Friday, March 28

Oh My Dears! So Motel-Room-Decor..

Show-opening. Gallery-party. A corner-coven of sniggering women.

One waggles her fingers at the walls and smirks, "This art? Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"

•••  •••  •••

Look… Here's how swanky art transforms a tacky motel room into a classy palace… um… right? See how the work's chosen to be precisely the correct size and hue? How it matches the designer bed spreads?

Sense how proudly important motel executives display their latest acquistion to a distinguished art authority… explaining how they've selected the work to balance the haute-style of the room's decor... it's spacious and high-fashion furnishings… while achieving the very latest in all-the-rage chic? 

Pictures bought by the palette, square foot, and square meaning. But… but… it sells. There are lots of motel room walls that create the biggest part of today's market for… for… Well, what?

Here's the challenge… To break into this lucrative high-demand space, how to give your images both mood-ectomies, and thought-ectomies? How to sink into a subliminal compliment to bedcovers and wall paint? 

You'd think that'd be easy, huh? But no. Too many artists still insist upon pursuing meaning, personality, idiosyncrasy, even… feeling.

The secret to the craft of motel room success is this… Make your work pretty and cheap. Hell, combine the two… make your work pretty cheap. You cannot be too pretty or too cheap. Follow that advice and you too will find important hotel executives bringing your work to the attention of people who'd otherwise not notice it. But remember, it will sell to those key purchasing agents who buy soap, towels, toothpaste and pillows precisely because no one will notice it!

Here, just copy unsigned work like this, and you can't miss…

Okay, guess you get the point. I hate it when my work ends up like this. Uh-huh, they are very high craft. But they look like wallpaper designs. Everything I tried failed to bring out the theme of isolation or alienation I'd hope this project would invoke. Each enhancement made them prettier and less a story or even a feeling. Leaving me with… "Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"

I should have just trashed 'em, but it's hard to toss a lot of hours of work. Sooooo… this is what blogs are for, huh? Whining? Dead-ends are… are… Sigh…. On the bright side, I can crank this stuff out like sausage and what it won't bring in mark-up, well supermarkets make it on volume, why not me?

Sunday, March 16

The Poster Post

Hmmm…. Got to wondering if I could get the attention of a gallery. Which means getting something that would get the attention of a gallery. SOMETHING? SOMETHINGS? Wuddizit that grabs attention? Hmmmm…. I've had shows. They're a LOT of work. Last time I printed and framed over a hundred images. A friend generously had three different  books of my images printed. He actually layer them out… they looked terrific. Hundreds of people showed up. It filled six rooms on two floors. Very cool, yet… 

As you can see on the right there, I've cadged some awards and had a bunch of images published. The result? VERY GOOD QUESTION. See, this isn't my day job. It's where I go to escape day jobs, markets, clients, life, and other people's tensions. Which means, well, it means I'm kind of uninterested in the hard work it takes to become a successful artist. 

It's been a handful of years since my last show and I've grown, created a ton of additional work while wandering into new wonderings. In the past I've asked if you can be a poet, a clarinetist, a composer, or a novelist… if you never have an audience. Hell I don't even market this blog-site the way I did some years back. In fact, it's self indulgence, huh? Once it attracted a few hundred visitors a week. Then I let it whither, went away for months. Last time I looked there were maybe a couple dozen folks who wandered in.

To keep these things going you need to generate a lot of smart copy, and then grow and nurture links,  visit everyone else - become a community guy. Fact is I do visit dozens of sites a week hunting new ideas and… wonderings. But to actively interact grabs hunks of time and that cranks up the opportunity cost thing. I'd rather grow the images that all of the influences trigger.. 

Still, it'd be cool to have a gallery or museum hang some of my newer stuff for a while and get some flesh and blood people to react face-to-face. Nice, but improbable. Marketing's work. It's what I did for years for some very big companies. Images are an escape from that. So...

