The Viewfinder

Have YOU Signed Up for Texas School Yet? Sandy Buller Shares His Texas School Experience from 2019

28 Jan 2020 8:45 PM | Theresa Campbell, CPP (Administrator)

Classes are still open for Texas School 2020 to be held April 26 - May 1 in Dallas. In case you aren't familiar with this amazing event, we are posting a write-up from Sandy Buller, 2019's recipient of a $500 Scholarship to Texas School to give you a taste of what to expect.


It was late morning, April 28, 2019 as I drove the back roads from southern Waller County up through Grimes County and Madison County to reach I-45 headed north to Addison, Texas to attend the 2019 Texas School of Photography at the Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel. I was thinking to myself, this is quite odd going to a photography school yet my instructor’s course syllabus mentioned that cameras were not required for this week’s course, just one’s laptop computer. Well, it only makes sense, because it was a course in Photoshop.

This course was not about retouching photographed portrait images. It was about how to make artwork out of nothing or use elements from one’s photographs and other mediums to create a composite illustration that could be identified as fine art. The instructor was Thom Rouse from Chicago, Il. He used his and other’s actual photographs which were transformed and manipulated from Photoshop techniques. He also added real-life, everyday stuff like magazine pages that had been altered from a chemical reaction, then photographed to highlight the textures and colors. In the Photoshop techniques, he demonstrated how he used masking layers, adjustment layers, and layer styles to generate the outcome of the artwork.

We spent time all week going over these techniques working on our own creative project utilizing our own images. Doing the techniques over and over each day helped embed the process in our minds, too. It was from the continued repetition that other possibilities arose which fueled the creative process further. The students in the class were very engaged, interactive and courteous with each other. This cordial, loving environment made it the norm to share Photoshop shortcuts and personal techniques to help each other.

One of Thom’s rules was that Judgement was not allowed in his class and he encouraged everyone to especially remove self-judgement from one’s thinking. Abandoning self-judgement allows ALL judgement to be eliminated as well. We learned that judgement in any form is the thief of creativity. Thom set out to make his week-long classroom a place of respite for creativity, where we could play as children, experiment, take creative chances, and learn a whole new bag of tricks.

In addition to Photoshop, we had a continual conversation throughout the week as we worked on our personal projects that were to be completed at the end of Texas School. Our conversations explored visual literacy, inspiration, creative process, personal process, and personal style.

Visual literacy is achieved from knowing how one makes good images if one doesn’t know what good images look like. We spent time talking about how to view art and images in a way that would contribute to our own creativity.

Inspiration was another topic. We focused on how to find it and figure out how to use it in a way that would lead to original image making and not just imitation. We made a distinction that even though inspiration might originate from an existing piece of artwork, it can still be a unique creation.

Creative process was discussed as a process in general. It’s not just “paint by numbers” — It’s a learned skill.

Personal process is complex and whether we know it or not, we all have a personal image-making process comprised of a technical process, a conceptual process, and a personal process. We had conversations that spoke about how important it is for one to recognize and define one’s own personal process.

Style, and more importantly one’s personal style, is the result of all the above. And according to Thom Rouse, “You don’t choose it — it finds you.”

We learned how to use Citrasolv and squirt/spray it on any soy-based ink publication, like those in National Geographic magazine pages, to create abstract art. The textures and complex mixture of colors that are generated from this process are already unique and creative as a stand-alone piece of artwork, but when added as an element within a composite, the possibilities are endless.

For a week, I was in a creative environment learning who I was and exploring my own personal process, and at the end of the week, I was “introduced” to my own personal style. It came to me in a dream while I was there at Texas School. I now know that my inspiration resides within me and I can create something intentionally or even on a whim without having to scratch my head about what to make. I have learned a skill, like riding a bicycle, that I won’t ever forget.

Here is my personal project at the end of the week long class. I call it “Snapshot from a dream in progress.”

And now I am honored to say that Thom Rouse is an instructor of mine.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your awesome project with us Sandy! 

If YOU haven't yet registered for Texas School, what are you waiting for???


  • 03 Feb 2020 11:02 AM | Sandy Buller
    Thanks for sharing the story of my experience with Thom Rouse.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 24 Oct 2020 7:55 PM | J K
    hanks for great article!
    Link  •  Reply

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