We end the year with, perhaps, the best of the year. Arguably one of the best ever. 'Ace Of Wands' was created at the request of a local gallery that asked all its artists to compose a work based on a deck of the Tarot. The imaginary nature of the subject forced a completely different approach for me. I never add objects to a photographic capture - I work, 99% of the time, with single capture, and simply bend and filter the light to create art. And I only use my own photographs - that's part of the contract I keep with the viewer. It's my creation, start to finish. But the fantasy of the Tarot would be difficult to create in a single capture, or at least difficult to create in a way that would not seem wholly convoluted to me. Each of the elements of the card, however, could be photographed. 'Ace Of Wands' was created using five of my photographs. I already had the perfect sky, the perfect castle, the perfect branch. Each would require a certain amount of cropping and masking and filtering unique to it. The hand is actually my son's hand holding a 2x2, again filtered as appropriate to the complete work. The eyes were taken from another photograph in my portfolio - they actually go beyond the Tarot, but I wanted them for the mystical effect they added. The end result has been very well received and regarded by a few as the best work I've ever done.
I don't know that I would go quite that far, but it's certainly a work I'm proud of. It led me in new directions and let me explore new techniques that are bound to resurface. This was another crazy year for me both artistically and personally, and as I look back, this is the work that most stands out.
One more Christmas work from the vault, then we'll put the 2018 holidays to bed. This particular work, again an older one, I was recently surprised to find on the wall of my wife's office and, having not thought of it for some time, was surprised how affecting it was against the bare wall, creating color and vibrancy in an otherwise sterile office setting. She leaves it there all year. I'd clearly given it to her at some point - couldn't recall why, although she must have expressed an appreciation for a print of it. I DO remember that when I created it I was not entirely thrilled by it. I thought it was OK, but I thought the previous year's holiday output was better. I thought this work was trying too hard. A decade-and-a-half later it's this work that has survived. Looking at it now, I understand why. While the previous work I'd compared it to was also abstract and quite striking, its perspective and colors were more traditional. This work, by skewing the perspective to just have the tree and using a less traditional pallet, is more interesting. It took the distance of time, as well as someone else's esthetic, to see that.
An older work, this is one of a half dozen made of a photographic capture of a Christmas wreath. This was my brother-in-law's favorite from that series. Notice how it looks like a bullet hole with a bloody smear? That's why he liked it.
At the time I would have contended it was just a visual exercise, not intended to impart a heavy meaning, and in fact was more playful than anything else. But, looking at it now, it reflects how time impacts what we do as artists. Maybe done playfully then, the impact of gun violence removes any innocence from it. Just an exercise though it may have been then, now it is colored by this 'war on Christmas' nonsense. I hesitate to add overt political or social opinions to this post - I think my semantics well illustrates my sentiments. My point is to illustrate the weight art may carry over time, irrespective of what might have been intended at its creation. It will be interpreted and adapted as fits the times and individuals who view it. The artist is merely the origin, like casting free a message in a bottle.
For as long as human beings have had the slightest degree of self awareness they have observed the Winter solstice with one form of divine rite or another. Is there any form of that observance that is not characterized by hope?
The sun has been moving away and the days have been getting shorter and colder. After the solstice, the sun will begin moving closer, the days will be getting longer, but experience would have informed that the immediate days are going to get colder still. Often, a lot colder. Ever met anyone's lover named February? There's a reason for that. (Begs the question of why we would put Valentine's Day in the coldest month of the year, but that's another blog). But experience also informs that after the weather gets even worse Spring will come, and there will be a rebirth. Hope. Always hope. Hope is central to being human. And hope is why we go through these rituals every year.
Peace on Earth.
I fell behind on my intended blogs this week due to transitioning computers, hence the new blogs on back to back days. But lets talk about computers. The art I and so many others practice would not be possible without computers, and the bigger, the faster, the more complicated, the better. When speaking in public I always make a point of claiming the computer doesn't do anything a traditional photographer couldn't do with a darkroom easel, it just does it faster. And while I do believe that (a nod to armchair psychologists who would call it rationalizing), this is a work in which the computer does MUCH faster. A traditional photographer would have had to isolate each one of the bulbs to properly filter and bring out the color. The background texture in the dark night would have required PAINSTAKING masking and burning. Could it have been done in a darkroom on an enlargement easel? Sure. But probably not. I don't recall seeing a work like this from such origins, so it doesn't appear anyone tried. You're looking, then, at art that would not have happened before the last 35 years or so, and more likely not before the last 15. This not the first time art has been moved forward by technology or technique, though those advancements were usually due to new kinds of paint or oils; sometimes an artist creates new perspective that the rest of the world is driven to imitate. I have no illusions that I am breaking some new ground or launching a new trend. I'm just a punky photo artist - I expect my work will die with me and the ages to cover me over. After all, every few years computers introduce something that makes "new" art from 15 years ago obsolete. But there are a few who believe that any photography that touches the computer is illegitimate, and this is simply not the case.
