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The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Lesson 34 of 36

Conceptual Shoot with Family

Jennifer Thoreson

The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

34. Conceptual Shoot with Family

Lesson Info

Conceptual Shoot with Family

We did a pre shoot that we're going to be showing explained to us what that is what's in it, what are we going to see way we're kind of playing with the idea of the like thirteenth testament image? Awesome. So what I did was just I brought my sketch book from when I was preparing testament and kind of looked at the ideas that we're the besides sort of and and played with some of those and recreated maybe something that could have been a b side and testament so we've got, like forty pounds or something of wool roving, which I'll explain here in a minute in the video, but and we're using that in different ways and sculptural ways can you shot in the house right in a house with a family and with a single male model? So with testament I I actually made customs sculptures this time we're kind of just playing with raw material and just sort of a playful, funky way so it's a little bit looser than what I would've done, but it's really fun, I think you're gonna enjoy it. Fantastic. Well, let's...

get going. Okay, okay, so now we're in the living area of this house and you can probably tell a little from from the video that we're in a bigger room so the light has changed significantly also as we're moving later in the day the light is starting to move to where we're getting direct sunlight now coming through these windows which is pretty awesome you can see the little blind patterns on the floor I love stuff like that because it just it shows time of day it shows character it shows a little bit of like daily life in the house so any time I can get something like that showing up I'm on it little slivers little bits of character we've also added a soft box in here and maybe if we just turn this thing off and on real quick I'm not sure if we can do that but you can see the difference so if without the soft box here this is the sweet spot right here so all the light and all of the yummy nus was right here with just the window white so by adding this we're at billy got that same character of what coming in all the way across the set all the way under the flesh tones adding a lot of dimension to the wall. That kind of thing and that's it pretty important is not just a quantity issue it's a quality issue so I could work with just the window like quantity wise but it becomes by the time it gets to them it's so soft that we don't have enough of that speculator ity to really show like like this kind of stuff that's really beautiful texture and fabrics, texture on the wall I mean, this kind of stuff is awesome. We want that to show up the flat or the light is or the softer the light issue, not going to get that kind of stuff really pops so that's important mean little things like lining up this fabric? And so if I shoot ninety degrees to that or even move myself further over, that light just becomes more delicious. So that's, why we have the soft box? Um, so we're going tow work the couch and lots of different ways, and this is what I would do if I was going to make an image for testament or for a body of work and including the bed stuff that we did earlier, I would probably photograph the same object, the same felt or the same roving twenty, thirty, forty maybe fifty times, so we're just we're changing models were changing sets or changing rooms, I would photograph it in every room of the house, so in the end, all of this work is for one picture, so its process and it takes a lot of patients and a lot of determination tio put all that in for one shot and then do it twelve times or fifteen times or however big your siri's is but that's what it takes to make something for me anyway and my own process to make something that really sings that really works, everything came together. You learn from every experience that you have every shot you've made with that material, and usually I find it's the last few shots that everything comes together and that's it that's the one. So this is kind of face to so it's important also for me to dress the set where it looks like people actually live here and kind of errors of everyday life, like I even brought in dust bunnies to go under the sofa in testament, just dust and crap and stuff that happens when you live in a house you know, the newspaper that's come off the porch, we have a half eaten sandwich from lunch here and a banana peel and if you don't have a coffee table, where does the play go? It goes on the floor, right? The heater, which when you think about when you're putting your house together, you want everything to look as nice as you can possibly get it look right? But then you've got the heater and it is what it is it's going to be its daily life it's not pretty, and then just little things like if I look for my own camera angle over here I can see stuff in each room, and I love this camera angle because of that, because I've got a prospect kind of that goes into each room. I can see dimension and depth, so if you kind of try to picture this is just a flat white wall, it completely changes the way it feels having that sensitive mention makes a big difference. So I have to think about those rooms too. I'm dressing a set, so we've got this bed pulled, actually off the wall quite a bit, just so it shows. So we can see there's something in there. And we know it's a bedroom. It gives us a clue to kind of where we are. Places this set. And then we have the dining room over here, so little things were going toe. Then if somebody is very on hand, so if we can put something on the table back there so it looks like somebody's been sitting there. We've got the milken serial ball. Yeah, if you put the napkin let's just center that bowl with the chair. So it looks like someone's been sitting in the chair and pull that chair out a little, like people never pushing their chair, and there we go, yeah, that's good. So it's, just a little bit of content. And the other thing it does is with the white napkin and the white milk against the black or dark table. It's another point of contrast. So this is going to be the main show. But it does allow your eye to travel and all that there. And then the little highlight on the floor with the, um the blinds gets your eye to go over there. So, it's, how you look at me for a second and then you end up coming back this way. Hopefully you enter from me, maybe from the left. Or maybe from the right one side and look, you know, here's something that's got line on it, the white bed. And then you've got your main subject, and then you're able to travel and come back up and over and there's an old pattern that happens if you watch somebody. Really? Look, if you watch yourself, really look at a piece. And how your eyes traveling that's. A pretty interesting thing to try to force somebody to dio look here, look here, then. Look here. Look here and then look back here. If you can make that happen it's a pretty significant thing. Um okay lastly what the heck are we doing and why so we're still using the rope in the same material we're going to just use it to death until I can't think of anything else to do with it that's what I'll do with the material so now we're going to use it we have the family have a mom dad and a little girl so we're gonna do some of just mom some of just add some of all three of them some of just a little girl and adding a family dynamic as a lot of interest also has a ton of difficulty so getting one person set with a prop or a sculpture is is hard three people is altogether a different story so you'll see that struggle in there and trying to get everybody just so I also stage things too the end's degree so every little finger every little thing you know I'm looking at not everybody works that way but for me staging three people is a big big thing to dio eh so we're gonna be putting the robing on in different ways again trying to get that concept like something is something first of all something's not right here in your domestic environment everything seems as it should be and then there's a big elephant the room like something's clearly up that is happening on its own but then the idea that there's a relationship now happening isn't it more than just a single person in the image so that that object becomes functional in a different way because it's linking people together now those people have a story betwixt each other and that completely changes everything so now we'll be connecting people will be cocooning people will be kind of putting him in situations maybe whether immobilized so it it just talks about relationships in different ways maybe it's a functional relationship for instance in the image soulmates and testament where the two people have the two round wolf things on their heads and their curled up in bed together that one is a picture of my marriage to my husband and now intimate that is and how we have like minds we have like struggles and we deal with them in the same way that to me that's what that wouldn't means but then by putting that that same object and attaching people that the arms are at the feet where there then immobilized that's a different story to me so we're going to play with in different ways and see what happens all right, let's