Small Projects for Creative Bursts

Our students may not believe it, but sometimes Darwin and I torture – ahem! – teach each other through guided assignments. Relatively recently we experimented with small, mentored projects. Here’s how it worked: one of us picked a topic to shoot – that person was the mentee – and the other developed a series of linked assignments within an overall goal for the project – that person was the mentor. We took the projects seriously with concrete deadlines – that was the torture part – and managed to complete the projects between and sometimes during other work events. We then swapped roles. My project was about trees, of course!

Tree project 1

When you know most of your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, you learn to be diplomatic in your critiques for the sake of your personal relationship and, in our case, our business relationship as well. But you also benefit from the deep interest you take in your partner’s creative development. It’s something we strive to bring to our work through oopoomoo as well. Here’s Darwin’s instructions to me to fit my art in “snippets of time” between working with students at a workshop.

Tree project 2

I decided to fit my project, which was all about capturing the essence or soul of tree personalities in nature, into a scrapbook. I put the assignments and the images in the book. The project was a combination of drawings, musings, assignments and photographs.

Tree project 3

What was the point, you may be wondering? Fun! Creativity! Just ’cause! Even though I have a larger, multi-year project underway called Pressed Landscapes, these ‘mini-mentorships’ were about shaking off the shackles of working as a commercial artist and just shooting some little idea that appealed to me, engaging in something that was stimulating and fun. As a mentor, I honed my skills at listening to my student’s interests and gently guiding him through blind spots. As a student, I reminded myself to be open to constructive feedback, ignoring the urge to defend a shot, and instead take a step away from the work to see it for how it really came across. It was good to be on both sides of the desk.

Tree project 4

Watch for Darwin’s post about his small project mentorship this Friday!


About the Author

Photographing the incredible beauty of natural things, filming quirky videos, trying new foods with unpronounceable names, curling up with a good book, sharing ideas on how to live lighter on the Earth...these are a few of my favourite things!


  1. Lynn Smith
    June 15, 2016

    You have some pretty Awesome teaching skills.

  2. Anne Jutras
    June 15, 2016

    Hello Samantha,
    What a wonderful idea! I love it!

  3. Diane Varner
    June 15, 2016

    Very cool, Samantha!! Love your project and love this idea.

  4. Sue
    June 17, 2016

    That is amazing. It is an inspiration to see how the two of you encourage each other’s creativity. Something to be thankful for in a world that sometimes moves to fast 😄

    • Darwin Wiggett
      June 17, 2016

      Yes, making a physical journal and talking and thinking about your projects before pressing the shutter makes you slow down and savour what you produce.

  5. Samantha Chrysanthou
    June 17, 2016

    Thanks, everyone!

  6. Michelle
    June 19, 2016

    Hi guys!
    These articles have gotten me thinking about how I challenge myself to open up and live freer as an artist. How can I push myself to grow and articulate what inspires me.
    After a little self reflection I think my art and my photography play an intricate role to each other.
    Does anyone else find that photography isn’t their only artistic expression? And do you find that practice with each outlet hones skills in the others?

    I’m really exploring ‘layers’ in both my photography and my art lately. And I’m finding that layers are becoming more defined in every creative outlet I have. And as I make decisions in each pursuit I find myself applying what I discovered lately in another artistic endeavor.

    Darwin and Sam, you guys are always helping me push my self in more than just my photography, your words permeate much more than that!


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