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Wednesday
Apr302008

Photography and Big Prints

I delivered a group of photographs to a gallery today. Two of the pieces were printed at 33"x50", larger than I've ever printed before. Now, I've heard a range of rants against large prints: Big prints are just a fad. You don't have the intimacy that you do with small prints. I've heard that large prints are just compensations for ego, shouting out "pay attention to me!"

When I started photography, an 11x14 was a really big print. The first time I framed an image to 18"x24", the final result seemed impressively humongous. I felt dangerous working with such a large piece of glass. Why, a few months earlier my largest images were 5x7's and that was splurging. That changed last year when I bought a printer that uses 24 inch wide rolls of paper. These "huge" prints only seem so large because photography as a medium has, for most of it's history, been tech-limited to printing smaller. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better, but smaller doesn't either. They're just different. And, with different options we can express different things. We're used to paintings in large and small sizes. We'll get used to it in photography as well. 

Now, I'm not dismissing the small photograph. There's something precious to holding a photograph in your hand and taking in the detail. However, looking at my images printed big, the size just feels right. Especially in the images with all the little pieces. There's enough detail to let each little piece be it's own entity, and enough presence to stand back to observe the overall motion in the composition. Yeah, I just love those big prints.

By the way, one hazard of printing big is framing big. I spent a couple of days last week cutting two inch strips off the long side of 32"x40" glass sheets. I had to give myself a little pep talk before each cut. You need to have a cool demeanor when cutting glass, 'cause if you get frustrated there's nothing safe around to punch. I had a couple of cuts go wrong and felt doomed to losing every piece of glass in the case. After the next cut came out perfect, I leaned back in a sigh of thankful relief. By the time I was done, I had broken just the right amount to have enough left over to frame everything. Whew.
Monday
Apr282008

Blog Attack!



My apologies to those who tried to get to the blog in the past few days. The blog got disabled by an automated exploit that's been floating around the web. Ugh. I think I've got it all cleaned up now. At least I had some skill administering web servers. I'm not sure how a non-technical person would have been able to fix this.

If you're running your blog on WordPress, checkout Has Your Wordpress Been Hacked Recently?

I have to admit though, it was kind-of fun sleuthing around to get things fixed. Like I overcame oppression, or something.

Monday
Apr212008

Through The Veil


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More of spring from yesterday's afternoon walk. These tiny web resolutions just don't do images like this justice. I'm looking forward to printing this one big.
Sunday
Apr202008

The Trees Dance as the Redbud Sets


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It's spring. The trees are blooming all around town. I love it.
Wednesday
Apr162008

Taking Pictures In The Rain

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There are certain types of weather that get me itching to be outside - the good weather. It started as warm, sunny, cloudless days, with a gentle breeze. A few years ago, I bought a stunt kite, the kind with two strings that allows you steer the kite into acrobatic maneuvers. I could also reliably steer it into the ground. Good weather now included windy weather. I'd see the trees swaying and itch to be out.

With photography, good weather started with the magic hour, the golden light around sunrise and sunset. Then, it became the soft light of cloudy days. Then it was harsh light filtered through leaves.

Lately though, the good weather has been with the rain. The damp earth smells good. The world changes in front of me as drops land and slide and glisten. The rain patters as drops land on my jacket hood, like a drumbeat to the soundtrack in my head. It's me, the woods and my camera. My camera is wet, as are my nose, and my knees, and the trees. Through the puddles I play.
Sunday
Apr132008

Little Pieces All Together

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If you have been following my work, you may have noticed that many of the images depict lots of small bits of things: leaves, grass and bits of trees. They are abstractions of organized chaos, if you will. I started making photographs like this about two years ago. I didn't start out seeking to make these kinds of images. It was after the fact, as I reviewed my shots, that I would notice I was attracted to these types of compositions.

Just about a year ago, I tried to explain why I was drawn to these coordinated little pieces, which resulted in a blog post.
...There is something really amazing about orchestras and choirs. Perhaps it's the large group of people, each with their own talents, textures, voices and parts. When they all move together, they create something wonderful, something larger and outside of themselves.... This fascination has tumbled into an appropriation - at first subconscious and now intentional. I'm viewing nature and considering the orchestra.

