Archive for January, 2008

Snow and Adobe Photo

January 29, 2008

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Here’s what I started with – a decent photo with great light and dark balance, and crisp focus. There is some good texture and a so-so composition. It’s somewhat banal, but I was attracted by the light-dark balance and I loved those rose hips holding up their weight in snow caps. With the sunlight, it’s a warm picture despite the snow. I hesitated to show you this photo because it’s not stellar but it provides context.

I also took this next photo, by focusing in, selecting a portion of the image above.

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There are things that annoy me about this photo, so I chose it to modify through Adobe Photo, hoping to find the painterly qualities I was looking for when I took the painting. I did some adjustments with the Image (drop down menu to Adjustments, Colour Balance, Hue/Saturation, Desaturation and Brightness Contrast). I also explored the Filter drop down tools which are found at the top of the screen. In this section, you just have to try each offering to see if any will do things that you want them to do.

Here’s the same image desaturated:

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And here’s one, much similar, where I’ve erased out the garage door and given it a solid background,aa-270a-paint-background-small.jpg

This next one I pushed the colour all the way into the blue range. You do it by going to Image, Adjustments, Colour Balance:aa-270a3-small.jpg

These next ones, I explored some of the Filter options – Graphic Pen, Notepaper and Sketch Charcoal:

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Notepaper:

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and Sketch/Charcoal

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My last one to share with you is this one in colour. After all that subdued colour, this one’s a blast! I got there through Image, Adjustments, Hue/Saturation and its the Saturation scale that I used to get to this colour extravaganza.

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It doesn’t matter what tools or equipement you are using to produce images. For whatever your chosen media, you need to explore and familiarize yourself with them to understand what they bring to the equation of your art work.

Some would say that this computer manipulation of images is not art work, but each time you save something because you like it, you are making a visual decision. The mark of whether it is a good one or a neutral/banal one or a decidedly bad one is up to you and your critics.

The same goes for watercolours – your choice of brushes, paper whether smooth or rough, and brands of pigments will all make a difference to what you can produce. You need to explore them thoroughly to know what works best and most comfortably for you. Only once you are comfortable and at liberty with it will the images flow as if they were done by magic instead of a painstaking hand. I often come back to the image of the figure skater who seems to perform with the greatest of ease, but the apparent simplicity is backed up by a lifetime of practice and pushing the limits for excellence.

And so it goes for each media that we choose to express ourselves with.

With that, I’m going off to my materials to play. See you later!

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Digital dexterity

January 22, 2008

I read Forestrat’s philosphical opinion on the use of digital photo manipulations. Forest rat’s observations can be found at http://www.forestrat.wordpress.com . I had not really thought it out too much before.
I do a lot of photos of my own artwork for use on the Internet and sending out for submissions, so I often crop off edges or skew the image back into it’s original shape when I’ve not got a truly “squared” image of the work.

I work with a Sony Cybershot digital with 12 time optical Zoom. It was a choice I made in preference over the SLR digital cameras because I’m finding heavy equipment more difficult to cart around now that I’m getting old and creaky. This camera is light and does most everything I need it to. He mentioned that he only used a fraction of it’s features and I ditto that. In fact, when I had some difficulty with it, my nerd nephew said,”Auntie, have you read the manual yet?” and this was two years after purchase. I don’t think I know where the manual is!

That being said, I use Adobe Photo to enhance my work. I’m not a professional and don’t know how to get around some of the results that the mix of my good camera and my point-and-shoot techniques produce.

Especially with art work, I will readjust the colours to come back to what the image really looks like. That’s one of the major advantages of the digital camera, for me. It makes up for my lack of technical savvy in lighting things properly. I’ll sometimes sharpen images as well, but only very slightly with the intention of coming closer to my vision of the original object.

I take landscape imagery primarily for painting notes where I don’t have enough time to make sketches. I may use three or four or more images to assist me in remembering colour or shapes as I recreate or synthesize my emotional response to that image in a painting.

Every once in a while, I will get a great image out of my photos, not just an informational one, and it goes untouched, unless I’m cropping out an unfortunate car part or window frame, since I take a number of photos while waiting at red lights or quickly from the side of the highway as I’m going somewhere. Until lately I’ve not had the time to get out of the car to photograph and my purpose was not for publication in any case.

I use cropping to edit out parts of an image that I will not want in a painted composition. It helps me focus on what my eyes were selecting, not what the camera format allowed me to select. Not everything in the art world is in a 4 to 6 ratio or proportion.

