A Story about Believing and Digging in on the Creative Drive

For a variety of reasons, Fulbright grants, study abroad, volunteer service gigs, traveling, I stopped making art for ten years. I took up kayaking after learning that a lump I had removed was benign. Six months later, I was kayaking every weekend, I got a grant to study in Japan, and stayed in hostels in Alaska.  As I began to attend kayak symposiums, take kayak lessons, and generally mess around in my kayak, I discovered that learning to kayak had opened up creative flows that I had not accessed for a while. Kayaking taught me new ways to learn, accept feedback, believe in myself and grow. While my path back to creating art has been slow, saw tooth path, it is the kayaking community that helped lead me down this creative journey. This learning process gave me the confidence to re-kindle my love for photography and film.

After getting a grant to take some digital photography and video classes at Ringling College, I bought a new camera and started shooting. My main photography subjects are the urban Chicago watersheds. I find the best times to shoot are during the gray muddy days when the sun occasionally flare its blood orange rays through January charcoal skies.

As I continued to develop my kayaking skills, I enrolled the Documentary Studies program at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. My Duke mentors have guided me through writing a pitch, scripting/format ideas, grant ideas, and work flow.

I am often asked how do I find the time do this project. I don’t watch a lot of T.V. or movies. I don’t know who are most popular Hollywood stars. I do watch outdoor adventure films and documentaries. Right now in my free time, I listen to music for soundtrack ideas. Writing down goals, Google calender, keeping a journal, and using Evernote help keep the goals and ideas organized. Evernote contains grant links, crowd sourcing ideas, and future documentary ideas (journey to Finland to research a letter from my Swedish-speaking Finn relatives).

Mostly, it is the family, friends, and kayaking community collaboration and support, that keeps my creativity flowing. I find that my conversations with the community often lead to ideas about marketing, editing, and the documentary story.


Sarah Hartman talks about the paddling plan for the day. Lake Michigan, October 2014
Bonnie A. Perry and Andrea Knepper, Chicago skyline, Oct. 2014.





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