This guest post is written by photographer + designer, Jeffrey Shipley, the visual genius behind Deeper Ground.
When I was a wee lad, I used to sit in the front row of desks in the classroom lined with cheesy educational posters. I’d squint to make sense of the numbers chalked on the board as my math teacher wildly spewed out such things as “the square root of nine is three and if you multiply a by b and then divide it by c then…blah, blah, blah.”
I’d like to think I sat within spitting distance of Mr. Messinger solely because I was the curious and over-achiever type of student who would promptly respond to the his questions with accuracy and vigor putting all the other kids to shame and who would stay after class to discuss next week’s assignment.
And while this may have been the case in some regard–just maybe–and as much as I may have wanted to sit in the back with the cool kids–the rebels, the popular ones–
The real truth of the matter was that I couldn’t see the chalkboard unless I sat as close to it as possible.
For quite some time, I thought nothing of it and didn’t realize that per chance there was a solution to this lack of clarity, and that perhaps it was possible for me see the board (and world) differently.
Needless to say, I didn’t exactly have 20/20 vision, and I desperately needed glasses. And let me tell you, the first few pairs were AWESOME.
I was so cool back then… a real trendsetter in my Harry-Potter-esque frames and my over-sized jeans and hoodies. I made the fellas jealous for sure. Ha.
I remember that transition quite vividly. You know, the whole “OMG! Is that what leaves actually look like?!” moment…
…where what was once terribly blurry comes into sharp focus and you begin to see things that you’d not noticed before – and when an appreciation for the details in the world around you starts swelling up like a balloon and you find yourself mesmerized by the simplest things in life.
Yes, I remember that feeling when the world began to take on a new meaning to my young self, and I think it was in those first moments of seeing clearly that I began to cultivate an uncanny curiosity and love for seeing and for how things looked.
I was that kid. The one who made custom subject folder covers with corresponding clip art and of course, fonts, each subject assigned to it a particular color. The days at Crowley Christian School ensured that English would forever be denoted by the color red, science blue, social studies green and math yellow. It was a well-ordered world let me assure you.
I was the one who would help my mother decorate the Christmas sugar cookies, copying her technique and aesthetic with precision. Anytime a party was in order, I would lend my hand (and eye) to adorn the ceiling with carefully twisted streamers ensuring each one was turned-over the same number of times as the next.
And if someone else did the twisting and miscounted her turns, I would notice immediately and take it upon myself to correct the mistake. I was quite obnoxious I imagine. (And perhaps still am to some).
I can’t tell you how many times someone would say to me “It’s fine, Jeffrey. Let it be!”
And so, I would let it be. For the time being anyhow, and then I would likely sneak in an adjustment or two when no one was watching. Because for me, fine wasn’t good enough. Why would that suffice when it could be perfect?
Yet all the while, I would feel silly for being so particular and meticulous or for having an opinion about how the table was set or how the ornaments hung on the tree. I used to keep it all hush-hush and only let my creative, designer self run amuck in the presence of Granma or Mom and channeled my penchant for aesthetics into building model cars and forts and playing with Legos and Erectors sets.
And while I did enjoy my “boyish” playtime on some level, I always secretly wanted to be cross-stitching alongside my mom or making hot Shipley rolls with Granma and leave the rest to the other boys. I think perhaps I subconsciously buried my artistic self in high school because it seemed so out there and impractical to me. I busied myself with science and math and purposed to become a doctor. Because that’s what smart, driven boys did, and it was the surefire path to success. But little did I know, I was purposed for something else.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I let my artistic self out of the proverbial cage and began to imagine a life where I could care about how things looked.
Once I began to pursue and live out this dream, I soon realized that this proclivity to create and to see was real, valuable and awesome, and that I could very well be the artist I’d always wanted to be.
I finally embraced my identity was an artist and began to allow myself to see (and to interpret) the world in a way all my own, and further, I began to share that with people.
As, I’ve matured, I’ve taken the stance that my particularities inform my vision, my art, my aesthetic, and that it is this combined with my life-perspective and experiences that have made me the artist I am today.
What I notice and how I notice, and then, how I respond is what makes my creative process and voice all my own.
I’ve come to appreciate how I see things.
I’ve embraced the reality that my perspective and my vision…
a) make me who I am
b) make me like no one else.
Loving my vision and all that comes with it is a work in progress. This is one of the reasons I love it so much. It changes. It matures. It evolves. Along the way, I find myself becoming a truer, more authentic version of myself and, well, I find this to be my happiest place on Earth. Bam!
This lesson has been one of the most profound in my life because it’s so deeply connected to identity. All too often I’ve found myself falling prey to the temptation to deny aspects of my identity and to conform to a prescribed set of rules and expectations. Many of said rules and expectations are self-fabricated and self-induced.
I combat this destructive habit and give myself permission to be just as I am and to sink even deeper into the various aspects of my identity.
Do you ever find yourself denying the most dynamic, genius aspects of yourself for one reason or another? Why?
How can you give yourself permission to share this hidden side of yourself?
Or perhaps is it that you’re not actively hiding something but simply ignoring and not tending to your most powerful self?
In what ways can you care for your whole self better?
I know, I know, it’s hard work my friends. I also know that it’s essential and life-giving work and that in the end, you’ll find that your dreams are somehow taking root in a beautiful and exciting reality.
Jeffrey Shipley is a photographer, designer and lover of all things modern, stylish and pretty. He gets excited about fro-yo and HGTV and is becoming increasingly fond of the mid-century modern aesthetic. You can learn more about him and read about his recent artistic wanderings and musings on his blog: www.jshipleyblog.com.