Art as Voice: Should You Let Your Photography Speak for Itself?

Art speaks for itself. Or does it? This belief depends mostly on the expected outcome. This false belief is the misconception I have fallen under for the last several years as an artist trying to make a career.

In my earlier years of self-portraiture, I was using my images as my voice. I processed all of my feelings, emotions, and thoughts through this practice. I shared the pictures with the world to lift a heavy weight off of my chest.

I let the work speak for itself.

Were there people who connected with my self-portraits?

Yes.

But I'm sure more viewers were left confused and wanting to know more.


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Sometimes I would drop the images with absolutely no context and run and hide. Other times I would add a quote that I found online. Eventually, I began writing haikus to accompany the pictures.

Once I began getting my work into galleries, I learned the importance of titling my work. For far too long, I believed a title was enough. And sure, a title is enough for a gallery and its audience. But what if a viewer wants to know more about the artist? They visit their website and find what?

With mine, they found the images with their titles, and nothing more.

Here I was seeking connection and community, yet I wasn't contributing. Part of the reason was because of false beliefs I had conjured up about not being enough or worthy. There was a fear of my voice, words, and opinions not being needed. There's enough of that out there already.

I'll drop my art right here and be on my way.


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I didn't educate myself on the importance of building these connections and communities of support through email lists, newsletters, blogging, and sharing more of myself than just a self-portrait.

So while I do believe that there are a time and place for art to speak for itself, that's not what I want to practice right now. What I want to practice is sharing authentically with you, because that is of the utmost importance to me.

With that said, what is it that you would like from me? What can I offer you? Leave a comment or email me at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com and let me know the type of content you'd like most from me and how I can best serve you.

* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link. You can sign up for Sharon’s newsletter HERE to stay up to date and receive a bonus black and white editing video.

Art is Subjective: Moving Past the Opinions and Judgments of Others

Something that comes up often when I'm teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class is the fear of being judged by your audience, family, and friends for creating new work.


This is the part where I want to insert EFF that!


I'm passionate about encouraging women to share their art, themselves, their voices. To think that we would even hesitate on sharing pieces of ourselves in this way is absurd to me.


Are we not allowed to learn to love ourselves?


Are we selfish to think that we matter?


Are we not worthy of support in our self-exploration?


These women have such a strong desire and fire lit inside of them to make this type of healing and profound work, yet hold back in fear.


Fear of the opinions, sometimes ridicules, of their parents, brothers, sisters, children, best friends, husbands, wives, colleagues, employers, local acquaintances, and so on.


I've been there.


Instead, we hold back. We create private accounts. We share with an online audience that we will most likely never meet in real life. We seek support and acceptance from strangers. Online communities are formed for human connection. We create work that never gets shared.

Hush 2016

Hush 2016


This fear of judgment has been a great struggle of mine, especially in my earlier years of self-portraiture. I've had jokes made to my face about my work with masks. I've had comments publically made asking me if I'm okay.


"Are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone?"


I deleted that one out of sheer embarrassment.


Should I worry about sharing this image because I'm a mother and the other mothers out there may see it? What will they think of me? Is too much of my skin showing even though that's not my intention? Should I feel ashamed for being me and expressing myself in a way that feels best for me?

Lament

Lament


What I have come to learn is this.


Art is subjective.


You are going to have people who can read your art like an open book, and you will have others who will see it as a foreign language.


And that's okay.


I've treated it as a learning lesson over the years, and I've made it my mission to support other women who are on similar journies. Because I know they are more than just a daughter, or a wife, or a mother, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a college drop-out. They have stories, feelings, and desires to explore and express. They want to feel something. They want to find themselves. Be themselves. They are light and love. They are powerful. They are artists.


Not everyone is going to understand your art. But regardless, it belongs to you, and it's your story to share.


You own it.


Art is meant to stir up emotions, and sometimes, those are feelings of uncomfortableness in the viewer. It may bring up the viewers own insecurities, jealousy, or embarrassment and shame.


We all see things differently. That's the beauty of it all. Don't let that be the thing that prevents you from what you're being called to explore and create. What once seemed like a foreign concept to me, is now the very tool I use for self-expression. Self-expression has been the one thing that helps set me free from the inner critic.


Don't censor yourself.

2015

2015


You are worth it. Your voice is worth being heard. Your story is remarkable, and just because not everyone will connect with it, doesn't mean you should bury it.


To all of you brave Artists out there, I see you. I support you. I honor your work and the journey that got you here.

I admire your courage.


Keep creating and sharing with the world.


We need your story.

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* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.

Make Bad Art: Letting Go of Perfectionism and Creating With the Intention of Growth

I once came across the phrase, " Perfectionism is another form of procrastination." It took some time and thought for me to wrap my brain around that concept. It's not always easy to admit you're guilty of such things.

How often do we wait for the time to be right before we begin something? What does that even mean? How will we know that the right time is upon us unless we start the work now? Chances are, if we keep waiting for the perfect time, it may never come. We'll always find something in the way.

While we are on the topic of time, how often do you find yourself saying that you have none? Time is what you make of it. Time is always available to us. It's just a matter of what you prioritize. Stating you have none is yet another form of procrastination. I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of saying this.

We cannot learn something new, let alone master it unless we begin. We need to be okay with being a beginner sometimes. We have to be willing to take the leap or even to take baby steps to make progress. Sometimes, this means making bad art.

I've had my fair share of what I consider to be bad art. My time as an artist consists of much trial and error, and a healthy dose of mistakes and failures. I wouldn't be creating the work I make today had I not been okay with letting go of the outcome and failing.

