Monday, January 31, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 174 (Giant Whisk)

Day 174 (December 24th, 2010)
Title: Giant Whisk

Modern art just confuses me.  I think that modern art is trying too hard to make me "see beyond what's here" or "understand the deeper meaning" and I just don't think I have that special artist gene that would allow me to see the deeper anything when I see, what is basically, a giant whisk.  At least with this piece, there is some actual effort involved - the artist really spent time and built a 'thing', whereas others... well, lets just wait till tomorrow for that.  I mean, perhaps this artist just really liked waffles and this is their homage to the process.  Or perhaps they are very keen on scrambled eggs.  Either way, its still a neat thing to look at, even if its a bit abstract for me to grasp. 


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 173 (Lost!)

Day 173 (December 23rd, 2010)
Title: Lost!

We live in a 18 story apartment building.  It's a nice building, we've got security, a nice view, a forest behind us, pool, and even a soda machine, so all-in-all, its not too bad.  One thing that we don't have is laundry in our apartment; we have to do our laundry in a common area.  It has washers, dryers and whatnot so it's not so bad.  But, it also has hundreds of folks who want to use it at all hours.  And many of those people are clearly crazy (self included, although I'm a friendly kind of crazy).  Some of those crazy folks like to post things on the community board in the laundry room.  Little notes or news articles - they like sharing.  I enjoy glancing them just to see if there is anything "crazy-specific" for me.  Then I saw this post (photo below).  No other information was listed - no phone, email address, apt number, anything - just the word "Lost" and the intricate, detailed rendition of the... well, whatever it is. 

Now I'm scared I might see "it" and not really know what to do.  Laundry room panic!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 172 (Worst Sale)

Day 172 (December 22nd, 2010)
Title: Worst Sale

I, like many others I am sure, am always trying to save money while shopping.  While walking down the isles of the store, browsing for the random things I need I look for the "sale stickers" on whatever item they are trying to push that week.  Now, normally when I see the little yellow sticker, my brain immediately goes: "Ooh!  It's on sale, get that one!" 

Lucky clearly recognized this shopping behavior as well, so they've decided to really mess with us 'attentive, cost-cutting, shoppers'. Basically, this picture is one of two things: Lucky employees are idiots or Lucky employees are evil.  Either way, I still bough six cases... stupid sticker.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 21 - Hanna-Barbera

“Hanna-Barbera”; Master Cartoonists, Keepers of the Picnic Basket.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were without a doubt, two of the most influential cartoonists in the history of animation.  Basically, if you watched a cartoon from 1960s-1990s, it was most likely created by this duo.  It would take a mighty list to go over all the cartoons they have created, but my top five are: (in no particular order) Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Snorks and The Jetsons. 

With all of today’s CGI and computer-assisted cartoons, it’s difficult to remember that there was a time when these 30-min adventures were all hand-drawn by people who loved their craft.  It’s also hard to imagine two people who provided me so much entertainment after school while I was growing up (and so many great memories, 25 years later).

Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Database

Photo 365 - Day 171 (Frosty Paws)

Day 171 (December 21st, 2010)
Title: Frosty Paws

I'm trying something a little different for the next few days.  I visited San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) today, and got to see a lot of interesting art.  While looking at all of the art and photographs, I had a small revelation: one should not become chained to one method of creating art.  For me, this was an important because I've always been of the mindset, when I want to take a "good" picture, I need to use the best camera (well, at least the best camera I own).  To use a "lesser" camera wouldn't make as good a photograph.  Now, while its true that some of the technical aspects of a photograph will be limited based on the camera used, that's been true for photography way before digital was introduced.  A medium format (4x5 inch) negative simply has more 'data' than a 35mm negative.  That doesn't mean the subject matter is any different or that one picture is "worse" because its smaller, its just another tool to be manipulated by the artist.  With that being said, I'm attempting to use my other cameras (point-and-shoot Kodak, small Canon, and my iPhone) to take more than just quick snapshots. 

My first shot that I took is a bit silly.  Have you ever walked down the pet food isle in your local store and noticed that sometimes the packaging on the food looks better than the food you are buying for yourself?  When you look at the box of catfood and it says: "Now made with 7lbs of pure Filet Mignon, two full Lobsters, and a Unicorn horn!" and its got four Michelin Star chefs all preparing the food for the disinterested cat.  I think; "Gosh, that sure looks better than my 'Mac N' Cheeze' ("now with real-like cheeze flavorings!")."  Well, today, while I was shopping at my local Target, I walked by the Ice Cream isle and saw this... Frosty Paws.  Sitting right next to all of the other lovely ice cream goodies.   Frosty Paws, with its cute, little puppy looking at what appears to be a small vanilla ice cream treat.  Right next to the Klondike bars (with their entirely not-as-cute-looking polar bear).  The first clue that made take a second look was the Purina logo on the top left.  That is when I noticed the line "...snacks your dog will LOVE!"  My brain, due to the fact it would not accept that there was such a thing as doggy ice cream, thought: "Why would I give my dog ice cream?!  He probably wouldn't even like it.  Besides, I'm not sharing!"  The real insult is, the Frosty Paws cost more than all the other ice cream!! 


