I create images mostly as an intuitive process. I react in the moment to a stimulus that attracts me and then work to make a picture that satisfies my response. I know when I’ve been successful when there’s almost a feeling of relief. Then I keep exploring to discover what else about my visual experience needs satisfying. Sometimes during the process, I talk to myself to achieve the result I want (it actually helps calm me down so that I can be analytical about camera settings).
Because I work intuitively (after 40 years of making images), I don’t do any real analysis of the images while in the field. Back in the studio however, I can spend as much time staring at the images as I please, or need. On a screen I can evaluate what about the images, and my intuition, worked. Then I determine what steps are needed in the development of the images to fully realize the emotion I was feeling.
I typically don’t venture out with any preconceived ideas about particular images I want to make. Generally, my motivation to go out is based on situational elements like, it’s cloudy, the leaves are colorful, I have time to explore.
Below is an analysis that I went through in the studio while developing this image.
Bringing this image into Lightroom and doing some basic developing of color, contrast, and shadow/highlights adjustments, I can then evaluate the image overall. After looking at it for a while, I can judge whether the image is balanced. Since we tend to look at images from left-to-right (the same way we read), I begin there. The left side (1) is heavy with trees, so the visual weight there needs to be balanced on the right. The red sumac leaves (2) progress lower left to upper right, drawing the eye in that direction, good. At point (3), the green leaves are brighter and encompass a larger part of the image, which also drives the viewer to the right. Lastly, the distant trees (4), draw the eye to the upper right, good again. Overall, I feel the image is well balanced and pleasing. This process of analysis serves as a kind of feedback loop which enhances my intuition next time in the field.
When I was a kid, there was this popular joke – “What is black and white, and read all over?” Of course the answer is a newspaper. But visually, I also see black and white and “red all over” to be an exciting combination (no joke). Sure “read” and “red” are not the same, just homonyms, but it’s the thought that counts. In film days, there wasn’t an accessible way to create this relationship unless the scene really only had those three colors in them. In the digital darkroom however, creativity is queen.
I made the accompanying image in the fall of 2020. The pandemic was still in full swing; my shows all cancelled. Being outdoors became an even more important component of maintaining my creativity and mental well-being. Being outdoors allows me to be more introspective. And, introspection about all that was happening, it’s ramifications for us personally and for me creatively, was what I needed.
On this overcast, fall day, there was no one else at the local nature reserve near me. There was a feeling of isolation that seemed consistent with the overall isolation we were all experiencing. Yet, I was also experiencing a renewed activity. When I saw this large Maple providing what appeared as an umbrella of protection to a bench, I found it comforting. I found myself thinking that this would be a fine place to sit and look out over the lake, and then look within.
Back in the studio, looking at the image, I reduced the scene to three colors. This change made the scene rather surreal, but also seemingly appropriate to how I felt. Almost two years later, I now look at the image without the same level of trepidation I had then, but I like it just as much.
I am initially offering the print as a 10″x14″ which is matted to 16″x20″ available through my on-line gallery here. It is titled “Risorgimento.”
As a full time independent artist, I wear a lot of hats (most of the time, I mean that metaphorically). This time of year the number of “hats” that I wear becomes especially evident. My primary job as an artist is to create, job one as they say. But as an Indi-artist, I have so much more on my plate (oops, wrong metaphor). This time of year especially, I am also a bookkeeper; IT guy; shipping and ordering manager (I even get Uline catalogs addressed to Paul Grecian, Shipping Manager), Marketing dept. (social media, newsletters, emails, blogging, etc.); art dealer (I do represent my own work after all and sell it directly to my audience); Planner (show schedules don’t happen on their own); the list could go on.
Being an independent artist, that is an artist whose sales do not primarily happen through a dealer, manager, and/or consultant, means doing all the creative work and running all aspects of a full-time business. It’s a lot of hats. Most of the time I feel I can wear them one at a time. This time of year a show schedule needs to happen (selection, applications), supplies need ordering (mat board, frames, paper, ink, etc.), images need processing, backing up, adding to my stock agency, tax numbers need putting together, and I can’t lose touch with my audience. Sometimes, hats have to be worn at the same time in a multi-tasking frenzy that hopefully sorts itself out by the first show (whenever that turns out to be because well, pandemic).
So if you ever see me walking around with a baseball cap, fedora, and who knows what else on my head, at the same time, just nod your hello to me; I know the hats are there.