make this happen okay? Can we put some books maybe under this sofa on the left hand side we have yeah so he's got on blue shorts so that blue book and then there's a blue garment under there let's take him under there a little more like they've been there for a while and just angle um so they're not perfectly straight yeah messy and I think that's throw that cup under there to where the handle's not facing us so it looks like little animal there we go. We could just put that water paper on top somewhere maybe maybe on top of the blue book fantastic. Okay, you hardly see this stuff but it's there and adds texture and it gives you another place to look caitlin, can we also move the the heat dish over to the right? My right, your left? Fantastic. Okay, all right, so I've got this framed up and I can see the back room I've got the back sliver of that window in there and that beautiful thing on the floor the little bit of sunlight on the floor, the milk and everything is on the table. I can see that right behind her head so I was a little bit of content and I'm framing it. We shall see in the end the images in a minute just we're out of where this brown door is so like that because it kind of in caps it on this side it feels ballots to me between that window and just door so it feels almost symmetrical even though it's technically not um okay and I always put a little bit of the ceiling in there so I have a um horizontal line up there it gives it a little bit a lot of a boxy look and also shows you the kind of the scale of the room that it's a smaller, more moderate reprised home versus something where you can imagine the ceiling might be fifteen twenty feet tall so okay all right let's start robbing everybody I think you guys are gonna have to squish down to where your head is on the arm of the couch and then come forward to me as much as you can and then the legs wherever they fit basically we'll just take the whole bag just dump it yet in a giant heat yeah, I just want to see the heads I think arms down inside the roving yet let's see neck and shoulders and head so if we press it down yeah, I was going to say stick it may be under their bodies just a little it'll stay better yeah and because and so I'm kind of picturing this I'm ahead of course now seeing it come together it's always different when you see it come together but I've been picturing this as a symmetrical form which it is and I think that couple with the kind of feeling of balance on each side of this works the clock throws off the symmetry a little bit which is good I think it's good you got her neck and shoulders to show just a little yeah just so we have some kind of a line yeah his neck and shoulders could we I know it's a little late for this but pull your tank top and it down to where your bare shoulder do you think it will just slide off so just while we're kind of starling a note on clothing I'm always for this particular siri's especially looking for things where I can see people's bodies and their flesh tones so I use a lot of shit shorts, skirt's nightgowns things of her ladies where I can see the leg line shoulders neck things like that for guy's shorts and I if I can get no shirt then the flesh here the better everything is sleeveless if you've got a sleeve then you lose half the line of the arm when you're working with arms and things like that so I'm always looking for things where I can get us much flesh tone as I can cool I like dip yeah I just let's see if we can get a little bit more shoulder on each person on both yeah so we have more a buddy of mine back to the head let's pull her is down even a little bit more if it pushes in this way so we see more of her arm yeah we'll have to pull the dress, don't you? Because you've never seen your folks look like that before good and so now there's a little bit behind her face if we can get rid of that and I think the profile is great on you let's do that and that if you roll your face toward me just like your kind of yes exactly okay cool yeah all right then do the same thing bracket wise you'll notice that there's a big difference between anna and matt here because the sculpture is blocking alive on him which I don't mind I mean I think it's kind of interesting that way but I'll do several exposure so I get enough so I get beautiful texture in his face when this is printed I don't lose any detail anywhere even under the couch I want that shadow to be rich I want you to want to see the floorboards under there but I like it underexposed actually a little bit because there's more mood to the lighting so this is printed most of it will looks you know slightly darker moodier and then I'll pull out some of the higher shadow ranges can I have you come to this end of it count as much as you possibly can and we'll get a little more light on your face lets just talk that little guy back in let's look it under his arms that really looks like it's kind of growing and then back up over yeah so that's kind of solid area there we go it can talk up a little tighter but I like where it isthe yeah yeah I like that too because now his arm is separated from the couch a little bit better eyes closed okay let's throw a wrench in this are you ready to be a famous model or to go there you are okay so I'm thinking if we put you in there in the middle and just have your legs sticking out the front so you're going to sit on them somehow we're gonna figure it out okay so hop in and she's gonna need some help you're gonna make the click climb on it and your legs are going to come out you know a third of the way up here so I'm just going to bury her in there she's gonna need to come down and sit more on them so if you pull the robing toward you and let her sink in there I really would like for it to look like she's kind of sitting on the couch and she's got a long way to go hey girl great I love it when I'm working with a objects like this you'll notice I'm gonna use the same theme several times so like the legs sticking out of the roving for instance I'll try that with lots of different models in lots of different scenarios just see which way it works the best which way is most effective so just kind of trying that concept again and again until it it's really there and I really liked it the first time we did it to so yeah, this is cool can nor can you slide forward anymore so we see a little bit more of you might have to pull her great all right that's fantastic, yes sufficiently strange that's that's fantastic. I mean, I think it literally looks sort of birth like which is pretty neat again. I like to play with things that feel body like organ like body function like so I think this is definitely fitting into that category. I kind of like the spillage on his side too if we just tuck it in so it's not there aren't so many lines I think it'll work so if I'm looking at his arm right now uh let's just push all that bit back into the centre. Yes. So now instead of having four little lines it's one big line no there's a horizontal line right where his arm is you see that that's fantastic. Perfect. Now there's one vertical line coming down where the couch beats the newspaper that one let's give it to that one so this material is already really graphic. Everybody stay as still as you can um so I have to be careful with lines because ah really big vertical line in a place of high contrast can be really distracting okay, one last little thing if we can push the robing back toward the wall on matt side if we can push the roving back toward the wall on that side so we get a little more light on his face just where his chest is really? I think that there's a big and then that if you can come this way with your head as much as you can in there we go that's great yes uh we just lost her neck and its neck is all. So this thing with three people was like really, really looking at every person's I know everybody's familiar with that feeling that you make photographs and you think you've got it and you get home and there's something there's something that ruins it you know and just like it is so frustrating so taking the time up front to really look okay I've got you in the shot there and we're ready to go cool and I let's bring your chin up a little bit away from the body there we go a little bit the compositions change slightly because we've got feet down there someone give her a little more space now let's try a profile of you on this one too just looking straight up at the ceiling rolling face but still if you can keep your face towards the end of the couch there we go okay so yeah, I'm just looking to make sure everything is in its place let's teo eyes close on this last round nor you close your eyes just for good measure back there and anna can you bring your head to the very end of the couch also the very edge of the without losing everything almost lost it okay, okay all right just doesn't know what I'm looking at what I'm fighting with is the line that intersects with anna's chin that comes down from the dining room so probably if I were going to finish this and print it but I would do is is take the in photo shop take that line over six eight inches so it doesn't intersect with her face and we get her full form and I would probably have that line come down where her hair is we don't lose her profile but there's not much I can do about it in camera there's really nothing I could do about it on camera so let's all thing is can we move this light