Saturday, October 31, 2009

What is Behind Door Number Two?

BlueDoorsToNowhere, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Happy Halloween, everybody! Happy Halloween, Happy Day of the Dead, Happy Saturday, and Happy start of National Blog Posting Month!

Yes, it's that time again. It's time for us to start posting once a day. It's time for that insanity to start again-you know the insanity I'm taking about-the insanity most normal folks call "November." This year promises to be no different. The challenge? Why, that's easy. Post once a day, every day, for the month of November. That's it. That's all you have to do. Post once a day.

Sounds really easy doesn't it? Yeah, well, so does mountain climbing and running a marathon when you first hear about it too. "All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. For 26 miles." Yeah, that sounds really easy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go bang my head against a wall until it hurts. Actually, come to think of it, that's a little what National Blog Posting Month is like-well, the banging your head against the wall bit.

Hey, why am I still typing? The world doesn't even start until midnight tonight, right?

Until next time...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Step Right Up-Get Your Prints Here

OrderHere, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Went to New Beginnings over at Concordia tonight. Tonight marked the opening reception and I'd have to say the show looked great. The work was wonderful and it was great bumping into some old friends again. I ran into Lois, a photographer friend who had just done a show out in Johnson City-her work was in the infrared show out there.

I have a theory. My theory is that, everybody who shows work on a fairly regular basis has, at some point in their travels, forgotten to pick-up work somewhere. We tend to forget to pick stuff up after shows close, we leave prints in odd places, we forget to include return shipping costs-some odd things happens and you somehow wind up with work just sort of sitting out there-out in that wild blue yonder. This happened to me before too and tonight Lois was kind enough to return my work from the outer reaches of that galaxy.

I don't know what it is about photographers but we sort of "spread our seeds" around a bit like that. Everybody I know who shows their work a lot has a similar story-I had work up somewhere, forgot to pick it up, wonder if it's still there, the gallery owner keeps telling me, "next time I see you, I'll get it back to you," etc. Sometimes, these things go on for years. It's kind of funny how they work out. So, tonight I got back, I think, something like five prints.

Do you have work out like that? Ever wonder when (if?) you are ever going to get it back? Do you ever wish there was a "step right up, order here type of bar for work like this? I know, I sure would frequent one if such a place did exist.

Until next time...

Hyde Park in the Dark-Notes from Location Shoot Tonight

Light Trails At Diner, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Went out tonight shooting in Hyde Park, one of my favorite funky old neighborhoods in Austin. It was the first meeting of the Austin Night Photography group and we had a blast. Started pouring down rain on the way over there but then, just as we all assembled, it stopped, but left the ground nice and wet for us to photograph. Wet ground makes for wonderful reflections and we had some dandy clouds to play with as well, not to mention some great light trails. Of course, any one of these things would make for a great night shot but, getting all of them? In a single night? The same frame? Felt a little like I died and went to heaven.

Hyde Park is filled with interesting characters and it's a wonderful place to just sit, relax, and people watch. It also has some great restaurants, coffee places, and diner-like joints. I love diner-like joints, especially at night. The grocery store is very interesting there too-it's not your usual chain store-more like a "corner grocer" from the days of old. I love that about the place (look for pictures of that to follow.)

Austin at night is a wonderful thing to photograph. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

License and Registration Please

HangingAround, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

On this day in 1989 I got stopped for speeding. It was a nice day, sunny, not much traffic, I had the radio on, a bit too heavy with the old lead foot, and that's when it happened. Damn. Blueys in my rear view yet again. How do I remember this, after so many years? Easy. Today's also my birthday.

Yes, yes, it's true. I'm older. Another day, another year. *Sigh* The good news is that it promises to be a bit of a nice day out today. The clouds are shaping up to be pretty anyway. I love clouds and I've been looking at them a lot lately. Yes, I know, side effect of being a photographer and all. But still, nice clouds make for a nice day and, so far, I'm liking the clouds that I can see out the top of my window from where I sit. I hope you have a great day too.

This shot is left over from last year-we've had little to no autumn yet-autumn doesn't typically hit in Austin until November. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll be out of compact flash when it does. (Kidding, kidding.)

Big plans for today are to go out for Chinese food. Yay! I love Chinese food, and try to come home early, enjoy a quiet evening at home. Wish me luck with that, right? Chase is at the groomer's getting clipped. I hope he comes out ok. I want them to keep his curls since it's soon to be winter.

Oh and the speeding? How did that end? Well that one's easy. I told the nice officer, "but today's my birthday!" Gave him my license and registration and he didn't believe me. He didn't believe me until he walked all the way back to his car, sat down, started filling in masses of paperwork, and then looked at my license again. He let me go with a warning and a "have a nice day!"

