March 22, 2012
March 20, 2012
Intermediate Fine Art Printing Workshop this weekend! March 24th-25th. The class features one on one time with you transforming your images into beautiful prints. Still openings...so spread the word! http://www.sjphoto.com/print_wkspHO-int_frameset.html
March 18, 2012
Farallon Islands Mirage. Pacifica, California. 2012.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
by Stephen Johnson
Staying With Making Art
I've been immersed in printing for weeks now, first filling an important print order, then teaching a four day printing workshop helping my students shape their photographs onto paper. It feels tangible, substantial, real, like prints in hand always do. It felt like a good winter indoor activity as the calendar turns to plans for for spring outings.
Years ago we started the Featured Print Program to make one of my photographs available every month at a very reasonable price. But there were some other internal reasons for the program. To put it simply, it forced finished work out of me. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the day to day, in these days of economic stress even more so. It is easy to loose our ways as artists, to forget the making of artworks at our core. I've found it important to construct internal imperatives that force the work, so that the making of art with all of its passion, does not get routinely buried in the must do tasks of business maintenance. Having to make a new, finished print every month has helped force the issue.
Some who work in the arts can simply follow their art making as a daily routine. Some live very simply, some start off well to do, some retire into a life in the arts, some make a good living from their art. But we all need push sometimes, and most have plenty that can get in the way.
Many of us involved in the love of landscape end up in a very different daily routine. It takes time and effort to go out and make work. Keeping up with the offloading and sampling, much like developing and proofing of days now gone, is a very separate process. It doesn't feel like making art. It feels like a task. It can be joyful if the work is breaking exotic ground, but good solid seeing with workman-like dedication is harder sometimes to push through entropy.
New projects, new ideas, new territories, all contribute, but the hard core discipline to go at it everyday is rare, and important. On the days when it comes easy it is precious. On those days when it seems there are a thousand things in the way, the tasks get exaggerated and the work enticement of the art gets romanced, then easily tarnished by the fact that it may be merely good, without necessarily being monumental. Not to mention the fact that making art is hard work.
A finished print in hand can help serving as a sense of accomplishment. Much like a potter's finished firing, a print is the thing, the tangible manifestation that allows us to move to the next piece, whether a print or a journey. Sometimes just the getting out is enough to stir up the pot, break the routine, and entice more to be done. The weight of the unfinished is the killer of the yet to be imagined. Somehow a balance must be struck, so that the enticement of seduction keeps producing more, and that realization of the finished image as print becomes the path to moving on to the next.
Culvert and Grass. Pacifica, California. 2012.
Dancing Flyers. Pacifica. 2012.
Fundamentally, it is simply important to continue to work, to make art, seek the experience, persevere through the doldrums. Just do it, even if its just effort and not necessarily inspiration. It can come to you.
In the middle of writing this column, I forced myself out into a chilly afternoon, brought my dog along for a walk, and was then unexpectedly rewarded with a sky full of paragliders. I would not have guessed they would have been out in the cold air. They were magical.
Process, Craft and Media Informing an Audience
Our viewers come to understand what they are seeing in our artwork in many ways. One of the traditional vehicles of some comprehension was to understand the media and materials used in constructing the art work, oil on wood, pastels on board, cast bronze, collage, silk-screen, etc.
In this digital photographic age, we seemed to have moved away from this tradition. There seems to be a reluctance to call an inkjet print what it is, coining words like "giclee." Many hold desires to continue to call an artwork a photograph long after it has been changed into something quite different than the word photograph implies.
This comes up again and again,as it just did in my Fine Art Printing class last weekend, and it likely will continue to as long as people show images that appear to be photographic, that are in fact heavily "altered realities" and seem to want to engage their viewers with a wink and a nod.
There is a long tradition of deriving all sorts of artwork from photographs, making absolutely wild and wonderful new media. That continues to be the case, where all sort of possibilities can flow from a photograph in this digital age. What has changed is the implied deception now possible with digital technology, allowing drastic changes to what could be captured with light and lens. Even with heavy fabrication, some image makers still want to imply that the construct is what they saw and recorded. There would be no objection to informing their audience of the nature of what they are seeing if it were not for enjoying the reality shift and taking credit for the image as though it was seen rather than constructed. I'd rather they took credit for their Photoshop skills and helped their audience understand.
This is all a little confusing, making remarkable scenes captured be suspected of fakery, and creating a world of unreal expectation that the lesser of us must just not be as talented because we aren't getting or seeing these remarkable scenes to photograph that never existed in the first place. It also creates a false expectation of what reality is, making the beautiful sunset before you somehow less, as it is not as wild as the one just seen on the "enhanced" postcards in the gift shop.
I believe this also breaks down a commitment to craft up front, in the camera. The old "fix it in post" adage comes to mind where an assumption is made that you'll make it good later. Instead of concentrating on holding a magical image, this line of thought encourages a view that the image can be cleaned-up and made magic in Photoshop. In lectures across the country, and various parts of the world, I continue to emphasize my conviction that the photograph is made in the camera, everything else is just trying to process it into revealing that magic.
Indulge yourself with any direction you please, but give the viewer a fair chance at understanding the context of what they are seeing. Photography does occupy a special place in our visual world in terms of its ability to hold a light scene. Inspiration runs deep, deception can be disturbing. Of course, part of art is, as Picasso once said "a lie that helps you see the truth." I'm deeply aware of the gray areas that abound here, the rich history of images derived from photographs, and that artistic freedom demands just that: freedom.
A Few Quotes
Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.Man RayThe days you work are the best days.
Georgia O’KeeffeMy favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.
Diane ArbusThis benefit of seeing... can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image... the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.
Dorothea LangeThe weight of the unfinished is a killer of the yet to be imagined.Stephen Johnson, from this Newsletter
A few things I would like you to keep in mind...
Virtual Education: Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well. Readers of this Newsletter can still get a 20% discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.
Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there around the country over the next few months, April in MA, June in NY, late June in Maine, early August in MI.
- The Fine Art of Photography Event
April 12, 7pm
- With a New Eye
George Eastman House. Rochester, NY
Thursday June 14, 2012. 6pm
- Maine Media Workshops Artists Lecture
June 26, 2012
- Summer Weekend of Photography and Digital Imaging
Southwestern Michigan Council of Camera Clubs
Hope College, Holland, MI
Saturday August 4, 2012
Artist's Lecture: 7pm
- Keynote at PSA International Conference of Photography
South San Francisco. September 20, 2012.
March 14, 2012
Featured Print March 2012
About this Month's Original Photograph
Rock Wall. Pt. Lobos State Reserve, California. 2011.
Canon 1Ds III
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
Canon 1Ds III
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
the rough and rocky cliffs of Pt. Lobos at surfline
We're offering an 11x14 inch print of either photograph, matted to 16x20 and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $75, wood for $150. This print at this price is offered through March 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by April 15th.