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The Style Cycle: Refine

Lesson 9 from: Finding, Defining, and Marketing Your Photographic Style

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

9. The Style Cycle: Refine

Lesson Info

The Style Cycle: Refine

There are some of you who will be in a situation where you have to refine your work. You have a style. But your technical skills are beginning to improve. There's things you wanna learn. I was at a very critical point in this, 2011, 12, when I really knew that in order for me to get better at my craft I had to learn Photoshop and compositing on a molecular level. So I called Richard Sturdevant. Do you guys all know who Richard is? Yeah. Nay. Who knows who Richard is? Very few people. Interesting. Okay. Richard Sturdevant is a master Photoshop compositor. He is a gruff, tall, scary ass looking dude. When you meet him first time, he goes grmm Texan. You know. He's like, grmmm. He'll laugh so hard when I tell this. He is the softest teddy bear in the world once you get to know him. And I was so intimidated by him at first because is the only, one of the first artists ever to score 100 on all four competition prints in district in the same competition. Nobody does that. Nobody does that. H...

e has won double diamond I think 11 times at PPA. Is it 11? It might be eight or 11. I can't remember. He just got double diamond. Again. This year. It's like, if he doesn't, what's wrong. You know. He's one of those people who everything he creates is like gold. And so I knew he was the best at compositing. Nothing like me. I mean he does fire and brimstone images. And just like this cool war stuff. And like patriotic. Or, he'll do these gorgeous religious pieces with Jesus. And it's like, ah. Not me at all. I would never create something like that. But, I know he had the skill. And he had the technical expertise. So I took my first class with him up at the school in Vancouver, B.C. What's it called? It's a PPA five day school and he was teaching at it. And that's where we did the whole copying thing with the basketball. But I knew that I had to learn that skill in order to refine my style and get out of my head the images that were there. Because I was imaging images that just don't happen in real life. You know dream and stuff like that. And so I knew, okay, I have to composite to make this work. So refine that technical skill. And from there I started experimenting. But even so, it took me taking his class twice before I finally had the balls to do anything about it and create image work that had that technical skill. I was so scared because I was like, I am gonna suck at this. I don't want anyone to see my work. What am I doing? And so I practiced in private. Practiced in private. Did my thing. And finally, the only reason I entered competition whit the artist category in that compositing work was, it was the one year, 2014, technically, but the competition was held in 2013 right after the major international competition. Which I knew nobody was gonna enter because they were all exhausted from doing IPC. So I was like, oh well they won't, nobody will see it. So if I enter and bomb it won't be a big deal. (laughing) So I entered and did the best I've ever done at competition, which as you know, don't let your fear stop you kind of, kind of lesson there. But Richard finally looked at me. He slapped me upside the head. He goes, "What the heck took you so long?" And he was right. Sometimes our fears get in the way of our technical ability. Even though you know how to do something you're afraid to show it and do it. So you don't have to show the world necessarily. Show somebody in private and ask, do I know this well enough to move forward. Since then, be, my style for that type of work has changed completely. I'm a different artist. I don't know if you remember the one that was sitting up here on the wall, the mamma in the forest with all the animals and the baby? That was one of the images that I entered, and it's still my work. But nowadays I don't wanna do anything like it. Like, I just don't even want to go there anymore 'cause it's not me anymore. So you'll get to this phase where you wanna refine your style. When you feel like you have a style but you know in order to get those images that are out of your, in your head out, you have to learn the technical skill to get there. So, if you're feeling stagnant or stale in your work it may be time to refine. If, I encourage you to tread lightly and try experimenting first. And that's what my whole process was in going to Richard. Was experimenting and learning a technical skill. Don't make decisions emotionally when you do this. And I'm glad that I waited. But I waited a little too long. But you have to marinade on this to make sure it's truly something that you're going to pursue. And that is no longer my style anymore. And I need to recognize that. So I am gonna change rather quickly from like 2014 to 2016. But it's okay. But just be willing to sit on a decision and a type of work that you're doing before you actually put it out there.

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Ratings and Reviews

Cesar Flores

Wow wow wow, as an artist on a beginner's stage this was an amazing presentation. Julia is a pro on teaching the psychology of the artist within ourselves. I will follow her from now on and start putting in practice her step by step techniques on finding my style as an artist. Thank you Creativelive and Thank You Julia, you are amazing


This course is amazeballs. Love love love love love love love. Just buy it. :)

Laura K.

Wow - this may be my favorite Julia Kelleher class (and I own several). So much of what she talks about hits home with me, really speaking to where I am at in my photography journey and the struggles I grapple with every day. Lots of hard truths - the kind that remind us as to the necessity of good old fashioned hard work (really, really hard work) - the need to be truly technically proficient - the need to experiment - the need to practice every single day - repetition ("wash, rinse, repeat!") - and the need to continue learning all the time. I also really appreciate the fact that Julia touches on the PPA (Professional Photographer's of America) CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) process a bit. I just took my CPP exam and will be working my way through the image submission phase of the CPP process over the course of the next year; so it was nice to hear Julia's thoughts and experience in her own CPP journey. I NEEDED this course. Julia and Creative Live - thank you for bringing this to us. And Julia, thank you for diving deep into the hard realities that we need to hear and know in order to truly grow and evolve artistically and professionally.

Student Work