I’ve recently started up again with some explorations in digital pinhole photography. How this works is: you take a digital SLR, take off the lens and replace it with a modified body cap that serves as the ‘pinhole.’ (I don’t recall where I purchased the pinhole cap, but if you Google ‘digital pinhole – Nikon‘ you’ll probably find it quickly). Your camera needs to be sophisticated enough to have all manual settings — and most importantly, the ability to manually hold the shutter open — it’s called ‘bulb’ on my Nikon.
Shooting pinhole is a very different experience, and I imagine it is closer to what the earliest photographers experienced. It requires patience and a great deal of practice.
One difficulty is that I can’t really get a good view through the viewfinder of what the shot is going to be. It takes some practice to aim the camera body in the right direction. Since the shutter needs to be open for a good 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds or more, one needs to be really immobile (a tripod or monopod helps).
Digital pinhole also suffers from the problem of dust on the sensor: something that wouldn’t normally happen with film pinhole technology, since each frame of film is virgin. The digital ‘film’, i.e., the sensor, is hardly a virgin, as it gets used over and over again, and my Nikon is pretty filthy at this point. Photoshop is a huge help at this juncture!
Shooting this way is a [potentially] meditative experience. In a recent outing, I came up with a number of really interesting shots that I can then liberally work with in Lightroom and Photoshop — it really brings photography closer to painting — and for me, provides fascinating subject matter for oil paintings I want to realize. (See Lifeworld series). So this pinhole outing is a form of visual research.
Below are a series of abstract detail shots that were all created from the full image shown above.
Hello everyone from frigid New York City on this Valentine’s Day 2016!
I’ve been retooling my studio set-up and finally (last weekend) completed the first* second oil painting of 2016 (and the next in the Lifeworld series). So here we have it:
Lifeworld 36 continues the adventure. I’ve also been exploring the ever important topic of studio safety and reducing toxicity in oil painting. I’ll write up more of my findings on that topic soon. In the meantime, enjoy the paintings and stay warm!
*actually, the first oil painting of 2016 is this little sketch (below) – a trial balloon for a suite of paintings I’m planning that are inspired by the Fontanelle cemetery in Napoli, Italy.
Lifeworlds is a long-range painting project I started in 2012. The project started initially out of a desire to explore the square format in painting. The inspiration for this was not Instagram as one might easily suppose, but the square format Landscape paintings of Gustav Klimt. I then chanced upon the evocative term “Lifeworld” in the philosophical writings of Edmund Husserl and from the confluence of these two streams the project was born.
Now, three years into the project, Lifeworlds continues to evolve and develop. I decided early on that I would continue to make square format paintings under the title of “Lifeworld” until I felt that I had exhausted the possibilities of the format entirely.
In reality, the possibilities of this form may never be exhausted. Therefore, I thought it best to put a cap on it: so the idea arose to work toward the completion of 108 paintings.
Why 108? Those who know me and have followed my work for a while will also know of my interest in Buddhism, and the influence it’s had on my work. 108 is the number of prayer beads in the Buddhist japa mala (a Buddhist rosary). The number is given various meanings in Buddhist cosmology and additionally simply refers to any proverbial big number in the same way that a “myriad” (literally Greek for “10,000”) has come to stand in for anything large and virtually uncountable. So, instead of making some infinite number of paintings, I will make 108 to represent that infinity.
Since one of the uses of a rosary or japa mala is to count repetitions of chants or prayers, a nice thing about the number 108 is that it emphasizes how the project becomes a kind of prayer or meditation on the artistic process, and on the artist’s relationship with his environment — what I’m calling a Lifeworld.
So, I see each Lifeworld as a snapshot of a particular state of mind formed when the artist encounters his subject. Although frequently quite abstract, each painting results from the process of observing my surroundings. The square is both the container for the composition and also one of its principal motifs.
As of this writing, the newest Lifeworld pieces are numbers 32, 33 and 34, all completed earlier this year. The precise imagery continues to evolve and shift, all the while remaining within the parameters of the project: square format and 20″ x 20″ (around 51cm2 — 50.8cm to be exact) in size.
A small note about the size: there are a couple of early Lifeworlds, numbers 5 and 7, that are actually 24×24″ (60cm2). I was still experimenting with the parameters at this stage; I may end up going back and redoing these to fit the program.
So a big project like this needs help, which leads me to …
How you can help:
A big project and entails certain tangible challenges to the artist (not to mention all the intangible challenges!), not least of which are the cost of materials, the cost of studio space (ever-increasing in New York City) and the potential storage costs (108 paintings take up a lot of space!).
So I’m reaching out to you — dear audience! There are several ways you can help:
1. Lifeworlds are for sale! Some have sold already. Prices currently run from $800 to $1,200 for each painting. If you would like to see or purchase a painting (or two or three), contact me. I do hope to mount an exhibition of all or a selection of the paintings in the future — and how cool would it be for you to have a painting that you own in a major retrospective of my work!
