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Thinking in Layers

Lesson 8 from: The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

8. Thinking in Layers

Lesson Info

Thinking in Layers

So it's it's really it's sauce it's like making a beautiful spaghetti sauce and adding flavor after flavor after flavor and again you're not necessarily going to tell your taste or or your viewer what's in there they're just going to no it's good okay and the more stuff that's in there the better it's gonna taste okay, I think about again we're looking at that old onion thing so a slower disclosure allowing people to discover things on their own if I can get somebody to stand in front of my my image for fifteen to twenty seconds well that's huge that's a win if you want you will go through a museum there like lunch, right? But sometimes you'll see somebody go and they walk up to something and they want to smell it and taste it and touch it they want to touch it so bad if you can get that to happen I mean whoa that's a miracle but one thing you could do to help that happen is to disclose slowly to give it layers again ask or answer you asking questions are you answering questions? Every...

thing in your image of significant everything in there is significant, okay, but the colors that textures that everything and so that's how you start to develop your own unique there's a visual language and I know that sounds like I'm making it so simple it's not it's, just a long, long road but those if I blow my process down that's how I've gotten, where I've gotten so I like order quiet control stage made totally manipulated things specific forced perspective. You see that a lot single light source. Fleshy, muted palette with the directive color so I'm trying to get people to look around in a certain way balance slow disclosure, expressive and motive figures that's what? My work looks. Look, I think okay, so again, it could help you to make a list like this. Of what you think. It looks like the physical attributes of your work, not what it means. Just what it looks like. The next step of this whole process is are you identifying yourself? Or are you mimicking someone else? That's terrifying, isn't it that's such a hard part ofwhat we dio because there's so much visual language out there and there's, nothing really new under the sun. All you're doing is pulling okay. Like when I google image pulling, pulling, pulling a little of this and a little of that in a little of this and a little of that. And now my spaghetti sauce tastes a little bit different than yours does. That's all it is it's got to be a little different it's going to be your own brand okay are you a composer or cover band really that's what it is so I don't want to be a cover band I want to be the original composer of this thing I wanna have my own thing my own song okay and I want it to be one that somebody will sing again do your research and know very fit that's the only way you'll know if you are a composer or cover band you have to look around I see so many people making conceptual work thinking that they've got this thing and it's it it breaks my heart every time because I'm like someone did that like in the eighties and did it really well the thing is what someone's done it really well it's theirs it's theirs and you're probably not going to do it better so you have to know where you fit you've got to know who the people were in the eighties doing this stuff yeah how do you move from doing the research watching you know going online seeing all the image of seeing what you're attracted to and say yes I want to do work like that to finding your own spe face your own voice within like that how is that process work for you that's I mean that's a big big question about very best answer to that is to use the meat of it okay, I respond to a b, c, d and e julie okay, how do I add my own meaning on top of that? And so when you think about all the things we've talked about on the very first list, that means something to you that influence you that make you who you are those can add visual cues to and change the way it looks so it might have the same meat to it but it has a different look because you've added in these other flavors because of where you're coming from the same big sent and it's hard it's really, really hard the first work I did our baptism, a lot of people said, well, that's it looks just like robert and shane apart harrison and it does it doesn't look, it looks a lot like her work I didn't mean for it too, but I was borrowing visual language definitely from something that had already happened and I didn't I didn't know I was ignorant to it so it's just a matter of researching first of all knowing what's out there and then once I know that I can start adding okay all and another layer of this and another layer of this and start to develop it into something else that's not something that someone already owns it's like a copy red you can't take it he already has that these are my influences of like minds, so I won't go through all of them but I've made a list I know who they are I know kind of where I fit out there in the art world so think about this like who would your pandora station include? Right? You're the musical artist you are queen and so are they going who are they gonna play that sounds like you and vice versa that's a big question that's a really, really important it's really important. Okay have a reason for every single visual choice you make every single visual choice you have to be able to defend it all. Why is the person wearing that? Well, okay have a reason for it everything. Why that model? Why is she wearing that? Why she posed like that. Why is she in that place? Why she looked like that. Why you're here like that, right? Why she in that chair? Why is that tree in the picture? Why that color carpet everything has to mean something everything has got meaning everything has got to be defendable away. Everything in the picture. Holy crap, right? Yeah, pay very close attention to things you visually respond to and this is what you talked about earlier, so you're going to pull those things pull pull visual visual visual cues but that's it's not just other people's work its objects patterns colors your living space what what do you drive I drive a white car that boxy and balanced there you go I mean what I wear everything about that is it's all queues at all gives me an idea of why I make work the way I d'oh uh why does