Recently I undertook, at a doctor’s recommendation and prescription, consumption of a new drug. Again, I tempt HIPAA, so details will not be forthcoming. The drug has a number of conditions which it is intended to improve, one of which I own. And indeed, it worked! It worked wonders actually. I would even use the word remission. It solved the problem. Unfortunately, it created three more.
After several days and a withdrawal period we dropped the prescription to a third of the original, the lowest possible. That went for a few weeks, by which time every possible side effect plus a few new ones re-emerged. A longer withdrawal period and I thought I’d try a different schedule for consuming it, which only took a couple doses to reveal its futility.
So take the last week of August and the entire month of September and throw it into the dumpster. Label it my zombie period. It was a sucky month in Cubsland anyway.
What’s my point? My point is that we do this as artists. We take an idea that sort of works one way and doesn’t work three other ways and obsess and work it and make ourselves crazy. Sometimes we can pull that process off and create something really great – might take years and might feed any number of psychoses first, but, hey, success. Of course, until that happens, we’re just feeding psychoses.
I suppose there’s a parallel to life in the shadow of Wrigley Field. Or am I still obsessing?
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More from the Chalk Festival – one I’m especially happy with. There’s another version of this work coming shortly. We’ll discuss!
More from our recent Chalk Art Festival. It’s funny, I spent very little time there and only captured a few shots; it was a hot day and I’d already been out shooting a couple hours prior and I was worn out. But from those few shots I’ve created more works than I’ll get from three times the number of earlier captures. I guess because the shots I captured fit in with new techniques I’m developing; sometimes the magic just works.
This is the most stylistic and abstract of the chalk art works I’ve created. But tell me: If you didn’t know it came from the festival, hadn’t seen the friends holding umbrellas to block the sun from the artists on the sidewalk, how would this imagery strike you? If you didn’t KNOW it came from the chalk art festival does it suggest a figure looking down on a smaller figure prone on the ground beneath? How does it strike you? Is it threatening or simply mysterious or something else? Love to know your thoughts!
If you do something, especially if you do something only marginally, and then you find out you’re only doing it because you were influenced by misinformation and outright lying forwarded by someone not a friend, do you keep doing that something? Do you say, “Well, shoot, we can’t go back now,” and dig your heals in because you’re too embarrasses or stubborn to admit you were conned? Or do you have the good GD common sense to just stop doing that something and reset? Can’t change the past but you can reconcile it and change paths.
Asking for a friend.
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The work featured in my September 23 post has already been suggested as one of my best, and, I gotta admit, I knew it almost the second I finished it. Sometimes it goes that way. Sometimes the artist knows immediately they’ve done something exceptional. More often, by my experience, it’s time that informs the artist. But the work goes out with the artist’s full expectation that it may be good.
And sometimes the artist just doesn’t know if it’s anything. This is one of those times.
While this work uses some (not all) of the same techniques used in the September 23 post, it’s more conceptual in its execution. Its 1x1 scale may not offer the same sweeping visual of the 1x2 landscape of the earlier work (although, one could argue a 1x2 perspective, via the sidewalk, runs vertically through the work). I was very happy with the abstraction of the figures in the background and the subtlety of the work, but the contrasting color burst may be … well, it was an idea. But that’s what the artist DOES. They test. They experiment. They push. They cannot simply fall back on what has always worked. They have to try – to SEE – in new ways. THAT is the nature of art; not a craft, an exploration. A blind lunge to the edge of the Earth.
Drop off day for new exhibitions is a hoot. Each artist that comes in is like a mother bringing her baby in for a play date, each one like a spring ready to tell anyone available all about their new born and how it is the cutest baby in the joint, And that spring will be sprung at the slightest change in air pressure. At my recent drop there were roughly five of us standing around, all jabbering in our own little bubbles. I was right there with them, umbilical cord in full view.
At my favorite gallery the staff is truly interested in knowing everything they can about every work. They feel the backstory is important for being able to communicate the context of the work to potential buyers. But stuff is coming so fast and furious they’re bleary-eyed, bless their hearts, trying so heard to listen to everybody. It’s adorable, really, which I suppose is why it’s my favorite. Another gallery I use is so clinical trying to get everything checked in and cataloged, artists lined up in a queue, it’s like trying to talk to an accountant. Coincidentally, it’s the gallery I’ve been least successful at, so I suppose there’s a moral there.
Ninety-nine percent of my work exists only in the digital world. And I love posting a new work, don’t get me wrong. But to see that work in the analog, hanging large and lighted on the wall of a gallery, is always a thrill.
