A G+ Artistic Photography Mentorship Experience

posted in: Photography | 2

Back in July I signed up for the Summer Google plus Artistic Photography Mentorship program 'Looking at Subjects and Editing Differently' with Beth Akerman. She refers to herself as being a visual art historian and photographer. In fact this was an advanced mentorship program where you needed to have good photography and editing skills. And maybe just a teeny weenie bit of knowledge on art history.


As a mentee our assignments were based around those that Beth received herself while as a Studio Art Major in Art College. Then each week we would submit our work for critique and build on what we learned for the next week.

No Plug-in's Allowed


Now you'd probably think - I've got a photoshop plugin that will turn my photos painterly at the touch of a few sliders and buttons. Well the rules for the mentorship were that no artistic brushes, art history brush strokes or painterly plugins were allowed. Furthermore we could just use 1 layer of texture sparingly.


It was good for a change to be even more creative in photoshop. Gradients, masks and adjustment layers were used in ways I'd never tried before. In fact I learned so much from that one aspect alone.  

We also had to photograph items that we wouldn't necessarily shoot and with creative compositions if possible. I forced myself to shoot things like motorbikes and auto-mobiles. That was hard as they are subjects that really don't excite me. Did I shoot them creatively ? ... not so sure about that!

the original plugin
the only plugin allowed! (this image wasn't part of the mentorship)
harbour chain and rope
developing my creativity - Artistic Photography Mentorship

Seeing Things from an Artists POV


It took me to the very end of the program for things to really make sense and have confidence in what I was doing.  A few times during the program self doubt crept in. Consequently I struggled at times. Eventually a little spark of creativity would fill the void or else a good nights sleep!  I'd try something new next time. Or just accept that I would come back and edit it another day. 

Seeing the great and sometimes very adventurous work that other mentees were doing also gave me the determination to keep going.  Once a week we handed in our assignments and were encouraged and directed by Beth's critiques. Those critiques helped me to see things from an artists point of view. Especially in relation to colour, contrast, light and shadows.

abstract portait inspired by Picasso
abstract portait inspired by Picasso - Artistic Photography Mentorship

#1  Pablo Picasso

OK let's face it - I hadn't much of a clue about art history before I started this mentorship. I knew the name Picasso but had never really taken much notice of his work.


Likewise Cubism was a new word for me to google!  Blue was a new tone to discover. While abstract was fun to recreate.

rural Perthshire cottages
rural Perthshire cottages

#2 Robert Kipniss

Beth drew my attention to Robert Kipniss as she saw a similarity in his works to mine. He never has people in his paintings as people in his opinion would take away the edgy, open atmosphere. His works inspired me to work more with mezzotints in photoshop. As a result I recreated that lithograph grainy look that has been used by so many other painters including Escher.

I may be painting trees and houses, but when I look at them, that’s not what I see. I see an atmosphere, a moment, a quickly passing experience that I'm trying to capture. My art is of intensity, of delving, of exploring the soul. ~ Robert Kipniss

yellow melting terrace house dali style
melting terrace house - Artistic Photography Mentorship

#3 Salvador Dali

When some of the other mentees mentioned that my melting East Neuk terraced house was much like a 'Dali' I have to confess that I had to google that name too.


melting motorcycle dali style
melting motorcycle - Artistic Photography Mentorship

Then I found a Harley Davidison ...which was just perfect for melting!

When the viewer becomes part of the art
figment of imagination - When the viewer becomes part of the art

#4 René Magritte

What do I want to explore more of?

Well it's most definitely surrealism after viewing the work of artists like Dali and Magritte. It's so creative, dreamlike and imaginative.

Kellie Castle Arts & Crafts Garden Inspired by Monet Impressionism
Kellie Castle Arts & Crafts Garden Inspired by Monet Impressionism

#5 Claude Monet

Now everybody on the planet probably knows about Monet. But trying to recreate his work without using fancy painting photoshop plugins, pixel bender or art history brush strokes was another matter. It took a plethora of adjustment layers and masks to create this from a tack sharp photograph. This garden isn't Giverny but it once was the garden of the sculptor Hew Lorimer.

#6 Andy Warhol

Pop Art!  This 1950/60's advertising/cartoon style of portrait editing was so new to me and I had great fun creating this.

Pop Art | Andy Warhol style collage using vintage colours
Pop Art | Andy Warhol style collage using vintage colours

#7 Georgia O'Keeffe

The only artist that has ever influenced me much over the years has been Georgia O'Keeffe. So many of her paintings explore the macro aspects of a nature. I've always tried to shoot creatively with my floral subjects so that part of the mentorship was easy for me.


I challenged myself by using more tones in post editing. Using the lensbaby with single glass with macro filters. Along with shooting in light conditions I wouldn't normally shoot in. As much as we were encouraged to shoot different things - flowers just had to be a part of my mentorship.

poppy flower | Papaver rhoeas "Shirley'
poppy flower | Papaver rhoeas 'Shirley'
poppy flower | Papaver rhoeas "Shirley'
poppy flower | Papaver rhoeas 'Shirley'
poppy flower | Papaver rhoeas 'Shirley'
lensbaby poppy flower abstract | Papaver rhoeas 'Shirley'

Final Assignment

Our final assignment was broken into segments. The one segment I found so challenging was recreating a piece of famous art work.  I choose the Georgia O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed | Datura stramonium as our common Hedge Bindweed | Calystegia sepium looks quite similar.

Georgia O'Keeffe original
Georgia O'Keeffe original

It certainly isn't the way I would edit a flower image and that's the reason why I found the editing for this image so restrictive in some regards. In the end I figured that wasn't really about my vision at all. This part of the assignment made me study how Georgia worked light and shadows into her painting and how she explored shapes, textures, contrast, colour.

my recreation using bindweed
my recreation using bindweed

This is just a small selection of the images I submitted to the mentorship.

Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on www.irelandbirdphotography.com

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2 Responses

  1. Gardening in a Sandbox

    Hi Rosie: how very exciting to be a part of this experience. I loved to see your creations and I can see that your work in future will show what you have learned. Valerie

  2. Ida

    Well it seems as if you really enjoyed the course and learned a lot from it. I'm thinking for me personally that it is "way beyond" what I want as far as photography goes. I'm not experienced enough as a photographer to grasp any of what you were talking about. Plus I think I like photo's in a simpler sense of the word. That's not to say I don't want to improve my skills but for me I like a "less involved" approach to photo taking.

    Your pieces were quite fascinating. I really liked the Chain shot at the beginning of your post. Also enjoyed the Harley shot.