Some ideas are really good. At the outset of the summer I had just such an idea. It came to me as I vacantly thumbed through one of my albums of 35mm photographs. You see, I have hundreds, possibly thousands of photos that I’ve taken over the course of the past decade. I would consider them opportunistic snapshots rather than art with a capital “A,” but many people who see them tend to scratch their heads and politely inquire as to where exactly I was visiting and with whom. There are rarely any people in the images. There are few vistas to establish the scenes. Most are textures or colors. Many reveal an aversion to focusing. In short, not art, and not accessible as documentation, they fall in some nebulous realm that will land them in flea markets and junk shops as curios from another time when people recorded images on chemically treated paper. But I digress; I was writing about a good idea.

I thought that there was no reason to let this bounty languish on a bookshelf for my enjoyment only- why not put a page on my website that would share the best of these images with the larger world. I could organize them into thematic groups, write short quips about the why and where of each image, and solicit viewer comments. Such a page would undoubtedly require plenty of work resizing images and I might have to consider finding a server that could host all that data without slowing upload times. The complications were many but it seemed like such a good idea, and I did anticipate having some free time this summer. . .

Then I remembered that I’d seen something like this before. It might have been a few years ago but I took the chance and searched for “photo sharing” on the web. Oh yeah, that was it: Flickr. In a flash my idea didn’t seem either unique or insurmountable. My website remains unchanged but after a mere hour of uploading the beginnings of my 35mm collection are on-line. Take a moment to visit by clicking here.

Next good idea: a site where you can upload and share short low-res video clips. Imagine the potential.


12 Hours Plus

You’re wondering where I’ve been? I could spin a yarn about exciting summer adventures but I haven’t inventoried enough exciting experiences lately to even fabricate a decent fabrication. So the truth must suffice. I’ve been dwelling on spring. . . or a representation of it anyway.

One day I spent six hours transferring and staining an image that I photographed during the height of Portland’s blossoming. After a quick blanket of white pastel another twelve hours passed erasing away the pastel from where the blossoms rest on the branches of the tree. Following the reductive step roughly sixteen hours of drawing ensued on top of the erased spaces. I make it sound tedious (and periodically it seems to be) but there is something profoundly comforting about this prolonged period of time spent just. . . reacting.

Below the pastel lies ghosts of line and tone that are nearly discernible. I stare, erase, excavate- connecting lines and organically shaped blocks of toner until a resemblance of the original image emerges. It’s not accurate in any sort of photographic sense but the essence of it emerges intact. And then I draw it in. The charcoal makes conclusions about line placement and intensity that I had waffled on thus far. It often feels as if the entire process is outside of me. I’m just a translator. Perhaps a charlatan- pulling an ideal reality from artificial moments of time transfixed to film or pixels.


Small Wild Things

Copying other artworks is part of any trained artist’s education. I’m not sure if the primary objective of mimicry is to sharpen your own handling of traditional art materials or to instill a crushing respect for all the greats who’ll forever outshine you on the pages of history. I suppose it hardly matters; either way you first feel humbled. . . and then grow defensive. How would Raphael fare copying a Rothko? Imagine Frank Stella tackling a Chris Ofili? No one is exempt from a dose of failure when so many parameters lie outside your own level of training and comfort.

This past week I copied fifteen artworks by one of my former instructors. Or, I should say, I copied fifteen copies of her paintings done by another former student who, in all fairness, was copying fifteen copies done by another artist. In truth, I don’t know how many degrees of separation exist between myself and the original fifteen paintings. I’m just one connection in a collaboration that can most easily be explained as a visual game of Telephone.

I expected this project to feel much the same as the three agonizing weeks I spent trying to recreate Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park color palette. There would be tears, certainly, and a mounting sense of disgust with myself followed by the aforementioned defensive rationalizations for my inability. But from the outset I felt far different than I had expected. These were, after all, my peers, not some patriarchal group of historically vindicated uberartists. A presumptive understanding of my former instructor’s visual tendencies made me suspicious of certain technique and material choices that existed on the fifteen copies before me. The question that confronted me wasn’t along the lines of, “Can I achieve an accurate copy?” so much as “Should I be accurate to what lies before me or what I believe to have been true in the original?”

Being a tad yellow-bellied and prone to obeying all mandates I did as the project rules instructed and recreated what was before me. Upon finishing I compared my replicas with the set I’d received.

They were remarkably different.

Not in size, shape, or placement mind you; those things were spot on. It was the technique and material choices that seemed. . . off, somehow. It was humbling