It’s never easy to narrow down a season’s worth of images to just five, but here are the five that either I liked the best, or that you liked the best, taking Google Analytics stats into account. Most of them came from Grand Teton National Park, with the exception being the grizzly bear with four cubs up in Yellowstone National Park. Now that the crowds are dying down as well, I’m thinking about heading back up there and seeing if I can find them one more time before they head in for the winter. All of these shots were the ones that had both sentimental value for me, as well as creating a striking image that created a great response. Some were simply being in the right place at the right time, others took a bit of extra work to be able to capture properly. I was at more of a disadvantage than normal throughout the course of the season, leaving me struggling to capture all the shots I actually wanted to get.
When my colleagues Charlie Jones and Ralph Petty decided to create a book together, I knew immediately I wanted to be involved somehow. Not that I’m a workaholic or anything, but I knew it was sure to involve 1- TRAVEL; 2- ART; 3 – GREAT FOOD; and of course 4– LOTS OF SERIOUS FUN. When I asked Charlie to include me (WILL WORK FOR LAUGHS!) he cheerfully obliged.
Charlie Jones is our local Renaissance man. He is a Regents Professor of Art in Printmaking at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, with a very impressive international exhibition record. Currently he has numerous works on show at universities and museums in Russia. In addition to all that, he is an accomplished musician, so anywhere you go with Charlie, there will be music! Oh yeah – and PUNS – lots of groaners! In fact, here he is at the HARD ROCK CAFÉ, JAUJAC, FRANCE:
Ralph Petty is Professor of Art and Gallery Curator at the American University in Paris, France. He too has an impressive record of exhibitions, most recently having shown his work in Japan. He too is an accomplished musician. Put these two guys together and VOILA – PARTY! Seriously, I don’t know whether to say they work hard having fun, or that they have fun working hard. Let’s just say it’s a challenge to keep up, but too much fun to miss!
RALPH IN CENTER, LEADING THE TREK
This wonderful book project is a combination of poetry and prints by both artists. Ralph’s strong suit is his celebration of the vitality of the human figure, especially female, in drawings and paintings. He has worked for many years from the live model, and has also written a number of poems and songs, many of which have been recorded. Charlie too has worked with the human figure, and has produced limited editions of original artists’ books from his home studio, Carizzo Creek Press, and from the Lanana Creek Press which he established at SFASU. Their joint project is a limited edition of 40, with half the edition to go to the American University in Paris, and the other half to remain at SFASU.
Ralph and Charlie spent many months corresponding and collaborating to produce the finished publication, and Charlie set it to press at the Lanana Creek Press with help from his assistant Terri L. Goggans.
Our task this summer in France was to take the bound signatures of the book to Jaujac where Ralph and his wife Lisa Davidson, writer, have an enchanting ancient farm house in the mountains of the Ardeche. Here we would bind the signatures and leave them for Ralph to take back to AUP for the collection there.
Before the pages made their journey to France, in Nacogdoches Charlie and crew (Corinne Jones and Maggi Battalino, both artists) sewed the signatures and prepared them for binding.
Here Charlie punches holes in the signature folds using a precise needle punch that he made to measure for this project.
Once all signatures are punched, they can be sewn into what is called the Text Block.
Here I am (Robbie) sewing signatures in Nacogdoches for the SFA portion of the edition. Thanks to Michael N. Roach for these photos of me.
Simple sewing instructions for hand binding books can be found on Philobiblon.com. and in many books on handbinding.
Thread must sometimes be added to finish the set of signatures. A simple knot at the spine does the trick.
AND VOILA! THE SIGNATURES HAVE MADE THEIR WAY TO JAUJAC!
This absolutely beautiful location in the south of France is what Ralph refers to as “My Paradise!” We can see why!
Photo caption: Corinne and Robbie @ morning coffee – what a view!
It’s so easy to work in an environment like this. Each one of us, Charlie, Ralph, Corinne, Maggi and myself, will design our own personal cover for our own copies of the book, our reward for helping with the “labor”. Charlie first experimented with a bookcloth inlay design.
We all enjoyed this creative time, loosening up the right brain cells.
Maggi works away on her personal cover design.
Corinne works on hers, while my design sits to her right.
Robbie’s finished cover design for the book.
Ralph’s will become the design for the full edition to be housed at AUP.
FIRST STEP IN THE BINDING PROCESS– make Headbands for the signatures. This is very simply accomplished by taking heavy twine and wrapping it with glued strips of book cloth of your chosen color. If you sew, you know what piping is. That’s what you are making. A small tab of headband material glued at the Head and at the Tail of the Text Block will give a nicely finished look to the final product.
This is the title page of the text block.
While the glue dries, Corinne enjoys reading the poetry and savoring the prints.
The Colophon at the end of the text block gives all copyright information, and does so with grace.
STEP TWO – Time to glue on the MULL. This is a strip of gauze, fine paper or other material. Glued to the spine of the sewn signatures, it gives added support and strength to the Text Block.
Corinne preps a Text Block to receive the glued Mull.
Ralph smooths out the glued mull along the spine.
Corinne glues a Headband before attaching it to the Text Block. This may be done before or after gluing the Mull. If a long Mull is used, this should be done first.
STEP THREE –The Text Block size determines the size of cover boards, as well as the book cloth needed to cover them. Book cloth should be cut to leave at least ½ inch on all sides around the blocks and spine. Charlie measures carefully where his pre-cut Davey Board will be placed to be glued to the book cloth he has cut for the covers. He glues a Spine Support in the center of the cloth to guide him as he lines up the boards he will glue down
STEP FOUR – Gluing boards with PVA glue or Methyl Cellulose.
CAREFULLY line up the boards to your measurement marks and press.
Both boards are now glued down.
Time to turn over the cover and smooth it out before the glue dries.
Corinne smooths the cover with wax paper. Glassine also works nicely for this.