Now that I had a notion of where I was going, I no longer had a random trend. I had a project. In the past couple of months, I've been editing down the images to a smaller, cohesive portfolio. And now, I'm finally at a point where I feel it's ready to share. The project is called Little Pieces All Together. You can view the images, along with a statement about the project, in the gallery area of my website.
Friday
Apr042008

An Immaculate Nature

My friend Josie is exhibiting work from a new series, An Immaculate Nature. The opening is tonight (April 4) at the Wheeler Arts Community in Fountain Square. 

Tonight's also the First Friday Gallery Walk. If you're in the Fountain Square area, stop by my studio for a visit. I'll have test prints from a new series that loosely concerns fairies. Cheers!

Monday
Mar312008

Mongo Gets Repaired


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It was a tenuous proposition to begin with. Driving from Indiana to Florida is a test of any vehicle's reliability. But, Mongo... Mongo could do it.

Mongo, my 1992 duo-toned Ford art-caper van, had a history of being disagreeable with the east. The van, being of old age and habit, would reliably break down each time the previous owner tried to drive it to Ohio. There were whispers of Mongo and the curse of Ohio.

I bought the van during the summer of 2006. A couple of months later, I was stopped at a gas station on the way to Cleveland, Ohio. While pumping gas, I noticed a large puddle growing by my feet. It was gasoline. The more I pumped, the more the puddle grew. Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle, went the little stream of gasoline. Right from the pump, onto the floor.

At least it wasn't a problem with the engine. The hose to the gas tank was replaced, and we were good to go. Yeah! Good to go all the way to an art show in Florida. It's hard to decide to do an art show in Florida. The expenses are high. You pretty much need to drive to get all your work and display down there. And, the length of the trip takes away from time working on other things. In Febuary, 2007, fresh with optimism, Hannah and I packed up the van, dug a path through the snow, and pushed off to Miami.

Setting up for an art show is stressful. There's the logistics of getting the tent and display up, and the artwork hung. There's remembering to charge the battery on the credit card machine. There's hoping you brought the right mix of work. And, there's the wondering if, after all this effort, there will be enough interest in your work to make expenses. I have a hard time letting go of this mental baggage when setting up. If possible, I favor a slow, laid-back setup, followed by a nice dinner where I can try to convince myself that this is a sane way to make a living.

Things were smooth on the way to Miami. We were going to arrive in the afternoon, with plenty of time to setup and then to explore the area before dinner. Then, I noticed Mongo was hesitating going up hills. One more hesitation, and then... nothing - the engine stalled. We were on the highway. I worked on trying to restart the engine, and at the same time switch lanes to get onto the shoulder. We coasted to a stop. The engine wouldn't start.

I wasn't sure where we were, but we were close to the show site. There was a highway sign in the distance, but it was too far away for me to read. No problem, I grabbed my camera with a telephoto lens, took a picture and zoomed up on the LCD display. Yeah! Try doing that with film. That's the picture attached to this post. We were 20 miles from the show site. After going all that distance, we couldn't make those last 20 miles.

Now, we're racing against time. It's getting near 4pm. The show requires that you're setup before they close the site for the evening. After an hour, the tow truck arrives. Traffic is getting thick with rush hour. On the way to the mechanic, the truck takes us right past the show site! I considered asking if the van could be dropped off in front of our spot. There it was, after a thousand miles, the site of the show. We drove right by it, not knowing if we would ever get there.

We got to the service station. They wouldn't be able to look at the van until the next day. I called around to the car rental companies in the area, but it was already past 6pm and they were closed. I was exasperated - ready to find a hotel and call it a night. No.. there must be a way. A call to the Miami airport car rental located a cargo van. A cab ride and a few hours later, we had the rental van back at the mechanic. It was dark as we unloaded everything from Mongo into the plain white cargo van. People walked by wondering what we were up to. I tried not to look suspicious.