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Sometimes when I see an image at a distance too far for my digital camera to frame, I will crop out the extraneous which may be a major part the original image. It leaves me with the image I was trying to capture. But of course, this remaining image would only be good as reference material for a painting and never good enough to publish as a photo. These crows are an example. The 12 times optical zoom just couldn’t bring them close enough and I wanted to capture their different poses as they hung out in the tree.

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On the other hand, I enjoy totally transforming an image with digital pyrotechniques. I’m just dabbling with it, so I’m not producing anything stellar, but it’s fun. From an artists point of view, it’s far away from being photography and becoming something else. It can prod an artist from sheer copying of an image to creatively experimenting with other backgrounds, pushing limits on light levels and isolating shapes. There is so much more, once one goes exploring.

Here is a series that I worked with and then, lack of time, did nothing further with. Each of these digital images is still sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to decide what its final destination will be, if any.

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In Art, there are difficulties in defining what the limits of any media are. Is a painting a painting only if paint is the only media used. If so, then what is the nomenclature for a painting that includes sand; or one that uses photocopy material in its base layer; or has collage of other materials included. Is it a painting when the major material is paint? When does it become collage? Will everything become “mixed media”, the convenient catchall, when more than one material is used to make a creative image?

When is a photograph a photograph? It’s simple to say it is one if there is no other manipulation at all. But where does the dividing line come when an photographer or an artist begins to lean heavily into digital manipulation? And if it exists only in digital photographic form, what new name do we give it? And if it is never printed, is it a photograph (like the sound of one hand clapping, or the sound of a tree falling in a forest if no one is there to hear it).

There are many questions. Sometimes (as with the Impressionists) a name is applied to a way of working only after there is enough of it to garner attention by the pundits. Someone throws a slur at it and it sticks. The slur takes on a different meaning as the work becomes recognizably acceptable. No one thinks that Impressionism is an insult anymore, especially now that a van Gogh commands millions from art loving investors.

I’m all for experimentation at whatever level you start at. I like keeping an open mind and not limiting things too much by giving them a name with an unforgiving definition. I believe that we need to play with materials and not make one variation but maybe ten or twenty or more until something else develops in a way that we hadn’t expected.

Please feel free to leave your comments and opposing views.

All images are copyright of the artist.

Reflections on Self

January 9, 2008

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I had my passport photo taken day before yesterday. The woman looking back at me from the two small photos did not seem to be me. One is not allowed to smile. The photo tech looked at the image with a magnifying glass, could see my teeth, and made me have the picture taken again. I can’t think what would happen to a Customs Agent if they saw teeth, but it’s strictly taboo.

The first photos had a hint of a smile, but this too is verboten. The poor Customs agents of other nations must think we are a dour lot north of the 49th parallel. The picture had to have a white background; there could be no glare. Since my glasses offended the rules in this matter, I took them off. Bon Dieu! but I am looking old.

Mr. Stepford next door said, “We’re all getting old, m’dear. Suck it up. You can’t change it.” So dutifully, with this pair of grumpy looking pictures to offer into the Passport Office, I applied for my passport renewal today. It’s a much easier process than before. I handed in the renewal form only signed by me (no guarantor needed) and the photos that purported to match my physiognomy, and that was it.

“Is that it?” I asked the agent in disbelief. A friend had waited in line over five hours earlier in 2007 before they had conceived of this fast track method. I wasn’t in line for five minutes and the exchange of money and the verification of documents only took another five. I didn’t exactly feel cheated but I wouldn’t have any stories to tell about my Passport Office martyrdom.

“You seem pretty straightforward and honest to me,” he replied.

Huh!” I thought. This innocent face has got me through a few scrapes that I was involved in, with impunity. I wasn’t going to set him straight. No one needs to know about my youthful indiscretions.

Then I came home to a very nice comment from Forestrat. wordpress.com about my blog on the use of abstraction in realist photography. He’s got some pretty wonderful pictures of racing winter waters that are worth taking a look at; and his trekking through the forest makes for a good story.

His comment got me thinking about self.

I don’t like being captured in photo. I’ve grown heavy with age. I’d rather not be reminded of it. My face is not that youthful anymore. There are wrinkles. The two sides of my face don’t match. Sometimes I look like an elderly Simone Signoret, crusty and not to be messed with; or with a lapelled business blazer, I feel like a sergeant-major.

