Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tete-a-tete


TeteATete, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Did you ever talk to a photographer? I mean, really talk to one? Sit down, face to face and have a long discussion?

Most photographers are somewhat introverted-we can actually be kind of shy quiet people. There's something about hiding behind a lens, the solace of it I guess. But, beyond that, the thing about photographers is that we always see things the way a camera sees them. And that's sort of interesting because, well, photographers almost never, if left to their own devices, talk about cameras.

I think it goes back to that old quote about how beginners talk about cameras but professionals talk about work. To the photographer, the work is the subject, the camera an instrument. We tend to pick one camera rig and sort of stick with it, focusing instead on the work-a place where we think the focus belongs. It's much more difficult to do that at times-the rules of composition, the "blur" of the subject-and I'm not just talking shallow depth of field here-to hearken back to another famous quote, "you can't take sharp photos of blurry concepts." We're always processing things mentally and, frankly, it can make us appear a bit scatterbrained. We have to do that though-we have to have a sort of "visual ADD" if you will-always scouring the world, looking, processing, turning ideas over in our heads. That's what we do, it's our lot in life. If we handled money, we'd be bankers but we don't so we're not, right?

Photographers tend to pick one lens and stick with it and pick one subject and stick with that too. Today's image reflects that for me-it's very close to one of my earliest photos. (You can see the earlier photo here. If you were to ask me about it, if you were to ask me to explain my strange fascination with children's toys against a textured wall softly lit, I'd have to shrug and tell you, "I really don't know."

The fascination is there though, it really is. Do you have strange fascinations like that? Is that something I could ask you if only we had our own, personal, tete-a-tete? Strange fascinations and idol gossip are the things legends are made of, aren't they?

Until next time...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Things People Say-Or "Huh? Does That Make Any Sense to You?"


TwoSmallTreesInTheFog, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The other day, I was reading this extra snarky website review of a popular TV show I watch. They used the words "cymbal-crashing monkeys" and it really struck a nerve with me. I've since started using these words myself, a lot actually, whenever anybody asks me almost anything.

"What did you hear about..." is followed by "Well, I heard *this* from the typical cymbal-crashing monkeys who banter about." It's become rather easy to sort of thrust these "cymbal-crashing monkeys" into random conversations. I've grown so used to them, in fact, I think I've actually started to see them-I'm having visions of "cymbal-crashing monkeys" roaming about freely, brandishing their pre-programmed propaganda about the place. It's comical, other than the fact that it's left me wondering if I've started to go completely mad.

The next day, when asked about the same show, I replied by saying, "it's an epic suck of extreme disproportions." Now, I don't even know what that means, really, but it kind of stuck with me too. I've been thinking it a lot lately. "An epic suck," not to be confused with, of course, a mere "normal" suck or any of those non "epic-" like sucks you might found lounging about in the back room, waiting to move into epic categories. No, no, not one of those, an *epic* one, please. (Hmmm.)

Then, I read another exchange, on another website. In the movie The Fountainhead, Gary Cooper plays an architect. When challenged with the question, "My dear fellow, who will let you?" he replied, "That's not the point. The point is, who will stop me?" That's a great quote and a really great thing to think about, isn't it? Who will stop me?

Of course, if you think of yourself as unstoppable, you'll eventually have to take on the "cymbal-crashing monkeys" and give them a go 'round, in which case, well, you might be facing your very own, "epic suck of extreme disproportions" but, you know, don't ask me, because I don't really even pretend to know what any of this means really. (I think I've started dreaming aloud again. It's always fun when that happens, isn't it?)

Tomorrow is slated to be a studio day so I'm about to go lounge around myself, waiting for something epic, hopefully not a "suck," to hit me upside the head. Who knows? Maybe I'll wind up painting some "cymbal-crashing moneys" tomorrow. Things could be worse, because, even though I'm not quite sure what that all means, at least that would be funny, wouldn't it?

And, how has your weekend started?

Until next time...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Art and Money-Ramblings on Sales and How to Sell Art


PlantOntheDune, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Everybody dreams about making money with their art. That's a good thing, basically-if we weren't dreamers, we wouldn't be artists, right? I've never bought into the idea that somebody who sells a lot of work is a "sellout." On the flip side, as my friend Kathy points out, "they don't call it artWORK for nothing" and I've seen a lot of people jump in looking to make a quick buck. They buy a camera one week and they expect to be able to quit their "day jobs" two days later, go off into the sunset surrounded by half naked models with wind machines, never accounting for talent or hard work, just somehow, magically, raking in tons of money. That is just not realistic and, if you think it's going to just "magically" happen for you, you probably need to think again.

