Recently I was contracted by the great folks at 360incentives to create their 2013 Holiday e-card.  It had to be quick, it had to be lean and mean - and it had to be different.

I set to work sketching, drawing, referencing, pondering and noodling - to no avail.  Then I smartened up and "shut off" so I could just think.  It's amazing, all I need to do is turn my head ever slightly to the left or right - and I've me some serious inspiration... yet I need to keep reminding myself of this.

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I make a lot of stuff in PhotoShop and Illustrator.  I make even more stuff with pastels and paint that never sees a client's office - which is another story all together, but for some reason it hadn't dawned on me to take the non-computer creative side and get busy.

On go the boots... and considering it was 22 below, on went the hand warmers.  I found a patch of snow and had myself an idea.

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I'm a fan of Andy Goldsworthy, a sculptor who would build things in nature with found objects, photographs them and then carries on, leaving the work he's completed to carry out its natural course - and some inspiration set in.

The concept in my noggin was pretty simple, I'd take the 360incentives logo; a set of numbers and some swooshery, and make it in the snow with found items.  Their logo is a simple mix of blue and green - so I figured I'd get some cedar branches to emulate the green elements, and sticks with leaves to knock out the blue - after all, there's nothing blue in nature this time of year.

Simple approach - after drawing a rough line in the snow, I grabbed a bucket and started assembling my materials.

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The process was a lot of fun.  Sorted out with my hot-paws and a Thermos of coffee, I took my collection of sticks, needles, branches and assorted fallen limbs - and let the hour pass shaping the logo in the snowy woods.

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I'd missed the morning sun by the time I finished this - and the shadows cast from the west were long and dark across the final logo.  Past that however - I'd destroyed the snow around the work area... and it was only a light dusting on the forest floor, so every handful I picked up for "touch-ups" was full of leaves and made it all the worse for wear.

Out came the wheel barrow, and I spent a solid 20 minutes back at the cabin, collecting every flake I could from a roofline, so I could try and clean the area up around the piece.

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I snapped a few dozen shots... But as I said, the shadows were long, and the ground - my canvas - despite my tricky attempts with the wheelbarrow, was ravaged.

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I liked the overall look - but I didn't love it.  So I called it a day, figuring I'd pick it up in the morning...
But ol' Lady Nature had herself some other plans.

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A healthy 3 inches of snow, but I wasn't dismayed - I tried sweeping off the fresh powder with my hands - and made a mess.  Next up, a straw broom... failure.

I couldn't sweep the piece - and looked through the photos I had already taken.  But unconvinced with the state they were in, I came up with the idea of blowing the snow off gently... like a paleontologist would spray a light dusting of air across some fragile bones.  Yes, I totally made that comparison.

So here I am, in the middle of the woods at 8 in the morning, with a genius idea that only meant I had to unplug all of the Christmas lights on the house to steal their collective extension cords for power.

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45 minutes later or so, I'd salvaged the majority of the piece, and really found I dug the depth created by the removal of snow with the output portal of the ShopVac.

There was a bit of damage to the logo itself, but with a few more sticks and greens, I had it back up to speed - and the bonus here; the morning sun was still on my side... I just had to wait for it to creep around the east bank of maples.

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So fresh fallen snow, a rebuilt logo - and I was a much happier camper.  But I couldn't capture what I was seeing with my feet alone.  I needed to get to a taller vantage point - and I'd like to thank the good graces of chance, that there was no one tromping through the woods that day hunting grouse - cos I looked quite the fool, teetering on a ladder with a ShopVac by my side, trying to get an aerial view of a stick pile.

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So cool - I had my vantage point - I had my clean snow - I had my sunlight... But I'm a fickle fella, and I still wasn't digging the end result.  Big logo in the snow - but so what?  I needed to try and capture the environment I was in - give it some reference and perspective - really deliver the impact I was seeing.

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I'm limited in photography gear, but what I do have handy at any given time is the brain trust of some fine folks from Cupertino... and a couple versions back, they managed to implement a smart feature that allowed me to talk panorama pic's for no good reason.  Except now I had a good reason, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

The only thing I needed to do, was play with the various shadows the sun cast as it moved through the woods - and every 20 minutes or so, I jumped out of the studio and snapped a few more shots.

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And there we go - a simple idea that let me have an "Art Attack". Next steps meant I played in the warmth; cleaning up the snow a bit in PhotoShop from my twig-snapping spree, and tightening the overall piece to find the balance between deciphering  the logo itself, and capturing the environment.

A couple more hours, application of various elements to give it an even snowier appeal - and I was able to bring this piece to fruition... I'm pretty pleased with it too.  Plus - eyes opened to realizing there's a lot more nature I need to start bringing into my work.

I get paid these days to have fun - and this was a blast. I'd hashtag it awesometown if I was so inclined.
And I am.
And I did.

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