Artists of the Future

I’ve been telling people that my next career will be as a high school art teacher. I don’t know if that is where I’ll end up, but it does give me something to work toward that requires a broad range of skills and a solid understanding of the creative/artistic world. And I like to teach. I was a teacher’s aid in College and taught community ed photo classes for a bunch of years, among other things.  I really enjoyed that. I learn better when I have to review and organize the data well enough to teach others. I enjoy the give and take. And, though I’ll never admit it, I like the feeling of respect/admiration/look-up-to-it-ness that is available if you are a good teacher. And I’m pretty good.

And at the moment, I have 3 built in students I can teach, indoctrinate and expose to what I think is neat and fun – my kids.

R is 12 and we share altogether to many shared hang-ups. One of our basic challenges is the need to do everything, try everything. While she does well at everything she tries, she isn’t becoming amazing at any one thing. She doesn’t give any one thing a chance to really develop. She’s always been a pretty good with a pen, maybe just a little better than average, but she hasn’t spent a lot of time with it. This year she is taking art and doing well and really liking it. I’ve been impressed at moments of real creative thought. Maybe this one will catch her interest more than the half a dozen other things she’s got going on.

r_smileyface_224x288x72

This is from a quick sketch that she did years ago that I liked and stuck in a book and found a while ago.

r_googlelogo_1800x1218x72

A few weeks ago her class had a contest where they had to design an environmental Google logo. I was impressed with what she came up with.

A is 9 and is naturally good at everything he does.  Art isn’t really his thing – he doesn’t sit down to do it for its sake. But when he is forced to sit quietly he’s pretty good with a pencil and paper and with a hunk of clay. He likes creating his ‘creatures’. Some day he plans on creating a comic book full of them. When ever he gets some clay he’s taking to sculpting them. He created an entire army of them:

a_ceramic1_324x432x72

K is my dedicated artist. She spends hours drawing and coloring, cutting and pasting. When she was learning to write she came up with her own method of holding a pencil/pen with the tips of her fingers – looks stange but it gives her very tight control. From the beginning I was always amazed at her control and detail. Plus I just love to watch her do her thing.

K_Drawing

R started a pottery class where they learned how to make little pinch pot creatures. We’ve had two previous pinch pot lessons at home so all three of them know the concept. I had R teach us how to build the creatures. She is a natural teacher (she feels the need to be in charge and teaching provides that) and she did a good job. They all made their own creature and R made tounges for the other two and they all came out very fun. I like mine, but I’m a little jealous because I didn’t do a tounge – but my nose it cool. Did the Karl Malden thing. I’ll drop pictures in when we’ve painted and fired them.

They may never be artists, but at least they’ll have the opportunity that I never had to explore and see if they like it.

Plus I just like the natural sense of beauty that comes out of their young minds and fingers. It isn’t based on years of education and critical reviews. It just a natural effort that is fun and natural and pure. The gift of childhood.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

24 hours a day – every day

 

As I re-initiate this journey I need to revitalize my focus. I need to start watching, seeking for those images that deserve to be captured, ideas that will inspire me. My first effort was to build a portable art packet. Pencils, pens, paper – everything I need to draw and write. Always with me, easy to get to. Problem is that I’m not comfortable with those mediums, so it doesn’t come naturally. I’m not comfortable enough with the method to easily capture the idea or image. The effort to capture gets in the way of the act.

A couple of weeks ago I started carrying my little camera around. It made a tiny rectangular bulge in my front left pocket – but I never pulled it out. It was available, easy to use, but not obvious.

Last week I started carrying my big camera with me. It’s in the way, kind of a hassle to haul around. I’m always conscious of it and I’m comfortable with it. It feels good in my hand – like it is supposed to be there. My hand forms around it, strokes it, knows it. It is easy to use, I understand it. I don’t have to think about using it. So when I see an image that I like it is a natural act to pull it out, swing it up and capture the shot.

And the result is I find myself watching, searching and finding. My awareness to the world around me is coming back. I’m seeing the shapes and colors around me that I’ve been walking by and ignoring. I’m searching my mind for ways to use images, ways to tell stories about what I’m seeing around me.

I enjoy the feeling again.

