I got an interesting e-mail today… a promotion e-mail from an architectural photographer named Dan Poyourow (www.danpoyourow.com).
Dan is based in Maryland, and his work is well worth looking at. At the bottom of his e-mail, he included this tidbit…
“Photography thought for the week:
Contrary to what some creatives may tell you; shooting digital and reading a book on Adobe Photoshop does not make someone a professional photographer. There is still no substitute for experience, proper lighting techniques, good composition and all the other skills pro photographers use/used when shooting film. Digital is simply a new way to record the image; not an end in itself.”
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.
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
While laid up with the flu and not venturing outdoors in the cold, I decided to reread one of my favorite authors. Scott McCloud is a literate cartoonist who has produced three of the most analytical and concise looks at comics as art in our society. His UNDERSTANDING COMICS—THE INVISIBLE ART in 1993, REINVENTING COMICS—HOW IMAGINATION AND TECHNOLOGY ARE REVOLUTIONIZING AN ART FORM, in 2000, and MAKING COMICS in 2006 give an incredibly articulate voice to the communication process as it is used by the story-telling industry.
SCOTT MCCLOUD’S IMAGE QUESTIONS
Scott McCloud begins with Clarity and Communication as the primary goals of the artist and how we get there is defined under five areas he wants us to look at. While he aims his analytic eye at the comic book, I have found that the first three of his five aspects of story-telling apply to the photographer in every sense of the word.
When a photographer gets ready to take an image he or she should ask themselves, "What do I have in Mind?" That’s where the process and the experience should begin.
CHOICE OF MOMENT?
I know when I do a photographic student portfolio review that the first thing that comes to mind are questions to the student, "Why did you choose this moment to shoot the picture?" What is it about this moment that made you snap the shutter? What are you trying to say? What message are you trying to convey or capture? There’s even more to this first question and we haven’t gotten to design aesthetics quite yet, but let’s go ahead and look at the second aspect Scott McCloud mentions, and ask the student even more.
CHOICE OF FRAME?
What made you choose the edges of this picture in this way? What drove the composition to look like this and what made you choose this lens focal length and particular depth of field to produce the window that encloses the composition and the depth of sharpness in the image? The artist chooses to draw the image within a window that establishes either a wide angle scene-setting view, a mid-range view, or a close-up of detail, and somehow all of these are story-telling views. Granted, each of these images should be necessary to the story-telling process and they are part of a greater group or sequence of images, but each one should be necessary.
CHOICE OF IMAGE?
Finally, I ask the student a question related to the first one. Why this Choice of Image? Digital is cheap, the photographer can shoot literally hundreds of images (usually, with a subject with fast-breaking news being an exception). This is when I want them to talk to me about aesthetics and design. This is when all of those words like line, shape, form, texture, space, balance, continuity, emphasis, and unity (plus a few others) are all supposed to come out. Now usually, this is what I hear when I talk about Choice of Moment in the beginning. But choice of moment goes back to the question of simply "What is the statement you are trying to make with this photograph?" Frame and Design Aesthetics are HOW you achieve the STATEMENT, not WHAT you are saying.
Put it another way, Scott McCloud is more subtle is his questing, but I simply want to ask the student "Where’s the hook? What is it about this image that makes you want to capture and to save it?" The Photojournalist can answer this one a lot quicker than the Fine Arts photographer or the Educational Photographer, but all of them should be able to give a reason as to why they made a particular image.
Let’s break it down.
I dug out my old (like more than forty years old) psychology notes from a couple of classes on learning theory and came up with these points to ask the photographer, or maybe the photographer should ask themselves before they click the shutter.
THE PHOTOGRAPHERS ASK THEMSELVES WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO DO?
What are you trying to do? What do you want to say?
- Attention Getting?
- Teaching a Skill?
- Influencing An Attitude?
- Capturing a Moment for History,
- or Producing an Aesthetic Experience?
I think there are really three kinds of photographers outside of the home photographer who simply wants to record a personal moment. These three kinds fall into the category of the:
- Educational Photographers, who seek to communicate strongly the essence of their subject in the most pleasing light. Advertising photographer are included in this group because they are trying to show a product and convince the consumer that product is superior for its purpose.
- The Photojournalist is recording history and reporting the news of the immediate moment.
- The Fine Arts Photographer is trying to capture a visual aesthetic experience in such a way that a viewer would choose to look at the image for the emotional satisfaction alone.
