Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Don't Make Stuff...

My MFA is from Claremont Graduate School...although now, they've fancied up the name a bit and it's Claremont Graduate University. I chose the school because it was not a "photography" oriented program. Instead it was oriented to all the visual disciplines and was heavily into making art. The first year, I completely stopped taking images and explored everything from curation to installation. It was exactly what I needed. 

The off-shoot of this experience is that none of my classmates are photographers. Sometimes that's a drag, but overall I think I made the right choice. A few years ago, I joined a group of 15+ women artists, many of whom I know from grad school, who meet every couple of months and collaborate on a set of artworks. It's got a bit of the exquisite corpse approach to it - a few rules that often get broken and the work passes from individual to individual. 

Our current project started with Mandalas and this Sunday we will be meeting to review the final steps in preparation for an exhibition in June. When I was first invited to join - my response was "I don't make stuff..." which got a laugh and then was promptly ignored. But it is true - I struggle with objects, but have soldiered on, contributing a video, slivers of a photograph, an audio track...and this week, I added rice to a couple of kitschy glasses.  I still don't think I make objects, but I have enjoyed the process. 

Consider starting your own collaborative group. The social part is the best and it's interesting responding to the prompts from a different artist. Also - think about making sure you're working outside of just your own practice...that stretch across disciplines will open you up. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Getting There...

Over the years we are often faced with the FACT that we don't take our own advice. Somehow other people's lives are just so much easier to fix...but fixing ourselves is such a different task. One of the "truths" I learned in therapy was that my strengths and flaws were often two sides of the same coin. 

The good part of that was it made me a bit more forgiving of my and the bathwater type of thing. One of my strengths is curiosity and the inability to say "no" as many times as I should - this has given me some great adventures but it can also lead to a lot of distraction that often masquerades as action. 

This year, my goal is to imagine that I'm someone else and take the business side of my artwork in a much more serious manner. Barry Schwartz wrote a wonderful post on this called  Frog In Water  where he stopped making excuses for why his business had slowed and started taking his own advice. I loved what he had to say and decided to take it to heart. 

Here are two goal areas I'm going to pursue - and I think you should consider them as well: 

1. Set a goal for how many "hard copy" exhibitions you'd like to have this year. It can include group shows - but depending on where you are in your art career - really think about the quality level. If you're just starting out - look at the local coffee houses/bars/restaurants in your area. If they're hanging work, then (during the slow hours) ask to speak to the owner or manager about how to show your work. As you hit mid-career, then only participate in quality photography organizations with jurors you'd like to get your work in front of. Review their past exhibitions to make sure your work fits with their visual aesthetics. 

2. Set a goal for how many "virtual" exhibitions or posts about you and your work you'd like to have this year. Using the "links" area on most photography blogs can be a great start - target blogs because bloggers need a lot of subject matter. Here's Lenscratch's Resources page with tons of opportunities for getting out there. 

Finally, I read that the best chance for making a big change is to take it in very small pieces. Things that are doable. How about a goal of 1 "reach out" per week. Once a week, you send out one query to an opportunity that you'd like to have. Keep in mind, you can always choose to do more...but doing at least four per month is probably four more than you're currently doing!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bored and Brilliant.

This past week I participated in a project called Bored and Brilliant: the lost art of spacing out - a project that challenges us to look at how (much) we're using our phones and what the impact might be. Turns out that boredom is an important element of coming up with creative solutions - and I am always on the hunt for new ways to boost creativity. Two years ago I wrote about taking a social media holiday, but this is focused on the use of cell phones.

Here's my experience so far:
I signed up a few weeks ago - big irony, I found out about the project while checking my phone - and immediately found I was more conscious of my usage. As an experiment, the last day of PhotoLA, I resolved to clamp down on my phone-checking. It was a bit odd to just stand there while everyone else was on their phones...but it did give me a chance to be more in the moment. I also worked on awareness. I feel like I've lost some of my ability to concentrate - I used to be a huge reader, and now, not so much.

