Thursday, April 30, 2009

P: Photography

As a child of the 1960s, photographic images were a major influence on my perception of the world and visual storytelling. Television hit its stride in that decade going from black and white to color (we didn’t get a color set until the next decade) and expanding the nature and volume of programming. The space age and developments in technology were offered up with each issue of Life magazine, while the secrets of Africa and the ancient people of the Amazon were visited monthly in the National Geographic.

My father was an avid hobbyist and was quick to bring out his camera at any occasion. A running joke in our family centered around his 35mm slides of his Air Force tour of duty in the Arctic. Our lives were comprehensively documented on Kodak paper and slides, which provide many hours of treasured and embarrassing memories.

At some point in time, I gained access to an old Kodak camera that belonged to my Grandfather and began trying to take photos with it. We had our share of point and shoot cameras, but that one was different. You could adjust the aperture. In high school, I had access to the school’s SLR camera to take pictures for the yearbook. We had a great journalism teacher who taught so much more than just how to write. We designed and produced our own book with the guidance of representatives from the yearbook company.

My sister-in-law gave us a Canon AE-1 Program camera as a wedding gift. This was an incredible camera that took amazing pictures. Following my father’s example, I poked my nose into the action as often as I could while my daughters grew and we attended many sporting and family events. I had that camera with me while I was stationed in Sicily and recorded some of the incredible sights of that beautiful place.

I often work from photographs in my fine art and use my own images in designs, so a good camera is important to me. I’ve tinkered with several digital cameras, but my most recent gift from my great wife is a Canon EOS Rebel digital SLR. I am in love with this camera (not quite as much as I am in love with my wife).

The element that I find most attractive about digital photography is that I can take as many pictures of whatever I want without incurring production costs. This leads to the biggest problem that my wife has with digital photography—the fact that I rarely print out snapshots. I have to get better at that. It took me a year to compile a Kodak book of our trip to Hawaii last year. This summer I hope to get better organized with the output of images that I have taken, so that we have a physical record. I also hope to learn more about getting the most out of my new toy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

O: Outdoors

As a cubical dweller, I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen or the dark cranberry burlap that defines my little space. I am fortunate to have a window on the wall that is under my control and not obstructed by anything. The view is of the parking lot and the small road which fronts the office, but I can peer out and see trees, sun, clouds, and other aspects of nature.

I love the outdoors. The area where I live is surrounded by farm land and river banks. A short day-trip gets you into the mountains or to the ocean side. The painting of the cows was inspired by a field in the middle of a very ritzy development near the office and my home. My house is situated at the end of a street and adjacent to a 5 acre plot of land, so I have the illusion of living in the country even though I live within town limits. I built the deck last year to better enjoy the back yard.

My wife recently gave me a gift of a Cannon EOS Rebel camera with two lenses and all the trimmings. My wife is awesome! This is a toy that I have been denying myself for several years and I look forward to seeing what I can do with it. I don’t aspire to be a "photographer," but I enjoy the accidentally good pictures that I create now and then. One of my friends added that I will be able to create fodder for my paintings as well with my new rig.

I’ve included a few pictures that are simmering on the back burner of my mind as sources for paintings. I look forward to putting them into effect. The trees are turning, and flowers are blooming at this time of year. But I am equally inspired by the cold, dormant seasons as well. I can sit for hours on my back porch listening to the mourning doves call. I can make their sound and get them to call back on a good day. It makes the cat crazy when I do it inside.

Splinter is my daughter’s cat. She is living with us right now because my daughter’s roommate can’t be around Splinter. I am amazed at how intensely she lies in the window staring out at the birds and squirrels. Spinter is also inspired by the outdoors.

Springtime also signals the beginning of lacrosse season. We spend a good deal of time in the outdoors following our children and nieces and nephews as they play their games. My nephew Henry, who is a first-grader, is pictured playing lacrosse like a pro!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

N: New Work

I'm new to the world of social networking. I've watched my daughters blog, facebook, twitter, etc. for several years and marveled at their ever-growing network of virtual "friends." Since I spend 85% of my working hours on the computer, I was resistant to jump into the viral pool. But I have enjoyed the exercise of My Visual Vocabulary, I've had some fun interactions on Facebook, and--now--I have made a connection through LinkedIn that has resulted in an opportunity for new work.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by an friend from my college days out of the blue. We shared time in the painting studio at Mount Saint Mary's. For some reason, I thought she would enjoy seeing my work, so I gave her my list of sites. She came back saying she thought she had some projects that we could work on together. Her site, is incredible--VISIT IT.

