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.