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 170 (Rose Door)

Day 170 (December 20th, 2010)
Title: Rose Door

This is the door to my grandmother's house.  During the 1989 earthquake, much of her house was destroyed, including the fireplace, roof damage, and the front door became misaligned.   My dad rebuild the fireplace, roof and when it came to replacing the door, she asked for something nicer than just a plain front door.  In the end, this door, with a hand-made stained glass rose was chosen.  I certainly think it looks a lot better than a plain white door. 


Photo 365 - Day 169 (Floor)

Day 169 (December 19th, 2010)
Title: Floorboards

I know, I know, it's another stick photo!  I just couldn't help myself!  I really like this photo, it reminds me of old floorboards in a dark and spooky house.  Course, since these are tiny sticks, it would be a mighty small house.   I was going to try and photoshop some nails in each "board" to make it seem a bit more realistic, but since it took me like 2 hours to do one nail, I decided not so much. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 168 - Planks

Day 168 (December 18th, 2010)
Title: Planks

This is the second of my "sticks" photos, and probably last of the sticks photos.  I was trying to do some "forced perspective" with these, and I think this is about the best I'm going to get.  I realized that forced perspective (basically, making the viewer look where you want them to look, subconsciously) isn't a very 'friendly' type of composition.  Normally forced focus is more passive (such as converging lines or a horizon), but I feel these last two pictures aren't being very subtle about it and as much as I'm forcing the viewer to look, I realized there really isn't anything to look AT in these shots. 

In the previous shot, the one short stick was directing the viewer to look at the shadow.  In this photo, both the shadows and the lines are directing you to look at the center-line of the photo, but there isn't really anything interesting there!  So, its like telling you to read a book full of blank pages (I'm sure that has some deep metaphysical thing going on, but that's not really what I'm going for).  So, we'll move on to something new tomorrow!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 20 - Stephan Pastis

Stephan Pastis; Artist, Lawyer, Rat Lover

For today’s artist, I’m picking a cartoonist, Mr. Stephan Pastis.   Some folks don’t believe that cartoonist are “real” artist and they are just doodling.  While that might be true, even DaVinci doodled (course, his doodles are worth a zillion bucks).  The reason that I’m featuring Mr. Pastis is because of two reasons, firstly sometimes art really is just a scribble or doodle.  If doodling and the like is the method you want to use to express yourself, go for it!  Don’t feel you need to paint a giant 40’ church to be an ‘artist’.  Secondly, I love comics (aka: “the funnies”).  I remember growing up and reading some of the greats: Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Far Side.   There was that great anticipation of reading the dailies and just getting to that one (or, if I was lucky, two) comics that just made me laugh-out-loud.  It was that perfect “bite” of humor that would help me get through a bad day or be the cherry on top of a perfect day. 

Mr. Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, has created one of those types of comics.  Sometimes I’ll read one and it will just be so funny I can’t stop laughing and all day I’ll have a silly grin on my face.  I’ll cut such a gem and decorate my walls or door with it, so as to share that little rectangle of art to others. 

I recommend you read Pearls (and all the other comics on the ‘funny page’ as well), because let’s be honest, we could all use a little rectangle of art that makes us laugh in our lives. 


Stephan Pastis Blog

Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 167 (Intersecting Lines)

Day 167 (December 17th, 2010)
Title: Intersecting Lines

I'm finally done with the little plastic boxes (for now at least)!  Time to move on to something new and exciting... Its little wooden sticks!  Woo!!  I know, its almost too exciting to handle, but handle it I shall!  Unless I get a splinter or something, but I'm willing to take that chance for you! 

Even though I've changed subject matter, I'm still working within the whole "light/dark" experiment.  I enjoyed this shot, because it really shows off both high contrast/brightness on the wood, but at the same time, gives a nice shadow effect without either overpowering each other.  I also tried a little "forced focus" in making one of the 'wooden legs' point towards the shadows, so to direct your eyes away from the brightness of the wood.  Look at me being all tricky n' stuff! 


Artist of the Day - Day 19 - Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein; Poet, Writer, and Exactlywatt.

Growing up, there were two key writers that had a great influence on motivating me to read, Dr. Seuss and She Silverstein.  As a “youngin’”, I (with some parental help) read Seuss over and over again, building the drive and desire to read more.  Once I got a bit older and was able to tackle books by myself, I migrated to Silverstein.  Silverstein’s stories and poems were great fun to read.  He was a master of using language in such a way that his writings didn’t feel “dumbed down” for kids but were still fun to read, for the imagery and worlds they created.  At the same time the stories had elements that might be missed by younger readers that really engaged the adults (he had stories about children disobeying parents, death, etc.)  I would have a hard time finding someone who has read “The Giving Tree” not get emotional while reading it.  I also find it particular amusing, during the late 1950’s he was Playboy magazine’s top cartoonist.  Who knows where the roads we take will lead us… perhaps to the end of the sidewalk. 

