Check out this interesting article about French Realist Artist Julien Dupre.
“The Dirty Sock Syndrome”
(I’ll get back to the title shortly. Bear with me.)
Every now and again I’ll say “I have just got to tidy up my work area.” to which my wife usually responds with bit of a snort and “You spend as much time tidying up in there as you do working in there.” Not quite true but close enough to be worthy of a snort.
I try to put tools and materials back where they belong as soon as I’m done with them (even for a minute) but I am not by nature a neat and orderly person. As a consequence the cruft tends to build up – especially when I’m in the middle of, say, mounting and matting prints – until there isn’t enough vacant space on the work surface to put anything else down. I guess the price of tidiness is eternal vigilance. But that’s a short-term issue.
A longer-term issue is that of the dirty sock syndrome. I read of it in (of all the unlikely places) a chapter on building maintenance in an excellent book on church governance*. In it the author says that if you see a dirty sock on your bedroom floor you pick it up, put it in the laundry basket and forget about it. Come laundry day it gets clean, you put it in a drawer and all is well. If you don’t pick it up – leave it there for, say, three days, it becomes part of the décor and you stop seeing it. It will stay there until your spouse (or whomever) picks it up. Exasperated parents will instantly recognize this phenomenon in occasional visits to their child’s bedroom. This, not seeing what is obvious to a stranger, is a longer-term issue. Once in a while I have to spend some time picking up the dirty socks in my work area. Looking around me as a write I see about eight – starting with an ink bottle containing maybe 2 ccs of ink standing proudly beside a full one and a small kitchen timer that stopped working even after I put a new battery in it. I have no idea how long they’ve been there but now that I’ve noticed them they are gone.
Art on a wall works the same way. After it’s been up for a while (a lot longer than three days) we stop seeing it. Galleries and museums change their shows – why not our homes? Chances are good that if you are reading this you have more artwork than wall space. (If not, support your local artists, buy reproductions from museum shops, frame your own pieces.)
When we moved to our current house three years ago one of my smarter ideas was to put hanging rails on a lot of the walls, making it easy to change our “show”. I walk past it 20 times a day and as soon as I don’t occasionally stop to smile and say to myself “George Tice certainly makes beautiful prints!” it’s time to change the show – roughly three months. Only a few of our particular favorite pieces are on “permanent display” but even they move from place to place so they will stay fresh.
The hanging rails are really helpful but it isn't that big a deal to add or subtract a few picture hooks. With a bit of forethought the new piece will hide the pinhole left by the former hook. In our previous house I kept a small jar of filler and another of touch-up paint at the ready.
* “Moving on from Church Folly Lane”, Robert Latham, Wheatmark Press 2006
Check out this article as it talks about what an Australian Artist created during the pandemic.
Some years ago I was snooping through a gallery operated by a local (Chico, California) arts organization. The blue-haired lady behind the counter asked if I was an artist to which I replied “I am a photographer.” Her dismissive response was that they didn’t regard photography as art. I usually think of something good to say about 15 minutes after it is needed but this time I got it out straight away. “Oh I agree – but neither is painting or drawing or sculpture. However, some photographers and some painters and some sculptors are artists.” Taken aback she wandered off to annoy somebody else.
I believe that it was Robert Frost who said that “poet” is a gift that must be given to you – that you cannot claim it for yourself. I would add “artist” or “novelist” as similar gifts.
So I am uncomfortable to self-identify myself as an artist. If somebody else wants to identify me as an artist that’s fine by me.
However, nobody can disagree that I am a photographer. I make photographs. Most of the time the result of doing so is rubbish. Sometimes it is a product. Once in a while it may be art.
Nobody always gets it right. I suspect that even Picasso had a full trash can. Mark Twain burned a lot of his drafts so that nobody could pick through his rubbish after his death. Photographer Brett Weston similarly destroyed most of his negatives before his death.
