Tag Archives: Art

Art and the Menopause Transition

A woman’s art shouts louder when she’s trying to be silenced.

Did you know that October is Menopause Awareness Month? It’s been fascinating to discover the lack of research, education and access to care for older women – not to mention the disinformation! The treatment gap for menopause is an injustice to women and we need to shout louder to ensure that women are able to make informed decisions about their health as they age.

A Yale University review of insurance claims found that while 60% of women with significant menopausal symptoms seek treatment, nearly 75% are left untreated.

Art is a channel for women to use their creativity to highlight their lived experiences and share their wisdom, strength and resilience through the menopause transition. Creating art with the collective wisdom of women that have walked or are walking this path will shed light on the journey for those still heading there while holding space for those women in the thick of it and acknowledging those who have bravely battled through it to post menopause. 

If you’ve seen one menopausal woman you’ve seen one menopausal woman- changes and symptoms occur In unique combinations in each woman and support and treatment options vary depending on where she finds herself in the world.

Since 2009, the IMS (International Menopause Society) alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) designate October as World Menopause Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to speak openly about the experiences and resilience of women. These conversations can help to break the silence about the menopause transition and highlight the areas where more support and understanding is needed. Get creative during your menopause journey and let others know that they are not alone in grappling with the changes that this natural process brings.

With this in mind I’m organizing an art show called “Post Period.” that will be launched in Menopause Awareness Month, 2024. A multi-pronged approach to communicating the challenges and impact of menopause is required so women have an opportunity to understand the mental and physical impacts of hormonal changes.

Art is an avenue that can spark conversations, question the status quo, and challenge misconceptions while also providing an opportunity for self-expression and catharsis.  

Have you made any menopause related or inspired art ? This is your sign to embrace your third act and create unapologetically! Creativity has no age limit!

Ai and Artists, partners or opponents in the battle for creative supremacy?

AI and artists can be seen as both partners and opponents in the battle for creative supremacy. That’s if creative supremacy is even a thing. On one hand, AI can assist artists by providing new tools and techniques for creation, allowing them to explore new avenues of expression and push the boundaries of what is possible. For example, AI can help artists generate new ideas and designs, automate tedious tasks, and even create new artworks from scratch.

I spent some time working with DALL E yesterday and used one of my images to initiate a DALL E Variation and the result is below with the original “African Daisy in a Bottle” on the left. I also tried out the website Images.AI to generate a 3D version of the Joa Jerboa character I had created with some interested results (included at the end of this post). There are definitely more creative avenues to explore on the road to producing engaging and interesting images.

Original photo (left) and AI enhanced image variation (right) using DALL E

On the other hand, AI can also be seen as a threat to the traditional notion of the artist as the sole creator of a work of art. This is because AI-generated art challenges the idea of authorship and originality, as well as raises questions about the value of human creative effort. In some cases, AI-generated artworks may even be indistinguishable from those created by humans, making it difficult to attribute value to a particular artist’s work.

There’s an interesting exhibit at the MIT Museum that explores the nature of art and artists through the lens of technology advancements and the places and spaces where art and Ai coalesces or collides. John Durant, Director, MIT Museum said “We’re here to turn MIT inside out. We want people to understand what contemporary research and innovation are all about and what they mean for everyday life.” Watch the video on PBSO News Hour here.

Ultimately, the relationship between AI and artists is complex and multi-faceted. While AI has the potential to both enhance and undermine the creative process, the future of art and creativity will likely be shaped by the way that artists and technologists collaborate and interact with each other. Some see AI as an opportunity to expand the creative possibilities and explore new forms of expression, while others see it as a threat to the unique role of the artist in the creation of art.

Posing questions and inviting dialogue is a good place to begin to unravel the possibilities and the pitfalls as the technology develops.

Jerboa generated by Images.AI

ps. This blog post was a collaboration between myself and AI text generator ChatGPT

Can you ‘See My Humanity’?

Jogging down a street

Carrying groceries 

Holding a pair of sneakers 

Walking a dog

Opening a car door 

Black boy wearing a hoodie

What did you see?

A threat ? A child? 

Can you “See My Humanity”?

‘See My Humanity’ artwork by Vanessa Thomas

To read more about the story behind this image visit the Livermore Art Association website.

