Sunday, April 26, 2009

Relections On The Cost Of Design

OMG! The cost of Adobe's Creative Suite graphic design package is just too much, or is it? No, actually it isn't, because what you obtain is a whole integrated package which will enable a graphic designer, web master, photographer, and videographer to create absolutely amazing work sometimes with a push of a few buttons.

I made the commitment this weekend and bought the Master Package... ouch! And along with it bought packages from Topaz and Photomatrix. The images below are from outside my studio today. It is raining so I knew the wet ground and car would make an excellent subject. The reflections are great.

You can see the out-of-the-camera image (top) and the lower one after just a few minutes in the Topaz products. The latter has much more graphic impact and was accomplished in just a few minutes. If it were to be used in a Subaru ad I would have made the logo more prominent, toned down the purpleness of the building, and would do a little vignetting.

Product shots like cars are all about reflections and using light to mold the form of the car. In this case it was a cloudy and rainy day and perfect for creating the type reflections needed to bring contrast and detailing together. It isn't real intuitive, but some subjects actually look better on an overcast day. If you ever visit a photographer's studio you'll see that their lights are covered by large things called softboxes. These 'boxes' soften the light, and significantly change the characteristics of the highlights, just like clouds do to the sun. You'll learn that in lighting 101 classes. Then you add in the magic of your image editing software and then you have an image worth some money..... to someone.

It was a reflective day for me. It is a cold rainy spring day in Savage Minnesota. Sitting within the screened porch, covered with a blanket, a cat on top of that, and a cup of coffee warming my chilled hands.... I sat letting thoughts drift. While listening to the seemingly wistful spring call of chickadees and morning doves in the distance I felt the soft soaking rain in the air around me.

A mist of heat rose from my coffee cup which warmed my cold and stiffened fingers, and I wondered what exactly was I going to use these expensive tools for. My problem has always been that I think in terms too large for my own good. Like the project that Brian and I are discussing for example (see prior posts).

I have a few ideas for Designs For Good which are too new to even post about. It will be good, good for me and whatever good comes to others through my meandering and wanderings of how to best apply the skills given to me.

It is very rare I thought.... as I heard a call of a Loon coming from our creek below. The call echoed about the step hillsides framing the creek's valley, and faded back again into the sound of gentle rain. It must be on its way from the southern home to one of Minnesota's ten thousand lakes I thought. And yesterday I saw a Cedar Waxwing for the first time in over tens years of living here. It too on its way up north to replenish itself. The travel north is one of the most dangerous times for migratory birds.

We must invest ourselves to be replenished.

And tomorrow is Monday and back to reality in my 9 to 5.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm On the Cover of Rolling Stone!

Well, not really. My work has been chosen to be on the cover of Sculptural Pursuit magazine which like Rolling Stone for sculptors. I'm very excited and honored. The series I've titled Circular Obsessions has been in the making for many years. Hard to say when it really started. I guess like most artists it takes half a life time to form your aesthetic vocabulary, and the other half you might actually make something interesting.

The short of it is, I'm just attracted to round shapes in both two and three dimensions, and these form the core of my vernacular. When I approached color studies in glass I used the sphere as my form. To create the majority of the work a lathe was used as a natural tool for creating the family of rounded shapes. The lathe enabled me to prototype from sketches fairly quickly. I'd work pine to get the shape right, then turn the final pieces in various solid-surface materials like Corina. These materials don't suffer from expansion and contraction and grain issues. I love wood, but not for this series.

Many of the original turned pieces where subsequently cast in bronze, some were copper plated, and few cherry wood items where stained black and coated with powdered silicon carbide to match the dark patina of the finished metal pieces.

The glass spheres and kilnformed glass elements bring color and textural contrast to the finished works. Putting it simply and straight forward, the form of the sculptures are elaborate housings for the jewels of glass.

The image above is the one chosen to be on the cover of the issue due out later this year. It is called Aeon. Most of the works have short names that kind of relate to the the work, but I don't agonize over the meaning behind the names. You can see all of the sculptures here.

We completed the telephone interview for the article this weekend. Marilyn Noble, the managing editor allowed me talk her ear off. I sent a follow up email to apologize for the running monologue. It's not that often that I talk about my work. I'm usually just buried in the studio making stuff.

I guess I have been getting out more lately though. I dropped off a delivery of finished art glass panels to Heather Doyle who is one of the founding members of the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC see Related Links). She will be creating metal frames to complete the wall hangings. Heather will be teaching metal working at CAFAC, and it will be wonderful for me to teach and collaborate there when it opens later this year.

I'll be working with Heather and her students to create frames for the wall hangings and other sculpture pieces. The goal is to place the pieces in galleries and hopefully on permanent display to raise awareness and funds (when sold) for CAFAC. The work will be examples of what can be done by students when they come to CAFAC.

