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A creative blog by Brian Leighton on The Whole 9

Art and After

After visiting several of the big art shows in NYC last week, my eyes were spinning for 3 days. Some inspiring, a lot of WTF, and seeing many old and new friends from the art and photography world. Most of all I was left thinking, where is the art world headed? Hundreds and hundreds of galleries exhibiting work in at least a dozen venues, and not a ton of red dots. I’m always left wondering where the galleries are headed and how they survive.

What better way to be brought back to my own reality than by capturing a pregnancy for posterity. No two pregnancies are the same (just ask my client who’s come during all three of hers), and the comfort of a woman in her curves is never as evident as when she’s got the gift of life inside her.

The seventh month is the prime time for maternity shoots, pre-face change due to water retention, and almost at the point of maximum belly expansion to make the curves really stand out of my “girl’s best friend” shadows which I use to hide the trouble spots . I’ve had the opportunity to shoot women the week before they gave birth (they didn’t plan ahead though couldn’t pass up capturing the baby inside), and though the face may have changed, the beauty did not fail to shine. It’s really never too late in a pregnancy to focus on those curves.

This week’s client was a knockout. Her husband commented on her sex appeal during the shoot, putting her even more at ease. She loved the pics and has scheduled a follow up post-pregnancy shoot, with baby in hand to add to what’s going to be a great art installation in the new nursery. I can’t wait to share something from round two, and here’s a taste of round one.

Maybe it’s time for YourNudePhoto.com to add a new “before and after” twist to the menu.

YourNudePhoto – maternity nude portait

YourNudePhoto – maternity nude portait

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These are beautiful Brian…and as I can attest, having your photo shot is an amazing way to document the experience. I only wish that it had been you around to do the shooting! Much love…

Gorgeous piece Brian! The ‘S’ curve in your subject is stunning…and your eye captures it with all the grace mother nature has in mind.

Rest Hour

One of my favorite descriptions of the behavior of New Yorkers is “with an economy of words and actions.” It’s the behavior where someone productive is getting something done. I try to pack in as much as possible and have a hard time leaving a task until tomorrow. As a third grade teacher of mine once said, “if a task is once begun, never leave it til it’s done, be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”
I’ve mentioned before stopping and smelling the roses helps you to appreciate life’s little pleasures, and, that doing rather than thinking about doing eliminates many of the “what if’s” of life. The third element of this trifecta is taking a moment to breathe and clear your head for what’s up next.
Before what turned out to be an amazing studio visit today, I took an hour. A whole hour…just to think. Think about what I wanted to achieve with these new contacts, settling into my head and focusing (no pun intended).
They loved my work and have contracts on their way to me, and I have a great new venue for selling my art. I’m seriously considering bringing back the kindergarten rest hour. Any takers?

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I zone out too before a studio visit. This gives me a chance to see where I am and where I want to go with it too. Thanks Brian for reminding me that some down time is most beneficial when it comes to creatives and their meeting of new people. And like you say take time to smell the roses. HUGs, J

Yes…nap time/meditation time/zone out time is a must! I do it all the time! and thank you for sharing that new venue link…for a while now I’ve been thinking about how working with an interior designer or someone related to that field would be a great way to get art out there, but had no idea how to do it. Now I see a way! :D

Phew…I’ve heard of something called meditation and it has crossed my mind that employing it might further increase the power I have to create and make things happen. I just don’t know where I’d find the time ;)

Music to my ears. Finish what I start. Boy where that would take me.
Afternoon nap time in my kindergarten was me sneaking crayons and breaking them and throwing them randomly, ok maybe purposefully, at the teacher…who was trying to nap too with her head on the table. I had a hard time napping. Meditation works better for me because of the focus and detachment.

By Design

Sometimes looking beneath the surface of things, generates a whole new perspective of what’s been sitting right in front of you the whole time.

After a meeting with my gallerist in Palm Beach last week, he reminded me that I am not just an aestheticist (it seems to be the appropriate word…if it were one) creating beautiful imagery, but a marketing businessman, constantly evolving with the nature of the economy and art business to be successful. Licensing imagery for posters, selling out takes of creative shoots to offices to fit into their lower budgets, utilizing the free marketing available in social networking sites to promote and sell work, and; most recently, branching out into interior design in an effort to be creative on a larger scale while utilizing my own artwork to enhance the furnishings I place into my designs.