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For this exhibit I decided I wanted to give ‘Forest Mother’, which I’d previously done as a small 5”x7”, the full, framed treatment. The work generated fair attention as a small work; it’s been one of my favorites since I created it last fall and I have hopes for it, given that I live in a region in which factories have to shut down the first day of deer season due to absenteeism. ‘Chance’s Hand’ is a retitling of a work that’s been out there a few times – a number of people consider it their favorite of all my works – and ‘Ghost of Past Lives’ has also been well regarded.
For new viewers, once I’ve produced a work from at least 10”x14” it will never be reproduced again in that size. Ever. If I receive a request to produce the work again in a larger size the cost rises exponentially. The buyer can have confidence exclusivity of the work they’ve purchased.
Struck, was I, by dialog from an old science fiction show a couple days ago. An Earthling, a doctor, was explaining to a friend from a far-off planet and one-time enemy the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. “The boy”, he said, “was a shepherd watching over a flock of sheep in a far pasture, and he was bored and lonely and wanted some excitement, so he cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed, “WOLF!”. Villagers not terribly far away heard his cries and grabbed their pitch forks and came running. When they got to the pasture the excited shepherd boy told them the sound of all the villagers coming scared the wolf away and saved the sheep.”
"Very clever”, the friend said.
"He was so pleased with the attention that the next day he did it again. And again the next. And again the next. But on the following day, a wolf really did come. And the boy screamed “WOLF” at the top of his lungs. But by then, the boy had lied so many times the villagers no longer knew whether to believe him. And the wolf killed the sheep and also gobbled up the boy.”
"Rather a gruesome story to tell a child”, the friend grimaced.
"The point is to illustrate that it’s wrong to lie”, the doctor explained.
"Or”, said the friend, a known intelligence operative for his world, “Don’t tell the same lie twice”.
And so we see the wonderful ability of science fiction to reflect modern day issues.
Happy first day of Fall! And in the words of the great KT Tunstall, hold on ‘cause the world will turn if you’re ready or not.
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We recently had our annual chalk art festival along the sidewalks at Riverside Park. Too hot a day to be parked in the sun on concrete, at least for my candy ass, but a good turnout anyway and a line of fine artists, old and young, splayed out through the park, creating beautiful works. I grabbed some shots while I was there, and hope I’ve created works flavored by the art I loved around me. Look for more in future posts.
I’d planned to write about something else, even composed it in my head instead of falling asleep right away last night, but something in my newsfeed today stopped me cold.
In music news was a passing reference to the artist Chris Cornell, whose song ‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ is one of my more recent favorites. As I read the article which actually focused on new work his daughter has done, it became clear that Chris Cornell killed himself two years ago. It had completely escaped me at the time.
I hadn’t purchased and downloaded ‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ much before that, and it remained in my ‘currents’ list for a good year-plus. So, while I was lounging on my deck digging that song, grilling cheeseburgers and drinking scotch, the artist I was enjoying was hanging himself in a Detroit hotel bathroom. I find poignance in that on a dozen levels.
I was reminded immediately of another musician named Patty Donahue, lead singer of a post-punk band called ‘The Waitresses’. They had a hit called ‘I Know What Boys Like’, but the song that had the greatest influence on me was ‘Luxury’, a song all about travel and serendipitous adventure; that song got me through Peace Corps. “Here I’ve got nothing and nothing is nothing is luxury”. It’s still one of my all-time favorites. And while I was basking the joy of my newborn son and on the upward swing of a stint in public service and still blasting ‘Luxury’ over headphones on a typical Friday night, Patty Donahue was dying of lung cancer. I didn’t know that for about 10 years.
Granted, Cornell had fought with depression and alcoholism all his life. Donahue had chain smoked cigarettes like a charcoal factory. Each produced work that influence a generation, at least. I can only pray my work has the most remote impact theirs did. One couldn’t make it past 52 without giving up on life, and the other couldn’t survive past 40 before life game up on her. And I sit here, contentedly cranking out photo art in my air-conditioned studio, surrounded by puppies and family, driving my son to work every day through my quiet and peaceful small city, anticipating another movie night. Poignance.
Oh, I’ve had my own heath issues (including one in the last month I may or may not get into at some point), I’ve had my share of disappointments, and I never did get to own that sports car I wanted, but, hey, I’m not in (that much) pain, any stress I feel is self-generated, I’ve got plenty to eat, hot and cold running water and cable TV. But my contentment is built at least partly on artists whose lives ran out in great pain.
And I’d nearly forgotten my broken heart.
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Please enjoy these links to these great songs:
‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ by Chris Cornell
'Luxury' by The Waitresses, Patty Donahue lead singer
Evolution. Every artist MUST grow. Really, everyone must change, but we concern ourselves primarily with artists. Perfect a technique or come as close as possible and move on. Take it out only when it’s appropriate, otherwise EVOLVE. Life is a constantly shifting shore.
