What an image is about is not the same as what an image is of. The content of an image, that is, the objects in the image, and what that image means, are not the same. In the image I made titled Three’s Company, the content consists of three cardinals (two males and one female), on a miniature crab apple tree during a heavy winter snow. What the image is about is much more however.
Cardinals are a beloved bird which for many people have a strong spiritual connotation. Cardinals are associated with the spirits of loved ones who have passed. Some of this belief revolves around the behavior of male cardinals being attracted to their own reflection and so appearing to tap on windows. But cardinals are also associated with many sports teams, are the state bird of six states, and generally represent all that comes with the metaphor of “birdness”.
In some ways Three’s Company is about cardinals, their behavior of mating for life, their pleasing song. These characteristics of cardinals though can make this image about relationships, commitment, and joyfulness. But this image is also about the beauty of the colors of red and white when brought together, the sublime feelings of a heavy winter snow storm, the struggle for survival all wildlife faces during the winter. The arrangement of the birds into a triangular form is relevant as well. Triangles are one of the most dynamic shapes in art, creating strong visual movement within the image. And of course the romantic triangle is a strong emotional theme. All of these meanings contribute to the overall feeling of the image. So while Three’s Company is a picture of cardinals in a snow storm, the connection this image makes with my audience goes well beyond it’s content.
Three’s Company, an imageI made on a snowy winter’s day in Bucks County, PA, has become one of my “signature” pieces. A “signature” piece is one that is characteristic of who one is as an artist. It represents one’s style, and the attributes of what the artist is drawn to visually. A “signature” piece is one that is recognizably attributed to a particular creative.
Three’s Company has appeared in newspapers and magazines, as well as on show postcards, but it has been it’s exhibition in gallery and art festival venues that has made it known. Introduced as a Limited art print totaling 500 across all edition sizes, it quickly became one of my best selling works. One size in particular, the 16×20 matted version, has been very popular and is now almost sold out. I have updated my gallery on-line to reflect that only 6 pieces of the original 200 allocated to the 16×20 mat size are left. All six pieces are already framed and ready to ship, any remaining pieces will travel with me during my 2018 show tour (visit 2018 Tour). Other print options in the overall edition size for this image will continue to be available.
A “signature” style is something every artist should strive for. The collection of attributes which define who an artist is as a creator of works is what allows collectors to see the authenticity in the artwork. The image Three’s Company speaks to my style in several ways. It expresses my feelings for, and interest in, nature. It also exemplifies my minimalist aesthetic and my appreciation for the everyday beauty of the world. My imagery is not of exotic lands or dramatic subjects, in fact most of it is created within a small radius of miles from my studio and home. I live an aesthetic life and express that in my work.
More than once I have had people cry when looking at one of my images. I have always felt that an emotional response to art work of any kind was a wonderful thing. I’ve had similar response to movies and even while reading, but never to a painting, photograph, or sculpture. I was fascinated to find that art historian James Elkins had actually examined the subject of crying in front of artwork in a book he titled Pictures and Tears (Toutledge, 2001).
In his book, Elkins writes, “Paintings repay the attention they are given”, “the more you look, the more you feel”. I like this notion and suspect that it is true. But how often do we actually spend time looking at one particular picture?
At a show this past summer, a woman came into my booth and then left. A little while later she returned to buy a canvas giclee of mine — Summer Breeze. She told me that when she left my booth thinking about this picture, she began to cry. She had to come back and purchase the piece. She told me that she didn’t know why she responded the way she did.
“Crying is often a mystery, and for that matter so is not crying” writes Elkins. I am still working through the book, I’m finding it fascinating. I don’t expect to find any ultimate answers as to why certain people respond with tears to certain art works. I am humbled however, that I have made pictures which have elicited such a response.
Summer Breeze is available on my gallery online HERE
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 enjoy hearing from collectors about how they live with my work. A recent purchase from my gallery online was for an image of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. It isn’t a picture about the bird however. It’s an image about joyful singing on a beautiful spring day. After Donna C. from New Jersey received her matted pigment print she sent an email to thank me and to let me know “that beautiful singing bird is looking great in my music studio (where I teach voice)!”
In my work the content of the images are rarely what the image is about. I’m more interested in the meaning of the objects in an image, what they stand for, or the emotion they elicit. Birds may serve as metaphors for many things, but joyful singing certainly seems like a good one.
At a recent art festival in Virginia, I met Judy. She entered my booth and was drawn to a canvas giclee that I had made of an image of grasses. The image is part of a series I began last summer using antique lenses adapted to new cameras. It is a very etherial series and one that speaks to my aesthetic. Judy was also drawn to a framed print from the same series which hung on my display walls. It was a picture of a meadow of daisies (titled appropriately — Daisy Meadow) rendered softly against late-day light and also made with one of my antique lenses. Daisy Meadow was the piece she wanted and she wanted it as a large canvas.
I took her order and as soon as I returned to my studio, began working on the new canvas image. I hadn’t had this piece done on canvas before but thought it would work well. In fact, I think this new series I’m doing lends itself exceptionally well to larger canvas giclees. Still, I was very pleased when she wrote to me after receiving her artwork. She told me, “it is absolutely the most beautiful picture!!!! I love it!.” In a follow up email, Judy speaks to the piece having “so much depth.” The picture is “soft and inviting,” she added.
I always listen to the people who purchase my work, they are my best source of feedback. From them I get insight into my work and even the business of selling art. It is the interaction with collectors that makes being a full time artist most fulfilling.
Daisy Meadow can be purchased as an art print or canvas giclee directly from my on-line gallery – here
Looking at a picture like this one of a female cardinal, it is very hard not to attribute a human behavior to her. This beautiful bird with her glorious coloration – I mean look at those amazing “eyebrows” – is definitely speaking her mind about something, right? I don’t think we can help but see the image that way, it is human nature.
This new piece will be limited to 100 archival pigment giclee prints in the size of 8″x10″. It is available on my website HERE