Sales should come second to making a product you believe in, one you can stand behind. I've always followed the philosophy that sales come if the work is strong enough and you're tenacious enough to go and get them, but you have to have strong work-really strong work-as a basis for this. Sorry, but there just is not a market for mediocre artwork out there and there are far too many artists willing to put the time and energy into making quality work.

My answer, and it may seem simplistic to some, is to do work that's so good, work you feel so strongly about, you'd feel it was a crime *not* to promote it. Then promote it. It might sound simplistic but, if you do this, you can't help but succeed-and, yes, success like this will lead to sales too. Typically, those who do work just to rack up sales wind up doing work that lacks passion and soul and this too can be reflected in the marketplace. It's never good for sales in the long run to do something like this.

Sales have never been an end goal for me because of this. I don't paint or take pictures and think, "oh, now this is going to sell, sell, sell!" I'm my own critic. If it pleases me, if I like it, if it fits in with where I am as an artist at the time, I'm happy. I know that if I turn around and market it, it will sell, somebody's going to buy it. Somebody else will like it too-they'll buy it or respond to it in some positive way. I trust my taste and I think that's a very important thing to do as an artist.

Now, I realize I might sound like somebody who doesn't sell much work-maybe I don't as compared to others, maybe I could sell more if I pushed myself to really try harder in the sales and marketing department. I have sold work in the past and I probably will again in the future. I just sort of accept sales as part of the natural cycle of making and producing art. I've sold work at odd times too-in economic "downturns," at times when I thought I would never, when it's traditionally "slow," that sort of a thing. That's maybe part luck as much as anything I'd guess. Sales don't always come when you want them.

I think the best thing about my little arrangement, the best thing about my simplistic view of the world is that I've had some success and it's been on my own terms. I've defined who I am and what kind of artist I want to be so, indirectly, anybody buying one of my pieces is buying into that. They're buying a piece of me essentially. That's a far greater reward than making something that looks "like it will sell" and not having your heart in what you do.

Sorry if you thought this was going to be a great little post about "this is how to sell your work" but there are no easy answers. Do strong work, market it well, promote it, promote yourself, your "brand" as it were, and hard work are really what turns art into money for any kind of artist.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have You Burned My Mona Lisa?


MonaLisaNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

One of the great things about the SXSW music festival is that, as an Austin local I get to hear a lot of new music on the radio. Often, it's stuff we don't usually get to hear, sometimes it's new bands, sometimes even local bands that are just coming into the mainstream.

The other day, I was driving along and this song came on the radio that I really enjoyed. After the song, the DJ said that it was a local band who just had a showcase at SXSW. Of course, I did not write down the name of the band, no, that would have been thinking ahead. Silly me just sort of forgot about it and went on with my day.

The song kind of stuck in my head though-it was a memorable song. It was all about art and music and I could remember some of the lines in it. "Have you burned my Mona Lisa/It's a new morning..."

It's very interesting to me, the entire concept of "burning the Mona Lisa" actually. If you stop to think about it, it's really a strange turn of events. People have talked about "burning the Mona Lisa" over time-I don't think anybody actually wants to burn it, more like it's the concept that artists sometimes have-the notion of burning something of value. Maybe it's the idea too that art is in the process, the creation and, once the thing is made, it has little value. It becomes a commodity. It's a product. No longer art, it's just a thing to buy, sell, trade, etc. and that's, well, that's sort of a bad thing, isn't it? I mean, isn't the whole point of art to sort of create something new, vibrant, exciting, a piece of your soul, an expression of self, not just another "product" to hawk?

The idea of the Mona Lisa too, of burning that famous piece, because it's one of the most well-known paintings. No doubt about it, she's famous. Her subtle smile, her glance, she represents everything "pretty" in some ways, everything classical about painting and, in some ways, art itself. The notion that somebody can "burn the Mona Lisa" comes about because it's throwing away something society values so much-she's a priceless work-it's like turning your back on the world, turning away the things everybody else values so much.

So, I was thinking about the song, and I had few clues to go on. Something about "burning the Mona Lisa" and an Austin band who had a showcase at SXSW. Would the great gods of Google be by my side for this one?

Indeed they were. I found out the band is called "Alpha Rev" and you can see the video and hear the song "New Morning" at this link. I also found out that, starting April 5th, this band, this local Austin band is to become the latest "You Ougtha Know"artist in VH1. How cool is that?

