Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Struggle is Real

Although I realize now that it's not uncommon among creative people, it is always a struggle for me when I go into a creative slump. I feel that I have not been productive since my cancer diagnosis in April.

However, when I look back on the year and tally up my "successes", I realize that 2022 has been my most successful year ever. A solo exhibit, my best year financially from sales, several covers, and many images published in various magazines.

But what is success? What if one's view of success shifts?

In late 2021 I decided that one of my goals was to get my work published and I set out to submit my work to various magazines. I searched online for calls for entry and selected the ones that I thought my images would work with. All but one of the submissions were sent in during the first half of the year. I answered 14 calls for submission and my work was accepted 9 times...a 64% success rate. Fantastic results, and I was thrilled each time.

After my life altering surgery in June, I spent a LOT of time thinking about my artistic life (thinking, not doing...lol) and wondering "where do I go from here?".  What does success mean to me now? 

As 2022 comes to a close, I still haven't come to any conclusions. I think I settle on the "answer" and then my mind drifts off on a different path. And then I chastise myself for having to come up with an answer at all. I am not trying to earn a living with my art. Why does any of this matter at all?

In order to try to capture some creative energy, I turned to quilting and have finished two quilts since October and have almost finished a third quilt. This has caused more speculation for my artistic life. 

Perhaps more thoughts to come...lol.

My year wrapped up by having six of my images published in the Wander Magazine's Issue 10 - Lines. Instagram: @wamagazine.ca


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Creating opportunities for yourself

Inside - Thoughts from a Pandemic published by Nevermore Press

In April 2021, I read an article in our local newspaper about a proposed book. There was an open call for authors to send stories and poetry for a "pandemic isolation anthology". The book would be published by Nevermore Press as a fund raiser for the South Shore Regional Public Libraries bookmobile.

Although there was no mention of a request for images in the open call, I prepared an email and sent some samples of my work that I thought might be appropriate for a cover. At the time, the proposed title of the book was "Isolation".

The editor responded enthusiastically and selected an image he would like to use for the cover. I was thrilled! 

Days later, I was horrified to read about his tragic death. Hearing about someone's sudden passing seems to hit close to home even when you haven't met them personally. I put all thoughts about the book aside.

Six months later, I was contacted by the new editor who had taken over. The project was going to go ahead. One year later, the book is being released!

An interesting online article about the background of the project is available to read at this link.

The book is being released on October 22nd, 2022. Inside - Thoughts from a Pandemic is available for purchase at this link. I am thrilled to be part of this project!

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Antigonish Review

Way back in February, I was contacted by the editor of The Antigonish Review to see if I'd be willing to have my Colour My World image published as the cover of their upcoming Spring issue. I was thrilled, and that was before I found out I would be paid for the honour :)

One thing led to another, time went on, and the spring issue was finally published in October!


From their website: The Antigonish Review is the third longest-running creative-writing journal in the Maritimes and one of the oldest continuing literary magazines in Canada. TAR is supported by St. Francis Xavier University with the welcome assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts, and by our generous donors. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Humana Obscura Issue 05


I am thrilled to have two of my images published in the Fall/Winter 2022 Issue #05 of Humana Obscura Magazine. You can read the entire magazine online or purchase a print copy of the magazine at this link: https://www.humanaobscura.com/issue-5

From the "about" page on their website: 

Humana Obscura is an independent literary magazine that seeks to publish nature-focused poetry, prose, and art by new, emerging, and established writers and artists from around the world.

As our name suggests—“obscured human”—we focus on work where the human element is concealed but not entirely absent, aiming to revive the nature genre.

Humana Obscura’s mission is to publish and promote the best work of today’s voices and talents. Our intention is to inspire readers and enrich their lives while providing an inclusive space for elevating the voices, expressions, and creative work of our contributors. 

Founded in 2020, Humana Obscura is published online and in print twice yearly, and features work from around the world. The magazine accepts poetry, short prose under 1,000 words, and artwork in various medium. 

Humana Obscura Issue 05 Sara Harley Memories
Memories, from my Flight of Fancy collection

Humana Obscura Issue 05 Sara Harley Ripple Effect
Ripple Effect, from my Trailings Project

Monday, August 8, 2022

The self promotion game

During my two months of recovering from lung surgery (two surgeries in two days), I have been doing a lot of thinking about "where do I go from here?". Do I want to continue on the path of the exhibition circuit or not? There is a lot involved in exhibiting, both in time and money. Creating the art is just a small part of the process.