How often to you need to get it right to deserve the honorific? John Nichols wrote one terrific novel, The Milagro Bean Field Wars. That’s all folks. The second and third books of his hastily devised trilogy after its success were just awful. Is that enough to earn “novelist”?
I likely have a couple of dozen prints that I would hang on a wall alongside those of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s – but he could muster up several hundred.
I’ll continue to self identify as a photographer.
As a kid I drew incessantly. By the time I was in middle grades I was doing it pretty well. However, the schools in small-town Illinois had 0.00 support for visual art but did have minimal support for music. In 6th grade music rared its head and I leaped in headfirst. Any interest in visual art went away. Through college and beyond I played in dance bands of more-or-less reputable dance bands including a summer tour in Germany with a USO troupe.
Time passed. As a young professional I decided that I couldn’t have a day job, a night job, and a family so I put my horns “under the bed”.
Well, of course I had a camera and enjoyed taking family and vacation slides but nothing beyond that. A couple of co-workers did black and white photography and they had such a good time that I had begun to dabble in it.
More time passed. We were living in Buffalo New York and a friend told me about the George Eastman (founder of Kodak) museum in nearby Rochester. Okay, I’m up for art museums so we visited it. At that time the main building was in the mansion that had been George Eastman’s home. On a landing halfway up the “grand staircase” was hung a large print – probably 20x24 – of Ansel Adams “Moon Over Half Dome.” I was mesmerized, I was dazzled. I nearly fell backwards down the stairs. I had never seen a photograph – or any other piece of visual art – that hit me that hard.. I started haunting the public library for books of photographs and discovered a whole new world.
It took me a while (quite a while actually) to figure out what kind of photography I wanted to do but I knew it was out there somewhere. It took even longer to gain the skill to make my prints look the way I wanted them.
Do I miss making music, or drawing or would I like to paint or sculpt? Sure. But there are only 24 hours in my day too.
In a recent conversation (I believe it was at a board meeting) Tom Fletcher noted that the farmer’s market was no place to sell “fine art”. Now I know exactly what he meant – “you are unlikely to sell a piece for $500.” However, that sent me down one of my favorite rabbit holes of thought.
First, I don’t even know what that term means. If there is fine art does that imply that there is ok art, so-so art, bad art? Or is it graded like sandpaper extra fine, fine, medium, coarse? Moreover, who gets to decide? But I digress.
My friend Katrina formerly did spectacular underwater photography. “Formerly” because of a rather unnerving episode at a couple of hundred feet down with a shark a good deal bigger than she is. After a certain amount of soul searching she turned to making jewelery and she’s good at that, too.
She is the only artist that I know personally who made a significant part of her living selling work at sundry street fairs. She always had a few stunning prints up in her booth – 20x24 or bigger, beautifully framed and priced to match. She had smaller work priced to sell --loose and framed prints, refrigerator magnets, greeting cards, and bookmarks. The highest margin items were the cards and bookmarks – very cheap to print and priced at the impulse buy level. Refrigerator magnets were also good sellers but not so high a margin. Smaller prints in the $20 or so range did ok, too. And sell they did – they were the bread and butter of her sales.
Did anybody ever take one of her stunning, large, expensive prints home from her booth? No. But they sure drew lookers into her booth. She also regarded them as advertizing. More than once she got a call or email of the “We saw your work at… and want to buy a print.” She did a series on eyes – octopus eyes in particular. A veterinary opthalmologist bought a couple of giant prints for his office. Paid her booth fees for a couple of years.
without passing through pretty good.” (Bill Withers, songwriter, singer)
A while back (I decline to be more specific since it was quite a while) I was going through prints that I had made a decade or so earlier. One after another I was saying to myself “That print is terrible! Why did I print it that way?” Since I’m pretty organized about such things I looked at the negative number on the back of one of them, got that negative out for another try. Dang! What a difference – that print sings!
When the pandemic closed things down I was going through prints that I had made a decade or so earlier. (Can you hear this one coming?) Yep, the print I made a year ago made the one that “sings” look pretty tuneless.