The back story of the band is even more interesting. The band was started by Casey McPherson, who once fronted another band that was signed and set to release a "major label debut." As is sometimes the case with "major label debuts" though, the album, "became embroiled in contract disputes and, to this date, has not been released." (according to the Wiki.) After this, Casey McPherson when indie with Alpha Rev and, about two years ago, started the recording of the now soon to be released CD, also called "New Morning" eventually getting signed to another major label and now, by all accounts, the album appears to be actually happening.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, for starters, the video is just as cool as the song. I find myself looking at it and finding inspiration in so many ways. The main reason I'm telling you this though is because musicians, like painters, photographers, and the rest of the lot we call "artists" often face obstacles. Sometimes the obstacles are insurmountable-we're left stuck holding the bag. Other times, if we're lucky, we can use some skill ingenuity or what have you to climb over that wall, to break down the barriers between where we are now and where we want to be. I don't know of any artist really who just sort of "sailed into it." Everybody, each and every single one of us has a barrier of some kind. Maybe part of being a successful artist is, in fact, tearing down that wall, digging deep inside, finding that presence to forge ahead no matter how the odds appear to be stacked against any kind of success.

It worked for Alpha Rev and maybe, if you're a struggling photographer, it could work for you too. Nobody ever said that road was going to be easy, but people can do it if they want it badly enough. You have to want it, to want it really badly, and maybe then, after all is said and done, to just do it.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet Holy BeJesus On a Stick


VoodooMadonna, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Normally, I preference posts about The Impossible Project by saying things like, "The Impossible Project has made the impossible possible." Not today. No, today, I'm saying this:


Sweet Holy BeJesus On a Stick They are Selling SX-70 Film Once Again!


It''s not just the impossible becoming possible again. It's real. It's here. It's in the store now, right now, as I type this. They have not only done it but, well, they've done it in spades. The film is back!

In case you have not been paying attention, the good folks over at The Impossible Project had a press conference yesterday. At this press conference, they announced they have started to manufacture and sell a new film suitable for use in Polaroid SX-70 cameras. It comes in sepia-tone and it's manipulatable.

That means we can do manipulated Polaroids again. Maybe now they'd actually be called "Manipulated Impossible Project Film Sheets" but, like, you get the idea. Polaroids are back and better than ever.

Impossible. Ha! You guys didn't fool me for a minute. I knew all along you'd be able to pull this one off (um...gulp....yeah right!)

Until next time...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Playing Strengths-The Case for the Photography


PollenFromaPearBlossom, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

A few weeks ago, I was "confronted" with a conversation about photography. Did you ever have one of those conversations-usually it's with a frustrated beginner-that starts off very abrasive, with negative energy, very passive aggressive, saying things like, "Well, don't you..." instead of asking what it is they really want to ask? It's more in the tone then what they say really, but, at the time, I was confronted by this novice chap. He thought he could sort of "stump" me by confronting me about painterly images.

"Why go through the trouble of making photos that look like paintings," he asked, "why not just pick up a brush/canvas and paint?" It was an interesting conversation, because it started out with the confrontational tone and kind of went downhill from there. Frankly, he revealed his bias against photography as an art and mostly because he thought he sort of "had me over a barrel" I gave him a lot to think about in the end. I guess he felt bold, sort of like "let's stump the professional," but, the truth is, I've already thought this through and could easily justify my position on the subject, not to mention history is on my side, as I'm far from the first photographer to do any kind of "painterly" image.

The fact is:
1. I do paint. I have always painted and done photography so, in theory, I could have countered his question, actually his assertion, with another, "why restrict your creativity to one medium? Why be so limited? Aren't artists supposed to be open minded?"

That's not really a valid response though, because there are many photographers doing these sorts of painterly images who don't paint. And why should they paint? If they are getting the look they want, if they get the results, combined with the ease and flexibility the camera affords them, why limit themselves to a more "traditional" medium? Because he said so? Ha!

Perhaps my most "on point" answer though is this:
2. I have always been a photographer who strives to combine the real with the abstract. In images I would label as my most successful (artistically speaking) I have always included an element of the "real" and an abstraction (of sorts.) Things like motion blur, color shifting, blurry/out-of-focus images play into that, but, basically, I use the camera to give me the best of both worlds-having the real combined with the abstract allows me to sort of have my cake and eat it too.

The reason I do this, and the reason I sort of "relegate" these images (this work) to photography (rather than a more paint-based medium) is because I feel that this is playing into the strength of photography as a medium. Put simply, I'm using photography for what I think it's good at.

It's hard, and rather a useless exercise I feel, to paint images that contain both photo realism and the level of abstraction that I'm accustomed to with photography. If I'm doing something that's purely abstract, completely abstract work, I tend to paint it because, again, here I'm playing into the strength of the medium-it's easier to create a pure abstract with paint than it is really with photography, at least in the way that I think of (and do) purely abstract work.

As an artist, I don't restrict myself to one medium, no, but, in using more than one I have to evaluate several factors. My strength in the medium comes into play, yes, but also the notion of "is this really the right medium for the job?" There's no point applying yourself, learning or mastering a new medium, if it doesn't do what you want-if the medium is limited and you're trying to "stretch" it to do something, to be something it's not.