This work, like the most recent and like the next will be, is an evolution of three techniques. Setting the work in well defined sections is one of my earliest techniques. In the past I’ve referred to it as ‘sharp edges’, but it really should be labeled ‘sharp sections’. The extent to which those sections are definable varies with texturing and other filtering, and it's one that has become less definable over the years as I use more of just those things. My work ‘Futility’ from May 21 illustrates the technique.
Second technique is strong edging, which can take many forms. Like ‘sharp sections’, it often comes as a base layer that sets up additional work in lighting and texture. My work ‘Garden’s Edge’ from July 15 illustrates the technique.
I’ve learned over time to combine the two as a defined technique in themselves, illustrated by ‘Port In A Storm’ from April 19 and ‘Hill Street’ from August 23. The combination of the two pushes further into the abstract.
Lastly, the extrude technique, which I’ve been using more and more and which I describe in greater detail on my post from February 22, and more recently the work 'Debra Untethered' from July 12.
These new works are an evolutionary jump combining all three. It uses extrude as background texturing rather than as a primary element. It identifies clear foreground elements created by edging and sectioning and pulls them out of the work where they are filtered and saturated separately, then folded back on top of the full work which has itself been textured. The opacity and blending of each layer vary as appropriate.
There are dozens of points within this procedure in which just the slightest adjustment completely changes the nature of the work. And I will likely, over time, be compulsively exploring each and every one of them.
The greatest creative highs come by surprise. Something emerges out of nowhere. An idea, an inspiration occurs and at the end of the session something unexpected has been created. Something new. Something breathing life. The artist seeks to create art. In the end the art creates the artist.
Many who know me, know me as a scotch man. Never less than 12 years old, and always a single malt (as opposed to a blend) if humanly possible. A lovely, golden shot of scotch, neat, with an IPA chaser, sitting in the garden next to the crackling firebox, the fountain in the garden pool gurgling, just as the sun sinks past the far horizon – a little slice of heaven. Central to my sense of self and my general spiritual well-being.
And then I realized (for reasons of HIPAA, not AA, I might add) I had to quit drinking altogether. Who the hell am I, again?
Which begs the question, where does one gather their sense of self? Harkening back to my most recent post, that gathering had better not be entirely external and had better not fixate too heavily on any one thing, within you or without you. Everything in life shifts; everything one loves will change. Knock on wood or whatever, but my life is so rich - family, art, books, movies, friends, puppies - the loss of alcohol, which admittedly had stopped making feel in anyway good (HIPAA again), has been little more than a mild annoyance.
Perhaps it is the very little mental trick of accepting the richness life without the distraction of things that are not there that is the key to contentment. Accomplish that and one may experience joy even when cradled in Satan’s bosom, hellfire blasting all about, hot coals throbbing in your head while the cheap ass team on the field lucks out again. Maybe, but probably not. I see I have again digressed …
The subject of joy comes up, spurred by a Twitter post this morning from a young writer I follow who asked her followers “I need some joy in my life this morning, share something that’s bringing you some”. This is a person who is ENORMOUSLY successful for her age, and that success brings pressures and chaos.
Running parallel this morning are a couple Facebook posts …
Sometimes I go to my happy place
Where I can punch people in the face
And there are puppies.
… and …
I need a leaf blower
But for people.
And these posts are from people I actually know! All this comes with the backdrop of the 9/11 reminiscences spilling today like H2O from a burst water tank. A pallor of the undertoad hangs over everything today.
Which DOES beg the issue of joy. How does one cultivate and maintain a sense of contentment when the world around them is angry, hateful and vengeful? Or at best, ambivalent?
Standard answers to this question, of course, is that happiness is an internal, not an external, condition; without going all Carlos Castaneda, one has to decide to be happy, to feel joy, and damn all that which stands in the way. Find something within and build on it. Wall out the external unpleasantries.
Which is unobtainable, and maladaptive when partially achieved.
I’m thinking balance emerges in the juxtaposition between joy and depression. Between those peaks live both mania and wisdom, each mindful of the other. Your choice.
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Today’s post comes from the back end of Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the gate facing the interstate. Cardinal fans, once again experiencing inexplicable success rooted in their pact with Satan, may recognize the scene. Talk about depression …
Are any rules being followed here? Composition, Rule Of Thirds and all that? Focal point – is there one?
One of the very first works I sold was like today’s photo art – no focal point at all. Just a field of golden, tall grass that I had edged and saturated. It was exactly what the customer was looking for – just a blast of color coming at her. No rules, little artsy fartsy expression or textbook form or dramatic moodiness. A liability of being serious about our art is that we take ourselves too seriously, like a movie drenched with a director’s self-absorption to the point of irrelevance. Form over function.
