Sunday, December 20, 2009

December Newsletter

Wow! Only one post this month so far, and I'm not likely to get another one in. I've been way busy creating a new website that turned into a blog called Have Kiln Will Travel. I'm still in process of fine tuning the business model which I'm very excited about.

You can read the details at the blog or by reading the FAQ.

The newsletter wasn't hard to write but thinking through where you've been and summarizing where you're heading can be a bit time consuming. Sort of a mini business brief. I kept it brief - and you can download the newsletter here.

The coming year is looking very good with many teaching opportunities, and I'll continue my Designs For Good efforts by mostly concentrating on Have Kiln Will Travel.

There are a few grant/commission opportunities that I'll be pursing, as well as maturing my glass powder painting work and starting the process of marketing them.

My photography skills will be more sharply focused on serving other photographers in the photo retouching area (aka Photoshop magic), and in establishing my layout and design presence for event and wedding albums.

That's it in a nutshell.

Hope you have an enjoyable Holiday Season!

Oh.... and please support my efforts by forwarding the information for Have Kiln Will Travel to your favorite small nonprofit organization so that I can help them out.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

details, details, details

Now I know why the stereotype of artist not having good business practices probably has some truth to it. I've been spending the last few weeks weeding through the minutia of the why's and how to's of setting up an LLC. That's even less exciting than watching paint dry. Then there are the tax reporting issues. I've always filed jointly (with my wife), but now with an LLC and being self employed who knows what the tax attorney will tell us. That's another meeting.

Last week was mostly dealing with liability and property insurance for my many adventures. Seems that insurance companies still don't know what to do with you unless you fit neatly into one of their 'classes' for coverage. Thankfully, with a few phone calls to several groups that specialize in helping 'ceative' groups and individuals, I was able to find agencies that can be creative in setting up coverage for us round pegs trying to fit into square holes.

Fractured Atlas is one of those organizations as well as Springboard For The Arts. Thanks to these organizations I didn't have to spend twice the amount for coverage, and was able to trust that I might actually have a policy that isn't full of loopholes.

Without these organizations to help I can easily see why creatives sometimes avoid doing basic business practices. It isn't that creatives are lazy or ignorant of such... it's just that the business world in many cases just doesn't know how to work with creatives, and translates that into what appears to the creatives as (and in some cases actually is) over charging.

More details...

Last week I had my first test of the "Have Kiln Will Travel" concept. The test class at local high school was a success. This was gratifying since a few months of prep as well as thousands of dollars went into getting ready for the test. The amount of gear and glass going to a site turned into a bit of logistical problem. I ended up with a truckload of 80 gallon tupperware roughneck containers to hold all the stuff (including 6 kilns).

OK... now what. Do I have to load, then unload the truck full of gear after every event? No way! I just want to keep it locked up in my truck when I'm at the studio. Which means that I have to buy a set of equipment that is dedicated just for Have Kiln Will Travel and not for studio use. OK, no problem. But the gear must be covered and secured. So that means a $1500 topper for my truck!

Yikes! How many thousands am I going to pour into this?

Well, thankfully I think I'm done with all the major expenses. Now I'm off to create the web site for Have Kiln Will Travel, and I'll do most of that myself. I might call in a Flash expert to do a little work, and hopefully it won't cost too much.

It is ofen said that it takes money to make money... I guess that is even true when you are doing fund raising.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Have Kiln Will Travel Update

Nothing is ever simple with me. I'll bend twist and turn an ideal inside out until either it is dead or something unexpected comes to mind. The Have Kiln Will Travel concept hasn't even been implemented yet, and I can already see it working in multiple forms.

The original idea was to teach at Community Ed centers. Shortly there after came the idea of doing it at art centers throughout my region, and now the third form of the idea has me really reeling with possibilities.

Why not give fused glass parties just like Tupperware parties? The Designs For Good flavor of this is that the 'host' gets most of the 'take'. It goes like this... A nonprofit or charitable group needs to raise a bit of change. Not a lot mind you, maybe just around a thousand dollars or so. The nonprofit group (aka host) calls 12 or so 'donors', and invites them to a glass fusing party where they can make all kinds of gifts (belt buckles, earrings, pendants, money clips, etc). The host knows just about how much to ask a donor to attend the party. Depending on who the host calls they stand to make a considerable amount of money just for an afternoon of fun.

  • The host gets to have fun holding the event and (of course) sorely needed funds.
  • I walk away with some portion of the proceeds to support my costs.
  • The guests have a grand time making stuff and also go home with a pocket full of jewelry and other 'wearable' glass items which could be valued far beyond the amount that they donated.

I might get arrested for this idea it is soooo goood!

Of course there are a LOT of details to make this happen, but leave it to my IT background to be designing and testing out every technical and logistic nuance of the idea before bringing it to the public.

Well... actually I'm so sure that it is going to work that I have contacted dozens of centers of various sorts and I'm already scheduled....

This is going to be such a great Designs For Good initiative!

Getting Feedback & Food For Thought

To carry on from some thoughts from the prior post.... Getting feedback is critical for growth and can help confirm that you're on the right track. Finding that feedback may be difficult when it comes to your career. In my case I'm changing careers so I have to relearn where and how to get suggestions and advice.

Entering competitions I'm finding is very gratifying when you win or place well, but unless you can corner a judge and ask specific questions all that you come away with is that you did good. At the Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association (TCPPA) yearly print competition I did fairly well for a first time entrant. I made some novice mistakes in presentation that probably turned excellence into just above average entries. I'm not happy with that of course, but more to the point there were so many entries that it was impossible to get real feedback. I got scores, but don't really know in detail what needs improvement.

Winning the yearly competition held by Sculptural Pursuit magazine was the topic of a prior post. A few months after that I entered into another magazine's competition, namely Aesthetica. Aesthetica engages with contemporary art, contextualising it within the larger cultural framework. It was founded in 2002, and Aesthetica Magazine is one of Britain's leading art publications.

I was recently notified of being a finalist in their competition and recieved the following from them to be used as a blub...

"The second Aesthetica Creative Works Annual explores the imagination. This book showcases artwork and creative writing from over 30 countries. The anthology contextualises the larger cultural framework by asking probing questions about the current state of affairs: the economy, globalisation, technology and the environment. Moreover it offers a platform from which to analyse the art we producing today. Its cutting-edge nature offers you autonomy. As the reader, this book provides an insight into our deepest thoughts, anxieties and aspirations. Art becomes the tonic for the modern world."

I'm honored of course, and probably will feel more so when I become familiar with the magazine. However, I'm not sure of the judging criteria and consequently do not know what I should feel good about specifically. The photographs sent in were judged deserving of publication. I should be happy with that alone.