STEP FIVE – Trim the corners of the bookcloth so that enough is still in place to cover the actual corner of the Davey Board when edges are turned up and glued. Do not cut right against the board itself. Leave at least the thickness of the board in the amount of cloth extending from the corner. This will fold up and cover the corner nicely when you glue up the side flaps.
Now you are ready to glue up your edges. Apply glue and starting from the spine, turn up the edges and smooth with a Bone Folder. Once all this is accomplished, the covers should be stacked with wax paper between each one, and left under a heavy weight to dry, overnight if possible.
Next will be the task of setting the Text Blocks into the covers. That’s another article!
TIME FOR A BREAK – on the river in Jauac, and at Ralph’s after dinner.
Developing for the iPhone is a bit of a shift for me; in more ways than one. I spent ten years climbing the career ladder towards bigger projects, bigger budget titles, bigger studios, etc. But when I found myself taking leave of the million dollar projects and high profile studios and joining up with a little 3 man startup iPhone app company, I had no idea the very next rungs on the ladder would be some of the most challenging and rewarding of my career.
Now just before I had gone to id Software in Dallas, in the week I had free after leaving Midway Studios Austin, I had agreed to help my friend Jeremy Howa do a little iPhone game for his pre-startup company. I believe they were working at the boss’s upstairs pool table at the time I pitched in and helped them out by doing the artwork. I also named the game, “TriniTower;” which was to become somewhat of a recurring task.
TriniTower was a three-tower solitaire game, light in artwork, but the artwork needed to be high quality, or so I thought. I did a few mockups, and had Jeremy come over to the house and review them, and we had game design talks as we changed artwork and scope on the fly. At the time, Jeremy and I were technically the only ones on the team, as John and Brian Howard, the ones funding the project, were busy at another software design establishment. This was my first taste at iPhone development, and I was pretty lost.
Luckily, Jeremy had picked up a fresh new Mac Mini for development, and begun the painful process of converting his programming skills over to the Mac platform. I still developed artwork on a PC. The art doesn’t care where it’s made, but we had to assemble it on the Mac.
After a whirlwind week of design, art production, execution, programming and testing, we had what was a playable game, and were progressing pretty fast, when the time came for Katie and me to move to the Dallas area so I could start work at id. Jeremy and I continued work on TriniTower over high-speed Internet connection, IM, email and Skype. We would use these remote connection methods to hold meetings over the Internet. Often times we would discuss a change over Skype, I would edit the artwork, email it over to Jeremy, and he would recompile the game on his end, and hold up the iPhone to the webcam and show me how it looked, animated, etc. Rinse and repeat till we were done, and that’s how our first iPhone game was done: partly in person, partly over webcam chat, email and Instant Message.
I had definitely never developed like this before, but it wasn’t bad. Our next foray into the iPhone field was a reskin of John and Brian’s first iPhone app “PocketDyno:” an accelerometer based portable dyno app for testing your car’s speed. This time, the project was done completely over instant message chat, Skype webcam and email. I never even saw in person the project working until well after we were done with the complete artwork overhaul.
Three or four months before the first round of layoffs at Midway Austin, Jeremy was carpooling to work in the “grandma car.” This was the affectionate name of the Chrysler Jeremy picked me up in every other workday. During the ride, we’d talk about the ArduiNIX project we were toying with, along with a stack of half- baked game ideas. One such game idea that so persistently occupying the conversations I finally dubbed “Dungeon Defense.”
DD was an absolutely elegant concept. The tower defense genre was at its height of popularity at the time, as was World of Warcraft®. Jeremy and I had talked about a fantasy style game that would generate random dungeons, and be kind of like a Diablo clone for the iPhone, but for the iPhone, the game concept had to be scoped way down. There was no way we could have pulled off the amount of content required to do that kind of game justice. It was at that point we came up with the idea of flipping the concept of a “dungeon crawler” game upside down by framing the player as the dungeon. Instead of the player venturing forth and fighting monsters for loot and exploring dungeons, in DD you WERE the dungeon, defending your loot and treasure from invading heroes who want to defeat you.. This idea became more attractive as we realized we could scope it down justifiably, and introduce elements of the tower defense genre as well, by creating a game that everyone can relate to in its setting, but a new twist on how you play it. It was truly novel, and doable on the iPhone platform. When Jeremy told me one day they were doing DD, I had a moment of sadness that I wasn’t there to contribute.
By this time, I was growing very weary of the daily 2 hour commute to id, and with a few other compelling reasons to head back to Austin, I had begun talking to Jeremy about if they needed an artist for the freshly minted InMotion Software studio. My friend Marshall Womack had been filling the artist duties for some time, but was about to head over to Twisted Pixel to work on Splosion Man for XBOX. A quick phone call to John Howard one evening after work, and it was set. After 7 months at one of the best and most respected game companies in history, I would turn in my two weeks notice at id, and Katie and I would move back to Austin.
I came on board with InMotion halfway through DD Development. It was odd being in a studio full of MacBooks, Mac Minis, etc. InMotion had definitely grown since the boss’s pool table. Everyone was going through the same pains of adapting to Mac except for me, who was still cranking out artwork on the PC.
After Dungeon Defense had mild initial success, we made two more add on campaigns, when sales of DD began to slip, and as a team we decided to take a breather before moving on to the next tower defense style game. The short “two-week” project Jeremy suggested in a moment of brilliance was a dig dug/motherlode style game where you dig up treasure, sell it for upgrades, and return to the deep to hunt for more treasure.
I took this opportunity to put on my naming hat again and I called it “I Dig It.” The name was at first scowled at; and other names suggested, but I stuck to my guns. I Dig It was not only WHAT you did in the game, but also a subtle forced declaration of how you felt about it. A positive review spun right into the very name of the game. How could it go wrong? You couldn’t say the name of the game without also telling people you liked it at the same time. It even had the letter “I” in it, which had already become so cliché in the iTunes store that anytime we saw a new app like iLawnmower, we cringed. But I Dig It? That wasn’t bad.