I’d rather be able to capture my image myself so I can control what happens to all those images that don’t work out. Like delete them for posterity. I like to edit what goes out there that is supposed to be me. I’ve seen some dreadful self-portraits (of myself) in my time.

Forest Rat had mentioned that he liked to take pictures of a reflective surface but then the camera always showed in the picture. There is a way of avoiding that, however. If you don’t want the camera to show, you can position the camera above or below the reflective surface and tilt the camera up or down as required. It may take a couple of shots before you get the right framing or the right zoom focus. Equally, you can position the camera to one side. You may get some distortion in the perspective, but sometimes that adds to the interest in the final image. It can be harder to keep the camera still when working at such an angle.

With a digital camera, there’s no problem. You can crop the picture to suit yourself after the picture has been taken. With an SLR, you might need to spend a bit of film before you get it right. And don’t use flash. It’s sure to ruin your picture.

I rather enjoyed what happened with this image that follows: sp-nw-bungalow-2-small.jpg

It has several layers of reflection and you don’t really see too many of my aging characteristics. It’s crisp and indistinct at the same time. It also gives rise to a question of what is inside and what is out. The boundaries are blurred.
And here’s another favourite:

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…although I must have had a large coat on.

The photo at the top of this post was photographed in a mirror. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a polished mirror. There were spots everywhere that I didn’t think to remove. I’m not a stellar house cleaner, especially when there is a camera around to divert me.

All that to say that I’ve cleaned up that photo and this next one in Adobe Photo, but I’ve included them even though not perfect because I like the composition.

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Snow Jail

January 6, 2008

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The ice was craftily camouflaged under a fresh fall of new powdery snow. I was being relatively cautious, taking small steps and checking my footing – I’ve had three falls this year that have made me very hesitant in risky conditions – but there was nothing for it. I was down before I realized it, which was probably a good thing. Nothing broken. No apparent bruises or muscular problems. I picked myself up and made my last few steps to my nephew’s apartment where he greeted me with a delicious fresh broccoli and noodle soup that he himself had made.

He’s an excellent cook and we have often shared this soup on a winter evening. He gets the lion’s share of the noodles; I get the lioness’s share of the broccoli and we are both supremely happy for this shared meal.

The next day, however, Auntie was not walking so well. Something had shifted in the back and the left foot was unreliable. The wrong move provided shooting pains. No, the foot was not broken. But something was amiss.

In the night, more snow had fallen. The temperature had gone from two Celcius to minus ten. The sidewalks had not been cleared. The previous day’s ice had melted into slush and refrozen. It was treacherous out there and I decided to just stay “home”. Home was my cousin’s place where I was staying on this holiday to Ottawa. My cousin had entertained me for one week and then had gone on to her own much deserved holiday.

My lovely nephew came by bus to visit me and we made another vegetable soup and then spent the afternoon making shortbread so that he could go home with a batch and we could leave some for my cousin.

Before he came, it left me at loose ends for a few hours. I watercoloured over two pen and ink drawings. They are not very polished, not my regular fare, but I am showing them to you anyway because it’s probably the first one I’ve done from “life” (as compared to “from photo reference”) in a such long time. Certainly it’s the first since my mother passed away a year ago, so it was a bit of a celebration once it was done and I downed a glass of mellowing Martini Rossi. It’s a start.

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Then out came my camera. It’s a Sony Cybershot 12 x Optical. I love it. I’m not much of a technician and it takes care of that side of things for me. I just frame, focus and shoot.

There is a crab apple tree in my cousin’s back yard. It keeps masses of tiny apples all winter like translucent baubles on a Christmas tree. I was so impressed with it, I want one in my own back yard. The birds and squirrels feed in it during the difficult days of winter so it is an entertainment to watch them come and go. I was shooting my pictures through double paned glass. I couldn’t even open up the door to take shots because the snow was banked against the sliding door about three feet up. If I had opened it, there would be a square meter of snow in the kitchen. That being said, the images are good enough for future references for paintings.

Here’s the squirrel – very hard to catch because he moves so fast and the motion and the digital camera don’t marry well.

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And here’s a robin who didn’t have sense to go south:

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And the tree, itself:

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And a close up of some of those berries:

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So when the beautiful snow looked like this, after a Canadian snowstorm, and the ice lay treacherously below

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I stayed indoors with a hot drink, my camera, a little Chopin playing on the CD player and waited for my nephew and the sunshine of my life to show.