Now the Fine Arts photographer usually chooses the first, fourth or last of these questions about what he is trying to do. The Educator chooses the second or third and just maybe the fourth), and the Photojournalist answers the third or fourth. But then I try to get a bit more specific:
OK, what did you really have in mind? Here’s all that psych talk from long ago. (There’s a bunch of reasons to make photographs.)
- Identification/naming object/observing details
- Relating/import/conveying facts/relating to experience
- Perceptual Skill
- Recall Experiences
- Add Detailed Study
- Correct Misconceptions
- Prevent Misconceptions
- Compare and Contrast
- Build New Experiences
- Give Meaning to Word Symbols
- Demonstrate a Process
- Form Value Judgments
- Create An Atmosphere
- Prepare for Experience
- Motivate Learning
- Publicize Events
- Develop Insight and Appreciation
- Dramatize A Point
- Raise Questions/Problems
- Stimulate Reading
- Foster Individual Interest
- Provide A Setting
- Complete Research
- Provide Reference
- Enrich And Enliven An Experience
- Invite Participation
- Help Learner Understand Self
- Build Background
- Create Center of Interest
- Develop Critical Judgment
- Stimulate Creative Effort
- Introduce A Topic Of Study
- Review And Summarize
- Test Learning
Now usually the Educational Photographer (and in that I include Travel Photographers to some extent by their goals to show us far-off places) could say that they are trying to do the majority of those choices at one time or another. The Photojournalist may have a bit more limited goals, and the Fine Arts Photographer probably seeks to enrich and enliven an experience as their most often chosen goal. The Fine Arts Photographer has the hardest job and has to do it with the most elegant of technique and aesthetic skill because to the Educator or Journalist a picture of less aesthetic quality may still be the superior image if it conveys the most pertinent information to the viewer.
So the Fine Arts photographer has a lot tougher job justifying their image when they are trying to make a statement with the display of their photographic skill and craft, and catch a moment to be shared in contemplation purely for the aesthetic experience.
The Educational photographer is trying for an aesthetic answer even though they really have other goals in mind. Advertising photographers, whom I class as Educational Photographers are trying to produce an aesthetic moment, but there are times when the product itself is utterly prosaic—perhaps the photographer can produce a symbolic image of the process but the product is never seen. A photograph of a handsome man and beautiful lady enraptured with one another may sell perfume even if we don’t see the perfume bottle.
The Photojournalist seeks equally to produce an aesthetic moment as they report the news, but both can succeed without answering to the aesthetic moment.
What about my student in the portfolio review? What do they need to do before they set out to trip the shutter? First, they have to define the statement they are trying to make, and then to make the image with the most craft and skill that they can bring to the subject. The choice of lens, the focal length, the framing of the image all these should come as they explore the image they are trying to create. Finally, they select the one image that best defines the epitome of their craft and their vision, and with time they will produce an image that both achieves the statement they wanted to make and presents it with a truly aesthetic vision.
It doesn’t come easy, but the more they think about it and analyze the failures the better the student becomes.
After fifty years I am still trying to come to terms with all that is involved in becoming a Fine Arts photographer.
The switch from film to digital photography has benefited people who desire to shoot images in infrared. Infrared photography was born in the First World War as an aid to aerial photography that was used to film troops and equipment on the ground. Where infrared photography aids in this is due to the fact that when tree leaves or grass is photographed through a deep red (visually black) filter on infrared film, it is plainly different (lighter) than buildings, metal vehicles or camouflage nets that appear to our eyes to be the same green as the foliage. This difference in tone makes it relatively easy to visually separate real foliage from artificial camouflage as used by the military. Military intelligence specialists love it.
Following the First World War and up to recent times, non-military film users who sought to use infrared film for design or aesthetic reasons had to use an appropriate filter, and a tripod with their camera to shoot (mostly landscapes) with long exposures. The filter used is very dense in order to cut out the visible light while permitting infrared light waves to pass through it. It is necessary to focus the camera first because the photographer cannot see through the filter, then to attach the filter to the lens before making the exposure. Because of the density of the filter and the low sensitivity of the film, the exposures were quite long‚ hence the tripod and usually non-moving landscape subjects.
In a digital camera the sensor, the "chip" that receives the image, has a much higher sensitivity to infrared light than has film. In fact, that sensitivity is so high that the camera manufacturer must add an infrared-subtracting filter inside the camera body in order to remove the effects of infrared on the visual subject. Photographers who desire to photograph subjects in infrared have camera repairmen remove the infrared-subtracting filter and dedicate the camera to infrared shooting alone. Once modified, the camera is suitable only for producing black and white infrared images, it would no longer be possible to use it for normal images.