An important part of the process is self promotion. When you don't have a "following", how do you generate interest in your art? One thing I try to do is find free resources to promote my work. 

When I was preparing for my Haven exhibit, I found a Canadian magazine called smART Magazine, published by Lighthouse Immersive, that encourages submissions of all forms of art. Submissions are free. I prepared a short statement, included my exhibition location and dates, and a short bio and sent off an email with ten samples of my work.

Much to my surprise, I received an answer a short while later. My submission was accepted! I had to laugh when I read that I would not receive any compensation for the submission since there was a promotional aspect to the submission. It never occurred to me that I would be paid! lol

The first bit of promotion was included in a newsletter they sent out by email in March: (click the image to view it larger)

The magazine was supposed to be published in May, which would have been perfect timing for my exhibit. However, due to supply issue problems faced by many businesses this year, it wasn't published until July. No matter, I am thrilled to be included in this high end publication. 140 pages of interesting art and articles...and two pages are about my art!

This was quite a success story for me. I won't get into how many rejections I have received!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Rough Waters

Rough Waters by Sara Harley
Rough Waters - work in progress - Stage Series

Sometimes it's difficult for me to decide how much of my personal life to share and I generally try to just post about my creative process. However, the two are tied together in my life so I decided to talk about it.

I was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of April...a huge shock to us as I have never smoked. Apparently 10-15% of the people diagnosed with lung cancer are non-smokers.

Despite the horrid state of the Nova Scotia health care system, I was rushed through many tests and had surgery on June 10th. This was followed by a second surgery on June 11th to fix some complications from the first surgery. I must be the luckiest person in Nova Scotia...a mere six weeks between diagnosis and surgery.

Did you know that the left lung has two lobes, and the right lung has three lobes? I didn't. My surgery removed the lower lobe of my left lung. The good news is that when you have surgery, you don't have chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Although I was told to expect recuperation from surgery to be a long and painful process, I can't complain. I'll kid you not...it has been tough. The past week (four + weeks since surgery) was a significant turning point for me. I have been walking every day since I was released from the hospital, and I am now able to walk with my normal stride and not look like I have been beaten up recently...lol. I am sore, but not hurting. I can walk 3 to 4 kilometers each day. I still need a nap most afternoons, but am down to only 2 Tylenol each day. Progress!

I created the above image, Rough Waters, just before I went in for surgery. It is part of a "Life is a Stage" series that I have been working on. You may have to zoom in to see the details. I don't think it's quite finished yet, but I created it with my general philosophy that making art is a healing tool.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Artist Talk - Chester Art Centre

Last week I gave an artist talk for the Chester Art Centre in Chester, Nova Scotia. If you are interested, you can click on the box below and watch the talk on YouTube. 


My exhibit will be running until May 29th. If you'd like to see the exhibit virtually, there is a tour on my previous post.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Haven Virtual Tour

In case you can't make it to see my Haven exhibit in person, here is a virtual tour of the gallery before the opening.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Haven Exhibit Guide & Artist Talk

A project just wouldn't be the same for me if I didn't have a way to document the event. I have just as much fun putting together a book or magazine as I do in completing the project itself. 

This is the exhibit guide for my Haven exhibit at the Chester Art Centre. The exhibit runs from May 5th through May 29th. I have printed up a number of guides and am hoping to raise money for the CAC through the sales. 

Click on the image below and you'll be taken to the website for Blurb Books where you can view the complete magazine. If you click on the diagonal arrows at the top of the page, you'll be able to view it full screen. Then just click on the pages to move forward and back through the magazine.


Also, I'll be giving a free artist talk on Zoom on Thursday May 19th at 7pm ADT. If you'd like to sign up for the talk, go to this link: https://www.chesterartcentre.ca/haven . Scroll down under my profile photo for the sign up box. Hope to see you at the virtual event!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Exhibit Update - Haven

Everything for my upcoming Haven exhibit has been delivered to the Chester Art Centre. The exhibit opening is on May 5th from 5-7pm. Here is a little invitation from me that was sent out in the CAC newsletter recently:

I have created an exhibit guide and they will be available for purchase at the opening. Most of the proceeds will be donated to the Chester Art Centre. I'll post a link to the exhibit guide after the opening so you can view it online.

Funny story about the exhibit guides (not so funny at the time)...I had ordered the guides early in April and was guaranteed a delivery date of April 13th. On April 22nd it occurred to me that I hadn't received them yet and checked online to track them down. The information said the package was damaged on April 13th, and also said the package was "abandoned" on April 13th. Panic time! I contacted the printing company and received an automated reply that they were behind and it may be weeks before a response is sent. At this point, what do you do? I decided it wasn't meant to be, and tried not to fret about it.

