Artist Spotlight :: Willow Paule


Welcome! Every Tuesday and Thursday Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager, interviews one of the talented teachers in our 21 SECRETS program for an Artist Spotlight.

To never miss an interview be sure to sign up for blog notifications located at the bottom of this page and CLICK HERE to check out past interviews. Enjoy!

Hello Amazing Creator!

Can you believe it? Finally . . . just 4 days now until we roll out 21 SECRETS Face Time and you get to see all of the juicy lessons in all of their amazingness!

Willow Paule is today’s Spotlight Artist and if you are hungry for new and meaningful ways to embrace self-portraits, I’m pretty confident you’re going to love her Face-Time lesson, Elevating the SELF-ie. Willow has an amazing way of seeing the authenticity of the people she captures with her camera because she has a sincere desire to know more about those she is shooting. I’ve enjoyed her Instagram vignettes for ages and it was fun getting to know more about her here.

What is your earliest memory of a creative activity you enjoyed?

I’ve always been interested in art and crafts, and an entrepreneur at heart. As a child, my younger brother was my collector. My first memory of a creative project was making rock people. I would collect tiny pebbles from our driveway, seeds and berries from the woods, and scraps of fabric from my parents’ clothing business. After gluing up the rock people and their outfits, I would sell them for pennies to whoever was buying.

How are the things you value most in life reflected in what you create?

Above all, I value my connection with other living beings and nature. I think this is evident in my photo work. I usually take photos of the same subjects over time, getting to know them intimately and creating long-term relationships. Or, if I don’t have the privilege of coming back to my subjects, I ground them in time and space by making environmental portraits or double exposures, showing the way they interact with their surroundings. I don’t approach photography like an exact science, becoming obsessed with technical considerations. Instead, I spend time making photos because I consider it my heart-led research.

In what do you find inspiration that it seems few others find inspiring?

I like meeting people who seem different than me and finding common ground. Short conversations with strangers really inspire me and even help me decide what photo projects I want to focus on next. For example, I have a photo series from Indonesia called Odd Jobs. It focuses on people who don’t hold down traditional 9-5 jobs, but instead own micro-businesses and do things with their hands.

If we were lucky enough to see your workshop’s “outtakes” or “bloopers” video, what would be the scene?

You would definitely see a paw swatting my little art table or a nose sniffing inquisitively at my watercolor paints. That would be my blind cat, Mrow-Mrow, who does not let bumping into walls and tables dissuade her from running around chasing leaves and exploring the whole house.

When are you most courageous?

Just after being thrown out of my routine by going to a new place, meeting new people, visiting an art opening, or even trying new food, my approach to life changes for a time. I feel more engaged, more secure in myself and my problem-solving skills. When I feel myself ‘falling out’ of that feeling, I know it’s time to take another trip or at least leave my house again.

I just love Willow’s big heart and the effort she puts into connecting with others through her art.

She may just make a selfie lover out of me yet (because what’s better than connecting with our own self, right?)

💜 Tonia

About Willow

Willow Paule is a documentary photographer, educator and blogger. As an introvert, Willow uses photography as a tool to connect and explore her curiosity about other people. Her photographs tell the intimate stories of everyday people and their extraordinary lives.

Willow leads photography and visual storytelling courses, and teaches her students how to create intentional photographic work, while following their natural curiosity to explore through the medium.

Willow’s blog is home to monthly interviews with insightful creative people, which include practical tips and insights into their workflow and artistic practices. She also writes about creative risk-taking, in order to inspire her readers to broaden their horizons and make more compelling photo stories.

Willow offers a free course called Create A Compelling Photo Story In One Week. You can sign up for the course on her website.


Willow is teaching Evaluating the SELF-ie in 21 SECRETS Face Time

Anybody can take a selfie; a quick press of a button and BAM! you’ve got a photo. Often, though, it’s not a very interesting one. However, with intention, a selfie can become a self-portrait, grounding a person in time and space and telling us about their emotions.

In this lesson, we’ll be creating intentional self-portraits with just a cell phone and then, using a fun process, transferring the resulting photos into our journals. We’ll also use watercolor and tissue paper to create a layered look, much like our inner landscapes, which aren’t simple but are more nuanced and complex.

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