Britt Stokes is a corporate photographer who uses the unique quality of infrared cameras to bring his personal work an otherworldly and fantasy-like quality. Using the characteristics of infrared-modified digital cameras, he utilizes controlled aspects of the infrared process to give us a different view of the everyday world.
In infrared, greens appear light in tone, blues become black, and reds and yellows appear as various shades of gray. It is not a negative image but rather a curious combination of positive and negative that occurs. Skin seems to glow, blonde hair produces halos in the air and an apparent graininess overlays almost everything.
Britt Stokes brings his perceptive and selective vision to landscape and portrait images, and gives us his somewhat different view of everyday things.
The days of the in your face – no touch-up’s – crappy lighting – crappy paper – instant photograph have come to a close, as Polaroid ascends to the big darkroom in the sky.I could write about the history of Polaroid, but then you could Google it if you were really interested. And you should because it’s pretty good reading. Instead, today, I’m going to tell you the story of Amelia.
Amelia was just ten years old when I was a volunteer at the Bancroft School in Haddonfield NJ, a residential/boarding school facility for children and adolescents with mental and emotional disabilities. I was seventeen and working toward community service hours, spending Tuesdays and Thursdays at the facility after school. Amelia was there for lack of a better place to stash her because, while her parents had means, they had neither the time nor inclination to take proper care of a deaf child.
On my second Tuesday there, I was assigned to over-see the residential pod where the girls slept and hung out while not in school. There were perhaps fifteen girls to the pod, all of varying levels of disability ranging from proufound Autism to mild social adjustment disorder.
Amelia had neither. She simply couldn’t hear, and henceforth, had never learned to speak.
Having gone to sleep away camp, I’d learned how to sign the alphabet and I attempted to communicate with her as well as I could, spelling out entire words instead of proper signing with symbols and such. And being a 1970’s hippy, I carried a napsack instead of a purse and Amelia, like any pre-adolescent, was curiously curious about it’s contents and immediately wanted to see what I had inside. What was inside was a camera- A Polaroid One Step. The picture would come out and develop right there in front of your eyes.
I took her picture and let her watch it come to life. Mesmerized, Amelia had never seen such a thing and I must admit, I thought it was pretty cool too.
I handed her the camera and let her shoot. Her first shot was of the ceiling of the dorm. Having no idea why she would shoot a picture of the ceiling, I let her continue, figuring that she was having fun and who really cared what she was shooting. The next was of the corner of the hallway near the bathroom door. Then more. I reloaded the film and let her have at it. There were probably ten to twelve photos in all, not counting the ones that were blurry.
I took the photos and placed them on her bed, one next to the other, and we looked at them. Touching them ever so gently with her fingertips, she held them up to me and smiled, pointing to the places in the photo she wanted me to notice. I focus in, then, I see it. Little black spots in the ceiling that look like a constellation. She shows me a book she has under her pillow. It’s a book of planets and stars. She opens it to the page of constellations and shows me Orion’s Belt. It looked just like the pattern of the little black stains on the ceiling of her dorm room. She points out the photo of the wall near the floor by the bathroom door. There are scratch marks. Many of them. I come to learn later it is in this corner they sit for time out.
Each photo, a story in it’s own right. There was the photo of the empty bed, the bed of a girl who went away. Story was she had a seizure and choaked on some food and that was it, but they just told the kids she went away. The kids knew better though. Even the ones you couldn’t really reach.
She picked up two of blurry photos and held one in each of her hands. Stretching out her arms like the wings on an airplane, she began to spin around and around. She spun for a few moments and then flopped on her bed and laughed a deep, gutteral laugh. She signs to me the letters for DIZZY, and points to the blurry photos. I come to realize that the blurry photos are how she feels when she spins. I get it. I nod and sign YES, and smile. She smiles, takes my hand, and shows me the proper sign for I Love You.
A photograph. A connection. A link between two people in diametrically opposite worlds.
I leave my camera with Amelia and bring her some more film the next time I come by. After a few weeks I am transfered to a different pod and then school is over and that is that.
I don’t see Amelia again.
Then, In 1994 I receive an email. She’d found me.
