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.