Footnote: This artwork is currently on show at the Museum on Main as part of the Pleasanton Art League Imagination Expressed art Exhibit Exhibit Dates: January 18 to March 25, 2023

Buy prints of “See My Humanity” here.

Why feminist photography?

A woman’s perceived value in society is constantly being underestimated and undermined and this is true too in the world of art. 

‘Shackled’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the ‘No Boundaries’ Art Show hosted by the Dublin Arts Collective at the F. Co Gallery in Dublin, California

My first blog post in 2022 echoed similar sentiments and the loss of economic power and agency for females continues its downward trend.

Societal trauma following the first pandemic in 100 years seems to have resulted in increased misogyny and oppression of women globally in what I surmise is the patriarchy’s attempt to regain some sense of power and control in a world where we have discovered that we have rather little.

The situation has had a profound impact on my art and has ignited the fires of my feminist heart. It has always burned beneath the surface but the cold clutches of fear caged it. Floral photography is my usual playground as a way to find my flow and cope with the increasing pressures of life while offering some respite to the onslaught of negative news and climate change anxiety. So in a dramatic departure from my usual subject matter my muse emboldened me to create two works of feminist photography.

Every creative soul knows the feeling of being imbued with an idea that needs to be brought to life. To take the tacit dream and make it explicit. 

In a creative collaboration with fellow artist May Yin Giang the photographs ‘Shackled’ and ‘A Woman’s Grief’ were  brought into existence representing the anguish, frustration, grief and ire experienced by women following recent events. The images were captured on location at Dublin Pioneer Cemetery in California. 

Overturning Roe vs Wade and the subsequent impact on reproductive rights and a loss of bodily autonomy that has further oppressed the vulnerable and compounded the struggles of those already at the bottom of the economic food chain were the catalysts for creating ‘Shackled’ that provides a window into women’s suffering.  Women’s rights are human rights yet they appear to not carry the same weight as men’s rights. 

In ‘A Woman’s Grief’ the anguish of the losses faced by women is placed in the context of societal structures (including religious structures) built to contain, dominate and exploit the nurturing nature of women who have the power to produce life but are not empowered through it. Her innate strength though is reflected in the green hues of hope representing persistence in the face of horrors of the wounds inflicted by society. 

The responses to this work have been intriguing. Many have been surprised at the level of emotion elicited in response to it but others have been unable to fully allow themselves to uncap the bottle of thoughts and feelings that arise. 

If we can hide a woman’s pain we don’t need to find a remedy. 

‘A Woman’s Grief’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the Pleasanton Art League Fall Members Show at the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton, California

The feminine form is beguiling in the art world but art produced by females is deemed to have less intrinsic value compared to that produced by males. An interesting glimpse into the stats was recently presented in the Burns Halperin Report and commented on in an article by Katya Kazakina in Art News “Who’s afraid of women of a certain age? The market still dramatically undervalues female artists – but there’s more to the story.” that I saw posted on @artgirlrising. It begs the question – why? 

Women are exploited and preyed upon in their youth and child-bearing years and discarded and made invisible as they age. There was a time not so long ago when it felt like women where claiming their space and owning the incredible power of their bodies and minds. The show on Netflix “Feminists – What were they thinking?” includes the work of photographer Cynthia MacAdams and discusses 1970s portraits of women that reflected a feminist awakening and captures women being who they want to be and the images are both striking and empowering. 

Our art holds a mirror to society and the current reflection is grim. Yet we persist in pursuing the ideal that all women and girls will one day be free to reach their full potential and live without the constant fear of violence. 

There’s so much more to say but I’ll end with a quote from the book “A Radical Awakening” by Dr Shefali (page 173) 

Culture and in particular, the patriarchy are deathly afraid of the awakened and empowered woman. She is a threat to the status quo. A woman who is no longer docile, quiet, servile and dependent? No longer willing to compromise her worth for another’s comfort and well-being? No longer willing to take second place except when she consciously chooses to do so? That woman? Do you know what power she houses within her? She is a force to be reckoned with.

* Footnote ‘Shackled’ will be on show at the Museum on Main in the Imagination Expressed Show of the Pleasanton Art League from January 28 to March 25, 2023. 