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More abstraction in reality

January 6, 2008

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My neighbour and much respected and artist found my last post about the photos of the infrastructures of the Turcot rail yards in Montreal too pedantic. I suggested it was because she already knows all that, having been an art afficianado for the last 30 years. Schools of thought in the art world have been steady fare for our discussions. We taught in the same institution and developed a common language for our discussions. We sought ways to make concepts clear to beginners on the voyage of discovery.

In teaching, I stressed to the participants that I really didn’t care if they became excellent technicians in the business of art. What I really cared about and promised to do for them was to teach them to see. That, for me, is the crux of the whole business.

Amongst the instructors, we occasionally had discussions about our intent, in teaching. With the number of students being pumped out of the school each year, there was no way that all of them were going to be Picasso-successful. There would be a good gamut of those who went on to fame and fortune and those who could earn their living in various kinds of art-related jobs – teachers, graphic designers, commercial artists, book illustrators, pottery producers, theater set designers, animators, sculptors, industrial designers, line drawers for newspaper ads, greeting card designers, fashion designers, medical illustrators, et cetera. There would also be a large percentage that did not continue on in art careers. What value were we bringing those who did not manage to become “professional” artists, that is, those who earned their living from the craft, their trade and their art?

We concluded that even if we did not create a colony of army-ant artists to change the world, we at least were laying ground work for the appreciation of the arts. We concluded that the teaching of creative thought was important in any discipline and knowledge transfer could occur going into other disciplines.

So, circling back to the beginning of this discussion, I may have readers that have thought through some of these things, but many who have not. Though I no longer am teaching in a classroom context, I see myself as an art missionary and I find myself compelled to explain. I want people to understand what it is that I’m trying to accomplish. I make no assumptions that readers already know; and I hope that those who do will glaze over on the parts that they find basic but will have the endurance and interest to read on to my posting’s conclusion.

So without more preamble, here are more photos of some things that I find interesting that are real but that become almost non-representational by means of the selection of what to show in the composition.

The photo at the top of the post only takes a few seconds to decipher. It’s a building with a green metal balcony. I liked the way the various lines – railing, siding, soffit and the reflection of the siding in the car window – all go in different directions. The siding in the car window is disorienting and gives a sense of irreality to the image.

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Now I’ve cropped the image and the sensation of disorientation is increased. The picture looks more abstract, where the essentials have been retained and the non-essentials have been eliminated.

Here’s another one:

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I’ve shown you the cropped version first. Of course, I could have cropped this while taking the photo. But sometimes the camera won’t bring the image close enough to get what I want, and sometimes, I prefer cropping with the computer because I can play with different outer limits to the image before deciding what’s best.

Here’s where the image comes from:ay-098-small.jpg

It’s the tail light that gives away the context. Otherwise, if you remove a greater part of the contextual reference, something quite real takes on a more illusory aspect which I find more interesting. I don’t like to be told everything in a image. I like to have to figure things out and engage with the image.

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And so, I leave you hanging. What is this last one about, anyway? I just like it.

Which brings me to a final word. Whenever we are working with an object in context or a bit of scenery, there are no boundaries – unless you’ve framed it or used a view finder. But that’s you doing the framing – the object or the scene itself has no boundaries. Taken to the extreme, the object is sitting in a context that goes all the way around the world, including oceans. It can be that vast.

What you chose to include in an image and where you decide to stop it is your responsibility. You can have an object smack dab in the middle of the picture surrounded by what it is sitting in or contingent to in the case of scenery(it’s context),  or you can crop the image so tightly on the object, not leaving any context at all, and then there are all the possibilities in between.

Definitions, Found drawings and a bridge

January 5, 2008

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Realism in art, representational art, abstraction and non-representational art? How we love to categorize our work and label ourselves. I am as interested in the cross-over points as I am in the red blooded variety of any category.

Quite simply, representational art represents something. For instance that might be a person, a book, a landscape, an animal, a seascape, a dream.

To the other extreme, non-representational art is not trying to represent any “thing”, any object or view.

Realism purports to define objects or situations in a representational way. High Realism leaves out no details. Every nick and scratch is seen. It’s a two dimensional illusion (trompe-l’oeil – fools they eye) that you are looking at something rounded, three-dimensional, or having depth and texture. It sometimes manifests in the animalier school which some artists lightly call the “hair of the dog” school of art in which every hair of the dog is evident. Robert Bateman is admirable in his pyrotechnical ability to make a person feel that if you just touched the painting you could feel the fur and feathers.

