The Artistic Approach of a Professional Daydreamer – PART ONE

Model: Toni Marie Bentley


I don’t dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living. -Steven Spielberg

For as long as I can remember “stop daydreaming” was something I heard daily from my teachers.  “If you want to go anywhere in life you have to get your head out of the clouds and keep your feet on the ground” was another phrase I heard all too often growing up. Thank goodness I never escaped my daydreaming haze long enough to heed these warnings because today this type of “visual thinking” has become one of my greatest strengths as an artist.


I think, visualize and plan in pictures until they become so vivid they take over – and then finally become – reality. The ability to communicate ideas, emotions and thoughts in a visual format has become a way to express myself. I have so much I want to say, yet I am not a speaker or writer, so for me my images are how I can be heard.


The Light Bulb Moment


Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. -Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass) 

I get asked all the time how I come up with the ideas for the dresses I create.  I think it is important to understand that the outfits and ideas for my photo shoots are not separate entities; each dress and shoot is designed with the final image and desired end result in mind. Inspiration for an image comes from many different places; it is a vision and idea that changes, evolves and has its purpose clarified with time and research. Many times an idea begins to split into two or more ideas. In this case more than one shoot becomes necessary to complete the vision.

Once I have an idea I feel strongly about I will sketch out what the finished image might look like. As a photographer my final product will be a photograph, an idea communicated visually.  The sooner I can put it into a visual form (i.e. a drawing/sketch) the sooner I can start looking at it in its end format. This allows my artistic and creative ability to become involved early in the process. Now I have a goal that I can see and touch. To be successful at anything you must know what you want and at least have an idea of what success looks like. If you don’t know where you are going you will never know when you have arrived, and the path to get there will seem insurmountable.

Once I have a good idea of what I want to achieve, then I simply map out a plan of actions that will get me to my goal. I use the mind mapping technique with one of my favorite iPad apps, iThoughts.

Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so. ~Author : Belva Davis

Model: Toni Marie Bentley

The Vision

Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose  –Bo Bennett 

From my first trip to Palm Springs last year I was taken with the desert and the different world/another time feeling that it radiated. I knew the day I arrived, flying in over the hot, barren terrain and heavily creviced hills, that there were stories waiting to be told and visions waiting to be realized.


I love to bring conflicting components together, so as I took in the dry, sun-baked, cracked desert floor I was instantly drawn to the idea of introducing a cool, refreshing element. Thus the “Oasis” shoot was born.

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Oasis Dress

I begin all my shoots with brainstorming, whether it’s a portrait for my client or a personal art session such as this one. To start with I just write a list of words and ideas that I want to include or that I want my viewer to feel or pick up on. I decided to make the dress itself a tribute to the desert by including an earthy, desert sunset-exposed underskirt. I wanted the skirt top to represent a cool, free moving waterfall or stream. I added a leather “armor-type” corset and cuffs to contradict the soft, flowy feeling of the dress. I loved the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting (and ended up reading all three hunger game books during the creation of this dress). To convey the post-apocalyptical feel I wanted to give the impression that scraps had been salvaged and gathered to create the dress. I decided to use strips and scraps of many different textured fabrics and yarns. Even the corsets and cuffs were made from different leather/faux leather items collected from garage sale free boxes and thrift store clearance racks. I was determined that everything possible be salvaged from castoffs, yet put together as elegantly as possible in the finished piece.


It was about this time that I discovered the Oasis shoot needed a counter-shoot…curse this crazy brain!

As my oasis dress stood for freedom, movement, evolution and ability to freely realize dreams, I suddenly wanted a dress that was held back and constrained. I needed a dress that bound the wearer but not the spirit and ability to dream.  I wanted my final images of this second dress to communicate strength and hope over adversity, and so the “Bound Freedom” shoot was born


This step is comprised of gathering the supplies, finding the model, determining hairstyles and makeup, figuring out whether you will need props (and what type), and deciding what kind of extra help you might need.


The materials I needed were: a dress, fabric, dye, leather items, belts and yarns. Also, I gathered images, textures, colors, and shapes; anything that inspired me. I use the iPad apps Moodboard and Nest Egg to organize my thoughts and supplies.