1. Here's a Lancaster City poster

2. Here's a people poster

3. Here's another people poster

4. Here's an urban poster

Maybe I should get a half thousand of these printed up - mail them to galleries/museums and nail 'em to telephone poles? Maybe I should pour some Irish over ice, push back my leather chair… and watch TV? 

Saturday, March 8

Best or Better or ????

Since 1273, followers of the legendary spiritual poet and philosopher Rumi have whirled in Konya, Turkey as a form of remembering God. This isn't dance in the sense we understand it anymore than preaching is acting.

Now for the problem. When they strip away layers of oils from works of the great masters they discover… Well… Works of the great masters. Frequently the final layer's a version. Is it better than the others? Hmmmmm… What's better mean?

Here's what I wanted to do with this dervish…

But here's what I'm ABLE to do with this dervish…

I'm too old. Fixed in a mindset. Within my own constructed artsy culture… There's plenty of room for experiment but there are also walls. Young artists in particular lack those walls. It takes no risk on their part to do stuff that I can do but in my case it takes bravery. I guess it's because I know that for me it means breaking rules. Those that my friends respect. Okay… I like that first image. Hell, it's good, captures the dervish trance-like whirl and the color of both his mind and the moment. 
But that second image is explosive. Way over processed… Way beyond a representation. It doesn't just pop… it explodes. 

Fact is though that today we don't have to paint over. We can do many versions, each as powerful as the other. None is the last… the final… But one must be better? Right? 

What makes any image, better

Monday, March 3

Ghost Bussers

“It’ll be her last time,” Grandpa smiled, wiping some barn specks from the old bus.

“It’ll be like that first time,” Granny looked impish and wrapped an arm around her husband’s. “We’ll sleep in her. Remember Honey?”

“Don’t remember the sleeping,” he laughed turning his daughter’s face pink. “What I recall…”

Daddy! The kids…” The young mother squeaked, but her children were clambering inside the thing grand-dad’d gotten to run after weeks of banging, re-tiring, and cleaning each rickety inch. 

Months later… way… way… down an ancient roadway deep among the fairy chimneys its motor still puttering, the bus turned up. It’s been years since then yet they say that when the moon’s right, there’re noises back there: An old motor popping, a woman’s giggles, and the faintest laughter of a happy old man.

• • • •

The rickety bus? Found it at the weirdly intriguing South Of The Border just into South Carolina on I-95. Those ancient fairy chimneys are a five image pano grabbed in Cappadocia central to  Turkey in an enchanted land, oh… and one magical summer evening that sky hung over Las Vegas. The bus was captured by my old Canon 40D, the sky in an even older Canon 20D, the fairy chimneys by my Canon 7D. But each was focused through a trusty Canon EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6). Post processing was done of these blendings in PS4 with help from Topaz Adjust, Perfect Photo Suite 6, and of course AlienSkin's Exposure 5. 

The story of the _Ghost Bussers_ though… That wafted full-form from memories of VWs, back dirt country roads, and giggling happy friends. 

Friday, February 28

Old Gold Glows

Now, is the art in the barn
Or is the ban part of it?

And is it art in pieces
Or should the pieces be now

Reassembled to make art again
Or has it become art now

That it's broken apart?

I carry a Canon G10 on country bike rides. It's a nosey little camera and captured this RAW image in an open barn near Manheim, Pa. Post processing happened in PS4, and the magic sauce was poured through OnOne's Perfect Effects 3 to heat my own glows. 


There's a slow take
As his eyes rake
Toward the glint that my long lens makes

You can feel their chill
When they stare and drill
Through a look that sports a hard grill.

Caught this hot-fashion kid and his grillz in my Canon 7D though its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. Post processed in PS4 with AleinSkin's Adjust using a modified B&W Polaroid film emulation and added a touch of custom palette. I texturized the background bokeh that the long lens created with a touch of AlienSkin's SnapArt through a kiss of customized impasto. Of course the dynamic range was enhanced using standard Photoshop devices. 