But, I did hear back from the printing company and they processed a re-print and guaranteed delivery to arrive three days before the exhibit opening. They arrived yesterday...yay! Happy endings do happen.

Tagree Magazine Sara Harley Haven
Another piece of good news...16 images from my Haven collection were published by the online art magazine Tagree along with a lovely article about my project. You can read the article at this link (scroll down...it's a long one): https://tagree.de/haven-by-sara-harley/

Friday, April 15, 2022

Podcast - You Can Learn Photography

You Can Learn Photography Podcast Episode 9

A few weeks ago, Trevor Awalt of You Can Learn Photography and I discussed my photography. The podcast has been released and is available for your listening pleasure at this link:

You Can Learn Photography Episode 9

Be forewarned! It's 90 minutes long. Who knew I could talk that long about my own photography?

It's always interesting to hear your own voice....it never sounds like you think!

It was a pleasure talking with Trevor. He made me feel relaxed and natural...not nervous at all.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Artistic Vision

Spring Idyll by Sara Harley
Spring Idyll

Spring Idyll is my most recent creation. I worked on this as it was snowing outside....I'm definitely ready for more spring-like weather!

Before I get started on a fresh topic of conversation, I'd like to pontificate just a bit more on the topic of titles. Click on this link to read the original post. In the end, I decided to keep the original title of Forgotten. Why? I decided that the word forgotten could lead the viewer in several different directions when looking at the image. Sure, changing the title to Gratitude may put a more positive spin on the image, but do I really want to point someone down either path...positive or negative? After I thought about it for a while, I decided that using the title Forgotten might make a viewer take a moment to really look at the image. There is a solitary crow...is it the crow who has been forgotten? Has the crow forgotten something? There is a lock on the gate...is it the church that has been forgotten? The parishioners? Is it a larger story about religion being forgotten? Each viewer might think of a different story. That's why I stuck with my original title. Here is the image:

Forgotten by Sara Harley

Moving on to today's thoughts...I was recently interviewed for a photography podcast which got me talking (and later, thinking more) about various things. One question I was asked was "what advice would you give to a beginner?" 

In a nutshell....I believe that artistic vision is just as important....perhaps more important...than techical knowledge. Having the confidence to pursue your own artistic vision is the best advice I could give, and something I continue to struggle with. It's tough to remain confident when people don't "get" what you have created.

How do you find your own artistic vision? Go through your own portfolio rather than comparing your own work to other people's work on social media. Pick your favourite images. Why are they your favourites? Is it the subject matter, the style, what is it that speaks to you? Experiment with the things that you feel drawn to in your own work and build on that. Sure, learn the "rules" of photography or whatever medium you work with, but learning the rules is less important than learning about yourself and what makes you happy to create.

I just received a newsletter from Cole Thompson Photography, and he talks about vision in a much better way than I could. Here is the link if you'd like to take a read (scroll down past the quotes)

Friday, April 1, 2022

March Summary


March 2022 Portfolio Sara Harley
March Portfolio
March was a month of preparation for my upcoming Haven exhibit. All the images I have been working on are for the exhibit. Creating slowed down as the month progresed as I also had to finish up a proof of my exhibit guide and start printing and framing finalized images.

No matter how much proofing I do...as well as printing small test prints....I always find things to correct when I print "the real thing". This is a waster of paper, but all part of the learning process when it comes to printing. 

I managed to break a couple of pieces of framing glass, and had to order new pieces...then I broke one of the new pieces. Arg!

Did I mention that printing and framing are not a favourite pastime of mine? When I start printing and framing, I always promise myself that this is the very last time I will exhibit my work. But, then I forget and do it all over again a year or so later!

Early in the month, I was interviewed by Trevor at You Can Learn Photography for an upcoming podcast. It will be available on April 15th, and I'll post the link. I don't listen to many podcasts...since I'm such a visual person, I prefer to watch videos on YouTube. Answering Trevor's questions was a good experience, and it was much more relaxing than giving an artist talk :)

April will be spent printing and framing....and hopefully getting out into the garden!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Thoughts about titles

Titling an image by Sara Harley

I am giving a lot of thought these days to titling images. Before I pontificate, I would love for you to comment below or email me with what you think....preferably just one or two words...when you look at the image pictured above.

