Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My week in photos

I did this illustration Sunday night. I was inspired by the work of Jonas Bergstrand (dot com) who combines computer drawn elements with photos (hand drawn, then scanned, in mine). I love the freedom and possibilities this approach gives you. I also love how quickly I can complete an image. This one took me about two hours. Hope this cinches the magic formula that lands me another creative agency (sent my portfolio out to over two dozen Monday). If not I will try again. And again. And again. I already belong to Emerging Blue (dot com). I'm even one of their featured artists. Nice people. Wish they had more clients...

I mentioned last week that I was going to the Academy of Sciences to take advantage of it's once a month free day. Well, I went. Didn't go in, though. Because of this line...
I asked someone in front how long he'd been waiting. "Four hours. We've been here since ten." What? After the Smithsonian museums, where even on crowded days one can just walk in for free ($25!!! at the Academy), I was incensed by how expensive museums can be over here, forcing many to wait in ridiculous lines during free days without any assurance of getting in. But remembering I was there to de-stress, not to find something else to rant about, I went for a pleasant park hike (in dreary SF summer weather) instead.

I don't take a lot of nature photos, but I was struck here by the patterns...

Afterwards, Japantown, the new New People store. Hmm, what do you think? I find this style utterly hideous and can't see it catching on here. But I might be wrong.

Friday, I took another 'day off,' this time to Half Moon Bay. In restless moody moods I sometimes crave the open ocean and sunshine. But I spent most of my time there wandering through cute little stores...
I want this dish set. I would love to walk into my kitchen at night and see my dishes glowing neon green.

Friday night, L. and I went here...
The Saddle Rack. I don't like country music, but this kind of dancing, the kind with steps with or without a partner, I do like. One guy there, must have been in his seventies or eighties, danced every dance with a new partner each time. I bet he gets marriage proposals.

Saturday morning at Peet's...
I love the expression on the face of the girl on the right. Priceless. It's like she's never heard this kind of music nor ever seen anyone dressed like that before.

Saturday night L. & I went to the picturesque little seaside town of Capitola for this landscape photography club meeting I'd signed up for.
Injured woman and her child on the Capitola esplenade...What would you have done? I took this photo because I saw a moving moment happening. But afterwards, especially after the friend or husband of the woman stepped in front of her (to prevent me from getting a clearer photo, I think), I felt guilty. Then again I was glad I got the photo. Ruthlessness for the sake of art. The child stayed there the entire time, even while the paramedics examined her, by the way. And the woman I presume, since she was allowed to go home, was alright.

I took this policeman's photo (I asked his permission first) because I'd never seen a policeman, on the job, in a wheelchair before. I had to ask (though maybe I shouldn't have) if he ever chased any bad guys (so to speak). Sometimes, he said. I tried not to picture it.
Hmm, that was kind of a mean thought. I should have asked him to be my apres goth model. What images would I have ended up with then? And I'd see him as more than a policeman in a wheelchair. An opportunity lost...

I did these squirrelized photos because I have too much time on my hands..
This is my adorable niece Vivienne. I just want to reach through the screen and pinch those fat, little cheeks. Hers of course.

Hey guys! Look behind you!

This is my favorite...
Something about the squirrel in contrast to Mr Dark Night of the Soul makes me chuckle every time. I know, I'm a child. But what's funnier than moody self absorption? ;-)

A cartoonized version of the squirrel...
Hee, hee, hee... Yah, too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A nightclub full of artists

Look at us.

Artists. In a nightclub.

Alcohol. Music.

Sexy people showing lots of cleavage.

And what are we doing?


This guy, at least, is using the opportunity to indulge in his private fantasies... Hope he didn't mind me peeking over his shoulder, taking a photograph, and posting it on my blog.

But what's this guy doing?!!!
There's a half naked girl on stage and he's drawing his neighbors.

Some of my own sketches...
I'd planned to write more, the things going on in my life at the moment and all that. But all I can come up with, late this Tuesday night, is some morose kind of art rant which began sometime during that art workshop Monday night when I made the error of comparing the course of my career path, that sad, erratic mountain range, to those artists, many of them former classmates, who are getting by quite nicely doing what they love. Variations of that inner rant is always there, somewhere, actually. Silent monologues of self doubt, the reasons for and against, and so on. Eff it all. I'm taking Wednesday off. Free day at the Academy of Sciences. I'm going to draw dinosaurs, rain forests or just stare blankly at the stars in between contemplating what a speck of nothing my worries and self doubts are. Then Thursday morning, or Wednesday night, I might come back and delete this little rant, embarrassed at this public evidence of my fears getting the better of me as I make ready to send my portfolio out to all the illustration agencies out there. And as I reconsider my Pixar/Disney/Lucas/Dreamworks dreams...