After all, my images where chosen from 12,000 sent into the competition from many countries!

Time to grow up Jim... is what I'm telling myself. You're doing good. Stop being so insecure.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Twin Cities Professional Photographers Annual Print Competition

Like the Power Ball, you can't win if you don't enter. Actually, more important than winning the competition is just obtaining professional level feedback. It isn't easy finding someone who is willing to truly give their opinion and the opinion is coming from a source worth listening to. You might get it if you in a school program, but even then many teachers are very guarded in their critique. You can't afford to lose a student. Programs survive and are measured by a graduation rate. If a critique inadvertently discourages students, then you are potentially doing serious harm to your program.

So, I'm entering the following prints just for the chance to be told how they may be improved - what are the qualities that are not necessarily good? The Internet community is mostly caulk full of empty praise, encouraging maybe, but not useful. I don't know, maybe I'm just strange. I respect and would be more interested in professional or personal associations which regularly offer criticism. For me, that is a real sign that they are interested enough in you (or your work) to hope for improvement.

So... please do forward suggestions for improvement. They'll be greatly appreciated. The only thing to realize is that these prints (16x20) will have a lot of painterly-like detail in them that isn't visible in these small files.

The first image is called Faux Fly and are a collection of butterfly wings I found over 30 years ago walking along country roads in Kentucky. The butterflies where so numerous in that area that these were the ones I found along the sides of roads (killed by cars). I knew I would do something with them someday. They have been in a Skippy jar with moth balls all those years.

The second is called Angel of Death and is described in a prior post.

The third image is called Water Lily and the last is Aeon which is part of my Circular Obsessions sculpture series.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Puppies Saved From Drowning

One of my Designs For Good projects is PawPADs. They are a service dog training center which is starting from ground zero. Well they are not at zero any longer. This is turning into an amazing story. In a matter of months PawPADs has been growing rapidly. They were given 7 acres, a house for the new training center, have attracted a bevy of volunteers, and now they acquired 7 Labrador puppies destined to become service dogs. That is, after $25,000 is invested in training and keeping each dog over several years.

These puppies are destined to become service dogs now. They were destined to be drowned by a heartless owner.

Earlier today I did my fist photo shoot with the dogs. The plan is to follow the dogs through their years of training and then into their service appointment for a person in need. The dogs are trained for over 70 different behaviors such as opening doors, turning on lights, and picking things up from the floor. These behaviors are the 'service' in service dogs.

Far beyond that of course is the human-canine bond that these dogs provide. These newborns are so small and weak now it is hard to imagine what an absolute essential role they will play during their life in service of another.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Designs For Good Project

Another project..... well actually three birds with one stone. I will be producing a set of prints for VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted To Assist People) and CRC as mentioned in a prior post. I will use some of the same prints for both events. Additionally, I need to print these images so that I can review them for the yearly print competition of the Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association. I will use the prints for these fundraisers as test prints for the competition.

I've already made significant changes to the images after actually having them in hand. Most of the changes wouldn't matter or even be noticed by the average person. However, they are being critiqued and scored on categories such as: composition, color balance, lighting, impact, style, presentation, and technical excellence to name a few. Consequently, every little improvement counts towards your overall score.

The image below is one of my favorites. I call it The Angel Of Death. I found the dead bird in my yard and just couldn't let it pass without doing something with it. The little cherub yard ornament is also something I love to play with so I put them both together in the setting sun creating a chiaroscuro effect.

That is just the start. Most of the magic of the image comes from using Lightroom, Photoshop, and other 3rd party photoshop plugins. I strive to not go overboard with making a photograph look like a painting. There is a balance between creating impact and losing it if the image looks overworked by playing with too many image editing tools.

Send me an email or comment below to let me know what you think. Maybe your comments will help me along in the competition.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Have Kiln Will Travel

A tower of power! Well actually more like 6 midgets stack on their shoulders. These are the kilns I will be using for my teaching adventures. The orange boxes are the temperature controls on the front of each kiln and the kiln tops (lid) and bottoms are stacked to the right. They are only 6 inch square on the inside. Perfect for small projects and testing.

These are neat to play with because you can fire small project with full ramp up and back down in around two hours. The lids have a view port so you can watch the progress of your project without opening the kiln and letting all the heat out.

I've been fusing for well over ten years and I've never really watched the glass bake that closely. You usually sneak a peak, but with all the heat getting out you can't just stand there and watch.

This is a great learning device because knowing what glass does at different temperatures is critical for some designs.

The bracelet above was my first project in one of the new kilns. This was made with dichroic crackle glass. Being able to watch the firing very closely enabled me to stop the firing precisely when the full effect (crackle) was achieved. I learned how to make this item and bought the finding at J Ring Glass Studio which is my wholesale supplier. Always good talking with Joe & Susan. They have been in the glass business so long that there isn't much about the stained glass and kilnformed art forms that don't know about.

I'll have my hands full at the moment putting together project outlines for my Have Kiln Will Travel adventures and more serious classes for the Chicago Ave Fire Arts Center. Class design will be all that I'll be doing for the next couple of weeks.... but maybe I'll sneak out to fry some more dichroic in my little orange midgets.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall & Time For Reflection

Oh...Boy. We are starting Winter already here in frozen Minnesota. We had our first snow last night and today it was below freezing most of the day. At this rate the pumpkins won't even make it to Halloween.

I took this picture of our cat Mia and her friend last year. The biggest event for me this year was quiting my IT job and now I'm working three times as hard as I ever did... but loving it!

Jean (my wife) and I returned from our yearly visit to the same Vermilion lake cabin that we have gone to for over 10 years. This is always a time of refection for both of us, and as a couple. Since we are "trapped" together for 5 days in a cabin with not much else to do we mull over may things that we don't regularly have time for.

This year we talked a bit about my adventures and we agreed that it is too early to really know how things will turn out, and that we are both willing to let "things play out" for a while... and boy are there things that need a bit of time to play out.

Art glass commissions, project collaborations, consignment arrangements, several Designs For Good projects (and more to come), becoming a kilnformed glass teacher in a big way, expanding my marketing efforts, and then there is the whole commercial side of my art glass that I will be exploring over the next few weeks.

God knows what will come of any one of these efforts. The teaching direction has really taken on a life of its own and shows great potential. I have a friend helping me out, and continually reminds me of the things I take for granted, because I've been doing kilnformed glass for over a decade. Simple things that are second nature to me can ruin a project if not done properly.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.... even if that means providing a complete step by step project plan for those students who will need it... and as my friend is pointing out more will need it than I think.