Yeah, you too, right? I'm totally with him on that last part.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Roundup-Hanging on for Dear Life

BentleyBackSeat, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Lots to talk about this weekend. For starters, I spent most of the weekend shopping! Actually, it wasn't as fun as it sounds-I spent a good chunk of the weekend getting supplies so that I can get my studio setup for encaustics.

For starters, I've decided to get a workbench in my garage so I can go out there and paint. I went today to buy the bench and that's when the fun really started. You see, I have a small car, and the workbench is big-not a fit there. I got my parents to drive me over to Lowe's hardware store since Lowe's has a nice selection of workbenches and my parents have a small-ish SUV (it's a Honda CR-V actually.) Well, the bench barely fit in the back of their small SUV. It fit, but we had to fold both the back seats down to fit it in, which meant that I had to sit on top of it and sort of lie down flat across the back of the SUV. It wasn't really flat even, since the seats were kind of "bumpy" so I just had to pile myself back in there with a big giant not fully assembled bench.

At one point I told my father, who is actually quite the careful driver, "Ahem! I would very much appreciate it if, at this point in time, you were to drive a bit declaratively-you know, rather than just drive into a pothole, if you would be so kind as to announce 'BUMP!' well, I'd have to say, I'd greatly appreciate it. Not to mention the fact that it might help me refrain from sliding into your lap, seeing as I am completely lacking an 'oh sh!t' handle, given the current position into which I'm stuffed." Railroad tracks were not my friend, ok? Especially not those double sets-the kind with big bumps and dips in the middle. At one point, there was this guy following us on a motorcycle, and it was pretty funny because I had not been paying attention and then I turned to look out of the back and he was right there-since my butt was basically up against the back door of the vehicle. I don't know what the polite thing to do is given this situation-was I supposed to have smiled and waved at him or quickly turned my head away? Somehow, I think miss manners would even be stumped by this one, but we carried on and got home with the workbench intact so it can't be all bad.

I also got some ornamental snowflakes to melt into the wax, but that's not nearly as dramatic. I just went in and paid for them.

I had some ice cream cake. I went to Hobby Lobby. I went over the Concordia on Friday to help hang up the "New Beginnings" show, then headed over to Texican Cafe and had a late dinner. Actually, if I had to round it up, I ate way too much Mexican food this weekend. Come to think of it, I take that back. There's no such thing as too much Mexican food. Ok, I had more than my fair share of queso this weekend, I admit it. I started cleaning up my house. The night photography group is planning a shoot tomorrow night, but it's supposed to rain. Chase tried to eat a cat, but thankfully missed, as the cat was able to run up a tree in time to escape his dogged curiosity. It was really nice and I sat out a lot. I got an electric griddle on sale at Kohl's for $24 ($14 after mail-in rebate.) It's large and should work quite nicely for encaustics. I hate mail-in rebates, don't you?

All of that and my tax refund showed up. I think it hit on Friday, which is great, because I sure could use the money.

So, how was your weekend? Hopefully a bit more spacious than mine.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looking Through the Peephole of Possibility

LoneBareTreeS, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

An important announcement from the good folks at Lensbaby came along today, in the form of a few new products that really sound like fun. For starters, there's now an official fisheye Lensbaby. I believe it's part of the optic swap system, available only on the newer Lensbaby lenses, but still, it's a fisheye, and you know I can hardly wait to get my hands on one of those.

Next up we have a soft focus optic element. This too sounds like a lot of fun, though one has to wonder, isn't the Lensbaby soft focus already? No need to explain, I have this one figured out-it makes a nice soft focus "glow" on everything. Lots of fun, and really one of the reasons why we use the Lensbaby to begin with, so more "I want" there.

Finally, they have made a step-up filter-one that allows you to use a conventional 52 mm filter on a Lensbaby. Now, I'm always a bit curious when they use the words "Lensbaby" and "conventional" in the same sentence, but, this time anyway, it actually makes a bit of sense.

I want.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Agent Saboteur

Jail, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

As I was reading an article the other day about support and sabotage, I realized that I have not yet discussed this, though it can be an important factor in the success (or failure, I suppose) of many artists. How to identify and stop artistic sabotage seems like something out of a spy thriller, and not something you should be overly concerned about, but sabotage, in many forms, is out there. Yes, sabotage takes many forms and it comes from many different sources. Well meaning friends, even family members and other artists can seem to sabotage your artistic voice, sometimes even before it gets off the ground.

One of the problems with this type of behavior is that it can be difficult to identify. Often it comes from family and friends so you aren't as aware that it's happening. These are well-meaning people, not the kind of folks who would knowingly sabotage your artistic expression, right? Consider this. Mary and Ann go out for lunch. Mary has just taken a new workshop, is very excited about the prospect of working with a new medium, is even thinking she's going to quit her day job and paint more. Ann says to her, "my son Johnny made the honor roll and he's on the soccer team. We have soccer practice now every Saturday morning. You should come, it's fun. You know Bill, that single dad shows up from time to time. You should meet him, it would give you something to do." Is Ann trying to sabotage Mary? At first, it might appear not, but these sorts of seemingly innocent saboteurs can work in strange ways.