The boy's a presence, huh? 

Sunday, February 23

Kilkenny School Girls

Are they beautiful? Captured (if it's possible for anyone to capture these three in any real sense) along the streets of a damp, chilly, and dreary Kilkenny afternoon. The trio burst from their shells at the sight of my telephoto with the lass on the right growing a finger-beard to mock my own. Can you look at them and NOT smile? Wuddaya-think? Are they 16, 17 years old? (or 30 or 40?) From a certain age women have that mysterious power of seeming ageless in their beauty, huh? 

GEEK STUFF: It was a rainy Kilkenny early-May afternoon pierced through my Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens on the Canon 7D. Post in PS4. Tools? The texture's my own mix. The dynamic range was dug out with Topaz Adjust. And the palette was created through multi adjustment layers each designed in AlienSkin's Exposure 5 with a boost to the DOF through a selective application of Bokeh 2. Oh yeah. I kissed the palette a bit with AlienSkin's Exposure 5, that I manually over-rode to find my feeling inside the frame.

Wednesday, February 5

Here's What February Feels Like Here!

A winter stormed
Leaving the sun
Too weak to warm.

Yet groundhogs warned
Of cold beyond
A woman scorned.

Brrrr…. Again my Canon 7D's EFS 17-85mm caught frozen Susquehanna river grass bent by the frigid sunrise. Processed in PS4, with mixed media and custom brushes blending AlienSkin's SnapArt 4's Oil Paint with Impasto. 

Monday, February 3

On Wrappings & The Craic

People aren’t their

Are the layer

And sinew that

Their own
Closely cherished

A man’s
The sum of his

For the poet and artist – streets invent people, rather than the other way around. Or at least they present them as feelings whose wrappings are like a novel’s opening. Wrappings set the playwright’s scene… They are life’s adjectives. And occasionally adverbs… It’s the artist’s job to drop in exclamation points!

This guy’d just left the Tig Cóilí on Galway’s Mainguard Street down at the end of Shop Street where I’d pointed my Canon 20D’s Canon EFS 17-85mm. Tig Cóilí’s known for its music and the craic.

“Uh, wuzzdat, Ted” you wonder? Well since 1905 the Tig Cóilí’s been filed with news, gossip, and conversation. It’s an Irish thing… Maybe jive's the word that comes closest to the craic here in America… But not really since jive’s gone archaic, huh? Anyway, I reached into this image with PS4 and Photomax on the first round, then all sorts of tools to prod at different parts of this feeling… tools like Topaz’s Adjust & BW effects, plus AlienSkin’s powerful Bokeh. Of course the final texturing and all of the brush work were my own designs.

Tuesday, January 21


You're not supposed
To Believe them.

You're supposed to
Believe in them. 

That's what whores
And politicians

Are all

From my Canon 7D through 80-115mm glass. Post processing in PS4 selectively employing a number of custom, AlienSkin and Topaz, tools. All detailing occurred with my own brushes and textures. The colorless hope though wells (and wails) from deep within my heavy-metal skepticism.

Sunday, January 19

An Editor's Challenge

Bill Birch in one ingenious artist. You can check out his fearless experimenting here. The TME Community  has a cool forum where artists challenge others by posting images for visitors to augment and enhance, not so much as a contest but, well, think of it as cardio exercise for your creative chops.

Anyway, Bill recently posted this grab shot (Image 1) for the fun and fortune of his fans….

(Image 1) 

On the up side there's a lot of color, it's level, it's got a vanishing point at the end of that path, and there's some action in that flirty skirt. But of course he gave us no real center of interest or more specifically, there is a school of piranha-like distractions nibbling chunks of attention away. Moreover the absolutely flat exposure doesn't allow contrast to reinforce any central topic.Bill obviously meant to tease us with  an undistinguished, technically correct snapshot, right? 