For example, with abstract images, the way I do them, they have a lot of texture and layers-those are better done (in my mind) with paint, because a painting is not a flat surface. You can build up texture in an abstract painting, something you cannot as easily do with photography. Photography does not have a natural opacity about it, though you can sort of "force" one in Photoshop.

What photography lacks in some of the traditional "painterly" elements, it makes up for in other ways. Photographs are more easily reproducible. They are easier to ship. That element of "reality" is a heavy draw visually as well-people "see things" in photographs-images have a more direct connection with the viewer and, in a crowded gallery, one in which you are competing for "visual recognition," a photograph can really "draw you in." There's also a strong connection between photographs and memory, a connection between the surreal and photography as well. Our dreams can almost look like (or feel like) photographs. Photographs are less expensive to produce and sell for (generally) less than paintings, making my art more accessible to people looking to purchase it. The list goes on.

As an artist, I draw, I paint, take photos and even sometimes play music or write fiction. Each of these has strengths and weaknesses-it's up to me, as an artist really, to play into those-to exploit those strengths when selecting a medium to express myself. Saying, "well, it looks like a painting so I should use a brush" sells that short in so many ways. Only a novice artist would really limit themselves rather than explore the possibilities. Another way to look at it is the old expression, "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I don't want to limit myself, my toolbox, no, instead, as an artist, I strive to use the best, most productive tool for the job. If that should happen to render photos somebody thinks "look like paintings" so be it. I don't really care about that-so long as the work measures up to my personal vision, I'm happy. All of these things-the camera, brush/paint, pencil, etc. are just tools to craft a vision, none is an end result by and of themselves. I don't use a camera because I want to use a camera, I use a camera to get photographs, and those photographs craft my vision. If I didn't have a camera, or couldn't use a camera to do this, I would simply use the next best thing.

So, perhaps the best answer to the question of "why not paint?" might be, "because my camera does it better."

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Painters Every Photographer Should Know - Jasper Johns


The American painter and printmaker Jasper Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1930 but quickly moved to South Carolina to live with his grandparents after the separation of his parents. Unlike some of the previous artists in the series, Johns did not have access to artistic training at an early age. According to Johns himself, "in the place where I was a child, there were no artists and there was no art, so I really didn't know what that meant. I think I thought it meant that I would be a situation different than the one I was in." Despite his lack of formal training at an early age, Johns began drawing when he was three and, unlike the previous painters in this series, is still alive today, continuing to practice his artwork at his current home in rural Connecticut.

Johns works in both painting and printmaking. According to the wiki, he is known for, "treatment of the surface [that] is often lush and painterly; he is famous for incorporating such media as encaustic and plaster relief in his paintings. Johns played with and presented opposites, contradictions, paradoxes, and ironies." Some popular iconographic elements that Johns incorporates into his subject matter include flags, maps, targets, letters, and numbers, indeed his work is defined by the use of these elements as a subject, including such familiar items so that the pure painted surface could become defined, rather than providing a "distraction" of a more traditional subject.

Johns studied briefly at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York to attend Parson's School of Design in the 1950's. While working in New York crafting window displays for Tiffany's, Johns became a part of an artistic community which included composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and fellow painter Robert Rauschenberg. It was at Rauschenberg's studio where an encounter with gallery owner Leo Castelli launched Johns' career. Castelli was so impressed with Johns' work that he offered him a show and, at that show the Museum of Modern Art purchased several of Johns' pieces. Since that first show, his paintings have gone on to sell for more than any living artist in history, securing Johns' rank as a successful painter.

Johns does not restrict his art to painting alone-his love of process drew him into printmaking and assemblage/collage as well. Johns viewed printmaking as a medium where he could experiment and the reproducibility of making prints drew him to become an innovator in the field. Johns is also an avid artistic collaborator, working with other artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, Bruce Naumann. His collaborations have spanned media and genre. In 1967, he illustrated the book In Memory of My Feelings by poet Frank O'Hara, and in the 70's, Johns met writer Samuel Beckett, creating a set of prints for Beckett's work Fizzles. Johns also appeared on an episode of the popular animated TV show The Simpsons, playing himself, attending an art exhibit featuring the work of Homer Simpson.