I read the following quote from ‘The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer’ by Jackson J. Benson that explores this idea. I don’t see this trait as specific to writers – I believe it applies to all creative types:

‘How does an author write a serious novel? Does he come up with some characters and a plot idea and start writing, using the stock phrases he has accumulated and throwing in a little description here and there? Does the felicitous sentence come by accident, do those small perceptions that so truly bring us into life come to him at the typewriter carried by the muse, and are those insights into the human condition at heart of his work evolved out of the sudden inspiration provided by an approaching deadline and the need to pay the gas bill? Not if the writer is Steinbeck and not, I suspect, for any other author of similar stature.’

‘It is rather simply a matter of living as a novelist twenty-four hours a day, every day, whether you happen to be writing a novel or not. Everything, EVERYTHING, is material, from your thoughts about your wife, your dreams and nightmares, to how your neighbor talks when he is embarrassed and how a friend looks at you when he wants something and what the local grocer does when he puts on his apron or makes change for a customer. Everything. Most of us could neither stand the burden or bear the exposure of privacy.’

‘The life of a novelist should probably really be a history of the constant gathering of bits and pieces of observation and insight, and the personal suffering and human concern which generates the pattern for the pieces and the need to express that pattern. For a novel such as East of Eden or The Winter of Our Discontent the novelist lives a preparation of years, accumulating hundreds, even thousands of small items. To describe the process from the outside is nearly impossible – even from the inside, as in the notebooks left by Henry James, it cannot be more than suggested.’

The creative muse is an always on effort. You aren’t creating art twenty four-hours a day – but you need to be an artist twenty-four hours a day.

Posted in Creativity, General | Leave a comment

My Career as a Model

 

Some people become models because they are beautiful, others because they have character. Some people are hand models or leg models because they are well endowed in that area. Some people become models because they achieve a unique notoriety that sets them apart from the rest of us. I became a model because I was either the only one in the studio or the last one on location without something to do.

During my internship in LA I had four instances where the end result was actually published.

The first one was as a hand and body model. Notice my well defined muscular body and my long delicately refined fingers.

modeling2_432x292x721

 

My next assignment was on location. Kind of a character thing. I wasn’t just playing a beautiful prop, there was emotion in this one. Kind of a harsh gritty moment that had just a touch of a wicked tension that made the piece come alive.

 

 modeling1_520x672x72

 

I’m the one against the wall guarding the door with the machine gun.

 Note the steely determined and slightly mad glint in my eye.

 2009_0214_6265-edit

 

I was so amazing in my still work that my next two assignments were in video. I don’t have copies of either one, but I’ll try to describe them well enough to give you some impression of those two powerful moments on film.

The first was in a corporate promotion piece for a steel foundry in East LA. My boss decided to open the video with a metal dye being struck by a hammer, then pulled away to show the company’s logo.  I played the hands.  I was able to show my amazing range. My hands were broad and hard, the veins pulsing with raw energy, my muscles hard. It was breath taking.  At least I always imagined it was – I never saw the final piece.

I’ve never seen the last one either, but I’ve imagined it many times.  We shot the stills for an ad shoot for an Argentinean candy company staring Mr. T – complete with gold necklaces and attitude.  After the stills were done they shot the commercial. The opening shot was a pan across the stage to Mr. T. After a couple of takes they felt something was missing – they needed a special sort of pizzazz.  As they sought a solution, they noticed me just off camera watching and the solution was obvious. I stood stage right. The camera started stage left. As the camera panned right I walked left across that stage and for just the briefest of moments the power of my presence lit the camera and provided that missing magic.

Then I retired. 

It was a glorious career.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Lightroom – the new Darkroom

Right now I feel a tad overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, and psyched.

I finally found ‘the book’. I’ve owned Photoshop since version 3. I can open files, crop, mess around with brightness and contrast and change the image size with the best of them. I’ve bought books on techniques and tried to follow the step by steps. Sometimes it worked – but it never stuck. Photoshop, the monolith -so much that I just didn’t know where to start, where to go. So I’d wander around, move a slider here , click a button there and quit.

