Saturday, 12 December 2015

Inspirational Spotlight – Interview With Sondra Rymer, Founder of Fairy Tales Imagery

For my 2nd inspirational spotlight feature I would like to introduce you all to the multi talented and all round super woman Sondra Rymer aka Fairy Tales Imagery. I have known Sondra for about  a year now and we met through the wonderful twitter hub. I refer to Sondra as twinny as she is the complete mirror image of me, but I am the more lazier one ha ha. We have had many chats and rants about our creative journey and one thing that always amazes me is how much this lovely lady is capable of! I have no idea how Sondra fits everything in, at times I have wondered if she is super human because the amount of work that she puts in is ridiculous. Not only for her own creative pursuits but also in helping and supporting others in the creative community. On top of being a working Mum Sondra is also a photographer, graphic designer, blogger and active on pretty much every social media platform out there.

Sondra’s work has always made me smile, she creates worlds of happy ever afters and you just wish you could transport yourself into one of her images. Sondra manages to capture  unique worlds by digitally manipulating images using her own photos, occasional stock photos and props. Her children also feature in some pieces and are so soooo adorable!

Sondra does many interviews with other creatives and I was honoured to be featured on her Artist Spotlight Interview recently. So I thought it was about time we knew more about this super woman. So with further ado  I bring to you Sondra Rymer aka Twinny….

Tell us a little bit about you and what you do

Howdy! I am a conceptual photographer and digital illustration artist specializing in children's and YA fantasy and fairy tale art.  In college my time was spent primarily in photojournalism, theatre arts, graphic design and English literature. As life goes my career has taken many different turns from managing a photography department of a large curriculum and book publisher to freelancing photography from my home studio. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a creative visual storyteller. When I worked on newspaper feature stories, I adored telling a story through my photography and I think this has always stayed as a core value and desire in my work through the years.  Making art personable, engaging, and unique has always been key components in my profession. I have a desire to want to engage an audience with photography and art that tells a story. 

What inspired you as a child? Did you ever know that you wanted to pursue a career in the creative field?

Yes, I do believe I always knew I would pursue a career in the arts. From early grade school days I distinctly remember always leaning heavily on my favorite courses such as art, photography, reading, literature, language and music. Unfortunately, courses like math and science held little interest for me. I have always had a rather wild, vivid imagination and can easily get lost in a good book or day dream for hours, days and weeks. haha. As a child, I was always attracted to fantasy and fairy tales story books and theater. I loved the costumes, the lighting, the music, the story.... much like I still do today.  

Did you have any further training when you left school to hone your creative skills?
Since graduating from college, I have taken several courses over the years to brush up on skills and learn new ones. But honestly, nothing really replaces just getting in there and submersing yourself in a creative project where you have to learn on the spot. I think that is what I favor the most as I have never been a "read the directions first" kind of gal. New camera? Just take it out and start shooting. I rarely read instruction manuals on anything, haha. I just want to DO (said in my best YODA voice, lol) and get going already with it all! So nothing to me beats being able to constructively and in a positive moving forward type manner learn, figure out, and grow in various capacities necessary in creating whatever project I am currently involved in... for now this is conceptual fairy tale photography and digital art. 

Did you always know which area you wanted to work in or did you discover that as you went along your artistic journey?

I discovered it in the VERY beginning. I adored photography, storytelling, fantasy and theater. And then I lost it completely for a good 15 years. How wild is that. Different career  moves, what jobs I thought I had to be involved in, and personal choices led me away from the very things that I so loved to do creatively. It was not until I had children that I had a significant wake up call and complete turn around heading back to my first love. I just needed to figure out how to combine my love for visual storytelling, fantasy, photography and theatre arts. It was all there in the beginning, I just was too young and immature to fully grasp what direction I could take and be capable of career wise. But hey, all roads lead to where we are suppose to be. I could not be more happier then where I am creatively at this point in my life and the direction I hope to continue to explore, learn and take with my art career. I hope for this journey to keep going strong as it will be so amazing to see where I am at say 10 years from now. 

Can you run through your creative process with us.
My creative process always starts with storyboards.. well, actually, in my head. I saw the funniest profile blurb on someone's twitter last week something along the lines of "I think it in my head and draw it. Yep, that's about it." haha. how great is that.  

