Category Archives: Living on Purpose

Design Your Own Artist Residency


Fabrication by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

As he laid out his photographs on the table for the group to critique, Jimmy (not his real name) said, “This is the work that I created at the XYZ Residency on the coast.” Normally, I would be jealous. Of the time, the space and the opportunity.

Artist Residency

Artist residency programs give artists the opportunity to live and work outside of their usual environments to reflect, research, experiment with new materials or processes and / or make work. A residency lasts for a set period of time. It’s a formal affair. Artists fill out an application and submit a curriculum vitae, motivation for the residency and often a project proposal for a residency that is typically six months to years out.

But today, I was different.  Residency programs are earned and require advance planning, and I wasn’t in a position at the moment to do that. If I wanted the opportunity to focus more intently on my purpose and craft as an artist, I’d have to be creative. I knew I was going to be in Portland for seven days solo. I’d have focused set of responsibilities but with that I would also have some free time.

The Math

It’s true that some free time carved out isn’t the same as a residency. But I could turn that time into something. I had 7 days or 168 hours. Out of that I needed to subtract:

  • hours for sleep (56)
  • working out (14)
  • eating (21)
  • other responsibilities such as job hunting and house management (28)
  • social engagements (3) and
  • personal maintenance (7)
  • spiritual practice (7)

That left 35 hours. I could carve out a work week within a week! What could I accomplish?


In a bright yellow notebook, I penned 3 main goals:

  1. Develop a better understanding of the photography community in Portland
  2. Create a new artist statement that was better than the one automagically generated by
  3. Produce new work


How did I go about all this? To develop a better understanding of the deep photography community in Portland, I:

  • Enjoyed looking at photographers’ work at Camera Work, Blue Sky (especially the Pacific Northwest Photographers Drawers), and Vernissage as well as other media at other galleries (Disjecta, Carnation, Augen, Land, Froelick, Elizabeth Jones Art Gallery)
  • Met fellow photogs in a monthly photo group critique
  • Met more fellow photogs at the one-year anniversary of the Portland Darkroom (rising from the ashes of Newspace) including one of the founders
  • Plumbed the depths of the film and camera experts at local gem Blue Moon Camera and Machine
  • listened to an interview of a local photographer and publisher
  • enjoyed thoroughly reading a book by a local photographer whom I had enjoyed meeting

To create a better artist statement for me than was able to generate, I researched to remind myself what should be included, looked at and reflected on my own work over the past 20 years, read over 100 artist statements, and looked at photographers’ work. I wrote more about the process here.

Lastly to produce new work, I took a multi-step process to revive my now discontinued Contax 645 medium format camera, found Kodak Portra 120 roll film and a place that will develop it (the aforementioned Blue Moon Camera and Machine) and focused us on a new subject, the place where I stayed. The first two rolls were terrible. I have more hope for the 3rd now in development. I’ll share more soon. I experimented also with combining film with zentangles. Those results coming soon too.

Key Takeaways

The opportunity I designed to evaluate my work with methodical and sustained focus was a real gift. Time with friends was a welcome and joyful elixir. My key takeaways were:

  • The photography community in Portland is vibrant and multi-faceted. Each artist I met was working to manifest his or her highest work for a given body and topic.
  • You may not be able to have it all, but you sure can have more.
  • Designing your own residency is completely possible. If you time bound your design, artistic pursuits can be balanced with work and family. For example, there are 24-hour comic contests where comic book artists get together for 24 hours to see if they can make one 24-page comic. That’s doable with work and family.

At the very end, I decided to call this The Tesseract Art and Design Residency because the benefits from the time will feed my work at TAD.

Start Living It

“Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.” Cheryl Strayed, interviewed by Lisa Congdon in A Glorious Freedom.

This grabbed me. So I spent the last 2 weekends investing my spare time in working on art. What does that even look like? For Saturday, October 7, 2017, it looked like this:

  1. Removed old portfolios from view on Behance. – 10 minutes
  2. Searched for and finally found the color negative of an image that Mom had asked for. I went through 8 completely full negative binders, some more than once hunting for this image. Finally found it in 1994.  – 1 hour
  3. Watched the layers basics tutorial for Photoshop on Adobe. – 20 minutes
  4. Scanned the image I found, Paul on the PCT trail – 15 minutes
  5. Ran into tonal range issues with the image so I worked on it in Photomatix 5.0 but that wasn’t enough. Found out there was a version 6 available and downloaded the free upgrade. 10 minutes
  6. Edited the image on PCT in Photomatix and combined 2 versions in Photoshop. – 10 minutes
  7. Ordered 10 prints of the final version printed on Moab Bright from Giclee Today. Not sure that was the right decision. Maybe should have ordered one to test. But the shipping is killer. $7 minimum!  – 40 minutes
  8. Added the image to those available for sale on Red Bubble – 5 minutes
  9. Revised file from sRGB to Adobe RGB color profile in the final file and asked Giclee Today if it was possible to replace. 5 minutes
  10. Wrote this blog entry. Including thinking time in the car, maybe 30 minutes.

On the whole, a good investment of about 3 hours and 30 minutes of time on a Saturday.

940024-1 Paul on PCT010_Merged LoRes ADOBE RGB for web

Reflections on Learning

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein


It turns out that passionate curiosity about our own experience is key.

Henry Mintzberg, the John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal said in an interview “The best way to learn is by reflecting on your own experience.

