Finding artistic life in a digital world… how do creative people survive?

Flowers on the Terrace, detail, KGTaylor, acrylic

Flowers on the Terrace, detail of textures, KGTaylor, acrylic

American writer Sherwood Anderson wrote about a “terrible nerve tension, speed. Something vibrant in the air about us all… the broken distractions of modern life.” ) A Storyteller’s Story, 1924.

His writing was after the financial crash of the early 1920’s in America. Sounds like it could have been today. He wrote of a way to survive… “though the love of surfaces, sensually felt through the fingers – … to reach down through all the broken distractions of modern life to that old love of craft out of which culture springs.” He’s speaking of a physical connection with our environment and world. Making things. (No TV or mobile devices twittering away, taking up our lives so soon forgotten.) Instead, a walk in the woods, and a real painting made with real pigments and hair brushes. Clay made into pots and fired in a wood burning kiln. Things like that.


I don’t have a kiln, though I wanted one years ago. I do get a lot of satisfaction even from books and reading about these things. Reading real books with pages of photos. Not on a computer screen.

How we can find our way in this increasingly detached world where creative people can shut themselves off from others, and sometimes feel too lonely or worried to create? Pretty easy to fall into that these days when so many of us have social media to give us our temporary jolt of belonging to something out there. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great tool. But only one part of life.

In a world of technology and visual media that flashes before our eyes and then is gone, what can we  creative people do to make our art in ways that seem more immediate, more tangible? Can we work digitally and yet have a part of our world that digs in a garden or makes food for loved ones in a kitchen, oven or fired up grill to satisfy our need for craft?

Kim Weston photography, Carmel, California

Kim Weston photography, Carmel, California

We have some wonderful friends in Carmel, Kim and Gina Weston. Kim’s grandfather, Edward Weston, is called one of the greats. Once we visited their home and saw Grandfather Edward’s original darkroom studio still intact. It’s almost like a museum room. Kim makes his photographic art in the traditional way to this day, with film and developing trays. I know that’s quite a process, since I did the same in art school, and developed my prints in the bath tub with all the trays! It was wonderful to see the image appear before my eyes. Then I had to do it all over again because something needed dodging or burning. No matter, I learned patience and felt so successful when I got the print I was hoping for.

I work with computers all the time. Photoshop is one of my everyday tools. It has helped me to visualize, to learn, to grow and to get to the next step in my easel painting world too. Several years ago I was working with this program 80 percent of my time, and then I realized I missed real paints and pigments, papers and canvas and the act of splashing it all in a real, physical way. That was my turning point, and that’s my paint world now. I work with both.

Every creative person finds their own medium. Technology is often the chosen way. I would love to learn how to weld melted metals! To fire clay and make gorgeous glazes. There is an entire world of quilters I work with who have fancy computerized sewing machines. I get excited when people tell me about their creative love and their chosen medium. Inspiration crosses all the borders, all the technology fences.

My favorite path is just plain drawing. You can draw in the sand, like Jesus did. You can draw with finger paints like a preschool child. It begins with such basics, as it did for me.

Guess my next post should be about how I love drawing.

Oh, here’s a question for your response: Do you think technology gets in the way of people’s desires to live creatively?

Thanks for reading,



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10 Responses to “Finding artistic life in a digital world… how do creative people survive?”

  1. Sherry Galey Says:

    This painting is absolutely wonderful. I’d love to have it on my wall.


    • karen Says:

      Thanks Sherry. Very kind of you to say that. You can see the whole painting on my new website, if you want to take a peek:


  2. offshoots12 Says:

    thoughtful and inspiring article. I find that technology allows for some instant gratification in my craft…specifically, digital photos and post processing allows me to create several pieces from the same photo in a matter of minutes.

    But, I paint (acrylics) much less often than creating digital art because of the time and patience involved in letting layers dry, for example. Plus, the whole project needs weeks to evolve into something I love unlike the digital stuff.


    • karen Says:

      Thanks for sharing your process. Seems we are always finding our balance in the media worlds, and we evolve with our processes and ways of working.


  3. Judy Says:

    Love this one, remenicent of Odeon Redon.


  4. nsturgill Says:

    The painting is beautiful! and the ideas are wonderful food for thought.


  5. Sarah Schultz` Says:

    I love the Kim Weston photography. Black and white can be refreshing once in awhile. I love your colorful artwork Karen.
    I live in a rural area near DC. It is beautiful here and quiet.
    All I have to do is go in town for inspiration, but have little time
    to paint due to my poor planning. Guess it is time to look at
    scheduling painting time.!


    • karen Says:

      Sarah, sometimes our schedules get away from us and before we know it we are at the end of a week and realize we didn’t make time for our creative work. I’ve done it often. If I take a moment to revisit my more productive times, I remember it can be done. Baby steps to start and then we are back in full swing in no time. Thanks for your comments and good luck!


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