I bought Lightroom 1 about a year and a half ago. I loved the Library function. I organized my digital library and added keywords to all of my images.  I bought another book, wandered over to the Develop module, played around a bit, grew frustrated and left.  A month or so ago I upgraded to Lightroom 2 and liked it – it didn’t crash as often.  I bought a new book, ‘Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow Bible’by Mark Fitzgerld last Saturday. And started reading, and reading and reading more.  And the pieces came together. Technique is secondary – it focuses on the purpose and the process. It defines the of the tools, the purpose of Lightroom and Photoshop and Bridge and ACR and how they fit together. The flow, from import to end image and I finally feel like I know where I’m going.

What great tools! I am a solid B&W darkroom tech. And I knew how to shoot to get the color shots I wanted with minimal manipulation. And I found a great color lab to figure out any manipulation I needed. Then the digital world interfered with my pleasant little world. Not because it was hard, but because it was so much bigger. There is so much more you can do with it – it is just WOW.

Now I’m playing and liking it. I’ve only gone through the Lightroom part so far. The part that more or less mimics what I used to do in the darkroom. I’m starting to get what I want. Now I need to burn it in until it is works as easy as taking a breath – kind of like printing in the darkroom. I don’t have to think about it. I just do and it happens the way I want.

I went back to the first pictures I took with my digital. Pictures that were kind of blah. I looked at them, followed the Lightroom process and did what I used to do in the darkroom, when I could make a picture look the way I wanted.

This is what it looked like right out of the camera:

 2003_0128_144_2016-x-3024_1

This is what it looked like after 10 minutes in Lightroom:

 2003_0128_144_2016-x-3024_2

It’s not going to win any prizes, but I like the change. A little Histogram adjustment. A little sharpening. A little vignetting and a tiny amount of burning. Never touched Photoshop (until I had to resize it – didn’t work the way I thought it would in Lightroom).

I’ll share more of the how when I’m a little more solid on the technique and have something a little more impressive to show off.

Posted in Photoshop | Leave a comment

A taste of the beginning

I spent most of yesterday going through my files and boxes of pictures – a walk through my own personal photographic memory lane. I found a few old negatives. Just a few. I have a little book of negatives somewhere that I started saving after I ‘caught the bug’.  Didn’t find those.  I did find two that were interesting – and pretty bad when it comes right down to it.

I got my first camera for Christmas when I was 8 years old. A Kodak Instamatic.

instamatic_432x335x72

My first photo memory – I took a couple of pictures and wondered how it all worked. So I popped the back open to see what was going on in there. I was disappointed. Just this grey film stuff – no picture or anything. I think I only ruined at most 3 of the shots. The film for the Instamatic came in a cartridge so only a single frame of film was exposed at a time. 

I left the almost 40 years of accumulated dust on the camera for effect.

The first image I found doesn’t have any artistic merit – just a picture of my brother and sisters watching TV in the basement. Cement walls, old worn out couch. My brother’s knees sticking out of his jeans. I remember I used to hate jeans that didn’t have the knees ripped out.

siblings_501x432x72

Notice the multi-colored floor scheme. My uncle owned a furniture store.  He gave us a bunch of carpet samples and we duct taped them to the floor. That was our carpet. We didn’t think of ourselves as poor – we were a middle class family. A very different middle class than today.

The other picture provides an early hint of my obsession/fascination with textures and old items with character.  The image is pretty bad, but it kind of feeds the theme.

oldstove_423x432x72

No special talent visible from these images. Just your basic kid with a camera. Most of the other negs weren’t even printable. But it was a beginning.

A few years later I was a boy scout working on my photography merit badge. To this day I vividly remember watching that image appear in the developer. It tickled my fancy for something magic. A magic I could do. It sparked the possibility of a future creating, not just working.  Something that I could do with my ‘limited’ creative abilities. Abilities which I doubted before I ever gave them a chance to develop.  But my self doubt was as effective as a true lack of abilities. But this photography thing, I could do that.

In 8th and 9th grade we had a school program. Half a day every Friday for 9 weeks we had courses in ‘fun’ things. Skiing, ice fishing, among other things – and photography. I found my dad’s old 35mm camera and started learning.