For years I’ve pursued interior designers, architects, and art consultants to sell work; a networking strategy that has generated far more revenue than the traditional gallery route, in my experience. Recently, I was approached by a nude portrait client to design their space. An eye is an eye, and a creative is a creative. What started as a different kind of art project (I love when a new one is thrown my way pushing my limits) ended in an extremely happy client, a beautiful home and terrace, completed on time and within the budget, with my art photography hanging on the wall.

I’ve done four successful projects to date, sold art to 3 of the 4 clients, and have had a lot of fun being creative in a new way. I can’t help but mention I’ve learned a lot from, and been inspired by, the designers I’ve worked with to date. I continue to recommend them to the appropriate client (every one isn’t a match, I’ve learned it’s a lot like dating). My forte has always been adding the appropriate piece or pieces of art to enhance a design, and more recently, I’ve cut out the middle man once or twice to continue to build my art business in an innovative way.

Leap and the net will appear.

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Brian…you are an incredible man and I’m proud to know you. Not many aestheticists are as creative, as steadfast and as generous in nature. I love the direction you’re going and the work you’re doing…and I’m glad that you too realize that the net always appears.

Don’t put off til tomorrow…

After receiving an email this morning from a recent nude commission that her husband, who gifted her with the shoot as part of her 40th birthday, died of a massive heart attack this week, I’m reminded once again to put on those new clothes, eat my favorite food, and don’t wait til tomorrow to tell someone I love them.

“I am even happier now that we came to you for the pictures. He made such a big deal out of my 40th birthday and made me feel so special. The pictures are something I can hold onto to remember an experience that we both loved.” Her words remind me how fortunate I am to be an intimate player in the lives of the people who walk through my door each week.

I’m currently working on an interior design project for a dear friend who turned 76 this year. She told me she wanted to smile again when walking into her apartment where nothing really has be done in 14 years to update it. She hired me for my eye and as I love any creative project, I jumped on board with a vision and plan of attack. Fresh paint went on the walls over the past few days and new beautiful furniture gets delivered this week building the catalyst for the smile. I’m reminded it’s never too late for a change.
Don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today.

The Women

9 out of 10 of my clients are women; all shapes, colors, sizes and variations of beauty. After seeing my friend (and fellow whole 9er) Kimleigh’s performance of T-O-T-A-L-L-Y last night (go see it!), I’ve been the thinking about the women in my life and where they are in theirs. We all go through phases, and come out the other side of them as a new variation of ourselves, hopefully better.
Four little girls (ages 6-10) this past weekend, dealing with the dynamics of resolving conflicts when 3 gang up on 1 to convince her she is wrong, while the one stands her ground and feels she doesn’t need to belong to be comfortable with herself. A 12 year old testing the boundaries at every turn, seeing where the lies stick, and when she’ll be reigned in. The inevitable bitchiness of a teenage girl setting in. A friend turning 47, experiences her birthday with a ton of laughter, accompanied by hot flashes, making her feel…older. Though all everyday events in the lives of women, I can’t help but reflect on those who came through my studio and marked their moment in time. From the girl in her 30’s who had only seen her body as injection sites for her insulin shots from the time she was a child, to the pregnant woman who thought she would never be capable of conceiving (she returned for pregnancy #2 as well), to the plus size gal who finally felt beautiful after seeing what I saw when I looked at her through my lens. I’m fortunate to have marked these moments of transition, and to have witnessed each of my subjects come away with life lessons.

It’s helped me learn that we all, women and men, need to feel and process emotions to eventually become more of who we hope to be.
And don’t be afraid to mark the moment in time. You’re worth it, even as a work in progress.

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ah, women! superior beings for sure. gives men something to aspire to.

Great post! Indeed, and for both men and women, I’d say that sometimes all we need is to know that we are each wonderful and unique in our own ways. That can definitely make us all feel a hell of a lot better about ourselves and lend that emotional well being to those around us. So, taking that into account, you sir are wonderful! Keep up the great work. :)

First Impressions

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I was raised by the town beauty, who to this day “pulls herself together a little bit” before heading out. My 5 trips a week to the gym, complemented by wearing only t-shirts and jeans that showcase my hard work, make me a cog in the wheel of vanity. I, too, pull it together before going out the door.

