March 28, 2020

The Power and Importance of Traditional Strengths in Non-Traditional Times


I kept walking past my camera bag thinking, "I really should take some pictures."  Distracted by the impact of Covid-19 on my life and learning how to shift my face-to-face courses to online delivery, my camera remained untouched.

This Sketch Became... 
Finally, I grabbed it and started shooting.

X-Ray Vision


It felt so good to take pictures.  This process has been a love of mine for nearly 5 decades.

This Sketch Became... 

Preparing to take a multiple exposure, I take a single frame to test for exposure, like an artist's sketch.

Raw File

The layered images that emerge from my digital camera are flat looking, so I treat the files to pull out vibrancy and details.  In the case below, I reversed the above image to look like it was a color negative.

Home


A mere ten minutes of shooting opened my heart and mind to a present moment of peace.  I printed the images out and put them in my kitchen.  Each time I walk by and see them, I smile.  In the face of current uncertainty, feeling competent and creative helps me feel a sense of needed normality.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com   

January 24, 2020

Teaching Art to Art Teachers


Personal practice: What you create when no one is looking. That is, art you make by choice.

I love attending conferences for art educators.  The air is filled with excitement, creativity, deep reflection, nurturing and possibility.

It was a double bonus for me at the 2019 Massachusetts Art Education Association conference as I had a chance to present my workshop: Art Lessons: Personal Practice, Healing and Joy 

Photo by Amanda Correia of Mr and Mrs Drew Photography



My jitters quickly calmed as my peers responded positively to the material.  The necessity of covering more ground led me to sometimes cut off robust pair shares.  And, in the end, I probably covered just a quarter of my prepared material.

Photo by Amanda Correia of Mr and Mrs Drew Photography


However, taking a risk to vulnerably share my personal art practices that lead to healing and joy resulted in a meaningful experience that was, well, filled with healing and joy!

After the workshop, one participant wrote, "It was helpful to take time to reflect on one's personal practice within a community of art educators who understand the challenges of fitting it into daily life. Presenter's examples and suggestions were useful." Another wrote, "So interesting."

Creative Process - Planning a Protest Sign
I related some of my creative endeavors relating to social justice issues, whether climate change or race and stereotype.

The Oxygen Cycle at a Student Climate Strike
I explained the importance of just taking time to make art, even if it is not perfect. (see above)

I talked about the importance of filling one's creative well by visiting museums for inspiration:



After presenting these explorations, I prompted the attendees, who were paired up: Please discuss with your partner any social issues or political causes that interest you, along the possibilities for related creative expression.  Practical solutions were shared out to the whole group.

Blind Contour Drawing at the Movies
As a way to squeeze creative expression into a busy life, I noted that I sometimes bring my sketchbook to the movie theater.  See: Drawing in the Dark - Capturing Captain America with Pen and Pencil

I packed my visual presentation with images and videos.  However, the resulting large file size precluded uploading.  Here is an abbreviated version that includes definitions and prompts.



How do you jump start the creative process in your life?  I invite you to comment below.  Thank you.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com   


January 10, 2020

Permeation and Permutations - Printing Poke Weed Berries in My Sketchbook

ddd
Freshly Harvested Ripe Poke Weed Berries

Press Firmly on Sketchbook Cover

Overnight Under a Box

A Week Later

Juice Transfer Complete

The Heart of the Matter

Impressions Seeped Throughout the Sketchbook

Dots of Leopard Spots

Fish Contours

The Pastel Electromagnetic Field of a Heart

Watercolor Hybrid Animal with Snake Companion

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com 

December 15, 2019

The Joy of Creating


Look at the effect of 8 minutes of taking pictures followed by a couple of minutes collecting shell fragments at the beach on blustery December morning in Lynn, MA

The Joy of Creating
Blank Canvas



Shakti - Multiple Exposure



Gulls drop clams from the sky to break the shells on the sand and then eat the contents.  Thinking of my Visual and Digital Arts students, I collected shell fragments to be used in class for creating cultural jewelry.

Cycles of Life
Later, I photographed an in-camera multiple under the tracks in downtown Lynn.

City of Murals


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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell

November 17, 2019

Creative Process - Preparing, Planning and Photographing Football


I previously worked for many years as a photojournalist, but rarely shot sports.  Planning to photograph a football game at American International College, where I teach, I looked online for effective strategies.  I also looked at amazing football photos for inspiration.

Search History

Before leaving my car to shoot, I sketched different ideas of the types of images that I wanted to capture.


Celebrating, Laying Out to Catch a Pass, Making a Tackle
It proved valuable to have this vision of what I wanted to document.

Kyle Boyer-Tucker Laying Out to Catch a Pass
Kyle took my Digital Photography 1 class a few years ago.  So great to see him on the field.

Jaysen Thompsen Celebrating
As I walked behind the AIC bench with my gear, I ran into linebacker Gates Kelliher, currently a student in my History of Photojournalism class.  We fist bumped.