There was a time...not too long ago....when I thought that titling my images was a very important part of my process. I often came up with a concept or title first, then built an image around it. If I was out with my camera making photographs, a word would often come to mind while I was pressing the shutter. 

It was important to me to guide the viewer with my title....to help them understand what I was trying to convey with my image.

Now I'm not so sure about that. Isn't it better to let the viewer decide what the image means to them? 

Let's use the image above to try to illustrate my point. 

I made this image last year and gave it the title "Forgotten".  I am currently preparing for an exhibit and plan to include this image. With everything going on in the world these days, I thought maybe more positivity was in order and considered changing the title to "Gratitude". 

The two different titles would certainly direct the viewer in two very different directions.

But why do this? Why not let the viewer decide whether it's a melancholy story or something more positive?

My current thought is to use more generic titles to allow the viewer to create their own story. I'm curious to know your thoughts about this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

February Summary

Images created Feb 2022 by Sara Harley
February Portfolio

February was a lot more active than my usual February months. I have been in a good place creatively, which I'm very thankful for as I'm preparing for a solo exhibit in May. At the moment I have a lot of images crammed in my head and my challenge is to actually create them....a much better situation than not having any inspiration at all!

Creating nine images that I'm proud of might not sound like much, but considering each image is made using a "collage" of elements from 10 or more images, it does take a lot of time. My goal was to create 6 quality images in February, so the fact that I created 9 is wonderful in my mind. 

That doesn't include the pieces I wasn't happy with, or started but not yet finished.

I participated in an artist talk for Pasadena Photography Arts - This is a Photograph Because I Say it is:

I created a magazine for the artist talk (linked above)....on the "good" roster of the month and a good foundation for the exhibit guide I'll need for May.

I was declined for an artist grant that I submitted in November 2021...on the "bad" tally.

I was approached to supply an image for the cover of a Literary/Arts magazine...details will be shared at a later date....definitely on the "plus" side.

And...I created and sent two magazine submissions...both a long shot, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

All in all, a productive month!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Artist Talk Companion Guide

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'll be presenting an artist talk tonight at Open Show #41 at Pasadena Photography Arts. The topic is "This is a photograph because I say it is" and I'll be presenting with 3 other artists who create photo montages. I am thrilled to be included with such talented artists:  Diana Nicholette Jeon, Deborah Kaplan, and Roger Guetta. We all have very different styles, and it should be a very interesting talk.

In order to help with fundraising for Pasadena Photography Arts, we were asked to donate a print for them to raffle off to people who make a donation. Instead of a print, I decided to donate a magazine....a companion guide to my talk. 

Ordinarily, I wouldn't go to all that effort as it takes quite a lot of time to put together a publication like this. However, I was working on one for my upcoming Haven exhibit (scheduled for May at the Chester Art Centre) so I just modified it slightly for this talk. Plus, I must confess, it's a great piece of shameless self promotion.

You can view the 32 page magazine online by clicking on the link below. Once you arrive on the page, just click on the cover to move through the magazine. If you click on the diagonal arrows at the top right, you'll be able to view the magazine full screen.

Hope you enjoy...if you have any feedback about the images, please let me know. At this point I haven't selected the final images for my exhibit....and I'm still creating new ones...so this is a work in progress.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Artist Talk: Feb 22nd

Open Show Pasadena - Sara Harley
Open Show in Pasadena/East LA put out a call for artists to submit a 15-25 image portfolio. I was thrilled (and very nervous) to receive notice on Friday that I have been selected to talk about my work on February 22nd. I wish I could say I was flying to Pasadena for my talk, but it will be on zoom :)

One thing about the ongoing pandemic is that the world has opened up for showcasing your work. I have to say, although I will be nervous making the presentation, it will be much easier on zoom than in person.

The show is called This Is A Photograph Because I Say It Is, and there will be two other presenters as well (details below, click on the image to see it in larger format). If you'd like to register for the talk, click on this link. February 22nd, 9:30 pm AST, 8:30 pm EST, 5:30 pm PST. Tickets are $5 US.

Open Show Pasadena - All Artists

Friday, February 4, 2022

Evolution of an idea

My image Resilience (created December 2021) was selected for the Planet Recovery Project exhibit by Labyrinth Gallery in the UK. The exhibit will be online for the next six months. Their set up is quite unique and looks like a real gallery tour. The online exhibit can be viewed at this link. 

I always find it interesting to read or hear about how someone came up with their ideas, so here is a back story that I hope you'll enjoy.