Either way, if I am working for a client or just doing something for fun and my portfolio, I always start with storyboard sketches. I am not by any means skilled at hand drawing (one of my goals is to take lessons as I believe this would greatly enhance my skill level in all my other art work,) so the storyboards are rough but important to set the start of the project and concept in place. 

From there I pick up my camera and plan, organize and execute the necessary photo shoots with models, costumes, specialized props, and / or on location or in my studio. This is one of my favorite parts of course of the whole process. I adore taking the pictures that I will be using in my art. I also enjoy finding or having created original costumes, specialty props and finding the models. 

After the photo shoot, I spend quite a bit of time editing all the images to select out my top ones that will be used in the feature art piece. 

Next, I go to my computer and the digital art process begins. I first arrange and place out all the main images, taking a look at which of those I will be utilizing and if there is anything that I will need to digitally paint or illustrate myself to complete the art. I spend quite a bit of time cutting out my models from backgrounds, or cutting out scenics, props or animals to use in the art piece. I am SUPER picky about how my imagery is cut out and applied, nothing is worse then seeing a bad Photoshop cut out job. ugh. So I probably spend more time then necessary in this step alone to insure that my art is going to blend WELL and consistently throughout the whole art piece. 

In all honesty, I do not care much for sitting long hours at my computer, but I can get totally lost in creating a new art piece! This can take a few days or a long week as my pieces usually involve MANY layers and details by adding textures, light, color enhancements, DOF, and all the other little tweaks here and there. It's all about the light, color, textures, details, more details, and making sure the piece just looks completely polished and put together. I check my lighting to make sure it is consistent all through the piece (nothing is a dead giveaway that a piece has been "pasted together" then 1. bad cut outs as I mentioned above of the models and other picture elements and 2. when the lighting is NOT consistent... yes this is fantasy and fairy tales, but the image STILL has to have some things "real" and consistent in order for it to BLEND WELL together. I am a little obsessed about blending, can you tell. I can look back at some of my earlier pieces and pick out immediately parts that I feel were not blended well with my incorrect cut outs, lighting or color balance. Makes me crazy. haha. Even on art pieces that I recently finish, I will go back with a critical eye and see things I should have done better. All part of the learning and growing process as an artist. 

     Do you use all of your own photos to create your imaginary worlds?

I would say I use 95%.. I really make a HUGE effort to use my own imagery and I am constantly taking pictures where ever I travel to build up my personal stock library. Even so, I might stumble upon something that I need as a main component in a fantasy art piece that I can not myself photography or digitally draw. A prime example of this is my recent Jurassic park children's art with a little explorer. He is surrounded by dinosaurs and looking at a fossil egg he holds in his hands. The fossil egg was designed and created by my good friend Robert de la Pena, dlpStudios who creates all my speciality props. His work is amazing! As for the dinosaur art that is featured in the piece, I can not draw or photograph dinosaurs! haha  I knew the style and look that I wanted for the dinosaurs, so I went to one of my favorite online stock agencies and legally purchased the dinosaur art. I am always SUPER careful about copyright laws, due to my journalism background. If I think I am going to sell my art, I purchase the correct applicable rights and licensing of any stock imagery. If I am not going to sell the art or I am not working for a client, then I seek out basic royalty free images that can be used on personal work. I have a number of stock agencies I have purchased art from over the years as well as other favorite sites such as from which I obtain images that I can not create or photograph myself. Again, I am always super careful on to make sure I am using someone's else art or image with the correct rights and legal permissions.  

You are diverse with your subjects, which images and worlds do you like creating the most?
I hope when I look back on my portfolio that I will see a evolving style and experience level as well as a diverse imagery gallery.  I get restless easily so I hope I am always moving forward and that my gallery will one day reflect this in terms of subjects and stories. My favorite worlds to create right now are the children's fantasy storybook and fairy tale imagery. I also have a growing to do list of more realistic imagery that I hope to find time to tackle one day. 

 Where do you get your inspiration from?
My children. Books. Music. Art. :) 

My children as their whole world of storybooks and games are so entirely and passionately driven by fantasy, stories, light and color, love it! 

Fantasy books I have read as both a child and as an adult ~ I have always been an avid book reader.  I dream about the stories and form images in my mind that are ever changing and evolving about the characters and the story line. For example, I will read a favorite fantasy book and for months afterwards day dream about the characters and evolve their storylines further in my mind while thinking of imagery to go along with each scene. 

