As mentioned in my last blog, I now have literally thousands of photographs taken from the train while commuting between Colchester and London or while travelling up and down the country. The blog silence for the past year has meant that this collection has accumulated unused photographs in digital mountains that are threatening to topple and overwhelm me with image data. It’s therefore been something of a relief to begin scrolling back through these image archives to pick out ones that might lend themselves to the kind of artistic experimentation I talked about in that blog.
Rolling this collection of images across my screen as dozens of thumbnails at a time, the thing that has struck me most has been the quite extraordinary cloudscapes that have been caught through the train window, or while walking to or from the station in Colchester or from the DLR station to my Docklands campus. There’s also been some amazing skies while I’ve been on fieldwork – skies worth being drenched for.
Looking only at the thumbnails provides a simplification of the images, reducing them to their essential composition and tonal balance, which has been great because this has given me some pointers to their potential for image manipulation and creation. In particular, I’ve been learning how to use a combination of image-processing tools such as ‘poster edge’ (see the print of the blackbird and cherries in my last post) and ‘cut-out’, which produces some profoundly pleasing images when the settings are just so. I can foresee much more experimentation in the weeks ahead…
My Etsy store is steadily expanding again, which is probably a good thing, if only as an incentive to keep experimenting…
Well hello again – it’s been a while. More than a year, in fact. A busy year and a productive year in many ways, but not productive in terms of either blogging or artworks. The Facebook scandal (remember that? – seems so long ago now) meant that I lost the desire to engage with any social media, which itself proved to be an interesting experiment – almost like standing on the corner watching all the world go by. It’s not all been simply idling, however. Things in the peatland world have rather burst into life, but that’s for another blog. Then there’s Marley. She’s added something quite extraordinary to the mix…
The year’s sabbatical has, furthermore, brought something else. During the past year things have been rather quiet on the shop front. A few people (including a boutique hotel) have downloaded my rather dramatic image of Storm Eileen coming our way – see that blog and my Etsy download.
Other than this, however, sales have consisted entirely of artworks rather than photographs. Discussing this with my perceptive wife, she pointed out that people simply don’t tend to hang photographs as interior decoration unless they are dramatic and in some way highly artistic. Given that I have been busy amassing several thousand landscape and cloudscape photographic images from my commuter journeys with the hope of selling some and with the intention of producing a Blurb photobook series of ‘What the Commuter Saw, this concept that people may in general prefer to hang artworks – often the more abstract the better – rather than photographs on their living room walls, gave rise to much pondering.
This pondering, together with watching the extraordinary skies created by Janhendrick Dolsma and Tim Gangon on YouTube, led me to the realisation that if a choice is given between hanging a photograph of an amazing sky on the wall and hanging an identical painting of that same sky on the wall, the painting will almost always be chosen.
This says something rather fascinating about art. It seems that we respond in some profound way to the act of artistic creation, a response that is not triggered by a simple record of a scene such as we might take with a camera or a smartphone. This response to painting perhaps goes all the way back to those acts of creation which have left us with images of bison and auroch painted on cave walls while Neanderthals and Homo sapiens shared the landscape.
Returning to the present day, however, these thoughts have forced a re-think in my approach to photography and art – and have presented me with something of a challenge. While I will continue to record photographic images of my usual subjects and probably post them in my blogs, they will increasingly be used as background material for actual paintings or for manipulation into more art-style images.
As a first step, therefore, I’ve begun working back through various images already used in earlier blogs, starting with my Venice blog, as well as seeking to capture images which have artistic potential. Thus an obliging blackbird defending a store of ornamental cherries as I walked past on my way to the station offered the opportunity for a Japanese-style print, while some of the more dramatic images from Venice have lent themselves to such treatment – and are now in my Etsy store.
It will be interesting to see how things develop. First task is to watch Janhendrik Dolsma again before tackling my 5,000+ photos of skies…!