I also pay a lot of attention to what’s inside. A never ending process of being non-judgmental and kind, I live what the town beauty (she still is) taught me by example and get along with most everyone (though a sense of entitlement doesn’t really work for me). I trust that I generally know my “customer” within 5 or 10 seconds of meeting them. It’s visceral and I’ve always trusted my gut, which hasn’t steered me wrong, in seeing people for who they are on the inside. Pretty can turn to ugly in a few seconds, though what’s inside usually is what it is from the get go. This may explain why the friends I have and cherish have been around for a long time.

My shoot this weekend was an incredibly smart woman, creative in her own right, able to play 4 instruments and juggling careers in law and film production. 800 things going on in one mind at one time was my first impression. Something I can definitely relate to, and the catalyst for me falling in like with her immediately. Cut from the same cloth of having the ability to channel all those thoughts, for a moment, to create something beautiful pouring out of our soul; again visceral. She felt it too, trusting me to do my thing from start to finish, creating beauty with her body, her tattoos, and the one or two props she brought along.

She tells me she’s coming back for round two with her instruments in tow.

Do you trust your first impressions?

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Lovely as always Brian…and yes, I always trust my first instincts, and find that more often than being disappointed, I’m pleasantly surprised as I get to know people and discover even more to admire. Kind of like my relatedness to you :)

As always beautiful.

Wonderfully said. You have a great way with words.

Same Same But Different

The lovable Heidi Huber got me thinking about my work making a difference today. I know my nudes have the impact of helping someone see themselves beyond what’s in the mirror; a sense of beauty they may not have seen before, something deeper than the curves, dimples, and strength that brought them to me. They walk away with a blossomed confidence from when they arrived.

My ongoing fine art, coming from what I’m inspired by at the moment, resonates with viewers and brings great discussion and commentary propelling me forward. This feedback leaves an impact on me adding fuel to the passion that keeps me creating while inspiring others to look at things from a fresh perspective.

And finally, the calls I receive to make a difference in others work by offering up the creative direction they may need to bump up their projects to the next level, reinforces that I’m moving in the right direction. Making a difference is a nice reward, though I consider it a bonus to being fortunate enough to create, since without creating, I don’t truly really feel alive.

With a birthday quickly approaching, it seemed a perfect time to reflect on what impact I make on the world. I realize I leave it a little more beautiful, inside and out, and I’m smiling a little bigger now moving into another year.

This recent work, inspired by the water surrounding me at the time, are actually foliage of the Caribbean. The fluidity is what evolved when I stopped thinking and let my gut takeover. Getting lost in creating is the absolute best.


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These are beautiful Brian…and what strikes me is that although the subject matter is completely different from your other work, there is a consistency in the grace with which it’s presented.

rminds me of georgia o’keefe. just lovely.

Very nice. Ever seen the work of Rod Dresser? I think you’d relate. Besides his spectacular, organic traditional stuff, check out his most recent digital images, especially where he’s working with fruit and plants.

I also feel that sometimes we don’t even realize the impact our work can have on the world, always pushing forward and challenging yourself can surely yield positive results.

I love the abstractions posted, beautiful use of color and line.

I’m Smelling the Roses

Aaah…Summer again. I wait for it all year. Delicious watermelon, sun-kissed skin after a day on the beach, and setting these 3 up for an amazing water fight will always mark the onset of Summer 2010.

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These are too beautiful Brian. And water fights are the best. Looking forward to picking up some of that watermelon you mention. Yum…

Brian,
I really like the play between your mastery with black and the white with amazing color. Allows us the soberness of clean imagery with poignant lines and crisp shadows juxtaposed against a glimpse color and into the vibrancy of our lives. Thanks for sharing.

Age Before Beauty?

How many times have you heard 50 is the new 40 (or even the new 30)? One of my shoots last week was a woman, 58 years young, who shocked me when she divulged that info before leaving my studio at the end of the session. She looked great; not in a plastic LA, or Upper East Side (for the east coasters) way, but in a real, I work out and try to keep it together kind of way.