Right about that time 3 of us got together and started a camera club. I think we had one meeting. One of the guys gave a lesson on composition using the rule-of-thirds. It just clicked – seemed so simple.

I bought my first camera – a Nikon FM. I remember deciding between that and an Olympus OM. I picked the Nikon because I liked the view finder meter lights. I still have that camera. I still love that camera. I eventually got another FM, but that first one was always my favorite. I still love its feel in my hand.

My Sophomore year I was appointed the FFA Reporter. I spent the summer riding around taking pictures of all the FFA ‘projects’, cows, pigs, sheep, grain fields. The next two years I spent on the school annual staff, my second year as head photographer. I went to more dances with that camera than I did with girls.  I shot basketball, football, year book ads and thousands of candid shots.

Then off to college to learn the art and business of being a photographer.

My design courses were exhilarating, fun, disturbing. While I was learning the how, I was struggling with the why. I grew up in a working class family. My father worked every day, hard. Farming, driving truck, fixing cars, digging holes. Always something practical, something physically constructive. I worked my way through high school as a stock boy and farm hand. Always something that ‘meant’ something. Now I was looking at a life-time focusing on creativity, on an activity that I didn’t understand. What value did it have? I was really struggling with that. We were a family that did things – not a family that appreciated things. It seemed pointless.

A friend loaned me a book, ‘The Shape of Content’ by Ben Shahn. My first taste of philosophy and exposure to the value of art and design in our lives. I can’t remember any specifics, but I remember that after reading it I had a feeling for what I was trying to achieve. And it’s value.

In future posts I’ll hit a few more highlights of my trek. It won’t be comprehensive or even in order. But it will help define how I got to where I am now. So I can start again. I’ll also start dropping in technical bits that I’m re-learning, learning and polishing.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

6 More Pots – actually bowls

When I wrote last week I was just getting into the ‘zone’. I felt the way I used to in college, looking for images, exploring, considering. I had a bear of a time sleeping last week. Just couldn’t get my brain to stop spinning. Been a long time since I had that problem.

Then the computer parts got here. We decided to get rid of the cable, but to do that we have to replace the DVR. We can live without the (mostly useless) 300 channels, but we can’t do without the DVR.  We watch less TV and we do it on our own terms, on our own schedule. We’re not willing to be  slaves again to the network schedule. Our other alternative is to quit TV altogether and being the TV addict I am, that’s not going to happen. So we decided to set up a Media Center computer. Hence the computer parts.

I upgraded the kids computer, put the antenna back up and got everything working. Finally finished yesterday. So far so good. The kids like it because they can play their computer games on the 42 inch screen, so they’re not complaining about losing cable. I loaded all the family pictures on the Media Center PC and they watched those for awhile. They love seeing pictures of themselves. So I think it’s going to work. Fast action is a little jumpy – think  I need a better video card. But overall, it’s working nicely.

But I lost my momentum, broke the zone. I did play with the site a little – changed the theme, played with some image sizes. That’s part of this experience – learning the tool.  I also managed a little Photoshop time. Played with Layer Masks. I’ve read about them, figured I should learn about them but never took the time. I’m starting to understand them. Just need to play some more then I’ll write something up.

Also talked to a friend who wants me to give her some basic photo lessons. Composition, stuff like that. I’m going to pull it together as a lesson and post it. Maybe start building a course outline.

I’m back.

6bowls_324x432x72

Yesterday, after I got the Media Center up I sat down and threw 6 more bowls. Ran out of my normal clay and pulled out the brown stone ware clay I bought last fall. Really like it. It isn’t as stiff as the other clay and formed up much easier. I liked the feel of it too. It is grainer than the other stuff, more texture. It feels good in the fingers. So, without much effort at all, I pulled up 6 bowls, one just a tad to thin and on the verge of collapsing. The rest went pretty well. Except no two could be considered similar. Someday I might actually pull that off.

Today I finished them. The white bowls went well. I’ve finally figured out if I finish them before they are too hard I don’t break them as often.  Doesn’t need as much force, stays on the wheel better. I threw one of them a little sca-wampus and the top was uneven. I managed to level it off and finish it – a little proud of that. My little spirit level made all of the difference.  But I was tired, rushed it a bit and by the end I was frustrated. Not feeling like I was doing a good job.  Yesterday felt good because it just flowed. Today it didn’t come as easily and I got frustrated.

