Print is the Ultimate Editing Tool

I’m working thru a backlog of photos I took last fall. And I find a lot of good ones that are too hard to choose from. They are of the same place as I visited the same place over and over photographing in different light, different time of day, different weather.

Making selection from a large set of image close to each other is tough. After narrowing the set of picked images to about 50 I hit a wall. I could not reject any more images. This was about two months ago.

Now two months later I went back trying to reduce selection further. I was able to reject about 30 more images and get selection down to about 20. It was still too many. Too many images that looked too alike.

While working thru the backlog of the images I’ve been also getting ready for the new season of the art fairs. The first art fair of this year is not far away in just two months and really-really wanted to have some new work to show.

With no more ideas of how to make progress I did something I’ve never done before: I’ve printed all those images. I’ve laid them out on the table on the floor, wherever I could find space. One large room filled with images. I’ve started “visiting” the room. My first two visits I still could not reject any images.

Then one day I’ve decided to pull one out, the one that seemed the weakest of the bunch. Then I pulled out one more because there were two that were so close it did not matter which one to keep and which one to reject.

As I spend more time with prints it seemed my vision was unfogging and I was getting more and more clarity. In a few days I was rejecting several prints at a time thinking: of cause the remaining are better – how I could not see it earlier.

Here is one that stayed in “keep” pile.

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Accepting Failure

Today I’ve been going thru some of unfinished prints trying to get organized and prepared for the next year of art fairs.

Several prints have never been finished. They are odds and misses. Something is wrong with them. Maybe size does not match the frame, maybe there is a specle of dust caught in the coating. And yet I keep them.

I’ve asked myself why I keep them. The answer was not immediate and not obvious. What I came to realize was that it was hard to accept failure. I had failed those prints but I could not face it.

Instead of accepting the failure I was cheating myself into believing that I can still salvage them. A lot of effort went into making those prints. Even when I saw it not going well I would still push forward with it.

As I realized that something else dawn on me. The same thing often happens during postprocessing. Sometimes I come back from a trip and bring a lot of not so good images. It might happen for many different reasons: my mind was somewhere else, I did not feel emotional connection to the place, weather did not cooperate, I had gotten “out of shape” not photographing for a while.

Rather than saying – “oh, well, things did not work out” – I spend countless hours trying to make something of it, treaking myself with thinking that there must be something in those images. What I end up with is overprocessed images that I look at a few month later and think “what was I thinking”.

It is something I should watch for in the future. Be brutal if you wish in editing images.

Magic of a Print

The Bellevue art fair is behind me now. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, said hi, bought some or ordered. Thanks to you it has been very successful for me. Now I have a lot of orders and a lot of new prints to make – and I enjoyed it very much.

There is some magic in a print slowly coming out of a printer, another world appearing out of thin air. I’m wondering if it is the main reason why I do my own printing: to see it happening.

Next is varnishing. That’s pouring milky acrylic on the print and spreading it equally to the whole print. This make the print foggy, it hides it again from this world. I typically do this at night, so it can dry over night. When acrylic dries out it becomes transparent and the image becomes crisp, contrasty and full of color.

The first thing I do when I wake up is to go see the print – my baby. This is how it is going to look. There is still stretching, mounting, framing ahead but that won’t change the look of the image.

What’s left is to do stretching or mounting and then framing.

And that’s what I’m going to do for the next two weeks. Thanks to all who bought or ordered prints for giving me such an opportunity.

Art Fair Simulator

Some people build flight simulators at home. I’ve built art fair simulator. 🙂 Art fair season starts for me this weekend with Kirkland Uncorked. And I was practicing setting up booth at home. It is nice to have home large enough to do this.

I’ve tested tent, propanels layout, lights (not in this photo). I feel ready now. Just keeping fingers crossed that there will be no rain this weekend.

You can find more details about art fairs and exhibitions which I’m participating in on my website: http://www.vitphoto.com/?link=shows

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Image vs. Print

This question bugged me for a while: is an image an ultimate goal and result of creativity or execution and presentation are important as well? And I came to conclusion that execution and presentation are important.

