What I said in my most recent post of 2/24/19 – about snow and ice in the atmosphere altering the light – plays out to the extreme in this work.
A camera captures light, then displays what it thinks you want to see based on its programming. But it actually captures a lot more than it displays – different hues, different spectrums, different interpretations of light and dark hidden way down in the pixels. What I do is excavate into those pixels to see what else is there that I can use to create art.
This capture came during a tapering snowstorm at night, the sky glowing in that alien ice laden atmosphere. The light source, a streetlight, throwing deep shadows across the white snow. The tapering ice in the air acting as a prism tearing the streetlight apart and hiding the body parts deep in the image’s pixels, obscure evidence requiring an abstract imagination to uncover.
Regardless of how much we hate winter – at least how much I hate winter – one has to admit it can result in stunning views. Granted, these views can hold an unforgiving starkness not unlike the dark side of the moon, but stunning nonetheless. Could also be why we hold spring so dear, the re-emergence of life and all that. I saw my first robin of the year just yesterday and my heart leapt.
Winter can also be extremely difficult to capture. All that white. The more foreboding the weather, the more difficult it becomes. Something happens to the light when snow and ice are swirling in the atmosphere, and so often the worst of it hits at night when the only light source may be streetlights if the electricity hasn’t blown. The low light forces long shutter speeds and the streetlights throws off the white balance. Despite the difficulty, a winter scene often screams ‘capture me’.
I caught this view while walking recently in St. Louis’ Forest Park – a creek, complete with waterfall, that was completed iced in. I found it on a rare day with sunlight, enabling a more natural capture than my recent work ‘Snow Assault’ (which is actually one of my own favorites from the past couple years). This work is less foreboding than that – more hopeful, as if saying, this too shall pass.
I thought I’d copy over from the Consider page my ‘Featured’ slide show demonstrating the use of the extrude tool in Photoshop since my work using that tool has received so much attention in the last week.
‘Courier’, my work that recently received a First Place ribbon at Capital Art’s Eye of the Beholder exhibit, and ‘The Lovers’, my new work published here on Valentine’s Day, both use that tool in different ways.
The extrude tool breaks an image into square or triangular blocks, then pulls each block forward at random distances and tilts them in increasing degrees moving away from a center point. The size of each block, the height to which it is extruded, and whether square or triangular (intended as pyramids) can be adjusted by the artist. The effect has often been described as looking down on a city from a great height, with the blocks appearing as buildings. I’d ask for an update enabling the artist to also adjust the center point and the severity of the tilt away from that point, if I could wish for more. (Are you following me, #Adobe?)
Thing is, it’s not a tool that I’d want to use very often. It’s a form of pixelating an image that only fits in certain conditions. Used too often, it would also make everything look alike. Of course, like all tools, its esthetic is also derived from the other effects used with it. This is how photo art becomes ‘art’ – one cannot simply apply a watercolor filter and cry “done!”
Only six works are included here – that’s actually all I’ve completed using extrude over the past couple years, which illustrates how rarely I apply it. In addition to the two I’ve already mentioned (‘Courier’, I’m pretty sure, was the very first time I used it in anything more than play), I’ve always liked the long (1x3 scale) blue work I call ‘Planetfall’ – it actually started as a photographic capture of a leafy plant growing up against a stone foundation, so clearly I took that work a long, long ways. All three of those use extrude fairly late in the process, so the effect is quite profound. In the others, extrude came earlier, and was softened by other effects used over the top of it, all the way up to the mushrooms (the title of which escapes me) in which extrude is so transparent it’s effect is very subtile.
It’s still a thrill for me to receive recognition of any kind at a judged show, but especially a first-place ribbon! The winning work, ‘Courier’, is a case study in how crazy the art world can seem.
‘Courier’ previously sold as a small 5”x7” on an easel, so I was convinced it would be well received as a larger work. Since producing it as a 12”x18” it has shown in four different galleries, and twice in one of them. Plus, still another ‘pop-up’ show. At least three of those occasions were judged exhibits. Wherever it has shown, it has drawn attention, but never an award, and obviously, no sale (I retire all sold work, at least in that size or smaller). So to go from essentially a participant to first place is remarkable!