If there's somebody in your life who is always trying to distract you, if they view your work only as a sort of "passing" hobby, if they continually interrupt you with phone calls, unnecessary email, unexpected visits, or impromptu "get togethers" when they know it's your time to paint or take pictures, if all of this happens regularly, you just might have a saboteur on your hands.

Many of these people are well-meaning. They might even sabotage you in an effort to do what they think is best for you. Sometimes their behavior has very little to do with you, but is more about themselves. They see you, a busy artist with a bright future, and they let jealously and self-doubt into the mix. This type of person doesn't like to be reminded of the path not taken-they don't like to see you out living an interesting fun life, while they are stuck inside with the kids, wondering what could have been. Sometimes, it's our own family that does this. Kids can be especially difficult here-they are needy. They don't want Mom to paint or draw, it takes the focus off of them. You're supposed to be "Mom" all of the time right? Your world revolves one hundred percent around them, their goals, their needs. This can create guilt and that's never a good thing for an artist.

There's only a few ways to stop this sort of destructive behavior. For starters, learn to recognize it and cut it off when it starts to happen. Mary could have said to Ann, "I'm sorry, but Saturday is my painting time. I'm excited about this work and I hope to have a show soon. Maybe you can invite Bill to the show?"

I think though the single most important thing you can do as an artist to sort of stop this destructive behavior is to treat yourself and your artwork as anything but a hobby. From the start, I've always viewed my art as a sort of "second job" and it is that-a job. That means regularly working on it, promotion, marketing, taxes, and all that goes along with it. It's far from a "hobby" and I do not treat myself as a "hobbyist." If you have to, disconnect your computer from the web, take the phone off the hook, shut off the TV, and force yourself to work set hours. You don't have to work forty hours a week, like a desk job, but work regular hours. Make it clear that you have a purpose in mind-that you are creating art with intent. Maybe you won't get a million shows or make a million dollars but take yourself seriously and other people will start to as well. It's only a hobby if you dabble in it, and I've given up on "dabbling" a long time ago. I can't count the number of times I've had to tell somebody, "sorry, I have to work" when I'm actually talking about going on a photo shoot, a workshop, a class, or even a location shoot. Most people, especially in this economy, have a certain respect for the words, "I'm sorry, but I have to work" so use them and learn how to use them like you mean it. Art is a job, maybe not a traditional one, maybe one without a traditional "office" but it's work too, and you should treat it that way. The saboteurs will slowly get the message and the work will get done once you're free from their destructive behavior.

If you have any tips for dealing with these types of people, please feel free to share-either drop me a note or leave a comment and I'll post a follow-on as a future topic.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Artistic Weekend (of sorts)

BrownPotsNo2, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Spent a good chunk of today in the studio over at Bay 6 dipping odd things in hot wax. Yes, yes, I know, seems strange, but there you have it. I'll maybe try to post some of the results here (or, you know, not) in the coming days (weeks?) depending upon the TOS rules to Flickr. (For some reason, when I first joined Flickr, they did not take too kindly to painters posting items made with paint in their photo streams. Fast forward to current trends and, it would appear, they don't seem to care, though it is technically still in our TOS rules, so I might try to sort of "bury" my recent painting work in the middle of a stream of "straight" photos and hope the good folks at Flickr don't notice, don't care, or just don't TOS me for one reason or another. *Fingers crossed*)

Working with wax was different for me. It was a bit difficult for me at first to wrap my head around how to work with the medium but then, I suspect, it's always that way when you try out something new, right? The first blends of wax with pigment that I made were mostly cadmium-based and these tend to be heavier (for those of you who don't paint. *Waves*) then their non-cadmium based counterparts. It just took a little "getting used to" in terms of working with the medium, and layering the paint, and fusing it with the heat. Once I got the hang of it though, I started to produce better results. Don't get me wrong, I've just started with this medium, so it's going to take me (probably) the better part of a year until I feel comfortable working in it, still I could see a lot of applications for this. I wound up doing one piece with leaves and a very heavy pigment (thanks to my friend, Mr. Cadmium) and two partially photo-based pieces, one done with natural bits (tree burs, peppercorns, and cumin) and another a tribute to my doll head series, done with mostly hand-mixed pigment (lighter and more wax-based than the cadmium.)

Speaking of all things new, I would also like to point out that I've been inspired enough to start the ball rolling on a new Austin Night Photography group. For now, the group is just on Flickr (LOL-here's hoping I don't get TOS-d over the encaustic stuff, right?) but expect it to maybe take the form of some field trips and (perhaps?) maybe even venture into a meeting space if there's enough interest (so far, it would appear that's the case, though it's hard to tell how many folks are committed to shooting at night.)