The two-week project began with only Jeremy and me working on the tech and concept. I started feeding Jeremy artwork, and he plugged it in very quickly. By the end of two weeks we had the tech demo working, but no real game. As we realized this might be a larger project, Brian finalized work on the Dungeon Defense updates and switched over to I Dig It. Now I like having artistic control on a project, but I had never been the ONLY artist on a team that had actually done anything this big with so few people. At that time, the InMotion team consisted of Jeremy and Brian, the programmers; me the artist; and Johnny “Cash” Howard, who was the funding behind this endeavor. The problem with a game team that is structured that way was that we would take the entire team down for design discussions. We had no full time game designer on staff, so it took all of us at once to hammer out the mechanics of the gameplay. About three quarters of the way through I Dig It Development, we got the bright idea to hire a designer. We put out a call to Chris “Cookie” Graham as he was parting company with FizzFactor downtown. Cookie had worked with Jeremy and I at Midway, and we knew he could handle the job. As Cookie came on board, we saw instant productivity benefits, as the programmers could focus on the tech, and Cookie delivered on the fun.
When we wrapped up I Dig It, and released it, we realized a few things about Apple, iPhone development, and marketing an indie game. With Jeremy and I used to being at gigantic game studios that have people on staff to take care of marketing and promotion, we had never sat down and thought about how to promote our iPhone games. When we released TriniTower, we just kind of patted it on the back and tossed it to the wind, hoping someone would see it, like it, and buy it. With Dungeon Defense, and a great deal more time and money invested, we had a bit of a different expectation on the return on investment of development. However, we still had no real knowledge of how to promote our game, since other people had always been tasked to do that before. A break came when a Google search turned up an iPhone game review site called Touch Arcade that had a forum member post a positive review of Dungeon Defense almost the day it came out. This led us to start working the forums, watering the grassroots marketing effort that we were beginning to recognize and cultivate. Had we known about Touch Arcade and similar sites when we released TriniTower, or hyped Dungeon Defense pre release on such sites, we would have stood a greater chance at success.
Now when the light at the end of the tunnel started to break its twinkly self through the darkness of project development, we realized we had to learn our marketing lessons and learn them fast. We had a great deal more money and time invested in I Dig It than we had planned for, and we actually were hoping to turn a profit at this iPhone game biz.
So we set out to light a fire under every media contact, every forum, and every possible method of getting the word out that we had a good game, and it was for sale. We wrapped up the game in its current state, and sent it off to Apple. Then the waiting began. At this point in the process, you’re pretty much completely at Apple’s whim. They approve the application, or don’t. They promote the application, or don’t. With thousands of apps hitting the store every week, if you don’t catch the attention of someone at Apple, you get buried. And that’s right where we were.
Sales were not dismal, but they were not reflective of the quality we thought we had invested in this game. We began entertaining the idea of becoming a non-game studio, app a day, lower production value apps or games. We were considering just trying to “make it up in volume” when we started getting good word from people on the forums. What really started turning us around was word from one post that said our game was being passed around the Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference like the “swine flu.” A day later, we got an email from Apple. To paraphrase, it amounted to “Dear InMotion, we love your app. We would like the artwork and materials needed in order to do a possible feature on you in the iTunes store.”
I cranked out the artwork and sent it to them, only to hear nothing.
It was like we were beating our fist against the monolith that was Apple, and they were not shedding any love for our “out of nowhere” studio. Meanwhile lesser quality titles from studios that have more intimate connections with apple got featured left and right. We went back to Dungeon Defense, what we thought was our tried and true Intellectual Property, and began cranking on a new map expansion in an attempt to boost sales of that title.
Then Touch Arcade did a front-page feature and review on their site praising I Dig It. At this point, we dropped the price to $0.99 in an attempt to get I Dig It into the top 100 games, which was our goal. It got there, and kept going. As soon as it started catching the attention of iPhone gamers, we got word from friends abroad that it was climbing the charts at a blistering pace in Canada, Japan, Russia and other countries. However, in the US we were nowhere. Apple wouldn’t feature us like they said they would, and we were beginning to hound our one contact at Apple to find out why. Finally, the price drop to $0.99, coupled with a hailstorm of forum posts, podcast reviews, and other efforts began to push I Dig It up the US Charts. Slowly at first, but then every day it was up a notch. Then up several places in the list, then finally after what seemed like months, we broke the top 100 paid games, then top 100 paid Apps, then we really started shooting up the lists. By the time Apple finally decided to do a feature on I Dig It, we were the #9 top paid app in the country. We sat around the studio watching in disbelief the Thursday I Dig It hit the #1 Top paid app in the world, displacing the Moron Test. It stayed at that level for about 6 days, and we started rolling the updates to keep it as fresh as possible and delay the slow retreat down the charts.
This experience has been truly unique in my career. While working on big budget titles I never saw the kind of success I have seen with this little independent title. I have never had such daunting tasks, or so much fun and satisfaction. I have never had to strain my talents to the breaking point so much, yet have never been rewarded for doing so to this extent. We’re working on the sequel to I Dig It now, and hopefully we have learned enough to repeat our success. Dealing with this side of Apple takes some getting used to. We have to learn how to work the system, but it’s a load of fun getting there. You might say I dig it. And yes, I still make art on a PC.
What are the most important lessons you have learned about being an artist and selling your work?
I have learned that creating and selling your own artwork as an independent, self-representing artist is truly a 24/7 job. I am constantly working…..whether it be creating new works, chatting about the newest pieces online, updating blogs and online listings or simply daydreaminga about the next painting, I seem to always be thinking ‘art’. I would imagine that other artists feel the same way about constantly ‘bringing our work home with us’ and never really feel like we take a day off. So, in this way, being an artist is truly a full-time job….but I can’t complain as it really is a dream job when you get to create and sell works that are borne from your imagination.
