Jackie Takes Photography Classes

by Jackie D on July 2, 2013

Finally, right? As I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts, I’m currently working at a photography store/studio, and as a result I am able to take any of the classes we offer for free or at a discount. I decided to start with the 6 week beginning series, which teaches new photographers a different skill/topic each week, i.e. exposure, composition, flash, focus, and so on.

This went… mostly well. I have a lot to learn.


One of my homework assignments. I took like 300 pictures of these goddamn roses.

When I was in school, I had a difficult time focusing in math, science, and religion classes. I found myself easily distracted. One of my math teachers would say something about the Law of Syllogism and I would think, You know, that sounds like it would be a theme in one of the books I’m reading for my literature class. And I would write that down in place of the actual definition for the Law of Syllogism.

When I look back at my notes for any of those classes (nostalgia + wine = this situation), I pay most attention to everything I wrote in the margins — a funny quote from my teacher or one of my classmates, a cool plot idea for a story I would probably never start, or, often, a draft of a letter to a friend, whining about some boy.

In my recent Photography classes, I sometimes found myself doing the same thing. This isn’t to say that the classes didn’t interest me — but there were parts of the lessons that dealt with very technical terms and numbers, and those started giving me horror flashbacks of Algebra class. This was especially true of f-stops, which combine letters with numbers — a crime against letters if I’ve ever heard one.

An example of something I wrote in the margins during photography class: “There is more than one right answer in this situation– this is something that science-people will have a problem with.”

I have no idea what I was referring to, but it sounds like it must have been a pretty profound break through.


Obviously my cat was included in most of my homework assignments.

That’s the main thing that intimidates me, I think — combining the technical with the artistic. If I was facing Science and Science alone, no art in the picture, then I could maybe trick myself into working in Science mode and I could maybe sort of find a way to figure it out. But when you give me Science with a little Art on the side, you’re essentially just teasing me: here, Jackie, there’s some art here, so maybe you can use that to help you understand the Science, yeah?

No, I’ll tell you — whoever You are at this point (why is everything capitalized?) — if you give me science but you mix it with art, I will only focus on the art and I’ll ignore the science altogether. I know this because it’s exactly how I am with writing and computers.

I prefer writing via computer to writing by hand, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that computer knowledge comes easily to me. Instead of viewing the computer as this wonderful feat of science, I view it as a semi-frustrating machine that happens to be a convenient means for creating art. At least, convenient when it’s doing exactly what I want it to, which is probably about 60% of the time, on a good week.

I imagine this is how my relationship with my camera will progress for a while, possibly forever. It frustrates me — it’s essentially just a smaller computer, with fewer buttons but just as many technical terms. I understand the artistic parts perfectly — composition, light, mood — but tell me to spot meter something and it will take me at least five minutes and three swear words.

conch shell


I’m hoping that by the next time I travel somewhere beautiful, I’ll have made enough peace with Science to take at least one good picture of the experience.

For now, I am going to try to decipher these cryptic notes I wrote to myself in the margins. I have a feeling there’s a best-selling novel in here somewhere.

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On Picasso, Malaga, Chronology, and Unpacking

by Jackie D on April 1, 2013

I moved back here a month ago and somehow I’m still not done unpacking. I keep finding books that I shoved into random boxes in an effort to evenly distribute the weight of all my belongings. In the past I’ve been known to shove 70 pounds of books into one or two boxes that no one can actually move, so this time I tried to be more efficient.

Yesterday, in a box that is still currently sitting in my parents’ garage, I found Francoise Gilot’s Life with Picasso – the last book I purchased from my favorite little bookstore in Chicago. Francoise was one of Picasso’s many muses and an artist herself, and this is a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since I first saw it in the gift shop at the Picasso museum in Malaga, Spain two Januarys ago. Still tucked inside the front cover of that book is a postcard I purchased from that museum — one that I meant to send but must have forgotten about.

picasso museum malaga

Malaga’s Picasso museum is one of my favorites and I still often think about it, although I’ve never written about it here. Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while (or knows me in real life) is aware that art is one of my passions, and it’s one of those things that I won’t stop talking about if you even so much as bring it up for a second. We all have that with something, and I think we all realize that it can be annoying. I’ve tried not to do too many art museum posts here on the blog because I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, and I know that there’s only so much you can say about art museums in a blog post without becoming repetitive.