We finally got to the show site, and talked our way past the security guards. It was near 2am when we finished setting up. There was no dinner. We were exhausted.

The next day, the sun came up and Mongo was repaired.
Tuesday
Mar252008

Digital Printing Workshop - April 19th

I've taught this workshop twice now, with overwhelmingly positive feedback. One thing that kept getting requested was more hands on time with the concepts. To provide for this, I'm pleased to extend the workshop to a full day.

In this one day workshop, we'll cover practical methods of getting high quality prints from your digital photographs. Acquire hands on experience with color management, tonal and detail controls within Adobe Photoshop. Improve your prints, whether you use your own printer or an outside lab.

The topics:

  • Current printing technologies

  • Profile your computer's display

  • Fine tuning colors, tones, sharpness and noise

  • Create and use printer profiles

  • Use soft proofing to manage color rendition before you print


The class size is limited to 8 students, to facilitate good interaction and discussions.

Here's the PDF Brochure.

Register Here.
Tuesday
Mar252008

Beauty and Silence


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At the recommendation of Paul Buzti, I picked up a copy of Creative Authenticity, by Ian Roberts. The book is a collection of essays about artistic vision. The first chapter explores the role of beauty in art.

With my images, I attempt to express beauty. Not necessarily pretty, but beauty in a deeper sense, one that expresses truth. As an aside, by truth, I don't mean the same thing as fact. Truth and fact may overlap, but they don't have to. Statistics are facts, and yet they can easily lie. A parable, or myth can be a work of fiction, but be resoundingly true.

OK, so I'm exploring beauty. Among the many reactions to my work, one that keeps coming up goes something like this: The person sees a piece and immediately exclaims, "Oh, wow.. that is so beautiful! Gee, isn't that amazing... You've done a great job!" And then, just as quickly, walks away. I enjoy getting compliments. And, I'm thankful when someone appreciates something that I've created. But, this use of the word "beautiful" is different than what I'm striving for.

As languages age, words change in meaning. In this case, beautiful is losing meaning.

From Creative Authenticity:
I like Ken Weber's definition, that beauty "suspends the desire to be elsewhere". In the face of great art we experience transcendence....

In the face of beauty, we are silenced, because beauty expresses silence. In lavishing attention on the object of the artwork, the consciousness of the artist can touch something divine, some transcendental quality, and that transcendent element now resides in the artwork. How do we know it? We feel it. We experience it. Our heart responds to that sublime quality the artist infused into the work.

Now, my work may not yet be to the point that I can expect people to call it beauty. But, that's what I strive for.

A few weeks ago, Hannah and I spent a few days backpacking in Red River Gorge. The weather was cold and the packs were heavy (ugh.. a good portion of that weight is camera gear). I spent a good amount of time during those few days responding with silence. I would come up to an amphitheater carved out in the rock, several stories high, and stand in wonder and awe. I had no desire to be elsewhere.

A few weeks before that, during a road trip, I was at a rest area in Tennessee. There was a woods next to the parking lot. I ran over to the woods, spread out my arms, and took a long deep breath. I felt an urge to run into and just breathe in those woods. I was at a rest area. And yet, the beauty was there waiting.

In light of this, one of the highest compliments someone could give would go something like this: the person would come up to a piece, spend several minutes looking at it in silence, turn to me and in the slightest of whispers, say thank you. And then, walk away. That would be the deepest sense of wonderful.

I suppose they could also buy the piece. But um... that's a different topic.
Thursday
Mar202008

Fifth Impression revisted

Concerning the image accompanying my post, Fifth Impression, my dear Uncle Chuck asks:
I am curious about why this picture and this topic. Is it assumed that the cross made by the empty space in the center is obvious now when framed correctly, but the framing and therefore the recognition of the cross didn't appear to you the first (2nd, 3rd, 4th) time around? While repeatedly studying the scenery at this place in search for interesting or striking subject matter did you eventually realize it had been there all along but you had simply missed it? Or is there something else you feel is now obvious to you but which may yet be too subtle for me see or grasp in my own "first impression"

The image choice was kindof arbitrary. You may notice that the Fifth Impression post was written in February, while the picture is of leaves in the fall. So, alas, the tree depicted is not the tree mentioned in the posting.