Shel Silverstein Homepage

Photo 365 - Day 166 (Light Gap)

Day 166 (December 16th, 2010)
Title: Light Gap

We have made it!  I'm finally done with the pictures of the little plastic containers!  At least until next time...  So, lets go over what I've learned from this experiment.  First, I should never be allowed into the Container Store.  I am a 'crack addict' when it comes to small container-y things.  I blame the drugs, mostly vitamin C ("C", for container!).  Secondly, I learned one flash with a reflector on it provide plenty of light to create some nice shadow effects.  Third, a small light/reflector makes for some harsh (aka: non-soft) shadows, and probably not the best lighting method for taking portraits of people.  Normally photos of people look better with softer shadows.  I can get the softer look by either a) getting a larger reflector or b) using a large diffusing umbrella.  This certainly gives me some ideas for new photos. 

And the most important thing that I got from this whole event was, anything can be a 'muse' for art - even little plastic containers! 


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 165 (Light Maze)

Day 165 (December 15th, 2010)
Title: Light Maze

Yes, I am in fact still using these silly plastic containers!  Will the fun never stop!  Actually, it will I've got one more after this one and then I'm moving on to something completely new and yet just as strangely annoying!  Woo! 

I'll give you the 'Readers Digest' version of this shot: Plastic things, new angle, shadow, light, nifty.  See, we are getting streamlined around here!  If this series bored you, or you just weren't that interested in it, I do hope you stick around for some new stuff starting tomorrow.  And if you did like it, well, you're just as sick as I am! 


Artist of the Day - Day 18 - Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Painter, Easily “Impressed”

Renoir was one of the leading French impressionist painters during the 19th century, and his delicate touches to many of his paintings put him on par with many other masters of that period (such as Manet, Degas, and Monet).  He created these wonderful paintings, that if done today as photography we would call them “snapshots”; in essence a ‘normal’ moment in life (such as a dance, kids posing on a balcony, a couple going to the theater, etc.), but captured in such a manner to really show their humanity and create a strong connection with the viewer.  He used delicate, soft tones to blend the subjects together and make a “dream-like” impression with many of his works.  He even took his work outside of the studio and worked outdoors (which was tricky back then, because the environment could change dramatically from when the painting was started to when it was finished – compared to the controlled environment of a studio). 

One of the aspects of Renoir that I enjoy so much is the personal feel of the subjects he paints.  While he does many posed shots, the subjects look so at easy and relaxed.  As a photographer, that is the “zone” that we are always trying to get when taking picture of people, where they are so comfortable that they forget that the camera (or painter, in Renoir’s case) is even there. 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Biography

Photo 365 - Day 164 (Light Intersection)

Day 164 (December 14th, 2010)
Title: Light Intersection

We are coming up to the end of the "Fun with little plastic things" experiment, but I still have a few more!  I took some more shots today, but I changed the layout considerably, to try and give it a less "busy" look.  More just straight lines and monochromatic feel.  I'm still playing with both shadows and highlights, but now I'm also playing around a bit with negative space (space on the photo where there is nothing - in this case the top-left section is just white).  I'm not sure exactly what I'm learning from this, but I'm sure it will be awe-inspiring and deeply emotional.  Perhaps...


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 163 (Wall of Light)

Day 163 (December 13th, 2010)
Title: Wall of Light

A haiku for today's post:

Little plastic box
With light, art projects from you
With darkness it shines

That's right, I went all artisy!  I've got a haiku right here and I'm not afraid to use it!

Okay, back to the photo.  Another shot using small plastic boxes, although this time its a different arrangement - I stacked them in a staggered wall and shot the wall and shadows from many different angles.  I though this was did the best job of capturing that "wall" feel but at the same time creating some nice shadows.


Artist of the Day - Day 17 - Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai; Painter and International Blocker

Hokusai was one of Japan’s greatest woodblock printers during the Edo period (1603-1868).  He created a series of woodblock prints (Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji) that influenced other artist around the world, including van Gogh, Monet, and Degas, just to name a few.  Unlike other types of block printing (ex: Albrecht Dürer), Japanese woodblock printing (called ukiyo-e), was done more like today’s silkscreening.  Multiple blocks, each inked with a different color are used to “stack” the different colors on top of each other to create a final print.  In today’s world, we can just create layers on software like Photoshop or acetate (clear plastic paper) and if one layer isn’t perfect, no biggie – we just throw it away.  But these were all hand carved blocks, approximately 10-12 square inches, with intricate details.  It was a slow and intense process, but in the end, once the blocks were done many copies of each work could be created, allowing for more of the general public to have access to art. 

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 162 (Plastic Rainbow)

Day 162 (December 12th, 2010)
Title: Plastic Rainbow

Continuing with my abstracts of little plastic thingies, today I'm doing a macro of the structure.  I really enjoyed this picture because it shows some interesting rainbow effects from the flash hitting the imperfect plastic. I know this particular project was about shadows and highlights, but sometimes you just have to "go with the flow" and so here's a color photo to break up the shots! 