Available now At Capital Arts as a 5x7 on an small easel. Perfect for the desk of someone you love!
I thought I'd post a few holiday shots over the next couple weeks …
I keep wanting to title this from a Dickens' character, In particular the Ghost of Christmas Present, but using 'Christmas Present' sounds like literally a Christmas present. Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come sounds too ominous, and Ghost of Christmas Past - who cares about the past. (Notice the lack of a question mark). I'm something of a history buff, but on a personal level history is often regrettable - all of one's mistakes and misadventures are there. We should be delighted we can turn our backs on it. Which leads me to ask the question, why do people view the past, with all of its travails, with fondness, and the future, which should be all about hope, with fear? Pining for a past which did not exist causes us to short change the future, which will come nonetheless. Makes no sense.
Oh - I generally try to focus on the holidays at large rather than picking one, personal faith or no. December is just so much more fun when it includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and innumerable other Solstice observances. Kinda hard to do that with something that looks like Saint Nicholas.
This work is currently on exhibit and available from the Art House in beautiful Fulton, Missouri, just up the street from the Churchill Museum.
I love working with photographic captures like this! No trickery going on - just a foreground in focus with a background; a bit of metal art affixed to a window overlooking a backyard, in this case looking out the back window at the Harvest Table Eatery & Miscellany in Hermann, Missouri, where I highly encourage you to take a meal if you haven't done so already. I haven't added a thing, just cropped it (not quite to a 1 to 1 scale, hence the slight sense of disproportion) to highlight the view, not the window pane, added color saturation with a certain pastel twist, and finally texture to create a pastoral environment. The metal art is in perfect harmony with the scene beyond it, so the photographic capture freezes a scene a human glance might ordinarily miss. For me, this is the art in photography - the capture of images flash by too quickly to be savored or comprehended.
I only began titling my work a few years ago when I began exhibiting in galleries - everything, after all, can't be 'Untitled'. I came to realize that the title is really a work's final element. It gives the viewer a context for how the artist wants the work to be comprehended. Astute viewers will, of course, look past the title and may see something completely other than the artist intended, and if enough viewers do it we can pretty well conclude that the title doesn't work. Titles can always be changed. Certainly, in the digital era, photo art can also be changed, but that's a subject for another time.
Because I rarely capture photographs with people, my titles will often attempt to pull the viewer into them. Titles implying the presence of people, when in fact no one is there, can impart a sense of eeriness that happens to appeal to me. In this work, I was able to lay down a series of soothing pastels that may be inconsistent with the eeriness of the title, and that's exactly the point. Does it work? Let me know!
How one sees the world is a question of focal point. What's the object? For the artist it becomes a question of perspective; framing the focal point so that it draws the eye. The broader the artist's perspective, the more the focal point is brought into harmony with its surroundings, up to the point at which the beholder can't tell what the object of the work is anymore, at which point it loses its purpose. The artist's 'eye' is finding that perfect balance between the object and its universe.
Then there are landscapes, where all that crap goes bye-bye.
A landscape carries such a broad perspective the work becomes a collage of focal points that may or may not sit in harmony with each other. A landscape catches a broad panorama of objects that work together. No formula exists for creating any of it - it works or it doesn't.
Once this piece was finished it occurred to me that there are at least three other ways to crop it, and I tried all of them. I could probably come up with more if I thought about it harder. Just what is the object? Is it the glade itself, it's thin blades of grass translucent in the sunshine? Is it the lovely detail of the tree trunk on the left? The swirl of the leaves above? The hard lines of the fence? The texture of the foreground?
In the end I came back to the original. It's the harmony of everything together that makes the piece work. Bring it up on a 72-inch HD screen; sit down; take the time to see everything.
Note: No one is an island. I was compelled to run this piece and three cropped versions of it past another artist I trust. She came to the same conclusion I had as to the correctness of the original version. Most of my life I have lacked artistic mentors and colleagues with whom I could bounce off ideas. I'm very grateful that a number of these angels have entered my life.
Nine out of ten photographic captures I compile will be digitally altered to make art, and in each case I ask myself, 'how far will I go'.
I was attracted by the crisp lines and vibrant colors of a Mexican restaurant. Those lines themselves are the focal point, but once I'd worked with those lines the question became, 'what else will I do'. The color hues seemed an obvious step - make the sky orange and add a gradient. Turn the red lines to light pink. Or maybe turquoise. Or lavender. Throw texture over all of it - some sort of a spatter. How much would simply be detraction?
In the end I left it with just a few elemental steps - just enough to clearly define the work as digitally enhanced art - that would be enough. Let the photographic eye dominate; leave the final brush strokes to the beholder.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.