We are delighted to bring to you the third of this years series of interviews and the fifteenth of this fascinating series, within our Portrait of an Artist column entitled “Seeing through the eyes…”. This is a section that has been created by our wonderful Portrait of an Artist Editor, Ile Mont. Mont has been inspired by the life and works of Carolyn Hall Young, as so many of us have. Young was the main contributor to our Portrait of an Artist Flickr pool and filled it with portraits of so many wonderful people, not only of herself. It is for this reason that Mont wanted to create this section, to enable us to view the artists style through their own eyes. At the end of each interview, Mont will keep Young’s tradition alive, with a portrait of herself, seen through the eyes of the artist. In this case, you will see that at the end of this interview there are portraits of Mont, seen through the eyes of Meri Walker, what a gift!
Please continue to post your mobile portraiture to our dedicated Flickr group or use this hashtag on Instagram #tawportraitofanartist, this way, Mont will search through these artists first to interview. (Foreword by Joanne Carter).
All images in this interview ©Meri Walker, with the final images a collaboration ©Ile Mont/Meri Walker.
Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am Meri Aaron Walker. I renamed myself ‘iPhoneArtGirl’ late in 2009, as I recall, after a year’s journey with my iPhone 4. I’ve been a photographer and printmaker for 50 years and now I am a mobile image maker who lives in southern Oregon. I happen to love teaching and coaching others in their creativity as much as I love engaging with my own, so I make mobile photographs and mobile art and I also teach and coach others around the globe in their creative processes doing the same.
What does ‘being creative’ mean to you?
Being creative means being alive, awake and aware of my experience and willing to be in dialogue with it, whatever it is, however it occurs. In my case, it also means being willing to share what I am experiencing with others.
Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
I think I was too young when creating started for me to say when I realised it would be running my life. It’s always been this way. I create in all kinds of ways in addition to visual art and I’ll do so until I drop dead. It is my life.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
What I am trying to communicate is the beauty and mystery of the gift of my life – in all its complexity. My mobile artwork is what’s left after my daily image-based conversations with the One who made me.
Why portraits and self portraits?
I’ve always made portraits. In my earlier career I made lots of them on assignment. I don’t make a lot of them now with my iPhone because I find the iPhone’s wide angle lens difficult to work with with faces. I made self portraits from the time I picked up my first camera as a way to see myself besides the mirror. I guess that’s still my motivation when I’m making self portraits using my iPhone and iPad these days.
It was actually my conversations with Carolyn Hall Young that got me willing to work with faces on the iPhone/iPad. Through the years, she reminded me again and again that I could take whatever license I wanted by adding media to photographs that didn’t satisfy me as photographs. The way she did that astonished me every day.
The convenience of editing right on my phone allows me to capture insights I have about my images – including self-portraits – anywhere I am. As I wrote below, my mobile editing process is a meditative conversation with my Higher Power and I find I learn things about myself as I edit a self portrait that I couldn’t learn any other way.
What do you think are the ups and downs about working with your own image?
Well, of course the greatest obstacle is I am vain as so many women have been taught to be by modern advertising. I hate the way I look as I’m ageing. The good part about working with my own image is that I can always make an image without invading someone else’s privacy. That is, if I can stand to look at myself while I’m making the image.
Is there an artwork you are most proud of?
I can’t say that there is.
How do you know when a work is finished?
I know it’s finished when the image tells me what its title is.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I take a walk every day that I possibly can and I take my dog and my iPhone with me. I use an iPhone 8+ these days. I notice what’s around me and I may use my fave camera apps to capture it. I only make captures while I’m walking. I never try to look at what I captured in the field. The walk time is a personal exercise in awe and wonder.
When I get home, after I’ve eaten, I sit down and look at what ended up in my camera roll. Whatever draws my attention becomes a potential editing project. Sometimes I edit directly on my iPhone because I can’t wait . Sometimes I transfer the images to my iPad and edit them there.
My editing process is a wordless conversation with myself about my experience – outside and inside me. Its become a meditative process of self-discovery and self-understanding.
In the early years, I shared my edits immediately with friends in social media. These days I don’t always share what I’m editing. I’m taking more time with the edits in a private way.
Using the iPhone, I have discovered that I’m quite introverted. I think I always was, but having to mess with all the gear as a traditional photographer hid that from me. In the early days of social media image sharing, the level of meaningful engagement with others around our creative efforts and processes was extremely helpful to me. The learning community was so honest and encouraging which helped me get braver and tell deeper truth.
I find there’s less conversation these days in social media and more quick evaluation (likes, etc). So am conversing more deeply and directly with myself, using what I learned learning with others. Sometimes I use the phone as an actual telephone and call up other artists to have a real-time conversation about our work and the current state of our creative lives.
What inspires you?
When I’m awake, everything inspires me. When I’m in pain, nothing does.
What are your favorite tools and apps while creating?
I can’t live without Camera+, ProCamera, Blackie, iColorama, LightBrush, SuperimposeX, Touch-Retouch, HandyPhoto, and Stackables. There are lots of other apps I love, but those are always in my medicine pouch.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
Step outside your ‘room’ into the rest of the world. As you enter the physical world, allow thoughts that arise to simply pass through your mind. Don’t fight with them, hold on to them, or try to get rid of them. Simply allow your precious curiosity to arise through your eyes and ears. Look at and listen simply to what Life has lain right in front of you and all around you. Look at it, listen to it, don’t think about it. Do this now. Don’t wait for a better time – the only best time is right now. Just keep your eyes open and listen. Creativity arises when we don’t block it with craving or resistance.
What advice would you share with us?
Give yourself 30-45 minutes every day to wander around whatever place you find yourself without any agenda. Think of it as recess and the ‘playground’ is right where you are. Take your iPhone camera with you in case something calls you. (And, yes, that’s a deliberate pun!) Play with whatever calls you. If nothing calls you, just breathe and walk and look. Everything changes every day. Sometimes the play is worth sharing with others. Sometimes it was just for you.
Thank you very much for your insight and time.
I have been seen through the curious eyes of Meri Walker! Thank you!
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