Ps: Remember, if you want to see the details of the rainbows, you can click on the picture for a larger view.  


Artist of the Day - Day 16 - Bob Ross

Bob Ross; Happy little painter. 

Bob Ross was happy.  His trees were happy.  His mountains were happy.  His ponds were happy.  His squirrels were frickin’ ecstatic!  I loved watching Bob Ross, because there could have been a nuclear war going on and he would have said: “Now, you want your mushroom cloud to just flow from the brush.  Just push that radiation out those bristles.  Now you’ve got a happy cloud.  Next we are going to make some happy fallout.” 

In 30 minutes Bob could paint you a masterpiece, convince you that YOU could paint it too, and still have time to remind you how happy he and everything else in the entire universe was.  All kidding aside, he really was a great artist and person.  I say he was great, not so much for his work specifically, but because he motivated so many people to just get out there and try painting (or any other art).  He was also a great humanitarian, he did not charge the PBS network one cent for any of his shows (he made his zillions on the videotapes and art supplies) and he also donated each painting he did on TV to a PBS station so they could sell it and raise funds.  Even today, if I see Joy of Painting on the TV Guide, I’ll flip over to it to see some happy trees. 

And remember: “We don't have mistakes here, we just have happy accidents, sniffing paint thinner.”  (slightly modified quote from Bob Ross).



Photo 365 - Day 161 (Doorways and Windows #3)

Day 161 (December 11th, 2010)
Title: Doorways and Windows #3

 This is the third in my Doorways and Windows session, and I have to say I'm still enjoying them.  I feel like I'm channeling my inner "lego builder" from 25 years ago.  Hmm.  That gives me ANOTHER idea!  Time to dig out the legos!  I'm sure I could think of all kinds of silly photos with them. 

As for this one, it is again of the small bead containers, only more of a close-up shot (compared to 1 and 2, which were more wide-angle).  I'm still very much enjoying the light and dark elements and how the are playing off each other.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 15 - Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe; Writer, Poet, Raven

Poe is, without a doubt, my favorite American author (followed closely by Mark Twain).  I have been enjoying his works since I was 8 or 9, and still to this day I get a certain joy out of reading him.  He was the first real “mystery and macabre” author – influencing folks like H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker.  He also invented the “detective” genre, and as a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I have yet another reason to love Poe.  The irony is, he really wasn’t that dark of a man (although many people from the time period tried to make it seem like he was).  Along with the mystery and detective stories, he also wrote about science fiction, mathematics (mostly focused on cryptography), humor, and political satire.  Most of his works are short stories or poems, so if you have a few spare moments, take a look at one (or more), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Unless you’re a Raven… in which case… “AHHH!!!!”

Works of Edgar Allan Poe at Project Gutenberg

Photo 365 - Day 160 (Doorways and Windows #2)

Day 160 (December 10th, 2010)
Title: Doorways and Windows #2

A continuation of my work from yesterday - Same general setup (small containers and single flash), but this time is a different perspective and angle.   While I realize the subject matter is a bit "bland", I am happy with the the way the shadows (and highlights) are playing off these small structures.  I relate this exercise to that of painters using those little wooden figurines to see how the light falls on them depending on how they are posed and where the light is coming from.  Hmm.  That gives me a good idea!  Coming soon - Wooden Guy Photos! 


Photo 365 - Day 159 (Doorways and Windows #1)

Day 159 (December 9th, 2010)
Title: Doorways and Windows #1

I've decided to do a little more abstract work this week (continuing from the previous days shots).  I'm starting with just playing with shadows and lighting on a small scale.  I'm using a rotating platform and a fixed, single flash to give a really contrasty effect and really exaggerate the shadows and highlights.  These are small "bead" holders (the itty-bitty beads that crafters use to make bracelets and the like). I personally like how it goes from a nearly white in the top left to a near black in the bottom right.  Totally meant for that to happen (lie). 


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 158 (Jar Hand)

Day 158 (December 8th, 2010)
Title: Jar Hand

Okay, I know this one is silly, but sometimes you've just got to "go with the flow" when taking pictures.  I started working on some abstract photos (as you'll see over the next few days) and I was playing around with these little plastic jars.  I though: "I wonder why they call infantry 'Jar Heads'?  Hey, perhaps they are made out of jars!  Look, its a jar hand!" 

Clearly I shouldn't take photos really late at night. 


Photo 365 - Day 157 (Kanopik Jars)

Day 157 (December 7th, 2010)
Title: Kanopik Jars

Canopic Jars were used in "Olde Tyme Egypt" (Ancient, for you sciency folks!) and they were made from clay or limestone.  Basically, they were the "Zip-lock baggies" for important people's key 'bits' (the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver).  The bits were to be preserved for the ages, or until some random museum opened them and hoards of kids went: "Eww!  Gross!  Can I have it?"  

I saw these plastic containers and for some reason (mostly because I'm completely nuts) I thought; "You know, if we still used Canopic Jars this is totally what they would look like.  Course, these would be the ones that Target made, but I bet Martha Stewart could make some kick-butt ones." I really, REALLY hope I don't start a new trend with these ideas...