Here is Gates (43) Making a Tackle

Later, once again traversing the AIC bench as the action shifted to the other end of the field, I heard Gates yell to me, "Hey Professor.  The leaves!"  A reference to the sun drenched fall beauties adjacent to the field.  I was trying to capture game highlights, but Gates' enthusiasm about photography in this moment became a highlight of my teaching career.

The Handoff, with Leaves



Experimentation - Searching for Art in Structured Complexity

One of the preparatory articles I read suggested to stretch your legs before game time, to be ready to run down the sidelines when field position changed quickly.

The Prof in Action - Photo by AIC Graduate Samira Abdul-Karim
























My legs were fine.  However, kneeling for hours while steadying the camera, along with dipping my head to review the images, left me with a sore neck.  It's sometimes hard to prepare for everything.  That's part of the process.

I later asked two Visual and Digital Arts majors that I photographed to write about the connections between playing football and creating images.  Click here to read their reports and see their images.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell


October 23, 2019

Crossing Paths Enriches Our Lives and New Technology Can Inspire Using Old Technology in a New Way


So excited that my one of my in-camera digital multiple exposures was chosen for F-Stop Magazine's Abstraction Issue. My image, Intersecting Lives and Lines, captures manifold views of a glass fire door at MASS MoCA.

Intersecting Lives and Lines
I see the gray lines as the journeys of individual humans. When our paths cross, our life experiences become deeper and richer.

Discovering that my Nikon DSLR allowed me to create in-camera multiple exposures like this sent me on a digitally enabled journey into abstraction.

In my prior days working as a photojournalist in the film era, I did everything I could to avoid double or multiple exposures.  In the past few years, I have begun shooting film again.

Empire State Building
This image I shot with a plastic Holga 120mm film camera. I was passing the Empire State Building in a cab and shot out the window, rotating the angle of my camera between each of four exposures on a single frame of film.

There are a few day left to bid on a print of this image, which I donated to raise money for the In-Sight Photography Project, a non-profit in Brattleboro, VT, that offers photography classes for all youth, regardless of their ability to pay.

I love the way a new technology inspired me to go in a new direction, which then led me to use an old technology in a new way.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell


October 7, 2019

From Seed To Fruition - My Aerial Images of Large Scale Drawings Chosen for Western Massachusetts Visual Arts Biennial


Opening reception: In conjunction with Arts Night Out, Friday, October 11th, 5:00 - 8:00PM, at Forbes Library’s Hosmer Gallery, 20 West St., Northampton MA

Exhibition jurors: Donna Gates, Gallery Director and Curator, Salmon Falls Gallery; Jameson Johnson, Founder and Editor in chief, The Boston Art Review; Robert Wiesenburger, the Associate Curator of Contemporary Projects for The Clark Art Institute.

Friend and artist Keris Salmon recently introduced me via email to an artist friend of hers, Anna Hepler. When Hepler and I met (we both live in Greenfield), I learned that she often originates a certain idea/form and then manifests the same idea/form in a variety of media, such as clay, wood and block printing. Her multiple renderings of a single idea in a various ways planted a seed in my creative vision. 

Drawing with Dew

I sometimes do Zentangle drawing, an art form that blends drawing and meditation. By drawing repeated, structured patterns, abstract beauty emerges. Normally, with Zentangle, I use a pen and pencil, drawing on 3.5 inch squares of paper. Inspired by Hepler’s multifaceted approach, I wondered what it would be like to make a computer generated 3D print of a Zentangle pattern and then block print it, or draw on a scale so large that the image would only be fully visible from the sky.

Rick's Paradox - Straight Lines Create Curves - Zentangle Drawing (Not in the exhibition)
My personal artistic vision is one of open-minded exploration. While I love to go back in time, such as drawing with ink made from crushed berries, I also warmly embrace the use of contemporary digital tools. The fruition of my project combined elemental mark making using my feet with using a drone for aerial imaging of the large-scale artworks.

Drawing with Sand


One time I drew by shuffling my feet through dewy grass on the field behind Four Corners School in Greenfield, Mass. Another time, at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, I made lines in the sand with a single foot. At Walden Pond in Concord Mass., my drawing straddled the shoreline, with some lines continuing from the sandy beach under the pond’s surface. In each location, upon completing the drawing, I sent my drone aloft to photograph the work from on high.

Drawing with Sand and Water (Not in the exhibition)




My project bore so many fruits: ephemeral artwork that lasted mere hours before evaporating or being walked on; cardiovascular benefits as I worked up a sweat by walking/drawing; a mindfulness practice of literally taking it one step at a time, and a necessity to focus on the process, as I could not even see the product without flying a drone into the sky!

Thank you Anna Hepler for planting the seed.

It takes a village...  Big thanks also to former students Jason Kan and Zach Bednarczyk who have taught me everything I know about piloting drones for aerial imaging.  Thanks also to Jason for emboldening me to push the limits when editing images in Lightroom.  I would be remiss to not mention Cheryl Cianci, who I met at a gallery in Hartford. Her enthusiasm about the Zentangle drawing method led me to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell