Process

Piezography - Not for the faint of heart

Piezography Pro inksI've been spending the past few weeks converting my old Epson Stylus 9900 printer to an OEM inkset, Piezography Pro, made by Jon Cone in Vermont. When I purchased my new Surecolor P9000 a few months ago, I debated whether to give my old printer away, sell it, or convert it to a B&W only printer. My interest in the Piezography inks started many years ago when I learned about the story of Jon Cone and his pursuit of quality prints from inkjet printers. I believe that one should understand as thoroughly as possible one's own choices for medium. We are all interested in achieving the highest quality output for our work and this I believe is the current state of the art for inkjet black and white printing. If you are interested in more information about Piezography, download the Manual in the Community Edition. Piezography Pro is a new version of the inkset that contains 10 inks and a gloss optimizer. You can produce an infinite variety of tone variations for highlights, midtones, and shadows using the warm toned and cool toned inks (4 of each). My previous B&W workflow used the Epson Advanced B&W Mode, which bypasses the ink profile system and manages the printing through a series of user selectable values for color toning and brightness. When Epson provided a 3 B&W ink tones (Black, Light Black, Light Light Black) this was touted as a revolutionary advancement, and indeed it is capable of producing impressive B&W prints. But there was always that inkjet look to them, something that hinted as a compromise, but you could not put your finger on it.

With the Piezography Pro inkset, there are basically 5 tones (HD Black, Dark Gray, Medium Gray, Light Gray, Very Light Gray) in a Warm and Cool variation, making a total of 10 inks. Then there is a one pass Gloss optimizer that removes any gloss differentiation due to unprinted paper showing. Only after looking at several of my prints with any areas of "white" did I see how prevalent (and distracting) this is.

I decided to flush my printer first with PiezoFlush which required a second set of refillable cartridges ($560). I had a stubborn Green channel and hoped that the flush would clear it up, which it did. Then I installed the Piezography Pro inks ($840 for the 250ml set) in another set of cartridges (btw, a set of 11 empty carts is $325). During the flush and installation, I'm sure another $150 worth of ink went into the maintenance tank, which filled up ($40). Piezography requires Quadtone RIP (QTR) software to send your file to the printer. QTR is shareware with a $50 donation. Printing is not as convenient as going directly to your Epson via Lightroom. Another learning curve. Speaking of curves, to get the most out of calibrating your system, you can "linearize" your output using a spectrophotometer (I have an i1Profiler). Lots of work. Is it worth it?

My preliminary tests using a "Proof of Piezography" test file shows dramatic improvements in the printing of dark shadow areas when compared to Epson's ABW mode. Where ABW prints as all black, I get a visible 10-level gradation. Impressive. How this translates to an improvement in print quality I will need more experience. Almost time to buy more ink.

proofofpiezography-21

Baptist Medical Center - Weaver Tower

Baptist-Weaver_2016-1122-012 On Tuesday we installed "Connected Stillness" in the Baptist Medical Center Weaver Tower, 1st floor lobby near the elevators. The 40 ft long installation depicts a typical morning at Cary State Forest, and combines photography and 3d elements. My hope is to offer a familiar, peaceful, and calming scene to those entering the hospital. It is a great privilege to offer this work to those who may need the power of art to move them to a higher place.

Baptist-Weaver_2016-1122-001

Gratitude goes out to my installation team Robert, Dorian, and Donald, my project co-collaborator Ryan Buckley of Gallery Framery, and my art representative Hillary Whitaker of Stellers Gallery at Ponte Vedra.

Cary Forest Study 632

For the first time I was able to take one of my forest panoramas and incorporate it into an interpretive piece of art that reflects my intention for these large photographs. The forest extends horizontally and is momentarily interrupted by bits of the forest, natural branches that infill small alcoves between the canvases holding the larger print. These “bridges” connect the imagery together, and allow us to return back to the reality of the composition of the forest – wood, branches, and the interconnectedness of living things. The gaps must be jumped in order to progress visually through the 2-D composition.

The alcoves in the walls formed perfect pockets for the branches, allowing them to seamlessly fit in and provide the connection to the real world.