Artist of the Day - Day 14 - Man Ray

Man Ray; Toaster whistles gray boards of light. 

Man Ray.  I almost just want to type a paragraph of just crazy words and I think that might do for a good description of Man Ray (and I bet he would enjoy it).  Man Ray was the father of (or at least Uncle) of modern surrealism.  He used photography (as well as just about any other medium) to create works that were, to put it kindly, created using more dimensions than we can see. 

For me personally, I really like Man Ray’s work, because he really embraced (and in effect, showed me and countless others) that there is no such thing as a “mistake” when creating art.  He used photography and its technology in such a way, that when first perceived it might be seen as a mistake or “wrong”.  He would over develop photos, place objects on the photo paper to alter the image and countless other things that showed art is so much more than just a “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3” process.  It’s more dynamic and random than we can ever know. 

Works by Man Ray

Artist of the Day - Day 13 - Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe; Painter and Serious Hard Core Doodler

Georgia O’Keefe was one of the great American artist from the early 20th century.  She helped create and promote American style of painting (in particular, that of the Southwest Native Americans and their culture) both in the US and in Europe.  She used bold colors and highly defined forms to give her pictures an abstract, yet still have a unique feel and look to them (later to be recognized as American abstract).

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 156 (Jim Bear)

Day 156 (December 6th, 2010)
Title: Jim Bear

This is a bear.  His name is Jim.  He likes Mentos.  He's also pretty keen on Star Trek. 

Tu requireris

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 12 - Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz; Godfather of Modern Photography

It is tricky sometimes to isolate a single person (or group of people) who start a major chain reaction that changes the world.  Stieglitz is one of those people and photography as an art form was his contribution to society as a whole.  Stieglitz (1864-1946) spent over 50 years introducing countless people to the art-form known as Photography.  He wasn’t necessary the best photographer of his time, but it was more his total and complete dedication to the art form that made him so critical in photography’s success in America (and abroad).  He ran galleries, produced books and magazines, and so much more.  Whenever I see a Stieglitz, it always makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up – because I’m seeing a piece of art from a man who made this medium exist. 

Rather than try and think of more to say, I think I’ll just use a quote of his that really says a lot about who he was:   "I have always been a great believer in today. Most people live either in the past or in the future, so that they really never live at all. So many people are busy worrying about the future of art or society, they have no time to preserve what is. Utopia is in the moment. Not in some future time, some other place, but in the here and now, or else it is nowhere."


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 155 - Birthday Stars

Day 155 (December 5th, 2010)
Title: Birthday Stars

Happy birthday SZ!

Yes, I know this is late.
Yes, I know we already had a party.
Yes, I know I should have posted this picture back when you actually had your birthday.
Yes, I know I'm behind with my photos. 

You know what, I'm taking that "Happy" back! ...


Photo 365 - Day 154 - Crack Building

Day 154 (December 4rd, 2010)
Title: Crack Building

This photo is related to the photo from yesterday (Day 153).  Its of an old, run down, manufacturing building in Berkeley. 

I wonder what it is that they made there?  They are old conveyors and machines 'dying' in the yard.  I wonder what happened to the folks who used to work here?  Bricks and mortar broken and crumbling.  I wonder what will be left in 100 years?  200?  1000?  Weeds and grass and tree still grow, 1000 years from now.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 11 - Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer; German Ninja Engraver and Painter

Albrecht Dürer was one the first artist that I remember reading about when I first took an art appreciate class in college.  I remember him because unlike many of the other artist of his day, he specialized in engravings, both woodblock and metal etchings.  His works are so detailed and vast that at first when you see thing you think: “Wow, that’s a great painting!”  But, you have to remember, he created these images via small, intricate carvings on wood… Backwards! (Remember, all engravings had to be done in ‘reverse’ so when they were inked and the paper was applied the image would show correctly on the paper).  Not only did he carve/engrave all the details, but while he was doing it he knew that his work was only temporary (in its actual form – the prints that were created would last for a long time).  The blocks themselves were only good for so many prints (the metal engravings would last longer, but even they had a limited ‘life span’ worth of prints).  Months, perhaps even years, on a piece of art that you knew would exist for a little while.  Dürer was truly dedicated to his art and to being an artist. 

Albrecht Dürer – His Complete Works

Artist of the Day - Day 10 - Jimmy Durante

Jimmy Durante; Musician, Actor, Comedian, Schnoz.

For today’s artist I’m choosing Jimmy Durante for two reasons; first, I really like Jimmy.  He was a start from one of the shortest “art movements” – the radio show.  The radio era only lasted about 30 years, from early 1920’s to 1950’s, when television took over as the major form of household entertainment.  Jimmy started as a radio personality and hosted many radio shows.  After making a name for himself, he transitioned into TV roles and continued to sing, dance and act.  He acted in many comedy shows, movies and recorded 5 albums in the 60’s (30 years after being on the radio!)  While some of his songs are a bit “dated”, they are a wonderful “slice” of that time period. 

