Arts non-profit Central Arts (with locations in Bedford and Hurst, Texas) recently featured and interviewed me in an artist spotlight of local artists. That spotlight follows below.
Our 8th Artist Spotlight is on KC Hulsman. KC was kind enough to answer our questions and provide examples of her photography.
1. How did you get started?
I was always fascinated with the medium of photography, and about 9 years ago, I had a nice tax return coming my way, and invested in an entry level camera that enabled me to shoot in manual mode. I had never had a class before, and had never had anything beyond the most basic of point and shoot cameras.
2. How did you get to where you are today?
Honestly, I got my start like so many other artists: as a child taught art in school, and taken on outings to museums and galleries. All the basic artistic principles such as light and shadow, perspective, positive and negative space, contrast, color theory all translate to photography. I’ve studied other forms of art as well: glass blowing, stained glass, metal & jewelry smithing, and have some experience with graphic design. Those mediums while different build upon the building blocks. Once I picked up a manual camera, I just applied myself to learning. I went out to shoot. I sat down with my manual, found tutorials online, found other photographers, and took skill specific workshops to learn and refine my skills.
3. Has it been relatively easy? If not, what have been some of your struggles?
Cameras are essentially a machine trying to replicate what your eyes do naturally. At their core to shoot you have to understand light: how to capture, how to diffuse it, how to enhance it, how to mitigate it, or how to redirect it. The worst times to shoot for most photography are bright blue cloudless skies when the sun is up high. While some things the machine does is a pale imitation of what our natural eyesight can achieve, there are some items where the machine can do things our eyes never can, such as long exposure photography. I have been exploring in the last couple of years a lot with this technique: night photography especially like cityscapes with car trails, light painting, but most especially with astrophotography as I shoot the milky way, star trails and recently the comet Neowise.
The challenge with long exposure photography taken at night is you’re shooting in the dark. You can’t usually see what’s in your viewfinder until the exposure has finished, and with certain techniques you have no idea what you have until you’ve developed the shot when you get home. You have to not only have the technical skill, but the ability to visualize how something you are doing in the moment will (or at least should) render.
Astrophotography is some of the most frustrating photography you can ever think of doing. First there is the planning and research, and that alone can sometimes take days of time. You have to find truly dark skies so you avoid light pollution. You can’t shoot usually if the moon is up (as it is a source of light pollution too), so you start having to think and plan like an astronomer. Then you have to find something to shoot that will make for an intriguing foreground for your celestial infused image. Usually this means traveling to the middle of nowhere in the night avoiding rattle snakes, tarantulas, hornets, so many fire ants, chiggers, mosquitoes, cougars, bears, wild boar, javelinas, coyotes, and any humans that may mean you harm, all while hoping that Texas weather doesn’t have one of its mercurial mood changes as clouds are the ultimate enemy. It took me three years full of failed attempts (because the weather changed last minute) before I finally had my first successful astrophotography outing.
4. What medium and/or materials do you use in your art?
These days I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark IV camera body, with a variety of lenses (wide angle 16-35mm, mid-range 24-70mm, telephoto 100-400mm), with an assortment of lens filters that help me achieve different things. A tripod is a must for any of my long exposure photography, as well as useful for other types of shots.
5. What sets you apart from other artists?
I think of my photography as life in frame. The frame of my camera’s viewfinder and the frame of a picture on a wall. I seek to immortalize with my camera that singular, fleeting moment of beauty and wonder so often found in nature. I also find beauty in the unexpected. The one thing I consistently hear from others, is how so much of my photography is vibrantly saturated with color, or how I bring out beauty in something they never would have looked twice at otherwise. As a Texas based artist, a lot of my work relates to and elevates what can be found in Texas.
6. What is success or successful mean to you?
Currently, short term success means selling my art, especially during a pandemic. Every festival or gallery exhibition I had lined up for the year has been canceled since March through to 2021 at this point, and it has been an absolute devastating loss. Long term I hope some of my work is invited to exhibit and eventually become part of the permanent collections of major art institutions and museums, especially Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art. That museum has a great photography collection, and I visit for their photography exhibits all the time to learn and be inspired from the works of other photographers.
Not only would that be a personal goal of success, but it would be a win for gender equality and representation in the arts too. Whether at museums or in the workplace only 10-14% of photography on average comes from women. Like in most fields, women still earn significantly less than what a male would. The National Endowment for the Arts estimates that female visual artists earn on average $20,000 less a year than their male peers. When you consider 1 in 15 jobs is tied to the creative sector here in Texas, that means the creative women among us are under-represented and constantly overlooked. This is one of the reasons I created the nascent online group, “Texas Women’s Photography Group” on Facebook, to give a safe space for female photographers to come together, learn new skills, and to help elevate the photographers in our midst. Long term I hope that group helps to encourage and nurture photographers, give them the ability to expand, and for them to find their own success too.
7. What are characteristics or qualities essential to success or being successful as an artist?
You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to constantly be creating, and honing your craft, and no matter how daunting it can be, you have to put yourself forward. I’ve been very fortunate in terms of some early success and accolades since I have begun selling my artwork. I was named an Emerging Artist, and I’ve become a national award-winning photographer, with my work exhibited from New York to Australia. None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t pursued opportunities, boldly put myself and my artwork out there, and took risks.
One of the key components in being successful today as an artist, is we have to learn a wide range of skill sets and wear many hats as we strive to make a living. We have to learn how to design our websites, while promoting our work online through newsletters and social media accounts. We have to manage e-commerce shops, be our own tech support, and deal with the complexities of order fulfillment and shipping our art to arrive intact. We have to manage a range of accounting and tax needs to be in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. While we constantly look for opportunities, and network to build relationships with clients, fellow artists, as well as other businesses and organizations. All this, while still working and creating our art. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming trying to juggle all of this on our own.
8. Where can your art be purchased?
You can find a few pieces currently at Central Arts of Hurst, but for a more comprehensive shopping experience you can shop from me online at kchulsmanphotos.com. I’m in a constant state of adding work to the shop, and of course if you’re looking for something in particular you can contact me through there for any inquiries too. I would love to hear from you. You can also follow me on social media under the account of @KCHulsmanPhotos on Facebook and Instagram.
Posted September 5, 2020 https://www.facebook.com/centralartsbedford/posts/1708149549345964