Finally, in "New Beginnings" news, this is shaping up to be a busy week. We're slated to go over to University on Friday to frame and possibly hang the show and the reception is scheduled for October 29th after 6 pm on University grounds. That should keep me busy matting, framing, printing and, well, I guess, complaining to you about this all, until then, right?

Provided I don't get my head stuck in wax between now and Friday, that is.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking at Things in a New Way

This weekend, I'm going to take a workshop on encaustics. It promises to be fun and informative.

When I first heard about encaustics, I had little desire to do them. "Yeah, yeah, that's nice, dip stuff in wax," I thought to myself. I mean, sure I've liked some of the work that I've seen done that way but, I don't know, it just wasn't all that exciting to me. It wasn't pulling me in.

It took me a while to think about it, to really think about how I could work with encaustics, about what I could do with it. Once I started to go over it in my mind, once I started to imagine the possibilities, that's when I started to get drawn to it. Now, I really want to try it out.

Sometimes things are like that. You get a taste of something, a hint, a gleam, but it's not enough. You have to process it. Maybe think about things for a little while. Turn it over and over in your head before you can make it click. It can feel frustrating when you're in that phase of things-like wheels are just turning without any results. But then, somehow, the moment it clicks, that's when it starts to come to life and you can really see it.

Right now, I'm seeing it in my head but my hands haven't done it yet. I'm a little anxious about that too. I mean, I've not worked with encaustics before, right? Will I take to it? Will I like it? Is it something I want to do? Will I burn my eyebrows off in the process? (It's hot, right?) Then I think about those wheels, that turning, that inspiration and I think, yes, I owe it to myself to at least give it a try, right? I mean, that's the adventure in life, trying new things. So, I'm going to give it a go.

I had this great idea to do something Asian inspired for my encaustics. So, I went to the store today and tried to find some Asian inspired stuff. The problem is, they've got nothing but Christmas decor. Oh rats! I thought to myself. But then, I continued to shop. I got some ornaments. I was fascinated by snowflakes. I got a purple snowflake and a gemstone one too. And some fake leaves. I love fake leaves, autumn is my favorite time of year actually. It never goes out of style for me, even though those damn stores are already playing holiday music and decking the halls with holly. So, I'm going to try my encaustics with fake snowflakes, fake leaves, little angels, and some other stuff.

Wish me luck.

Until next time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's in the Details-Stick this in Your Stick Figure

RoundMirrorNo3, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

One of the things that makes classic cars so attractive to me is the detail that went into making them. Instead of just churning out plastic bits, the cars of old were crafted. They had little round mirrors, hand polished bumpers, fancy dashboards, and lots of little trim bits. Nobody bothers with trim bits today. Nobody bothers with any "little touches" of elegance-we're simply plunked down in the middle of a sea of plastic and electronic parts-GPS, fancy radios, air bags, and "WARNING!" stickers grace our dashboards these days. All these "WARNING! Don't touch..." this or that stickers don't really make for a comfortable environment. Frankly, it's not a place I want to sit.

Sure, we have leather seats, and yes, air bags do save lives, but, come on, can't you make them look a little bit better? Why do I have to sit in something that looks one part plastic bucket and one part electronic control room? We spend hours in our cars, can't we have something comfortable? Is it too much to ask that you stop surrounding us with "WARNING!" stickers-I'm mean, yes, we already know we're careening through traffic at seventy miles per hour and yes, we already know that we could crash and die and any second, but must you remind us of this each and every time we sit down? I mean, come on, we might be about to die, can't we at least enjoy one last ride before we check out? Must we endure your attack of stick figures and yellow triangular signs with prominent exclamation marks? (Forget good intentions, I swear the road the Hell is actually paved with yellow triangular signs featuring bold exclamation marks and stick figures in odd positions.)

Maybe it's just me and I'm getting old, but it seems like all the new cars look alike and I just can't get too excited about a plastic bucket filled with electronic devices that beep and blink at me. I'm in the freaking car because I want to enjoy the open road, not bear the albatross of an electronic wasteland and a bunch of stick figures in peril.

Well, it's Friday so I have to say it, may all of today's stick figures have little light bulbs above their heads and not be the kind that get stuck in odd poses.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Almost That Dia

MariachiDeLosMuertos, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I got invited to a Day of the Dead altar-making party today. It's going to be held November 1st over at the Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin. I expect there will be sugar skulls, hot rods, wonderful altars and a whole lot more.

In other news, the New Beginnings show has taken shape. We've curated the work and are now going to print, frame, and all of that goodness, in preparations for our opening, which will be October 29th at the campus. This is, of course, the hard part, because we now have to go and do all of the work. I expect to print and matte my stuff this weekend but, you know how these things go (if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done, right?)

I finally did my taxes. Phew! I'm getting a refund and the IRS owes me quite a bit of money this time around, but I had some complications thanks to some stock transactions and the like. My Dad had to help me out a lot this year but, I'm happy to say, I finally got it done.