To the right is an image of one of the first items I made as a project example. It is a belt buckle with dichroic glass. It is hard to go wrong with dichroic glass. It is soooo glitzy.

I completely stayed away from dichroic when I was doing my art glass series, so it is now fun to indulge.

Everyday starts a new challenge in the multiple paths I'm pursuing. It will indeed be interesting to see where the paths lead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Designs For Good Effort

As a result of a bit of promotion in the south minneaplois newspapers I will embarking on new Designs For Good effort. This time with the Conflict Resolution Center which will be hosting an art auction to raise funds.

The mission of CRC is to:
Strengthen communities by teaching and providing mediation and conflict resolution services.
For over 25 years, CRC has provided communities with the tools to peacefully and effectively resolve disputes.

I will be donating several digial art prints at the Art Affair event which will be held Nov 6th and 7th at the Colonial Church in Edina, MN.

I would also like to thank the folks who produce the twin cities south metro newspaper for giving me a nice one page spread about Designs For Good. I'll post separately on this at a future point.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On Vacation : Still Focusing

Focusing my camera is more fun than focusing on my career change. These are a few shots from our first couple days at Lake Vermillion near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area about one hour from the Canadian boarder.

Jean and I go there every year to unwind, but also to check in to see where we are with each other and life in general. The big event for me this year was making my career change and all the hand-wringing that goes along with a lose of income.

Neither of us are overly concerned at this point since I do have a broad-brush plan on what exactly I need to accomplish. At this point I'm very excited about the next few months and especially the next few weeks when I begin my 'commercial relationships' efforts.

I plan on visiting interior designers, tile shops, architectural glass fabricators, and high-end kitchen and bath design centers. The goal is to form the type of relationship where they begin to offer (my work) Kilnformed Art Glass accent pieces, and that this becomes a common offering when the client wants something highly customized and unique.

Granite is great, but art glass is truly one of a kind and capable of accenting any existing home decor choices.

Besides my education efforts and this commercial relationship effort I will also be expanding my gallery efforts as mentioned in the last posting. I plan on several types of offerings ranging from very decorative items to more fine art related items.

It will take a little time for all three areas to play out, and I'll have to be patient.

The fallback plan to to dive into the Adobe CS4 suite and become an Adobe nerd. This brings me closer to my IT roots if I end up doing Flash/Dreamweaver/Photoshop for web development.... but I'll stop short of letting anyone know I was a DBA. The last thing I want to do is to end up doing database work again.

I think I'll work at Home Depot before that happens....

Hey... do they sell art glass at Home Depot?... maybe they should. I did notice that Kohler is selling their free standing glass wash basins at hardware outlets which is a very hot glass item. Theirs are just clear though. Mine could be any color or texture.

And you know... the well-to-do don't want want can be bought at Home Depot.... that's were I come in.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Designs For Good Effort

In an effort to raise money and awareness of the Chicago Ave. Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) I will be embarking on a collaboration with two other artists namely Laura d Juul (Precious Metal Clay) and Larry Fahnoe (Metaling working). We will be creating a series of wall hangings based on our various skills. Larry will create the metal frame, I will create the glass powder painting to be framed and Laura and I will collaborate on the matting around the painting. The matting will be enameled copper with precious metal clay (sliver) decorative accents.

Our mission will be to have them placed on permanent display at local galleries to help spread the word about the center. We'll have informational postcards available so that the public can read out the center and its dual goal of arts education and neighborhood revitalization.

Of course, they will be for sale also with all proceeds going to the center.

Stayed tuned for pictures and progress of this effort.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Those That Can't Do Teach?

Not sure how true the truism in the title is.

As part of my many splendid ventures to survive as an artist and designer I've decided to take on teaching as one income stream.

Have kiln will travel.... I bought six of these little buggers to the left, and I'll be teaching the basics of kilnformed glass to anyone who cares to listen.

Right now I'm working with two community education programs and I hope to expand that to a half dozen sites and multiple classes per semester. The initial startup cost is less than $3000 so I might actually make a profit in my life time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Focus, focus and more focus

I once worked on a web design with a client. We started talking about: goals for the site; who the audience is; what the logo should be; what the corporate image is; styles, and style sheets; how to measure success of the site; and so on.

We got stuck on the very basic issue of designing a logo. I was asking questions like: what should it resplendent; is the company looking to standardize on color; what are your products; where is the company heading in the next few years; what emotion or feelings or typical customer thoughts should be provided by the logo?

His replay... jokingly, was that he just wanted a logo, and not psychotherapy!

We never finished the project.

Focus is terribly difficult. Defining oneself in a nutshell be it in a logo or web design/layout is challenging.

In the last few weeks I've redone my site In my case, it was obvious that I'm wasn't focused when looking at my old site. My new site is a bit more focused, but I expect it to be a living breathing thing. As I redefine my life my site will change to reflect that.

In my new site I finally (after 10 years) have put aside my EyeCandy/Crafts portion of the site. It is still accessible, but it is not part of the 'official' site. I'll use the EyeCandy part for my teaching adventures that I'm embarking on. As for the main site as it is now, it is focused on my glass and design skills.

I the near term, I will be approaching designers, wholesale tile shops, and architectural glass fabricators. It is hard to compartmentalize yourself when you see so much potential, so many things you could do. But it is also liberating reducing the world of potentiality to a workable approachable subset. The reduction process leaves you with a target, and more importantly a definition of what services you DO provide and who may benefit from them.

Everyday when I go to my studio or sit down to the wonderful Adobe CS4 suite I find myself asking what should I be doing versus what I could. It is nice, comforting actually, to live in the world of full potentiality... a constant state of becoming. But I'm finding it more interesting as of late in dealing with the very narrow confines of what can be.... now, in this place, with what I have.

Focus... hone, redefine and refine... then reiterate.

This is every day of your life. It never ends.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Letting Go & Focus

As mentioned in a previous post I was once heavily involved in water gardening. Today marks the passing of the remnants of those days. After keeping fish for well over 15 years I found a young boy who will get my last freshwater planted tank... CO2 system and all.

Nice 30 gallon setup naturally balanced where the fish waste is fully absorbed by the plant life. Never had algae, never had to clean it. Mostly because of the CO2 which the plants need to thrive, and good lighting of course. The plants out compete the algae for the nutrients (aka fish poop).

Maybe I found a friend today and he'll come by to ask the whys and how-tos of keeping the little ecosystem balanced. Then again, maybe not. Maybe he'll just dump fish into it from the pet store and all my guppies and Amano shrimp that have been in there for 10 years will die of diseases from the new fish. Didn't know that those little shrimp could live that long. I don't think they bred in a tank. Can't say that for the guppies. I'm on the 50th generation of guppies... all from six or eight I bought many years ago.

