I’m back – almost

I’ve been very lax, but I’m still around. This has not been the year I expected. It has been, to this point, the worst year of my life. The clouds of anguish and despair have been my abode. But the clouds are breaking. I feel the warmth of the light again and my hope is returning.

The reward of going through trials is the opportunity to shed dead weight, reevaluate and redirect your life. That is what I’m attempting to do. I firmly believe that the years and relationships before me are going to be the richest, most rewarding of my life. I’m going into it with hope tempered by a healthy fringe of fear.

And part of that, I hope, will be a resurrection of my photographic and artistic effort. I cleared out the pottery area, bought some new clay and bought a new camera which I’m going to carry everywhere. I set up an art room, the primary purpose of which was to have a dedicated area to sit down and work. Then my kids invaded and it is less than ideal. The joy of having kids. Now, I just need to do…

It all comes down to doing.

A young boy discovers beauty and sense of joy…

From ‘A Severe Mercy’ by Sheldon Vanauken.

He remembered as though it were but a few days ago that winter night, himself too young even to know the meaning of beauty, when he had looked up at a delicate tracery of bare black branches against the icy glittering stars; suddenly something that was, all at once, pain and longing and adoring had welled up in him, almost choking him. He had wanted to tell someone, but he had no words, inarticulate in that pain and glory. (pg 16)

He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were emotional, girls were weak, emotions – tears – were weakness. But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain in a tower, nothing but a brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky – no feelings at all. But feelings – feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But, then – this was awful! – maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself: showing one’s emotions more was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with revelation. What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion? … But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy?… if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain… If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths. (pg 17-18)

An Idea, Thousands of People, Some Technology–Beautiful Music

Again, thanks to John Paul Caponigro for posting this so I could discover it.

This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. This is the kind of event that shows the beauty we are capable of as a people. We get so caught up in the killing and the horrors, of our worship of the cult of the rich and the popular we forget the simple power of the masses to create something so beautiful.

A virtual choir – thousands of normal people all around the world who join together via the internet brought together by an idea and a shared love.

This first video is Eric Whitacre’s description of how this came to be.

The second is his first piece, Lux Aurumque – 185 people from 12 countries.

The third is his second piece, Sleep – 2052 people from 58 countries.

This last piece is in remembrance of Easter, in honor of the God of us all.

How Great Thou Art by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill.

Happy Easter all.

Drawing by Milton Glaser

I found this on John Paul Caponigro’s Blog.


This explains fundamentally why I’ve never been content with photography as a medium of expression. I’ve always felt I was lacking something important. As I’ve worked on my drawing over the past few months what Mr. Glaser says here has become more and more clear to me.

Photography is a medium of discovery. You look for patterns and moments of meaning within nature and within mankind. And you capture them in that moment. In photography I look for the wholeness of the compostion – the relationship of the parts within the frame.

Drawing is a medium of observation. You examine, understand, explore and capture the details of the object. There is a depth there I don’t find in photography. Which, honestly, is what makes it difficult for me to sit down and do it. It takes a serious commitment in time and effort to draw. While with a camera I watch and when I see it – I aim, compose shot and walk on. The commitment there is to carry a camera and to constantly watch.

A couple of things from Permission to Suck

Here’s a couple of quotes from yesterday’s  ‘Permission to Suck’  post that hit home for me:

Using your instincts as a creative person means staying within yourself.

Make sure that every influence you’re connected to is filtered through your unique voice. Perhaps it’s best to keep it inside long enough to forget inspiration’s origin. Use the artifact of influence before it’s time and you’re work is a copy.

Without an original voice – without artistic instincts – you resemble a marketer. Producing what you think will sell; a trend chaser.

While copies are OK, they aren’t quality in the full sense of the word; they’re a lie as soon as you put your name on them. Influences, given time to incubate, are the nutrients of your unique voice. No matter how similar the final result, if you’re honest with yourself, don’t you instinctively know when they’re yours or a copy?

I know I do.

A Permission To Suck Manifesto law:

6. Your creativity is about your heart, not their surface. Creativity is your world view filtered through your talent. It’s your passion, experience, expertise, inspiration and your rules that drive you to create wonderful things that you’re destined to hate because they’re not good enough, and others are open to admire because they couldn’t do it.

Its all about the sweat and the pain

This post from Permission to Suck expands on the spirit of my first ‘What is Beauty’ post.  The image on the wall created by a person who paid a significant cost to make it intrigues us more than the image on the wall created by a machine via a formula.  They may be ascetically comparable – heck, the formula generated image by even be superior, but we admire and respect and value the man made image because of the effort and the skill that went into it. The final piece represents the victory of the human mind and hand to overcome the challenges to make it. The same spirit we admire in the sports world exists in the art world. The greater the pain, the more complete the victory the more we admire the result.