You know what they say about life, taxes, and um, I guess death too, right?

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That's Imposs....NO, IT'S NOT

Breaking news from the Impossible Project. Polaroid has announced that, due to the success of the Impossible Project, the impossible is, in fact, possible again. Polaroid is going to begin manufacture of instant cameras again, sometime in the middle of 2010.

Many congrats to those who worked so hard in making this happen. Many thanks to all of the scientists who gave their time and energy, undertaking one of the most technically difficult projects ever taken. Many thanks to all of the photographers who refused to give up hope and keep shooting Polaroid film (in any of it's many forms) that was once on the verge of extinction.

Life goes an instant.

Until next time...

Escaping From Places I've Never Really Been-Tips for Bloggers

GreenStripedLotus, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I get asked a lot about blogging. How do I make a blog? How do you decide what to say? How do you get traffic to your site? If you search the Internets, there are already a lot of posts about this, I'm sure, but that doesn't stop people from asking me how to do it too. So, in the spirit of helping others, and because it really is all that easy to do, I've decided to offer some tips for bloggers.

Tip 1: Don't fuss over templates-too many people spend too long worrying about how their site looks to create content. My biggest suggestion is to slap something simple up, start writing posts and, after you get 15 or 20 good, solid posts up, then re-do your template. Once you are happy with your template, don't think about it too often, in fact, only do it (or re-do it) once a year if you can. Focus on content and keep the templates, the look and feel of your site, simple.

Tip 2: Twenty posts a month (or more.) People want to actually read a blog, and they want to come every day to see what you have to say, so plan on writing 20 posts a month. Now, there are all these websites, like NaBloPoMo, which are wonderful-they're designed to get you to post each and every day. That's great, if you can do it. The problem is, there's really no value in what I like to call "empty posts." You know what I'm talking about here-nobody wants to click on your site and read something like "Sorry I didn't have time to post today. Here's a picture of a flower...." If you can't generate 20 "solid" posts a month, consider moving your website to a "weekly" site ("picture of the week," that sort of a thing) or make it a static website, not a weblog at all. Move to facebook, twitter, or one of the other social media outlets to update your peeps, you'll get better results and you won't waste your time trying to do a blog that nobody is going to read anyway.

Tip 3: People read photoblogs for one of two reasons. They either want to be informed or they want to live vicariously through you.

If you are providing information, tip 4 is to provide as much information as you can, while keeping it brief, relevant, and to the point. Somebody who posts the latest in equipment reviews, and is honest, for example, will always get a lot of hits. Write about what you know, become an expert in your selected field, and the traffic will follow.

For those doing the "slice of life" bit, tip 5 is for you. People want to live vicariously through you and your travels. We no longer farm for food, we are a nation (and globe actually) of office workers. People sit in cubicles and fantasize-they want to be you. It's an escape of sorts for them, almost like watching TV or going to a movie. So, my tip 5 is simple-give them what they want. In a way, modern photographers have become almost like monkeys in a cage with cameras. It's like we don't even exist except to entertain others, to feed others voyeurism.

From where I sit, my perspective, being a photographer is about being in the trenches, being in up to our eyeballs, being in the weeds (whatever you want to call it.) People reading your blog want to read it and think, "he's making it! He's doing it!" So many people read blogs and think, "he's making it! I want to do that too. I want to make it!" that they'll start to follow you, to sort of live through your adventures. It's why blogs and blogging in general has become so popular. Photography almost doesn't exist today, as it did years ago. Everybody wants all the "behind the scenes" stuff, even more than they want to view the finished product. Susan Sontag once said that "everything exists to be photographed" and photo blogs make sure that is not too far from the truth. So, if you want to be successful, you need to fuel that. You need to feed it and milk it. Go ahead, do a "slice of life" blog, show us your daily shower, your morning coffee, but make it interesting. Make somebody sitting on the outside look at it and think, "I want to be that" or "I want to do that" and you'll be a success.

Now, some of my smart (and regular) readers out there may now be thinking, "she's crazy. She doesn't do any of that." And, I have to admit, they'd be right, I don't. My blog is different. I'm not trying to help you live vicariously or even pass along relevant information. My blog is a third type of blog: the personal journal. The personal journal is a different type of blog altogether. I don't write it for you, I write it for me. And, hate to say it but, I don't care who reads it. I'm not trying to generate traffic, make "monthly numbers" or any of that. No, what I'm trying to do is something completely different. I'm trying to express myself with words and images. The goal of my blog is simple really. I want to enjoy myself. It's an expression of who I am, much like an extension of my photography. And, I'd have to admit it, if you're this type of blogger, there's only one real rule you need to live by: have fun with it.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Roundup - Odds, Ends, Parts, and Stuff

SheepHeart, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's Sunday, time for my usual nonsensical post about nothing in particular and everything in between. Let's see now, where to begin?