Anyway... got to move on, and let go of all that. I'm a design nerd now. Got to focus.

Third draft & I'll bet I'm only half done

Not bad for a 3rd draft of just the layout/design. Then there will to be the web version. This will require putting the image though a tool to create 'hot spots' (links) on the image to more info, and the link to PayPal, and maybe a audio file of the director of PawPADs talking about the fund raiser.

Then for the print version there will probably be issues with enlarging to a poster size 20x30 print. I had to start with a small jpeg (shot with a point and shot camera) of the dog. Enlarging my be a challenge.

But I'm done for the day. Now off to do my own fliers for my glass adventures.

My new HP B8550 is cooperating at least. After a bit of fussing I was able to get boardless 8.5 x 11 prints which compete with professionally printed fliers.... hey... I'm am a professional. What am I saying?

Ok... now for the nerdy design stuff. Click on the image and take a look at the dogs front paw. Doesn't it look like it is pushing down on the cushion and the shadows were added too. I love using the warp tool on things. You can really take the years off of a person... warping that fat away :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wheel Chairs Dogs & Chicken And The Egg

Since I stopped my IT job I just don't know what adventures the day will bring me. Yesterday it was successfully savaging for $400 dollars of metal to be used a CAFAC when it opens, then doing a crazy photo shoot at the Como Conservatory.

Today I was back at PawPADS reviewing the fund raiser poster and newsletter I'm doing for them. The poster is now going into its third draft. The first draft at this link shows the image where I cut the dog out of. The second suffered from the same issue of the lack of an obvious call to action. That is, it wasn't obvious what a person was supposed to do after reading the poster.

Back to ground zero. We all like the cute puppy. But the dog has grown up since then. The puppy was on wheel chair in the old picture, but no one would really see it unless they look closely... and who does look that close except design nerds.

The solution is to cut the puppy out of the old picture, shoot a nice shot of a wheel chair by itself, and then place the puppy into the wheel chair picture via the magic of photoshop. Now we can use this image in multiple pieces of literature.

OK, so that's the wheel chair and dogs part of the post. The chicken and egg part is simply the struggle I'm seeing when working with nonprofits. Most people don' t want to participate or donate to startups. How do you get the word out if the media doesn't see a story and won't waste the ink on you? Of course this is not only true of NPOs. I guess it is also true of someone like me starting a career over.

Good things do happen however.... and sometimes absolutely magical things. Like PawPADs getting 7 acres of land AND a house donated to them just by visiting the right yard sale and meeting someone.

Or like me meeting a PR person today at the PawPADs meeting. No telling what good might come out of that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dreams Come True

When we first moved to the frozen north (Minnesota) Jean and I became involved in all sorts of gardening just to enjoy what seems at times too short summers and too long winters. We joined MN Water Garden Society and did some volunteer work and went to a few meetings. In my usual over-the-top approach I remembered that the Como Park Conservatory's water gardens were really poorly done. I called and talked to the curator and she would welcome help from our society to put their ponds in order.

Long story short... this was a lesson in group dynamics and how good intentions regardless of how good can die on the vine. I drew up a thirty page plan on how to care for the conservatory's indoor water features and presented it to the board of our water garden society. It wasn't well received. There were reasonable, but suspiciously specious complaints about how we were going to 'man' such an effort. Shouldn't the water garden society be excited by this opportunity, the chance to care for one of the premiere indoor water garden features in the state?

Months later I accidentally met a board member at Home Depot. His advice off the record was just to go do it without involving the board. Hmmm.... maybe good advice to get things done, but that would probably end my relationship with most of the board members. I can only imagine what negative thoughts were brewing as a new-be member was outlining a plan to lead such a visible and relatively important effort.

Long story short... (and I mean it this time), the curator at the conservatory had a lot of dreams and very little funding. One of her dreams was to raise topical lotus flowers, the type that have leaves greater than 36 inches across (as seen to the right). When one of these plants puts out a series of leaves the space needed may be as much as 8 foot in diameter. Not to mention the need for sun, heat, water conditions etc. These plants live in the tropics to get them to not only grow but to bloom in Minnesota is no small feat, and on top of that having the space to hold 20 or more plants!

I spent an hour or so at the conservatory today. I wonder what turn my life would have taken if my plan for the water garden society's involvement at the conservatory would have been received as an opportunity instead of some sort of usurpation or upcomeance .

The pictures in this post and at this Flickr page are proof that dreams can come true and in a very impressive way. For me these lotus flowers and water lilies are the best thing at the conservatory by far.

There are always nay-sayers in the crowd both for your plans and your dreams.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Giving Can be Difficult

I wouldn't have thought so, but I'm learning that giving is a little harder than I thought it would be. Specifically, using my Circular Obsessions series to raise money for nonprofit organizations (NPO). There are various barriers that I was unaware of going into this.

Firstly, there is a certain level of distrust or in more politically correct terms a questions of transparency. And then there is the fact that many people are turned off by the question of where the money actually goes when NPOs raising money or worse when they contract out fundrasing organizations who do the work for them.

Secondly, I was hoping to make just enough money to pay for materials for the creation of new works so that I could perpetuate the process. This then involves three parties: the NPO, myself, and the 'donor', and how this transaction is handled legally and in accordance with tax/NPO laws and bylaws is a little messy. In fact, the rules vary by state and other nuances that I would need a lawyer to figure out.

Further, if we then try to fit in a tax break to the donor (which was part of my overall scheme to make the transaction as favorable as possible for all), then we have even more complications at tax time.

Lastly, the simplest approach would be for me just to sell the items and give money directly to an NPO and forget about tax breaks to the donor, and the recognition they deserve for making the donation. This approach has a major drawback though. If I'm just out there selling my work, then I have to compete head-to-head with other artist. This would significantly lower the price point of my work just to get it sold, resulting in small net gains to donate.

Hmmm, I have some rethinking to do.

Anyway... I can always just go out to my yard and shoot frogs when things are not going my way.

There seems to be an abundace of these tree frogs this year. They are perfect subjects. They just sit there and let you get as close as you want. I should pull out my macro lens and see if I can shoot a closeup of a frog eye.

Monday, August 10, 2009

pawPADs Photo Shoot

Shot a set of images for pawPADs. Some will be used in literature and some in a photo journalism piece. You can see a few more at my Flickr page.

Click slideshow at the upper right of the page after using the link above.