I've really enjoyed working with her. She is creative, collaborative, and understands her side of the business while appreciating the "artist" side. I rarely get the chance to work with a person like this, and it has really made my other creative work energized.

The illustrations you see here are a progression of part of a marketing plan for Ready Price, a mortgage information tool website. Most of the time in my current job, I have to crank out work at such a high rate that I rarely get the opportunity to revisit or retool an illustration. Although, I don't really like to redo work too many times, this has been a lot of fun. The first version was too perfume bottle-like, but she loved the lightning. The second was from a bottle that would have been a give-away--more flask like. The third is based on client feedback. I like them all!
I attended a HOW Conference a few years ago where one of the speakers (sorry, I can't remember who) was talking about the concept of allowing Good to prevent Great. I am always stopping at good, because there isn't time to let things percolate on the back burner. My rekindled friend has been great for pushing further. Here's to doing great work once in a while.

Friday, April 10, 2009


On a family trip to New York City in December, I finally got to visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This was like being on inspirational crack. Unfortunately we didn’t get into the Van Gogh exhibit, although there were still some images of his in the permanent collection. We stood in line for a long time in the cold December wind, but I thought it was well worth the effort.

It’s hard to decide what work made the greatest impact on me. There were so many painting, sculptures, and photographs from so many great artists in a wide variety of genres. I saw, for the first time, paintings that I had only seen as small pictures in art books. One in particular, a Roy Lichtenstein painting, became art for me after seeing it in person. Until that time, I had only seen his work in photographs. I didn’t understand why it was regarded as art, after all it was only a blown up comic book. Seeing his painting in person, I began to appreciate the technique and creative inspiration that made it significant.

There was an interesting exhibit of design work, which incorporated print and the design of everyday objects. Some things are functional and beautiful.

I particularly enjoyed going through the galleries where you get the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most significant pieces of art in world history. The Dali was amazingly small in scale, while the Picasso’s bowl you over with their size. I was comforted by Andrew Wyeth’s Christine’s World as I entered the painting gallery. Marcell Duchamp was amazingly creative and the paintings of Matisse and Gauguin made me want to run away back to Hawaii (the closest I’ve gotten to Tahiti). There were so many images and I was exhausted when I finished.

Friday, April 3, 2009

L: Leaving the figurative world

Leaving my figurative world a little bit. I felt like I needed to mess around and try something different. An abstraction.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

K: Paul Klee

I passed by an office of a co-worker the other day and noticed a poster hanging on the wall done by Paul Klee. It caught my attention, so I did some web-search for images and was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

Paul Klee was a Swiss artist who enjoyed expressing himself through a wide variety of media. According to, “The painter and illustrator Paul Klee was at the forefront of modern art, taking what he needed from Cubism, Surrealism, and other avant-garde movements to create drawings and paintings that, while sometimes childlike, suggest a complex universe of music, dreamscapes, and pure emotion.”

Klee loved both art and music. He was from a musical family and played the violin. He drew a great deal of inspiration from the nature of music and represented the feeling of sound in many of his works. He taught at the famous Bauhaus school, but the Nazis in 1931 declared his work “degenerate” along with the works of his peer Kandinsky, co-founder of an avante-garde group Die Blaue Vier. also said “In 1933 he left for Switzerland, where he mounted large exhibitions in 1935-36. At this time, Klee began to experience the symptoms of what we now know was scleroderma. Paul Klee died in 1940, leaving over 9,000 works of art. In 2005 a museum dedicated to his work opened in Bern.”

In several websites they pointed out that his work was very bright and colorful until the time of the Nazi intervention. He had to adjust his style to deal with his affliction as well.

I love how complex his brushwork is even though his designs are simple. It gives his work a layered effect. I also think that you can see how so many of the artists of his time had an influence on his painting, but his style remains his own.