What advice would you give to other artists?
Persevere…even in the slowest and darkest times. If you love what you do and the work makes you happy, it will likely bring joy to other people as well. The business cycle can get frustrating…especially in the slowest of times…. but continue to create according to your passion, and eventually the market will upswing again. Continue to learn from the world and people around you and this will help you grow both in your art and your business.
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What mediums have you worked in and which is your favorite?
I am a contemporary artist working primarily with acrylics on canvas. I occasionally dabble in pastels and oils. I love working in mixed media and often add gritty, grainy textures to my paint. I’ve also created paintings using layers of newspaper, paper towels, tissues, string, dried flowers, leaves and more to add extra texture and dimension to the painting. I sometimes work on wood, but generally use stretched canvas. I’m in the process of learning silk-screening and hope to ‘pull’ my own prints. I have also worked in digital painting and creating images as scalable vector graphics.
How did you get started?
I have been creating art for friends and as gifts for several decades, but I started selling my artwork as a business about 10 years. It began as a part-time passion while I was working on my dissertation in Economics at the University of Virginia. I still use a lot of my economics background on the business side of my art career, but my creative side won out and I starting selling my artwork full-time in early 2000. I am not formally trained in art. I took one class in high-school and one elective class in college. I recall several of the projects that I made in these two classes and I know that they have fueled my passion to continue to learn and grow as an artist.
Who has influenced/inspired your art work?
Friends, family and other artists have all played an integral role in influencing my artistic visions and enthusiasm for ‘all things art’. My parents are both incredibly talented and I know that they have directly influenced my love for the arts. More recently, I’ve met several new artists online through various social networks and I’m enjoying learning how to use the new venues to expand the reach of my art to new audiences. I’ve also recently approached other artists and photographers to work on collaborative projects. It’s a fun way for artists to share their talents and create an image that embodies their various interests or styles. That’s how the “Spirit of Autumn Fire” image (with Lyse Marion) came about. As for master artists, I love the works of Picasso, Gris, Matisse, Frank Lloyd Wright, Rothko, Dali among many others.
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Tell us about your marketing journey. How did you start?
My online marketing journey started in 1999 using a personal website and the auction site eBay. I sold on eBay for several years and then started cross-listing items on alternative auction sites and various online venues. Most recently, I created online stores at Etsy and on 1000Markets . I have designs at Cafepress and I have images uploaded at ImageKind and ArtistRising that offer giclee and canvas prints of some of my work.
In addition to selling online, I also sell directly from my studio and at various local art/craft shows. I also have several pieces in local galleries, shops and restaurants. A few designs are sold at Art.com and AllPosters.com as well.
Do you use Social media online alone or do you combine it with off-line efforts?
I use Facebook and Twitter to keep connected with my buyers and new fans of my work. I tie these in with my online blog and current art listings. I love the quick access that Twitter and Facebook provides to individuals who share similar interests and passions.
What has been the reaction to your making your work available in non-traditional ways, like mugs, jewelry etc?
I have recently made my artwork available in more non-traditional forms like ceramic tiles and handcrafted jewelry. I enjoy offering these smaller versions of the artwork, especially at local art/craft shows as they are easier for folks to purchase and carry with them. I believe that having a wide-range of prices in your inventory allows buyers to work within their budget. I’m not sure they these new items have directly affected the sales of my regular prints and originals, but I would imagine that it brings new buyers who might otherwise not see my work. Plus, I enjoy being able to offer more wearable and versatile ways to display my artwork.
Where do most of your sales come from?
The majority of my sales come from eBay, etsy and from local art/craft shows. I would love to be able to branch out and create a wholesale business for my images. This is something that I am considering as a business expansion in 2009.
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Jane Campbel is a Folk Artist liveing in Northern California right in the heart of Gold Country. Her home is just miles from where apples are grown, wine is made & gold was first discovered. She was born in South Carolina & spent her early childhood there before moving to Japan , Arizona & finally California. Her travels add to her varied taste in art. There isn’t any style that she does’t like! I love painting angels, mermaids & mermaid angels.
Full-time contemporary folk artist, wife & mother of professional musicians and 2 spoiled poodles. After many years in the mortgage industry I found myself unemployed Nov 2007. I took this opportunity to do what I love!
My house is full of music everyday, My husband & both sons are musicians, I don’t like to eat a lot of things that start with the letter A with the exception of apples & artichokes, I love shoes but hardly wear them, I have impossible to curl blonde hair that is below my waist, I like to paint late at night, I like boating but get sea sick on the ocean, I like cats but have bad luck when it comes to owning them, I appreciate gardens but hate to garden, mustard yellow is one of my favorite colors, I am basically a shy person but I can hide it well, I am legally blind in my left eye, I would like to have a gypsy wagon, I do henna tattoos, I have lived in a house with ghosts, I used to catch & collect dragonflies when I was a kid, my friends and family call me Jana.
My art is inspired by sweet things in my life, my loving family , my friends and sometimes by my goofy sense of humor. My life is filled with music, artful things & loving people. I have enjoyed painting for 37 yrs. I am basically self taught but have studied art on my own & taken classes. After losing my job in the mortgage industry I decided to devote myself to my art.
In addition to my love for painting, I am a crafter. I learned to crochet at age 7. I was mesmerized by Japanese sparkly yarn! This was the beginning of a lifetime of crafting! I enjoy crochet, knitting, sewing, embroidery & other needlework, perfume making, cake decorating, wood crafts, clay work & decorative painting. So in addition to my paintings you never know what you might find here!I am a member of the Folk Art Society of America & Swell Sister Society, a new group of Sacramento women artists. **I’m also a member of the Etsy CAST Team
My art has been sold all over the US and internationally.