These were done using the Topaz Simplify and the Imagenomic Portraiture plugins in Photoshop. I'm really liking the style. Not to painterly, but not too realistic either.


Nature's Complementary Colors

On my way to a photo shoot and saw this little green thing in a Hydrangea blossom. It is a Gray Tree Frog which depending on locale and time of year can be green. Looks green to me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Powderhorn Art Fair

Spent most of this weekend in Minneapolis participating in the yearly Powderhorn Art Fair. Nice location along one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes and all of the arts and crafts you can handle. The Chicago Ave Fire Arts Center had a meet-and-greet booth there, and we told the story of the center's startup early next year. It will be a unique center teaching welding, enameling, neon, blacksmithing, jewelery, precious metal clay, and kilnformed glass which I will be teaching.

One of the goals of the weekend was to show what will be taught. For instance the piece below is an example of what could be done by a student. The metal work and the glass work (glass powder painting) would be taught over several classes. The center will encourage this type of mixed media collaborative effort.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Glass Marketing Weekend

These pics are of our room at the hotelVetro in Iowa City. The Sheraton was full and my potential glass commission client was at the Vetro... so why not stay there. There are 220 reasons per night why not, but it was so convenient we had to do it.

It was decked out in post-modern decor as you can see by the pictures at the left. The top image is of the tube and the door to the bathroom is to the left. It was a huge hunk of frosted and tempered glass measuring at least 6x7 feet. It was hung on a track with wheels which you pulled closed kind of like a barn door. Not elegant, but definitely minimalist.

Concrete floors a flat platform sink and monochrome color scheme. There was absolutely no color per say. The whole room was desaturated hues. Interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it unless your into that sort of thing. The furniture was Ikea quality. OK, but nothing to really recommend it.

Our dinner was very nice though and we had a good time talking over the glass project, the site, pets, and life in general.

The next step is to put together a proposal for the project which I"m looking forward to. It will be approximately 40 sq feet of glass, and the design will be fun to execute.

The design will be based on a lose interpretation of the mountain environment of the cabin in the California mountains. Since the cabin is of contemporary design this gives me a lot of freedom.

I also had the opportunity to deliver a set of small Fritflower panels to a customer in Iowa and left a few panels behind to be sold in a flower shop. This will be a bit of test marketing. I'm glad to find someone who is willing to help me explore the correct combination of price and design.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sculptural Pursuit Cover

Hooorah! The magazine has been publish, and I got my copies a few days ago. What a Long Strange Trip Its Been is all I can say. The article mostly covers a lot of my early life trying to find my way in the arts and life in general. Admittedly, I've had a very circuitous path in discovering where I fit in the art world.

I'm very please with the cover art and of the quality of the whole magazine. I never imagined that my work would make the cover of a tasteful magazine like Sculptural Pursuit. There isn't a lot of technical detail in the article which is a bit disappointing, because the Circular Obsession series is mixed media and it is hard to fully appreciate the work unless you are familiar with what went into making it.

Maybe I can get published in another magazine to cover that angle! .... hmmm

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Designs For Good is Taking Off!

Boy... A bit overwhelmed at the moment.

Leaving for Iowa tomorrow to talk over a art glass commission of two free hanging panels of 5 by 4 foot, and to also meet with a store owner who may want to sell some of my craft-end items like FritFlowers as can be seen here.

I squeezed in the time to create a prototype of the glass panels. Even if the commission doesn't come my way I can still use it as an example piece at CAFAC for my kilnformed glass students.

I've started working with the owner of PawPADs as another Designs For Good effort. PawPADS is about.... Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs (PawPADs) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate the power of the human-canine bond, and enhance the lives of others, through the process of training assistance dogs and the outcome of partnering them with people with disabilities.

My first mission was to produce a flyer for their fund raiser. Pretty simple layout with a bunch of paw prints in the background and a cute image of a puppy that I made into puzzle pieces using Photoshop.

It is an amazing amount of money, to the tune of $25,000, goes into turning a rambunctious puppy into a dependable helper for a disabled person.

Another project will be to do a photojournalism piece for them. For this project I will be following a puppy from beginning to the end of its training to illustrate just what is involved, and how the dogs achieve their goal of aiding a person in need.

I've got my eye on a few other nonprofits as well and I'll post those when we iron out some of the details.

On the Circular Obsessions front, I'm starting to get fan mail as a result of the Sculptural Pursuit Magazine Award. It is gratifying to hear from people. I'm really hopeful to sell a few of the works and it will be a wonderful experience to be able to donate a majority of the proceeds to worthy nonprofit ventures like PawPADs.

Oh... and I guess I have to officially announce that I am no longer working at my IT job as a Database Administrator. I quite. Yes, jumped over the edge. Designs For Good in now my full time obsession.

Wish me well! I couldn't be more excited about my future!

Monday, July 20, 2009


I knew a little bit about the background of Cirque Du Soleil having seen the Bravo special where they take you behind the scenes and go into quite a bit of detail on how the shows are put together including: the extensive training facilitates; costume design process; development of the acts; lighting; staging, etc, etc, etc.

In the case of Cirque Du Soleil the list etcetera's are really extensive... mind numbing actually. This is especially true after you've actually gone to a show and have seen the infrastructure to physically produce the show.

I'm blogging about this, because at times when working on a design project the list of things that need to occur, and completed in a certain order seems overwhelming. Just to produce a flyer may take a small team of folks all with distinct skills and tasks. I can't imagine the totality of tasks, logistics, and decisions that went into producing Kooza.

The insurance and liability considerations alone are beyond me. OK, sure the performers could be hurt. That goes without saying. But the audience is at risk also, and knowingly so was the amazing thing to me. At one comedic interlude with clowns running all over the audience, all of a sudden one of the chairs in the audience lifted a poor unsuspecting women 10 yards into the air! It was a hydraulic chair and it kept going up and down as the audience screamed with laughter watching the poor women's reactions to being repeatedly thrust into the air.

OK, maybe she was a plant and it was all planned, but it certainly didn't look like it. But that is only one of the audience dangers of the show. At one point a performer stacked chairs nearly two stories high and then balanced himself on top of them all. Yea, he could fall, but what about all those chairs? If they all came tumbling down they would have scattered across the stage and into the audience. Those where heavily constructed chairs and would put a-world-of-hurt on someone if hit by one.

Having not been to a circus since childhood what impressed me in this age of flat screens is how three dimensional the show was. Even theatrical productions seem only two dimensional since they occur on a stage that goes from left to right, that is, not in the round like Kooza . I found myself looking up at the high wire acts, behind me at the audience participation, as well as left and right to keep an eye on those clowns. I even looked under my chair to insure that it wasn't hydraulic!