Oh no, rant coming on again. Later all...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Obama Clinic

For my latest illustration I borrowed from the painting, Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins...This is the original sketch which some of you might remember from a few posts back...I wasn't happy with it, but I didn't want to abandon it either. So I played around until I got this...
And using my newest computer toy, Painter 11, I electronically inked over the rough sketch and put in some background color...
Then finished it up in Photoshop... At this stage I realized, wow, Obama looks just like that guy from SNL! I was also somewhat troubled by the realization that, depending on how this illustration is captioned, it could be swung in favor of either left or right. I mean, if empathy of all things can be seen as a detriment to sound judgeship, what horrible things might be said about democrats with Legos? So, for the google record, this is an illustration in favor of rational public discourse (exemplified by the ever calm democratic President Barack Obama) and a careful and logical examination of issues. In the back of course are republicans like Sarah Palin and Cheney/Rove/Limbaugh/etc., public figures who seem incapable of this kind of mature and respectful public discourse. Or worse, reject it despite their better instincts in favor of inciting fear, anger and hatred in as many people as possible. Not that I feel like debating politics here. Nothing seems to make a good person lose sense quicker than the subject of politics.And here I imagine Obama not so much speaking to republicans (would they even listen? Probably not) but to people like me. I, for one, am willing to listen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Geek meets Goth

I saw his ad on Craigslist, "aspiring 21 year old goth model seeks photographer," and thought, why not? I pictured some variation of Marilyn Manson, midnight hair, scary eyes and a bloodless complexion, the kind of character I'd try to sneak a photo of should I come across one on the street. And here was one offering his time in exchange for mine! I might get one good image out of it. Or, considering the letter I mentioned in my last post, maybe a series of images, something I could base an entire exhibition on. So, we email back and forth a few times, and, then, one morning last week, we speak over the phone.

Now, I am not a morning person. So when he called, like 5 minutes after I'd just woken up, needing coffee, food and a good pee, I was not in the best state of mind. But I understood that this was more than an appointment setting phone call. We were feeling each other out, getting a sense of what working together might be like. So, repressing my bad mood and my need to visit the loo, I asked him the only thing I could think up after only a few hours of sleep, which was, how did he become a goth?

He proceeded to give me a short (half hour long) history lesson on gothdom starting with it's beginnings in Roman times, on down to his first exposure to the world of goth in grade school, mentioning along the way Edward Scissorhands, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Dexter, Son of Shaina (?), Todd McFarlane toys and used a rare turn of phrase I took to be part of popular goth-speak, I'm beguiled.

He also referred to being a goth as a calling. And I, having reached an age where 21 is starting to seem more or less interchangeable with 12, might have scoffed (privately) a bit more than necessary at this. Wasn't it all just a form of rebellion? A way of standing out in a crowd? But, repressing such condescending thoughts, I admired the fact that he was as big a fan of Depeche Mode now as I was growing up. I also made the foggy headed, and yes, condescending, mistake of expressing this admiration with words like cool and interesting.

He then casually expressed his disdain for generic words, words he wished people would strike from their vocabularies. Words like -

" - Like the words I just used?!!!"

'Well, no! I mean, I understand that people can have other things on their minds. They're busy or they're tired."


We arranged a time and place to meet. And though I'd said I was looking forward to it, in truth I wasn't so sure. I'd formed an image of him as this sees the world in black and white type. An adolescent who measured the world and everyone in it by the rulebook he spent most of his time writing. Already I'd proven myself to be another lazy minded grown up. I had used words like cool and interesting. Who knew what else I was capable of doing, what else he might catch me on?

But the next day, standing in front of Starbuck's at the appointed time, I saw this rather sweet looking person just days out of childhood and immediately my maternal side kicked in. I bought him a chai tea and an extra strong coffee for myself to prevent any more lapses into lazy thinking (fine, he might have had a point) during the photo shoot.

Still, he didn't look as goth-like as I'd hoped and I wondered how well the photos would turn out. I also wondered why he considered himself a goth when he didn't dress like one from day to day. Wasn't being a goth about the get-up? What good would photos of himself like this do for a goth modeling portfolio? Moreover, how would I make this work? After our first fifty or so photos I still wasn't sure, especially since all of them looked as dull and unpromising as this...
But I sensed that all he needed was to feel completely at ease. Luckily, there was a small, private courtyard nearby. We talked some more, he loosened up, he sang a Depeche Mode song, he practiced some theatrical exercises which to a passing onlooker might have looked goofy. But the results, I must say, are amazing, a total transformation...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The underlying thread

(Family in front of the Ansel Adams exhibit.)

"Dear Cheryl,
Thank you for thinking about the Museum of Photographic Arts by sending us your website. Looking at CDs, websites, and portfolios is the lifeblood of a museum. Congratulations on an interesting body of work. You are a committed photographer, and obviously invested in your projects.

Our curatorial and collecting plans for future exhibitions, and the perspective from which we curate, is different from what your work can offer us right now. I don't mean that to sound dismissive; there is a place for such imagery. Looking at photographers who have made it into our exhibitions or collection, such as James Fee, Andrea Modica, or those in "Picturing Eden" (all of these previous MoPA exhibitions) will give you a clearer idea of what I mean. It is almost impossible to put into words except to say that these photographers deliver something deeply personal, heavily thought through, years in the making, and content-driven, whereby what they render and how they do it is unlike anything we -- myself and our director – have seen before in quite that way. Their images appeal to our particular sensibility.