Monday: Each morning there's a mini-podcast - this one asked you to turn off your notifications and just leave your cell phone in your bag, or someplace that's not touching your body.  The average individual starts at 7:31am by checking their email and Facebook while in bed. Daily use is over three hours...and some of us check our phones almost 1500/ this possible? Yikes! The phrase that stuck with me from this morning's pod case was "phantom cell phone" which is when you think you hear your phone ringing. Yes, during the day it was hard to break that automatic habit to reach for the phone, but it's a good way to start.

Tuesday: Photo-Free day - as it says, today was a day without photos...which is not as hard for me as you might think. I'm not really snapping pix of my morning coffee (unless it's fab), so today wasn't so bad. An interesting tidbit - taking photographs of an event can actually dim your memory of it. Hmmm...

Wednesday: Delete that App, is as awful as it sounds. My fav was Flipboard, which takes up a good hour or more of my evening. As I write this now, it's been a week and I still miss it. But, it could be worse...I could be an Angry Birder!

Thursday: well...I liked to say that I stuck with it all week and did all the exercises. However, such is not the case - but Thursday, I just didn't feel like following directions any more and kinda felt the point had been made.

So...what is my take away a week later? I do spend less time on the phone and have really started to just sit and observe. My husband and I went out to dinner this weekend - sat in the bar area of a restaurant and had a great time people-watching. It was kinda sad how many couples we saw where one of them was just on their phone the whole time. But, sitting there, really taking in the energy of the place, watching the fab job the bartenders were doing slinging drinks, watching the "first-daters," the families, the was fun.

Did it make me more creative? I dunno...I did make two images this week and I actually started a new book... so who knows?! Anyway, you have the links and the podcasts are still active, should you choose to start the process yourself.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Constructing an image - allowing time to figure it out.

One of the difficulties about constructed images is figuring out the composition. I have always been very interested in the space between painting and, perhaps what I'm doing these days is closer to photo-illustration than it is photography.  When a painter does a "photo-realism" painting, technique seems to overwhelm the viewer. The internal discussion is about the painting technique - how amazing it is that the painter made such a realistic copy. 

When a photographer creates a photo-illustration, the questions are also about technique (and I'm learning to minimize that dialog, since it's not really the point of the image). But, what's kind of cool is that, since it's a photograph,  we still get to include an assumption about "reality" which makes the discussion more complex. We bring to each photograph the assumption that this is real...or might be real. So, that's probably our most effective tool.

With that in mind, my biggest issue is the composition: what am I trying to say, where is the best location for the object, how big should the environment be relative to the object? Back when we shot with film, there was an automatic visual "buffer" built into the system. We evaluated the result usually a day, week or month after taking the image. There was the joy of discovering discovering an image you just didn't remember taking.

Compositing/Building images is a different story - you're faced with the choices as soon as you make the object - which is why you almost have to create a "waiting" or "maturation" period for the image. With this image, I started with the Melody Apartments - a local personal landmark. My idea was to take this "art work" out of its busy location and place it somewhere on its we could really see it. I knew I wanted an "empty" space - but that opens a new can o'worms, since empty isn't actually empty, if you get my drift. My first choice for a location was fairly sparse (I actually made it more so) and there was a single soft set of mountains in the background, which I felt could work as a balance for the subject. I experimented with placement and objects...but it just didn't quite fit. So I waited a week or so and came back to the image.

Looking at it after that week I changed to a different location with a softer light and more color because it had a strong sense of "magic"'s that for a technical term? It felt like there was a resonance between the soft colors in the structure and the soft light and textures of the new location. 

The intensity of the sky bothered me a bit, it clashed with the softer tonalities I was trying to work with. So I tried it with a sky tonality that seemed more in keeping with the overall feeling I wanted the image to evoke. 

And finally, without the tree...not sure which I'll go it's back to time and maturation. Allow the image time to find itself.