Technically speaking, Johns is instrumental to the modern-day practice of encaustic painting. The current "state of the art" setup for an encaustic painter involves using a griddle or hot palette to melt the wax, a torch or heat gun to fuse the wax, and a mixture of pigmented wax along with wax medium (a mixture of beeswax and damar resin) to bind the wax. This is directly attributable to Johns, as his early attempts at working with encaustic paint torched his studio and it was only by the process of his experimentation that the current method of working with encaustics was developed. In the modern reference book on encaustic painting, The Art of Encaustic Painting, there is a picture of Johns working in his studio at his Connecticut home-he paints with encaustic paint vertically, heating the encaustic medium in a small pot on a burner immediately next to his surface, which is hung like a traditional painting as he works. Though Johns' work sells for an extraordinary amount of money and is very difficult to obtain by collectors, he is known for being an amiable person, willing to help a fellow artist with questions surrounding his technique.

What Photographers Can Learn From Him
Working with symbols and visual archetypes is a powerful takeaway for a photographer-one that can easily transcend medium and be used to generate visual interest in a photograph as well as a painting. Johns played with common popular iconographic elements, such as flags, maps, targets, letters, and numbers in such a way that they became graphical in nature and so that the surface of his work would become more defined-to, in essence, take over the composition from any kind of traditional subject matter. Photographers can use this type of technique as well, in fact, it's often used by photographers who come to photography from fields such as graphic design, where the basis of the subject is more graphical in nature and less narrative or contemplative. Responding to the world around you as pure symbols, shapes, glyphs, colors and lines can create dramatic compositions and can easily be used by photographers and many modern photographers share this type of aesthetic. For examples of this, you might want to look at the work of modern day graphic designer, photographer, and "father of grunge" David Carson or browse some of Flickr groups that cater to graphic designers, industrial designers, and product designers, to get a feel for the type of photography they are doing.

Even photographers who do not traditionally work "graphically" can assume a graphical response to certain subjects. Speaking from personal experience, I have used such a "graphical approach" to photography in the past-it's often helpful if you're dealing with a subject matter that's difficult or new to you as a photographer. For an example of this, my first foray into automotive photography involved attending a small car show near where I live. At first, I had a very difficult time photographing the cars-the backgrounds were impossible to isolate, there were too many people in my frames, the lighting was terrible, and I could not get clean compositional lines-almost certain "death" to any kind of quality images. Only after I viewed the scene graphically, to approach the cars as graphical elements, separating the lines, shapes, colors, and forms from the rest of the surrounding "mess," was I then able to produce images to my liking.

Working graphically is really an internal method for an artist-there might not be an outward "tell" that this was the approach used by the photographer-but it's a very powerful tool for any photographer to have. It's almost always possible to deconstruct a scene into basic elements, such as simple shapes, lines, colors, glyphs, and the like and, with a little imagination, construct an image around these elements. Even though you might view this as more of a sort of "mental academic exercise" it's something you might try out as a photographer to see if it fits with your compositional style.

With his strong graphical eye, his iconic subjects, his rich, lush surface treatment, and his novel approach, Jasper Johns has been an influential figure in the art world for many years. Today, the encaustic master with a fondness for flags earns his spot in the ranks of Painters Every Photographer Should Know. You can read more about Jasper Johns on his Wikipedia entry and look for more painters (and posts) in the series to come.

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This is next in a series called "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." The painting shown here is Jasper John's "Flag" (1954-55) . Please note that the paintings and photographs in this series are not copyright the author of this website, may be subject to international copyright law, and are provided her for educational purposes only.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring has Sprung


WhiteOnGreySmallBloom, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's spring! It's spring! The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the humans are sneezing (damn allergies.) I've been doing a multitude of photo excursions, including some out to the far reaches of my very own backyard. It's shooting season too-have to wear out some of that old camera gear before the summer hits us like a blast furnace and we're all left wondering "where did the cool days of winter run off to?" (Telephoto lens, anyone?)

In case you were wondering, it's also rattlesnake mating season. Wear heavy boots and don't step on anything that, well, sounds like it might be a snake in the grass. Ah, yes, welcome to Texas all you south by southwest-ers too! (In case you don't know, or weren't aware, every year, in Austin about this time, there is a big music festival which brings tons of record company execs, and lots of other people too, into downtown Austin to listen to lots of live music, see movies, and do other sorts of "interactive" things, whatever those might be.)

Spring has sprung! It's time to get out and get out. Enjoy the mild weather, shoot lots of pictures, have a good time, or just relax before we all have to put on our air conditioners yet again.

Next up for me? Look for more in the series "Painters Every Photographer Should Know" and also more results from my night shooting and from my spring walks. I've started to take the pinhole optic out and am toying around with it a bit too-can't say I love the results, can't say I hate them, learning to live with them is more like it but learning how to make it "work" too.

Are you making things work? Or looking forward to the lazy days of summer when you hardly have to work? Are things working out for you this spring? What sorts of creative projects are you working on? Please, do tell!

Until next time...

