I am introducing a new piece in my botanical series. This image was made using a vintage lens which is some 60-70 years old. I am using a collection of these lenses to achieve a softness and quietness in the images which matches my personal aesthetic.
As an admirer of Piet Mondrian, I am inspired by his work and philosophy. “Mondrian believed that art reflected the underlying spirituality of nature. He simplified the subjects of his paintings down to the most basic elements, in order to reveal the essence of the mystical energy in the balance of forces that governed nature and the universe.” I especially feel aligned with his philosophy that art reflects the spirituality of nature.
The clean geometry and basic colors of his work makes it dramatic and very appealing to me. In my image above, which I have titled “Balance of Forces”, I use the lines of the grasses to compose an image with parallel lines and triangular shapes to create a sense of movement and dynamic visual interest. I selected the background for this image first as it is of equal importance to the final result as the foreground grasses. I aligned the area of yellow wildflowers in the background so that they brought the eye to the top center of the image from which the lines of the grasses would then cause exploration throughout the frame.The yellows also provided nice color contrast to the blues throughout the image.
Available as a giclee on either photographic paper or canvas from my gallery on-line.
I am in the unusual position of writing a blog entry in late February with the windows open and still being slightly warm in my studio. It reached the mid 70’s today in north central PA. But it is still winter and the visual stimuli that excite me about winter are still forefront of my mind. It wasn’t that long ago that I made this image even though the temperatures suggest it should have been months ago.
I’ve always enjoyed the visual aesthetics of patterns in nature. I work with them not strictly out of a sense of design but because shapes convey emotions. The same way that human posture conveys feelings, so do the curves, lines, and geometries that are all around us. In some ice forms, those curves, lines, and shapes can be very complex. As an artist I am working to compose an image that expresses movement, joyfulness, tension, harmony.
This image was made along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Using a Nikon D810 and an quite old 28-105mm Nikkor lens in macro mode, I isolated a section of ice and grasses frozen into a geometry that I found quite stirring. A small aperture created the necessary depth of field. This depth had to balanced with a sufficient shutter speed to hand hold the camera during the exposure. Because of where I chose to compose this image, using a tripod was not practical.
Knowing why we do something can give us insight into what we are doing presently and motivate our choices going forward. I came across one explanation of why artists create the work they do which I find apropos. Artists, it is suggested, create works that help them fill in for something that is missing in their lives. I can see that explanation of motivation being true with certain works I make. There have been times when I felt the need for more beauty, peacefulness, or simplicity around me. There are many stressors in life, and creating imagery that balances those stressors by emphasizing peace and simplicity seems like a logical explanation. These works then are expressions of that desire.
One piece that I come back to often when feeling a desire to unwind is titled A Ripple, A Blade of Grass. It is an image of grasses reflected in pond water in Acadia National Park . A minimalist image, it really only consists of lines against a monochromatic background. I find it both soothing and engaging though. The simplicity of it is calming, yet there are lines that create triangles (due to the grasses reflection in the water), a shape that imparts a sense of action. Also, the ripples in the water have created zig-zag patterns that serve as visual contrast to the straight lines and add a sense of tension through the implied motion. I applied a sepia tonality to the piece to lower the visual harshness of a stark black and white.
This type of imagery is not easy to make because as a result of it being minimalist, every element that is included becomes more important to the piece. Finding the right balance in a minimalist work is part of the challenge however, and for that I am often working from a gut feeling.
The process of getting into the various shows I do each year requires a sometimes complex set of actions. The most important starting point is deciding with which images I will represent myself. These must be images that are visually strong, have been made within the past few years, and authentically represent my personal aesthetic. It is a rather stressful process because I can’t know how any show juror(s) will respond to my work. As a full time, independent artist, getting into shows, and more prestigious shows especially, can greatly affect my livelihood.
All I can do is send in the work that excites me most, represents who I am as an artist, and hope for the best. Different shows have different submission processes, but most now charge an application fee just to have one’s work considered. Then there’s the show fee, often a fee for electricity, travel costs, hotel costs, food……..and so on. As an independent artist, I am both the creator of the artwork, manager of the business, and the art dealer.
My 2017 show schedule is beginning to take shape and will be updated on my website soon. But, the process is just at it’s beginning and I am updating my image selection for applications. The image above is one I selected for this year. It is part of a series I am doing on meadow grasses and other botanical subjects. For this series, I have been primarily using a few antique lenses made about 60 years ago. Using an adaptor to fit the lens on my Fuji camera, I’m creating images that are quiet, peaceful, reflections of my feelings while in the field and my personal aesthetic. My work may be seen HERE
I’ve been looking back at images I made in the last few years. It’s an annual practice that I enjoy at the beginning of each new year and is an important part of deciding which images will be introduced as new prints.
In moving some things around, also an annual process, I came across a box of slides from 1991. Yeah, I can’t believe how long ago that was now either. This image however was not representative of my style then. It is more abstract than my work was then. It is a much more subjective image. In the last several years however, my work has become increasingly subjective — more about form, texture, color, and minimalist. In some ways I feel my work has become more about mood and more expressive.
It’s not that I haven’t created expressive imagery before, it’s just that I’m making and exhibiting more of it now. I find it very exciting and freeing. I’m creating work that is both authentic and in the moment. I’m expressing my personal aesthetic without concern to ultimate use and really enjoying it.
I’m looking forward to this weekend. I will be exhibiting with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
There will be new work! I have been creating images with a couple unique themes. I am excited about both new bodies of work. The first set of imagery is being done with a variety of antique lenses and plays with light and color as reflected off of the flowers that grow in meadows near my studio. The second set of imagery is being done with macro lenses and deals with light refraction off of water drops on plant leaves and petals. In future posts I will be speaking about these new bodies of work in more detail.
The image below is part of the first new body of work and was made with an antique Meyer Optik Gorlitz 135mm f3.5 lens (Exakta mount) that I purchased on eBay from an overseas seller. The lens, when used correctly, can render background elements with a very soft, etherial feeling. The out-of-focus highlights expand into spherical shapes that I find very pleasing. I used the lens on a Fuji XT-10 camera body with an adaptor that allows it to be used on the camera. Exposure is done in manual mode as is focusing, but the Fuji has a wonderful electronic viewfinder which allows me to precisely select the area I want to be sharp.
One of my goals when selecting new photographic tools is to be able to do things that my current tools don’t allow or make too difficult. Last year I purchased a Nikon Coolpix P900 because I felt that its crazy 83x optical zoom lens which ranges from an equivalent 24-2000mm would allow me to compose almost any image I wanted. It also was said to have a pretty good image stabilization function which I knew would be necessary with 2000mm!
No camera can fill every niche, and the more any one camera claims to allow me to do, the lower the image quality tends to be. So I went into this purchase expecting the limitations of such a camera. Having worked with it just a bit now, I have confirmed my suspicions regarding its limitations but also what I hoped it to be – a go to camera when an image idea comes to me and there is no time or access to setting up “better” gear.
One of those “in the moment” ideas came to me during a recent evening and the Nikon P900 was the tool I selected to try to make the image I was visualizing. The moon was slowly coming over a ridge lined with trees. I wanted to compose a frame filling image of the moon with the silhouetted trees in front in a very flat, two-dimensional way. I ran inside for the camera and started composing. At 800 ISO I was able to get sufficient shutter speed to hand hold 2000mm I thought. But for extra security I found a post to lean on and stabilized myself further.
I took the meter reading off the moon to maximize my shutter speed and because I wanted the sky to go black. The image became a round, golden ball with some crater detail and bare winter trees silhouetted. Its the image I visualized in my head.
Prints in two sizes are available on my website – Here