety of digital scrapbook product available, and a search for on-line tutorials will result in several different ways to accomplish a Photoshop task. Thus, patterns and recipes are less of a factor. In addition, I was using our photos and our stories to create lasting memories, so each scrapbook page was, by definition, unique to us.

In the last year or two, I’ve renewed my interest in photography and am finally getting to the place technically and creatively that more and more of my shots resemble the mental image I have when I take them. So for 2012, I’m joining Kim Klassen’s Beyond Layers group and hope to benefit from the encouragement and inspiration of the many gifted writers/photographers/photoshoppers who are also participating in this year-long creative journey. It should be fun!

Posted for Beyond Layers Week 1: Your Story & Just Enough

5 thoughts on “From penmanship to photography

  1. Wanda, you always send me away with something new to think about, or with a new slant on an old thought. And I’m very grateful for that. I’m also thinking today about the teacher who had the imagination to play music to help you learn – how resourceful

  2. Hi Wanda,
    I have many similarities to your experiences, especially making the little ovals and circles with the Palmer method. Quilting looks interesting but too restrictive to the more spur of the moment me. Crochet I’ve enjoyed but it takes me years to complete something. I love your bright orange zinnia too.

  3. Wanda, I always look forward to your posts. Each one is interesting and well-written, no matter the subject, and this was no exception. And I love that image. It is very cold here today and your beautiful orange flower is a welcome touch of warmth.

  4. Hi Wanda, I enjoyed reading your story…how much I relate to the penmanship story…my letters were never as even or precise as the teacher’s or the girl’s sitting beside me. Now, penmanship is a lost art, almost!
    I also have enjoyed decoupage, and still use Modpodge occasionally for a small project…so glad that photography has brought us together with Beyond Layers. See you each week!

    Sue from New Bern

  5. Wanda,
    Great post! You made me see something that I had never realized before – how creatively unconstrained photography is as a creative pursuit. While there are certainly “rules” to follow (or not), what I choose to shoot and how I choose to process those images, is completely up to me. How freeing! Having been involved in many of the same hobbies as yourself, I can relate to your thoughts about how photography differs from them in a good way.

    And your orange flower is so saturated and bright with amazing texture in the petals – nice to see on this wintry day in Ohio.

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