Out on a Limb

vapors 54, photograph

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”

Frank Scully

I have mixed feelings when creating new work that is new and different. First there is the excitement of creating something (hopefully) unique. But there is also the uncertainty of whether I’ve strayed down a path that no one will join me on. Going out on a limb can be a lonely place – exhilarating, but scary.

Not only is there risk to the ego, but there is real risk to the pocketbook as well. Often a financial investment is required, to print and frame the work, to enter it in shows (usually there are application fees), to ship it to remote venues, etc. I guess you have to pay to play.

But, indeed, the best fruit hangs at the end of the limb. Playing it safe in the art world is usually not a recipe for success and even if some success occurs, it’s not as personally rewarding as that which comes with greater risk. It’s when I take risks creating something new that I feel that I’m coming closer to expressing myself honestly.

So I’ll continue to experiment, to try new ideas, print and show new work (much of which will probably end up in my storage unit!) – hopefully I’ll harvest some sweet fruit along the way!

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Planning to Improvise

smoking nude 2, photograph

“Careful planning, and brilliant improvisation.”

Sergi Eisenstein

The yin and the yang of making art. Years of practice, hours or even days of careful preparation for a specific piece and then ultimately the surrender to the creative spirit. Planning gives way to improvisation.

As in all things, the key is finding the right balance. Planning without improvisation produces nothing or work that is static, lifeless. Improvisation without planning may lead to an occasional success but lacks consistency and dimension.

Moving from one phase to the next is hard. It’s sort of a left brain/right brain kind of transition. It requires a shift in focus that requires a leap of faith – faith that the planning has laid the foundation from which the improv will flourish.

The piece above, part of a new series for me, is a case in point. I photograph smoke and independently I photograph figures in motion. Both require a lot of technique, lighting setups, creative use of exposure, etc. Lots and lots of shots to get some that work. The improvisation comes when I start combining them into image collages, looking for complementary forms and motion. I enjoy the discipline needed at the beginning and the freedom to play at the end.

The yin and the yang.

 

 

Everyone Likes a Good Mystery


transient 3, photograph

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

Francis Bacon

I’m not very interested in using photography in some of it’s more common forms – to explain, document or reveal. Rather I’d rather put it to work in the service of mystery.

Mystery arouses curiosity and speculation, which allows for a greater range of meaning. In fact, since photography is so well suited to literal description, the use of ambiguity can be even more compelling.

Perhaps an apt  analogy is between a documentary film and film which is fiction. While good documentaries can be fascinating, they usually don’t involve the viewers imagination and emotion in as complex a fashion. Documentary film and photography brings you face to face with reality – the impact of that reality can be powerful. But non-documentary film and photography invite you to create your own reality, make up your own story.

Deepening the mystery is an important way for me to pen my own reality…

Too Much of a Good Thing


transient 1, photograph

“…detail kills imagination.”

-Colley Whisson

A bit of a controversial position to take as a photographer in this day and age of digital everything – more megapixels, bigger sensors, better lenses, sharper prints…  The capability is all there, but does that compel us to use it?

Most painters, except those doing photo-realistic pieces, know that the surest way to kill a painting is to try to put all the detail in it. It’s a beginners mistake. The viewer is more engaged when their perceptual system has to get involved, when it has to resolve what’s going on.

I find myself drawn to photographs that are more suggestive than descriptive for the same reason. I have to look at the photograph for a while to figure out what’s going on. Too much detail, as Whisson says, deprives me of an important facet of my experience.

Some will argue, perhaps rightly so, that photography is a unique medium because of it’s ability to capture detail and render scenes literally. They say that one should embrace this and find the artistry within that characteristic, that doing so is what it means to be a photographer. I understand this – I sometimes wonder why photo-realistic painters don’t just become photographers!

Maybe I should take up my brushes again. But until then, I’ll soldier on taking pictures that stare those damn pixels right in the eye!

Disturbing News

Into the Continuum, photograph

A painting without something disturbing in it – what’s that?

– George Braque

Another bold statement that might just contain a grain of truth in it.

Does all (or most) good, interesting art have at least some element in it that could be considered “disturbing”? If there is nothing that throws us off just a bit, is the art reduced to something that is just decorative? What role “decorative” art plays is a topic for another post…

I use the word disturbing in a fairly general sense – to unsettle, to interrupt, to interfere with the order of something. When I experience this in a work of art it causes me to stop and reconsider, to reflect on something in a new way. My status quo has been disturbed. What results from that experience can be good or bad, but without something in the work that triggers it, chances are we won’t get much from seeing the work.

I always get a small thrill when I create an image that I know will disturb my viewers (bearing in mind the above definition). I don’t want to make you feel bad, I want to make you feel…