The second reason I choose Jimmy, was because today (Jan 1st) was the birthday of someone who was very close to me and in remembrance I wanted to choose someone he would have enjoyed listening too.  I think he would have enjoyed watching an old episode of Jimmy Durante singing with Carmen Miranda and Frank Sinatra. 

And to paraphrase Jimmy:  "Good night, Mr. Allyn, wherever you are."


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 153 (Razor Ivy)

Day 153 (December 3rd, 2010)
Title: Razor Ivy

I'm sure there are folks out there who are much more poetic than I who could write a meaningful and deep poem about this photo.  An old iron wall, topped with barbed and razor wire, slowly being taken back over by nature.  A hard stone building, once strong and menacing, now broken - plants and trees begin to take back over the land. 

The last line will make more sense with tomorrow's photo.  I'll leave the prose to those who can more adequately do it justice than I.


Artist of the Day - Day 9 - Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens; Painter, Seventeenth-century ‘John Woo’

Peter Paul Rubens was a 17th century Baroque painter.  I’m a fan of Baroque art (“If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!” Har) but there are times that I get frustrated with it for its stylistic and repetitiveness (angels floating around, posed royals, and the like).  I’m not saying that I don’t like those types of painting, but it can get a little “boring” (for lack of a better word) viewing them.  Rubens certainly did many of these types of work as well, but he also had a way of painting that added tension and “action” into a lot of his works.   Paintings from many artists’ would just feel staged and regardless of the subject matter, I felt that the painter would just call “cut!” and the cherubs and angels would just take a break from posing until the painting was ready again.  It really didn’t feel as if the artist was an observer painting a scene from ‘outside’ while the action occurred. 

Rubens, as well as some other great masters, I think realized this and created works that really added a more dynamic element that makes the painting more of a frame from a movie clip; you felt there was action both before and after what the painting was showing.  It wasn’t just a static person or event.  One example (I’ve attached Ruben’s painting below) is The Last Supper.  Ruben’s version of The Last Supper really portrays this tension using lighting, facial expressions, and overall composition (very much like DiVinci’s Last Supper – undoubtedly the most famous version of The Last Supper). 

Peter Paul Rubens - The Complete Works

Artist of the Day - Day 8 - Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams; Photographer, Photographer (he was so good, he gets it twice) and Eco-nut before there were Eco-nuts

What to say about Ansel Adams that hasn’t already been said.  He is, unquestionably, America’s most famous photographer as well as one of forefathers of nature photography.  There are times that I love his work and times that I really dislike it (I won’t say ‘hate’, but that’s a bit extreme).  The works that I dislike aren’t due to any aesthetic elements nor subject matter, but it’s more of a “that shot is only ok – but since Adam’s took it people are going to think it was the greatest photo in the history of the universe!”.   Adams took great shots, everyone knows that, but at the same time he also took some mediocre (and dare I say ‘bad’) shots as well.  It is hard to really criticize his work because; either a) people will think that you are just jealous (which I sure as heck am!) or b) that you don’t really know what you are talking about. 

Adam’s photos and contributions to the photographic world will help influence many generations (if not longer) of future artist.  Adams has done so much more than just take pictures, he established many art/photography institutions, created some of the foundational rules that all photographers still use, and taught thousands of people how to create their own works (both as an actual teachers and via many of the photography books he wrote). 


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 152 (Exit Only)

Day 152 (December 2nd, 2010)
Title: Exit Only

We were walking around Berkeley near 4th street, and I saw this old, abandoned building and fencing.  I saw this mangled fence "door" with its "Exit Only" sign skewed, and my first thought was: "Dang, they must have wanted to get out of there really badly!"  The way that the metal is bent and twisted, it almost looks like it was made from aluminum or other soft material, not steel. 

I think this is one of those shots that for some reason, I saw something interesting in it, but when viewed by others they might think I'm just a bit "off".  Still, there's always tomorrow! 


Photo 365 - Day 151 (Turning Train)

Day 151 (December 1st, 2010)
Title: Turning Train

Woo!  I finally made it to December!  I'm getting there, slowly but surely!

I love trains.  I've always loved trains.  I remember, when I was 8-9 my uncle got me this giant poster of a blueprint of a train engine.  I put it up on my wall and just stared at it everyday.  I'm not sure exactly what it is about trains that I love so much, but whenever I see one, I just have to stop and watch it (much to the chagrin of any friend who might be with me!).  They are a part of American history and culture - without them I don't think the industrial revolution would have really taken hold in the US, and we never would have become the world power we are now (whether that's good or bad, who knows...).

This particular train was taking a curve in Hercules when I shot it.  I heard it coming and this was one of the few times I actually HAD my camera with me (its strange, but 90% of the time when I see a train, I never have my camera with me).  I thought this photo was particularly amusing because it really looks kinda like a train-set train, rather than a huge, massive, machine.  I can almost imagine it falling off the track and picking it up and realigning the wheels to see if off again.  Thankfully that didn't happen, and off it went!