Some years after I’d left, during a showing of some of the Bancroft student’s art for a fundraiser, a few of Amelia’s photos caught the eye of a teacher from the Moore College of Art, who, after some string pulling, arranged a grant for Amelia to attend some classes on campus. It was there she met a student professor who, as it turns out, had been raised by a hearing impared single mother. They date for five years and in 1988, are married in a small ceremony behind the Philly art museum, overlooking the Schuylkill River and a backdrop of vintage boat houses.
Today, Amelia teaches hearing impared children in a small town in Maine and helps her husband (the student professor) with his photography business on the weekends. They have two adopted sons, both hearing impared, and one biological daughter with no hearing disability. The family is happy and thriving.
It is with a heavy heart that I have come to accept Polaroid’s imminent demise, but in the words of Bob Dylan, ‘The Times They Are A Changin’. And while we can’t interfere with progress, I take this moment to raise my glass and bow my head to Polaroid and it’s legacy – for it has done far more than just capture moments, it has in many respects, set spirits free.
Namaste, Polaroid. Gone but not forgotten.
Nobody in their right mind becomes an artist for purpose of making a sensible living. And most artists will tell you that one doesn’t become an artist, an artist is born and merely polishes his or her skills and knowledge over the years in hopes of people noticing what they do. Garnering a following is a notch better and causing conversation and intelligent debate, two notches. Dead presidents are the cherry on the pallet.
Introducing Power to the Poster, a somewhat user generated yet creatively moderated site that offers free downloads of powerful, culturally important, high quality art and graphic posters for you to print out and use and share for free.
There are artists who would shudder at the thought of giving away their work, saying it cheapens the importance and is a waste of their time. And there are artists who use their work as a form of political protest, and what better way to protest than to go against the grain and give your message away for all to see, hear and feel? Art doesn’t become important until someone other than your parents, significant other, or aunt Petunia want more of it. It’s one of the reasons many historical artists didn’t get famous until they were mealworm. The ability to disseminate one’s work was limited. As social and technical civilization evolved, more people were able to get their work noticed. The country opened up as did the world, by ship, car, and aviation, and because it’s in our nature to seek. And now there is the almighty internet. A massive labyrinth of galleries of artists all around the world if you’re so inclined. Today, if you’re an artist, there is no excuse for obscurity. And if your agenda is about reaching an audience with a message, evoking someone’s spirit to speak or their ego to listen, then go check out Power to the Poster.
My husband, who went to art school in upstate NY but who opted for the mortgage, the car payment, the orthodontist and college tuition bills in lieu of his true passion, counseled our eleven year old son recently when he informed us that he wanted to be an actor and be really rich and famous like Josh and Drake.
"A true artist is one who does it for the love of the art, whether or not he is able to make a living at it. The actor will act in the village square, the musician will play on the steps of the library if need be, and the painter will paint until his pallet runs dry, but never will they deny their passion. Do you understand?"
To wit our son answered "Yep. So, you’re saying I should come up with a plan B?"
In previous articles I discussed some of the broader issues and benefits related to Social Media/Networking and how this new tool could benefit artists. The first article “What’s up with Social media” I introduced the concept of “ambient intimacy” and how the growth of social networking via the Internet has increased our ability to build relationships with our buyers. In “How to use Social Media”I talked about how social media gives us the ability to engage our buyers, build relationships with them and eventually develop a tribe organized around our art and our values.
“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly
affecting the roots of human spirit.”
I got the quote above in an e-mail today and added it to the feelings that have been circulating in my thoughts since last night. For many years I have firmly believed that we all are creative, that we all posses the spark that can turn dull into bright, boring into interesting and night into day. For most of my life I have walked with the wonder of the world of the possibilities that exist everywhere and have been quitely puzzled as to why more don’t see their potential, why most think they need the perfection of the masters before exposing their creative gifts.
On election night, bearing witness to yet another amazing shift I was struck by generational differences, differences in seeing the world, differences in self confidence, differences in turning dreams into reality. You see my generation ( boomer) like so many before us grew up not knowing that it was possible to follow your dream, that success was only defined in terms of money, only interms of left brained linear thinking. Except for the lucky few of us most were repeatedly warned that “you have to be practical” or “you need to get a real job” and even those of us who had supportive teachers and mentors were constantly reminded of the futility of our dreams. Watching the young and old faces in the audience last night I felt blessed to see the energy of the young re-igniting the fading dreams of the old, with each “…yes we can!” I noticed also the unspoken appreciation of the newer generations for the work and foundations put in place with blood, sweat and tears. I saw a generation that no longer seemed to worry about “…being practical” because they knew the importance of being true to themselves, they knew their paths were self created and self navigated…there was a belief and energy present I have only seen glimpses of in my life time.
