March 10, 2018

InstaMeet: On Inspiration and Community

Big thanks to the folks at @igers413 for organizing the "Projection Portraits" InstaMeet at Eastworks in Easthampton, MA.   @igers413 connects Instagrammers in Western Massachusetts.

Lightness of Being

People, projectors and props.  It was a visual delight.

Paradise of Light

I was grateful to be in a room where everyone had a real camera slung around her or his neck.  Too often these days I go with the convenient iPhone in my pocket.

Art History

Although I accidentally came upon a method of bending reality into a variety of planes with my iPhone, I love using my trusty Nikon D200 to create in-camera multiple exposures like the one above.  I call these works Reality-Based Abstractions.

Self-Portrait with Wildlife

One of my current goals is to develop more of an in-person social network.  Interesting that an app helped me in this endeavor.

December 2, 2017

Museum-Based Participation Strategies Nurture Innovation and Change Perspectives

I presented the following workshop at the Massachusetts Art Education Association 2017 Conference:  By creating museum labels for objects not labeled as artworks, students become co-creators of museum experiences.  Explore projects like this that generate effective student art encounters. Make your own label.

Below is my visual presentation from the workshop:

The idea for the faux museum label project originated during my graduate studies:

Here are my students from American International College on a field trip to the Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA

My goal for student art encounters at museums is that they come to see the whole world as a museum, that art can be found everywhere!

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  

November 7, 2017

"Entrained" Makes Its Debut at the Mass Art Education Association's Members Exhibit

I was delighted that my recent work Entrained was selected by juror Alexis Kuhr, UMass Amherst, Art Department Chair, for the Mass Art Education Association Members Exhibit.

I hope you can join me at the Opening Reception: Saturday November 11, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm, Student Union Gallery, UMass Ahmerst,
41 Campus Center Way, Amherst, MA 01002

Entrained, 2017

I have been creating these Reality-Based Abstractions since 2007.  Ms. Kuhr also selected this image from my series for the exhibition:

Whither Industrial America?, 2009
In other news, I donated a print of After Charles Sheeler to the In-Sight Photography Project (Brattleboro, VT), for the non-profit's annual benefit auction. The organization provides photography classes to youth on a sliding scale. I invite you to bid on my image and support a good cause. Bidding ends on November 26, 2017.

After Charles Sheeler, 2017
Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  

August 29, 2017

On the Joy, Necessity and Importance of Mistakes

Where would we be without mistakes?  Probably still living in trees:

After making some mistakes and accidentally discovering that hacking the pano function on my iPod Touch can lead to striking and dramatic images (as shown in the above video), I began to make this practice purposeful.

Riding the Wave

I am so glad to have discovered this approach.  Since anyone with a smart phone can document an inherently beautiful scene, such as the Cape Cod National Seashore, I am always on the lookout for ways to take capturing life to the next level.

Any Value Added?

Tranquility - Provincetown Harbor

Sailing is one of my favorite things - yet with a simple image it is hard to capture the plethora of sensory inputs.

Sailing, Sailing
The Cape Cod National Seashore is no doubt an incredible place.  I am so grateful to the visionary people that preserved this natural jewel.

The Cold Ocean Promotes Health

I am also grateful for the mistakes that led me to capture the beauty in this manner:

Shoreline and Stairs
Professor John Nordell directs the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  

June 25, 2017

From Chinese Scroll Paintings to Cubism - Making Spiritual Connections at Kripalu

A 24 hour visit to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health was a transformative journey.

Multi-Pointed Awareness
I arrived stressed and distracted and left relaxed and renewed with a deeper spiritual connection. This in-camera multiple exposure of Shiva strives to convey a cosmic realm, the place of connection beyond words.

The statue presides over the main hall.  During yoga class, the teacher said, "Thousands and thousands and thousands of yoga classes have been taught in this room."

Bread, Vegetables, Spices

The healthy food offerings contributed to the health of mind, body and spirit.

Accidental Orange

In a past part of this life, I worked as a photojournalist.  At many events, navigating around important people or protestors, I was rather obtrusive.  My photographic skin has become thinner, I guess, as while darting around the dining hall taking images I felt very self-conscious. Accidental Orange is a "mistake" due to my rushing.

Raw Material

Nestled in the Berkshires overlooking Lake Mahkeenac, the beauty of the grounds further fed my spirit.

Lake and Trees
I knew immediately that the misty day necessitated homage to Chinese scroll paintings. Pondering a title for this work, I searched for titles of scroll paintings and found that many where plainly descriptive, such as Bamboo and Rocks or Spring Landscape.

This sparse approach evokes that of Cubist painters:  Girl with Mandolin, for example, or Violin and Jug.  These pioneering painters not only inspired my way of photographically seeing the world in multiple planes, but also prompted the use of simple titles that clue viewers into the basis of my abstractions.

I want to go back.

May 28, 2017

How Do You Define Heaven?

I prepared for an afternoon of art by picking books off my shelf and looking at images for inspiration.  The artists included photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and my hero, painter Lyonel Feininger.  Then, off to the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.

Partly baffled, partly moved by the Museum's displays, I consciously overexposed this triple exposure of the parking lot:

2D Collage
I then drove to the top of Mount Holyoke, where I found the Mount Holyoke Summit House:

Manifold Histories

In my Cultivating Creativity class we closely examine Thomas Cole's painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm - The Oxbow, so it was a thrill to take in the same view as Cole in 1836.

Some believe that Cole's painting with storm clouds, snapped trees and forests leveled for farmland allude to human encroachment on nature.  I wonder what Cole would make of smartphones, or this antenna located near his painting perch:

On the Grid

All of these images are in-camera multiple exposures.  The images come out of the camera rather flat and lifeless.  So I work on them in various computer editing programs, usually listening to music.  I hammed it up a little, moving the sliders in time with the beats to create this light show:

I "mixed" this in-camera multiple exposure in Lightroom while listening to The Interlude - A Trip Hop Mix.  I shot the images during my visit to the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, combining a hundreds of years old wooden Chinese bodhisattva (Guanyin) with Andy Warhol's screenprint of Sitting Bull.

How do you define heaven? This process is a start for me.

Professor John Nordell directs the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  

March 3, 2017

The Joy of Carving Out Creative Time for Myself

How do they do it?

Older Couple
How do teaching artists find time to regularly create their own art?  I finally had a day off.  In between watching La La Land (gorgeous light) and Hidden Figures (resilience), I had a 15 minute creative photographic spasm. The results here.

Likely due to the wondrous creative output of my visual and digital arts students, I found myself inspired as I worked with Lightroom, Photoshop and Topaz Adjust on these in-camera multiple exposures.

Father and Son
Up until now, I have been fairly tame as far as pushing my images to the edge with filters and extreme settings.

Sketch - Calm Before the Storm
 Above: A slice of the world before I used 3 exposures to create a fuller version of reality:


I began laughing at my self-imposed aesthetic rules.   I must always maintain my reserve.  Colors should not be too bright or garish.  How tacky!  Adjustment sliders should not be pushed to the extreme.

After Charles Sheeler (Hadley, MA Cinemark)

But today, listening to Sade, and working on these files, I broke through self-posed boundaries. Convert to a negative film look?  Add a fake filed out enlarger negative carrier frame?  Why not?  So what if I draw attention to the technique?

Sketch - Raw Material

Above:  Before.  Below: Four exposures later.

Open Air

Speaking of aesthetic rules, on Instagram (@professornordell), I never use filters.  Probably has to do with my photojournalistic roots.

Would love to hear from any teaching artists out there how they fit in their creative work with the demands of teaching.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at