If you think of representational and non-representational art as two opposite poles of a continuum then you will be able to situate many different manifestations of art along its long slope from one end to the other, Realism being at the furthest reach on the Representational end of the spectrum.

Another example, Alex Colville, who taught at Mount Allison University for the greater part of his career, freezes a moment in time in the lives of ordinary individuals; or Mary Pratt who studied with Colville at Mount Allison U and became a high realism painter capturing ordinary household events such as canning jellies or preparing chicken for dinner in intensely detailed images that glow with light. This type of realism competes with photography, often uses photography for reference and surpasses the ordinary person’s vision of the same recorded event by elevating it and separating it out of its context. While essential details are minutely defined; unnecessary details are eliminated. Here are some Internet references for these Canadian artists:

www.alexcolville.com/

http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/search/artwork_e.jsp?mkey=1529

http://www.robertbateman.ca/

What separates the fine Realist painter from the vast number of artists who chose to paint this way are the choice of subject, the abstract qualities of the composition, the mood and the ability to imbue the message with some kind of statement that transcends the object with meaning.

Bateman has an environmental message; Pratt brings an awareness of an intrinsic vision of beauty to the common woman’s household tasks; Colville is depicting emotional tensions in daily life.

Realism is at once a category of its own and a part of representational art.

I like to think of Mark Rothko and his large superimposed colour fields as the other pole of the spectrum – the non-representational.

http://www.nga.gov/feature/rothko/classic1.shtm

His intentions are not to represent any real thing except the relationship of one colour to another. His work is a deep seated exploration of a very specific, narrow concern from the gamut of abstract concepts that artists use to compose visual statements with. His are not random marks on a canvas but studies in colour relationships and they became a fixation for a large portion of his production. The strength in his work comes from the profound exploration he undertook and expressed.

With the same kind of involvement, Joseph Albers explores colour. His work is less emotional, a bit more pedantic in my view, and still very beautiful. It’s more of human scale and therefore more intimate. I find his work meditative, not only in the use of colour but in the quietness of the compositions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Albers

He worked with a persistent precision to explore relationships of colour. He chose to use simple squares and rectangular shapes to minimize the attention to shape and to maximize the viewers understanding of colour in what he was painting.

Paintings of such apparent simplicity sometimes baffle uninformed viewers. It looks simple. It’s the same simplicity that an Olympic figure skater brings to the skating rink. It looks simple. However, just try, and with varying degrees we slip or fall. It’s not as easy as it looks.

Now for the last of the four definitions I started out to explain, Abstract is the hardest to come to terms with because it has several meanings in the English language. I always go back to the etymological definition “from ab(s)- “away” + trahere “draw” to explain how I understand it in the artist’s context. For me, it broadly means drawing out the essence of something. As a result of there being a something to draw something out of, I see abstract art sitting right in the middle of the representational-to-non-representational spectrum.

Jean Riopelle exemplifies an artist working in an abstract mode. Originally, he leaned far closer to the non-representational pole. In his later years, he returned to representational work incorporating a private language of non-representational forms as he drew from nature. Look at some of his marvelous lithographic work. It’s full of abstract forms of bugs, animals, plants and his Northern Quebec landscape so dear to his heart. His series on geese is very visually inventive. He alternates calligraphic non-representational marks with representational snow geese that are only an abstract of the bird form. There are no feathers evident but the bird shape is as essentially “goose” as can be.

http://www.galerielamoureuxritzenhoff.com/maitres_canadiens/CM034/Jean_Paul_Riopelle.html

Piet Mondrian was drawing a fruit tree. After drawing a fairly classic rendition of the tree, he started to explore the essential directions of the tree limbs. On a third and fourth time around, the lines became more abstract (drawing out the essence) than representational. Here is the cross over that I’m interested in. The tree he is drawing from is real. The first drawing is quite recognizably a tree. Then next is an exploration of tree-ness and branch-ness. The next is less clearly a tree. This drawing sequence was pivotal in his work and pivotal in art history. He began to look for the purest form. In that search, he eventually abandonned representational work and worked with simply, purely rectangular shapes and primary colour strategically placed. His journey into abstraction passed through a phase of Cubism which Braque and Picasso had coined, and moved forward into a purification of form that had spiritual meaning rather than a physical shape or representational meaning. The second of these Internet references shows an excellent sequence of his tree drawings wherein he passes from the representational to the abstract to the non-representational

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian

http://www.fiu.edu/~andiaa/cg2/chronos.html

http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/mondrian/mondrian_gray_tree.jpg.html

Now, at the beginning of this post, I gave you a picture of an overpass bridge on a Montreal highway. My cousin and I were trying to get home as a heavy winter snow storm was beginning to fly. A vehicle had slid out of control and was blocking the highway in front of us. We waited almost an hour, inching along as the traffic slowly was directed around the semi-truck trailer that had caused the traffic jam.