your work have a corner in every store because I like having two converging walls like two different people converting together no dimension and I mean it adds to mention and I like that yes s so it's it's both what does it look like what does it mean it's a good question so you have applied that visual language that you've worked for years to figure out right and then you take your thread from your rug apply that language to that thread and you've got the work but it's a process okay they cost planning pre visualization and experimentation those three things once you've got your thread then you're gonna have to get through this part this is getting up the mountain part plan pre visualized experiment okay so I made this thing I don't know what to do with no idea I just made thousands of little wafer thing he's okay well let's try it like this is my first attempt of sticking it in visually right digitally well that didn't work so this is the first attempt putting on actual body it's okay it's okay and then okay, we'll try it this way. So it was a little different, you know, slightly different. I'm going to change the sculpture and change the position of the two models a little bit. Change the room a little bit at a little bit more to it. But in the end, I figured out what I wanted to say. And I wanted to people converging in a different way to people both under the same burden. And that was the final image. So it just takes experimentation. This is not gonna work out the first time. It's got to suck first. Okay? It just does that's part of the deal. Something happened with this guy. I made it what I'm gonna do with it. I don't know. So I tried it digitally. That didn't work. So then I took it to the house and just let it do its thing and leave in there for a little while. I moved it around all over the place. I tried it with young models, kind of idealized models, right? Young, beautiful people. Well, it wasn't saying enough. It wasn't getting what I needed to get. So eventually I figured this out, it just took time, so when I when I coming on the first round, I mentioned this a little bit before, but I'll make prince of them and hang them up and little marinate with me for a little while, and I think it's really important to make the print make the print because it's a physical thing that you have made it's not just a file, it's, not something you can throw out and dismiss, you made this thing, and now you have to own it, okay? And it does change. It changes the way you look at your work, so I'll make prints, put him on the wall and then critically look at them and say, what is the saying is it's saying what I wanted to say to the viewer? Go back to that slide where we talked about the viewer and answer all those questions when I look at them and hope we're getting somewhere and a lot of times was like, nope, it's not working it's not working, it's not doing what I wanted to do. Same thing here, this is the second round of prince I did that's, my handsome husband and my puppy, so they're okay at that point, get in it to win it that's the crippling self doubt phase when you're in it and you're halfway through and you start to make your first round the prince get in it to win it and just keep going this is the hardest part I think it's getting past that first mile four and a half okay then you got your execution you're just station a period I like to think about it this way because of baby right? So I'm literally like growing this baby I'm growing this body of work I'm feeding it I'm giving it in vitamins I'm thinking about it all day long I feel it kick you know, all the time it wakes me up at night that's just a shuttle period and it's a long time for me some people again three or four days but you feed that thing feed it your money your time your your dedication, your energy feed that the baby think about making are thinking about making art is not making art right? So my chair at you and him told me that adrian and I was like, oh gosh she's right thinking about making art is not making art we think about cool stuff until the day you die if you don't actually make it it ain't yours and I guarantee you somebody else will make it if you don't if you've got an idea you put that out into the world somebody will take it and make it before you do you gotta get on it and work make the work, make the print get feedback from people you respect okay this is a big one from people you respect I don't want anybody in my studio I lock the door I don't let just random people come in there and see what I'm doing is just people I respect and what I like for them to do is write a list of what they see when they look at the image for the first time right down ten words for me that you see in there and I tell you that's a big indicator of what's going on in the work and things I never would have seen oh my gosh oh my gosh is usually when I say I never would have seen that and sometimes the things that I don't want for people to see and I have to get rid of okay invest money time work vigorously there's no point in doing it halfway what is the point you put in however much money up to that point but it's not if you don't finish it all the way vigorously you've wasted your time and you wasted your money okay you're not going to get the reward at the end that you want if you have do it halfway give yourself time but give yourself a deadline okay I find I've got to do this I have to have the show is opening october twelfth I have made myself card I make the the show postcard early so I put the money into that and I can't change the date that's it it's opening on the twelve, and I have to get it finished because if I don't, I'll work on the same project until the day I die. I have to give us all the deadline, and finally you have the birth. You actually get to birth, this child that you have been working on for nine months or however long it is and meet baby, basically. So you write the statement, right, and just let it let it live into the world, and you basically say, here you go, world, and I'll tell you it is the most terrifying thing toe let people consume what you've done and let them comment on it and see it. Let them know what a pretty baby or oh, right, it's, terrifying, but it's, so wonderful at the same time, that's that's the top of the mountain and you get to that point, it's, good stuff.

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

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.

Student Work