Marco Fuoco Gallery, Sacramento, CA June 09
Cafe Refugio, Sacramento, CA Feb 09
Tangent Gallery, Sacramento, CA Nov 08
Marco Fuoco Gallery, Sacramento, CA Nov 08
Coffee Garden, Sacramento, CA Dec 08
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Kristen Stein is a Contemporary Artist living in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania. Kristen’s works are currently available on a variety of online venues, or through her websites StudioArtworks.com and KristensCreations.com. Kristen’s paintings are in public and private collections within Australia, Canada, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, and throughout the continental United States.
Her art was featured in a special 2002 calendar in tribute to September 11th. Her cubist work appeared in promotional logos for the Ferndale Fine Art Show and appeared on the cover of the Allied Social Science Association’s annual meetings. Her whimsical art appeared on the cover of the Bulldog Club of Greater Seattle’s 2002 Specialty Show.
Her painting “The Birth of Venus 2002″ won first place in a themed contest held by the emerging artists group “ESR@”.
Her painting “The Jazz Club” appeared on the American Economic Associations Annual Meetings in January 2008.
Kristen is the author/illustrator of the “The Vegetarian Lion” and the author of “Kristen Stein Contemporary Paintings”. She is also the illustrator of “Stacey McDuver’s House”. Kristen’s work will appear at the Straube Art Center during the Winter Fine Art Show in January – February 2009.
Current Exhibitions in Pennsylvania:
Comcast Center, Philadelphia
Square Peg Artery, Philadelphia
Mew Gallery, Philadelphia
Curiousity Shoppe, Philadelphia
Moderne Life Interiors, Jenkintown
Catcha Break Café, Abington
Zero Gravity Dance Studios, Elkins Park
Picasso Restaurant, Media
Heritage Art Gallery, June 2009(Ohio)
Island Time Gallery, June 2009 (Ohio)
Bambi Gallery , June 2009 (PA)
Arts in the Park June 2009 (PA)
Mendez Homes September 2009 (PA)
Christy DeKoning grew up in Sydney, Australia. With formal training in singing and classical ballet, Christy worked as a vocalist on the Vancouver music scene in the early 90’s, and then as a Certified Makeup Artist for several years before finally concentrating her career in Fine Arts.
In the past several years, Christy has completed over 200 commissioned watercolor portraits for clients worldwide. Christy now lives in Southwestern Ontario, Canada with her husband, two sons, two cats and a backyard full of squirrels (but no mice!).
Her artwork has been featured in ACEO Magazine, and on Boundless Gallery. You can also view Christy’s work at ArtFire, Flikr, Facebook and IndiePublic!
Christy started drawing portraits in graphite, and had painted in acrylic with not much success before trying my hand at watercolor – it’s been her favorite medium since, and now that she has a certain familiarity with it, a comfort level if you will, she is working at improving my techniques with watercolor instead of dabbling with other mediums.
She has always drawn people, for as long as she can remember. Eventually people started asking her to paint portraits of their
houses, family members, pets…the business just grew from word-of-mouth.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from several artists, mostly contemporary. Artis Lane has been a great source of inspiration for me. Margaret M. Martin was my first “favorite watercolor artist” because her paintings were so colorful and dynamic.
How has your art evolved over time?
I feel my portraits have become “cleaner” since I started using watercolor. I’ve learned how to use color in different ways, and now I can keep a portrait fresh and clean from the start to finish, whereas when I started – it got a little muddy from over-working or choosing the wrong colors.
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- Featured Artist: Robin Pedrero I respond
In the beginning, there was light, and we captured it with film. Next came digital cameras, and then came the Lensbaby. Created by professional photographer Craig Strong, the Lensbaby has had an impact on photographers, and their ideas and images. Craig is a photographer turned inventor… his love for photography started at an early age, and after college he went pro, working as a photojournalist. He also had a steady business shooting weddings and portraits. I recently had a chance to interview Craig for our Digitalapplejuice readers. This is the second part of the interview, read Part 1 of this Interview here….
Britt: Speaking of going down the road and what you’re doing now, what kind of a personal project are you working on currently?
Craig: Well, I’m working on a project that I started in 1995. There’s a couple of wonderful, salt of the earth people that I know, Bert and Colleen Elliot who live down in Trujillo, Peru. They have been there for sixty years serving the people of Peru. I spent about eight or nine days with them in ’95. Right out of college Bert and Coleen got married, got on a boat and went down to Peru, and they’ve been there ever since, doing humanitarian aid, doing Christian work. They’ve started a couple schools, they’ve helped about a hundred or more communities to develop thriving, healthy places for people to live, and communities for people to plug into. Peru has been a war-torn nation for many many years and they’ve been through a lot of that, giving a lot of strength to those people. They are in their late eighties now and I look forward to continuing that project. I hope to going back down and spending some time with them. I’ve got a lot of chromes that I’ve shot of them that I look forward to going back through when I feel like I’ve got what I need and combining it with the digital stuff that I’m shooting now to document their lives. They’re really beautiful people.
Britt: That’s great. On your website there is a phrase that I really like, you talk about “feeding your soul” – is that how you feed your soul?
Craig: Yeah, it is, and it doesn’t happen enough. Being the president of Lensbaby I spend a good portion of my time working on solving problems, and that’s great and to some extent can feed my soul. But certainly it’s close to my heart to be out and documenting the lives of people who I really believe in who they are and what they’re doing. I look forward to more of that.
Britt: I’m just curious, when you’re wandering around the world, what triggers your mind and gives you an idea for a photo? Is there a special place in your brain where you go to get ideas for creative photos or do you have a creative process, or is it all gut instinct?
Craig: I would say that the creative process I have is really clearing my mind. I find that I am most effective, whether it’s at a wedding or doing street photography or on an assignment, when I’m able to be fully introverted, fully in a zen-like state where I am able to observe the world around me and really take it through the filter of who I am and what matters to me. It’s really important to know, critical to answer the question what do I care about, what matters to me? What changes is the the answer to the question how do I see the things that matter to me. If its a connection between a father and son I tend to gravitate to those moments.