What resonated most? Even with the confidence she had to do nudes, it was her husband’s love, support, and push, that got her here (he made the initial call), through the shoot (he watched with adoring eyes as I captured his queen for posterity), and beaming after seeing the contact sheets. He asked her “Who is that?” while looking at the small images under a magnifier with a smile from ear to ear and a glimmer in his eye. Love and confidence know no age.

I will add that she has three adult children and no plans of telling them. This secret between husband and wife will be just one more notch in the checklist of what keeps them young and in love.

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Nice! I like this. Thanks for the post. I can honestly say that I am one of these women myself. People usually guess my age between 24-30, but never over 35. I’m actually 39, toned and trim after working off the excess weight I picked up after I hit 30, got divorced and lost my mom to cancer. I’ve re-emerged from my depression to find the beautiful, sexy young woman that was there underneath the whole time. I plan on being 40 and fabulous, wearing a bikini into my 60’s and being a totally wild cougar!

How about her opinion, Brian, and her satisfaction, her beaming pride, and her thoughts, being as how she was the one who posed for you – and in this situation he’s just the lucky husband! :)

Trimming the Fat

Have you seen “Hoarders” yet? It’s a TV show about people who save everything. Scary, to say the least, and after watching it I’m proud to call myself a “Spartan.” I get rid of just about everything. I follow the rule “If I don’t need it, use it, or love it, it goes.”

This minimalist approach spills over into my art, where simplicity and beauty are my two main goals no matter the subject. And in the newest phase of marketing my work, I realize I’ve trimmed the fat as well.

I remember when I would do mailings 3 or 4 times a year. New work required new promo pieces, then labels, stamps, and ultimately the line at the post office (not to mention the cost). I remember one intern who put the stamps OVER my phone number on the postcards (clearly hungover at work). It contributed to my need to be on top of every detail of the most tedious of tasks, the fat of the process.

With the evolution of technology, it’s become writing a captivating email, attaching the best new image, and hitting send to my list of collectors, clients and contacts. Streamlining even more over the past year, I created a fan page on Facebook, which in addition to my personal page, are the daily opportunities to reach out and touch, sharing the image shadowing my mind when I wake up that day. Accompanied by one line of description about the image; subject matter, how many are left in the edition, or promoting the designer who bought it for their client, lead to new opportunities for my work.

Over the weekend, a collector bought a piece they admired from a show several years ago after getting reacquainted with it in a posting on FB a few weeks ago (I had noted it was the last of the edition of 5). The fan page has brought sales of books and inquires about studio visits from those who don’t live nearby and want the opportunity to see work in person that they may have missed at past exhibitions. Best of all, it’s a regular reminder to them, with a click of the mouse, that I can mark a moment in people’s lives by making them the subject of art. Apparently we’re coming into nude season as indicated by the inquiries this past week, not to mention the weather. Stay tuned.

A streamlined approach to life, art, and now marketing. Less is more.

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Thank you so much for sharing your insight of marketing your art. It was very interesting.

In our home decor business, when clients are starting a project, I frequently ask them about their personal style. Are they looking for something traditional, contemporary, transitional or eclectic? Are they a “Less is More” kind of person, or do they prefer a “More is Not Enough” sort of approach?

I totally get the “Less is More” idea, especially in our marketing. I have a mantra: KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid). With the avalanche of information we are forced to sift through daily, the truth is that the public has less than two seconds to react to your message when it comes to advertising. But my brain is a beehive of activity and initially I like to include all of my ideas (even the silly ones) and then distilling them down to their most essential and relevant components.

In decorating there is also something to be said about the concept of layering: implementing variations of a theme and using our favorite objects in arrangements that are ever evolving. I like incorporating my relics from the past and my fabulous finds. I even include the discarded which I will frequently re-purpose into my garden or for a future art project. I have a big house for the present and I embrace my insane collections; and honestly, I’m not sure I trust people who don’t have “stuff.”

I believe in having a joy of living and using that in everything I do. I think both approaches can be valid depending on your personal decorating style and the circumstances of the moment. You can go both ways. La Vita e` Bella!