One of the things I like about living in north-central Pennsylvania is our four distinct seasons. And while I don’t particularly like the coldest weather we get here, I do like the visuals of leafless trees and the landscape covered in snow. This type of scene elicits a mood within me that tends to be rather sentimental, nostalgic, or cozy. The cold air outdoors can be countered by a fresh cup of Pike Place coffee or hot chocolate (a bit of peppermint Schnapps helps too). Maybe a favorite blanket, a fireplace, a comfortable chair come to mind as well.
So it’s not really the landscape itself which has a mood, it’s our response to a scene which is projected onto the landscape that elicits our feelings. When I am creating images outside in the winter I am working mostly by gut instinct. A combination of conscious and subconscious responses to the visual environment effected by the feeling of cold, the sounds around me, maybe the smell of a distant fire. I cannot, of course, put all of these sensations into my image, but they impact the creative process.
When the images are brought into my studio and viewed on a computer screen away from the conditions in which they were made, I can evaluate them at a different level. Without all of the sensory stimuli which were associated with the making of the images in the field, I can look at them with fresh eyes. Elements like contrast, tonality, texture, composition, visual impact, and even just how much I like the image, can be evaluated more consciously. My goal in this part of the process is to be authentic to my visual experience in the field and my aesthetic response to that image in the studio.
The image below was made a short walk from my studio. I was drawn to the texture of the trees and to the way they surrounded the small red building. The evergreen trees provide a visual color balance to the red and a color harmony with the blues in the shadowy parts of the woods. Strong diagonal lines throughout the image lead from the the upper left to the lower right and so to the red building as well. Most of this analysis takes place in the studio and not in the field, at least not consciously. But I am sure that the studio analysis of the image impacts my subconscious responses going forward when I am working in the moment.
As an indie artist I feel it is important to maintain an authenticity in my work that speaks honestly to who I am. In the art world in which I exist, there are many players. It is both a smart business move and my absolute desire to distinguish myself as an artist. When I’m comfortable and confident in the work I am doing I have also been more successful in the art I create.
For me, this image only ever had one interpretation. An independent, self assured, non-conformist who would do it’s own thing regardless of the social pressures put upon it. The title “Be Yourself” came to me quickly. Notice the bird doesn’t completely isolate itself from it’s social system, but neither does it feel compelled to always be a part of the group. It is still close enough to be a part of the picture, but also able to be it’s own…….well, bird.
Like many images I have been making recently, this one was made on our farm. Tall electrical poles and long wires run along the creek at the back of our property. I often watch how various birds use this seating area and how they interact with each other. My university background in Psycho-biology (Animal Behavior) still informs my work. I was initially absorbed with pondering this individualist soul. Rock Doves are very social animals as can be seen by the tight group behavior on the top wire. So what was up with this rebel bird?
After a short while I began to see the scene for its simple geometry. I began composing in my head……….then ran to the studio to grab some gear. I’d need a long lens but one that would give me compositional freedom…..a zoom lens then! Since the sky was overcast, I knew I’d need to over expose the image. I wanted a stark, blank sky anyway so that worked out. Ultimately I printed the image as a black and white on a matte finish paper which gives the piece the character of a pencil drawing.
Its a fun piece, one that I have been offering at shows only since the beginning of June. The response has been interesting eliciting a variety of feelings about it. Some see the individual bird as I do, others as an outcast. Some just feel sorry for the poor thing. It may be a bit of a Rorschach Test type of image. We relate to the bird on the lower wire in our own unique personal-history, life-experience kinda way.
Archival pigment giclee prints are available matted and framed on my website HERE.
“The enjoyment of beauty is a kind of escape from, a going out from, the urgencies of place and time.” ~ Virgil C. Aldrich (American Philosopher, 1903-1998)
There was a point early in my career where I realized that the process of creation was no longer an option. The act of creating had became an escape from the everyday stresses of life. If I didn’t get into the field at least once a week, I went into a low level depression (withdrawal?). Being out in nature was a big part of what drove the creative process. The science is clear about the benefits of being in areas of woods, around water bodies; even just looking at pictures of nature lowers stress levels.