Hmmmm….. Now this is fun. First we need to do major surgery on the southern, western, and eastern quintiles of this thing. They add nothing to the story and distract from it. And then there's that space between the two women. Why? Well, why should we care? And the act of caring about the size of, and what's in that gap is another distraction that's reinforced by the cluttering details between them. So that's got to go as well. Finally the dynamic range, as I already wrote is relatively flat. it gives us no  hints about the relative contributions of the various elements of the feelings or ideas of the artist. 

Bill apparently wanted us to make those decisions… to tell our stories. Which brings me to the first surgery (Image 2) incorporating the three elements of cropping, altering the relationship between the two women, and then enhancing the dynamic range to emphasize the composition of an autumn Sunday In The Park.

(Image 2) 

I see the two couples as the main topics but the flirty skirted lady as the relative lead character. Which first called for multiple compositioning tactics, here Bill allowed us to both use the Rule of Thirds AND Vanishing Point compositioning down that pathway. Consequently I've muted the palette around the leading lady and emphasized that skirt. I've also thrown the remaining distractions like the grass, distant trees clutter between the foreground couple, the right hand tree bark, and other details beyond the dog walkers,  out of focus. However, while the dog walking couple was originally beyond the depth of field of Bill's capture, I enhanced their pallet and dynamic range to make them an important element of the image's mood. They are clearly an abstract statement regarding the "parky-ness" of this moment. Right?

Now that I have the elements composed both in position and in relative focus/dynamics/palette I'm off to (Image 3)

(Image 3)

My feeling is that this is now a kind of metaphor for Sundays In The Park. Or better yet, what I wanted to achieve was an archetype… an image that spoke a universal language about Sundays, parks, relationships, and summer. One that would swirl into every viewer's feelings. Not a stereotype or cliché but a feeling about every Sunday In The Park as opposed to this specific one. See I wanted to make this tangible specific moment into an abstract feeling without losing the actual actors. See now how colors are now more pools? And the lighting's a tad blurrier… a bit more in motion? See how details are rendered in strokes of color? This was my final objective. But then it occurred to me that there was another, not necessarily better, but equally useful way of expressing this feeling… So I created (Image 4)

(Image 4) 

Thinking about the way the great impressionists translated reality into expressions of mood… I recalled seeing the powerful work of say, Edward Manet and his name doppelganber Claude Monet. and how they employed brush strokes of color to suggest feelings for the viewer to build upon. Stopping short of their minimization of details, I went halfway to leave sufficient sharpness to retain a photographic impression, then set to stroking away details which stole from the story of the flirty-skirted heroine of this poem. Oh. and I muted the vibrance and saturation to decrease the "computer" sensation that frequently, overly-brilliant Photoshopped, images seem to have, and I warmed the palette to reinforce a summer-afternoon glow. Now my attention is drawn to her, the breeze, her body language, and the freedom we feel or remember - even if we've never actually done… Sunday In The Park.

Y'think? Thanks Bill. The exercise was intriguing. Hope my approach is sensible.

Wednesday, January 15

How To Make Big $$$ Art!!

Heh, heh...

So I have this, well, ordinary painting see? And what it needed was to be magically transformed into art. So here's the first secret, ready?  Our brains are hard wired to find patterns, order, and the meaning within.Which means if you take a frame and drop it over anything, well, our eyes tell our minds to hunt for meaning inside the perimeters. Sooooo

(1) First whatcha gotta do is put a frame around that painting and hang it in a setting that radiates… MONEY! So what you've got is both the frame that makes people figure that there's meaning inside, and when you plop it into a posh set it whispers to the viewer that the buyer who framed that image has BUCKS! Now that says art, right? I mean when somebody who can buy anything decides to frame then display this image, well see that's an offstage authority who's paid a large price tag so this's gotta't be important art, huh?