Posted in Pottery | Leave a comment

A couple of pots…

 

The blog is working.

As I’ve stepped back and evaluated the direction my life is taking, vs. the direction I wanted it to take when I was young and idealistic (a common middle age crisis kind of thing)  I’ve identified a number of items that aren’t quite what  was going for.

One of them is my spiritual focus. (Don’t worry – I’m not going to get into a big religious thing here. That doesn’t qualify within the established parameters. Just making a point). It’s not as strong and well established as it once was.  I’ve looked back over the last 10 years or so to see where I diverged. Basically I’ve decided it is a reflection of what I spend my time thinking about.

The most recent things I put in my head impacts my focus in direct proportion to the amount of the thing I’ve put in my head in relation to the other things I’ve put into my head most within the same time period.

Pretty deep.

Basically, the time I spend reading or talking about the spiritual aspects of my life has faded away. The solution, read the scriptures more, attend more services, write about it, think about it. Then it will be more focused.

Now, this blog isn’t going to help me spiritually, but it is facilitating the same thing creatively. As I’ve put this up and started posting, I find myself thinking about being creative. How to do it, making time for it, etc. My work goal for today was to get the TV antenna up. I put it up late last fall to see if we could pick anything up with it. Thought I did a pretty good job until a wind storm blew it down a month later.  So, second try. Got it up.  Goal achieved, time to burn. Now what?

Throw some pots.

potterystudio-1_324x432x72

While I was getting the tools and stuff I needed to do the antenna I flipped the heater on in my pottery room in the garage. So when I put my tools away, the pottery room was nice and warm and just crying out for me. I decided – two bowls. I’ll just throw two bowls and we’ll be good. No big effort, no attempt to create something magnificent. Just two bowls. 

I grabbed a bag of nice warm clay and threw two bowls. No big deal. Just did it.

An important element of this whole effort is the doing of the thing. I have a tendency to put to much weight on ‘doing things’ to make a giant production. I’m an amazing planner, organizer and get-ready-for’er. Then, with all of the pieces in place, way to often I fail to do ‘the thing’. I decided to do the pottery thing two years ago. I found a used kiln for a decent price. Took a class. My wife bought me a wheel for my birthday. That was cool. Over that summer I rearranged the garage, pulled in the other odds and ends I needed and ended up with a fairly decent pottery studio. Then last winter was just to cold. I bought a heater, but it wasn’t big enough for the whole garage so it never really worked. (Another me fact – I HATE being cold.) So last summer, after I put in the new sprinkler system, which then flooded our basement, which required the placement of all the basement furniture in the garage until the basement was cleaned, re-insulated, re-sheetrocked, re-painted and re-carpeted, I finally put a barrier up between the pottery studio and the rest of the garage. Notice – no significant amount of pottery going on during this period. A whole lot of other things going on around it. But now I had a studio I could be warm in.

potterystudio-2_324x432x72

A month or so ago I went out to work, turned on the heater, set everything up, and grabbed a bag of clay.  It was frozen solid. So I moved it to a kinder environment. And once again, I didn’t do. I don’t have to make up excuses, they just happen naturally.

But today I did do. I had some time, I could choose to do anything I wanted to fill it and I threw two bowls. No big deal, just did it.

I credit the blog in my making that decision. It’s always in the back of my mind. I need to post something. I need to do something to post about. I find my focus sharpening, growing tighter.

Just put one foot in front of the other…

potterystudio-3_432x324x72

Posted in Pottery | Leave a comment

I'll work on the tone

I’ve been way to serious so far – I have a definite problem with that.

I’ll do better, promise.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Where this will lead?

The thought keeps going through my mind – where will this lead?

Odds are, nowhere. Without a focused commitment and a life change, it will fizzle. That is a matter of will and effort. I can control that.

So what if I make the journey and find myself wanting? That is the next most likely outcome. My greatest fear is to discover that I am mediocore, average, or worse. This effort could prove that by displaying my inability to create something worthwhile. But I’ll never know without taking the risk. By making journey.