The lesson, of course, is several fold. First, even among professionals, art is very personal. It’s always an honor for me to be accepted into an exhibit and, because I know the selections of awards are very subjective decisions by the judges, I don’t feel in competition for awards. I’m just happy to be there. Second, it’s important that an artist does not allow one single gallery, or one single exhibit, to define their work. Especially if the work is something new or different, it may take many showings before an audience begins to appreciate it. And third, never give up on a cherished work. Remember that Picasso’s ‘Ladies of Avignon’ sat in a corner of his studio for close to a decade because almost none of his peers liked it. Yet it became one of the most important works of 20th century art – maybe even changed the course of art.
Now, ‘Courier’ is not ‘Ladies of Avignon’ so please don’t think I’m comparing the two! I’m very humbled ‘Courier’ has been so well received and very grateful to everyone who has been drawn to it. Taking a line from ‘Bull Durham’, “Happy to be here, just hope I can help the ball club!
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NOTE ON THE LAST BLOG – One of my best friends has suggested that my blog of 2/18/2019 was “elitist and looks down the nose”. Ok, so I regret that I worded things so poorly that anyone would be offended. Artists who exhibit at art-in-the-park and such festivals work long, hard hours just to prepare, then spend many more long hours at the event itself. They truly make the world a more beautiful place. They have my admiration. My point was that dealing with the public … well, you don’t want me doing that! I am an introverted curmudgeon to my very core. Actually talking with people in public … sober … I shudder at the idea!
I exhibit in galleries because producing work on metal is quite costly. I can’t compete on the lower end of the market, and I’ve come to realize I don’t want to. I try to display my work in an environment commensurate with costs and quality. That said, I will point to my Collect page (which desperately needs to be updated) where I state that I am willing to produce ANY work upon request as a low cost, signed print. Anything listed there or anything in this blog. $30 bucks. Cheap.
An artist who specializes in pen and ink drawings gave me the following insight into selling art not long after I began exhibiting: “I’ve learned it’s not how well I draw as much as it’s what I draw”. He goes to a couple dozen shows a year and does quite well selling drawings of sports figures and sports venues, as well as college venues, thus drawing from fans and alumni.
I seriously doubt ‘art-in-the-park’ is something you will ever see me doing – just not my thing. I prefer my work to be exhibited in galleries where there is an expectation of great art, as opposed to pickers scrounging through a flea market. Nor will my work ever be stacked ‘in the bin’ where quick fingers can flick through 50 in a minute. My work will be viewed hanging on gallery walls where it can be seriously viewed. Venue aside, the insight provided me, that subject is more important than technique or creativity, is an important context in terms of sales.
The skyline of my humble little river town is dominated by the Missouri State Capitol, a marble covered building modeled after the one in the District of Columbia. It offers several thousand different angles that catch the light in ten thousand different ways and is fodder for every artist and photographer in town. We all have works involving the Capitol – my own portfolio surpasses 60 works (not including all the efforts that never made the portfolio) plus another couple already this year.
An no one cares.
It’s like this: The Capitol has been covered so thoroughly that every new work just seems to blend into the masses no matter how creative it may be. Besides, many people don’t want to be reminded of politics in any way, shape, or form. This particular work is another capture of the statue of Ceres being hoisted off the dome for refurbishing. It is the last of the dozens of captures I made that day that I will bother working with. This one simply caught my eye and I couldn’t resist the creativity it offered. I don’t like it as well as ‘Flight of the Goddess’ which I posted a few weeks ago, but as it happens, I seem to have been the only person who liked that one. So I offer it to the ether, tossing it out to see if it sticks. Tossing it in the air to see if it the ‘what’ catches someone’s interest.
I was shocked, of late, to learn that a young woman whom I have come to respect as well as rely on for her artistic expertise counts among her most passionate guilty pleasures a weekly viewing of a television show known as ‘The Bachelor’. This is an intelligent woman of discriminating taste who, in years gone by, has lived an ‘on-the-edge’ life of daring adventure and who can scope the most abstract art for its deepest meaning and symbolism. And she watches … wait … what! No!
Now, she has good reasons for this which I shall not recount, and it is not my purpose to deride such personal and (I suppose) not unreasonable indulgences. Crap sakes, you should see some of mine!
Rather, thinking about today’s blog it struck me how much the television show in question illustrates an important lesson for artists as they judge their own work – sometimes it’s a question of which one you love the most.
