Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Plein-ish Air

Since the spouse is a serious photographer and I make pictures the really old-fashioned way, it seemed like a really good idea for me to work up some plein-air skills so we could go to locations together and both have some artsy activity once we got there. Last year I acquired a super cute little pochade box to help with this, but we still haven't done too much art travel.
Last week, while on a stay-cation, we meant to put our plan into practice.
We visited three state parks, but the wind was so fierce that doing actual plein-air work was out of the question. So I ended up using the camera, too, and working up a few views from my photos. This particular view was from Mother Neff State Park.
I purposely shot landscapes without distinguishing features or dramatic scenery. Not sure where I'm going with that, but I do know that I want my landscapes to be quiet and the opposite of exotic: something anyone in this part of the country might see any day.
Hmmm. Those Texas cedars look like they owe a bit to Van Gogh's cypresses!

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1904

Last week the spouse & I travelled to San Antonio to visit friends & family, and to take in a couple of exhibits at the McNay. TruthBeauty was a collection of photographic pictorialist work, and Impressionist Sensibility featured American impressionist painters. This was supposed to be a “something for everyone” trip, since the spouse is a photographer.

While the painting show was most definitely worth the visit, it was the photography that taught me the best lessons that day.

Pictorialist photographers were active in relatively early times for that medium. They sought to elevate photography from a mechanical, documentary form to art. To do this, they turned away from sharp focus, suggesting atmosphere and mood more than recording particulars. With such a lack of detail, shape and value become the important elements in their compositions.

This is a worthy goal for me, too. Much contemporary illustration seems to be heavily influenced by animation. Not just cinematic compositional sensibilities, but the hyper-realistic detail that’s made possible by digital processes. Yes, the look is new and (sometimes quite literally) shiny, but say an illustrator wants to stand out from the trend, and produce something that the digirati do not. Maybe said illustrator could take a look at the pictorialists.

"Spring Showers"
Alfred Stieglitz, 1901

"Kelmscott Manor: Attics"
Frederick H. Evans, 1898