However, the tree in the image was something that took several visits to notice. I've walked by that area probably tens of times. Trees have such character within their shape that I had previously worked on capturing the shapes of the trees themselves. On this outing, I was fascinated by the gaps. I had this notion of entry-ways into another world. I didn't see the cross shape until that day I became gap intrigued.

I don't know if that realization is a subtle one, but it did take until way beyond the first impression for me to notice it. The cross seems obvious to me now. But most insights, even those that at first felt like revelations, seem obvious to me once I've taken them in.
Tuesday
Feb192008

L'Engle on Rejection

Last summer, I read "A Wrinkle in Time", a children's book by Madeleine L'Engle. I had just finished reading four Harry Potter books in a row and was on a fantasy kick. In the following months, I read several more of her books, both fiction and non-fiction. So now, I pretty much adore Madeleine L'Engle. In fact, I've got a current formula for when I can't decide what book to next read: L'Engle for soul, and any one of Terry Pratchet's numerous Discworld books for amusement.

Anyways, back to Madeleine. There's a deep earnestness in what she writes that brings out a sense of a life worth living. Not a fantasy-everything-is-hunky-dory life, but a real fully alive kind of life.

In her book, "A Circle of Quite", she describes the danger of self image, and advertising:
Give the public the "image" of what it thinks it ought to be, or what television commercials or glossy magazine ads have convinced us we ought to be, and we will buy more of the product, become closer to the image, and further from reality.

Self image pulls us away from reality. Deep, isn't it?

Following that, L'Engle describes going through rejection:
...during that decade when I was in my thirties, I couldn't sell anything. If a writer says he doesn't care whether he is published or not, I don't believe him. I care. Undoubtedly I care too much.... Every rejection slip - and you could paper walls with my rejection slips - was like the rejection of me, myself, and certainly of my amour-propre.

She goes on to describe how several of her books were turned down and how she felt guilty that her writing had taken away from being with her family. This culminates in a difficult rejection on her fortieth birthday:
So the rejection on the fortieth birthday seemed an unmistakable command: Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie. I covered the typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation. Then I walked around and around the room, bawling my head off. I was totally, unutterably miserable.

Then I stopped, because I realized what my subconscious mind was doing while I was sobbing: my subconscious mind was busy working out a novel about failure.

I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that's what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not. It didn't matter how small or inadequate the talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.

.... What matters is the book itself. If it is as good a book as you can write at this moment in time, that is what counts. Success is pleasant; of course you want it; but it isn't what makes you write.
Monday
Feb042008

The Mongo Chronicles

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Two years ago, I started exhibiting in outdoor art festivals. I planned on traveling to these shows in my Volkswagen hatchback. It's a small car, but hatchbacks can fit a surprising amount of stuff with the back seats folded down. In this space, I aspired to fit: Framed and matted photographs, 300 square feet of display walls, a canopy tent, display bins, lighting, and a dolly. I bought a rooftop bag for extra room. And yes, I thought it would work. Even though everyone else would be driving RVs and cargo vans, I would discover new ways of compactness which would allow me to fit all the same stuff into a compact car. Minimize, minimize! I always bring too much stuff anyways. It'll be good for me.

When it comes down to it, after putting all the investment into printing/framing and display materials, I didn't want to spend any more money on a larger vehicle.

After I had all my equipment together, it occurred to me that perhaps my heroic hatchback wouldn't be up for the job. Even with the rooftop bag, and supreme Tetris style arranging skills, I don't think I would've had a chance. That spring, on the way to a local art festival, I noticed a full size van for sale. It was brown 1992 Ford E150, complete with a two toned paint job and racing stripe goodness. No... I couldn't. I went home and looked at my big pile of art show stuff and that little hatchback.