James May has built an entire house out of Lego. In particularly sad news (or not, I suppose, if you aren't all the fan of Lego) the house has already been razed. No word on weather or not it matched his plasticine garden and we're still waiting to hear if he's going to take on the challenge of building an entire life-sized village out of Lincoln Logs. James, buddy, what can I say? You're such a freak, that's why we love you so (well, that, and, from the looks of things, though I live miles, actually an entire continent and an ocean away, it appears we go to the same hairdresser, so I can't be all that mean.)

Feeling old? My alma mater sent me an email with my life expectancy in it. Along with the "catchy" cry for money-"It's never too late to donate! Won't you consider leaving us in your will?" Damn you people. I'm not old and now, I guess, you're not getting any of my hard-earned money so just go away and stop trying to tell me when I will expire already. (By the way, I'm slated to die in 2054 so get those cards and letters ready. Or, you no, not as the case may be.)

The other day I had not one, but two (count 'em, TWO) espresso coffee drinks. Talk about "wide awake in dreamland." Oh Lord, help me, I was bouncing off the walls. What was I thinking? They should outlaw that stuff, it's worse than crack and yet, somehow, quite cheaper I believe.

There is now a place called "Costume World" over on Burnet Road, across from the local Austin Infinity dealership. There's a lady in there named (I swear I'm not making this up) Lucky who will rent you a full theatrical costume by the hour. No word on how many vampires though-you're on your own for that.

I think writers should have blogs because too many computer programmers have then instead. (Yank them from a keyboard and programmers are a pretty useless lot, aren't they?)

I always wanted to see a pregnant nun in Venice, but I never did. Sadly, there are few nuns left and those that are, it would appear, prefer "normal" street clothing these days. The nunnery and brothel have also been separated over the course of time (though this was not always the case, or so I was told.) Ah, I did get to sneak a picture inside the Bridge of Sighs so, I guess, it's all good.

I still can't get the song Cath by Death Cab for Cutie out of my head. I'm also listening to the new Collective Soul, Rodrigo y Gabriela, though it's sure to become an insurance jingle in the making, Five for Fighting's "Chances Are," and Mat Kearney's "Closer to Love." ("I guess we're all one phone call/From our knees/We're going to get there soon/If every building falls/And all the stars fade/We'll still be singing that song/The one they can't take away") It's been a while, so I probably should do an entire post devoted to music, but this will have to tide you over for the time being.

It's been so long since I've posted, I feel like I've sold myself to these people. To answer the obvious, yes, there really were sheep hearts in that bucket. No, I didn't put them there-I'm just a photographer, remember? (I mean, yeah, I shoot 'em, but I don't, um, shoot 'em quite that way, ok?)

I've thought about opening an orphanage called "Carol's Home for Wayward Imaginary Friends" but I couldn't see it. Get it? (Yes, I know, that was a really bad joke. Sorry. It should have come with a warning.)

I miss the old days, when you could blog about people behind their back. Nowadays, anybody can Google. It's not even a lost art. And there's nary a stranger in the comments. (*Waves* Sorry I've been gone so long. Next time, I'll try to, type, I guess.)

Current favorite response to "...but all you do is push a button" is: "Yes, but some button pushin' looks a whole lot better than other button pushin', doesn't it?"

If you could write a letter that started out "Dear Boy/Dear Girl" (and expect to get a response) what would you say? (Maybe I'd stop to ask, "Why is your plumbing so different from mine?" But then again, maybe not.)

Do you think Marc Chagall ever had strange dreams about falling into ravines and wandering around old Scottish castles at midnight? (Something tells me he did, but I do, so maybe he didn't.)

I think that's enough random crazy crap for one day, but do please tell. How was your weekend?

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Too Much Month At the End of the Money

Pointed Head, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

So, an interesting thing is happening at work. When we first heard that the company we were working at was merging with another, and we were to participate in this great "buy out," everybody thought they would make some money from the stock transactions. Naturally, everybody started shopping. Now, it wasn't as bad as it was in the great "dot com" days before the bubble (no, they didn't open a Porsche dealership in the lobby) but it was still noticeable. Fast forward to yesterday, when we got our "financial packet" information. We suddenly went from thinking we were going to get a nice big, fat check, to realizing that we had to actually purchase the stock *before* we could get that check. Many of us now have only a few days to come up with several thousands of dollars.

Money does interesting things to people. At first, everybody was shopping. It was all new car this, I'm going to buy that, etc. until the cows came home. Now, the worm has turned and everybody has nary a pack of gum to their name. Even though we're expecting a payout, and we will get it soon (very soon) we're all broke. Some people, when faced with the circumstances of being broke actually panic. You can almost hear the thoughts racing through their minds, "What will I do? How will I live? How will I get by? Who is going to feed my family?" Others, take it in stride. It's almost like their internal workings are saying, "eh, oh well, broke again."