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Many Sunglasses of Elton John


EltonJohnAndGlasses-1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This week, last night to be specific, I had a hankering to go out and do some night shooting a bit so I rounded up a few friends from the Austin Night Photography group and headed over to a place in Austin we call "The Triangle." The Triangle is an odd place. It didn't get its name because it's gay, or because somebody liked odd names, no the Triangle is, well, physically shaped quite like one. The intersection of Guadalupe, Lamar, and several blocks surrounding the area around 46th Street in Austin looks very much like, well, a triangle if you look at it from above, which, of course, nobody ever does, but, hey, what's in a name anyway, right?

Years ago, when I first moved to Austin, the place was a field. I mean, quite literally, a field. Open grass growing, nothing there, a few office buildings in the distance, you get the idea. A few years and many more people from California later and what do you have? The City needs more room. Urban areas have to expand. Parks must go, apartments must be built, and so on. The Triangle was a controversial development to say the least. Some people, many people native to Austin or long time residents, in fact, *hated* the idea of developing this pristine land. They wanted to keep the field, the park, the open grass. The fights and legal battles erupted. Of course, you can probably guess how this played out. Eventually, progress and society took over the once grassland and now, well, we have this place.

Maybe because of the back story, maybe because I'm just a bit too lazy, or maybe for reasons unknown, I had never really visited the Triangle. Sure, I drove past, on my way down Lamar, but I never really went in, never really stopped the car to have a closer look. A few folks from the night group wanted to shoot there, it's convenient, so I though, hey, why not, right? I'm always open to photographic suggestions and I love shooting little areas of the City at night so, I thought, why not?

We had a small group but it was fantastic. It really was a great place to visit, a great place to eat, and an even better place to shoot. It might be one of my favorite places to shoot now in Austin, it was that much fun. Last night was very nice for shooting-perfect weather, some clouds, not too windy, didn't even need a jacket, and just enough people to do sort of "blurry people" without everybody tripping over the tripods and such. Excellent.

We wandered down the shopping and restaurant areas of the Triangle, past the Mexican place, met at the coffee shop, found a few abandoned stores (shot those, of course) ran into a lone bicycle or two, and drooled over the parking garages. There was a store on the corner of Lamar called SoLa....excellent shooting there. They had white couches, round chairs, all sorts of mannequins, and the like. Totally my kind of place. Also, the Galaxy Cafe had these wonderful red plastic chairs....I didn't quite know what to do with them, but wow! What a photographic find.

The architecture there is interesting, because you can shoot up at the tops of the buildings and there are people living in the lofts above, so you can mix houses with street scenes. I only did a little of that, but I so want to go back and do more.

The place was so fantastic and the night so pleasant that, if the weather holds, I might go back there again next week. We'll have to see how it goes. This weekend is daylight savings time, so the sunset time and twilight hours are going to shift drastically and Monday is a new moon. Of course, all of this means we might be able to start at the same time and shoot around civil twilight which might be kind of fun at a place like this. I'd guess that civil twilight there would be an interesting shoot, since there's some neon and some "twinkly" type lights around the restaurant patios.

The restaurants were very crowded but there are many of them and the food was fantastic. I had Italian food at a place called Mandola's Italian Market-the pasta was fresh and homemade-to die for! Yum.

It's a great little spot in town for some happening nightlife and a fun place to grab a bite to eat, have some coffee, or just hang out and people watch. I can't wait to get back there to shoot again. No, after all is said and done, I'd have to say that the Triangle now sits quite well with me.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Artist's Path - A Spring Cleaning of Sorts


GreenBenchInAlley, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's almost spring and that means...time for spring cleaning! Are you thinking about cleaning out your closets and drawers about this time of year? Maybe, instead of doing that (or, perhaps, *besides* doing that) you should think about cleaning out your vision.

What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain.

At the workshop this weekend, and at other workshops I've attended in the past, perhaps the single most important "common thread" is the takeaway that you can just become who you want to be. You can change yourself. You (and only you!) define who you are.

It seems to me like all of the successful photographers out there simply designed themselves to *be* photographers. They made themselves. They didn't wait for the world to validate what they were doing, they didn't sit and wait around for somebody to say, "oh! That's good. You really have an eye for..." No, instead, they *made* that eye. They crafted that vision. They just did it. It's that sense of purpose, that inner drive really, that defines how a photographer is and maybe even who that photographer is.

Joyce Tenneson said it one way, Craig Tanner another but, basically, they are saying the same thing. Joyce used to say, "The best thing about being middle age [or getting older] is that nobody is watching so you can constantly re-define yourself." The notion of re-birth, re-definition, defining who you are, who you want to be, it's very powerful. Craig said it a different way but it's basically the same thing. "Being now who we want to become instead of waiting for the world to change." You don't need validation, you just need the guts to do it.

