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April 23rd, 2017

The Science Of Shadows And Light

I went to the March for Science in Washington D.C. More about that later. But I’m back home now, and the first thing I did naturally was offload my digital photos onto the network drive. I’ll put them into Lightroom in a bit and post a new photo gallery later. The rally was taxing enough on my sixty-three year old body that I had to bail out before the march actually happened, and retreat to my hotel room. But I got a bunch of good shots at the rally on the Washington Monument grounds so I’m happy.

Later, after my legs recovered a bit and I got some energy back, I took a dinnertime walk around D.C. and snapped off a few shots with the mini Hasselblad (Sony) of what was left of the march ephemera after all the crowds were gone and the streets were nearly empty and it was still drizzly because I’m a weird old fuck and I was in a gloomy mood just then. If you’ve seen my art photography here you know what was coming. And I wasn’t sure even as I was taking those shots whether or not I wanted to include them in a gallery of shots of the March for Science. What comes out of me at those times when I’m doing it for the pure art of it is pretty dark. I can see that photographic eye in everything I do and I don’t really like it. But it’s worse when I’m not working on a theme or an event. Then it’s the pure inner photographic eye that comes out. I was pretty sure none of that belonged in a gallery with the science march.

As I wandered, I found a street sign…one of those historical markers D.C. has been putting around town. This one told me the studio of Mathew Brady was nearby  on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that it was relatively unchanged from when he lived there. So I tried to find it just to nod in fellowship to whatever memories might still be lingering there…

Mathew B. Brady was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War. He studied under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who pioneered the daguerreotype technique in America. -Wikipedia

But of course it had no marking plaque or even a street number over the door so I’m still not sure I saw the right one. But something had drawn me there. Obviously since I’m at the March for Science, I count myself as a person of science. But I am also an artist, and those two sides of me were excruciatingly difficult to reconcile when I was a teenager, until I read Jacob Bronowski’s little book, Science and Human Values.  I try to be rational about things, but there are moments when I feel moved by a spirit I have no name for. That was one of them.

I am not a camera, the camera is me. What comes out of it is me. But also what was actually there. The reality within and without. The cold grey drizzle. The nearly but not quite empty streets. What I saw. How it made me feel. In no other art are both those things quite that literally true. The photographic image is fixed by light entering the camera and it exists in a fixed time and place, but the what the photographer sees is within and timeless. Brady was the first to show us what war looks like via the camera’s unflinching deterministic eye. But it was also a mirror held up to ourselves. This too is human. In retrospect it was a perfect sort of serendipity being drawn to Brady’s studio that evening because probably no other art owes as much to science as photography. Chemistry, optics, the physics of light. The camera shows us what was there, and in the process tells us what it is to be human. Whether or not we want to know it.

 

Mathew_Brady_1875_sm

 

reflection-sm

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Science Of Shadows And Light

September 2nd, 2016

Holiday Fun Stuff

I’d tentatively planned to take a wee road trip up into Pennsylvania this holiday weekend, but the hurricane is getting in the way of that. As I write this it looks like central Maryland won’t take a direct hit like it was looking earlier, but the thing is now predicted to stall off the Jersey coast and dump tons of rain, mostly on the coast, but also it seems, here in Charm City. So instead of a road trip, I’m going to stay home and pretend for three days to be a working artist. No seriously, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone on some projects I have going, including the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and try to make some progress. I also have a fun thing about how visits to the doctor get creepier the older you get I’ve been plinking with off and on for way too long. It’s a stand alone strip I am thinking about submitting somewhere, most likely to a gay comic if I can find one taking submissions from unknowns. Paul Cameron makes a cameo appearance.

I’m also hoping to get some time in with my oil paints…

But mostly I’m really needing to make some progress on A Coming Out Story. There are fun things to come, if I can just get past the current block. So when I get up tomorrow I’m going to start my day as if I’d been doing this for a living all my life.

And because…deep down inside…I’m really hurting. And the more it hurts, the more I need to go find that life I dreamed of first, when the world was new and everything seemed possible.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Holiday Fun Stuff

May 3rd, 2016

Teachers

According to Google, today is Teacher’s Day. I want to thank a few. Not the ones whose class I sat in though the ones who took an interest and kept the fire burning within me have my eternal gratitude. Frank Moran…my art teacher in high school, and one of the best teachers a kid could have. Marvin Watts, my college English teacher who encouraged me to write because he said I did it well if I put my mind to it. Don Poole, my jr. high science teacher, who encouraged my curiosity about the mechanical universe. I have the life I do today in large measure because of the interest they took in me when I was a kid.  But today I want to also thank others, who lit the fire within from a distance.

David Plowden…

plowden-sm

 

Robert Frank…

robert-frank

 

Margaret Bourke-White…

 

Russia's Dnieper River Dam, the world's largest, during the beginning phase of its construction.

 

…and…I hesitate to say this because her work is so relentlessly dark, but…Diane Arbus.