around toward me just a little bit? Well not turning actually just scooting the whole kaboom and I'm watching that right there is good we're just watching matt's face so what I might do I'm gonna take this last one let's do eyes closed so the camera hasn't moved I moved the camera angles tripod as I might take that image of matt and use the other image of the family and put them together so I have him looking the way I want him teo and it's it's so slight of a change it's not gonna look at natural and so we have kind of the perfect balance that with everything okay let's move onto a different thing okay? You know let's tuck your legs up there with you maybe across like and yet perfect good and we want to see calves and all that business so there's that's good yeah fantastic okay um nor I'm not sure where you're going yet we're going to see what this looks like and figure it out so you can just chill a minute okay? So we're going to the goal is here to make kind of ah a sphere on mom's head so talking about relationship between mom and daughter so maybe I mean there's a lot of ways to read these things but maybe mom is occupied and and there's a communication an error or blockage between the two of them or maybe mom is dealing with something and daughter doesn't understand what it iss and can't cope with it or understand it there's a lot of different ways that we could spin this so I'd like you all to see we could use some of those spirals that we still have those might be neat at the bottom toe kind of random fact but we're doing testament when I had raw wool on people for freshly shorn well I had him wearing masks so I do really do try to make people as comfortable as possible because this is it's an uncomfortable process which we talked about earlier finding models that are really into it yeah so I think if we took some of the stuff back on each shoulder it'll look a little rounder and just let it fall back on the wall huh right yeah I mean you will see both shoulders will be fabulous when you put this on someone hit someone's head I think it kind of looks like brain matter which is very interesting yeah yeah good some of the strings in the front those air great let's just let those tank um but the ones on the sides let's tuck you okay in there yeah my little people okay yeah I think we're all sad actually I think it's going just get rid of the rest okay nora let's try like potato thing where you're sitting in your mom's lap with your legs going that way in your head going this way and I think let's lay your head back on the couch arm and I think if we scoot the couch before we get in somebody hold on to that but that way like three inches we won't have that wall intersection problem yet fantastic. Thank you that's great. Okay, nora let's bring your knees over your mom's me? Okay if you can hold her with your hands so like you're kind of cradling you're like a baby yes yes, I love it it's beautiful okay and norris let your head fall back under that arm if it'll go and try if you can't oppress your shoulder down so we don't lose your neck so it's kind of like down in its socket and now if you could just tip your head toward me kind of lean your head toward me that's pretty to actually that goes towards your mom what if you can't get all the way this a way toward her yeah yeah and just close your eyes and there that's beautiful I think eyes close nora and mom just let the hands be grabby they don't need to be pretty just they could be yes exactly. Um can you mom lean her toward me a little so I see more of her face yeah now nor if you let your head take back I think you'll have space for it. Yeah, but coming this way toward me as much as you can go um let's bring your hand down on her arm between your thigh and her arm uh it's still going to grab her arm? Yeah, exactly exactly nor can you lower your shoulder just a little bit so I can see that beautiful that's fabulous is there somebody you can just tuck talk something real quick for me where her tank top is coming up on her arm at the top on her shoulder just so it's flat so we don't get another weird line there we go a little bitty thing but it was intersecting her face and we don't we don't want any distractions on the face for sure gorgeous nor can you bring your left foot toward me a little bit onto the edge of the couch let it come even further this way just the left terry go they don't have to be crossed you can uncross them but that now we have more line on our little foot in which is beautiful and if we can press her even more toward me will have like the answer to life. Okay? Yes, beautiful. Can we make it somewhere? You're holding up the weight of her legs and our legs just fall off the edge of the couch. Yeah, let him be a little lower and there we go. Great. Last hole thing is if we let go over the hand and just clinched the legs so I really see the fingers and you're gonna roll the fingers back toward you so I don't have so much hand yes couldn't nora just grab her finger just barely barely touch it beautiful nor your head toward me even more if you can do it okay and then a little one for the shuttle area fantastic love it okay let's fall apart love it okay so anna let's do a little bit closer across leg so they're just overlapping the legs a little bit more okay and then nora we're gonna turn you toward the couch toward the sofa and lay you on your side so it looks like you're sleeping on your mom's leg yeah let's bring you your face toward me just a little bit more maybe so you're on the end of her knee a little bit maybe somewhere in between those two have you come back a little bit towards where you were before yeah so you look like you're really you've been there a long time so you can kind of sink into it a little bit more make yourself as comfortable as you can get are you actually comfortable there you are. Okay, yeah, that works that's good. Okay and mom let's see what if we cradled her head maybe like you're brushing her little hair can we swing your elbow? Yeah so I can see that arm and let it kind of lay on her back. I don't know if there's enough living there or not if you can without us losing everything yeah yes now we have an arm line that's great the hand can come back toward you just a little we don't need as much there we go the other hand maybe just lay in your lap just so it's not coming out at me there we go yeah that's great although if we can relax it as much as possible I know there's nothing to put it on but yeah there we go I've got you in the shot just a little bit barely barely yet yes it's fantastic actually like the movement of the hand you can kind of just keep moving and I'll just grab it when it good let's try a little variation or if we turn your back to me exactly the same poet but you're going to face away from me so I'm just gonna get the back of your head yes and let's talk those little feet nora so I can see the bottoms of them talking up toward your bum and let him come toward the very edge of the counter so we get a little bit of light on you got it god, I love those feet great let's talk that hair and I don't even know if you can feel e real slow on the hands I just want to get it moving there we go let's try one of the just kind of resting on her head so you're kind of cradling and a little bit of bend in those fingers just so there yeah let's bring the hand down toward your knee a little spicy little left of it so it's kind of nestle between her neck you got it right there that's beautiful, the other arm let's just let it kind of yeah, exactly chill fantastic love that too. Okay, let's get her out of peril matter breathe them in it now we can tunnel her a little paul being able to see yeah that's good that's already looking good she can do it with their arms and kind of good. Oh, yeah. Okay, well then she's being awesome trouper we want we'll do it quick and so if a cz much of her body as we can see so it's really just on her head and so nora let's throw those elbows up in there too because we don't want to see that elbows you got it and I'd like to see more of her body. Yeah, that's looking better. No arms. They can just go up inside the roving. Can you tuck your elbows at more, sweetie? Yeah, and that part in the back? Yeah, I think so. If we could just talk in the stuff that's in the back toward the couch right there. Right there, hand is and make that look as round as possible no over here on the right side, right down there where it is on her body really just a little lesson and tuck that in this far as it'll go and I think we'll have it smash it that way yeah it's ok we pull your elbows up a little bit more what if nora your arms straight up yeah that's gonna help a lot yeah I won't be too long and I don't now just shove it in as much as you can so you can see that almost the top of the tank top there we go that's great. You okay in there? Okay that's great okay can we show a little bit more whether knee is just a little shorter on the skirt so you get a longer leg line leg line that's right there's fine. Okay, fantastic. No, I think they look great it's working okay, it sounds really simple but I think it's one of my favorite so far because the design works really well can we try one with your legs bent just put your feet down onto the couch and banned the legs maybe yeah that's good actually yeah, maybe let's been one a little less than the other so we see both legs. Yeah that's perfect. What about letting your