The powder painting image posted in a previous blog post and this image below will be examples of works which we will placed in galleries, and can actually be done by a student in one weekend class.

I also met with Brian Madson (as mentioned in prior posts) and we had our first discussion on the practicalities and barriers to creating a nonprofit media center. I was really impressed with his experience level. He has worked many media projects for some of the largest nonprofits in the country.

I can see at this point that Brian and I have our work cut out for us, and we'll need to take careful steps along this journey.

I also made two trips to J Ring Glass over the weekend to satisfy my addiction to glass. J Ring is the largest art glass supplier in the upper Midwest. They set the record for their largest single-day store sales this last Saturday. Given the recession we are in that was surprising to hear - I just had to help in breaking the record! Any excuse will do to buy glass!

And I did find some exciting glass. Bullseye is continually expanding their line. They created this ultra blue iridescent glass which I'm really excited about.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Designs for Good?

The main difficulty I have had in my creative ventures is the whole area of self promotion. I didn't realize it early on, but it was one of the reasons that I didn't finish my studies in the fine arts. I had very mixed feelings about going to art openings, meeting the right people, belonging to the right clique, bantering about talking about myself, then graduating and having to make a go of it by constantly thinking of ways to draw attention.

Yes, that's a fairly negative summary of what self promotion means, after all we all must promote ourselves in our careers no matter what the field. In my technical career as a database administrator I have no qualms about self promotion. Being out front with my technical skills is largely why I have had a good technical career.

Doing the same with my creative skills is another matter for me. I could go on to list a series of reasons why it is different. But for brevity sake Designs for Good is the resolution of my lifelong quandary regarding self promotion. My various talents become utilitarian by using them to promote a worthy cause.

My photography and graphic designs skills can become communication devices, my artwork can be sold to raise funds, my web and technical knowledge can be used to help an organization more effectively use technology.

This isn't some sort of selfless act of giving. I'm not a bleeding heart liberal. My skills are a gift to me. Some of what I do is so effortless yet the results can be at times quite exceptional. The energy flows in, and now I'm looking for it to flow out just as easily. It is not selfless because I have experienced that through the act of opening up and giving you do indeed get more than you give.

This act of giving and receiving in return is not limited to the physical exchange of some product between myself and my 'client'. As a matter of fact, that is not what I'm talking about at all. That is just the very end result. What I'm referring to is the act of receiving greater creative energy by not holding onto it, but rather letting it flow out in directions that you are not exactly controlling.

I firmly believe that our deeply creative moments are a realization or materialization or manifestation of that which is larger than ourselves. We do not know where in-spiration comes from, where conceptualization is born in us. Ideas just happen; creativity expands who you are when you suddenly see what you did not before, when you master a technique and do what you or possibly no one has done before.

Where does that come from? Surly we lay the ground work by years of practice and study, but the breakthrough moment is a gift.

Again, I could go into a lot of detail on the exact nature of what this 'flow' is and how it benefits me to give it away and not control it, but I'll keep this post short.

For me Designs for Good is my way of dealing with self promotion in a manner that frees me from being self conscious and there by not limiting or possibly disabling my creative potential.

I am not exactly sure where I am going in this venture. I have started out with the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center. Then there is this idea of a nonprofit media services company that needs a lot of work. I’m sure I will be doing smaller projects along the way.

The journey can now start now that the self promotion bugaboo is in a jar.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hello World!

Funny, I do actually remember having my first Pascal program's output say 'Hello World!" all those years ago on my Apple //c.

This blog was created to share my many adventures in the arts and graphic design. I'll be posting or linking to how-to projects as they are created. For instance, I'm currently excited about the technique I'm calling powder painting, and will be posting advice on how to create your own masterpieces :) You can see more examples at my site.

For those who like hands-on education I'll be teaching the technique at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) later this year, as well as basic kilnformed glass techniques.

On the more serious side of this blog I will be exploring the use my various graphic art, photography, web, and other skills to aid nonprofit organizations. CAFAC (an official NPO) is one of my first forays and there will be more.

I recently met up with Brian Madson who has years of Marketing & Communications experience and apparently we both have been thinking the same thought. That is, to start a media services company which is a nonprofit itself, and whose mission is to serve other nonprofits. This is a very involved idea and the development of the idea will be the source of many posts here.

By chance I met up with Brian via the Minnesota Nonprofit Counsel. I submitted my idea to them and as you might expect they also knew Brian was exploring this idea and they put 2 and 2 together. That's networking, and that is why I started this blog. There is no telling who will cross this path when walking the Internet.

So there you have it. My first blog post.