No need in discussing the lighting, costumes, special effects, the live band, moving stages etc, etc. I think anyone remotely familiar with the arts can think through those details.

The art and design aspects were top notch of course. What impressed me was the sum of the parts, the whole experience. With the 30 minute intermission you had time to enjoy a couple of beers and have a snack while walking around the outside of the tents. I was extremely impressed with the permanence built into this short run event. No simple stakes in the ground holding up this massive complex of tents. They actually had thick metal cables hooked to concrete foundations forming the main support structure. Additionally, a series of 1 inch metal cables spaced every five feet were near the tents and circled the whole perimeter. These were attached to 2 inch thick steel stakes that were somehow drilled through the asphalt and who knows how deep into the ground.

I expected a good show and it was better than I thought it might be. I can be easily bored with contortionists and high wire acts. There was an act or two that I wasn't impressed with, but you could always use that time to look around at how they orchestrated the flow of acts, blending from one into the next for an uninterrupted sense of magic. There was a team of pulley boys stationed right in the audience who rose and lowered equipment from one act to another in concert with the lights shifting your attention towards the oncoming act, and away from the darkened equipment as it was being tucked away into the ceiling.

The artistry I expected. What impressed me just as much was the supporting infrastructure and operational coordination exposed to your inspection. That is, if you saw beyond the theatrical tricks which guided your attention to center stage... or the clowns off stage as the case may be while the pulley boys did their own sort of magic.

Kooza! Truly a multidimensional Tour de Force.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Slave to the Pen

Ehh gads! Another weekend spent in front of the word processor instead of having fun! I managed to get the MAEP proposal sent out only to fall prey to an available MN state grant for photography. I'll post the proposal when completed, but what a process! I can see why grant writing is actually a career for some people... and this is just a small grant.

I love it though... results focused. They actually want to know how the grant will change your career. Ok... deep breath... how many artist actually conceptualize their career path? And then... put an action plan together to get from point 'A' to 'B'?

A lot of deep thought has to go into that, along with some serious self examination.... and reality based at that!... why am I using so many exclamation points?

Do they offer grant writing as a class in fine arts academies?

I'll never forget the day my freshmen Design teacher at CMU came into class, looked around the class, and said "none of you are going to make a living in the arts". He didn't mean it personally, just as a general statement, and actually a challenge for self examination. But many of the students just took it as the old coot just getting out of the wrong side of the bed that day, or, just ignored what he said.

My reaction... was to leave school after that year. Not so much because of what he said, but because I've always been a bit inner-focused, and didn't see myself following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol who was often the topic of discussion, and who left CMU after a year or two. I left, unlike Andy, because I could never shoulder the facade, avant guard mantle or the hairdo as Andy did so well. I couldn't even go to a simple senior art opening without feeling simultaneously beneath and above that scene. AKA... out of place.

Yea... it is complex and I need therapy... not.

Designs For Good is my resolution and salvation.

I'm feeling good about the grant submission. It actually made me think about a career and why someone should give me money to further it.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Douglas (Pick) Pickering, who inspired me by being honest about our limitations in the face of the realities of the art world, while at the same time pushing us to ever higher standards.

OK... picture time.

I did take time to go to our garden to refresh my spirit. The following are a set of images of the Beebalm plant. I ran it through the Topaz Simplify filter and came up with the following. The first (top-left) is the untouched shot, and the second is the image run through the Topaz filter. You don't see a tremendous difference until you drill into the image by cropping smaller and smaller. Then you begin to see how the filter abstracted the image into elements of pure lines and color/hue shifts. You could go deeper into the image, but at that point is just becomes pure color and pattern.

You can click on the final image to get a close up of it, and you'll begin to see how the filter breaks the image down. Looking at that last enlargement it is hard to see how it is actually the same image (same jpg file) as the one at top right. Once you click on the image open your window as wide as possible and the picture will expand.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Taking A Break

For me taking a break means doing all the tasks that I've been avoiding while working on my 'real' tasks. These 'relaxing' tasks are : filling the bird feeders, watering the garden, taking one or two items off of Jean's (my wife) To Do list, and in this case this week I shot a few photos of the garden which I haven't done yet this year.

The image to the left is a typical close up of some Tiger Lilies. Not too impressive. So I took the image into Photoshop and used the Topaz Simplify filter on it and then added some Gaussian noise to it and come up with something that looks a lot like the texture and smooth feel of a glass powder painting (see image below). It would be interesting to try to do a photo realistic powder painting based on this image. You can see a large version of the image here.

In the larger version you really get the sense of the sandy texture that is the hallmark of a glass powder painting. It is a model to use if trying to simulate powder painting before committing a design to glass. Just amazing what you can do in Photoshop. With this Photoshop technique I could shoot a series of photos and run them through the Photoshop filters, change the composition, contrast, colors, etc and have a digitally worked out study done in twenty minutes or so. Bullseye glass is expensive so you want a worked out study before attempting it for real in glass.

Well enough play for today. Tomorrow I have to commit to getting the MAEP proposal printed. My new HP B8550 printer could probably do the job, but sitting around and doing 48 prints on an ink jet isn't my idea of fun, especially since White House Custom Color has a sale on 8x10s this week.

On another note, the folks at Sculptural Pursuit magazine encouraged me to create my web page on their site. At 3AM I wrapped that up and you can see it at this link. If you've been to my site then there is no need to go to that page however, because there aren't any new images to see there. The page is mainly for their readers who want to know more about the artists which appear in the publication.

Eh gads... going onto 4AM. Jean will be getting up soon and I'll just be getting to bed. That's not uncommon actually. Two ships passing in the night.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Anything Worthwhile Takes Time & Money

Can't believe it took over two weeks to put together an exhibition proposal! You can see the PDF here. Sorry, it is almost 8 Meg in size so if you have a slow connection maybe it is time for a coffee break.

I still need to send it off to have the prints made, then package the prints up in a nifty leather bound portfolio, and send the proposal off for consideration. Forty Eight prints at $3.80 each plus the portfolio and shipping and the project totals out to around $230.

Small investment I guess if you believe in your work, but man this art stuff is a money pit! My printer blew up on me doing some test prints. I put all new ink cartridges in thinking I just needed new ink, because I haven't used the printer in a while and the 'head cleaning' process wasn't clearing up the problem. After the new ink was in place the printer totally stopped printing. :(

In true DIY style I found a web site that explained that this is a common problem with my printer and explained how to fix it.

Regretfully, this turned into a big mess... literally. There was a huge amount of ink all over the place in the printer due to disconnected ink hoses, and I couldn't see anything in the jet black ink drenched interior only accessible via needle nose pliers.

