Black Bear Painting from the Archives

In an attempt not to be a stranger to everyone who follows my blog, I’m recycling some of my old blogs from years ago. I have many new followers since I began this venture in 2011, and I’m certain few of them have riffled through those blogs of yesteryear.

This post features an acrylic wildlife painting on canvas from 1989. It’s from a September 26, 2012 post I titled “Evolution of a Painting.” Enjoy.

In 1988, black bear weren’t a common sight around Corry, PA. I had caught a glimpse of one during the spring while I was on one of my many field hikes into the swamps in and around Corry. I was sketching a beaver dam when I saw the big bear ramble through less than 50 yards away. I stayed as still as possible for several minutes after it disappeared into the underbrush, then I disappeared in the opposite direction.

The sighting stayed with me throughout the summer; I purposely scanned the woods and waterways for another glimpse of the bear. I planned to photograph it, but we never crossed paths, although it may have been out there, nearby, out of sight, watching me. Swamps have a plethora of hiding places. That’s why deer take refuge in them during hunting season.

From this near encounter came the idea for my next painting.

The hardest thing for me as a painter is getting my signature right. By that, I mean legible and in a pleasing location.

Although the painting looks done, I wasn’t happy with it. I changed my signature again and got rid of the halo around the front of the bear.

As you can see in the above photo, I glazed the water with Ultramarine Blue. I decided that it looked too “vivid” so I changed it back (see photo below). Now I had a finished painting. Here it is at the gallery, April 1989.

Sunset Photo Manipulation

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Manipulation of photographs and painting on paper.

I wrote in a recent post about my interest in manipulating my photographs to make them look like paintings. The sample I included was a skyscape. I like skies. And water.

Skies would not be skies without clouds. I could look at clouds all day.

The photo above is another skyscape. It is a combination—a collage—of photographs and paintings. I used oil paint for the sun and some of the clouds and watercolor for parts of the sky. It looks almost surreal.

A lot of effort went into making this picture—more time and effort than I usually contribute to this style of art.

But it was fun. And for me, that’s what art is all about.

Skyscape Photo Manipulation

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Photo manipulation of mixed media on paper.

Photo manipulation has a long history, beginning not long after the creation of the first photograph (1825) by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Anyone interested can read the history at Wikipedia.

I recently became interested in manipulating some of my photographs to make them look like paintings. I tried various methods of applying paints and inks to the photos and came up with some interesting if not bizarre results. Learning to control those results has become a skill with a bit of good luck thrown in.

Other methods—to name a few—are cutting and pasting different photos into “coherent” collages, scanning and printing photos to paper, and using computer programs like Adobe Photoshop to manipulate the photo images. These three methods are not new either. I made photo collages 50 years ago in high school, scanned and printed photos at college, and played with Photoshop in the 1990s. Using Photoshop is a major task to learn and one I never had time for or took seriously.

Manipulating photographs has a stigma of deception to it because it fools the viewer into believing something that is not true. This issue arises because too many of us believe the camera does not lie. Any photographer can tell you that our camera lenses distort reality every time we snap a photo.

But I am not here to argue the science of photography or the ethical implications of photo manipulation.

For me, manipulating a photograph is another artistic form of expression. I did it with 35mm film when I froze it before loading it in my camera. Freezing cracked the emulsion on the film and made interesting web-like lines on the photos when developed. Adding inks and dyes often enhanced the crackled images.

I also experimented with double exposure, negative scratching, shooting with special lenses, and darkroom manipulation involving dodging, burning, and masking.

Lately, manipulating images has been fun to do again. And having fun is the key to being an artist who constantly produces art. The more I work with manipulation, the more abstract my art is. I understand better how colors, shapes, and designs attracted abstract artists.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, photo manipulation is an interesting visual tool—it makes a picture well worth a thousand words or more—and requires a lot of creativity, precision, and skill.