 

arbus_houseonahill

 

These were the ones who showed me what the camera could do. Plowden is the one probably closest to my heart, but the others are pretty close too. There are other masters of the art whose work I have loved very much, and found inspiring…Ansel Adams being probably the grand master of the form. But those four, Plowden, Frank, Bourke-White and Arbus, shone a light within which I could see myself. Which is what teachers do.

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Teachers

February 6th, 2015

Outcasts On The Road Less Traveled…

This came across my Facebook stream today, forwarded by a gay friend. It had resonance for both of us…

Elgin Park from Animal on Vimeo.

The man, Michael Paul Smith, is the creator of dozens of magical photographs that seem to be images from another time long in the past. But they aren’t. He’s following in the method of the great special effects artists Howard and Theodore Lydecker, whose work stunned audiences all through the 30s through the 60s. While others also used scale models in their effects, the Lydeckers perfected a technique of forced perspective and filmed in natural sunlight. Smith is masterful at it, and his images have attracted fans all over the world.

It really resonated with me on one level, because the scenes of him working on his models brought the memories back. Modelmaking was a childhood hobby. Throughout most of my grade school years I had shelves in my room full of the models I’d made. Most were from plastic kids when I was younger, but also things I made from scratch. When I was 7 or 8 I watched my first episode of Gerry and Sylvia Andersen’s Supercar when mom took me on a Florida vacation and I was immediately hooked. But no Supercar toy was to be found in the stores so I began making my own from paper and cardboard. After the show was syndicated back home my model became a hit with the other neighborhood kids and I found myself making them for everybody.

Later in my life all the things I’d figured out how to do with models, plus the things I’d learned teaching myself how to paint in oils, led me to a job as an architectural model maker. So the scenes of Smith working…all the tools and tricks you could see him employing…it brought the memories back. But its how he came to be doing it that resonated deeply with me.

In the video he says..

“I was bullied in school, and I was bullied because I was different. (wheew…) I think I’m still…dealing with that, still struggling with what that means and all that. I don’t think about it a lot but it does bubble up.”

I know that feeling. More than I care to. And this one…

“I come into this reality at a slightly different angle”

I found myself thinking as I watched this, Oh gosh that guy is so much me. His experience with being gay and being different…not just different because you’re gay but different on top of that because you come into this reality at a slightly different angle…and the bullying that comes with it. I knew that too. How recognition when you finally get it after going through all that makes you very uncomfortable. It brought the memories back, and all the feelings that come with those memories.

I still have my modelmaking tools but it’s been ages since I’ve used them. I moved on to a different thing. I had to because the modelmaking jobs suddenly dried up when the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s killed off many of the firms I made models for, and I was back to job hunting again. And that’s the other thing about this video that I really related to. He talks about all the jobs he had before, and how his resume looks like “what’s available in the job force.” I could say the same. He goes through and lists all his jobs and and then he says…

“Everything you do you will learn from it and you’ll use it later on in life.”

Yes…so much Yes. Time was I really hated how I kept having to go from one job to another, often when my employer found out he had Teh Gay working for him. Looking back now I have to realize that haphazard pinball ricocheting here and there path through the work force gave me a lot of intellectual tools I can still call on whenever I need them. Sometimes I catch myself doing something…maybe it’s at home maybe it’s in some other context…and I remember where I first picked up that odd bit of knowledge I was using just then and it takes me back for a moment and I find myself thinking…yeah, I guess it was worth it after all. Time was I’d have given anything to have had the comfortable life others did. Now I count my blessings.

The weirdo, the outcast, if they survive the wilderness end up having seen so many things others haven’t, and knowing how to navigate through strange territory others can’t. Because they had no choice. And sometimes because of that they end up doing pretty well. Sometimes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Outcasts On The Road Less Traveled…

September 23rd, 2013

Artwork

From cartoonist Howard Cruse I bought one of the original pages of artwork to his amazing graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby. It’s page one of the story and I feel kinda privileged to have it. That novel is an amazing, powerful work…if you haven’t read it yet you really should.

Howard posted a note about how the artwork contains a correction patch to resolve how he’d initially drawn the story’s main character, with how he’d drawn him as he continued working on the story. It took him years to finish it, and when he got done he could see there were some changes he needed to make on the pages he’d drawn years before.

That’s normal in artwork that’s meant for publication, and those of us who buy originals of this sort of artwork do (or should) value it for precisely that wonderful insight into the artist’s process you get from seeing how the work was made, corrections and all. And I, just a happy amateur, know how it is to look back on what you did years ago and see everything that’s wrong with it. Look at my early strips of A Coming Out Story and compare them with the most current ones and you can see my drawing technique on the series improving pretty drastically. As they say, practice makes perfect…especially when you have no idea what you’re doing. If I wanted to make those early strips look consistent with the new ones I’d pretty much have to redraw them all from scratch.

My work does not have the polish a formally trained and really good professional can put on it. I am a hunt-and-peck draftsman at best. But grant me this at least: I am doing my best. Sometimes I look back on what I’ve done previously and I cringe. Hell, sometimes I look at what I’ve just done and I cringe. But I keep telling myself that if I give up I will never improve, so I keep doing it.