I gave up after a couple hours. So not only did I waste putting new ink on the dead printer ($60), I also now need to buy a new printer and a new set of cartridges. That will be another several hundred dollars. In quick order I'm well over $500 for the weekend! Ouch!

At least I'm one step closer to actually being able to move onto new projects. I'm very excited about doing more powder painting and combining that with enameling and photography. This is really going to be fun.

I'll probably get the proposal out to the folks at the Minneapolis Institute of Art by next Friday after the prints come back from White House Custom Color... then I'll be free just to play!

My mother always said in a sing-song voice... Jimmy's whole world is P-L-A-Y... I can only aspire to her vision for me.

Incredible the concentration page layout work takes. So many details.

I'm dead tired and need a weekend to recover from my weekend.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still Obsessing

It is the beginning June and it is still cold enough here in Minnesota to see the steam rise from my coffee. Last Wednesday there was a hard frost up north and a lot of tomato plants were probably unhappy.

This week’s Designs for Good focus is back on my Circular Obsessions sculpture series. I’ve created a catalog layout for the series using Adobe’s InDesign. You can view the catalog here. The plan is to use the document as the center piece of my marketing campaign with the goals of getting the series shown in an upscale venue as part of a charitable event. The works of art (mine and potentially other artists) will act as ‘gifts’ for significant donation levels.

Simple enough idea, but as I’m learning the execution will be challenging. The reactions from those I’ve talked to vary wildly from “what bad karma are you working off’ to comments which you would expect like "that is a very generous idea". Then there are the practical concerns of how the funds might be collected and if there are any legal issues with collecting charitable contributions.

The first reaction from most artists is (and rightfully so) "who has the time and money to offer their work" and why should they if they are unsure about where the money goes. So my first thought was to insure the money went to other artists.

As mentioned in the last post I talked to a CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) representative over the phone, but haven't heard back from them. I didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling during our conversation. Seems getting involved upfront in a project to raise funds via an idea like mine isn't something they typically do. It is more typical for them just to receive funds after someone has had some sort of fund raiser.

OK, I'll come closer to home. The Minneapolis Institute of Art has a program for local artists called MAEP which stands for Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program. Hmmm... so why not put on a show whose goal is to raise money for MAEP. In the last edition of the museum's quarterly they introduced Christopher Atkins as the new Coordinator of the program and it states "He looks forward to brainstorming with the MAEP panel for ways to respond nimbly to economic constraints."

This looks promising right? So I think I'll have my propaganda printed up, add a cover letter and see what he thinks of the idea. There may be very good reasons why it won't work, but I'm not aware of them at the moment. People donate to museums all the time. I'm just taking a hint from public radio and suggesting that we give a gift (a work of art) for a donation on a certain level.

I would like for other artists to participate by donating some work (and by the way obtain some high quality exposure), but I am willing to fill a small gallery with enough work myself if necessary, and I'm flexible enough I think to work through other issues.

I'm very curious to see what Christopher's response will be. Hopefully he can give me some advice regarding a better approach should this idea not be a fit.

First things first. I have to complete the propaganda and get it printed.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Portfolio Photography

This weeks Designs For Good adventure finds me doing portfolio shots for a local sculptor. It's true that anyone can take a decent picture these days, but portfolio shots are a category of photography that take a bit more equipment than your typical point-and-shoot with built in flash.
In the case of portfolio shots - a picture is worth a thousand... dollars, more or less. Excellent photography sets the artist apart, and can be the pass key to entering and even winning competitions.

My Circular Obsessions series will get national recognition through Sculpture Pursuit magazine based on photography alone.

A lot of artists simply cannot afford to pay a professional photographer who may charge several hundred dollars just to shoot one sculpture. I belong to the Society of Minnesota Sculptors and I offered my photography expertise for our members. A few have taken me up on my offer. It can take 6-10 hours to do a good job on a work of art.

OK, maybe I'm just slow. But getting to know the work, and playing with the studio lighting takes time as does all the post processing touch ups. Maybe I'm just picky or just like to play.
Early in my artistic life I hired a professional photographer on two occasions. In both cases I got a great exposure, but no feeling. The images were lackluster and lacked atmosphere.

It's not too hard to get a good exposure, but it takes time to build an atmosphere, yielding as sense of drama. You can take it too far though. I was tempted to put blue-green gels on the lights to accent the waves for the first picture above. After all it is bronze with a green patina, and a little blue cast would make the bronze more water-like. That is half of the challenge though. You can' t pull out all the tricks in the bag. You have to stay true to the object if the image is to represent what someone may want to buy, yet you need to make them want to buy it. Just a little tricky.

A few of each shot will go into portfolios and many will be posted on the web, helping to promote the artist's career. Helping the society's members helps me build a portfolio also. Shooting artwork is challenging and fun. Sometimes there is a single best shot that describes the feel of the work. Finding that shot could be the difference between selling a piece and having it passed over by a jury for a show.

These two works were a bit challenging for different reasons. The bottom image is an artist's interpretation of the Indian Goddess Kali. The top shot is of a woman riding out a wave on a beach. It isn't easy getting the angle right so the waves look wave-like, the smile is caught, the background doesn't interfere, and there isn't an inopportune shadow. Just moving this shot one step to the right and it looks like the subject's neck is hanging over a guillotine. Needless to say, not what the artist had in mind.

It is fun to play with the images as in the one to the left, and the artist may even like your playing around, but that is what it is - the photographer playing around and having fun.

This is where portfolio shots start to mutate into graphic design. This image could be used on the artist literature or website as a very graphic element to draw a viewer in, but it is obviously not representational.

Maybe I should start a photographic series of my interpretations of artist's interpretations of something else. Maybe I'll call it Adaptive Interpretations.

Or... maybe for now I'll keep my open invitation to our sculpture society for doing more of their pieces, as long as it remains fun.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Creativity & Collaboration

In the post Why Designs For Good I discussed some motivational factors for giving my work or the proceeds from sales to nonprofit organizations. I stated that this act of giving is in no way selfless or some sort of bleeding heart liberal indulgence. Today's post is an example of receiving far more in return through the act of giving, and being open to 'outside' influences in your creative life.

Just the opposite of that openness is my Circular Obsessions series was a truly obsessively driven singular pursuit of realizing an inner vision by minimizing outside influences. This inner vision came with a set of very restricting standards the sum of which is hard to explain, but I'll list a few for discussion sake.
  • Color was fairly restricted
  • Almost all surfaces had to have unique texturing
  • The disparate media types had to have a seamless integrated look
  • Each piece in the series had to have at least two glass styles: cast glass, kilnworked glass or torchworked
There were many other criteria which I had little control over. Things just either looked and felt right or they didn't. The object 'resonated' or it didn't. When working with/through this inner vision thing you can't talk yourself into a compromise. If it isn't right it just isn't right, and no amount of rationalization will work to change that.