I don’t travel much, never have. This has been the case partly because it’s expensive, partly because it requires time, and mostly because I’ve never felt the need or great desire. I’ve always preferred to get to know my surroundings as well as I could, deeply, thoroughly. I always found great satisfaction in achieving familiarity with the area in which I lived. The more I have explored my local area, the greater the esthetic and emotional relationship I have developed with it. As a result, I think my work has been more authentic, more honest, and better.
My work has never been about location. I have always strived to create images that have a universal message, unconstrained by geography. And while many locations have tell-tale signs that give away something about where they were made, I try not to have that information be what is important.
Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, it is where I’ve lived most of my life (a short stint in Delaware being the only exception). It is a state with a good deal of natural area, especially woods. So come fall, I believe Pennsylvania can hold its own for color and splendor against any state.
This image was made near Ricketts Glen State Park, a favorite location of mine. I drove past this stand of Birch and two miles on had to turn around and give it some attention. As soon as I past it my mind began to work out images so that there was no choice. I was working that day with some light gear, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8. This is my choice of format when I really don’t want the tools to get in the way.
It is not uncommon for artists who work in any medium, to reconsider, reimagine, reevaluate, and/or rework, an older art piece. I’ve had time over the last year to fully explore images in my oeuvre. I think this kind of self-reflection is important for artists. Evaluating previous work gives an artist a way of tracking their growth. But it also allows for making changes that better represent their present esthetic, take advantage of new skills, new philosophies, changes in experience. And frankly, it’s just plain fun to do.
The image accompanying this post was made with an earlier digital camera and before I had established a work flow that I was really comfortable with. Move forward to the present and I have developed a number of new skills which allow for me to develop this image to my evolved tastes and address technical challenges more fully. Most importantly, I have a stronger style, and more developed sense of likes. Also, I have years more time looking at art, the world, and my own work. I see things differently both figuratively and literally.
One of the things about this image that really jumped out at me this time is how much the grasses on the left mirror the shape and form of the dragonfly on the right. Was that something I realized subconsciously when I originally made the image? Maybe. But now it’s very apparent to me and has really enhanced my appreciation for the picture. It is only one example of many in which I have made a new discovery in my own work.
I find myself drawn to ice in a way that is similar to my attraction to art-glass. There are many elements to ice that make it fun to work with. The natural forms it develops as a result of melting, wind, and other physical forces, is wonderful. The way ice reflects, refracts, and otherwise transforms light, is a never ending inspiration.
When exploring icicles visually, I look at form and light, but also background. Backgrounds are key to me in much of my work and as icicles are transparent, or at least translucent, the background becomes an even bigger consideration.
In this image I found myself annoyed by a distraction in the background. I had become very attracted to the form of two icicles hanging from our milk house roof, but there was a car in the way. Since I could approach these icicles closely, my first thought was to use a macro lens, but that stupid car…….
Then I thought about turning that problematic background into an esthetic solution. I changed lenses to a long telephoto and backed up. With my Olympus 100-400mm set at 400mm (equiv. of 800mm), I was able to isolate the icicles and also diffuse the background to just tones of color. The 800mm equivalent focal length allowed me to select the background precisely, and draw it forward into the image. The blue-gray color is from the body of a Toyota Odyssey, and the red is from the taillight.
When making any image, I am consciously and also subconsciously aware of my surroundings and how they make me feel. This means that there are many forces at work which impact the way I make an image. All of the sensations I experience in the moment play a roll in how I represent my world visually. Spring is a rather overwhelming time of year. There is so much life bursting forward! There is so much color and song and new found warmth. It all becomes part of a highly sensual, highly emotive, and highly stimulating event.
This image was made in a garden in Colonial Williamsburg, a location where my wife and I exhibit our art during the spring. We use the trip as a way to connect with our fans in Virginia and to create new works about the joyfulness of the season of regeneration.
All of the sensations I experience in the moment play a roll in how I represent my world visually.
For this image I was using a very odd lens not made for photography. It is actually a movie projector lens which I purchased from a Russian metalsmith in the Bronx who makes adapters for these types of “alternative” lenses. I incorporate the effect this lens allows me to create with my personal esthetic in order to create differently expressive images. I can see, and therefore control, the effect through the viewfinder which allows me to have a new experience while creating. That really is a main point to the art for me – new experiences.
“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.
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
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.
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.