By being passionately curious about and reflecting on all that I experienced this week, I pulled out some key learnings about learning:

Regular learning is important.

The idea of a “job” is going away. Instead people are hired to do something and move on. For example, the average tenure in a “job” is 2 years. And 40% of the US workforce is contingent which means regularly moving on every 18 months. That means regularly learning new skills, situations, objectives and teams. (You can read more about this in The Future of Work is Here by Josh Bersin, Principle and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte.)

Everything is learnable.

The good news is that everything is learnable. Everything is a skill. Everything can be learned. It may be hard. It may take time. But it can be learned. (Check out Skills vs. Talents by Seth Godin.)

Learn daily

Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning  Officer of Degreed and panelist at a recent Silicon Vikings sponsored event said that work is moving too fast for us to learn periodically. We need to learn daily to keep up.

Hang out with humans

At the same panel, Jenny Dearborn, CLO of SAP, said “Learning happens with humans.” It’s informal. At a separate event, Ashley Goodall, SVP of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, echoed the same theme: “We develop most in response to human beings.”

He also said, “To make a good guess of the future you have to be a good observer of the present. You have to be a student of work and practice the forensics of work. How does it happen?”  What a great place to practice passionate curiosity!

Food for thought:

  • What are you passionately curious about?
  • What have you learned this week?

In Pursuit of Dreams

Whether young or old, you’ll never have more time than you have today. So, all those things you’ve been meaning to do. You should do them.

Beer Bottles for WebI’ve been saying I want to brew beer. But I wasn’t taking any tangible steps. So last summer, I bought an extract kit, went to a UC Davis brewing short course and gave it a go. I brewed a second batch, learned many brewing lessons, and realized you have to love it more than I do. I have one more batch in me and I plan to do it at You Brew in Portland.

IMG_0862Another thing I want to do is run a 50K or 31.25 miles on trails. I’ve been racing half-marathons on a spotty training plan and doing okay. An occasional 1st or 3rd. Moving up in distance meant more intentional in training. So I went to a Run Voyages running training camp with Ultrarunner of the Year, Magdalena Boulet and got some structure so that I can go from a haphazard training plan to 1 core workout (Pilates, weights or Barre), 1 speed and hill repeat run, 1 easy run, 1 long run with some tempo each week. Yikes!

I ran my first 30K or 18.75 miles this month and while it was muddy with sideways rain, I am ready for another one.IMG_0860

The last outlandish thing that I’ve been wanting to do that I will share with you is to be a peony farmer. However, instead of buying land and trying this out, I am going to Chateau CharMarron gardens in San Jose near the Calaveras Reservoir every 2 weeks during bloom season this year to see if I can buy a bunch of peonies. If that satisfies my itch, I can stop there.

The funny thing about all this is that it is about what I want. But what God wants is quite different.

Isaiah 1:17 says “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

When I look around there is plenty of injustice. The Big Short, a recent movie about when four outsiders saw the global collapse of the economy and decided to short it, is a GIANT story of injustice. Martin Luther King Day celebrated earlier this month is a celebration of a man who sought justice. What can I do that’s in-line with what God wants?

Inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo (more on that in another post soon) within a month I had several bags of women’s clothes that needed a good home. Serendipitously, I found out that a co-worker of mine was doing some volunteer work for Freedom House, an organization in San Jose and San Francisco that provides a new life for survivors of human-trafficking. She let me know of their need for clothing and voila those bags had a home!

Through another book (whose title I have forgotten) I found out about International Justice Mission, an organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. They are “inspired by God’s call to love all people and to seek justice for the oppressed. We protect the poor from violence without regard to religion, race or any other factor, and we seek to partner with all people of goodwill.” So I donated.


God’s dreams for my life are different from mine but they are such a rich addition. I am having fun and feeling fulfilled pursuing them.




Pause and Reflect


A quiet moment to pause and reflect, to contemplate and intend

It’s the perfect time of year to pause and reflect over the last year and contemplate and intend for the coming one. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been working through Lara Casey’s book Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose with an intent to cultivate what matters in 2016.

One of the exercises in the book is to examine what has been working in the past year so you can carry it forward into the new year. For me, having a regular conference or seminar experience has been pivotal in developing my professional skills. The Grove Consulting Company’s Graphic Facilitation Skills Workshop was probably the best experience of the four I tried. On the other end of the spectrum, having a goal for trail running (six half-marathons) helped me stay in shape. What has been working for you? What would you like to carry forward to 2016?

As you might expect, the most improvement occurs when looking at what has not been working in the past year and that is the next part of the exercise. For me, the way I manage my time has not been accruing to the purposes I would like to accomplish. For example, I spend too much time worrying. Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Nope. So any time at all spent worrying is wasted time. Especially when that happens at in the wee hours of the morning. What hasn’t been working for you?

The lessons I learned from this examination are that having a goal in trail running is good for me so I’ll be setting one in 2016. In addition, rather than spend my time on worry, it matters way more to spend it with others.

I have another week or so of exercises in Lara’s book to go but already I am liking how my January is shaping up with my new intent to cultivate what matters and to live on purpose. I know that doesn’t mean everything will be neat and tidy but I am in a better position to make decisions as things come up after having done the work than before.

How’s January looking for you?

If you’d like to learn more about this process, check out Lara Casey’s blog.