Kick in the ass

Yes. I used PS Dark Arts on Myself - 012812

"It's great to have a passion, but you must also have a work ethic around it." Unknown*

For the past month or so I received multiple subtle and explicit messages to get my shit together.  Most of these messages concern my art.  All of them are basically saying, "Karl, You take pretty good photos.  You have an eye for capturing people in your photos.  Good boy.  Now you really need to move on to the next level.  You need to do it better and you need to get it done.  Not only done, but done right."

I  hired a graphic/web designer/artist to help me build a commercial website.  She designed  a new logo for me late last year.  I was impressed by it and looked at her portfolio of commercial websites she designed and was very impressed.  I showed her my half-ass, stagnant website and she gently tore it apart in a critique.  I knew then I had hired the right partner to help build the new one.  A month later, and many hours of writing text, selecting key photos, and many other tasks concerning SEO, keywords, aspect ratios, and categorizations, it is almost ready to go public.  I will co-premier it here and Facebook when it is ready to go.  I will also share her name and website in that post.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson.  If I am going to spend a good chunk of money and get a strong commercial site going, I had better go all in or pack up.  You can't go into business half way.  All in or fold.   Balls deep.  Shit or get off the pot.  Ok.  Enough metaphors for that.

While on Christmas break I saw a great a video clip of a George Carlin tribute with Louie C.K.  Louie C.K. is a comic genius and speaks so many truths for me.  In this tribute he shares the influence of Carlin on his career.  The key lesson is to keep reinventing his work and push his comedy further and further and get to what is raw, core, and never stop exploring.  Go deeper.   The gold starts at 4:55.

It is too easy to keep producing the same images the same way and getting the same responses.  I keep creating the same stuff, just with different flavors.  I keep getting the same results, and not going too far both in my art and in the success of my art.

The golden nugget from this video made me realize that I get the best feedback from my stuff that pushes me in new directions, new materials, new concepts, new people, new methods, and new feelings.  It is time to let some things go that are finished and run their course with me.  It feels like being given a new wild world to go out and explore!!!

So, if the first lesson was to go all in or go home and the second lesson was to keep reinventing and pushing myself harder, deeper, and into new areas, the third one was a hard criticism on what I have done.  It made me first question what type of photographer/artist I am in the sense of the quality of my work and then kicked me in the ass to do something about it.

I sent out a few proof portrait images.  The subject liked a few and then did something shocking, but also taught me a lesson.  The subject edited  one of my photos and sent it back with the list of edits.  Holy fuck.  Nobody has edited my photos before, especially without telling me first.

At first I was pissed.  How dare somebody touch my work like that!  I went for a walk around the neighborhood and came back and decided to look at the edits and compare them to the original I had sent out.  In came the head kick of humility and the lesson - Karl, your digital photo editing skills are kind of rudimentary and basic.  Karl, you do some digital photo editing really well, but if you are going to do this seriously, you really have to get better at it.

I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo workflow, everything from downloading and storage, through editing and refining, to creating a print or digital output.  It has many great tools that are similar to what can be found in the traditional darkroom.  It greatly complimented my darkroom knowledge and helped me make the transition from film to digital.   All along I denied the value of Photoshop.  I felt it was too complicated to learn.  It made my art a technical exercise, not a passion of the soul.  I would get lost in all the layers and gadgets and my art would lose its soul.  All of these were excuses, not reasons.

I am in the middle of an intensive Photoshop course now and am finally beginning to understand that its a wondrous tool box that can liberate so many of the limitations that straight photography places on me.  I am quickly realizing that I am not making the best art I can and honoring my subjects by my reticence to learning this important (and let's face it, industry) tool.   It is sort of like learning magic.

I've learned many new things that remind me of the Harry Potter universe.  Magic has both its good and bad arts.  In the books, all Hogwarts students had to learn the Magic of the Dark Arts.  For some it became their primary tool for power, for others it became a last-use weapon or a knowledge on how to defend ones self from it.

I think this is true of Photoshop as well.  There are so many ways to manipulate photos within that program.  There is the subtle stuff like correcting for perspective, saturating or de-saturating colors, reducing wrinkles, getting rid of pimples, etc.  There is the heavy stuff like distorting the body to look thinner, taller, whiter, darker, and closer to an ideal of what someone should like vs. what they truly look like.  All of these tools are available for the photographer to change the photograph from simple edits to a work of fiction.  These are some potentially dark arts that I need to learn and master.  How I use my knowledge and mastery of the dark arts will determine whether my intent was good or not.

Below is a video about the dangers of Photoshop.