The picture that I have shown of the overpass is definitely real. One can recognize the support beam as similar to other highway structures. The buildings behind it give it scale. For sure, there is only a small portion of the overpass captured in the photo frame but it doesn’t ever look like something else and, being a photo, it is clearly not a painting or an abstraction of an overpass.

As my cousin and I were bored and waiting, I started to observe this bridge and the numerous markings on it. Some were from the weather – water staining, white effluorescence from salts leaching from the concrete, graffiti from enterprising individuals born to paint, and some curious repeated marks – dots, dashes and rectangles – that I finally figured out were markings of a structural engineer or inspector.

There has been a lot of concern about the integrity of infrastructure – bridges, overpasses, highways, culverts, water mains, et cetera, lately following some disastrous collapses. Now the municipalities and provincial authorities are obliged to inspect and identify what needs to be done to ensure public safety. The first phase is to do a condition inspection to see what needs to be done. The second phase is to prepare a report giving priority to required works. The third is to get approval and funding for the work and the fourth is to get the work done once the funding is in place.

Without some indelible markings to remind one of what was found in phase one, the work would need to be re-identified at the time of repairs. So the inspector marks all the necessary repairs with an engineer’s code of markings in spray paint. The marks mean something to the engineer. To a non-initiated, they are just like children’s drawings – an esoteric shorthand.

So here are some pictures that I took that have transcended the “realism” category by their “non-representational” appearance. They rapidly move out of our comfort zone as “real” and enter a zone in which we ask, “what the heck is that?”

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You can still see this is a work in concrete and since you know it is part of an overpass you have no difficulty in determining that it is a small slice of “overpass”.

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This is where I get excited about the images. In effect, it is a found drawing. As I say, this must mean something to the engineer and it is a piece of real concrete with important information coded upon it. But for me, for others, it is out of context. By virtue of having cropped the photo of the “overpass” I have something that seems at easiest, an abstract image; or, if you come by this on its own, without the explanatory text, it seems something totally non-representational.

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Funnily enough, with the last photo here, the very recognizable graffiti makes this image more representational than the two previous ones. There is context to help translate what is going on in the image.

Change is as good as a rest

January 4, 2008

I was travelling this Christmas. I took a holiday from my daily labours, trading the grey wintery skies of the West Coast for the snowy storms of the East Coast.

In my daily life, I tend to stop noticing my surroundings, finding them banal only because I see them every day. Travelling refreshes one’s eyes. There’s nothing like contrast for underlining beauty. So here are a few of my favourite photos from the trip which I hope you will enjoy.

We had two severe snow storms whilst I was there. The accumulation of snow was unusual. For residents, it was a pain for driving and getting about. For me it was a superb visual treat. However, on the third day in Ottawa, I slipped and fell. I was obliged to stay in the house for the most part because my ankle was no longer dependable and there was far too much ice to navigate that lay just below a disguising layer of crisp powdery snow. Most of these pictures have been taken through the upstairs and downstairs windows. A few are from the front door, so the quality is less than desirable but they will do me fine as reminders for paintings.

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I loved this urchin snow man. He was leaning heavily after a day of rain but he’s neatly propped up by a shovel and a rake. At night, his facial features lit up with a glow and you could barely see anything but this red toothy grin, the blue eyes and the carrot coloured nose beaming out into the dark blue of night time snow.

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There was a beautiful crab apple tree in the back yard. It’s skeletal shape is wonderfully curvaceous and it seems to be hung with a million red Christmas tree baubles, as precious as ice wine. These winter fruits are the fruit basket of many a winter resident – the black and the grey squirrels, a non-migrating robin, little sparrows, crows and other birds. By coincidence, the neighbour to the back and left has a matching colour house. The composition is glorously monochromatic. When the sun came out, it was a different proposition altogether.

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Here’s the full chromatic range with the sun shining through. Following, here’s one of this winter restaurant’s customers:

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As I had plenty of time to watch, I saw this fellow intent on a different dinner. A bit of meat for a Christmas treat, perhaps?

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It was just wonderful to have the time to sit and watch.