right foot fall off the couch a little bit? It can just fall all the way if it needs to yes love it love it love it. Can we just poke those newspapers under the couch and we'll have a shot yeah just throw him all the way under there a little bit there we go that way they're not competing with the foot all right that's fantastic! We got it great. Thank you. So this one we're binding her basically we talked about this thiss idea of kind of binding earlier when we had the legs and the feet bound together but this has a different feeling than I think just having the head covered so she's going to be completely immobilized like no arm movement, no leg movement so I think this this feels a little bit darker and a little bit more um sinister then maybe a little more playful one like the one we just did so we're going to play with us it's indifferent instance that are different scenarios we'll have her lay down, we'll have her sit in that kind of thing and see how it looks and this is a total experiment. This whole thing is an experiment so it's really just kind of put it on there and seeing what happens in what the material kind of lends itself to but this with a child especially I'm thinking about somebody her age being immobilized. What does that mean physically? Because that's what we're showing really is a physical representation of something that is maybe not so physical that's kind of what we're getting at so physically she's unable to move her arms or legs but maybe spiritually or emotionally what does that mean? Does it mean there's something going on in her household doesn't mean I mean it could mean a whole host of things that could be a body image issue it could be all kinds of things at age you know, how old is she? Nine yeah so being, you know, kind of at that age where things are starting to make sense there's a lot of ways to read being immobilized and think about being emotional, emotional, immobilized spiritually and what wass the siri's testament deals mostly with and in the artist statement specifically talks about burdens and people carrying around burdens and the way that we do that in everyday life and like I said earlier, we don't talk about it it's just it's really as obvious as this toe a lot of onlookers when you look at someone's life and you see what someone's going through and, you know, what's kind of happening to them on a daily basis, they're carrying that around, but we don't we don't think of it in a physical way we we smoosh it down and covered up this much as we can, so this is really just a very literal physical representation of what that actually to me looks like to be carrying this stuff around and almost pretending like it's not there and trying to function with it there trying to be able to sleep trying to be able to eat trying people to communicate with each other with this stuff on and really we do it every day just manifest differently when we see it physically okay beautiful I actually like you just staring me down looking right you bring me here yeah try the same thing just closed her eyes saying everything else try that now just let your head kind of fall over to one side like you've just you've almost fallen asleep in there yeah eyes closed can you roll your face toward me like this way like you're kind of looking bring your note follow my finger with your nose there you go on now let your head fall that way beautiful eyes closed can you so it's gonna be a matter of kind of maneuvering you're bought a little bit toe where your curving over like a little shrimp that way yes and then you almost don't look kind of up toward the ceiling with your face just follow my finger with your nose again uh keep going good eyes closed right there beautiful that is bizarre one like that is looking right at me here cool can you turn your body that way just a tiny bit you might have to scoot on your bomb a little bit uh oh that's cool of her feet go that way bring your little toes into him over if you can. Yeah! Yeah, cool. I think I cz closed again beautiful okay let's carefully what happens actually before maybe too far if you lay back on the back of the couch let your head go all the way up so I'll just shoot in the bottom of your chin yes maybe the head back even a little further if you can do it yeah, okay that's a real question quick fix let's try your head laying this way maybe even a little bit more and then roll your face back toward the couch so it looks like you're sleeping nice clothes beautiful. Okay, so why are you okay there for a minute? You khun chilled with your face I'm just going to talk for a second we were talking earlier about line and getting the longest possible line this is totally breaking that rule so if her body is facing me foreshortened her line quite a bit that shape but it's so odd that it for me it works on this one because it shows off that bound thing and the fact that she's right in the middle of the couch and everything is it's just everything about it is all the competitions odd that the kind of position of her body makes this why shape sort of so it's a line it's just a different line that were used to when we're using a human body and trying to lengthen every think what she is now more than a line she's a former she's a shape and it's making this kind of blobby thing which is pretty interesting with that fabric so just kind of playing around with it see what we can do okay let's try turning you to the side and putting you on the couch and I might need some help so just as slowly as you can move so we don't lose everything hey and yeah I'm gonna need we got a little patching a bit too d'oh we take the throw on the back the couch and make it look a little so we see some of the green on the bottom it's it's you know how people put throws on the back of her cellphone we see the fringe spread it out a little bit a little messy is fine just kind of lets bring that side toward you a little bit more, huh? Perfect. Thank you. I think that line kind of mimics her body which is sort of cool okay actually that's great just like that. Oh, love level it um can we try tipping the top of your head toward me so uh a little bit more and I was right it me is great try now looking about right at my hand and eyes close great can you roll over onto your side so you're facing me like a little community inform that killer that's so great I love it okay hang in there I think it just good just kind of flopping over the top of her head e can we overlap the feet just a little bit just one in front of the other so take your top but I think and put it behind the other one yes perfect there's a gesture and those feet that's just good stuff looking at mia's good try the eyes close for one can you inch rich men will help to the very edge of the couch so I can see as much of that whole thing is possible just toward me she's coming the right way just where she's kind of falling off the edge yes yes yes and the head flopping over is perfect eyes closed again let I think let your face roll up just a little bit so I can see more of you there you go beautiful and let's bend the knees just a touch more if you can do it relax your feet if you can especially the toes there you go love it okay let's try you sitting up if we can and you will give you some help again she's got it you got strong abs my friend okay let's turn your body though so you're gonna be turned I think that away e I think feed up there with you is good and will patch the hole in a minute yeah, I love that straight line yes, fabulous. Okay all right let's patch the little gaps and getting somewhere so normally would turn the person toward the light source but these this particular image and this kind of body of work I'm kind of less about the facial features and more about just the form of the body the form of the object kind of the feeling of the whole thing and I do too much of the face sometimes it especially with a face as beautiful is hers it's going that's going to be the star of the show and so by turning away from the light source you see the light now coming across this white roving and it becomes the star of the show let's let your head just flop forward chin to your body uh yeah all the way almost like your curling up like a little scrunchie and african sweeper hair so we see the profile you let me go offer next we see the neckline out beautiful yeah, wicked cool can I close is good let's try those legs straight is they'll go? He act so it's really awkward looking good try to relax a feat I know it's kind of hard to do both can you push your shoulders down a little bit? Yes and back a little bit of that makes has perfect, perfect great one more like that let's try the same thing but we're gonna bend the knees this time so your forehead is almost going to touch your knees yep in fact can it do you think you can touch yeah beautiful let's try the legs on the feet on the floor again but you're still going to be turned so let's turn your body this way this time and see what happens I think it's better if she's turning out the way let's do the other way nora sorry I tried ok I think turn as far as you can without falling off the edge there you go wayne always throw a little bit more on that area if we need and a few little gaps are fine work it works and digital magic more than patterns in the skin of the skin shows a little it's ok, ok let's turn your face towards me a little bit and then let your head flop over that away I think keep