Experiments in brilliance

Southgate Beach and Green Cay

Southgate Beach and Green Cay -- 2010

I noticed that some of my prints had an overall darkness to them — in part because I was using relatively small areas of light and saturated colors within a darker background to bring shape and dimension and drama to them. Working on-screen with the light radiating from within delayed recognition of what was becoming a habit.

The epiphany came when I saw some images (example) on Pat Coakley’s blog, “Single for a Reason.” She used the full range of values, but the balance was predominantly light, even washed-out looking, with smaller pastel and dark shapes. It was time to break my habit with darkness and experiment with brilliance. The images here are two of the results.

At the top is a beautiful protected sandy beach and the cut between a small offshore cay and the mainland. The photo was taken mid-day with the sun high and bright — the kind of day where without sunglasses, the brilliance can be dazzling.

At the bottom is a candid shot of a young girl at the St. Patrick’s Day parade (hence the bits of green). She had been playing and visiting friends up and down the street, and had just returned to check in with her dad seated in front of me. It was a cotton-candy moment that deserved to be shown that way.

Not every image can be approached using brilliance, and not every attempt with a new approach is successful. Nevertheless, I have learned that experimenting and breaking habits can help prevent one’s style from becoming confining.

At the St. Patrick's Day parade

Cotton-candy moment -- 2010

21 Comments on “Experiments in brilliance

  1. Isn’t it great how this blogging community enables people who live so far apart to share ideas and influence each other?

    As for your recognition that you kept making images in darker tones, I’m reminded of what Tom Waits had to say about his change in musical style in the 1980s.

    “”Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they’ve been. You have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits or you don’t explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing. I’m learning to break those habits by playing instruments I know absolutely nothing about, like a bassoon or a waterphone.”

  2. 3-D, greetings to you! If I remember correctly those shots on my blog you refer to were ones I created after viewing some of your abstracts! So, indeed, to Razz’s comment. It is great how we inspire one another! I totally love that little girl image.

  3. you put your finger on a very important issue, the confinement issue. i daresay it is commercial concerns that are the seeds of that, not to say that fully exploring a personal style doesnt have its valuable merits regardless of anything else, but i like to use the example of jackson pollock for instance as the story of what happens when success creates confinement. sometimes it is as simple as a comfort zone too, and theres nothing amiss with comfort unless it becomes so routine it doesn’t yield anything more than habit.

    all in all, the awareness of shifts is the key. i like these very much, they are about light it seems, they feel very refreshing, and they are wonderful in how they reveal the whiteness that i think the eyes sense (you say how in this light it is hard to look without sunglasses-so true!) it is great to see the way you handled that, i think it works wonderfully

  4. Hi, razzbuffnik. Thanks for your comment… it is through reading each other’s work and exchanging comments that we learn from each other. Something I appreciate. But I wonder, while all this connectivity increases the transfer of ideas, may it also lead to a flatness or sameness. Just think, if Australia had always been connected to the other continents, would all of your marsupials and other weird and wonderful creatures have evolved on their own paths to become so different than the animals elsewhere?
    Great quote from Tom Waits, but I have trouble imagining him playing the bassoon.

  5. Thank you, Pat. I’m glad you like the picture of the girl! It was a sweet moment.
    See my response to razz, above. It’s something I never pondered much before… Do you think the increasing speed of idea transmission will eventually work against diversity and individuation — or is it of such benefit that it will help push the frontiers forward in all directions? Interesting.

  6. Ah, tipota, I think you are right that — aside from simple laziness (or attraction to comfort) — the seeds of confinement lay in commerce. The typical debates among artists about the value of a “signature style” so often refer back to one’s marketability and commercial value.
    I’m glad you like these. While the girl’s portait has emotional appeal, I am most pleased with how these suggest the blinding brightness that occurs sometimes. Thanks, tipota!

  7. Although we are influenced by outside ideas we can still never disguise our own presence in what we do. You saw Pat’s image and it influenced you to try something else and what you came up with is very different to what Pat produces.

    Sure, exposure can lead to homogeneity but I’d also say it leads to greater nuance and complexity. Not better, just different, but also constantly evolving.

  8. I hope you are right razzbuffnik, and what you suggest is consistent with my experience so far.
    The dark side of connectivity, of course, is the potential to breed greater homogeneity. That is the risk if the corporate world can gain control of the remaining open channels of communication. Such control would inevitably lead to discrimination against the propogation of new ideas.

  9. Well said, interesting at how these two pictures effected me. I could feel it in my heart as If looking at them slowed down my breathing and the thoughts of relaxation came to my mind. Interesting images to evoke a physical response. The colors images and light I found instantly relaxing.

  10. Way to break out of the box Don! You did a masterful job with the light and certainly found the sweet spot in Cotton Candy Moment! I tend to strive for the contrast , going dark and then adding the bits of light….but I don’t want to be confined either!!

  11. Hi, starlaschat. Interesting what you say about the effect these pictures had on you. The seascape was chosen by the owners of a holistic healing center to hang in their waiting room — in part because of its calming effect. Thanks for your comment!!

  12. Thanks, Robin! It’s a fine line between being “confined” by your style or technique, and developing an expertise and consistency that allows you to focus on message and feeling. It may be one of those false dichotomies where artistic growth lies in bringing one’s expertise and consistency of style to bear on fresh ideas.

  13. Pingback: A Harry Callahan Kinda Love « Blog Archive « Single for a Reason®

  14. Such lofty opinions and ideas. I can’t get them all organized in my head which is spinning as I think about applying them to my art as well. I know what you mean about working a certain way becoming a habit. I have been doing the same thing using dark values to accentuate bits of light and shape. I look at it as a learning process which I want to perfect before moving on, rather than a habit. Its a matter of taste as well. I am drawn to dark, moody, atmospheric, textured images and some of yours in that style are masterful. Of course, now that I have seen these wonderful pastel looking images, I am tempted to try something similar. So this transfer of ideas won’t lead to homogeneity, but to a possible progression in my work. And yes, signature style is important in marketing. It Tom Waits started singing Gershwin tunes, his fans would be a little shocked. And lets face it, we all need so sell sometimes…so that we can continue being creative. Unless we are independently wealthy.
    So, I’m off to try a spring blossomy sunny painting. (But I will always go back to dark and rainy)

  15. Hi Catherine. I’m not so sure about all the opinions beng lofty; perhaps just another form of darkness. The thought of Tom Waits singing Gershwin has me laughing! I’ll be looking forward to that spring blossomy painting — with maybe just a bit of mist?

  16. Brilliant is what these are Don. High Key as it’s referred to in painting. Isn’t it so wonderful how this community of bloggers can be of great influence to each other. We still maintain our own handwriting and fingerprints but these exchanges enable us to see things objectively.
    The ethereal moment of Cotton Candy captured the sweetness of the scene. We can fill in the rest.

  17. Thanks, Bonnie! I had fun with these and like the results. It is good to have another arrow in the quiver, thanks to so many great people and resources being available. Where would we be on this small island without that?

  18. Yes they’re incredibly luminous! And I totally agree about needing to always shake things up a bit…it can get almost formulaic otherwise!

  19. Thanks, Karen! And when it becomes formulaic, it can also become flat. Fresh is better. Thanks for visiting!

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