I called the owner of the van, who happens to be a potter that lives about 10 minutes away from me. The van was in fabulous shape. The interior looked almost new. The back bench seat folds out into a full size bed, perfect for camping out during long trips. And, it was so roomy. I could fit all the art show stuff with room to spare. You know how this logic goes - when you've decided that you need something, the correct rationale appears. We came to an agreement, and arranged for me to take it home the next day. By the way, she said, we've named the van Mongo. There was a tone of longing adoration in her voice as she declared it's name, "Mongo".

The next day, the seller mentioned that they gave Mongo a proper goodbye. The previous evening, she and her husband sat in the van with glasses of wine, and toasted to the good journeys that they had shared. She told me, take good care of Mongo. They added: Be prepared, now, for helping everyone that you know when they need to move something big.

And so began, in May 2006, our adventures with Mongo. More to come....
Sunday
Feb032008

The Fifth Impression

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Our daily interactions are filled with first impressions. Think of the strangers that you met earlier today, or that new pop song on the radio. Think of watching the auditions on American Idol, where you are encouraged to make a quick judgment on whether that person is worthy of additional attention. Most advertising is based upon first impressions. If they don't catch your attention in the first few seconds, they don't catch you at all. When we travel, much of the experience is based upon first impressions - the surroundings are different and novel. Wow, pretty! And, ooh shiny! That buzz and thrill. These are the reactions of a first impression.

Now, think about the photography that we're exposed to in mass media. Calendars, National Geographic and travel shows. You'll find many well done, eye catching images. These images are captured to give you a taste of what it would be like to be "there", at the location of the image. A taste... a first impression.

First impressions are great and all, but they're also only surface level interactions. So much of my busy, distracted life is surface level interactions.

A couple of days ago, I was out wandering around the woods with my camera. The location is one of my favorite places to photograph in the city, one that I've returned to many times. I was looking at the same tree for the twentieth time and thinking, what does it take to see beyond the first impression? What would I notice on the third and fourth impression?

When I first started photography, I was enamored with looking for new things. I would get up early to see the sunrise. I would stop and look at peeling paint. I would notice the patterns on a leaf. I took pictures of these things, but they were more documentary than anything. It was more to show that I noticed something, rather than, I got to know something. I thought I was seeing things in a new way, but all I had done was begin to look.

What type of images would you make, by the time you got to the fifth impression?
Tuesday
Jan292008

A New Year

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I've been procrastinating for long enough. Every week or so, someone will mention that they've been reading my blog. Oh, you have? Umm... did you notice that it's been awhile since I've posted? Yeah, they reply, but there's still good stuff on there. Even though I've just been given a complement, I walk away a bit dejected, knowing that my last entry was THREE FREAKIN' MONTHS ago. Ah well.

We're not yet out of January, so I'm going to go ahead and claim some of that New Year's momentum while I still can.

I'm currently working on applications - applications to art shows, grants, portfolio reviews. It's kind of a fun time of year . As I review and edit my recent work, I get reminded that yes, I've created work that I'm proud to show and share. As I'm preparing the applications, there is a sense of hope that I'm making progress in my art career.

And, as I'm just at the application stage, it's still too early to receive rejections! And boy, do they come in. I know that any success in selling comes with a multitude of rejections. Some of the rejections mean that my subject matter or style wasn't appropriate to the show. Sometimes my work isn't good enough. Or, some shows get over a thousand submissions and it's just a numbers game - playing the odds. Regardless, every time I get one of those rejection letters, my heart sinks a little, and I wonder if I'm heading in the right direction. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here, as none have come in yet this year. I can just sit back and dwell in preparation and hopefulness.

Oh, and the slowness in the economy is no excuse to slack on participating in art. I'm learning that art isn't a luxury, it's your soul. The poorest people groups have rich traditions of music, story telling, drama and visual art. Starving artists dont' keep on creating out of luxury. Live well, create. And, happy New Year!

Update: I just got a rejection. Wow, those online juries have a quick turnaround. Kansas City, I never even knew thee.
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