Archive for the ‘Landscape’ Category
After living in my idyllic natural landscape for many years, making art in its presence, my home and studio and their surroundings were destroyed in the August wildfires. I barely escaped with a few belongings hastily thrown into my vehicle. Luckily, the first things saved were my film negatives and digital master files, so I may start once again.
One more curve in the constantly moving stream – this time made of fire. If one removes oneself from the moment, it can seem like a grand new adventure, and in most respects that is what it is. A time to look at oneself, belongings, priorities, from a cleansed perspective. I try to see it that way, for one cannot go back. Something good must come from this renaissance. All is not lost, but is simply transformed. Brutally, history evaporated…but now what happens? I feel less a participant, and more an observer.
Late one evening, standing quietly among the ashes, the trees of carbon, the gray…I suddenly heard a chattering and saw a red squirrel running headfirst down a charcoaled tree trunk. ‘You made it!’ I may have shouted. Then I heard a chipmunk chirping away behind me. A white breasted nuthatch, came to land, hanging sideways over the dish of water I had put out. There still was life in the dead zone. Hope. Maybe even art in time.
McLaughlin Canyon Tree
Six of my images are part of a group show at Sun Mountain Lodge, in Winthrop, Washington www.sunmountainlodge.com. My selection of floral still lifes and landscapes will be on exhibit into the mid-Summer. Sun Mountain Lodge draws an international clientele to the Methow Valley and the stunning North Cascade Mountains year-round. I am happy to be invited to show at this beautiful location.
McLaughlin Canyon Tree. Pigment ink print on cotton printmaking paper. 13″ x 20″ image, framed 22″ x 28″.
image copyright © Ken Smith 2015 all rights reserved.
Right in the middle of my recovery from a left total knee replacement, two shows opened exhibiting my work. At Confluence Gallery in Twisp, Washington www.confluencegallery.com, is the show titled, “In the Land of Snow and Indigo”. The winter-themed show is supposed to get us ready for winter, but good luck with that. Who really wants it to come again? Well, the climbers in the top image are enjoying it. The show runs from November 15 to January 20, 2015.
At Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery, on Bainbridge Island, Washington, www.bacart.org, is the show “Doorways: Photographs”. This show runs November 7 to December 1. I am exhibiting four pieces in this show, and one is “Recollection of a Woman in White”, below. This is a great gallery, always well-curated.
Recollection of a Woman in White
The receptions to both these shows were well attended, and there is still plenty of time to stop in and see the work before they close.
Climbers. Pigment ink print on cotton printmaking paper. 14-5/8″ x 15″ image size, framed 22″ x 22″.
Winter Lake. Carbon Pigment ink print on cotton printmaking paper. 21″ x 14-1/2″ image size, framed 28″ x 22″.
Recollection of a Woman in White. Carbon Pigment ink print on cotton printmaking paper. 15″ x 15″ image size, framed 26″ x 26″.
image copyright © Ken Smith 2014 all rights reserved.
During the winter last, I began collecting materials and information to begin making cyanotypes. But one crucial element in the process was the necessity for full sunlight. The paper coated with chemicals is exposed to the UV light from the sun, thru a negative that is laid on top, a piece of glass over it all.
When the sun was finally reliable in May, I began my experiments. First, I had to learn to make enlarged negatives, printing them out on transparency film on my inkjet printer. Then, I needed to learn how to coat the paper; various papers for some would not coat properly, or reacted to the chemicals. Then, I needed to experiment with how much time to expose the sandwich of negative and coated paper, glass, to the sun.
It can be a frustrating process to master, and I am still a student. But the process is gratifying in that it is totally hands-on. A chance to ‘put into’ the work one’s self. I look at it that way, when I am making what I hope crosses into the level of art. Not only must the work be well crafted so there is no distraction, but it must express what some have called an ‘otherness’. It transcends the ordinary and exudes a heart. Sounds metaphysical, but isn’t that what is expected of art? Is not art supposed to transcend everyday life, so that we come away with questions, new experiences, insights? I believe it is so. Starting work in a new medium such as cyanotype, causes not only a journey into new materials, techniques, and processes; but it is also a waundering into the reasons one works in any medium at all – the purposes of making art.
So I practice making cyanotypes, and toning them in tea or coffee, or other types of tannic acid. These toners change the original blue color of the cyanotype into slightly maroon brown, or various shades of brown or grey that are difficult to reproduce from one print to the next. This alternative process is fickle and filled with ambiguity. There is science involved, but it is not exact science. Learning to go with that is part of the process I enjoy practicing.
I am just beginning to exhibit my cyanotypes. I am also renewing my familiarity with my darkroom. Seasons pass. The sun is used for some processes, and the darkness for others. Inkjet for printing on interesting papers. I am having fun with all of it.
Aspen Row. Cyanotype toned in tannic acid. 6″ x 9″ image on Weston’s Diploma Parchment paper.
image copyright © Ken Smith 2013 all rights reserved.