going yeah almost like you're gonna talk into a ball yes, just kind of double it back I think yeah fabulous that's great. Thank you. Okay let's sweep that hair she can't I guess can she? She hasn't alarms can you lead turn your upper body toward me just a little bit there you go, just let your head look kind of up like at the ceiling for me and turn your face away from me so I see your profile keep going a little bit more yeah chan up just a little bit more forming eyes closed I think just let your head kind of flop over this way a little bit kind of like your yes that's perfect. Perfect. If you could hang out there for one second nobody can move that warned blanket this wait just a touch this on this end just pull it over because it's showing other way there so we don't have it peeking out on the other side of her hand beautiful can your feet b flat on the floor if you inched there we go maybe turn your left toes toward me other ones I think had the wrong foot so they're apart you're going to separate your toes there you go cool and turn your face away from me just a little bit more and then shin down a little bit for me you don't have to talk to your face just almost like you're stretching your neck out a little bit and chin down there go ahead and turn your face toward me keep going I think chin tucked down into your own body a little bit yeah right there good now if you can let your head lean back over your shoulder this way like your car just a little you can't just turn your opposite direction same idea we're just going to flip you the other way gonna kind of tuck you up a little bit this time you go yeah and so tuck your feet back towards your bum if you can yes okay then if you can twist your upper body toward me e I think turn your face over his shoulder and looked back towards them yeah try looking right at the door let's try you on the couch in kneeling so you need some help getting up there but so her her legs air underneath her she's um you uh I think this way got it good okay, yes, I feel like you're gonna fall over a little more showing so this one we're just playing with shape and looking at the line of the leg kind of trying this one a little bit more of a dynamic shape of lots of angles and things in it some of them have been a little more stagnant but in the end one of them will be the one also if I turn her body to front you see that that arm and mobilization more than you do here so it's kind of a trade off between really cool line in the leg you know, following doing this s shape I like that a lot or showing how bound she really is, so um okay, can we took under where her hand is because it's interrupting the line of that leg yeah so can you flatten your hand nor as much as you can and roll it up onto your side a little bit more there we go. Fabulous. Yeah. Okay, cool and just I think if you concur of your back a little bit like you're hunting over and just let your head flops forward yeah, even more if you can on your head just so you're yeah, great, cool, good. Yeah, it can all just go over sweets let's see the neckline? I love that light that skims across her face because it's not it's, not portrait lighting it's just I love the shoulder being lit that way and the little shadow that happens on her face I love it it's really beautiful. Okay, and this is gonna be kind of tough, but if you think you can do it, you roll up in a little ball and touch your head down as far as you can go you got it very cool. Okay, let's put papa in. So these are the sketches for today. This is my book. This is my whole testament book, in fact, and I know I showed some of these sketches the other day, but I keep notes in here and just sometimes I'll just right what the idea is and sometimes I draw things out and you can see like some of these are almost exactly what I did in testament and like this one this felted suit but I don't know how you can see him but the suit itself that I felt thing looks exactly like this pretty much so sometimes they look out you know, quite a bit like the original and something that looked nothing like the original it's just evils into something else which is what's happening now but these are the sketches for today s so you can see we're pretty much done them all but and they're not very detailed just gives me a kind of an idea of what I think the material's going teo so here's that when we did on the couch earlier with the two heads on each end wrapping you know, two bodies and having just the legs hang out which we did and so it's a guidebook it gives me an idea of a place to start and then it just kind of evolves from there like the last little segment we did was pretty interesting it wasn't on here it all really I kind of had an idea like this here of rapping somebody it like a mummy but there was no set involved I didn't know how end up where we put the person where we do one or two people whatever so this is a good starting point, but I find if I if I met myself out too much and draw sketches that are really detailed I ended up not making that exact image and then that that's all that happens nothing magical happens after that I don't allow myself to look really look at what's actually happening in front of me I tend to do this and just stare at this and use it as a map and end up nowhere further than I started the sketch so that's just a lesson that I've learned over five, six years of making images like this is give myself a loose idea and then run with it and see what happens okay? So as you can see, we've got the immobilization thing happening again and to people now, and so I think the dynamic changes a lot just even if the costuming is exactly the same and it iss but now we've got a relationship happening in the image, so it becomes a lot more complex like you. What is happening between these two people that there's a there's a breakdown somewhere they're not able to connect so there's a failure to connect that's happening in here and I think more than anything that's what I see in this image between the two people on again, people who have had different life experiences they're going to see this in a completely different way um let's go ahead and touch your knees all the way yeah and then can you lean your head on your dad's so there's there's still love there and that's the thing with most love relationships is there's there's love but there's also failure somewhere that there's always failure somewhere in a relationship so it's just talking about both that that love that is there that love that's president that is clearly important on dh valuable to each of the people in the relationship but there's always something you know for human beings so that failure is going to be there and so this is a really physical representation of that failure all right actually like that just the way you are matt, can you turn your face all the way toward me now and just kind of looking actually looking right above my head I think and nora let's just close your eyes let let's turn your face all the way toward her so you're looking at her and if you can kind of lean your body to her so she's yeah, you're as close together as you can possibly get beautiful let's try her in the pizza thing we did before we got to pick her up again I think feet that way yeah, so what I'm saying peeta you guys probably all know what that means but just as a reference it's you know this sculpture? Oh, that's beautiful, actually just let her let her relax back in there, but you can put you can touch your shoulders down there you go, but no, the sculpture where mary is holding jesus, um, after he's been crucified, so there's certainly a really powerful reference there and, of course, my work having so many biblical references, it's another kind of nod to that idea, but this is a particular interesting version because he can't hold her. So when changing the pot's alone kind of makes this even a little bit more bitter sweet, because I think you can see that he would want to any father would want to hold his child, but he can't. And if you think of all the the times that happens in life with illness, with all kinds of things, that's, that this could be a representation of that let's, try straightening your legs, nor so you're just one big flat burrito. Yeah, you got it. So now we've got banana peel intersecting with feet, so let's take the plate back a little bit toward the back wall. This is probably my favorite image of the day I'm like I like what's happening in the relationship because I think that there's a pretty powerful story there, but also I think the lines and the form is pretty interesting nor can you tip your face or so actually try to get your head to the very edge of the couch towards me you got it you got it must try to push the shoulder down a little so I don't lose your neck completely fabulous yes that as much energy as you can get toward her like you really want to hold her you want to lean over her I think the hair is actually the other way because it's doing too much no and just let your head come toward me a little more nora okay and then matt just straighten your body completely symmetrical in the middle and lean on over her this way a little bit just straight over her yeah beautiful and this one that's like you've tried and you failed maybe you're kind of just looking down you're giving up yeah nor eyes closed again nora try looking now just kind of look try looking at the smoke detectors so what that does