There’s so many moments in life to choose from, especially at events and weddings. You walk into a reception and there’s a hundred potential moments that you could be drawn to in that scene and that situation, and so choosing and deciding ‘OK, what part of this am I going to own, what part of this am I going to document, what am I qualified to document?” If I go on a list and try to meet somebody else’s expectations of me I’m going to go in and some of the things are going to resonate with me, but the vast majority aren’t. My process is fairly quiet, where I want to be introverted, I want to be quiet, I want to be still and see what it is that hits me so that then I can really move into that space and document what matters to me.
Photographically, one of the most poignant times for me was in college. I was driving across the country having just left my father at my grandparents house in Colorado. It was an extremely cold winter and I was driving along a canyon and I thought ‘I think there is a reservoir up here, I’ll bet there’s going to be ice fishing, it’s going to be right around sunset and I want to capture the emotion between a father and son that I remember from being with my dad fishing.’ we didn’t go ice fishing but I wanted to recapture the feeling of being in the outdoors and that special time I had with my father as a child. About two hours later I’m driving along the reservoir and, sure enough, there’s people spread out all over the ice with fishing poles. I stopped my 1968 Volkswagen camper, pulled out a tripod, a Canon T-90 and a Tamron 180mm f/2.5 lens – I had to make a quick decision as the light was disappearing so I just grabbed that combo.
The T-90 was loaded with Kodachrome 25, and standing out on the ice toward the edge of those braving the sub-zero temperatures waiting for fish to bite, I zeroed in on a father and son. The mountains and the sunset were behind them, and I was able to document this very tender moment of the boy leaning back against his father as they stood beside their fishing pole in the beautiful evening light. What that really showed me, probably for the first time, was that I am filtering reality. I’m seeing the world around me through my own lens, and taking that realization and using it to my advantage has ensured that, as I go through life, I’m ready when those moments that are most important to me show themselves. Surprisingly with Kodachrome 25 and a 180mm lens at sunset I was able to get the beautifully detailed image with a one-second-long exposure of this tender moment between father and son. The process is a very quiet one for me.
Britt: I love that answer. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our DigitalAppleJuice readers. Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Craig: I would just like to reiterate that I look for new ideas in my frustration. When I’m faced with problems, that’s where I find the best ideas come to me. As unpleasant as it is to experience, for me I’ve found that frustration is essential. As the father of three young children I see them lose their wallets and they’ll just get really upset, or they’ll drop their camera and it’s not working anymore… I just want to take them and say ‘Yeah, but this means you won’t lose your wallet when it’s really got a lot of money in it, in ten, fifteen, twenty or thirty years. And this means you’re learning from this experience.’ I think there’s so many times in life when we just focus on that frustration. I know I have. Really learning for me is to say ‘Oh, I’m frustrated here, what can I learn from this?’ And how can I solve a problem being on the inventing side has really come out of that frustration. Cherishing, acknowledging and nurturing frustration has been key to discovering who I am and what it is that I want to do, to be and how I can best contribute to the world I live in.
Britt: Sounds like you have some very lucky kids. So at the end of the day, do you work on a Mac or a PC?
Craig: I work on a Mac. I don’t care to be that frustrated.
I am Here- An Austin Photographic Retrospective
This summer Austin features one of its own in a solo photographic exhibit of the current body of work of Bill Baker. The Smokin from Shootin Studio emerged onto the SoCo scene within the past year and represents an iconic series of progressive Austin images in digital.
From classic urban architecture and figurative study to natural scenery, Bill Baker’s work represents a world where futuristic hope springs out of the wreckage of industrialized technology. Described as “a way out” and “a train to everywhere” these images stand as portraits of the future eternal in a time when doubt reigns as the zeitgeist of the day.
It would be difficult for me to report objectively about this newly minted progressive archetype of an artist without coming clean: he’s my brother. But in my defense I feel that I stand not only as his biggest fan but probably his biggest critic. We are hard on each other for a reason. Caring always requires that.
Bill Baker is a force. Not just your ordinary man about town with a mission but a forward thinking rattler. He touches base with the people, artists of every type, and he understands at a very basic level what drives current expression in one of the most progressive cities on the planet. His images portray every inch of that.
Since the very time of our upbringing in a home filled with artifacts of human creativity, art absolutely everywhere, he embodied a way of seeing things for what they were and not getting caught up in social protocol of how they should be. He calls it straight. If it was a lemon, he’ll label it a lemon. If it was a priceless paramount in time and space, you’ll hear it. His body language will shoot straight out and there will be this wince that comes out of his left eye. You get the feeling when you see an image he has created that it is part of a piece of truth.
As an artist, Bill Baker is sincere – painfully so. Progressive culture needed of shot of Bill in the arm. We need someone with pointed vision to steer us clear of the fungus and the glam.
Here comes my own honesty…
One day, I received a call from Bill and it went something like this, “You know, Beck. I’m ready to shoot. What do I need?” Threw me back against a couch! Wait, wait, wait a minute Bill. I OWN that. It’s MY sport. You don’t just change family labeling at the slightest little whim. There’s a pecking order here! I’m the artist.
I’m the one- for years slid off her clothes at the slightest adrenaline thought in front of my Nikon F and a timed shutter. I printed those silver halide images by hand under my stairwell using the kitchen sink with fixer. I’m the one who dragged that Hasselblad 500C handheld through Southern Mexico for three months and threw up an exhibition in a law office by hanging wire from the ceiling rafters. I’m the one who searched mountaineering supplies like a rabid cat for a watertight bag so that I could throw my Nikon D200 in a kayak and capture abstract water and light reflections at dusk! I was a little bit put off!
It’s funny how time skews all things into familiarity. Bill grew persistent and manic about his practice of photography, technical even.
