May 15, 2013

All About Artmaking: From Student to Professor, From Film to Digital

 The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over - and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.  
A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns.  Over time, the life of a productive artist becomes filled with useful conventions and practical methods, so that a string of finished pieces continues to appear at the surface.

by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Some three decades ago book co-author Ted Orland and I crossed paths in the film darkroom at Stanford University; he a professor, me a student.  Today, I am a professor, guiding students in the digital darkrooms at several Massachusetts colleges.

I recently finished reading Art & Fear.  Bayles and Orland contend that for artists who teach full time, finding the opportunity to create art can be challenging.  Right now, in between semesters, I realized that I myself have been too busy teaching and grading to shoot pictures.  So I carved out a morning to stroll with my camera through Greenfield, Mass.

The backlit shapes of this trash barrel beckoned.

Abstract Universals

I got close to the container and set my lens intentionally and specifically out of focus to highlight visual rhythm.

Springtime Miracles

One of the gifts of teaching is that now while I shoot, my feedback to students swirls in my brain.  Using the rule of thirds?  Making precise depth of field choices?  Creating meaning beyond the obvious?  Here, the green leaves swayed in the breeze faster than the flowers, so I held my camera steady and slowed the shutter speed to catch some background blur.

> the = of the Parts

Wilson's Department Store lives on as a store of yore.  For this in-camera multiple exposure, I shot three individual letters of the store's sign and the camera layered them into one image.

Reflecting on Change

With this double exposure, I photographed a bricks and mortar building and then held my camera upside down to photograph a newer stucco structure across the street.  When this image formulated before my eyes on the back of my camera, my artistic excitement took verbal form: "Yeah, baby!"

Back in the Stanford film darkroom, we worked on perfecting a craft that had been around for decades.  Tonight, preparing to teach a new class on Digital Storytelling, I took a brand new iPad out of its box and within less than the minutes needed to make a paper print with chemicals, I was connected to my wireless network, capturing stills and shooting video.

In the end, it's not the technology that matters.  Concurring with Orland and Bayles, I believe that artmaking (a verb!) is in the doing, of maintaining the discipline to create and follow "productive patterns".