um come back this way a little bit somewhere in the middle of that right there wherever you're looking is perfect can you raise your chin off your body just a little bit and lower that shoulder just a little bit do you think you can furrow your brow a little bit like you're a little bit worried yes yes yes that's fabulous oh my goodness I would say that's a wrap but you know okay, thank you thank you so much weight so we move back into the bedroom scene with the family this time so just trying to kind of the same set with different models on a different, completely different concept. So this time just her arms are bound, and the idea is that it looks like this this stuff, this roving, you know, whatever it looks like on camera to someone is growing out of the ceiling kind of an attacking in her arms. So I think in an image like this, where something looks like it's kind of growing out of the wall or coming from a foreign place, it represents something like that happening an actual life so something an outside force and outside something that's come in and change the trajectory of somebody's life that's bound them in a different way that's derailed them. Maybe we're just changed them so that's kind of where we're going with this and also there was a relationship happening between father and daughter, so he is supporting her and trying to get her kind of closer and more comfortable like she's gotta bear this that's what it is but he's doing his best to help her bear the burden of it. And so I think you see that a lot in testament to people loving each other and trying to love each other kind of threw something that's obviously hard and helping each other lighten the load a little bit so that's kind of what I'm seeing in this one so something like this if we had two hours to get this set we would spend two hours getting it perfect but we're getting it as nice as we can and then I'll work on it a little bit digitally and try and connect the hands back to the top of the no sculpture a little bit more so we don't have this kind of the gap between the two okay she's got some little things falling down on your face otherwise I think we're okay that I think just let your chin kind of fall low like your again you've sort of tried and been holding her up for a really long time and nora hands up and straight as much as you can and behind your head just a little bit yeah and let your head fall forward a little bit too beautiful okay still is your khun b gotta slow shutter in here that looks beautiful think both chins down just a little more especially yours nora actually your body was okay straight body just chin down if your arms behind your head more yes same thing arms behind your head a little more in order if you can do it there we go dad chin down just a little bit more torture on body beautiful eyes closed nor for one good you got it that's fabulous. Okay, I know that's hard to hold you all fall apart. So just before, before we finish up, if you look at the exposure which you'll see on the screen, you'll see that they're a little bit under on dh that the window, in fact, I'm gonna expose for the window. Now they don't have to be in position. Um, so I get detail in texture and that I could put it together later, but I like the mood that's happening in the room with their bodies and their fronts kind of in the shadow area and their backs are perfectly exposed, so that to me is a little bit more moody than turning them toward the light. And I'm kind of liking what's happening with that, so all right, all right, guys, let's move to the dining room. Okay, so we're gonna do this last segment in the dining room with a kind of a dining table set up in the full family on dh again, we're going to just kind of place the the wolves object, whatever it is that we're working with and then kind of work with them around it and just see what we can get out of this one object in this one position, so we'll just keep playing with it and see what happens. Just a little note about the lighting in there we have one big window on that side that's kind of a big soft bank of windows really acts is like a six foot soft box and here we've got these two one knows what you can see behind me so I've got these kind of blacked out because what was happening wass this room was filling this I mean these windows were filling this room so much with light that that room was then getting a big time fill light and the light was coming up quick really flat so when I really want is that light to come across the table not from this side from behind my back so I've also blacked out the window behind me so this room is pretty much blacked out so it's not adding any fill light to that room there's also a doorway in that room and the window next door so there's a little bit of wispy light that comes in from there from that side which is pretty cool too because you'll see that that's our fill light eso really is just kind of cross sliding back and forth and a little bit coming from behind him and not very much okay so let's uh what's trying to pile that roving on the table and you guys are going to sit one adult on each end of the table let's start with that in the two chairs? Yeah yeah, just pilot big heap is biggest it'll get so this shot is actually gonna look really similar to the family portrait. It is I did four testament, so we're kind of re enacting the family portrait shot protest means sort of see how it was made. So in testament I made thousands of little latex casts of fruit, so I took liquid latex and painted the latex onto apples and apples are significant because of the fall and adam and eve and their symbolic through the entire bible, so that particular fruit is why use that's why I use a particular fruit and I painted the latex on there, let it dry and you peel off the latex and it comes up in the form of the apple. So they're really just thousands of little half apples that I've been piled in the middle to make the heap and made some kind of latex strings to go with it. And so that's what that was made from but this one looks has a similar form in a similar color, so it looks great. There's one little loop de luz showing in the back um on the other side of the table on the bottom there hanging down, got it, got it okay, we're going to start with yeah, I think so it makes sense there, okay? We're going to start with heads under the robing so your shoulders are going to show your arm's gonna go under there too though so superman style and anna before you get your arms all the way under there let's pull your skirt where you can see a little bit of their knee there so we can not lose your legs that's great, thank you and once they're under there we can maybe play with the rubbing a little bit and cover the head's ana is actually pretty much under there, but if we can get a little bit more on him, that would be great and we've got some escaping from the table on an aside mostly in the front I'm seeing his profile underneath yep, there we go that's great nora, I think we're gonna put you under the table over here on your dad's side let's talk that under pretty good so we can see a little bit of anna shoulder there we go. Yeah, nor if you can sit on your side underneath there like you're kind of leaning on his leg, I'm kind of cleaning to his leg, so I think when you've got a family you can kind of lay out all the way down and you put your behind the chair and just kind of talk up in a little fetal position little ball, yes and just kind of hung his foot his leg with your hands and you can lay your head right on his foot yes that's beautiful so when we have a family situation it's it's a matter of dynamics between now three people on denny buddy about to have a child but he's on the way but I don't know what it's like yet exactly parenting but of course I grew up in a family with a mom and dad and I know that dynamic and what it means to do your best for your child and sometimes maybe it's a financial situation or something that's just got you to where you can't see a way out and you kind of got your kids on their own and I think that's kind of what's going on here and she's doing her best to cope under that too but she's hiding from it I think here um nor can you put your left foot on top of your right foot so we can see it there we go okay I'm seeing his face just a little bit but other than that we're close can we just talk it over we don't see his chance and let's bring your right foot back a little one losing your toes then go thank you you can see the sun is coming in and out behind the clouds and stuff until the quality of the light changes quite a bit good yes that's perfect so we didn't style this room a whole lot that I think that just having the bathroom door open back there and having that sense of prospect, especially since there's so much light in the bathroom, it gives you another again, I waited a kind of escape and kind of have a pathway out or a sense of white and especially in a family portrait like this having that sense of light like there's hope there's light at the end of this there's you're not stuck in this situation there's going to be a way out, it's it'll be over soon sort of feeling that's important to me, okay, beautiful and nor looking right here is just awesome. Yes, so I'm doing the same thing with exposure, that window I want to able to control later so the first shot I'm shooting for the window and you can see that if we put it on the screen and I'll just then once I've got that one open up and photograph just for them for their skin tones. I'm watching dad back here, so I'm gonna close that a little bit, make sure I've got to tell you and we do it looks like we have a beautiful texture, and so this is one of those like it because of the way the lighting is working in coming directly across that back there is getting all the white so that I'm gonna open up a little bit from mom over there and I'll just put all of these together in the end so we have kind of the perfect image nothing too is this this material I think looks a little bit like brain matter which you mentioned earlier but especially when it's on the heads like this and the too the couple the mom and the dad or putting literally putting their heads together trying to figure something out it's a pretty literal representation of that act that they're working together they've got like minds it's a similar problem it's the same problem and they're working their way through it together that's beautiful more for your nora let's try one shot with your eyes closed that's fabulous beautiful okay uh let's try let's get you guys out from under me with that with the head's out from underneath like to try heads uh has probably don't even have to be under it they can probably beat behind it but just you're gonna be laying your backs on the table with your legs sticking out on each end and the maid of going in the chairs they may end up on the table if we kentucky you in that much but let's see what happens and I think nora you're going to be there so staying were exactly where you are I think you're gonna want yeah I don't know that I'll have to be on their heads because we're not going to see it so that way they can breathe, but they khun lay down first, face up, you can just yeah shifted over, so I think it just this is a different iteration of the same thing, but now their heads are literally together they're like one body, one object like a two legged creature that's got two sets of legs, almost that they're that much the same person, so maybe it unifies and even more, but they're this way also, though they're buried even more more, their bodies were covered up, so if you guys move into the middle of the table just a little bit, we could get some of the stuff on the front better, and so this is the little legs coming out of the roving again, and this is the third iteration of that idea. So so far, I think this might be my favorite and it's just again trying that again and trying it in a different place, trying it with a different model, a different lighting technique, different everything and saying even if it's the same idea if it's gonna work better in a different way and sometimes it just it just works, it just clicks like that's the way that's the one so I don't have enough of anna um I'd like to see is there a way to get your heels on the table with you so just have that like sticking up and now if we can get the roving back to where we can see her hole all the way down to her hip waken just pilot higher maybe instead of getting rid of it height is really cool this is going to change the shape a little bit too so thie other one was very symmetrical and I think that symmetry also speaks to the like mindedness between the two people that there is sameness and equality balance if this one if we have anna bearing more of the weight and more of the burden is on her side than that that speaks to maybe what's going on between them we're getting there I just liked would still like to see more of her legs from the front just smoosh it and I will take that whole chunk that you're touching there and just throw it on top yeah, but let me not get rid of it just checking on top so the hold is not going to be symmetrical yeah it's going to be lopsided? Yeah really see her hips and is there any way you can also come forward toward me and I think that will help some too yeah, it does that's that's getting good yes let's move the chair this way just a touch so I don't lose and his hip there we go good and then anna let's turn your body just a little bit away from me if you can just barely or pull the skirt yeah there we go just barely that's great. Nor that is perfect don't move a muscle we just got a little bit of roving coming down behind it and a little loop on anna's life and we've got a maid. Yes, very cool. I love her hair on the back. Great. Yeah. That's great in the very front. We've got one more loop on her leg just right there and now we got a pop. You just want to get a full line that's. Great. Thank you. Okay, great. Uh, everybody hang in there again when I'm now shooting for for his side pretty much and front the window and I'll open up here and for anna's legs and nora under the table. Try matt tucking your heels and drive the chair with her if you can, in toward the table, maybe a little more if you can do it. Yeah, I like that better hey, last thing can we, anna bring both feet on both heels under the table? Can you support that's great, so I like that because it's a little less feminine kind of the typical kind of feminine pretty leg pose and it's more she's bearing more of the wait there's it's higher on her side. I think that showing a lot of the relationship. Very cool. Last line. All right, guys, I think we got it that's beautiful. Thank you. So now we're going to take some questions because there's a lot of great questions that have come in. Wow, that appreciate video was playing. So, jen, I'm going to start off with, uh, this question. Was it completely terrifying leaving? They're leaving behind a wedding photographer your career in pursuing your fine artwork? What made you decide to do that? I was absolutely terrified, and if I look back on it, it was really stupid thing to dio, but I did it. Uh, it was yeah, it was terrifying, and I didn't know anybody. I didn't I I didn't know if I was going to starve or or not, but I did it because I was burning out on photography and I knew it. I burn out fast. So I've done this many times, like I burned out with music and fell out of love with it, and once that happened, that happened, and I never get it back and I could feel that happening. With photography, I hated it so much that I would cry when I went into the studio every morning because I hated it and I thought, I can't hate this I can't let this happen, so I just sold the business and with pretty much within a month's time and and off I went that I had toe fall in love with it again, so it was scary, but it was worth it. Yeah, awesome! Lisa said the daughter takes direction so well better than some professional models. Yes does did a good job. Maybe you could talk to that a little bit on what it's like to work with supermodels, and if you get a model that's difficult to work with or not, how do you handle that? We covered some of that in prior segments, but what s so she was great, she was really receptive and a really intelligent little girl, but the best answer I have for that is teo work really, really hard at developing your vocabulary for communicating with people? If you watch this carefully at there plenty of times where I say something and they don't understand what I mean, and so I just reword it reword it reword it even and I'm trying not to make them feel like they've done something wrong that it's their fault it's definitely always my fault if there's the communications not good so I just find new words new ways to describe things like with anastacia yesterday we were trying trying to get her hip out further you guys probably saw that like it wasn't frustration but that kind of okay this isn't working I mean she's not understanding what I'm saying so I literally just at some point stood up and said try to touch your carpet to your hip and that didn't work either okay so try like you're reaching your left hand down to the floor for something that worked so I just have to say it three or four times until in different way is not the same thing if you say the same thing four times they're going to think it's their fault right? So you just have to reword its communication that's all it is verbal communication was really fun to watch when you want to work with him did you did at least as another question to jennifer make this yarn it's so cool although I keep wondering if the mom was roasting in their hot very hot yeah and yes you need models that love you and want to be part of what you're doing because it's not comfortable but no the yard so that roving is if you remember looking at the testament exhibition that I showed the first segment there was a kitchen shot where all the wool was on the counters in the kitchen that is the clean and processed version of all of that wall. So it's eight sheep worth of wool that there was in processed, cleaned and process by a mill in albuquerque. And then I'm actually going to show in the next segment what I'm going to do with it next, so I will spin it all into yarn and use it for weaving. Awesome, huh? So if, if you do a project like that for the family, do they order prints a photo book with syriza photos or what? No, it's, not for them it's, not for them. And now sometimes I mean, this would be if I were photographing for testament, for instance, it would be for, for my testament, serious for my body of work. Sometimes I will give them a model copy, but no it's, not for them. They're not gonna be ordering anything or purchasing that he most likely awesome.