I have come to realize as well that beauty itself drives my creative process and can serve as an escape. One of the benefits of working in the arts is the ability to create things of beauty. I can create my own escape when I need it. In my farmhouse studio space I can explore subjects in detail at my own pace and experience a world of beauty all to myself. For me art is all about experiences.
The image above was the result of an exploration of a silk moth which I found on our farm earlier this spring. Discovering its intricate wing scale design was a joyful experience. It felt like I was looking at a mosaic of tiles when I viewed a section of wing close-up. For the period of time in which I created images I thought of nothing other than the wonderfulness of the color and pattern. With its rhythm of scales though, it was the curve of the wing that I was drawn to most.
Curves introduce a feeling of tension. While sensual in form, curves imply resistance. Straight is less tense while driving; a curved road requires more expenditure of energy to maneuver. A river that flows through an oxbow is constantly fighting the curves. Straightness implies a fight with gravity which is lost, or even a struggle with death no longer fought. Leo Stein (American art collector/critic, 1872 – 1947) remarked, “Tension in line can be observed if one will follow the outline of a vase and notice the force it takes to bend the line of a contour.” Curves to me speak to a life force, something I think art can convey uniquely.
For many in America, the Bald Eagle is the symbol of freedom and strength. These magnificent birds represent both qualities well. They are also however symbols of what happens when Americans stand up to the greed and short-sightedness that causes great environmental harm. Once Endangered, these birds have made a great comeback. They represent a resolute attitude by those who understand that we live on a planet where our actions have consequences. When I see these majestic birds in my own backyard, it gives me hope and a sense of determination to fight so that this experience may be had by our children.
This image is available as archival 7×10″ and 10×14″ Limited Edition prints from my gallery on-line.
I sometimes feel transported back in time by the simplicity of the rural landscape around me. I can imagine that it is the middle of the Nineteenth Century with no wires, no automobiles, no cell towers. On a wintry day with snow on the ground, the landscape becomes even more stark. Working with the most modern of photographic tools, I still felt compelled to create a monochromatic piece suggestive of old glass-plate days and wonky lenses.
I am excited to introduce a new image and a new series. This new series is really a new category of art prints which will represent the majority of work I offer going forward. In this series which I have named “The 100”, prints will be limited to 100 total across all edition sizes. If I print in 1, 2 or 3 edition sizes, the total across all of them will be 100. For this new image, Black Bird, I am introducing it as a 9.75 x 13.75 print matted to 16×20 in an edition of 50. Therefore, all other edition sizes will number a total of 50 prints to reach 100.
Black Bird is an image I made early morning during a snow storm this month (it’s been that kind of spring!). Waking up to the snow, I immediately grabbed my preferred gear for tough weather and started driving the back roads around where I live in north-central Pennsylvania.
For this image I was drawn to the line of the trees and the way the snow was covering the branches almost as if the trees were “leafed-out” with white foliage. To me this piece has the feeling of an infra-red image, it is almost surreal. I keyed in on the small figure of a black bird on the top of the central tree and decided to make it the “center” of interest. The bird animates the image, providing a point of empathy, a vantage point that we can relate to. All wildlife allows this type of connection with a landscape, regardless of how small in the frame they are. It was also because of the small size of the bird in the image that I placed it centrally. The arrangement of trees is best in this configuration as well however. I work by gut instinct, intuitively, so I can react authentically and emotionally to a scene.
I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with an Olympus 12-100mm lens. This weatherproof gear gives me great confidence to work in extreme conditions. It is small and light weight and feels very comfortable in my hands. The Olympus 12-100mm gives me a great range of compositional options especially when needing to work from a confined range.
Freezing temperatures and snow flakes are still finding their way into spring this year. My morning trip to the barn was met with snow covering ground and large flakes in the air. I know it won’t last forever, but I am getting a bit impatient for warmer temps.
I think the local birds have had enough of it as well. Even though I continue to feed them, I think they are also getting impatient. Anyway, I asked this American Tree Sparrow if it wanted more snow. His reply was rather emphatic! Bit of a drama queen I think though, a simple head shake would have sufficed.