A Past Kept In Shoeboxes [photography]

I used to keep my snapshot photographs stored in albums. When I married and had children, my wife and I did the same for many years. Then, somewhere along the passage of time, we stopped storing our photos in albums and tossed them into empty shoeboxes instead. Now we have 30+ years of unlabeled shoeboxes stacked in storage, filled to their brims with photos of births and birthdays and holidays that we barely remember. That’s why it’s fun to open a box and delve into those recordings of yesteryear, to refresh those memories, and to feel again the old days.

Last week, I tackled rearranging items in our basement storage room because I plan to use a corner as an extension of my writing room. So, while I moved some shoeboxes and peeked inside the last one, I found photos of my college days, back when I was an avid outdoorsman, wildlife artist and photographer, and often the bearer of flannel shirts and a bearded face. I know I’m the person in those photos, but he seems like a stranger: different in so many ways—from the clothes he wore and the food he ate to the movies he watched and the music he listened to. I wonder if I were able to travel back in time to those days, would he and I enjoy each other’s company. Hmm, story idea…

I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me, even when it was hidden beneath my graduation robe.

Here are three of my many favorite photographs from my college years:

Red-tailed Hawk. One of my first honest-to-goodness wildlife photos that turned out decent.
Local church not far from my house.
Time lapse photography of downtown Corry, not far from my house.

Stranger yet was when I saw childhood photos that never made it into my old albums that are tucked away in bigger boxes. That kid was a 180-degree turn of the person I am now. And, oh, the stories I could tell him. He would be at his little portable typewriter for months writing about the old man who visited one day and told him some crazy things about his future. Hmm, another story idea…

Me at the bottom right, with some of my brothers and relatives.

The ancient Italian poet Virgil said that time flies, never to be recalled. Thankfully, 2,000 years after Virgil’s time, we have our albums and shoeboxes of photos to look back on.

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Water Shots [photography]

I have always been attracted to water and the life and world within it; perhaps it’s because I’m an Aquarian. Water can be hypnotic with its reflections and refractions of light and color, and it draws me to capture its many expressions. Here then is a sampling of local reflections and the sites that lay atop and within.

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Apple Blossoms [photography]

Occasionally, I get out my cameras and take photos of nature. Where I live, May is a month of blossoms all around me, and a time of beauty and rebirth. I used to compose my photos with ideas about the paintings I wanted to do. Now, while I photograph the outdoors, I compose stories in my head and then hurry to my notebooks and write until I am exhausted.

It is difficult to explain how the beauty in nature influences me to write dark fantasy stories. Perhaps it is the excitement of being outdoors that percolates my love of writing about imaginary things that have an edge of spookiness to them. It may be the Yin to my Yang. Who knows?

In any case, I always return home with beautiful photos and interesting stories to jot down. It’s win-win all around.

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Evolution of a Painting

This is a re-post from my Facebook page, March 1, 2010.

In 1988, black bear weren’t a common sight around Corry, PA. I had caught a glimpse of one during the spring while I was on one of my many field hikes into the swamps in and around Corry. I was sketching a beaver dam when I saw the big bear ramble through less than 50 yards away. I stayed as still as possible for several minutes after it disappeared into the underbrush, then I disappeared in the opposite direction.

The sighting stayed with me throughout the summer; I purposely scanned the woods and waterways for another glimpse of the bear. I planned to photograph it, but we never crossed paths, although it may have been out there, nearby, out of sight, watching me. Swamps have a plethora of hiding places. That’s why deer take refuge in them during hunting season.

From this near encounter came the idea for my next painting.

The hardest thing for me as a painter is getting my signature right.

Although the painting looks done, I wasn’t happy with it. I changed my signature again and got rid of the halo around the front of the bear.

As you can see in the above photo, I glazed the water with Ultramarine Blue. I decided that it looked too “vivid” so I changed it back (see photo below). Now I had a finished painting. Here it is at the gallery, April 1989.