Buy Prints of “Shackled” here.


I’m a photographer, will AI image generators make me redundant?

Artists are driven to create but also need to make a living – how will AI impact their lives ?

Floral photography is where I dance with my creativity and when planning for 2023 there is one glaring technological advancement that will undeniably alter the trajectory of my art journey – AI image generators (not to mention other AI tools for image enhancement).

Chrysanthemum by Vanessa Thomas

While setting out my list of art shows for the year and reading about current trends and developments, there is an undercurrent of both trepidation and excitement. AI Image Generators are essentially able to generate new images using keywords and reference images. The software learns from the reference image pool and generates faces, places and spaces never seen before and the results are astounding. Examples include DALL-E 2 , Craiyon, Midjourney, Dall-E, Stable Diffusion Online and DALL-E FLOW to name but a few and there are many others on the horizon.

AI image generators are here and they’re here to stay. Trying to deny or downplay the impact they will have on the visual arts community is like trying to deny climate change – the facts are there and the impact will happen whether you choose to acknowledge it or not – in fact the impact has already been felt in the creative industry.

Does AI Art or traditional art have more value? As an exhibiting photographer I have already experienced the ostracization by artists using more traditional media – especially from those who paint – as for some, photography is not considered an art form requiring an equivalent level of skill. It appeared to me that art that took relatively longer to produce held more value. Even certain online platforms I’ve used to sell my work had a separate login for ‘artists’ and ‘photographers’. ‘Art gatekeeping’ is a topic for another post though. Currently the novelty of AI art makes it trendy which means people want to own it – will this shrink opportunities for sale of traditional artwork? On my social media feeds it was evident many were willing to pay to upload reference images of their faces in order to see a stylized AI generated version and they were happy to share them as well. I don’t know when last I’ve seen someone who is not an artist, share a painted portrait of their visages!

Will owning traditional art become an elitist practice with only a niche following? People love making and creating work themselves so they have the option to adorn their walls and spaces with art ‘made by me’.

I’m no AI expert but as an artist I’m already a part of this creative evolutionary step – and my participation was not voluntary- after doing some online reading I came across the following website allowing artists to search the data pool / training data used as source images to teach the AI image generators and low and behold my original photographs (currently for sale) are already included! Images were taken without permission or acknowledgement – so where does this leave me in terms of copyright protection? Yes I can opt out of future internet data scrapes but I have to admit that a part of me was also excited to be included! Want to check if your work is included ? The site is Have I been Trained?

Image: Search Results from Have I been Trained?

It is not unusual for artists using other media to use my images for reference – the main difference is that they ask permission and acknowledge the source. Of course there have always been those unscrupulous types that simply copy images and use them without permission – watermark and all! Digital art and image manipulation opened a new world of opportunity when it was first made available to the public. I recall the early days of creating scientific posters for conferences manually with a printer, scissors and glue and I also recall my jubilation when designing my first poster in CorelDRAW. Systems evolve and we are now in the midst of the AI revolution and as with the industrial revolution – there will be job losses – why would a company pay a graphic artist when they can generate unique, high resolution professional images using AI that will be both cheaper and faster?

There is no doubt in my mind that the world of photography that I currently know is about to change. Questions have already been raised about standards of beauty and perfection in these new images and whether existing biases and forms of discrimination could be altered in the visuals we see. The process of making art however also has intrinsic value – which is why art therapy works. Every revolution brings opportunity. AI art is a new frontier and who better than artists and creative minds to boldly go exploring! It has the power to make the images in your dreams a reality – whether you are able to draw or paint or not – only your imagination is the limit.

Merit award for pal members show

In trying times when it’s not always possible to focus on my art – it was a joyful moment to receive a Merit Award by Pleasanton Art League Members’ Show judge Paul Kratter for my photograph, “Morning Revival”.

Merit Award Winning Image

There were several other participants in the show and the full gallery can be viewed online on the Pleasanton Art League website.

Congratulations to all the winners especially “Four Seasons” theme winner Chandana Srinath for “RUTHU-Life Cycle In Seasons”!

Creating an Adirondack Chair to Remember

A Chair to Remember – The journey of an Adirondack Chair as part of a Temporary Public Art Program by the City of Dublin, California https://dublin.ca.gov/. The chair named “Of Poppies and Pollinators” was designed by Vanessa Thomas. Local Artist Teresa Yue assisted with the painting and assembly process.