It’s not as much about the final image – it is more about how the artist got there.

We value the Michelangelo ink sketch more than the most intricate piece from our local art student because those few lines capture everything Michelangelo went through to become the artist he was. I hung a lot of student art of which I remember little. But the Michelangelo ink that I held briefly is burned into my memory. We celebrate Van Gogh’s madness and see it in the swirls and ridges of his strokes. I’ve often wondered if his work is a result of his going mad, or was going mad the result of his work. Either way the spirit is there. The frustration, the dedication, the passion.

I can make images today that are technically superior to Stieglitz. I have better tools, better paper, superior inks. Even ascetically I think I can compete or even better him. For example – ‘The Steerage’:


This image has never really done much for me. Composition isn’t bad. The lines break up the planes nicely, add some interest to what is basically a crowd shot. Some interesting shapes. But it’s a crowd shot. I’ve taken lots of crowd shots – I’m not big on crowd shots. So why is this one so valuable? It is a well composed crowd shot.  A moment in time that doesn’t look to bad. Does that make it special?

But put it in the context of the time, the tools used, the man who took it, the journey he was making to becoming a significant player in the development of American art, then it has interest. Then we stare at it and make up reasons why it is significant. 

Here’s a quote on ‘The Steerage’ from Wikipedia:

The Steerage is a photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism.

Nothing there about how beautiful it is. No, it’s about the person, the place, the time.  If you don’t know the history behind it, it holds no real interest. You’d walk by it in the museum. You might think, “There’s an interesting crowd picture” and continue on.

Photography’s key draw is its ability to capture a moment in time. Everything there actually existed for that moment. Photography is an effort of exploration, of finding. You don’t go out to build a photograph, you ‘find’ a photograph. You may build the set, but the photograph itself is not the set – it is a representation of that set in a moment of time. Now PhotoShop is blurring that line, but in its purest state, it is reality captured in a moment of time. Add skill, technique, the flow of life around and in the image and something intriguing and ‘beautiful’ is created.

Here are some quotes from the Permission to Suck posting. It’s called ‘Creativity is Interesting, Virtuosity is Inspiring’. Please read the whole thing. It’s worth the effort:

Well… to be honest, I’m getting little tired of hearing about how creative I must be; F%$# you, I’ll be who I am – you go and be fresh and new and different, I’m going to concentrate on being a better me.

Creativity is a common and natural act. Yet, being a virtuoso is the ultimate analog goal requiring sacrifice. Great musicians, fine artists, writers, and even athletes inspire awe in what is possible when a life is devoted to skill honing and potential accomplishment. Success is visceral.

The devotion to a skill that produces useless beauty is virtuous. Aesthetic aptitude + highly skilled craft + just enough creativity to be interesting = Virtuosity. This equation says nothing about being original just to be original.

To be authentically original is to make the sacrifice to be a virtuoso.

I’m thinking when I break this need to to impressive work for other people, when I transition to doing it to push myself, to see what I’m capable of, then I will have the chance to do something excellent and amazing. Anything else is simply a drive to mediocrity.

Something like this pepper by Edward Weston. I love this. You may or may not, but I do and that’s the magic of the whole concept. There’s beauty in this image for me because of what Weston did with a common place object within the realm of his art.


Find it and live it


Watching this brought back the question I’d asked JP (John Paul Caponigro) when I was in Moab in May. Standing there on a corner of a motel parking lot on the street of Moab with cars and trucks rumbling by. I remember the place, his face, his voice, but the message was slipping away. In this two minute clip Kevin Spacey repeated it and brought back that moment – same words from two great artists.


What is Beauty? Part 2…

My last post by no means was the end all discussion/definition of beauty. Mr. Dutton’s comments were interesting, inspiring, defining, but they weren’t the full answer. It was one perspective. I’m going to continue this exploration by pulling in additional pieces and adding my two bits when it makes sense and I feel so inspired.

There’s a piece by Trey Ratcliff of HDR fame, among other things. His article is entitled, 10 Principles of Beautiful Photography.

Here’s an extract to whet your appetite:

Oh, look at that camera you have! It’s so tiny and slim and techno-looking. Look! It fits right in your pocket! Oh my, you can take it to parties and to sporting events and it’s so convenient. Oh – it does 10 megapixels too! Oh my. Well that is a good camera then!

No it’s not. It’s a toy – give it to your kids or the nearest Japanese gradeschooler (for whom it was designed) and get serious.

Check it out – some thoughtful insights, spoken plainly.