And what I mean by criteria which I had little control over will need to be a subject of another post. For now, just ask yourself.. what is my favorite color, and do you know why? Or why do some people like abstracts and others do not? Suffice it to say that on some very fundamental level we do not control our preferences for certain types of sensation, and my posit - as it pertains to my inner vision thingee - is that it was more in control of me than I in control of its driving aesthetic preferences.

At times I would obsess for a month over how to best hide a seam between two components. In extreme cases it may take over six months to get a glass component both structurally sound and aesthetically 'correct', with many failures along the way.

Working under these conditions is a sort of aesthetic tyranny, which you accept as the process of creation, but it can become oppressive as it seeks an end result which seems continually out of reach.

Needless to say, in this mindset outside influences such as: will it sell; what gallery will show it; or even the basic financial concern of the cost of production versus potential of return are not in consideration. All of which serves to illustrate the somewhat irrational aspects of the inner vision thing.

After completing the Circular Obsessions odyssey I turned my sculpture studio into a photography studio and really didn't have a plan for glass into the future, until I was invited to teach kilnformed glass at Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC), and then some odd things started to happen.

This inner vision thing relentlessly pursued its end and thereby eliminated whole sets of creative potential. Even within the glass area I was restricted to a certain look which eliminated almost everything else in glass except 'the look'.

When I opened myself to 'give' my time to CAFAC the whole world of glass opened back up to me. In short order I found Powder Painting, created an extensive array of art glass tiles which I will be marketing, and most recently have begun experiments in enameling.

This is a copper foil lotus flower I recently prototyped as a small part of a collaborative sculpture which will help illustrate CAFAC's multi media emphasis. It is an example of how glass and metal can be integrated into a single work of art, and what students can learn at the Fire Arts Center.

Being primarily a glass artist I struggled for many weeks trying to make glass flowers, and they always looked.... well like glass flowers. They didn't fit the overall feel of the sculpture which is a collection of found objects mostly of metal.

The final lotus flowers could have multiple layers of petals where the lower layers of petals are only slightly enameled showing mostly copper, and thereby integrating into the largely metal sculpture.

OK, maybe I was just ripe for doing new things after completing Circular Obsessions, and maybe I just needed to get out more instead of being all wrapped up in the inner vision thingee.

That's true, but it was the opening up and the giving away in powerful combination which has totally changed how I now approach my work, and who I am as a creative person. I can see now that collaboration will be a key factor in setting directions, and collaboration will provide a rich open field of creative adventures which will far outstripped what I could have imagined before.

Giving my work away will open doors and provide advantages not available to the lone wolf artist I was. And again, nothing is really being given away. Materials must be paid for from the proceeds, and there are obviuos returns in the form of marketing and publicity.

My goal is to maximize the proceeds so that significant funds are generated for a nonprofit, and as discussed in other posts, that is not a simple process. To that end I will be contacting organizations like the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) for their assistance and advice, and potentially to organize an event for the sale of Circular Obsessions to benefit CERF.

One last note... Enameling is very expensive, especially on a large scale. A large panel of 30x40 inches may take several hundred dollars of enamel powder. So, being a glass artist and having just discovered Powder Painting for myself.... hmmm, can I enamel with my glass powders which are far cheaper than those wee little jars of enamels? Can I make 30x40 enamel panels with Bullseye glass?

Sure.. why not... stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Macro Manipulations

As with any of my projects there are usually multiple stages of design and iterations within each stage. The photography stage wasn't too difficult. A macro lens with good studio flashes permitted a small aperture of f32, yielding a decent depth of field (DOF). Since my subject was held flat with a piece of glass DOF was not as critical and difficult to maintain as 3D subjects. I might go back to the studio to use a single side flash to bring out the texture of the scales on the wing.

For now, I'm satisfied with the images and have progressed onto abstracting them using Photoshop, Lightroom, and other plugins. The detailing, color gradations and hue and tonal variations are critical since the final prints will be 20x30 in size. I'm going for a Chuck Close Meets Impressionism style where at a distance things look somewhat normal, but you are drawn into the image with an ever deepening realization of the detail.

You have to imagine the image at left being 20x30 inches and the 3rd image down being what you see when you walk up close.... Chuck :)

Having the DOF just right accounts for much of the detailing. You can see every scale on the wing, pieces of dust, dirt and hairs, and collectively these produce the texture, hue and tonal gradations that hold your interest. If the images were not sharply focused the detailing would be lost and the gradations and textures would become large uninteresting patches with few color shifts.

I put these images and other butterflies on my site where you can use a Zoom tool (similar to MapQuest) letting you zoom in and out of the images.

I will most likely go through several iterations of composition and design styles, but that is not the hard part. Nor should the printing be difficult if the final images are fantastic.

The challenge will be to see if certain unknown judges will still consider this photography? I would like to use the final images as part of a grant competition in photography. This is a highly subjective and almost philosophical question. What do you think? Are these photographs?

To be honest, I really can't tell you, and anyone that does have a qualified answer is simply working from a particular aesthetic or technical context. That is, judging from a certain frame of reference. The question is as nebulous as what is art, what is fine art, and when does craft become art?

Is the first image a photograph that is just colored funny and the last one is not because it is too abstracted? Are very grainy black and white images not photography because the grain (an aesthetic quality) is not realistic? Many people don't believe photography is art and maybe that is the rub of these photographs.

What do you think? Are these art?

Along with my lifelong predisposition to dislike self promotion is my dislike of labels in the arts. Regretfully, the reality is that labels and who is labeling does indeed matter, and can profoundly affect you and how you approach your work... if you let it.

My answer to all of that is Designs For Good where I simply make stuff, sell it for enough profit to pay for materials, and forward the proceeds to a good cause. That is a simple model to avoid a lot of the distractions the art world imposes on its participants.

However, even with that there are many practical concerns and questions like how can I maximize the proceeds, or, if you want grant money you have to play by the rules, their rules.

Backing up 10,000 feet. All of the above is really about values - what and how, we and other cultures, value certain activities and objects. Values and categories are closely intertwined.

For now, this post must come to an end, leaving the discussion of values for another time or better just left to philosophers.

You might think it would be simple just to give stuff away. But not really. Not if you want more of a result than just throwing all your money off of the tallest building in town.

I value my time/work more than that.