2.I accept tips, donations, contributions … etc. If you’re not up to purchasing a painting at the present time, you can also contribute any amount (no matter how small) toward the project through Venmo (the best! No fees for you or me!) or by clicking the paypal donate button below. The arts has always existed through the kind generosity of its patrons.
Wow, if you’ve read this far, I really appreciate your interest. A brief outline of the project (as well as some images) is available on my website, and all of the Lifeworlds can be viewed together on my flickr account. I’ll continue to post future developments here. Stay tuned!
Back in October, I started a new, year-long project to document my ongoing practice of visual exploration. I think of this exploration as central to the work of the artist. I’m calling the project simply “365” and the end result (to the extent that a project like this ever ends) will be 365 small watercolors presented at this year’s Gowanus Open Studios, October 17-18.
I started the project on or about October 19, immediately after last year’s Open Studios, and we are now more or less at the six-month mark. So I’m evaluating how the project is going and taking a first crack at formulating some sort of artist’s statement about the work. I’m also beginning the arduous task of scanning some exemplars of the work. I’m certainly not going to scan all 365 pieces I create!
The project is bookended by the Open Studio event that happens each year in October. I’ve taken part in Gowanus Open Studios every year since 2007, and I’ve often experienced it as the beginning and end of my artistic cycle.
So what goes on in my typical artist’s year? This project seeks to outline just that. It represents a year in the life of the artist — or in other words, a year of practice, process and exploration.
As I said, all of the work created for this project is small (between approximately 3×5 inches and 8×8 inches) and all of the work is watercolor. Included are portraits and self-portraits, improvised sketches and landscapes real and unreal, life-drawing, completely abstract work, flights of the imagination and studies for future larger paintings. All stuff of which the artist’s practice is made.
365 pieces will be displayed in October, and all will be offered to the public on a “pay as you wish” basis. Here are some exemplars of the work created so far. Mark your calendars now! Gowanus Open Studios 2015 is October 17-18.
Winter is decidedly on its way out in these parts, but I couldn’t resist giving it one last parting glance this afternoon as I reviewed some photos I shot near Ivoryton, Connecticut in late February.
I’ve been a photographer from an early age, at least since my grandmother passed along to me my grandfather’s old Leica, if not before. I use photography as a research and compositional tool. Much of the inspiration for my paintings comes, directly or indirectly, from photographs I’ve taken of beautiful places.
I’ve just uploaded to my flickr account (and also Behance) a selection of 20 photos that capture the beauty of that winter day. Enjoy!
This is the final installment of my series of posts following the progression of a painting I started at the beginning of January – a “paysage planétaire” inspired in part by the work of Ferdinand Hodler and other painters from that era. So, in my last post, described the overpainting. Earlier this week, I put the final touches on this and completed the piece. It was a little touch and go there for a while, but I think it’s come out pretty well:
So here it is, complete. Took about a month. Part of the time was waiting for the layers to dry. Lately I’ve been experimenting with a more traditional medium (stand oil and oil of Spike Lavender) which works great but dries slowly. These were the only additives (besides mineral spirits and a little linseed oil) used in this painting.
I’m getting a bit behind in my blogging. The month is fast rolling to its completion, I’ve got what feels like a hundred pots in the fire.
Among those, the “paysage planétaire” I started several weeks ago continues to evolve. Last week, the underpainting was complete and I worked on the blue areas – sky and water. This evening I worked on everything else.
The painting is fast approaching completion.
As I said before, every painting is an experiment, an exploration. I cannot yet say if this one is a happy experiment. I also cannot say whether it is finished. It could be. Any thoughts on this?
As a sort of journalistic experiment, I’m going to follow the development of my recently started Paysage planétaire painting through several blog posts. This should be interesting, and maybe disastrous, since I don’t know how the painting is going to turn out. For me, creating is perhaps like giving birth to something — that something has a unique and independent existence. (Or, to put a humorous spin on it, sometimes I feel like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein — “It’s alive!”) Yes, I have a lot do with how it turns out, but ultimately the work takes on a life of its own. If things go well, it’s almost as if the painting paints itself. So far, I think it’s going well.
So recall where I left it the other day:
Essentially this what is classically referred to as the “cartoon” – just the outline. I also added a little texture and shading in blacks, whites and grays. Today I started filling in the underpainting:
First blue sky. Then I started adding some greens:
Essentially I’m taking a layered approach, or a semi-layered approach. I could have done it all alla prima, wet-on-wet, in one big session. My plan is to finish the underpainting in this fashion, and then do a big alla prima overpainting to finish it off. That will either complete the piece — or ruin it.
Here’s where I’ve left it tonight:
The underpainting is not quite done. I’ll finish that up soon. And I’m going to find the reference to “paysage planétaire” and report back here.
Oh, in case you’re wondering the reference for this piece is a photograph I took in the Adirondacks (upstate New York) a few summers ago. I’m not going to show that photo here since it is only a point of reference, an inspiration for the work, and not the work itself. I don’t want to invite comparisons between this inspiration and the painting, which is definitely it’s own thing. I’m not a fan of the concept of “representation” in art (at least as I currently understand it). But I’ll save that topic for another day.