Artist of the Day - Day 7 - Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury; Author and Time Traveler

Ray Bradbury is one of my top 3 Sci-Fi writers (along with Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick), and I would say he’s close to being one of my favorite writers, regardless of genre.  I love that his “Sci-Fi” is subtle and not so over-the-top that it is easy to imagine it not so far-fetched, that you could easily see his visions coming true.  My particular book of choice of Mr. Bradbury is Fahrenheit 451.  If you haven’t read it, go right now!  I will say, the movie is pretty good, but you really should read the book.  Though the book was written in 1953, it is still poignant and relevant today.  In a nutshell: With the death of books and the written word, so dies independent thought and imagination.  I’d also recommend his short story collections, many of which have also been adapted to video (mostly 1 hour TV shows and miniseries).

Official Site

Friday, January 7, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 150 (A 16)

Day 150 (November 30th, 2010) [Yeah, I just realized I was off a day for the last 3 weeks!  Doh!]
Title: A 16

Maybe I'm just a little critical, but I think its a bit pretentious to devote a good 20% of your menu to just your name.  Especially when you name is only 3 characters long (okay, 4 with a space)!  But then again, they did charge $3.75 for a sprite.  I thought the food was fine for a pizzeria, but I think $80.00 for two lunch pizza's and two sodas is a tad bit much (even for San Fran).  Still, at least their logo looks nifty! 


Photo 365 - Day 149 (The Tipsy Pig)

Day 149 (November 28th, 2010)
Title: The Tipsy Pig

I saw this bar/restaurant in downtown San Francisco, and it just screamed (oinked?): "Take a picture of me!"  I shot a few photos head-on, trying to get everything composed "correctly" but they didn't quite look good.  This one I got when I tried to just focus on the pig and have him (her?) mostly vertical.  What I didn't realize at the time was, by trying to get the pig to look "normal", all the the surroundings are tilted (aka: "Drunk Vision"), and not only are they tilted, but tilted to the bar's doorway!  The pig looks like he is falling into the doorway - looking to get more tipsy! 

Ah, the fun of a creative mistake!


Artist of the Day - Day 6 - David Bowie

David Bowie; Singer, Alien and Ruler of Muppet Goblins

David Bowie – now he’s an artist that’s tricky to classify.  First and foremost, he is a great singer and songwriter.  But, unlike so many other artist of the 1960’s, Bowie has continuously updated his music and has stayed “up-to-date” with the times.  He had great hits in the 60’s and 70’s (Ziggy Stardust, “Space Oddity”), in the 80’s, he changed his style and genre (slightly, from a techno-synth style to a more pop/rock style) giving us the quintessential David Bowie song, for me, ‘Under Pressure’ with Queen.  Now he’s considered a “veteran of rock”, but he still does tours and makes great music! 

And let us not forget, he’s also a great actor!  Labyrinth, The Hunger (both the movie and tv show), Yellowbeard, and of course, SpongeBob SquarePants. 

Official Website

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 5 - Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange; Photographer and Historian

Yesterday I chose to highlight one of my favorite photographers, Ed Weston, and today I thought I’d follow him up with one my other top-rated photographers, Dorothea Lange.  Dorothea Lange was one of the best photojournalist, and I believe her ability to show people in their truest form (not posing or hiding any emotions from the camera) was a key part in the foundation of true photojournalism. 

Her work during the Great Depression, in capturing what was really happening to people as they lost everything, is just amazing.  She captured the people she was photographing in such a way, that when viewed, you knew their pain and suffering was real and you connected with them.  She recorded one of the most emotional and tragic times during American history – the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II.  Without her work, that part of our history might have been lost. 

Many museums have her work included in their photography selections (she was quite prolific in her work), including locally: SF-MoMA, De Young, and the Oakland Museum of California (which has the largest Dorothea Lange collection – 6,000+ prints!)

Oakland Museum of California
Library of Congress

Photo 365 - Day 148 (Volvo Bait)

Day 148 (November 27th, 2010)
Title: Volvo Bait

Here I am, trying to get back on schedule and be consistent each day, and BANG - Blogger site was down last night!  Sorry for the delay, but at least this time it really wasn't my fault...  I hope.

For this shot... Well, yeah, I actually have no idea why I took this shot.  I saw this Volvo right in front of us and for some reason I just really thought this bumper-sticker was funny.  I'm not sure if it was funny because it was stuck on a nice, clean, entirely non-"I'm-a-fisherman" car or the fact that they spent a lot on said car but no worries because they are getting cheap bait! 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Photo 365 - Day 147 (Tree Bridge)

Day 147 (November 26th, 2010)
Title: Tree Bridge

We were walking by the Legion of Honor in San Fran just shooting photos of the bridge when I noticed this one tree branch looked very similar to the bridge's design.  I got a few shots, some with the branch in focus and some with the bridge in focus, but I thought the one with the tree in focus was a better composition because everyone knows the Golden Gate, even when it's blurry!