Within one year he carried around at any given time the Canon G10, Holga toy camera, Canon RXT converted to infrared, Canon RXS, my old Hasselblad 500c (with a digital back in negotiation) and one of the Fuji instant cameras, all digital. There was no stopping him.
In his own words, which are golden, he states:
“The G10 is what I carry every day now. It’s the best. I have the Hasselblad but have achieved nothing out of that soul…yet. It will become part of my workflow soon and likely, once I have the digital back it will be everything and all of what I carry on a daily basis.
I poked a hole in a body cap and put it on my best camera and walked around for a week taking digital pinhole images. I dream of having a Holga lens fitted to my Hasselblad with a digital back. How cool would that be… I love the experimental relationship that I have with my cameras. I am constantly trying to incorporate the soul of film into my digital work. There’s a film hole there that I am trying to fill without actually loading film. But truthfully I need the immediacy of the digital format. If I could put a digital back on a Brownie, I would. Having the opportunity to put a digital back on my Hasselblad would be priceless.
I use Adobe Lightroom for post-processing but have not yet used Photoshop. I haven’t found a need for Photoshop in my workflow because it would tempt me to make more changes to my images than I think I should. I want to stay as pure as I can. I missed the whole film thing but have so much respect for it that I want my images to be as real as possible. But real is relative when you’re talking about photography. You have to manipulate the image just enough to convey the moment or the feeling without running astray of reality. But sometimes I run amok and it feels good.
I know what my sister is trying to tell me. I dare you.”
When I think back now the days of photographic passion and intrigue that revolved around the silver halide of my youth, it brings me a sly grin. I remember thinking that it would be impossible for me to share this with anyone that would truly understand, not really.
I realize now that he was there all along. We share it and it exists between us.
Bill’s work can be seen at http://www.smokinfromshootin.com
In the beginning, there was light, and we captured it with film. Next came digital cameras, and then came the Lensbaby. Created by professional photographer Craig Strong, the Lensbaby has had an impact on photographers, and their ideas and images. Craig is a photographer turned inventor… his love for photography started at an early age, and after college he went pro, working as a photojournalist. He also had a steady business shooting weddings and portraits. I recently had a chance to interview Craig for our digitalapplejuice readers. Here is the first installment of two…
Britt: Photography is always evolving… today, we’re dealing with a lot of digital natives. Our kids in high school now probably never shot film. It’s interesting to me to see what kind of changes there are in an analog photographers move to digital, such as you and I have done. How do you think that is going to affect the photographers that never shot film? Do you think that will have any impact on them in the future?
Craig: Instant feedback brings with it excitement for photography. Shooting digitally is similar to us getting our images developed at the one hour lab (although I don’t think there were one hour labs when I was in ninth grade). I was taking my 35mm print film to the lab and they were doing their magic. They would take this piece of exposed film and turn it into prints and negatives. It wasn’t until college, and I started learning from people who were serious into photography, and especially newspaper photographers, it was a lot cheaper to roll your own film and develop it and print it than it was to send it out, and a lot quicker for a newspaper. It was a natural progression for me to get intimately involved in the process of photography through working in the darkroom.
The process of photography is changing to where a print comes off an inkjet printer if you’re doing it in-house or you upload the file and it comes off of a printer that prints it optically with a laser. That’s obviously very different from what you and I experienced, but the end result is potentially the exact same. I don’t think there’s a huge difference. What may happen, and I can see it to some extent with the Lensbaby, is that people are getting much more interested in the process. In the same way that my journey led me to the darkroom and staying up until 3:00 in the morning making prints, as they become more serious many photographers are spending time learning and influencing the process that had previously been out of their control. It’s bringing people to say, ‘Well, that’s great if I can do this or that in Photoshop, but how else can I do this?’
Photographers are exploring how it used to be done, what really made prints look so organic, and in answer to these questions, many of them are going back to film. They start with their 18-70 zoom and their digital SLR that they are making great photographs with. As they become more excited about it image makers are more interested in the process, whether that’s the hands-on of using a Lensbaby to control things like selective focus in ways we never could before, getting a Holga and shooting on film or actually going into a darkroom and printing. It’s a different progression. It is similar to the process we went through to learn photography but today photographers can learn the art of making great images much more quickly. They can become excellent photographers by discovering much of their photographic vision long before they need to learn the process.
Britt: I find this an interesting idea, that as a visual artist you don’t necessarily have to breathe fixer fumes to achieve a good print these days. It is an interesting concept to me thinking about the process of photography and thinking about how I do things now versus how I did things twenty years ago. In your previous statement you mentioned the Lensbaby; what made you become an inventor and create something cool like the Lensbaby?
Craig: That’s a great question. I never really saw myself doing what I’m doing now. There wasn’t a big plan for me to go off into a business other than photography. I was doing well and very happy with what I was doing as a professional photographer. Eventually, though, frustration was what made me an inventor. My most useful homemade gadget when I was shooting film was the flash diffuser I couldn’t buy that I made out of a Tupperware lid. Once that worked so well I went to Goodwill and bought every Tupperware lid I could find so I could make a better one and have a bunch of them laying around (because I would lose them all the time). The first Lensbaby came about because I liked the look of selective focus lenses but I wanted something to experiment with that didn’t cost me $1,200 for a Canon tilt/shift lens. I just wanted to make some crazy images and I have a lot more fun with things that don’t cost me so much I have to worry about them. The very first Lensbaby prototype started as an 50-year-old Speed Graphic camera that my sister bought and gave me for my birthday in the early nineties. I removed the lens from the Speed Graphic, mounted it to a short piece of shop vac (vacuum) hose, cut a hole in a body cap that the tubing snapped into and started shooting all sorts of stuff with it. I took it to weddings and photographed the wildest images I had ever created, my clients loved the photographs. It was just something to play with at the time, not anything that I considered a business, especially not to the extent that Lensbaby has become.