Class Description

Conceptual portraiture is where art and photography meet. In this class, Jennifer Thoreson will explore the intersection of fine art and photography and discuss the practice, process, and business of bringing conceptual portraits to life.

Jennifer is a visual artist, speaker, and lecturer whose photographic work has been widely published internationally in print and online journals. In this class she’ll reveal the process for developing commissioned and exhibition work. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Create unique, imaginative props 
  • Secure the right type of model
  • Price your work
  • Approach galleries, museums, and publications

Jennifer will help you define your personal style and show you how to put together a conceptual series. You’ll get the inside scoop on what it takes to make a living through fine art photography and also get Jennifer’s tips on managing the business side.

If you want to expand into the expressive and exciting genre of conceptual photography, The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture with Jennifer Thoreson is the perfect place to begin your journey. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP


Bonus Materials with Purchase

Book Proposal Sample.pdf

Critical Mass - Digital Book.pdf

Curriculum Vitae Example.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 1.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 2.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 3.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


a Creativelive Student

"Thinking about art is not making art." In this inspiring and informative workshop, Jennifer helps you put thought into action - through meaningful self-reflection, exploration and by taking her through her own processes. Through exercises and examples, she explains how to pull out a thread of an idea and develop it into a conceptual project that is informed and invigorated by personal experience, preference, interests, and so much more. Her workshop not only feeds the creative soul, but offers earnest information on taking first steps toward publishing and showing fine-art. Jen so beautifully shares her talent and her love of teaching - I first "met" her on Creative Live and have had the joy of being mentored by her in-person as well. This workshop is a very close second to spending time with her one-on-one. Thank you, CL, for bringing her back!

kalei harmon

I love Jennifer, she's one of my cL favorites! She is such a soulful photographer and her art just resonates with me in so many ways. While she was creating her conceptual piece with the mother and child, my eyes welled up because it was such a profound experience to witness. I appreciate that she has a graduate degree in art and is able to refer to others in the field who are leading the way. She is so genuine and I'm grateful for her willingness to bare her soul to us through her art and process. I've learned so much by watching how she interacts with models and communicates efficiently and gently to get AMAZING poses. Definitely worth the buy if you're looking for inspiration from an artist who creates images which evoke emotion and communicate a message, not just trying to make "great photos." I can't wait to learn about the business side of it all!


I am so grateful for this class; it is just what I have been looking for to help me go beyond my "photographic potty training". By leading us through her own creative process, Jennifer Thoreson invites us to think about why we do what we do and to make our work more meaningful and authentic, creating our unique visual vocabulary. Moreover, she provides detailed info on submitting work to galleries and publications, contests, printing editions, preparing an exhibition and pricing. In her calm, unpretentious manner, Jennifer demystified art without trivializing it and I finally saw light at the end of a rather long tunnel.