Let’s talk about paintings for example. I think of paintings not only as two dimensional images. There is a third dimension – brush strokes. They capture artist hand motion and his emotions as much as color, composition or subject. When I look at those strokes I can imagine how the artist hand was moving, and that passes artist emotions to me. The brush strokes can be powerful, forceful, angry or they can be casual, light and soft. A reproduction of a painting can have accurate representation of an image but does not capture the brush strokes as well and in some sense erasing that third dimension.

I grew up in a fairly provincial town seeing only reproductions of paintings in books. Seeing them later in museums changed my perception of them completely. I remember how seeing one of van Gogh’s self-portraits in Seattle Art Museum (in a temporary exhibition) made unforgettable impression on me. Much of van Gogh’s face was not painted. Either skin-toned paper was used or paper was covered with skin-toned paint. And then on top of that van Gogh painted his beard, eyes, hair. It was like the face was already in that skin-toned paper, van Gogh just helped me to see it in a few brush strokes. No reproduction has been able to show that.

Now the paintbrush strokes can be meaningless too. For example, I have some cheap painting hanging in my house. It may have been produced by printing on canvas first and then laying paint on top to make it look like painting, the paintbrush strokes just random and “don’t fit”. That’s kind of example of good image bad painting. Another example of good image and good painting but where strokes don’t mean much [to me] is Pointillism which branched off Impressionism. In paintings that I’ve seen in museum executed with this technique application of dots looks very mechanical. While technique is interesting it did not give enough freedom to artist hand.

Same goes to photography but in photography it is a matter of technology and not directly related to us. Platinum-palladium print has incredible tonal range and looks like the image is in paper, where print from inkjet printer looks like image is coated on top of paper, like a polaroid emulsion transfer (in some sense). All that is left to us is to choose what matches what we want the best. And don’t get me even started on paper, I have ton of paper samples at home and I just enjoy looking at them and feeling their texture.

Is this important to most of people? No. Paintings are not much of importance either. And even famous ones. Have you been to Musée du Louvre and saw Mona Lisa? Have you looked at the crowd? How many people were looking at the painting and how many were actually with their backs toward the painting taking infamous “hey, I’m 10 feet from Mona Lisa painting” photo? And using flash despite all “no flash” signs? I like this statistic from Wikipedia: “Visitors generally spend about 15 seconds viewing the Mona Lisa.” Is it really worth only 15 seconds? (Granted it may have lost its value as painting and has become something else. Sadly.)

So what can we photographers do? We can do our best explaining this and teaching everyone to see this. Even if the rest think we are a bit crazy.

How much my prints worth?

A few days back I wrote a post about pricing of fine art prints. After thinking a bit I decided to do an experiment with upcoming exhibition to find out how much people are willing to pay for my prints. I’m going to do a silent auction with no reserve, no starting price for the prints that are going to be exhibited. I’ll find out just how much people are willing to pay for them (if they are willing to pay for them at all, of cause).

Here are the images that are going to be exhibited:

Palouse at Sunset  
Sketch with a tree and road Three trees by the road Tree

All the prints are on a canvas stretched with gallery wrap 27”x18”.

I’ll let you know results.

Fascination with Paper

I don’t know what is that between me and paper. I just like looking at paper, its smooth or rugged surface, feel it in my hands, think of photograph that look good on that paper, print it and look at it. Every time I go to a photo store I end up buying a sampler pack of some paper. Today I went to a photo store to buy lenses cleaning solution and end up with another sampler pack.

With inkjet printers we have a huge selection of all kinds of papers and surfaces to print our photos on. I have whole bunch of various inkjet paper at home. Some of it never even makes to printer – after studying it I realize that I don’t have the kind of photos that would look great on it. Sometimes I print on it just to realize that it does not work the way I expected. And other times I’m just wowed with the way the print looks.

My main medium is canvas. That’s what I use for most of the prints nowadays. Photo impressionism looks especially great on canvas. The rest of paper is just for fun – just because I’m fascinated with paper.