John Kennedy’s inaugural speech was the first time I saw that glimmer, it was followed by Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream…” speech. While these and other landmark events were key to getting us to where we are today I don’t remember the depth of empowerment that I witnessed last night. That empowerment was inviting us into a new journey alone and together, a journey of co-creation and collaboration, a journey to bring out the best in each of us by giving everyone their own candles to light their path, a journey in which we freely share our light without attachment, without preconditions. This is the shift that occurred last night on the shoulders of a generation that asks “what if..?” or “why not…?” or “what this look like…?” because they know no different.
This is the basis for Open Source Art…empowering everyone to see their own creativity and sharing the result so that we may all grow, so that all may experience the light, the joy and the reward of creating. Open Source Art is about bringing down the Ivory Tower of intellectualized art and replacing it with it with art that comes from the heart and celebrating the tiniest baby step forward of shy creative.
Finally, I was reminded of Persephone’s journey especially because we are heading into that time of the year, a time many creatives suffer being stuck, a time in which they struggle heavily often in isolation with self doubt. Their struggle has often been intensified by clinging to a belief that they should not be feeling the way they do. Last night reminded me that nothing has to be the way it is and there is no right way to be creative…there is only our way. Last night reminded me that those afraid of letting their creative side show need not be afraid of judgment, and like Persephone they will emerge from the darkness bringing beauty and change to all of our lives…because in the end we are all artists, shaping our world as we see it and no matter our skill level challenged with the mission to bring beauty into the world… YES WE CAN!!
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At the beginning of the Disney movie Ratatouille, the main character, a small rat, says there is something interesting about humans: “they don’t just survive; they discover; they create.” The young child, cave woman, adult, professional, pirate, educator and artist in me held on to this observation by Remy, the rat, as the cornerstone that supports art and art making. When asked to articulate a low-tech metal casting process to a high-tech computer crowd, I felt compelled to investigate a new angle.
With 3D scanning, modeling, and rapid prototyping acting as the new hammer and saw in the metalworking and jewelry field, I often find myself questioning all the tools we use and how we can use them collectively. The computer designers have access to so many new programs and novel technologies, but I would argue that they never completely forget their paper, pencil and individual human creativity that originally offered up these advances. In order to rediscover the beginning of our inspired innovations, I have rummaged through the vaults of religion, anthropology, history, philosophy and frankly anything else that will prove my point. “And what is your point?” you ask. Keep reading.
There has been much discussion about the changes in the arts due to computer usage. In all respect to the importance of computers, I am simply giving a friendly reminder for those of you who have forgotten about the element that has helped spark most of modern technology…fire. Why is the discussion of fire important in modern days? It is important simply because it is a reminder of our human abilities, and gives us hope in our responsibility of creating and exploring future technologies.
Fire is one of the most celebrated and technologically advanced pillars of our human existence. Religions, philosophies, wiener roasts, and birthday cakes all over the world hold fire in esteem difficult to match. The earth diligently worked to maintain the correct mixture of atmospheric gases and offer combustible materials to allow fire to be possible. The oceans prove that life can exist without fire, but fire would not exist without the living world. Although we can harness the power of water and wind, we still must wait for a wave or gust. But fire, the bringer of warmth, light, protection, purification, and the start of most technologies can be created, harnessed, and lost by man. This utilization of a “wild” unpredictable but maintainable element divides humanity from the rest of creation.
“Fire was a god, or at least theophany; fire was myth; fire was science; fire was power.”1 Social relationships are affected by its entrancing ability to give light in the dark, provide warmth, allow conversation for questioning the world’s other wonders, and provide safe food and drink. Without fire, we would be a scared and helpless being, digging holes for food and hiding at night from predators with no means to care for ourselves. Just as we can’t imagine our world without computers, cell phones, and Wal-Mart (just kidding), man and fire have lived together from the beginning, and man carried fire into most applications of basic and advanced human needs.
To explore fire and its uses, I recently hosted a workshop for numerous college students that explored a low tech casting process called cuttlebone casting. Cuttlebone is from the squid-like mollusk that is commonly referred to as a cuttlefish. The bones are frequently used today at pet stores as a dietary calcium supplement and for beak sharpening for parakeets.2 In a moment of genius or insanity (they generally go together), someone discovered that this bone could withstand temperatures up to around 2000°F and was soft enough to carve into with a wooden stick, fingernail or dental tools.