It’s easy to be brief about the one in Malaga because there was really only one thing I loved about it: the rooms are arranged thematically rather than chronologically. The themes are based off Picasso’s philosophies throughout his life, each one depicted by a single quote on the wall as you enter each room. Most of the quotes are brief excerpts from things he wrote — essays or notes — but a few of them come from interviews. As a result, each room contains paintings, drawings, or sculptures from any given era of Picasso’s career — and his career was long – so the artwork in one room can span anywhere from twenty to seventy years.

I have several of these quotes written down on my museum gift shop receipt and the little brochure they give you at the entrance. I am such a Picasso fangirl that it’s almost embarrassing. I’ll probably write a whole blog post about him at some point in the near future, so brace yourselves for that. In the meantime, here are a few of the quotes I loved so much that I stood in the middle of an impatient, irritated crowd as I wrote them on the back of a receipt and blocked everyone else’s view for a whole five minutes:

“A good painting — any painting! — ought to bristle with razor blades.”

jacqueline seated picasso

Jacqueline Seated

“When I paint, my object is to show what I have found and not what I am looking for. In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.”

“They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.”

“Academic training in beauty is a sham. [...] Art is not the application of a canon of beauty, but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs.”

picasso museum malaga

The reason that I remember this museum so often and so fondly is simply because of the way it was arranged. It’s a strange sort of time warp to think of any given thing in your life progressing in a non-chronological way — to think of the things you’ve written or painted, the major events you remember the most, and the particular choices you’ve made as things that have all pertained to certain themes rather than as things that have happened one after the other, in this year or that month. It’s fascinating to me that a man who lived for 91 years and created art for most of them could have a painting that he produced when he was 25 correlate almost perfectly with a sculpture he created when he was 75.

I will be turning 25 this June, and I wonder if the things I’ll be writing when I’m 75 (using whatever futuristic galactic contraption has replaced the computer by then) will still relate to the things I’m writing now. I wonder which themes will carry over, or which quotes I’ll still want to write on the walls.

In the meantime, I should probably stop looking up Picasso quotes to put on Pinterest and actually finish unpacking the boxes that are still sitting in my parents’ garage.

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Girl Scout Heaven in Savannah, Georgia

by Jackie D on October 29, 2012

Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, and she became one of my favorite people of all time in 2012. When I took the tour of her childhood home in Savannah two weeks ago and began to learn more details about her life, I had the urge to go back in time, show up on her doorstep, get down on both knees, and then reenact that scene from As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt: “You make me want to be a better man.”

juliette gordon low house

She was an artist – and when I say that, I mean that she literally saw art in everything. She could paint. She could sculpt. She could carve and/or burn designs into wood. She could design iron gates (I’m not sure what process this entails, but does it really matter? She could design iron gates.) The only thing that she couldn’t do, apparently, was sew. I think it would be fair to give her a break on that one.

There was an oil portrait of a relative sitting up in the attic because the family didn’t think it was anything pretty to look at. I’m not sure if this had to do with the subject matter or the execution of the painting, but either way, Juliette decided she could fix it. She re-painted a few different parts and the family, satisfied with the modifications, put the painting back up in the dining room.

When her mother died, Juliette was bequeathed (among many other things, I’m sure) a beautiful wooden dresser. Beautiful in my opinion, at least – but apparently when Juliette saw it she thought it was boring, and so she carved a floral design into each drawer. On another occasion, when she needed extra leaves for her dining table, she built them herself, along with a very adorable wooden stand in which to store them.  I can’t even imagine how amazing her Pinterest account would be.

juliette gordon low house

She pursued and married a man that her parents didn’t approve of, and then when she decided that she didn’t want to be married to him anymore, she divorced him. She went traveling and met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, and the rest is pretty much history (here you go, I’ll save you the trouble of typing it into Wikipedia).

I like her for all of the obvious reasons, but mostly I like that it didn’t even seem to cross her mind that it might be unusual to repaint a professional oil painting or carve her own design into a presumably priceless piece of furniture. I like that she thought those were normal things to do.

juliette gordon low sculpture

I was a girl scout for about six or seven years. I went to an all-girls high school. I belonged to a sorority in college. I think I’ve been instilled with a fairly healthy dose of feminism by this point. I’ve always been proud to be female, and I am proud when I see other women doing important and impressive things with their lives.

But guys, I’m not sure any of us can ever be as impressive as Juliette Gordon Low was. She designed an iron gate, for God’s sake.

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