What is Real?

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The Ivy League

“A good artist can make you forget the medium, like a magician not showing the wires.”

– Robert Levers

When I show my photography I occasionally get the comment – “that looks like a painting”. Or sometimes a photographer will tell me that when they print their image on watercolor paper, it looks “painterly”.

What do they mean? I think people associate photography with a realistic, hard edged, non-interpretive representation – almost an editorial statement. Painting is associated with personal expression and interpretation, something that gives an illusion of reality (as opposed to photography’s stark portrayal of reality). Of course, both mediums allow the artist to play in the other’s sandbox.

To me, the more interesting photography out there is that which departs from reality. No doubt photography can excel in depicting just what was there. Often, that is as much a matter of being in the right place at the right time as it is any technical skill (though that’s required, too!). Making a photograph that is more than that takes a creative vision, a personal twist. You experience more of the artist themselves. I try to blur the lines between the photograph and other mediums and, in doing so, offer some insight into my creative process.

On the other hand, for my personal taste, I’m not too moved by photorealistic painting. It seems to all boil down to technique with this approach. Any of the artist’s personality, perspective or creative vision is left out. You experience less of the artist with this work.

I wonder if you ever run across an extrovert who paints photorealistically?

The Creative Photograph

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Golden Gate Bridge from Marina

“There’s only one rule in photography – never develop colour film in chicken noodle soup.”

– Freeman Patterson

As promised, I will post some photography for awhile. In my experience, most people really like on medium or the other but rarely both. So I hope I will not alienate any loyal followers out there who have been frequenting my blog because they are painting lovers. I will post paintings again as my new series evolves. In the meantime, some snaps…

People often operate under the belief that photography doesn’t allow for as much creativity as painting. There’s so much experimentation possible with painting, so many techniques. Photographers¬† sometimes get bogged down because they take a picture and it comes out of the camera almost ready-made – or so it seems. So much is there to start with that it’s easy to feel there isn’t much more to do and the creative juice spigot is turned off. But as Patterson says, one should feel little or no constraint in fooling around with how the shot it taken, what you do to it afterward or how it is printed. This should just be the starting point!

I would like to see more workshops, articles and books on photography emphasize the creative dimensions possible with this medium. Perhaps because a photograph usually starts off it’s life as a literal representation, it seems improper to start messing with it. And certainly there a lot of gimmicky treatments people try, especially today with the digital toolboxes we have access to. Hopefully you’ll see some interesting (yet tasteful!) interpretations here…

Inside and Outside

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I thought I’d share a small view of our surroundings – it’s such a beautiful time of year. I spent most of the weekend gardening – next weekend I’ll definitely use sunscreen while I put in the vegetables!

This panoramic shot is the view from the back of our house – we have windows all along the length so we get to see this from just about everywhere. This is facing east so the sun rises here every morning. Usually there is fog sitting down in the valley but we’re above it most of the time. It can make for a pretty spectacular light show.

I haven’t spent much time painting lately – I’m going to blame it on spending most of my weekend time outside. Once the temperatures get too hot to do much of that I’ll get back to it.

I’m just about done with the Universal Meaning series. I may have one or two more after this to show. While I’m working on a new series I may post some photography I had put together last year to pass the time here. Hope you all don’t find it too confusing to go back and forth between painting and photography (sometimes I find it confusing!).

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Elation, 15 x 20 Acrylic on Illustration Board

Curioser and curioser…

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Unraveling, 15 x 15″ Acrylic on Illustration Board

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

– Albert Einstein

I suspect that while we can find all degrees of talent among great beings or great actions, at the heart of each of them is this same passionate curiosity. It’s certainly at the root of all great art.

It’s what makes us continue to try new things, to do better, to explore different approaches, to come up with new ideas about what to paint and how to paint.

If we were not passionately curious, we would be satisfied with good, but never seek great. Curiosity is the fuel – passion is the spark that turns the fuel into energy. Have you ever met a good artist who wasn’t curious about, not just art, but most things in life? And isn’t their curiosity always a passionate one? I think this is one of the qualities that most attracts people to artists – they get to feel the wash of this energy fueled by curiosity as it emanates from the artist in pursuit of their work.

So nurture and develop your curiosity – keep an open mind and don’t label things too quickly, ask questions, enjoy not knowing rather than viewing it as a handicap.

Inner Moonlight

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Whorlds, 15 x 15″ Acrylic on Illustration Board

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

-Allen Ginsberg

I love the thought of our “inner moonlight” – usually we think of a brighter, sunnier source of illumination for our creativity. But the cool and uniquely intimate way in which moonlight reveals is a nice counterpoint to contemplate. Perhaps it is a better way to expose our madness.

Of course, there is that association between madness and artists. I think this madness exists along a spectrum, from the truly insane to the mildly eccentric.

Can one be a really great artist and not fit somewhere along that line? Can one be completely normal, sane, even boring and still produce art that is rich and exciting? Or maybe no one is really normal, sane or boring – what their inner moonlight reveals is always a bit twisted, no matter the external appearance.

At least with art we have a way to share our madness with others in a fairly harmless way!

Dogs and Cats

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Escape, 10 x 10″ Acrylic and Spackle on Ilustration Board

“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”

– Dereke Bruce

Praise and blame – occurrences in our daily lives that are certainly not limited only to artists. But as artists we put our efforts out there repeatedly and essentially invite praise or blame. So it’s good to develop some techniques to deal with it.

I suppose one could take the advice given above and become a pet owner. The personalities of dogs and cats definitely capture the dichotomy well!

Usually we focus on how to handle blame – it’s easy to handle praise! But they are two sides of the same coin, and the degree to which you relish praise, you will likely find it hard to withstand blame.

The Buddha had some advice:

“Praise and blame and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a great tree in the midst of them all.”

Think of yourself as a tree, one with deep roots that will protect you from the blowing winds of praise and blame. Treat each with the same (dis)regard.

I’m telling you this as a reminder to myself. I’ve recently submitted this new body of work to our local juried Open Studio art event and will hear in a couple of weeks whether I’ve been accepted. I’ve tried to do this before without success – I’ve tasted the jurors blame. No matter what happens, it will be an opportunity to contemplate my reaction to the praise or blame.

Who knows, I may soon be paying a visit to my local pet store!