So, this spring, I beg you, make that change. Instead of tidying up the closet, change your life. Go out and face the world, look at it the way you want to see it. Live on your own terms, under your own rules and guidance. Don't let others tell you, "no." Accept there are things you cannot change, yes, but change those things that you can and stop settling for "half changes" or "minor tweaks" because you're afraid of what somebody else might think. In the end, you'll be a better artist, a better person, and, frankly, you won't give a crap if the closet is clean.

I've spoken my peace. Now, about that closet....

Until next time...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Partnering with the Mysterious


WhiteHouseNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend an inspirational photography weekend hosted by Craig Tanner and Marti Jeffers. The workshop ran a full two days and covered everything from exposure, lighting, composition, color, night photography, digital darkroom, and the artist's journey. I was a bit anxious about attending this because sometimes these types of weekends seem to degrade into a sort of "this is our sponsor and so, in order to take any good pictures at all, you need to go out and buy these ten super expensive lenses" but I thought I would go and give it a chance. I figured that, if it was that horrible, I could sneak out the back door and nobody might notice or, if they did, I could come up with some clever excuse ("my houseplant died and I had to attend to it immediately.")

Well, I'm happy to say that my fears were completely unfounded. The workshop was way more than I expected, both in terms of getting some technical information that I could actually use and getting that sort of "touchy feely" type of information that's hard to come by. I would have to say that my passion for photography has been re-inspired just by attending.

If you drop in here regularly, you probably know that I've been doing a lot of drawing and painting lately, probably a bit more than photography even. While that's great-it's good to do these sorts of things and it really "rounds me out" as an artist-photography has been (and probably always will be) my main medium. Thinking about it a bit more, I have been doing a lot more painting and drawing recently because, well, because I've *wanted* to do more painting and drawing. I've actually *wanted* to put photography on the back burner some, probably because I started to suffer from a bit of burn out. Sometimes, our choice of medium is more influenced not by time or materials on hand, but by our mental state. Maybe my vision changed to paint more because I was just tired of looking at photography and, frankly, I was starting to think that it's all been "done before" with the medium. This weekend served to sort of turn me around and point me back in the "right" direction, if such a thing could really exist. It's rekindled the passion a bit anyway. I feel like my ship has been kind of "re-steered" and is now pointing back to the correct harbor. No longer adrift in a lost sea of "maybe I should try this," I've got a bit of the fire for photography back again, and that's a good thing.

I've called this post "Partnering with the Mysterious" because Craig has a section about this as part of the workshop. Where do ideas come from? What is intuition and how does it factor into the role of the artist? How (or why) do we get these subtle feelings of "this is not going right" or "I need to do more of this?" It's a hard question to ask ourselves but it sort of helps to think about these things from time to time.

I'll post some additional thoughts on the workshop, including some tips in future posts, but I wanted to end with my recommendation. If you or anyone you know was thinking of attending a workshop offered by Craig or Marti (the good folks who bring us The Mindful Eye website and instructional videos) I would highly recommend it. It goes way beyond the "spend this amount of $$$ and get this lens," in fact, that wasn't even part of the workshop at all, and, put simply, you will come away a changed photographer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I would find it very difficult to attend a workshop like this and *not* take away a lot from it. I met new friends, reconnected with some old ones, rekindled my passion for photography, and opened a whole new world of possibilities.

For those who cannot travel, there's even something in this for you. If you have any interest in advancing your photographic skills, or even if you're looking for a good on-line forum in which to share work, you can register for free over at The Mindful Eye website where you will find a great on-line forum, lots of instructional videos, and a whole lot more. Oh, and you'll find me over there as well since, after this weekend, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

As far as those houseplants...well...I guess they just have to stay dead a little bit longer...at least until the next boring workshop I happen upon anyway.

Until next time...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cleaning Laundry from "The Hamper of Doom"


LaundryDayAtBlueHouse, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Hello, you've reached the blog of Carol. We're sorry, but she can't take your call right now she's busy fending off...no actually she's been eaten by a large pile of laundry and can't come to the blog right now.

For those of your curious, she slipped into danger a few years ago-a few years back when her friend, Steve, suggested she help him find a "really big hamper" so that he could, in fact, "go months" without doing laundry. "Hmmm," she thought, "that might not be a bad idea."

NEWSFLASH! It was a horrible idea.

Since the arrival of the "giant hamper" clothing has never been clean. It's never been empty. Socks have gone lost, shirts disappear and clean bluejeans, why they vanish right before your eyes. It's like one minute they're there and the next? *Poof* Gone.

