Play is the beginning of knowledge
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
A funny thing happened on the way to Hawaii. Well, to be more precise, it happened during the course of the week and was revealed on the way back home, but that's not as compelling a way to begin, now is it?
It's the first day of Photoshop for the Soul. Instructors, staff, volunteers and attendees have gathered on the lawn in front of the Hui (lodge). Our workshop instructor for the week, Jack Davis, welcomes everyone and, after introductions of staff and volunteers, begins letting us in on what to expect. A major theme for the week (one which would be revisited in a number of different ways) is the idea of "permission". "This week," Jack said, "is about giving yourself permission to be an artist."
It's important at this point to remind you that most of the attendees are photographers. Jack's statement seemed to resonate with them. Me – not so much. The reason I wasn't juiced at that idea is that I already see myself in that way. However, being a designer for a living and being an artist can certainly be two entirely different things.
Jack went on to say that everyone was "there for a reason" and no one was there by accident. The staff and volunteers then broke out a box a fresh leis and, with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, draped one over everyone's head. The fragrance of the flowers filled my lungs and the warmth and hospitality of our welcome filled my heart. It felt, to me at least, like something of a sacred moment. Then, as if on cue . . .
Seriously. No kidding. A big, honkin' rainbow right behind where we were standing. It was as if God was confirming my thoughts (and Jack's words) that His divine hand was already on the festivities.
As the week progressed I had the most fun, creatively speaking, that I've had in I-don't-know-how-long. I would marvel at the natural beauty that surrounded us at the Hui – then we would pack up equipment and head off on a photographic road trip to be immersed even further into some of the most beautiful of God's creation that I've ever experienced.
However, something strange was unfolding. Something was curiously missing from Photoshop for the Soul – Photoshop! We spent most of our instructional lab time in Adobe Bridge learning to maximize that program's organizational potential, and in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) learning our way around that program's powerful, non-destructive, image editing and enhancing features.
We finally cracked Photoshop open on our second-to-last day there.
On the drive to the airport at week's end I was asked about what I thought of the week. I replied that my time there had been phenomenal, but I wished I would have had more challenging, hardcore Photoshop instruction and some takeaways that would immediately – and in obvious ways – impact my work back home.
I had this same thought a short time later on the half hour flight from Molokai to Honolulu. While wishing the instruction had been a bit more more Photoshop-focused and that I was coming home with obvious tactics to put to work, the most amazing thing happened:
I heard the still small voice of God in my heart whisper: "But Todd, that's not why you were there."
Whoa! I was blown away. I did not see that coming.
The purpose of my trip had not been to learn how to effectively work – it had been to re-learn how to creatively play.
Just a few hours earlier, at our morning "check-in" time with everyone (held after breakfast on the Hui porch), the usual inspirational thoughts to set the course of the day were put aside and the attendees were invited to share personal insights about the week. I jumped right in with my thoughts about Jack's words on the first day, and how the challenge to give myself permission to be an artist had left me a bit flat at first. But that as the week had went on, I began to understand that the week for me was about giving myself permission to play again creatively – something I had not done in a very long time, and something I had missed more than I realized.
Now, on a teeny little puddle-jumping plane, over the crystal waters of an astonishingly blue ocean, all the pieces fell into place – from Jack's insistence that everyone there was there for a reason, all the way back to what now sound like prophetic words from my wife Kelly when first discussing the opportunity to attend. As the rainbow on that first day had confirmed, God's hand was certainly in the proceedings. But He had worked, as He so often does, in a way – and with a purpose – that I was completely not expecting.
Over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of the specific photographic results from my play time. Below is a little taste of what's to come (click all images for a bigger view). For today, I'm pau!
Aloha & Happy Thanksgiving!