If you're feeling a pull towards learning or creating something new, I urge you to go for it. Don't wait until you have the perfect camera or the right lens or ideal lighting. I've come across this time and time again and especially while teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class.

Many women are scared of this class. They can't bring themselves to begin because they fear the judgment of others, they need to lose weight first, or grow out a bad haircut, or find the perfect location, or learn to forgive and love themselves. Whatever that thing is, it is only holding you back from growing. Those things will come in time, but first, you have to make lousy pictures.

Allow me to share a piece of my timeline so you can see my progression.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a   test shot.   Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a test shot. Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

2019

2019

These are just a small sampling of my growth over the years. There are thousands of images in between these.

Thousands.

The moral of the story is just to do it. Allow the time, space, and practice for your growth. Allow for mistakes, failures, mishaps, and pleasant surprises along the way. Most of us are not prodigies at our craft. We earn it, the hard way.

* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.

Your Relationship With Self and Art

What’s your relationship with yourself like? What about with your art?
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I work on my relationship with myself every morning when I step onto my yoga mat, every time I put pencil to paper (yes, I prefer to hand write everything and with pencil ✏️ 🙂), every time I make the conscious choice to put the time in to nourish my body and not choose the opposite, every time I pick up or listen to a book, every online class I take to further educate myself (we can never stop learning), and in so many other ways.
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The other night I shared a little BTS video in my Instagram Stories of me setting up for a self-portrait in my backyard. It was completely impromptu. I had gone outside with Linhsey (my daughter) while she played hockey in the driveway, but the fading light and woods whispered for me to come.
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I obliged.
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While I didn’t create anything magical, I embodied and relished myself in the process. I spent so much thought and time in the winter pondering why I wasn’t out there creating as much. The cold and snow had never stopped me in the past. Now I see I just needed to lean in and trust in the process. It may call at the oddest of times, or lie dormant for quite some time. I just need to trust that whatever I’m meant to create, I will.
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I needed to go through this process the other night of feeling that spark of inspiration, setting up, making the images, and taking it all down again. It’s within that process that my relationship to self grows the most.
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What about you?

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Intro- I'm Sharon Covert

I tend to forget that many of you are new followers and that you haven’t been following my journey all along. I thought I’d give you a little introduction.
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My name is Sharon Covert. Most of the work you see here is self-portraits aside from some still life from time to time and portraits of my daughter. My son is grown and in college now so he hasn’t made an appearance in quite some time. He does spend some time with me behind the scenes though. He’s in the process of putting together some BTS’s videos he filmed for me for my newsletter and an upcoming class I’m teaching. His major is video production. Lucky me 😉
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I began using self-portraiture as a way of self-expression about 6 years ago. I’m a shy introvert but thrive in expressing myself through words, art, and music. Before photography I taught piano lessons to children for many years. It was such a rewarding and challenging experience but I truly enjoyed working with children.
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I currently teach an online course, Expressive Self Portraiture, through The Define School. You could say it’s a dream come true. The women I have met online and worked with have left me speechless and in awe.
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I’m about to graduate from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition in a few short weeks. The year long program has been life-changing and the coaching skills I have learned there have begun to carry over into my photography class. I’m excited for what the future holds.
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I don’t composite or edit in photoshop. It’s not that I’m against it, I just haven’t put in the time and effort to learn the program. I really will one day, but I admit, I am completely intimidated by it! I enjoy the process of creating my self-portraits and finding ways to bring my ideas to life.
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If you’re curious about anything else, or if you’d like to tell me something about yourself, leave a comment below ⬇️! As always, thank you so very much for your support. It means so much to me! ♥️

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Self Doubt

I quit 100 times a day. I quit and then I talk myself down and start once again. Every. Single. Day.

What do I have to offer? I’m not qualified to do this. Maybe this is just an expensive hobby. Maybe I’m not meant to make a living from this. Maybe I’m missing the whole point. What is my purpose? Maybe I’m too busy trying to make this work that I’m actually missing out on enjoying my so-called “gift” to the fullest potential. Maybe I’ve lost sight of my passion and my true WHY as to why I actually do this.

And just like that, for every negative I miraculously find a positive. This is my calling. This is my voice. Everything I’ve gone through has led me straight to this. There is nothing more fulfilling than creating, teaching, sharing what I know, supporting like-minded women, forging these intimate bonds in such a short period of time, inviting women to this safe space and earning their trust, supporting them, lifting them up, gathering in such a sacred space to let it all go and create with wild and reckless abandon. All of the masks fall away, the false beliefs and stories we convinced ourselves of no longer hold any truths, and we’re left with beautiful raw honesty in its purest form. In our vulnerability we find our strength.

My most recent block of Expressive Self Portraiture is wrapping up this week. To all of the women who trusted in me past and present, I thank you, wholeheartedly. Thank for you showing up with open minds, open hearts, willing to do the work, in all of your brave fierceness and honesty. ♥️

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I See You

I see you.
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To the woman who just turned her camera around onto herself for the first time today.
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I see you.
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To the woman who uses self-portraiture as a way to feel good about herself.
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I see you.
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To the one who is too scared to begin but can feel a small fire brewing inside of her ready to spread like wildfire when given the chance.
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I see you.
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To the one who feels lost. To the one who feels newly found. To the one who needs to heal. To the one who needs to come to terms with her body and accept herself for who she is. To the one who needs to forgive herself. To the one who needs to let go of the past in order to move forward. To the one who longs to feel empowered. To the one who abused herself. To the one who was abused by someone else. To the one who feels like a lost child inside. To the one who feels proud. To the one who thinks it’s her fault. To the one who worked so hard.
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I see you. I see you all and I witness your courage and honor your perseverance.

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