I came across the subjects of today’s art while cleaning out a drawer and knew immediately I wanted to capture them (they’re actually a couple of napkin holders). I positioned them on a scrap of red silk next to a window drenched in morning light and made a series of macro photographic captures from different angles and distances. Bringing them into my artboard (i.e. my computer) I began experimenting with various methods for edging, texturizing, hues and lighting, walking that line in the middle of abstraction and realism. Each time I finished a version I thought, “Yeah – I like that – wait, let me try this other thing”. The third version, the larger one here, is the one I felt strongest about. But I couldn’t bear to abandon the others – couldn’t stand the thought of turning away from other options of my ‘bachelorhood’. More than once I have initially favored a work and failed to see that others were actually better. And tried to go back to them.
We marry our art, but at heart we are polygamists.
I still shoot with my Dad’s circa 1960 model Agfa rangefinder 35mm camera, usually using Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. There is, of course, no automatic function with this camera, thus forcing me to measure the light and set the f-stop/shutter accordingly. Black and white, which I affectionately refer to as ‘noir’, is simply the most elemental way to see lighting. The lens has to be focused manually and its fixed focal length forces me to work within “normal” eyeshot. Shooting up a roll is a lovely trip back to Photography 101 and helps reorient me to my more complicated modern cameras.
This roll was shot under very flat, cloudy conditions that I’ve had good luck with in the past (although some say better noir is achieved with high contrast, sunny conditions). I was very happy with the results when they came back to me in prints. Not so much so once I’d transitioned them into the computer. Something looks to have gone awry in the high-resolution scans I made, or perhaps the shots just weren’t all that good in the first place. Or both. In any event, I’ve been less successful creating the art I’m used to creating. This will be the last one off of the roll, and though it’s not bad, I wouldn’t say it characterizes as my best noir.
But part of that may perhaps be that, over the past couple years, I have fewer people in my life who are aficionados of the noir style, and more enthusiasts of the ‘abstract realism’ that the bulk of my work has been described as. Ironically, my first two sales in this that I call my Exhibition Period were noirs. But nothing since. Since, noir works hardly get the time of day. Has public taste shifted or have my skills in one direction subsided while the other progressed?
No one necessarily tries to be ignorant. The further each one of us get, however, from first person experience, the more we rely on information, ideologies, and media perspectives which can be either inaccurate or intent on manipulation. Thus, we become ignorant.
It’s the person who doesn’t know they are ignorant who is truly stupid. Reading such and such or listening to so and so every day does not forestall the condition. We are all just poor sinners.
And I’m the worse person I know at it.
When I hear or read an opinion I consider utterly devoid of intelligence I am stupid enough to let it get under my skin. I may spend hours thinking of just the perfect comeback that will illustrate just how idiotic is the author. And then I try really hard to shut the hell up.
Listen: Everyone you like and respect, including yourself, likely believes at least one thing that’s dumb as a bag of rocks.
There are great people who have and continue to change the world with their oratory, their debating skills, or their writing. I am not one of them. I have come to learn that I do everyone, especially myself, a disservice by shooting my mouth off. But I can provide new perspectives through art. I can work through the subliminal without saying a word.
Darkness, like ignorance, thrives on fear. I don’t have to listen to it.
An irony of nostalgia is that it often fails on an individual level. People occur to me who, in their later years, constantly went back and recounted slights or rationalized mistakes. Not so often have I been regaled with triumphant exploits or delightful adventures. The nature of the individual is to remember that which is unsatisfactory as unfinished, as though one is still working to make that memory turn out right.
In some sort of a reverse projection which I’m sure has a Freudian term many of the same individuals see in past society an ideal to which everything would be fine today if we just went back to how things were then. That ‘then’ was the setting for the failures haunting them today seems beyond them. We would now succeed if we could just do ‘that’ again.
We would fail. Again.
Mortality is functional. Buildings fall in. Monuments are covered by the earth. People die. But purpose does not. Purpose is cross-generational. Purpose adapts and anticipates the evolving environment and changes/grows accordingly. My love for history is in the evolution of human self-awareness and wisdom. Ghosts are only capable of haunting those who do not let go of the past.
The act of doing the same things again while expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. Have a purpose in life – change.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.