Earlier this year, I traveled to Ethiopia with a small team of creatives to do humanitarian photography and videography that would serve several existing organizations. Our hope is to find more ways to connect people who need help with people who can help.

In order to fund this trip, I offered my art in exchange for donations. I created a series of watercolors inspired by the lakes of Ethiopia, sets of photographs of water from places I've traveled, acrylic paintings of mountains, and polaroid emulsion lift photographs for donors to choose from. These pieces were my way of saying thank you for your donation.

We visited with several organizations who do work like rehabilitating trafficked children, helping street kids, running orphanages, working with impoverished villages, and keeping at-risk families together. All of our work will be donated to the organizations for them to use for raising funds and awareness on social media. 

I posted a few updates while traveling whenever I could, read through my posts if you'd like to get the nitty gritty details:

Image by Alyssa Sieb

About the Art

When I prepare to visit a new place, I usually begin by looking at a map. I start with the geography of a place, I think, because I have some innate need to place myself on the globe in order to feel that I have my bearings. These pieces all grew out of looking at the geography of Ethiopia. There are some related to the high elevation, and some related to the bodies of water.

I am often drawn to water: the way it can be still or active, its ability to adapt in changing environments, and the way it is peaceful, yet powerful. I like to discover how water runs through a place and see the way cities and towns spring up around it and then develop over time. People are connected to the land where they live and to study the water of a place is the beginning of knowing its people. 


Watercolor Lakes

These are aerial views of lakes in Ethiopia, inspired by the topographical maps I've been pouring over.  Each piece is created by building layer upon layer of watercolor washes, painted slowly; each layer applied only after the previous layer is completely dry. These pieces are expressive rather than exacting, each has imperfections. Extra spatters, dots and not-quite-square deckled edges make each piece completely unique. Each painting is the original (not a print of the painting).

There are four sizes, tiny paintings are in exchange for a $25 donation, small for a $75 donation, for $125 donation you'll receive a medium sized painting, and the large paintings are your gift for a $175 donation. Each is framed and you can select for it to be shipped to you or to pick it up from me. These pieces are also sized to work well in sets, two tiny-sized paintings fit well beside a small and two smalls fit well beside a large, for example.


Polaroid Emulsion Lifts

A photograph is a kind of echo; an echo of a moment. These polaroid pieces are captured on polaroid film using an sx-70 Polaroid camera. Through a process of immersion in hot and then cold water the image, which is secured in a gel-like emulsion, is lifted off of the plastic backing. The image floats freely in the water, before being placed to dry on watercolor paper. In a more traditional process, the artist would smooth out the image completely. I, however, like to keep some of the wrinkles, to capture the movement that happens in the emulsion lift process so that the fluidity that I enjoy so much in the process is not lost in the final product.



Don't see anything you like?

There are also a few abstract paintings available and the proceeds of those paintings will also go toward this trip. OR commission a piece - if you have a specific piece in mind and have been waiting for an artist to ask - I'm your gal! Tell me what you envision and let's get to work.

Why I'm Going

I know some amazing people who have devoted decades of their lives, flying across the world to give their time, energy and talent to help other people in another place. But it isn’t really something I thought much about, before now. My amazing cousin James, and his wonderful wife Jena recently announced that they were making a switch away from the work they’ve been doing with their respective organizations, and I was surprised by my own reaction. When I heard their news, I thought “I guess I’ll never go to Africa to help people with James and Jena,” and was immediately blindsided. My subconscious was insisting that this was something I had always wanted to do. But this wasn’t something I’d ever wanted to do…right? I mean… was it?

+ Read more . . .

Even though I have been deeply impacted by the work I've seen others doing, I have been an admirer, a supporter; a see-er not a do-er. In the past, I've felt that my skills didn’t make me a good candidate for mission-type trips or humanitarian work. Any abilities I could identify in myself just didn’t seem to apply. I‘m a creative with graphic design degree . . . how could I be helpful to people who were hungry and couldn’t feed themselves, or people who had been hurt or treated unjustly. I felt as though I would go on one of these trips and be like “I see that you’re starving… would you like a logo?” because that's what I have to offer. I don’t have what they need – that’s what I had unconsciously been telling myself, and in a large way that’s true. Just like a piece of a bridge is not a bridge itself.

In the last year I have become increasingly observant of the intense abundance of choice that exists in my daily life. It’s been a small nudging feeling that I am unaware of most of the time but acutely rises to the surface whenever I am faced with a choice whose possibilities are as numerous as the options in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. When these thoughts arise, I find myself struggling to picture what it might be like to exist on the other side of the world, and am left feeling empty. I believe God has been drawing me toward a different way of thinking, maybe a different way of helping. I am not a bridge, but maybe I could be part of one.

Then I saw this opportunity, a friend who I barely know and have probably only spoken with a handful of times was leading a trip. A trip for people with creative talent, the team would help the organizations build their voice, tell the stories of the people they are helping and connect people who have resources to people who don’t. I immediately recognized that it was what God had been preparing my heart for. I emailed Alyssa, I talked to my husband Tim, and I prayed. I had no idea how I would pay for something like this, how I would gather all the things I need, not just the money but the supplies, and more important still...the courage. With all of these things, I need help and so I’m putting a piece of myself out here, I’m offering what I have… art… in exchange for financial donations. If you are interested in giving to this, I want to give you something back, something that reminds you that you’ve helped build part of a bridge.

The organizations we'll visit through One Child Campaign and Begin with One are: Ebenezer GraceChapa CarepointMake Your Mark, and No Ordinary Love Ministries. We will be providing photographs, video and helping build the identity of the organizations as well as creating content for their social media and awareness campaigns.

More ways you can help:

Pray + Encourage

Sometimes when people ask for prayer at the same time as asking for donations, I secretly eye roll and think, “yea, but what you really need is the money.” Read how this project has changed my mind. You can also let me know you're praying for me, by typing in a quick note.

Donate Supplies

There are lots of physical items needed for the trip as well as for the six organizations that we'll be visiting. Please take a look and let me know if you'd like to donate something to go in my suitcase. Speaking of which I also need suitcases, have one?

Tell Others

You may know someone who cares deeply about life in Africa, who is a generous patron of the arts, or who may be just plain interested. Sharing my info and linking to this page on facebook may seem like a small thing but it will mean a lot to me, so pssst... pass this on...