Music. I love music. Soundtracks. Lots and lots of soundtracks. 80's. some classical. even some opera. Unless I am doing something super difficult and challenging in Photoshop where I have to really concentrate,  I have to have music. It is just the gel to my soul while I am working creatively. Art comes together in response to what music I am playing as it sets the tone and mood in my mind so to speak when I have my favorite music playing that "matches" the direction, energy and feel I want my work to take.

Art. Specifically, as this may surprise you because it is not current fantasy or fairy tales per say, haha, the Renaissance Art sculptures and painters ... those deep beautiful realistic rich oil paintings by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Sandro Botticelli.. basically all the Italian Renaissance painters as well as Dutch "Golden Age"and Flemish, French, and Spanish Baroque. I can stare all day long. :)  Jump to modern day and I find so many exceptional talents via the creative fantasy / fairy tale communities on Flickr and Deviantart. Too many to name... but the talent is jaw dropping inspiring and overwhelming. I will be doing a good job if I can create something even with half the creativity and talent of those whose work I admire in these communities. 

I am constantly amazed at how much you do in the background. Not only do you create these amazing pieces of art you are also an active blogger and do a lot of online marketing. On top of this you are a busy mum who also has a day job lurking in the background… how on earth do you fit this all in? 

I don't. I am constantly dropping all the balls I seem to try to juggle in the air ~ like hot air balloons I will feel for a moment like I have everything together and then slips a handful as they vanish off into the sky. haha

As a mother, my children and family always comes first. As an artist and professional creative I have to "balance" (I say that almost jokingly bc I never feel like I have anything balanced) the time for creative art and the time for marketing, social media and the blogs I love running which feature interviews with other creative colleagues.  I adore doing the interviews partly because of my journalism background, but also partly because I spent a lot of time inside my home office or busy with my children. Honestly, gone are the days when I would have time to get out and socialize at venues or events with other like minded creatives. So doing the interviews feeds the part of myself that still wants to connect with other artists on a regular basis. I feel like I also grow in my work in one way or another by these connections. They help motivate, support and provide enormous inspiration and goals for my own work just by taking a peek into their creative world.  I have learned the value and wonderful importance of being involved in a creative community. 

Unless an artist has an agent or money to throw at resources to help with marketing and social media strategy and content management on a weekly if not daily basis, everything has to be done ourselves.  I feel often as much as I try to organize this properly, I am running sloppy at the end of the day and exhausted. So, I constantly have to sit back, prioritize, accept what I will get to do and what I will not and just be ok with it all. 

I have put time and energy this year into taking specific social media marketing courses with the intend to run things all around better and more professionally  (which is actually not like me.. but see, that is not my favorite thing to do, so therefore, I just want to learn the quickest and easiest way possible rather then how I usually am about figuring things out and experimenting myself in photography and digital art)  So that time in doing all that marking and social media work took precious time away from what time I have for my art. I see a huge dip in my portfolio when I am throwing a great deal of my time at the marketing management but you can't have one without the other these days. Sooooo at the end of the day, I am not much help in detailing out how this balancing act can be done more successfully.  Spread too thin... that is what I always feel like in this regard. One aspect of this whole way of life for now that I find difficult is my desire to be able to sit down a JUST work solidly on a creative piece until it is done. Now I have to go in spurts either in an established time frame set by a client to meet a deadline or if it is just personal, starting something that I know I may not even get a chance to finish a year later it seems. I am sure this is the case for many creatives that balance many different jobs and or freelance work. I have to work in time slots throughout the day, get done what has to be done, and let go of the craziness of all the rest. Tomorrow is always another day! 

Can you give us a brief outline of what your typical day comprises of

oh my, this is difficult because every day seems to go at a different pace and all... I kinda like it though to be honest. I have always struggled with too much organized same ol same ol days... don't fence me in!! haha  Having children has forced me to be much more organized that is my go with the flow nature.

I try to get up a little early before the children are up... nice to have a little quite time to just get emails done and social media started. Mornings are a mix of taking kiddos to school, checking in with my mom to see if she needs help with anything, and more time spent on social media and looking for work. Even if I am in the middle of freelance work I am always thinking ahead to the next months and trying to set something up work wise. One of my goals this year was to try to manage a bit more exercise for a healthier lifestyle so I try to fit in that several times a week about mid morning. Then there are errands and household management. Afternoons are spent working in some capacity either on one of my "day" jobs, freelance or other client work. After kiddos are done with school I am focusing on personal family time. After they are in bed I go back to work. Again, more social media time or mostly work on freelance and my art.  Of course all that I just said gets flipped around like pancakes and every which way as life happens. I never have a "set schedule" but I enjoy that as it fits more my personality and nature. I just have to be free! 