Now, I normally would not say anything about this here, but it has an interesting impact upon photographers. Photographers, you see, are usually self-employed and often find themselves the hapless victims of especially turbulent circumstances. They make money at times and then go for long stretches without. They have to learn to budget yet they use expensive equipment and can't really afford to skimp. It's a very hard lot, financially it is, for those opting to make a living (sometimes you can't even call it that) in the arts.

There comes a time in every artists career when he or she has to make important financial decisions. Now, I'm sure that everybody would love it, just love it, if money never impacted our artistic ability. Everybody likes to think that, if there were some great "Picasso-like" person, maybe the next Rembrandt out there, hiding in the woods somewhere, he'd have enough money to get by. The fact of the matter is, that's not always the case. As much as we don't like to admit it, art is for the privileged. No, now that doesn't mean the rich are better painters, but stop and think about what it does mean. It's hard to create art-to draw, paint, take pictures, when you're worried about putting food on the table. Many people (perhaps too many people) relegate artwork to the "end of the month" type of expense-only after all of those pesky bills have been paid, only then can we buy our paint or upgrade our camera. Yes, yes, we know that "art fuels the soul" but, at the end of the day, when it's time to sit down and actually balance that checkbook, that's just a slogan and, sorry to say, it won't help pay the rent this month, right? Yes, the sad truth is that, it's true, money changes everything. Paint is expensive. Too often the pursuit of the arts are left for those with the excess wealth. So, what's a poor, struggling artist to do?

I wish I had an easy answer for you. I wish I had some "magic bullet" that you could just point at your checkbook and make it so. The fact is, there isn't one. I've seen many artists, photographers, musicians, struggle. That financial struggle is part of the larger, "big picture" of paying your dues as an artist. Part of being a successful artist, I'm sorry to say, is learning (sometimes the hard way) what sells, what pays the bills, where the cash comes from. If you don't do that, at some point in your career, in some small way, your artwork will suffer.

There are no easy answers, just lots of artists, much like yourself, who struggle with these same questions, day over day. How long will I have to pay my dues before I can make it? Why doesn't my work sell? How should I price my work? Does it make me a "sellout" if I license my stuff? What if I need the cash? All I can tell you is, welcome to the real world. I don't care what they fed you in art school, that's how things work in the big bad world of the new economy so you best get used to it. Learn to budget. Learn to live beneath your means. Learn to spend less and do more with fewer. Force yourself to not only create beautiful things, but do it in a cost effective way. You'll be a better artist for it someday, trust me.

As far as the folks at work, I'm sure they'll recover once those stock transactions come through. Some of them will be better off, yes, for having more money, but some will be the same. Maybe a few, a few of the lucky ones, will learn that money doesn't buy everything, and, at the end of the day, it doesn't even really make you happy, but it is a necessary evil in the world today.

Until next time...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Media Mixed: A Photographer's Quick Guide to Moving Beyond the Traditional Photographic Print

Once Yellow House, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I realize there are many of you out there who have started to grow restless with the traditional photographic print. Many of the recent "digital converts" have been shooting for a few years now, and have a strong desire to sort of "move on" maybe stretch themselves a bit as artists, and are itching to try out a new technique or move beyond the traditional photographic (or digital) print. For all of these reasons and more, I thought I would put together a brief list of ideas, suggestions if you will, that can help you to do just that-move beyond the normal, ordinary world of the basic print, and try out something new.