That is not to say that some other museum, gallery, or commercial venue would not find your work a perfect fit. We encourage you to continue to find the right venue, which is often a simple matter of timing and persistence in understanding a museum or gallery’s mandate. Take a look at our website from time to time, and those of other museums and galleries, and you'll get a sense of what would make the best fit for you.

Follow your passion: that is the most important thing.

Carol McCusker PhD
Curator of Photography Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego"
(reprinted with kind permission)

This letter, which I received a few days ago, has to be the most encouraging and thoughtful letter of rejection I've ever received. It's the only one I can recall (and I've had plenty) where my grin actually grew wider the more I read on. Instead of making me feel like a talentless and unworthy wretch who wasted six years of her life getting a useless degree, McCusker's letter actually made me feel enthusiastic about raking a critical eye over my own work and at the work of the artists she'd suggested.

First, Andrea Modica. She "has been photographing a group of children in her rural town in upstate New York. It is here, through a young girl named Barbara and her extended family, that Modica creates her work. Transforming reality into fantasy, Modica creates narratives that seem to have no beginning or end, yet present endless scenarios.

In a fictitious town called Treadwell, Barbara and her friends pose for the photographer, who creates images with an 8 x 10" view camera. Like Faulkner's Jefferson County or Cheever's Shady Hill, Modica's Treadwell is a place where anything is possible. Through intense collaboration and trust, events unfold before our eyes, questioning our sense of reality." (from www.edelmangallery.com)

Then there is the late James Fee (www.jamesfee.com) whose work is more varied, from celebrity portraits to fine art photography to photojournalism. Like McCusker's letter says, I couldn't really put my finger on what it was about his photographs, that thing, that thing which ties them together, makes them stand out, makes them so good. But his work definitely looks nothing like Modica's work. And there is, in all his varied portfolios, that thing McCusker describes as "something deeply personal, heavily thought through, years in the making, and content-driven" throughout. Then, Tuesday, my brother and I went to the MOMA to see the Avedon exhibit. And again, through all the various photographs of people, celebrities staring into space, politicians posing, models flipping their hair about, carnies, drifters and other folks looking at you big as life out of the flat surface, I could see an underlying aesthetic driving each piece, a particular way of seeing the world and of trying to convey that world to the viewer. His work is striking, exuberant, a world idealized, as in this marvelous photograph...but also utterly real, especially his later work, with every detail we're used to seeing airbrushed away right there for us to stare at.

And at nearly every photograph, I would think, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, he's good. His images are simple, a person against a white sheet in most cases, and maybe so mesmerizing for this very reason. In real life I'd never stare at a person this freely, taking note of all the unflattering details that make a face so interesting, but with his work you're invited to do just that.

Looking at so many photographs, and paintings (by Georgia O'Keefe) I also, all the while, kept thinking of my own work. Do I have an underlying aesthetic? I...think so. God, I hope so. But what? I mean, I feel the urge to paint something so I go ahead and paint it. Or I see something compelling before me and I go ahead and snap a photo. As much as I like to over think things, as much as I love the sound of words, I usually avoid analyzing the why's and how come's behind each of my pieces because this is where I go to to avoid thinking. It's my meditation. Oh, I may in a day dreamy sort to way think things like, This painting by C. R. Cruz is a brilliant and touching allegory of the human experience, etc. etc. some fawning future art critic will write. Thoughts that keep me motivated. Yes, I have daydreams of grandeur. Oh, like you don't!

deeply personal, heavily thought through...

I've written many an artists statement before. But they're always total crap. Gobblydygook about inspiration, influence, a love of color and shape, et cetera. Most artist statements I've read, except the Modica one above, make no sense. And when taken into consideration alongside the work I usually think, so what? Usually because the work itself doesn't interest me. But, the Modica statement, that actually does makes sense. It illuminates the work and makes me think, oh! I see!

And, thinking of McCusker's advice, I can also see the value of having a clear artistic aesthetic driving my work. Because otherwise, as she sensed in my photography portfolio, I'm just making a haphazard collection of nice pictures.

Some things to think about...

To get me started...the words self reflective, moody...narrative...a telling expression, a dramatic moment. Character studies. The colors red, gold and cerulean blue. Children, for all the cliche'd reasons which are still really good reasons. Wrinkly faces and misshapen bodies because I can imagine the heroic lives they might or might not have lead. Cupcakes. Churches, metro stations, food, store windows and museums. Hmmm, there is an underlying thread there somewhere...

(Inside the lobby of the MOMA.)

OK, I know this post might have only appealed to the artists out there. So, for all you non- artists...
(From the fourth floor of the MOMA. Click for a larger version.) There's a Waldo (from the inexplicable Where's Waldo? books) somewhere out there staring back at you. Can you see him?