Britt: So now that you’re several years into making Lensbaby’s and on the second major revision (of the commercial version) and expanded the line quite a bit… what do you think about what Lensbaby’s are doing to the look of photography that you’re seeing?
Craig: The fact that people want to buy this lens seems feasible, but the enthusiasm that users have for their Lensbaby’s is far beyond my expectations. And the application that they are making of this lens to just about any subject matter really blows my mind. Honestly I’m much more impressed with the photographers who’ve found such impressive and unique ways to use this funky tool than I am with the Lensbaby itself. I’m really excited about people trying new things. The willingness to try new things, coupled with frustration, has changed my career, changed the way I look at life. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen. I think it is inherent in the fact that so many photographers, like you said, a lot of them, even many of the professionals, have never shot film. Everything they’ve done in photography has been brand new for them in the last several years. Lensbaby lenses are just one more aspect of that. Photographs that people have created with Lensbaby lenses just blow me away time and again. Much of my amazement with these images has been because they are far beyond anything I would have imagined using the Lensbaby for.
We came out with the Pinhole/Zone Plate optic for the Optic Swap System and it replaces your glass (the Composer comes with the double glass) and you just swap it out for the Pinhole/Zone Plate cup. The Zone Plate was a last minute addition to our system. Shawn Linehan whom we work with and does fantastic graphic design suggested the zone plate as one of the options for the optic swap system and I looked into it. I had no idea what it was. The zone plate is by far my favorite Lensbaby optic now. I’m seeing completely differently than I ever did because this is a new tool that interprets light and subject matter and detail and, well, everything in a way I never could have imagined. I’m putting this on my camera and I’m seeing things, I’m looking at the world saying, ‘here’s an image that I never would have seen before’ because of this tool that I’ve got on my camera.
Someone picking up a Lensbaby for the first time often experiences a ‘Wow!’ moment when they realize that they can create images of completely different subject matters than they’ve photographed before. It’s important to find a way to apply new tools to the subject matter you’ve always photographed. In addition, photographers can broaden their horizons with the kind of pictures and the kind of subject matter they choose with these new tools, be it fisheye lenses, Lensbaby lenses, tilt/shift lenses or Holgas. Each one of these non-traditional tools has a resonance, a spot where they really fit into someone’s style and the way they see the world. I’m excited to see people trying something new and finding that place where it resonates with their personal vision.
Britt: When digital started coming into the photography scene, I thought it would be a long time before digital eclipsed film and analog style photography. Every few months it seems we see a new digital SLR with more features and more megapixels. Where do you see digital photography and photography in general going over the next ten years?
Craig: It’s funny you say that, because about two weeks before I ordered my first digital SLR someone came up to me at a wedding and asked ‘So, do you have a digital camera? I said ‘Nah, that doesn’t really apply to what I do, (I knew there were professional cameras out there but they cost $15,000 or $20,000 dollars for the SLR’s), maybe I’ll get one in 10 or 15 years.’ at that point film was really required for the kind of photography I made my money with. Two weeks later I had just found DPReview out of the blue, I think I actually did a search because I heard someone saying ‘Canon’s coming out with this digital SLR’ for $3,000 or $2,000 I don’t even remember what it was, but it was the D30 that can print film-quality 11×14’s. And I went ‘What? That’s not possible.’ And so I went looking and I think I was the second person on the list at Pro Photo Supply (www.prophotosupply.com) here in Portland. I picked up that Canon D30 the day the first shipment arrived; it changed my career, it changed my photography.
And obviously the Lensbaby came out of that because I wouldn’t have done all of the necessary experimentation to come up with the Lensbaby had I been shooting exclusively with a film SLR. I had not experimented much with photographic techniques since I was in college. I had a developed very comfortable vision, something that I was comfortable with, of what photography was, how I used it, what my role as a documentary photographer was, and I didn’t really see a need to try a whole lot of new things. I had my three prime lenses and a couple of zooms and that’s what I needed, just as long as my camera bodies worked. Once I got the D30 I immediately started trying new things, and my vision started to change, and as far as my personal artistic vision (and I’m getting older so my vision changes anyhow), but the excitement for photography came back and I felt like I was in college again where I was trying something new and trying to get my mind around paradigms that I’d never understood before.
I’m rambling here, but I’d have to say based on having told someone that digital photography wasn’t for me and then two weeks later ordering my first dSLR I am looking forward to being surprised by the future of photography in this digital era. Things are changing so much… you look at that D30 and in two weeks my paradigm shifted from being ten to fifteen years before I get a digital camera to two weeks later putting one on order. There are a lot more of those kind of innovations and changes to come in this industry, thats the world we live in right now. Things are changing. Paradigms are shifting, there’s a lot of technology that hasn’t been fully utilized that’s maybe just in the mind of the inventory right now that I think is really going to dramatically affect photography. It’s going to affect how we see the world, and it’s going to affect the images we create. I can’t really guess; I’ve got some things in my engineering notebook but I wouldn’t say those are going to categorically change anything.
I am excited about the stuff that is out there that will be changing how I see the world, the tools that I have in my hands. On the other hand, I know that I have a digital SLR in the (Nikon) D300 that’s able to keep me happy as a clam with more than enough features for me to play with and to figure out, for the rest of my life. With what I’ve done thus far I’ve decided that I have a camera which is all I need. I’m sure that when the D800 or whatever comes out with the full-frame (sensor) and the HD video, and hopefully it’ll have some other features, because I don’t think the HD video is something I have the time to work with right now, but there will still be something that entices me to do an upgrade. But at the same time, I am still photographer, I have the tool I need that potentially I could create and continue to grow with for the rest of my life. There’s a real dichotomy there too, ‘cause while I have everything I need, I know there’s going to be something else that’s going to bring me along, and get me excited down the road, and I have no idea what that is.