  • Printing on canvas is great, and a lot of photographers are starting to do it again, thanks to the lower costs of doing it digitally, but, in order to move into the world of more "hand worked" prints, try Marshall's oils or painting on top of your images.
  • There are many ways to paint on top of photographs, and mix painting with photography. Marshall's photo oils have been around a long time and allow you to paint on top of your images, but, in the days of the digital age, you are no longer limited to these. You can use any transparent oil paint actually to paint atop of a photo and you can write to someplace like Daniel Smith to get a brochure detailing which of their oils are transparent. They also sell specific oil-based pastels suitable for using on photo canvas. This gives you an interesting look, because it's a more softer, shaded look coming from the pastel, rather than the more "hard lines" of the photographic image.
  • Decoupage is an often overlooked way of mixing images with paint. If you are serious about combining your oil painting and your images, you might look into decoupage as a way of doing it. Decoupage would allow you to start with a painting, say an oil on canvas, and then add a photo to the mix, rather than doing things the other way around (paint on top of a photo.) There are reasons artists traditionally did not apply oil paint to paper, but instead choose wood or canvas-the paint sticks better. By using decoupage, you can let the paint stick to where it wants to adhere (a canvas or board) and sort of "play" in its natural home, while adding a photo to the mix.
  • With most digital (inkjet) printers, you can print directly onto watercolor paper of some kind. Outlets like provide watercolor paper suitable for direct printing. Once your image has been printed onto the watercolor paper, it's fairly easy to apply watercolors, either light bodied or gouache.
  • Collage is always a method you can use, and you can combine it with some of the other methods here to get a unique look. You can, for example, print several smaller prints onto watercolor paper and then paint in-between them to get a unified look.
  • Encaustics and transfers are other ways of mixing up your media. Encaustics involve adhering your image to a board (usually a wooden board) and then painting on top of it using a beeswax-based paint made from encaustic pigment and melted wax. This is a fun way to make, essentially, a 3-D photographic print, since you can also sculpt the wax (and sculpt things into the way) as you do it.
  • Transfers allow you another way to move your image from the inkjet world to the watercolor paper or canvas backing. You can do transfers using both acrylic and water-based mediums to get the look you want and you can combine the transfer techniques with traditional painting, once the image has been transferred to the newer surface.
  • Liquid emulsion and emulsion lifts are other ways you can sort of "play with" photographic emulsions to get them to look more unique. There are also other ways of hand working your prints-you can use some kind of solarization process or a technique like Mordancage.
  • Many alternative processes give you a foothold into hand-worked prints. For example, creating a Burkholder negative and printing a cyanotype or a bromoil print, or even printing platinum palladium or lith will give your work a distinctive look and these techniques can give you the opportunity to work in more of a mixed media.
  • A lot of photographers are getting into varnishes. You can see some examples of this by looking at something like Jack Spencer's portrait series. I've never been a big fan of the varnish technique myself (I don't like to play with toxic chemicals) but it works very well for Jack. There's also a lot you can do by printing onto different materials, such as printing on silk or fabric directly, and painting from there.

One of the downsides to many of these techniques, besides the time and expense of it all, is that, in the end, you will have a unique print. This can make them harder to show and sell, since you will be dealing with prints one at a time, rather than just going to your "inkjet factory" and spitting out another one. This is both their appeal and their downside in a lot of ways-people are more willing to pay for a handmade unique print, but you cannot show such unique prints in multiple shows at the same time (for example.)

I hope this has given you some ideas for what you can do with your work-how you can move beyond the traditional print and into the world of the unique hand worked image.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Prop Shopping or Toto's Not Supposed to Be Scary

Old House, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's almost that time again. It's almost Halloween.

There's something magical to me about Halloween. I love the decorations, I love the "spooky," I love the ghosts, hobgoblins, and focus on the afterlife. I like things a little "odd" a little scary, just maybe a little frightening. It's autumn, my favorite season, not to mention Halloween, All Saint's Day, All Soul's Day, Day of the Dead, and the lot also happen to fall right around my birthday, so I kind of like that too.

This Halloween is extra special for me though. You see, I've decided that I want to do more with my "Projected Pixels" project. I want to actually try to finish it. In order to finish it, I need props. And props, you see, are actually also easily acquired around this time, as people (well, normal people) use them for costumes.

So, costume scouring I will go. I'll hunt high and I'll hunt low. I'll look for all the things that people might buy-wigs, dresses, odd outfits-anything that I could use to portray some of the characters from some of the movies I want to do as part of the "Projected Pixels" project. Yes, this year, I'm going to go prop shopping as well as trick or treating.

The other day, I was reading some reviews of costumes. Now, you might find this a bit odd-not only do they have a ton of costumes on-line, but they also have reviews of on-line costumes. And some costumes, it would appear, do not get very good reviews.

Did you know, for example, you can get a fake Toto (from the Wizard of Oz) in a fake basket, suitable to be used as part of a Dorothy costume? (Sorry, ruby red slippers not included.) Well, I do. At least, I do now, right?

In case you're wondering, the reviews on the fake Toto in the fake basket were pretty low. Poor fake Toto only got 1 star. Somebody had this to say about him, "Toto's not supposed to be scary!"

Indeed, Toto isn't supposed to be scary, but this is Halloween. Everything's scary. Everything's scary that isn't scary, right? Spooky is as spooky does, enjoy it while it lasts, actual results may vary, trick or treat-it's all part of the season, isn't it?

Even so, could you imagine something like a Toto with fangs? Oh the horror! (Hey, it's all the rage this time of year.)

Until next time...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fast Food Friday

Do you eat fast food? Is your idea of a balanced meal ordering it "to go" with fries and a shake?

There's something about fast food. We know it's not really good for us, but it's in our nature to eat it, and to keep eating it. There's something so uniquely American about having a burger stand on every corner (at least, I really don't know of any other country that does that.) It's part of our culture-we gave the world fizzy beverages, fast burgers, old blue jeans, and cool-looking 50's style cars with fins. Nobody else would put fins on a car and nobody else, nobody in their right mind, would think you could make a meal in two minutes or less, with paper wrapped around it and sell a billion of them. Everybody else uses plates but no us. No, we had to make it cheaper, faster, "to go, please."

And, yes, I want fries with that too.

Until next time...