The dense outer shell makes it strong enough to hold metals ranging from pewter to gold. After cutting the tips off the cuttlebone and rubbing two bone fragments together until they are perfectly flat, the maker carves or presses their design into the piece. There are considerations to be made when designing to avoid areas that the metal would be forced to “back-flow” against gravity. Generally, adding sprues or channels to connect certain areas of the design can solve these problems.
If an intense line quality is desired, which is why most people use this process, the artist can lightly stroke the design with a small paintbrush to reveal more of the calcium rich line. Gates and sprues are cut into the piece to give the metal routes to flow and a large opening (button) is created at the top to make pouring the metal effortless. The two parts are fastened together with binding wire and placed in a dish of pumice stones or sand to keep the form upright and catch any spilled metal. The fire comes back into play but is easily started with a small propane torch ignited with a striker that forcibly slides flint across a textured metal wheel. The artist melts the metal in a crucible or cast iron ladle in this case, and pours the molten metal into the cuttlebone mold. We used pewter in this workshop because it melts at such a low temperature (500°F) and the process would require less supplies. The form is then opened to reveal a metal positive of the mold that was originally carved. You simply cut off the excess metal, file, sand and finish accordingly.
This process might not be useful for all, but I do contend that every human should use fire to make metal molten at some point in their life. I remember that my former foundry Professor would get a “crazy look” (as her assistants called it) when she would participate in the large pours. I understand that “look” after years of working myself. It is the gaze the prehistoric man directed toward the fire that was caused by lightning striking.
This is the moment of realization of an element of such promise and danger, and a force that you must possess, release, and learn from. If melting metal is on your “Bucket List”, contact your local art center, art school, or helpful website (www.ganoskin.com/orchid/archive) immediately to fulfill an act that everyone needs in their life. When you first control and contain fire to melt metal into liquid form, pour into a mold, and cool to result in a hard and lasting metal form, you truly feel that same “crazy look” that the original prehistoric caveman felt when using fire. Every time I work with fire, I have a link with the past and every important development we have created. If you don’t feel this soul-stirring link to humanity, meaning of life experience that I’ve described, you will at least have a nice new keychain out of the process.
1Pyne, Stephen J., Fire: A Brief History. Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 2001.
2McCreight, Tim, Practical Casting: A Studio Reference. Maine: Brynmorgen Press, 1994.
I bought my first computer in April of 93 after my typewriter broke. A trip to the local electronics store and two thousand dollars later, I walked out with a Compaq 386 windows 3.1 jam packed with 2 megs of ram. I could have gotten 4 megs but as the salesman noted, "Nobody will ever need that much memory."
Fast forward fifteen years. Today, we can do virtually anything online. Our computer is an office. A school. A university. A shopping mall. A tennis court. A baseball stadium. It allows us to see and speak to people around the country and around the world. You can be at work and watch your nanny and your child at home. Computers can speak for the mute, type for the handicapped and remind you to take the roast out of the oven. You can create your own universe, your own countries, cities and neighbors. You can live a whole nother life in a whole nother virtual world and interact with all sorts of people and their avatars and like reality, you can get virtually screwed.
Por ejemplo: A 43 year old woman in Japan was arrested at her home in Miyazaki and jailed some 620 miles away in Sappporo, for virtually killing a virtual online husband from whom she was virtually divorced, in an online game called Maple Story. The virtual murder took place last May. When the 33 year old man discovered that his online avatar was dead, he called the police.
The woman has not been formally charged but if ultimately convicted, could spend five years in prison and pay a fine of $5,000.00. "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning." she is quoted as saying. "That made me so angry," Using login information she got from her virtual husband when their characters were happily married, she logged into his account and killed his character. There is no evidence that the woman plotted any revenge in the real world.
That he gave her the log-in info suggests that she didnt hack at all but merely logged in. Actual hacking is a different story. And while computer hacking is a crime, Im going to assume that the Japanese police have more important things to worry about than a dead avatar, hacked or not.
And I gotta believe that somewhere in the virtual land of Maple Story, there is a virtual lawyer with a bad virtual tie, a virtual divorce court, and a virtual judge sporting a vitual set of mismatched socks under his virtual robe. If the woman was really smart, shed have sued her virtual husband for virtual alimony and virtually half of everything he owned, and called it a day.
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