You can’t get to wonderful without passing through pretty good. I don’t know if I’m “wonderful” yet but I’m fairly certain that “pretty good” is in the past. It clearly paid me (and I’ll bet it will pay you) to keep plugging along at whatever you do.
Found this article on The History Press Website. (Street photography captured my attention when I first got into photography but I don't shoot as much of it as I should.) Hope you enjoy the article!
The history of street photographyThe saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and street photography certainly lives up to this reputation. Since its inception in Victorian times, humankind has had a fascination with capturing not only the real, raw and gritty but also the mundane.Forms of photography have been around for millennia with the camera obscura (latin for ‘dark room’) where the image is projected through a pin hole into a dark room or screen. It wasn’t until the 19th century that a process was invented to ‘fix’ the image onto metal and glass plates (and later paper) to keep for posterity.
What we take photographs of in the 21st century is virtually the same as what the Victorians took photographs of - streets, landscapes, people, sports, stills etc. The first known photograph ever taken was of a Parisian street scene in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the first known portrait was taken in 1839 by John William Draper of his sister Dorothy and the first selfie was taken in 1839 by a young man called Robert Cornelius. The innovation of shutter speeds a few decades later enabled freeze motion, which meant portraits could be taken in a matter of seconds rather than a person sitting absolutely still for tens of minutes (hence portraits of Victorians tended to be somewhat stern looking) and also meant action shots could be taken without blur.
The first photograph ever taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in the Burgundy region of France.
The first street photograph. The image of a man has been captured as he stood still long enough whilst having his boots shined in 1838 by Louis Daguerre in Paris.
The first 'selfie' by a man called Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia 1839.
The first photographic portrait of a woman by John Draper of his sister Dorothy Catherine Draper in 1839/40 in the USA.
A Victorian photographic studio in 1893. Note the metal headrest to hold a person still for a given length of timeSo what is street photography exactly?From exclusivity to ubiquity, street photography’s definition has evolved alongside the opening up of the medium to all people of all backgrounds in conjunction with its technological advances from its origin of metal and glass plates to film to digital.
The definition of street photography (or photographer) is also different from 1918 to today. In Edwardian times it used to be a photographer who would take portraits on the street for a fee. During the two World Wars, the format could also have been argued to be under the umbrella term of ‘war photography’ and possibly photojournalism. Aside from journalists, ordinary people and hobbyist’s priorities did not tend towards luxuries such as film for their cameras (if they could afford one) during these tough years.
Post war saw the growing affordability of cameras and the consequent boom in candid and social documentary photography. Photographers such as Henri-Cartier Bresson and Diane Arbus who documented the everyday weird and wonderful in the 1950’s were probably the pioneers of what we are familiar with today.
The photograph becomes a type of ‘Memento Mori’ for bygone times and can elicit a powerful psychological response. Every minute and moment of life can be photographed and kept for all time. If we look at photos of a street scene in 1980s New York with the Twin Towers in the background, we immediately remember the tragedy of 2001, where we were and the other haunting images of that day. Another example would be those from Shirley Baker, images of kids playing in the streets of Salford in the 1960’s. If the viewer recognises the clothes, hairstyles etc, they would reminisce over their own childhood memories. It uniquely indulges the nostalgia within us.
It can be said that the pace of change in social and cultural demographics has picked up during the 20th and 21st centuries and street photography provides a wonderful (and at times, discreet) way of documenting our way of life for future generations. Anyone with a phone in their hand has the ability to take a street scene photograph. It’s the age of the ‘happy snapper’, instagramming every moment of life.
Check out this link for the article if you want to see the photographs mentioned in the article.
Our club offers many opportunities to "create new masterpieces" with other club members.
Of course you probably know about Debra Valpy's "arting parties" on Thursdays, and Honey B has also been hosting "paint and sip" on Zoom.