(2) Now, following that reasoning, let's crank up the wealth of the buyers because of the second secret… "perception is reality!" Here the framers hung the thing in a top corporation's board room. Now these members have fiduciary responsibility for the company's owners. They could be jailed if they waste owner money. So they're not allowed to buy cheap crap. Look at the painting now where the strategists and governance of this corporation will look at it as they manage their billion dollar budgets. This image's not just worth money… Hey, if those people buy it… it's worth [b]piles[/b] of money!

(3) But… but… what do those board room denizens frame and hang in their own richy-rich homes, huh? Why this obviously elegant painting that incidentally compliments the palette with which the top shelf designers have encased this room. That painting's so valuable that the millionaire owners created a room around it. Whoa!

(4) But. if the lower floors in number 3 might be owned by influentials, then finding it hung by the owner of a penthouse overlooking the finest city view must mean that home's only painting's got to have a price as nose-bleed high up as the penthouse itself. This MUST be one valuable creation from a super-distinguished artist, right?

(5) An artist that's so important (and expensive) that he's likely to hang in the waiting room of Gotham's most exclusive cosmetic surgical practice… a room that's got to reflect both the taste of the surgeons and the expectations of their patients.

Wuddauya think? If you frame and hang it just right… Is it art? I'm thinking YEAH BABY!  That sucker's a million dollar find. Huh? And that's it. Just frame your work and place it in breathtakingly wealthy settings. Creating the perception of not just art but reeeeeeely, reeeeeely, reeeeeeely valuable stuff. Perception's reality!

No need to thank me, just follow these simple rules then send along one or two percent of your explosively profitable sales, K?  

Wednesday, January 8


Riffling through the archives as I filed the last group of kiddie pix this one of Katelyn from three years back popped out. Dusted off it looked sort of cool, well not cool… warm. On her first birthday in September of '11 this caught her in natural light through my hand-held normal 17-85mm Canon on the Canon 7D. Yeah the ISO was 5000 but even so the stabilizers in that lens let me crank it out to 80mm and hold it reasonably steady at 1/80 of a second at f5.6 to shrink the depth of field like a cheap cotton sweater in a dryer set to hot.

But the maximum power came from Topaz Adjust through the flexibility of PS4 layer. Look at the detail in her eyes, huh? Those were Topaz supported, painted in through adjustment layers.

You know, this stuff is magical. And in the words of Arthur C. Clarke… "A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from witchcraft."


Friday, January 3

Finally: Christmas Kids 6 - The End!

Christmas is over, so are the kiddee pix. Sorry, got a tad obsessed with old fashioned portraiting! Got these two grand nieces who steal lens time whenever we get together. It's not fair…. But this is it… Here's Katelyn for the last 2013 Christmas image. I promise… promise… Well, I'm resolved right this moment. Hmmm… just remembered that we did go to an Irish pub for lunch, wonder what those pix look like? But this page rounds out the equal time with three posts for each girl. No favoritism, right? 

Went low key with the last image of Samantha so rethought high key here with Katelyn Once again I hand held that long  Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens screwed into my Canon 7D. But I turned off the stabilizers and went after the blur of the kid's effervescence. Lotsa grain when you crank up the ISO into the thousands. But I like the gritty authenticity of it. Tricky metering with the window in the background. Which led to the high key concept.  Wuddaya think, all little girl, right? 


Tuesday, December 31

Christmas Kids 5

It's Samantha again. When you're not yet two the running, squealing, eating, drinking, whirling, rolling, unwrapping, giggling, and hugging wears on a little girl. Then you've got to plug something in to let everything kind of recharge. And do that down the carpet where you can still peer at everyone surrounding while your mind sorts through it all to find a pattern that will make sense next time… Next Christmas.

Once again the stabilizers in my mighty Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens and the magical sensor in its 7D let in enough brightness from surrounding candles. I first reworked the dynamic range in her eyes and mouth in PS4 while painting away background distractions, then I called in AlienSkin's Exposure 5 to let me evoke the palette of slightly over-processed Polaroid film to multiply the romantically flickering moment.