Be Yourself

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs 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.

A Kind of Escape

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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.

 

Artistic Growth

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Artistic growth. It is not something planned, it happens organically as experience and knowledge are gained. When I first started working with a camera, my primary intent was to record what I saw. It was a rather literal representation that guided my purpose.  I’ve been working with a camera for 40 years though and have long understood that photography is not just a literal medium. It is a selective, abstracting, very plastic medium when so desired.

When one looks at the world with artistic vision, with the need to express feeling, and personal values, the medium of expression is of little relevance. I find myself less interested in the typical photographic renderings based on sublime locations and extraordinary events. If an image elicits a response of “luck”, “right-place, right-time”, or “where did you get that?” I wonder if I am creating something personal enough. While, there are certainly times and places which drive me to make images, I hope that those images are more than recordings. I want them to be about something bigger than the content in the frame.

While any selective process has an element of personal meaning to it, I acknowledge that  my response to an event or place can be guided by a desire to impress others or for financial gain. As an artist who must live off the work he does, I accept that my motivation is from more than one thing. But also, as an artist, I have to create images consistent with what drove me to be a full time artist. Right now, that work is rather different than when I started, and even different than what I was creating 5 years ago. If I were still creating the same pictures that I was 30-40 years ago (or even five years ago), I would be stating that my life and experiences have led me nowhere new, that I have not grown, or changed in any way. And that would not be true.

Much of my new work is done on the 7 1/2 acres of farmland my artist wife and I own, or in my studio within the farmhouse. Here the aesthetic experiences are simple but no less profound. As in other locations where I have worked for many years, I see more deeply with increased submersion. On or near the farm, I have daily, seasonal, and yearly interaction with nature and it is here that my most authentic work is now done.

Home of the Weeping Cherry

House of weeping cherry blog

I am a big fan of Japanese woodblock prints, especially those relating to nature. The aesthetics of simplicity, muted color, and brilliant use of space (positive and negative), is very pleasing to me. Over the last several years, I have been conscious of my desire to work in a more minimalist style. One way in which I create in that style is with a long telephoto lens. With the narrow perspective and thin depth of field of a long lens I can isolate objects and compress elements within the composition.

This beautiful Weeping Cherry tree is one of my favorite features of our farm property and one which I go to each spring to experience anew. On this overcast April day, I watched a House Finch explore the tree’s bowing branches. The combination of pink flowers and rosy red of the House Finch create a harmonious combination. I composed for a bit of contrasting tonalities in the background and with sufficient negative space on the left to keep the image airy and light.

I like this new piece very much. It represents the direction my work has been heading now for a few years and which I am continuing to build upon. I made the print on a matte paper which maintains the subtlety of tones and softness of the light. It will be introduced this weekend in Timonium, Maryland as I tour with the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

The finished piece titled House of the Weeping Cherry, is approximately 10×14, double-matted to 16×20 with all acid-free materials, and framed in white with UV-Protective, Reflection-control glass. The Edition is limited to 100 and is part of “The 100” Series, priced at $239.00 framed and $114.00 matted. Both are available at my gallery on-line HERE.

 

Every 3 Years

For the last three years I have been listening to the same song over and over. I like the song a lot, so I listen to it all the time. It’s a great song; I like the artist, I like the music, I like……..alright, I admit, I’m getting tired of it. But, I bought the song to listen to it and so I do.

For the last three years I have been watching the same movie over and over. I like the movie a lot, so I watch it all the time. It’s a great movie; I like the acting, I like the camera work, I like……alright, I admit, I’m getting tired of it. But, I bought the movie to watch it and so I do.

For the last three years I have been eating the same thing for breakfast day after day. I like what I’m eating a lot, so I eat it every breakfast. I like the flavor, I like the ingredients, I like……alright, I admit, I’m getting tired of it. But, I bought the food to eat it and so I do.

For the last three years I have been wearing the same style of cloths day after day. I like the cloth a lot, so I wear them. They are great cloth; I like the form, I like the material, I like……alright, I admit, I’m getting bored of wearing the same cloth. But, I bought the cloth to wear and so I do.

For the last three years I have been reading the same book over and over. I like the book a lot, so I read it again and again. It’s a great book. I like the writing style, I like the message, I like……alright, I admit, I could enjoy reading a new book. But, I bought the book to read it and so I do.

For the last three years I have been looking at the same artwork on my walls day after day. I like the artwork a lot, so it stays on my walls. They are great works of art; I like their colors, I like their moods, I like……alright, I admit, I’m getting tired of seeing the same art on my walls. But, I bought the art to hang on my walls and so it does.

The Making of “Opus 1”

Opus I

My approach to the medium of photography is as an artist. Because of this, I try not to have preconceived notions about how photography “should” be done and think instead only of the imagery I want to create. I do however work within the medium to create images that are best rendered as a photograph, not in a contrived way in order to make it look falsely like another medium.

My approach means that the images I create are conceived to be made primarily in the

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Film Projector Lens

field through the use of traditional photographic methods, i.e., camera and lens. For an impressionistic image like the one above (titled Opus 1), I used an old 120mm f1.9 Carl Zeiss Jena film projector lens which had been fitted with an adapter giving it an M42 mount. With that mount, I was able to then add an additional adapter to allow it’s use on a Fuji digital interchangeable lens camera.

As a film projector lens, it has no focusing mechanism, no aperture control, and no way to communicate with the camera. The M42 adapter on the lens has a built in helicoid which allows me to “focus” it buy turning the lens and causing it to be closer to or further away from the camera sensor. With no aperture, the lens is only usable at it’s f1.9 rating. This large aperture means lots of light gets in and  depth of field is very thin. But for me that’s the whole point of using this big, hazy, scratched, and fungus growing, chunk of glass.

The lens is a beast and unruly on a camera, but I feel the rendering matches my aesthetic very well. As I continue to develop a view of the world which is more impressionistic, I find myself wanting to use this lens more and more. For the image above, I had been struggling with modern traditional lenses to isolate flowers in this meadow and simplify the background. The fall off of focus with this projector lens is very sudden and creates a unique type of bokeh that I have not achieved with any other lens.

Many people think that Opus 1 is a painting. I inform viewers that it is in fact a photograph, but one done in a painterly style. By painterly I do not mean the use of artificial brush strokes, but rather an emphasis on color and form instead of linear definition.

 

Black Bird – “The 100”

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Black Bird

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.