And I can enjoy the journey. That needs to be the primary goal. The rest will come, or not, depending on how capable I am. And maybe, when I achieve the best that is in me and it falls short, maybe the record of my journey will help someone else achieve theirs and maybe theirs will be amazing.

Then again, maybe I’ll create something truely memorable…

Maybe.

reedsinthewind2_long.jpg

Posted in General | Leave a comment

What I'm up to…

 

 And so it begins…

the launch of the ExquisiteLines blog where I will explore and document the resumption of my personal exploration of the creative process. 

The journey started too many years ago as a teen working on my photography merit badge. My councilor took me into the dark room to teach me how to develop a photograph. In the gentle orange glow he exposed the paper, slid it into the developer and I experienced a magic moment as I watched the image appeared.  That moment started it all. I found an old camera, joined a camera club, took a Jr. High School photography class, took pictures of cattle and pigs for the FFA and joined the High School annual staff. Then off to college to get my BFA, winning all the department photography awards (one twice) and an art show award in the University’s annual student art exhibit.

I went to LA for my internship and worked as an assistant in a commercial studio on Venice Blvd.

Venice Beach Sunset with Birds on Beach

We shot models, movie stars and generators. I played a bit part in a commercial with Mr. T. (like I said – this was too many years ago…) and cruised the Hollywood set of the Love Boat hoping I’d run into Julie or Gopher.

 After I graduated I jumped on a plane and spent the summer travelling in Egypt, Israel and Greece with cameras around my neck and hundreds of rolls of Kodachrome in my suit case. I walked the streets of Jerusalem, took pictures of Hasidic Jews praying at the Western Wall.

 Jerusalem Wester Wall - Man Praying

 I watched the late night celebration of a Palestinian wedding in the West Bank, ate strange and wonderful food, worked on a Kibbutz, walked into the center of the Great Pyramid at Giza, 

Egypt Pyramids

 floated on the Nile,

 Nile Falukas on the River

wandered the mountain tops of Delphi where the ancient oracle answered questions for Kings,

Delphi Anthenian Temple

and woke up at 4:00 am, climbed a rock trail in the dark and watched the sunrise from the top of Mt Sinai. 

Mt Sinai Sunrise

I swam in the Dead Sea and walked the paths of En Gedi, a garden on the edge of the Dead Sea.

 En Gedi Leaf on Rock Water Fall

Not bad for a poor kid from a small farm town.

Then I came home and moved to Phoenix to start my photography career.

AZ Red Cactus

While I looked for photo jobs I built houses in the 115 degree September heat, slept for 4 hours and got up to clean office buildings. I got my first photo  job and learned how to shoot weddings. Finally, I landed an assistant gig in a commercial studio. More models, interiors, product shots. I ran the studio, remodeled the offices, perfected my dark room skills and cleaned the boss’ house.

Then I quit.

The magic was gone. It was all about business, not about exploration and creation. I didn’t like the people I was surrounded by. I wasn’t excited anymore. So I packed up, moved home and found the first job I could find – as a data entry clerk. That led to a report writer job, which led to a programming job. Somewhere in there I went back to school and earned a Masters in Public Administration. More programming, then running a team, then running a group, then a couple more groups and here I am.

Computer programming is a creative process – at least it is for me. That filled my creative drive for many years.  Now I manage a development team – analysts, designers, programmers, testers. They do the fun stuff and I coordinate it all.  Not much creative process there – just a lot of dealing with things.

I’ve also reached the point in my life where retirement looms on the horizon.  I’m good at what I do, but I don’t want to do it till the day I die. Someday I’d like to walk away from it – take pride in what I’ve done and retire. But retirement doesn’t mean to sit at home and watch my garden grow. It means work – I have to work. But it is work that I do because I love it, not because I have to earn enough to pay for my daughter’s braces or my son’s Karate classes. So I’ve decided I need to start preparing for ‘retirement’. And what do I want to do when I retire? I want to explore and learn and create beautiful things. I’ve given up trying to change the world, but I still think I can cut through all of the pain and frustration and muck that is life and create something that will brings a moment of joy to someones heart and a hint of a smile to their lips.

This is the start of that effort.

Posted in General | Leave a comment