As a working mother, I do everything revolving around my children and family, finding the spaces for work as I can and working at night. Just writing this is confusing, isn't it? lol On one hand I have to be scheduled and organized (yikes!) and on the other hand I have to be very "go with the flow" (yah!)  Honestly, no one will understand this unless they themselves are "in" it similar themselves. I know I sure never imagined all that I would be doing as a working full time artist and mother!

What would you say are your top tips out there for other creatives just starting out?

You know I often ask this similar question to other creatives I interview, just wondering if others are working smarter and on a better path to finding how to make a livable and working career as an artist. And what I find for both myself and with others is that NO ONE seems to have any good tips or suggestions that is per say hugely applicable to where I am at because everyone's goals, life circumstances are different! Keep at it. Learn as much as you can and work as hard as you can to find your creative "voice" and style, what you are passionate about expressing whether it is children's literature art, painting street art murals or sculpting! Yes, we all know this. Being a successful artist is all about having a huge desire for creating and getting better at what you create, hard work and determination, and ... good fortune. I have seen some amazingly talented artists get passed over and ignored and some others that I consider to be a little less experienced or professional get picked up for amazing jobs. go figure... we all have seen these things happen. In a professional art world where connections are just as important if not more as talent, I would say to other creatives just starting out that getting into a community of talented artists that you can learn from and also gain creative and technical support is crucial to paving the road to having a decent art career.  

I think as artists, a lot of us start out very independent and working solely "in" our art. I knew the importance of connecting with other artists but it took me a long time to truly "get it", make time for it, and realize how vital this was to moving forward in my career. See, there it revolves back to all those hours in social media and networking. And of course not just networking to make connections that are based on quantity over quality. I am talking make real quality connections ... establishing a sound group of supportive and networking artists that you actually DO get to know well and that care in return about you as an artist and your work. I had no idea of the importance of this when I was younger, or if I had an inkling I didn't actually "get it" until much later when I realized that 500+ connections on LINKEDIN do not matter in the least unless you actually really KNOW and connect with them. So if you are anything like me when I first started out, you will read this and go, oh, ok, totally get it (but don't really) and go right back to what you were doing which is creating your art and in a hurry, trying to make the "important key" connections of Art Directors and Publishers in the industry, but sadly ending up with a bunch of empty followers and quite a bit less work then desired.  Yes, been there, done that. :()

What is the best resource / tool you have found for gaining more exposure with your work?

Again, goes back to the connections. Getting involved in mastermind and like minded community groups on FB, IG, Flickr, and Twitter that help support and pass around art. It's all about making those quality connections with other artists that are not competitive but genuinely wanting to be involved with colleagues in their group in a supportive way. Just look at this... I became friends with you on Twitter and FB. We now have a friendship based on similar interest, life experience and work endeavors. You asked me to do this cool interview which in turn gets passed around YOUR group of colleagues and artist creative friends. How amazing is that and THAT is exactly how it works. It does not come from having a 1,000 followers on Twitter that have no idea who I am and what I do. It comes from making those real friendships and connections, so that if say something DOES come up that you hear about fitting for my work you pass my name along and vice versa.

What is your dream, where would you like to see yourself in say five years time?
ahhhh. this is a hard question for me right now. I am at a turning point ... Do I get a "day" job in photography / graphic design and work for a publisher, putting my fairy tales and storybook children's book art dreams on the back burner as more of a hobby for now (but still enjoying my day job) ... doing it only when I find the time but not as a main career? Or do I continue to try to make my photography and digital art my career while juggling all kinds of crazy part time freelance work? I am all over the place. There are certainly pros and cons to each scenario. Ask me again in about a year's time and I will see what happened. :) 

Wowsers! Thank you Sondra…Well I thoroughly enjoyed reading that and it was so nice to learn more about you. I thank the lucky stars that our paths crossed and I look forward to seeing where our odd little paths take us and being part of your creative journey. Thank you for everything you do Sondra and for giving us such an insightful interview.

To connect with Sondra you can find her on any of the following social media platforms:

Well that’s me done for 2015. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and may all of you have much love, luck and happiness in 2016. What a year!