There are several AT&T tv ads currently playing that grabbed my attention. They show an adult male in a suit, sitting at what looks like a kindergarten classroom table, with four elementary school age children.
He asks, “What is better, Bigger or Smaller?” Simply that. The children all scream, “Bigger!!” That is the real message of the ad, which we find out at the last is about the biggest 4G network the company has.
There are other ads. “What is better, Faster or Slower?” Of course we know the childrens’ answers.
And finally, in the same setting, the question becomes, “What is better doing two things at once, or just one thing at once?” The more the better….
I wonder the message being sent, not to those shopping for a fast phone, but to children sitting in front of a tv. And to us adults, who like me have been grabbed by the initial humor, but also question the values expressed? What do these values mean to all of us in our daily lives? What does it mean to me as an artist?
Last autumn I began shooting film again. Black & white film loaded in old cameras, and newer cameras. All medium format 120 size film. I got out the handheld light meter, the tripod, and it felt great. In the late afternoon, I once again was in the darkroom souping film in chemicals measured in beakers. A thermometer is now very important. It was heaven, and simple. I was doing one thing carefully at once. The medium required I slow down to develop my 12 shots made that day.
I am still scanning my negs and printing with a black & white inkset, and I haven’t given up my digital cameras, but now I feel more connected to this new work. It is curious what real hands-on involvement in each image can do to the art psyche. My darkroom still has the ancient Beseler 23c enlarger sitting, waiting for my attention, and it may be rewarded soon. I have stacks of badly outdated printing paper, long obsolete, that want to show me about time and most likely fog. But they might teach me something new along the path.
Digital or film, one is not better than the other, but very different. My rediscovery of film, I know isn’t a unique ephiphany, or an earth-shattering renaissance that will change the world, but for my world it is revealing. It reminds me of the value of meditative work, where film is expensive and limited, not throwaway pixels where the goal feels more important than the journey. The tools of the process bring me back down to earth, instead of me creeping in the ether of an lcd screen. I agitate the film to the cadence of the timer, and dry my hands on a clean towel. Simply that, while I await the mystery that is on the film inside the tank. There is the gamble, the sacrifice, the possibility of something good to come, and I enjoy that suspense.
It is sort of shameful that children cannot hear a message by the big corporations that it is ok to slow down, to be spare, to be contemplative instead of the revered multitasking. Unfortunately, I expect there will be no turning back.
Unless…they pick up an old argus off ebay, buy some film from Europe or Asia, and take a deep breath.
“What is better, a Tweet or a Haiku?” I know the answer to that one.
(Image info: A recent winter day in the woods. Made with a 1950s Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash with the lens reversed, on Kodak Tri-X 120 film.)
image copyright © Ken Smith 2013 all rights reserved.
In the mail yesterday I received copies of a book smelling of printed paper, new ink. Thank you to Briar Cliff Review for including my photograph titled, Reeds and Reflection, in its pages. The Review is an 11″ x 8-1/2″ glossy 124-page compilation of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, book reviews, and artwork. The Review has been printed for 24 years, this being Volume 24, 2012. There is a real satisfaction in getting off the computer and sitting down with a well-designed book.
In addition, the Sioux City Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa will be exhibiting my Reeds and Reflection piece, and other art work published in the Briar Cliff Review, from May 9 thru July 1. Sioux City Art Center
I am represented by Olson-Larsen Gallery in West Des Moines, Iowa and they prepared and shipped my work to the Art Center for the exhibit. Olson-Larsen Gallery
aspens and bloom
Spring aspens and blossoming. Spring fever.
woman with scarf
I do not often show my work with people, tho I have done alot of figurative work in the past. I am wishing to change that now, and work as much as possible with people during the coming year. Somehow, without slowing down on my other work, series, I will be looking for people to put in front of my camera. I need the variety, the change in subject, the collaboration. Since opening that horizon to myself, I am now flowing with ideas for new work with people.
This image was made some time ago…a quiet afternoon stroll along a winter lake. A lovely friend, a beautiful mood.
weeds at dusk
A strange thing about art. It can be raining and blowing a torrent outside like it is now, and one can go thru his past work and find an image. By looking at the image, I can remember the evening I approached this gaggle of sagebrush and weeds. I was not looking for anything special, but something was there in front of me, as tho it had urged me to look. The evening was silent, and I had come out there to be alone, but with nature. I looked thru the viewfinder to see this one beautiful desolate leafless branch like a black pen and ink among the autumn background. The evening light was inadequate for making pictures, but by bracing the camera just so, slowly making exposures with the lens aperture wide open, I thought at least one might fall in that nether time when there was no shake of hand or shutter.
Later, the image was beautiful, but it was too close to the time I shot it. I could not appreciate it, like looking at someone I was always close to. But now apart from it, as the the wind blows rain against the skylight, this serene image made on a windless, almost lightless evening, seems very special. That’s what it is about art. It removes you from your present, and represents a different time, a remembered place, a rarely felt feeling. Art is altered consciousness.