When I am preparing for a project you will most likely find me collecting supplies from Jo-Ann Fabrics, thrift stores, and by scouring Craigslist. I also keep project-related supplies in labeled bins while I am still in the brainstorming phase, that way items I gather from garage sales, friends and curbside will have a place to live and will all be in one place when I am ready for them. I always have a number of bins going because I have so many projects that are in different phases of progress. I try to only actively work on one project at a time so I can actually accomplish something, but if I come across a great piece that would be perfect for a different shoot I will grab it and put it in its designated area.


Bound Dress


For this shoot in particular I was looking for the following supplies:

Dye:  Most of the dye I used was leftover from other projects (I keep dye in large old juice bottles). I did go to Jo-Ann Fabrics for an aquamarine dye since they seem to have the best selection of color. Typically I use the liquid RIT dye but if something else is on sale I will grab that instead.

Fabric: I also purchased two pieces of fabric from Jo-Ann that I felt moved and reflected light the best – a blue piece (for water) and a gold piece (for a flame). The fabric I chose is called Sew Classic Silky Solid Silkessence and was 50% off. I asked them to wrap it onto a cardboard bolt so it wouldn’t get any creases when packed in my suitcase (which they will do if you ask).

TIP:  A quick tip for Jo-Ann Fabrics: sign up for their mailer (it always has coupons) and download their iPhone App. I always go into Jo-Ann’s armed with coupons and discount codes from each of their marketing strategies. 

Tulle: I decided I would need white tulle for the bottom of my dress to communicate white froth and the bubble of a waterfall or river. I had started with the idea of using an old dust ruffle for this but eventually decided it needed to be a bit fuller.

Discards: I obtained old sheets, t-shirts, doilies, drapes, curtains, a large needlepoint frame thing, lace, yarns, a stained wedding dress, old leather vests, a jacket and a skirt from thrift stores, garage sales, and items discarded by neighbors and friends.

This is where I tend to shine. I love finding uses for what most people categorize as rubbish. This is something that I know I owe to my parents. My father can make something amazing out of practically nothing, and my mother nurtured my artistic nature and made trips to the landfill an adventure and treasure hunt. Growing up no object had only a single purpose, and each object only became better with time.

I must admit the swell of pride I had in my 7-year-old daughter as we were making my sister’s wedding flowers into paper for her Thank You notes.  She was adding flowers to the paper pulp and she said, as she was plucking petals from a Gerber daisy, “some things are just too wonderful to use just once.” She gets it! We don’t reuse and repurpose because we have to, but because these things we just discard have history, have been enjoyed, and in the case of the wedding flowers were used in the celebration of love. That was very personal and meaningful to my sister and our family, and that is something money cannot buy.

Tomorrow Kenani shares the completion of her Oasis and Bound Freedom senior shoots.



Creative Apps that Kenani Uses:

Moodboard is the bestselling app for creating mood and inspiration boards on your iPad. Each board is a blank canvas for organizing the things that inspire you. Add photos, text, color swatches, and special elements to your boards, then share them with friends and colleagues, anywhere, anytime.






 Nest Egg Inventory is a home inventory app that lets you keep tab on the things you have around your home, and you will have fun building an inventory of your household stuff because we let you scan barcodes and automatically fill in product information






 iThoughtsHD is an AMAZING mind mapping tool for the iPad. For visual learners and thinkers like myself it is indispensable.







7 Responses to The Artistic Approach of a Professional Daydreamer – PART ONE

  1. Lee Paul March 27, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    This is such an interesting and inspiring article! I love the photos and the way the artist/photographer Kenani Brandon expresses herself! She is so thoughtful and encouagiing to give us tips, ideas and programs to use to enhance our own creativity. I give her and this artical a thumbs up and am looking forward to reading more about her and can’t wait to see more of her photos! Awesome!

    • Kenani Brandon March 29, 2012 at 1:16 am #

      Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed it:)

  2. Shelli Renee March 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Kenani, Your work is creative,innovating and I must say amazing! To see a concept that comes from a dream to reality as I watched you work so diligently on your creations. Thanks for giving us a moment inside of that creative mind of yours! You have inspired and motivated me like no other. Keep your head in the clouds and keep daydreaming! Thanks Shelli Renee

    • Kenani Brandon March 29, 2012 at 1:17 am #

      Thanks again Shelli, you have been such a huge help and wonderful friend! ♥

  3. Peter Lebold March 31, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Belle, Congratulations, your artwork is phenomenal, I wouldnt expect anything less as you are phenomenal yourself. I love you. And thank you for sharing your life and your hopes and your dreams with us. Love, Pop

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