Saturday Salon - Brenda Gottsabend

Image created by Brenda Gottsabend

Following is the sixth in my once-monthly series of 'Saturday Salons' - where I'll be introducing and sharing the work of other artists who I've met along my journeys here on this great world wide web.

Today - I am thrilled to be interviewing Brenda Gottsabend whose wonderful creative work can be found on her blog: How To Feather an Empty Nest.

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"In helping others, we shall help ourselve, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us."

- Flora Edwards

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First of all, let me express my thanks to you for the opportunity to be a 'Saturday Salon' participant. I am deeply honored to share the stage with the previous Salon artists and to be able to share my story with your readers.

Can you tell me what first ignited your creative spark and love for photography?

As far as photography is concerned, I am definitely a late bloomer. My love affair with the camera began in the summer of 2009. At the time, I was studying graphic design at our local community college. I discovered that one of the requirements for the Advanced Graphic Design Certificate was the Digital Photography course. to say that I was filled with trepidation was an understatement.

Sure, I had taken snapshots of my children and family events throughout the years. But the technical aspects of photography - f-stops, aperture, shutter speed, exposure, reciprocity - filled me with dread. Photography for art's sake was beyond my  understanding.

But then, magic happened. I was very lucky to have a magnificent instructor who helped me make sense of the technical requirements of creating images. More importantly, he taught me how to "see" - and once you begin to see as a photographer, you can't "un-see".

And I was hooked. Gear and the technical elements still make my eyes glaze over. But I have found a way to express myself creatively through image-making that works for me. I haven't looked back since.

Your photography has a certain 'signature' style. You have a wonderful eye for capturing architectural detail in the abstract. Can you speak to how that has evolved?

Initially, my photo walks were confined to my neighborhood surroundings - their primary purpose being exercise, not art-making. So, my subjects were the things of suburbia - nature macros and detritus I found on the street. My camera was merely my side-kick on those excursions.

It was when I gave myself permission to give my camera 'leading lady' status that things changed - when I allowed myself to venture out, with the sole purpose of taking photos. I began exploring urban settings walking the downtown streets. I have always been fascinated with architecture - it now became my muse.

The details are what fascinate me. Lines and geometry. As I continue to explore, my work is becoming more abstract in nature. My style evolving, in tiny steps. Each new interest involves giving myself permission, as an artist, to branch out.

Do you have any favorite artists that you believe have influenced and informed your work?

I am inspired daily by my fellow bloggers - women like yourself who are journeying along this creative path and share and walk together. The work of photographers Berenice Abbott and Margaret Bourke-White are sources of creative inspiration as well as personal artistic heroes.

I'm particularly intrigued by your courage and bravery to take a giant leap from the safe and secure and 'known' into something brand new. Can you speak to the moment that inspired you to do so?

It was October 2001. I was taking my early evening walk around the neighborhood, listening to Martha Beck's audio book 'Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life, No Matter What!'. And as I rounded the corner, my flashlight guiding the way through the darkening twilight, a voice in my head (sounding suspiciously like Martha) said: "Quit your job, go back to school and start anew. Be happy!"

A little background here. For almost 30 years, I was an IT/IS professional. I was considered an 'expert', someone others looked to for answers and solutions. I was very good at my job. But I was searching for something that I couldn't find in my cubicle or during my job commute.

I can't really explain why I listened this time to that small voice (although Martha can be pretty darn convincing). It certainly helped that my wonderful husband, children and family were all amazingly supportive and that the local community college had just started a graphic design certificate program that was a perfect fit for me.

On May 1st, I reached another milestone, officially taking early retirement and began drawing my pension - a final good-bye to the corporate world and a big hello to whatever comes next.

I see you have just recently started a graphic design studio. What have you found - thus far - to be the greatest challenges? The greatest rewards?

I must admit to enjoying retirement too much and have not expended much effort in building my graphic design business. And for now, I'm okay with that.

My greatest reward has, without a doubt, been my role as volunteer graphic designer for Nest, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing the lives of women artisans in developing countries. Perhaps this is what I was meant to do with my design training - that it was all leading me here, to this moment of giving. Each donated hour has been a privilege. My heart is full.

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Would love to meet and interview you here. If interested - please introduce yourself..let me know.