The design for this Chair is inspired by the flora in Dublin with the added theme of protecting pollinators vital to our planet’s well-being.

This chair design raises awareness of the important work of bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and others.

The problem of declining populations of native pollinators is complex, and there are multiple factors at work. But population decline can be largely be attributed to habitat loss, diseases and parasites, pollution and pesticide use.

The home gardener can help support native pollinators by creating pollinator-friendly landscapes and gardens.

A total of 20 Chairs were created by local artists and are up for auction via the City of Dublin website until September 2020.

Images used in this design have all been photographed in the Dublin area by Vanessa Thomas and include:

Image 1: Wisteria from Emerald Glen Park


Wisteria in Emerald Glen Park, Dublin, California

Image 2: California Poppies in the Meadow in Scarlett Drive

Orange Poppy Pair Adirondack sml

A pair of Californian wild Poppies

Image 3: Baby Blue Eyes wildflowers photographed in Fallon Sports Park

Baby Blue Eyes Wildflowers Adirondack sml

A collage of Baby Blue Eyes Wildflowers

Five Quotes To Help You Stay Creative In Times Of Stress.

It’s been great to connect to fellow artists during shelter-in-place and some of us shared our thoughts with the Pleasanton Art League.

Our vulnerability has been highlighted in no uncertain terms in the current pandemic and rapid and complex changes have placed us in extraordinarily stressful times. Yet in the midst of it I am recalling quotes that have inspired and motivated me and I hope that by sharing them they can lighten your load a bit as well.

Blossoms Pink Spring

Pink Spring Blossoms in our neighborhood

Quote 1: The first was shared by my artist friend, Sawsan, who was making some jewelry and found an inscription on a piece of metal which read: “Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” (Richard Bach) When I set aside my anxiety and looked for a gift in this unprecedented situation I came to realize that there were indeed gifts – closeness of family that I don’t usually get to enjoy, stepping off the hamster- wheel of meetings and events and finding quiet spaces to connect with my passions of writing and floral photography.

To read further please visit the Pleasanton Art League website and click here.

Fables and Flora and TEDx

Passion for the things we love can take us many places. My love of flowers led me to photography which has taken me on journey of wonder and discovery and recently led me to the stage at TEDx Emerald Glen Park.

Butterflies in the Poppies:

Butterflies in Poppies Watercolor

My passions for storytelling, community and all things floral collided in a blissful moment that urged me to encourage others to follow the paths where they seek to make a difference.

If you’re waiting for a sign to take a leap out of your comfort zone then please take a moment to view my TEDx Talk – Community, Connection and the Art of Storytelling.

It’s not for everyone but it might just be for you.

PS: Flowers at the TEDx Event:

TEDx flowers pincushion

Amazing that it included a pincushion bloom from the Western Cape in South Africa! Stocks symbolize a happy life and contented existence. Orange roses represent enthusiasm, passion and gratitude. The Feverfew daisy-like flowers are a medicinal plant for treating headaches so this is a perfect TEDx bouquet!

Happy Earth Day!


Floral Fantasy Totes of Note

You never know where a new path will lead until you take the first step.

This blog started when I began my journey with a compact camera and started capturing flowers wherever I went. Just for the sheer love of them.  

Now I just started a blog featuring my floral photography printed on tote bags. It’s called L’art du Tote simply because French makes everything sound exquisite!

My love of flowers started early and before I started using a camera I used to draw them. The school  and university projects I submitted had title pages decorated with leaves and blooms even in Biochemistry class! 

That is now many moons ago but I remember those days so clearly and with great fondness. Now my floral images are available for purchase on Pixels.com

It appears that people enjoy seeing uplifting positive images that bring joy to their day and a smile to their faces. I love that my art does that for them because that in turn brings me joy!
Now I can carry my art with me and spread the joy!  Others have been sharing their joy with me too and I have received photos of my bags in America, Spain and South Africa too! It is indeed a sweet twist on an unexpected journey that began because flowers make my soul sing.

Wishing all my followers who have kept me motivated a joyful February! I hope you find what you love and love what you do!


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