Somehow, everyday, the mountain gets a little bit bigger. And stronger. The teeth get more ferocious. And the fangs? Oh, Good Lord! Let me tell you about the fangs...it's not a pretty sight in there, in that laundry room with the "hamper of doom." Oh sure, occasionally it'll let you get away with a clean sock or two (never matching, of course) but it's does that just to throw you a bone...to keep you coming back for more...and, just when you think, "oh, I've got that dragon slayed?" Yup, you guessed it. It rears up its ugly head, rises up, and growls at you once again. Laundry piled so high the giant "hamper of doom," even though it sits on a platform with industrial sized wheels, will not roll. Laundry piled so high it's bound to tip and take out the power supply for an entire city just south of where you live. Laundry piled so high you need a haz-mat outfit and pair of goggles just to "go in and test the perimeter."

So, if you're reading this, and you'd like a word of advice, here it is. From Carol to you-never, ever, under any circumstances purchase a large laundry basket and, whatever you do, never leave it in the corner, in an "easy" place where it can tempt you...twist you into thinking you don't really *need* clean clothing and that, yeah, you can go "just a few more days without putting a load of laundry up."

Really, it's such a bad idea in more ways than you can imagine.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Acting Like a Photographer


ChaseInCoal, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This just in...in David Tennant news, David is going to star in a new BBC Drama called "Single Father" about a photographer whose "world comes crashing down when his wife Rita dies [and] he has to raise his children single-handedly." Since you know I'm a total David Tennant fan, I'll be watching this. Just reading the announcement got me to thinking though about acting and photographers and, of course, David himself.

I can't act. I couldn't play a photographer in a movie or TV show even though I am one in real life. Honestly. It's one of those art forms I'll never master, not even close. (Seriously.) I joke about being so bad at acting that I could not even play a corpse on Law and Order. (People at home would be scratching their heads, squinting at their TV sets, asking, "did that corpse just move? And wasn't it wearing a different shirt a moment ago? What's going on? Is this a zombie movie or something?" Really, I'm that bad.)

But, that's not what I'm *really* thinking about. No, what I'm really thinking about is, how do actors play photographers? What makes a photographer, well, a photographer? Different from all of the other professions, jobs, trades out there? Nothing really, right? Have there every been really good, historical portrayals of photographers on stage or screen? Rear Window comes to mind-I honestly think that was the best one and, frankly, there haven't been many more. Even the recent Diane Arbus movie Fur was, how to say this, a bit of a let down.

This presents an interesting dilemma. Now, I know David's going to do an excellent job in this role-he's one of the best actors of our time and, frankly, after playing a mad Doctor and Hamlet, I don't see how he could *not* convincingly play a photographer. But it begs the question, why are photographers so hard to play? Why aren't there any "tells" with photographers, like there are with other fields?

Another quirk, in case you haven't noticed, is that there really aren't famous photographers out there. Sure, over the course of history, there have been a few-Adams and HCB spring to mind, but, for the most part, we're an anonymous bunch. Nobody knows our names. Nobody recognizes us. It's not like we're wearing a sign "I'm Great!" or some such thing. We move about unnoticed and that's often by design-so we can get the best shots before anybody even notices we're there shooting.

I think photographers are interesting people, I really do. The problem is that we're the type of people everybody wants to sit next to at a dinner party and have a deep discussion with. We're not the flashy flamboyant type of person who instantly becomes a celebrity and fills the room with nothing but eyes on him (or her.) We're not the starlet type, we're not the "stand back! I'm a photographer" type, no, we're more the people who, if you should happen to bring up the wilds of Madagascar can say things like, "oh, I understand there's a bird sanctuary there and you can go and photograph..." People are interested in what we have to say, they just aren't all that much interested in, well, us.

So that brings me back to how can an actor best portray a photographer? How can you make that interesting? Oddly enough, this isn't even a question I can answer really.

Maybe it's all in the look. Photographers wear chino pants a lot. And the shoes-almost always some kind of comfortable shoes, if not hiking boots. Yes, we all have a well worn pair of hiking boots. That and we can blow without spitting (comes with the trade.) But, even when you look at us, there's nothing really that smacks of "I'm a photographer!" really.

I think though the single biggest "tell" of a photographer is that we always have our head buried in pictures or buried in a camera. Yes, we're always looking, scouting, arranging the universe, figuring out the light, the angle, the perspective to get a good shot. At any given moment, if you were to hand us a camera, even during that otherwise boring dinner conversation, we could "make" a picture come to life. That's really at the heart of what we do and now, I guess, it'll be David's job to show us that in story.

Yes, that's probably the best way to sum it up. The man who catches shadows is always looking for the next one, isn't he? It's either that or the hiking boots I'd guess.

Until next time...

PS In case you were wondering about today's image-this is my charcoal rendition of Chase. It was done from this photo if you are curious.