So, what does it really take to create an art series?
It’s the night before my new art series titled ‘Refraction’ launches at SeaBlue. So I thought for this blog, I would write about the experience of creating a body of work.
This series has probably taken longer for me to create than any other in the past. To date, this marks my fourth series of personal art work since my first in 2004. SO why did it take so long?…Well, the last four years of my life have been quite a journey. At the beginning of 2011, I moved to Colorado with my now beautiful wife, Jessica, for her job. I left behind a photography business I spent ten years building for a new chapter and loved every minute of life in the Rockies. As our relationship progressed, I knew if we were to marry and have children (we now have a two-year-old boy) that we would need our family around us. We moved back to South Carolina after two short years away. During that time away, I returned to some of my roots. I took advantage of living in Denver and attended film workshops, enjoyed browsing through galleries and even submitted work for portfolio reviews. I was inspired by the amount of art and talent that surrounded me there and I enjoyed my down time soaking it in. It had been my goal when we moved there, to change pace and possibly start fresh as an artist selling prints to galleries. Unfortunately, without great contacts plus the need for models to create work, I soon realized that was a lofty goal in a short time frame. I learnt that good things come to those who patiently plan and execute for when the time is right, which brings us right back to the time at hand.
The first inspiration for the series ‘Refraction’ came at dinner with my wife about two years ago over a glass of wine. I have always liked lighting, and over my dining room table I have spotlights that create small cones of light controlled by a dimmer. As I held up the almost empty wine glass, I noticed the patterns it created on the hardwood table. I spontaneously started to swirl the glass, moving it closer then further away from the table…the patterns moved and danced before my eyes! An idea formed –
What would happen if I silhouetted a shape in those patterns? What would happen if I shot through the glass to see the beauty of form beyond?
I have always been fascinated with nudes as an art form, going back to the original masters of sculpture and film photography. It appealed to me as a truly creative form of expression. Nothing against painting still life, flowers, and marsh scenes but I knew that just wasn’t for me. From an early age, I took interest in Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston and the like, ordering copies of The Pirelli Calendar when my friends in High School were first discovering Playboy and Penthouse. I was engrossed by their use of the human form, their use of light and shadow that sculpted a body. They made their creations objective and innocent in its nudity. It was art, and as a young lad probably the one thing that inspired me more than anything to pick up a camera.
After first discovering that I could look through glassware and see shapes and patterns, I continued by forming a plan. I needed the camera, I needed the film, the models, the space to shoot in and the lab to develop and print my new masterpieces. For the camera, possibly the easiest of all the choices, I choose the Fuji 680 GXiii which I bought from a photo lab owner only a year or so before. The camera offered me unparalleled quality for macro photography, and with it I choose Kodak Tri-X film because it is known for its contrast, wide exposure latitude, and classic grain structure. Next, I needed glassware. After raiding my own collection of wine and shot glasses, I soon realized I would need more so I sought out consignments shops, stopped by yard sales and borrowed what I could from one of my main clients, SeaBlue Restaurant.
I wanted to create a series that reflected diversity with the abstract nature of shooting macro through glassware. I knew I had to mix a variety of models in age, ethnicity and body shape.
Now if I lived in a big city this might be easy to come by, but I live in Myrtle Beach. Announcing an art show that is focused on nude photography doesn’t exactly have the phone ringing off the hook. So, I placed a few casting calls on Model Mayhem, started to mention it to models and friends that I have worked with before, and posted on Facebook. Soon enough, I had a list of 10 women and one guy who were willing to give it a shot. The studio space I have currently is co-shared and available to me two days a week, so I scheduled my shoots around client work (that paid the bills) and models’ schedules. I always considered this as independent work that couldn’t take away from my personal life, I am a father and a husband first. Quite a balancing act, as you can see.
Starting in the spring of this year, I bought a new sketch book, as I prefer to draw out my ideas on paper as a draft stage, and soon enough I had 20-30 ideas! However, I had no idea if they were even going to be possible until I stepped into the studio, film loaded and a model to test them on. That began earlier this summer.
With a few willing models and a digital camera, we tested the principles of light passing through glassware, refracting as if it were through one transparent medium and bending in nature. Fast forward six months and I now sit writing this with over one hundred hours of time invested, along with several thousand dollars, a collection of eleven images hand printed in the darkroom, and framed ready for a public viewing tomorrow night.
Am I nervous about how the series will be reviewed? YES.
Am I relieved to have completed a series or work that I have meticulously planned and executed? Hell YES.
Am I proud to say this is possibly my best work to date? Absolutely YES… and yet I am still on edge, anticipating the questions about how, why and what exactly I was trying to bring into being.
To answer a few of those questions, I created the series by returning to the roots of photography, using a manual film based macro camera to follow in the footsteps of those whose art I adore. I created the series for myself, not selfishly or for the reason that I wanted to see lots of naked chicks (yeah I really get asked that a lot). I craved the opportunity to challenge myself, to push my own boundaries and the skills I have learned over the past fifteen years as a photography studio owner. I wanted to step into the world of creation and impose my ideas on it. And what did I design?
This art series is a body of abstract work challenging the viewer to experience the perspective of another being. A perspective loaded with constraints of my upbringing, my path, my journey through life; yet liberated from the structure that society has placed on viewing the human form.
I could not have even considered this project without the undying support of my wife, my heart is with you always. To Ken and Tracy, owners of SeaBlue, for your confidence to support this series from concept, through sketches to an evening of fine food, wine and great company, cheers. To my art collectors and friends for showing up, buying tickets and collecting my art work that keeps the dream alive. And finally to all the models that placed their bodies in my careful hands, allowing me to sculpt them with light and reflect back a vision that is truly mine and mine alone, I thank you all.
To end, I would like to quote one of my all time favorite singers, Freddy Mercury, “The show must go on.” To me, this means to never give up on your dreams and always follow the illuminated path, even if it is not the easiest option.
P.S. – A new website for just my fine art will be coming soon, look for more details and stay up to date with me on Facebook, for those that can’t attend the show, here’s a sneak peak of one of my favorites titled “Round the Rim.”