Mask – abstract of a fallen leaf

What is your best work? That’s a tough question for any artist. Your opinion of your own work changes every day. As Ted Orland discusses in Art and Fear, an artist is frequently unsatisfied with the work they did in the past, because they are constantly striving to improve their craft. Whenever you create something new, it is built upon the work done before it: you take the good and try to make it better, you take the flaws and try to improve them. But still, let me take a stab at picking my favorite piece. It is called “Mask”.

Mask (abstract of a leaf) ©Daniel Sroka

This image is an abstraction of a fallen leaf, that had dried and curled on the ground. I consider this my best piece because I feel it really created itself. As I was exploring this leaf through the camera, I came upon this point of view, and it grabbed hold of me. I was struck by its strong resemblance to a mask, covering one side of the face. Once I saw it, I was drawn in, and ended up spending several days staring at this leaf from this perspective, exploring subtle variations in position, lighting, and focus. It’s a relatively spooky image, and to be honest, freaked me out to work on it so much. I ended up with a number of interesting images, but this was the strongest. It went beyond being visually interesting, and took on a personal and back-story of its own.

As much as I love this image, I feel that it still needs more work to become complete. This image is one of those special images that really needs time and effort to fully achieve its potential. As I was shooting it, I created a number of images that reveal different moods and emotions, so I’m experimenting with doing a triptych of this image alongside of couple of its variations. I’ve also been working on an creating an encaustic painting of it, where I saturating the print with layers of wax. The wax transforms this image, creating a deeper, more intense mood.

(This post was inspired by Michael Brown’s call for a self-critique of your favorite photograph.)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and choice here. I am always fascinated by the creative process and find it enlightening to hear from the artist what motivated and directed their creations. I think an image like this can mean different things to different people and that is certainly one of it’s strengths. It makes you think and consider it because it is not obvious, yet it is compelling.

This is incredible! Last year I sliced off a huge wasp nest that was on the side of the house, I have kept it thinking I could preserve it and do something with it….the hole in the nest looks similar to the one in this leaf. Whereas this is the eye, the wasp nest hole is the mouth. They are similiar, both in nature and both very life like. That you found this in a leaf and captured such life is a stunning thing to see. I would have say this is one of the most captivating pictures I have seen.