And…I have the need. If you feel it too then you know what I’m talking about. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. The drawings, the photography, I get no reward for any of it other than that feeling of fulfillment when it’s finally out of me, and, surprisingly, a very small but devoted readership for A Coming Out Story (some of whom keep nudging me from time to time to keep working on the damn thing). So when I sit down to my drafting table I give it everything I have. But I am no professional artist. I know this. Hopefully the story I’m telling makes up for the skills I lack.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Artwork

March 26th, 2013

Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late

Today is going to be murder to get through, but it’s my own doing. I let my depressed state screw me over. I should have planned to go down to the Supreme Court marriage Proposition 8 protests/counter protests regardless.  I actually took the days off well in advance.  But then I cancelled because I have been down ever since Valentine’s Day and I just didn’t want to deal with that part of me.  Ironically, that not wanting to deal with the emotional creative part of me is what got me into computers, and making the very nice living I am making now.  But there was a big drawback to all of that.  This path I chose, has led me to a cliff.  Now that the day is here I really want to be down there with my cameras photographing it but management wants not. Ever have one of those conversations with your boss, where the boss looks at you, smiles and says “It’s your call” and you know goddamn well what the call is supposed to be?  It was one of those.

Maybe that would have been the reality anyway.  So many things are happening at work now.  Launch is in 2018 and while that seems like a long way off, there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done.  A lot. Probably, it’s no fooling, I really have to be here and stay on top of my work.  Maybe making it up on the weekend really just doesn’t cut it.  Maybe it wasn’t a question of my boss telling me I could not have divided loyalties in his workspace.  Put that artsy fartsy stuff away, you’re an adult now, live in the real world… But this is really stabbing me in the heart now.

Sometimes I wish I could just surgically remove that emotional creative part of me that keeps wanting to make imagery.  I hear this thing inside of us drives other artists insane too and it’s been this way all my life, particularly as it’s become lonelier and lonelier and because of that, sometimes I really don’t want to look at what comes out of me.  And while it’s had its rewards it cuts me to ribbons too.  It is right now.  I could have done without it.  Life as an emotionless cog in the machinery wouldn’t be so bad.

So now, at fifty-nine, I think I know why the stereotype of the starving artist exists.  It isn’t because they can’t find decent work, it’s because they know what will happen when they do, so they stay in their little slumtown lofts and hovels because any work that pulls them away from the creative urge makes their inner lives a complete mess.  Well…more mess then what would be normal for them anyway. In the end the choice isn’t live a very low budget life but get to do your work whenever you want to, verses get a good job and appease the creative urge in your spare time…it’s follow your heart or slowly go mad, pick one.

Wish I’d been brave enough to take the poor scrappy starving artist path. Who knows, maybe the boyfriend would have been somewhere along that way.  But nerve was always something I had trouble with having enough of.  Just ask Tico.

Anyway…to those confronting the haters today and tomorrow…be proud. You are writing new lines in the history books. Wish I could be there with my cameras to get some shots of it happening.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late

July 2nd, 2012

Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing

A friend from back in the BBS days recently posted a photo of the Names Quilt panel of his very dear and still very deeply missed friend. It reminded me of something I need to keep close to my heart whenever I wonder if my art work matters much at all in the grand scheme of things, and why should I even bother.  I was given the task of designing that panel, after the passing away of the one it was to be in tribute to. His name was Chip.

I was not as close to Chip as the friend who brought me the work, and I was deeply honored he even thought I would be up to the task.  His friend made a few suggestions as to how to proceed, gave me some needed pieces to start with.  I thought about it, about the person it was for, and about all his friends, and their love.  What I was being asked to create was a pretty simple design, but I was afraid of getting it all wrong.  Chip was much beloved in his circle of family and friends and I wanted more then anything to give them something that let them remember and heal.

There is an utterly non-verbal place inside where there are only feelings, and images that are feelings.  I have no words to describe it…it’s just how that most creative part of the work happens. There are no words.  I don’t even try to find words in there anymore.  But there are images.

I drew a rough sketch and presented it for approval and the friend was so taken with it he insisted that was it and no more needed doing.  He organized a gathering of Chip’s friends and the sketch was projected onto a canvas sheet and we all worked on it.  I’d included a spot organic to the design where friends could sign their names, and perhaps leave their own memories, thereby completing it…making it the perfect tribute I alone never could.  Basically all I did was create the setting.  But it had to be something that put them instantly in mind of their friend, so all those feelings would come out of them, and they could do the rest, and make it their own.  It worked.  They put their own hands on it, and made it their tribute to their friend.

It’s part of the larger Names Project Quilt now.  Time passes, the universe expands, and decades later that panel is still very much a place of remembrance and healing for Chip’s friends.  It was a small enough task, but I will never feel as though I’ve ever done anything more worthwhile with my talents, such as they are.  All artists want recognition.  But even more what we want is to touch hearts, and maybe, if we’re good enough, lift them up a little.  I can go to my own grave knowing my art was able to do it that one time when it was needed.  Just a little sketch, but it did its work.

“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing

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