THE BEA-SIDE OF LIFE
By Sara Chojnacki
Northern Michigan usually inspires thoughts of snow and parkas, but even for those who live to avoid winter, the summers are inviting: sparkling lakes, survivable summer temperatures, and plenty of charming towns dotting the coast of Lake Michigan make it a vacation spot for many. It is home for Bea Schuil, a writer and photographer who has traveled the country on expansive tours: once by bike, another by Ford Escort (which included a stop in Austin, of course.) I was struck by Bea's openness and warmth the moment I met her in Petoskey, Michigan two years ago. Affectionate and inclusive, few people have the ability to engage other humans in the way I've seen her do. She approaches the world as she does people: determined to find the beauty in it, but also holding it to a high standard. She has an aesthetic which values untouched nature and manmade things with integrity.
Her journeys can be followed on her blog, thelowercasebea.com, which features photos and words that capture her surroundings in a way only Bea could. With posts that feature glimpses of both home and adventure, her blog is as welcome and refreshing as a cool lake breeze.
Bea agreed to answer some questions about her creative endeavors and approach to building a brand as a writer and photographer. Enjoy her answers below.
B: Greetings, my name is Bea. I am a Northern Michigan native and proud of it. I adore my family, cherish my dog and revere both adventures and espresso. I love to write and take photographs, and I particularly love creating a space where these two passions live happily together.
TF: Why do you write?
B: I write as a way of documenting adventures. Be it a domestic discovery or an adversity abroad, I find joy and perspective in writing and regaling my tale. It is both a challenge and a triumph to express treasured moments in time through text and photo.
TF: What is your personal mission as an artist?
B: My mission as an artist is to chronicle content that lends inspiration from a relatable and attainable angle.
TF: What obstacles have you faced while pursuing writing and photography?
B: My path to the present, like any worth taking, has been strewn with its fair share of obstacles. As anyone who's ever presented a personal project knows, exhibiting your hard work can be fraught with feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. To take myself seriously and stand behind my creativity with confidence has been a learning process. Another challenge I face daily is the line in which I walk between capturing a moment and missing out on it. It's all too easy to find myself overwhelmed by the photogenic nature of an area or, conversely, hungry for just one quality capture in a bland environment. Seeking, shooting and editing can detach me from the joys of being present. The best photos are those taken while engaged in both time and place. Additionally, I have found my passions to lie outside the convenience of convention. Photography and blogging are two platforms of expression boundless by definition and limited to no extent. The advantages of such creative freedom are teeming, however, this circumstance has led me to find fulfillment and success outside the bounds of a formal education. Forgoing a traditional route of undergraduate education has opened countless doors for me, but each opportunity is accompanied by criticism and doubt from peers. It has been, and continues to be, a challenge to pursue a lifestyle and career unfamiliar to many.
TF: What's the most important lesson you've learned on your journey?
B: Among the countless lessons I've encountered, it has become apparent that grazing for inspiration can be a dangerous road. In lieu of seeking outside influence, choosing to construct a personal creativity board can be a helpful way of avoiding subconscious imitation. Learning to trust my personal creative process is an invaluable lesson that strengthens my ability to create authentically.
TF: What advice do you have for other young artists?
B: Be confident in your voice. Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
TF: Has living in Northern Michigan ever seemed like an obstacle to your career as an artist?
B: Living in Northern Michigan has played a large role in my work creatively. The constant beauty of my surroundings keeps me motivated and inspired. When home begins to feel too small, I am able to refuel with traveling adventures. And just as casting out serves as creative rehabilitation, returning to the mitten state once again does the same.
My love for creating content follows me. I am constantly creating mental photographs, movies or written ideas. Whether out walking, working, traveling or simply spending time with my people, most moments are worth capturing.
And in the spirit of traveling, creating and documenting, Austin, Texas, proved a fantastic combination of the three. With incredible food trucks, beautifully crafted espresso and late nights of Barton Springs swimming and live jazz, it will absolutely be a frequented favorite!