And so, for the year, these were my best, as I see it (scroll down to see them all).
Somebody else might choose a different six (why top six instead of top five – I’ll get into that). Three of them have already hung in galleries, and a couple others will likely do so in the months ahead. I’m not always the best judge of my own work so I SHOULD be more introspective before rushing a work into production. But sometimes, you know. You just know.
Months or years later, sometimes what you ‘know’, you know is actually crap. And you find stuff you ignored that you know is great, and don’t know why you didn’t know that then.
I know enough to know that I know nothing. But here’s what I know right now …
6. Tornado Plate 75
The best five I selected did not include one of the tornado shots, which struck me as inappropriate, as the tornado series was a cornerstone of my year’s work. So, I increased the Top 5 by 1 and designated number 6 for the tornado series. Of those several dozen works it was difficult to choose a ‘best’ – a number of them were gut wrenching for the people affected. The building closest to the viewer is the former Avenue HQ building, a cultural site for artists, theater, gatherings, and other community-based events. It’s gone now. Razed to the ground. It might have been salvageable at first, but heavy rains got into it before repairs could begin and that pretty much sealed its fate.
I processed the Tornado works in black and white and chose to push all of them into the near-infrared spectrum.
5. The Dreamer
Over the past couple years I’ve worked on techniques specifically for depicting animals that on the one hand place the creature into an artistic, dreamy context while at the same time maintaining a high degree of realism. I thought this work of a leopard sleeping away the morning at the St. Louis zoo was a particularly successful rendering of these techniques.
4. Winter War
I was happy with this work both in a photographic and an artistic context. As a photograph, I was able to capture a blizzard scene with a longer exposure that caused falling snow to look like missiles streaking towards the earth. But it was also a hand-held shot, and the camera remained steady enough to capture the trees in sharp detail (I added some blur around the edges later in processing).
As an artist, the white balance of the camera was seriously out of whack due to the low light and the longer exposure. Plus, with the world essentially white, there was little to no texture in most of the image. I was able to correct the white balance and bring in some of the eerie pink light present in the night sky, plus add texture to the final work that added just enough of a dreamy, abstract quality.
3. Peaceful Tides
Cheating. I’ve said this before. Some subjects are so gorgeous any schmuck can point any camera at it and get a beautiful shot. Florals are among those subjects. Cheating. But I can’t resist, and it was a good year for florals, as I mentioned in my most recent post, I’ve added 18 of this year’s works to my portfolio. I experimented with lighting and focus in florals this year, leading to the number of new portfolio additions. I was extremely pleased with this particular work – I’d count it among my best florals.
Every artist can point to a handful of works – I can think of three or four off the top of my head – that changed everything. Maybe not even their best work, but a work, after which, nothing else they did was quite the same. And when they hit it, it’s like a new door, flooded with light, opening. This one did that for me. I was having a seriously bad reaction to a new prescription drug at the time, so I was all over the place mentally and, juxtaposed to ‘Peaceful Tides’ above, this was not a scene flush with beauty and wonder; it’s a concourse underneath Busch Stadium – how does one find art in that? That, in fact, is what drives me as an artist; finding the art in ordinary things. The original photographic capture seemed to have nothing to recommend it. My scrambled brains went in every direction, using rarely applied techniques, to drag something aesthetic out of it.
And drag something out it did. Nothing I’ve done since has failed to draw from the lessons of this work.
1. The Chalk Artists
And so shortly after ‘Passerby’s’, using what I’d learned from it, I created this. After experimenting with thousands of works over decades of time, I count this as one of my best. Maybe even THE best, A lifetime of seeing the world differently, constantly expanding on that vision, constant experimentation, constant progression. It all came together here. Maybe that’s just hyperbole and it will dissipate like the caressing steam after a hot bath. But right now it feels awfully good.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.