I haven't written a blog post in the past few weeks due to all the work I am pushing into my art while still working my paying job and trying to maintain a life.  I am not getting any younger.  I know I have many more years behind me than ahead of me.  I need to get my art done before I die and I need to get off my lazy ass and do it.  I also have to do it better or why do it all?

*I hate it when I hear a great quote and can't find who said it.  Google can only do so much I guess.  I know it was an author. 


Terrell Neasley -Live and in person

Terrell - 010212

Last week I was in Las Vegas and got to meet long-time blog friend, Terrell.  He is a successful photographer based in Las Vegas.  On top of all the commercial and portrait work he photographs, Terrell is also an amazing fine art photographer.  You can see his work at his blog, Photo Anthems. 

We met for lunch one day over Mediterranean food and talked about art, photography, photographing nudes, erotic work, and the challenges of everything.  I learned a great bit about his style, vision, and Las Vegas.  After lunch, Terrell headed off to a photo shoot. 

A few days later I met up with Terrell again in a local camera store where I snapped the photo above.  We talked about gear, salivated over new equipment, and chatted a bit more about art.  At the end of it, I was glad to have met another blog world friend in the real world.  I hope to see him again soon on my next visit to Las Vegas.

Below is a reprint of my interview with Terrell from 2010. 

I often find great blogs by looking at the one's  recommended by other blog friends.  One such found treasure is Photo Anthems Blog created by Terrell Neasley.  I greatly appreciate his blog for its blend of art, photography, great writing and humor.

Terrell is the closest (geographically)blogger to me.  He lives in Las Vegas, NV.  That may sound like a trivial fact, but  I feel a western US bond to his work, stories, and history.   As I read others' writings about the art scene, weather, and stories of the northern mid-west, east, and south, I learn about their special corner of the country.  When I read Terrell's camping stories, see his photos of  women and the the scenery, I get a feeling of familiarity and home since I've shared similar experiences.

Terrell's life is an interesting story and shows in his life beliefs and art.  I highly recommend you go to his blog and website (photoanthems.com) to learn more about him.  It is well worth it.  His photography is beautiful and a highlight of my online perusing.  I hope one day to get to meet him on a trip to LV.

Here are the questions.  Thanks for the answers.  They are greatly appreciated.
  1. What is your favorite word? Altruism
  2. What is your least favorite word? Normal
  3. What turns you on? A naked woman
  4. What turns you off? Clothes!....kidding...People who don't take responsibility for themselves and pass the blame.
  5. What sound or noise do you love? Bacon sizzling in the morning would be the least crass answer
  6. What sound or noise do you hate? Its a tie between a high-pitched nagging voice and an alarm clock
  7. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Probably acting, but I used to dream about playing football
  9. What profession would you not like to do? There are plenty but I'm going with Nursing. I've got much respect for them, but its not my gift.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Come on....Get your butt on in here!
  11. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Traveling the world with boundless resources and a model that I photograph everywhere, all the time
  12. What is your greatest fear? I honestly can't say I have one. I mean, I certainly don't want to be eaten by an alligator or fall from the empire state building but they are not fears of mine that I think about all the time. 
  13. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Galileo Galilei, just because he's the only person I can think of who was also misunderstood.
  14. Which living person do you most admire? Other than family....Billy Graham, Chris St. James, and Bill Cosby (How can you stick with just one?)
  15. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Procrastination
  16. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Lack of integrity
  17. What is your greatest extravagance? I spent $400 on comic books once, but I've since sold my collection and not bought another since 1994, I think.
  18. On what occasion do you lie? When I have to take into account someone else's feelings and the truth is not worth the heartache or when I need to be polite because I need the business.
  19. What do you dislike most about your appearance? I'm actually cool with myself. If I had to say any one thing its that I look mean when I am not smiling.
  20. When and where were you happiest? Christmas at Mama Carrie's as a kid
  21. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? I'd be kinder to people and more understanding
  22. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? Me. That's all I have control over.
  23. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Jeremy and Cassie
  24. If you died and came back as a person or thing what do you think it would be? As a person: A white female, just so I could experience the opposite of my current self. As far as a thing, I'd want to be a star just for the billions of years galactic experience 
  25. What is your most treasured possession? My faith
  26. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? A disapproval of yourself because of someone else's opinion
  27. Who are your heroes in real life? My Mother
  28. What is it that you most dislike? A coward
  29. How would you like to die? Old age preferably, but if not, then on my feet in a way that makes it count
  30. What is your motto? Stay alert, Stay alive! Hooooah!


Auld lang syne

Valya - 010112

Happy New Year

Thanks to all of you for being a part of my year.  You make me a better person and I look forward to going into 2012 with you.