I originally took photos of a clear cut piece of land in 2013. I found it devastating to see, and knew that someday I would try to create an image with a message.

My first attempt was created in 2016 and combined my image of the clear cut land with a photograph of a mill I took in 2013. 

It was one of my first digital compilations. I combined the two photographs to create one "mirror" image. I rotated the photo of the mill, to make it look like a reflection and then converted the colour image to black and white. I called the final image Wounded.

Wounded by Sara Harley
Wounded, 2016

Wounded (def'n): 1. An injury to an organism, especially one in which the skin or another external surface is torn, pierced, cut, or otherwise broken.  2. An injury to the feelings.

Last year I created a new compilation which was inspired by the untitled image by Jerry Uelsmann, featured on the cover of his book Uelsmann Untitled: A Retrospective.

My first take was this:

Under Our Protection WIP by Sara Harley
Under Our Protection, Take One
I decided that was too dark, so I changed the sky to a more hopeful one and also changed the image to square:

Under Our Protection, Take Two

Then I took an online workshop with Maggie Taylor and my creative world expanded, so I re-worked the concept yet again and titled it In Our Hands:

In Our Hands

I printed it and pinned it to my bulletin board. Then I started fretting that it was a bit dystopian. Was this image actually coming from me, or had I been too influenced by the original inspiration piece by Jerry Uelsmann?

A short time later I was browsing through a junk shop with a friend and spotted these: 

which lead to this:

Resilience by Sara Harley

Resilience was created from twelve different photographs and is part of the Haven Series that I'm working on. It's quite a different concept than my original image Wounded.

(Editing note: I seem to have different font colours in this post, but I have no idea how to fix it. Sorry!)

Monday, January 31, 2022

January Summary

This month has flown by. Most of my creative time has been spent wrapping up last year's projects. Finishing up my Inspiration Collaboration project and my own annual magazine took me longer to do than I had planned on....I seem to be working slower these days. I also spent a fair amount of time putting proposals together and submitting them to various places. After participating in an exhibit that required a fee, I decided that I would only apply to "fee free" exhibits and magazines. There are still options available for showing your work without having to pay for the privilege. 

However, I still managed to create a few images this month...all for my current project called Haven

The Audition is a re-work of the final image I created for Inspiration Collaboration:

The Audition by Sara Harley
The Audition

Refuge falls under my favourite theme of birds and trees:

Refuge by Sara Harley

My third image is Hideaway. I'm not entirely happy with this one yet and will probably be re-working it. I find it just a little dark and muddied:

Hideaway by Sara Harley

Finally, the fourth image for January is False Sense of Security (I have a mini "stage" series going on within my Haven series):

False Sense of Security by Sara Harley
False Sense of Security


I also completed a quilt...a special project for me which was quite a challenge to create.

All in all, a fairly successful month for creativity. Sometimes it's good for the soul to look back and reflect!

Friday, January 28, 2022

2021 Point of View Magazine

This is my third Point of View publication....a little later than usual. Time is getting away from me these days. I usually publish my annual magazine in December. This time, I'm sneaking it in just before the calendar turns to February!

The creation of this magazine helps me recognize just how much one year can hold. Looking back at my favourite images also helps me see the overall picture of my creative journey...how my interests change, how my images change as well. 

To view the complete magazine, just click on the image above. You can page forward and backward through the magazine by clicking on the pages. To view full screen, click on the diagonal arrows on the top right.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Inspiration Collaboration

Since January 2020, I have been hosting a collaborative inspiration group with Arkansas painter Helen Eaton. Helen and I met online a few years ago...one thing led to another...and at the end of December 2019 we were madly pulling together ideas for an art group. After 24 months of providing inspiration to a group of artists in Canada and the U.S., we have wrapped up our project.

I won't lie...there were times that I thought I just couldn't think of another image to provide for the other artists to use as a spring board for their own creations. And there were times that I just had no idea what I would create in response to the paintings that Helen provided for inspiration each month.

But we did it! And...if I must say so myself...the results are a joy to look at.  We created three magazines that summarize our two years of creativity.

This first magazine shows just the work of Helen and myself....72 images that were provided as inspiration...and 72 images that were created in response...over a two year period. If you click on the info below, you'll be able to view the whole magazine online at Blurb. Just click on the pages to move back and forth through the magazine. You can enlarge the magazine by clicking on the diagonal arrows at the top right.

The following magazine is a summary of the artwork produced in 2021 by the whole group: And this magazine is a summary of the artwork produced in 2020 by the whole group: I am so proud of what Helen and I accomplished!