But did you know that Paul Illian has been hosting and painting "plein air" every Tuesday at 9am until "whenever" at the North SeaTac Botanical Gardens and Seiko Japanese Gardens? As of this writ- ing, Paul has been by himself painting except for the morning l came to snap photos. l have been there a few times this spring, and every time l walk in, there is something new to photo-
graph. This time l decided to come in when the light is best to hang out with Paul. He invites you to come out and paint with him.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term "plein air"... plein air painting is about "leaving the four walls of your studio behind and experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape" (l got that off the internet).
As our club's goals are numerous and each artist within our club wants different things from the club, we want to reflect that in the activities we offer. We are a social club that loves to talk all things art, we do watch and learn from other artists, we want to promote and sell our art, and of course we want to create more and more artwork. Plein Air at these gardens fulfills all of those goals
1) Get out in the fresh air, invite a friend and get to know your fellow artists at one of our beautiful local gardens. You may even make a new art buddy in the process.
2) You can watch and learn from other artists while you create your own art.
3) Paint some beautiful scenes from this garden. There is a lot of variety in these gardens, including a nice Japa- nese garden. Each week you can paint a different scene.
4) Promote your art. People sometimes come up to talk to you and watch you paint.
5) Before or after you do plein air take a brisk walk around the beautiful gardens to scope out your next "plein air" out- ing, or just come and paint with Paul.
6) Not a painter? Drawers and photogra- phers will also love this place.
There is a multitude of flowers, foliage, water features, walking trails, and trees in the gardens, and as mentioned...the Japanese garden is beautiful. The large nearby duck pond is often filled with birds. As of this writing, the lilacs are in full bloom, the iris gardens are blooming, and the Rhodes are in various stages of flowering. Spring is a fantas- tic time to do plein air as the budding foliage is all shades of green.
Come out and do "plein air with Paul, Tuesday's 9-11, or leave whenever you decide you are done.
I think about camera portraits a lot – thinking about them is a lot easier than doing them. It’s easy to take a photograph of somebody – click, a wash and brush up in a photo editing program and you’re there. Making a portrait with a camera is a lot harder. The great Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “Portraits are the most difficult. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of the person and his shirt, which is not an easy thing.”
Moreover a drawn or painted portrait (from a live model – not from a photograph) contains time. The sitter and the painter see a lot of each other and the result is not an instant in time. A photograph is – sort of.
The idea of time in a portrait came to me several years ago at Bumbershoot – when Bumbershoot was really an umbrella festival for all kinds of art and performance. Gage Academy sponsored a “drawing slam” – bring your own materials, they supplied several models and their faculty was roaming about giving advice as requested. I wandered through the drawing slam and was drawn to one of the models, a not-young-but-very-attractive woman in sort of Italian peasant costume. She was present – beyond the literal sense. Perhaps better described as “belonging” to where she was and why she was there. She was there to be seen and a drawing or a photograph of her would have been a portrait. Sitters like that are few and far between. I have worked with perhaps three.
What brought this to mind recently was a presentation by Robert Kalman, a photographer who does “tintypes” (more accurately wet-plate collodion) portraits. The exposure time for a tintype is 4 to 10 seconds depending on the light. Nearly nobody can hold the “say cheese” kind of expression for that long. Before the photographer opens the shutter the sitter has time to become rigid and suspicious or to become composed, relaxed, and present. Kalman’s portraits (the latter) contain, to my eye, the same feeling of time that a painted portrait carries. One of his sitters told him that was the only picture she had that “looks like me”. Well, a tintype is a mirror image – what the sitter saw was what she sees looking in a mirror.
Now there’s an idea! I recently did a portrait of a lovely 12 year old girl. I sent her two prints one of which was reversed left to right to make it a mirror image. I asked her and her mom to tell me which one looked more like her. Mom chose the “normal” girl the “mirror image”. I’m still figuring out what to do with that bit of insight.
I haven’t done many portraits in the last year. People wearing masks are not exciting subjects.