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