Artist of the Day - Day 4 - Edward Weston

Edward Weston; Photogenius. 

As soon as I started to think about doing a “Artist of the Day” project, I thought: But who am I going to pick as my first photographer?  I have been influenced by many photographers over the years (and certainly many will pop-up throughout this list), but I think the one that impacted me the most was Edward Weston.  Weston comes from that “golden age” of photographers (1920-1950), with such greats as Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, and Dorothea Lange (just to name a few), where photography as an art medium really took hold. 

Weston was never afraid of any subject and shot just about anything (or anyone) he could.  I imagine if Weston was around today, he would truly embrace the Digital age of photography.  He took thousands of photos, many of which he never even developed (he had his children help in developing – go free labor!).  It’s also important to remember, when I say he took thousands of photos, we aren’t talking about a “35mm point-and-shoot” camera, but a large format 8x10 camera that sat on a huge tripod and took 40 hours just to set up! Well, ok, perhaps not 40, but it sure took longer than a digital!

As prolific as Weston was, it’s amazing to see how many great shots he got.  I know from personal experience, if I can get one good photo out of 100-200, I’m happy (not that I’m comparing myself to Weston in any way!), but to get that many great photos so consistently exemplifies the level of mastery that he had over the camera. 

I’m not going to pick one Weston photo and say it’s my favorite, because I honestly have so many that I love that I don’t want any to get mad at me!  I will say, if you ever get a chance to see them, do it!  Seeing them in person is so much better than via computer screen. 

Cool Russian Site (with 160+ photos)
Official Site

Monday, January 3, 2011

Artist of the Day - Day 3 - Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash; Singer, Writer, Poet, Best Cowboy-Hat-Wear’er Ever.

Now, for those of you who know me, I generally like just about every type of music there is… except country music.  I personally would have never thought I’d put a “country singer” on my artist list, but let’s get one thing straight: Johnny Cash wasn’t just a country singer, he sang from many genres, including blues, folk, rock, and of course country.  When he sang, country or otherwise, it was in such a way that it spoke right to the listener.  With his voice he could ‘drive home’ the songs like no one else could.

I decided to pick Johnny Cash because today I saw the video for “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” (search for it on YouTube, it’s quite good).  It is a song with ties to country, rock, gospel and blues.  When you hear it, it feels like he is talking directly to you.  Anyone who can create a work of art that has an impact like that deserves to on this list – country singer or not.

Official Website

Photo 365 - Day 146 (Streets of San Francisco - Divisadero Street)

Day 146 (November 25th, 2010)
Title: Streets of San Francisco - Divisadero Street

During the holiday break, we visited the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.  After being stunned by the Japanese woodblock prints, we decided that a crazy-expensive pizza was the best way to follow it up.  We decided to head to the Marina District and to get there, you've got to go, up, up, up!  At the top of the hill I quickly scrambled to get my camera and snap this shot of us about to plunge down Divisadero!  Okay, it was more of a "relaxing zoom" rather than a plunge, but either way it was fun!


Photo 365 - Day 145 (Coffee Pod)

Day 145 (November 24th, 2010)
Title: Coffee Pod

Over a year ago, we bought this amazing little coffee machine called a Nespresso.  Its basically a small jet engine that blast water through these little aluminum "pods" filled with coffee.  Both the pods and machine are very European and have a "art-Deco" feel to them (smooth lines and curves, geometric shapes, etc).  Now every time I make a cup of coffee, I feel all futuristic and snazzy.  Ah, the power of caffeine! 


(And yes, I know the machines are kinda expensive, but once you get one making a great cuppa only cost about $1.00) 

Photo 365 - Day 144 (Postman)

Day 144 (November 23rd, 2010)
Title: Postman

I found this guy hanging out on the side of a group of old tree stamps that we got (for scrapbooking).  Its about 1/2" tall and I thought he looked he looked just creepy enough to share with everyone! 

"Use Correct Zip Code... Or I'll find you in dark one night and make you wish you had!!"

Clearly its good that I don't work for the post office.  


Artist of the Day - Day 2 - Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Marble Ninja (Sculpture)

Bernini is to me, the greatest sculpture of the Baroque period (and perhaps just the best ever!).  His carvings are beyond lifelike (he was carving in HD!), and have a inner-glow and realism that I haven’t seen in other statues.  When we were in Italy, I remember just staring at the Bernini’s in the Borghese Museum with such awe and reverence that I had to be dragged away from them (I remember saying: “Do you think the guards would notice if I put it under my coat!?”)  My particular favorite, by only a slim margin is Truth (“Truth Unveiled by Time”).  Bernini did this sculpture for himself and it shows his amazing ability to blend multiple carving techniques and seamlessly blend unfinished and finished surfaces together to show off the contrast and give a ‘living texture’ to the whole piece.  It’s not his most famous piece, but it’s certainly one of his most engaging.

(Image swiped from Yahoo Image Gallery)

If you want to learn more, Wikipedia Link is here. 


Ps:  to my friends on the East Coast, The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York has a Bernini on display – See it, it’s worth it!