That it’s “Art” does not foster immunity from “who give a shit”.
I captured a sharp macro of the tiny blooming flowers of a bush (yeah, no, I don’t know what it’s called), softened it, added texturing and increased the red saturation. I cropped it down even tighter and added an additional light source from the upper right, just enough to add visual interest without detracting from that blast of color which is, after all, the point.
Sometimes art reveals itself in the rules the artist doesn’t follow.
Last of the current crop of raindrop-centric works; labeling these as the “current crop” is misleading because I’ve captured so few of these in the past, and these are absolutely the first to include foliage and florals. Capturing weather related shots can be a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, starting with the motivation to be there.
True nature and wildlife photographers (and, again, I’m not a photographer, I’m a damn photo artist) have to be supremely dedicated to their craft. They have to haul mountains of equipment miles into the boondocks and sit there through the elements for god she only knows how long before they get what they need. There is a level of planning and precision and perseverance in their work that I am in awe of.
For this series I traveled the miles to the great wilds of both my back and front yard gardens on a day I was blessed with a soaking rain followed by a dead calm that allowed the raindrops to collect on leaves and flower pedals and me to line up photographs. But … I guess I could argue … the dearth of these kinds of shots in my portfolio suggests perseverance in waiting for them. That the foliage and florals which became the subjects are only there because I planted them, there’s the planning. Timing the captures to the correct lighting, there’s the precision. Having hauled all my equipment and established a studio here in my own boondocks.
Days past I might have considered this a rut. My standard routine has been to wildly vary the techniques I use, even when working from the same series of photographs. The result is that my portfolio has hundreds of works, with only a few of them similar enough to exhibit together. In those days past, I believed repeating techniques to be a weakness. In these days now, I believe not having a series of works in consistent techniques to be a weakness.
I’d started bending in recent times, but limited it to three or four similar works, tops, and even then there were variations. I bent a lot in my recently completed tornado series (yeah, there’s a pun there I’m trying to avoid) because it seemed there was only one appropriate way to depict the carnage. Now, it’s raindrops. Again, there’s a vision I’m going for and there are specific techniques I’m using to get there. The result is a half dozen works that coexist on the same wall in synergy greater than the sum of its parts.
I don’t THINK I’m moving away from the single, one of a kind statement that constitutes most of my portfolio. I don’t THINK I’ll become predisposed to repeat the same identifiable techniques over and over in a mass marketing frenzy (babies in flowers). I THINK I’ve learned to carry a vision across a broader pallet.
But I’ve been wrong before.
The photo editing software I use works in layers. The artist does something to the picture, then lays something else over a part of it, then lays something else over another part of it, then does something else to all of it, and so on and so forth.
So file that away, then think about the picture three dimensionally. This photograph began with close subjects very sharp, slightly further off subjects not so sharp, and a background appropriately blurred; all characteristics of a short focal plane.
But only one color. And everything blended together, short focal plane or no.
So the challenge becomes getting the sharply focused subjects to stand out by grabbing hold of the slightly further off objects and desaturating to an appropriate degree, and then grabbing hold of the background and desaturating a little more. Working a few layers at a time. This work finished with more layers than many of the wildly abstract works I’ve completed, yet the effects are quite subtle. When I did turn towards artistic filtering, again the priority was to hold onto the integrity of the raindrops so filtered effects needed to be delicate. Careful application of the artist’s touch, using a computer just as intricately as a brush.
I find it curious that the 1x1 scale seems less bound to the Rule Of Thirds than the more standard 2x3 scale. If anything, the 1x1 scale seems to draw into dead center, exactly the antithesis of the Rule of Thirds. Today’s work uses the same subject (although a different bloom) as my August 29 post, but changes the scale, and repositions the focal point from just right of center to (mostly) center. Stylistically they are virtually identical. But visually I have to agree that the previous 2x3 scale is more interesting. In each case, the eye goes straight to the bright red of the bloom. But in the 2x3 work, the eye has more to occupy it; there is greater context to the focal point and its environment. It feels more at home.
The 1x1 scale has become popular in social media for exactly the reason that there is no context – attention goes straight to the focal point. It is not indented as a visual experience, it is intended as a visual message. It is concerned less with art than with communication.
Perhaps context is what separates the two. Whereas communication moves in a straight line, art moves in a circle, or perhaps a wave, and in doing so broadens the message into a dialogue. The contrast of the two begs consideration of where a given work is exhibited publicly and the intent of the exhibitor in displaying it. Are they communicating or are they exposing? Or is an exposition simply another form of communication?
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Did I just correlate the title of a work to the ramblings I post to go along with it? An accident, I assure you – I’ll try not to let it happen again!
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.