Branches   IMG_1478

Those who have visited my studio over the past few years now know what I had in mind for those bundles of branches. I don't know why it took so long to develop this into a final idea. There was some experimentation on technique for the assembly and final finish. Overall I was pleased with the outcome and hope to extend the concepts with additional pieces.

Lenscratch Art + Science

Lenscratch  

I am thrilled to be featured in the Lenscratch Art + Science series, curated by Linda Alterwitz. I met Linda at Mary Virginia Swanson's Advanced Marketing workshop in 2014, and we touched base at PhotoNOLA in 2015. Here's to the power of contacts and relationships. The project was formerly named The Forest re:Framed, in fact, my website still needs a little updating. The study is an inquiry into forests and the collective of trees that make up the forest. I wanted to find a visual expression of the forest "encoding" or visual footprint that I started to observe. My observations have been largely subliminal. Something caught my interest but I couldn't put my finger on it.

Decoding the Infinite Forest

Then I created this image, Barcode Cypress, at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and realized that perhaps a visual code could be derived from views into the trees. What used to be the repetitive landscape of pines now became an opportunity to discover an underlying message. With an increased attention given to the inner workings of forest tree communities (The Hidden Life of Trees), I'm excited to be looking deeper into a new-found subject that has been part of the overlooked Florida landscape. Finding interest in the ordinary is something I've always enjoyed.

Face Forward - a slight departure

Face Forward Evite In March I received an invitation to participate in a group show, Face Forward, sponsored by the Jacksonville International Airport Arts Commission. The rules were simple, produce a self-portrait on a provided wooden panel, 24" x 24" x 2", any medium. Self-portrait? I don't do those. Asking around, I found that there were 30 artists asked to participate, most were heavy hitters...painters, sculptors, you know, "real" artists! I really wanted to do something more than photograph myself and paste it on a board. I thought this would be a perfect time to try something on the CNC router table sitting in the corner of my studio.

Unfortunately my schedule had been completely unreasonable since the Streaming South exhibit, with outside work, printing, and commercial commissions. So the time to experiment and "play" would be limited. With the deadline rapidly approaching I committed by writing up my submission proposal and dove in. My initial design called for a "decomposition" of the 3D contour map of my head revealing an actual photographic self-portrait within.

FaceForward001_front     FaceForward004_top

FaceForward003_left     FaceForward002_right

Here's a summary of the tools/software used to produce the piece:

  1. 3D scan using the Structure Sensor on iPad Air
  2. Skanect to generate mesh from scan data points
  3. Meshmixer to repair ear and simplify mesh
  4. Netfab Basic 6.3 to divide model into main pieces and carve out cube in middle of head
  5. Meshmixer to take each part and generate slices
  6. VCarve Pro to layout pieces and generate toolpaths for each slice using the Donek dragknife gadget
  7. Mach3 to generate P-codes for CNC

Believe me when I say this is not for the faint of heart, be prepared to do some digging and hacking into this workflow. It is not well defined into a nice easy to follow package. Once you have a working knowledge of the software, you must get your CNC working. Luckily I was cutting corrugated cardboard with a dragknife (utility blade) so I wasn't producing a huge mess of dust. I got through this project with 12 hour days for about 2.5 weeks. The final assembly and gluing the parts together was the most fun, but I could see where I needed to improve technique for future models.

FaceForward001_FaceForward_2015-0904-022     FaceForward002_FaceForward_2015-0904-024

FaceForward003_FaceForward_2015-0904-027     FaceForward004_FaceForward_2015-0905-030

On 9/10 I finally delivered my finished piece and on 9/24 the exhibit had a one night showing at the CoRK East Gallery followed by the installation at the Haskell Gallery in the Jacksonville International Airport.

In retrospect I felt I really went out on a limb on this one. It had a very high chance of failure and resulted in some extremely frustrating moments when nothing was working. I believe the process of producing art is difficult, and when it becomes easy and safe and predictable, we lose the magic of the breakthrough and/or discovery. We are built to be curious and to venture into the unknown. I'm glad I did.

"When you do something that is guarenteed to succeed, you are basically closing the possibility for discovery." - Milton Glaser

Replicated Self

Replicated Self

Mixed Media – Corrugated cardboard, pigment print

Self-portraits are typically well-defined for each medium. The ubiquitous “selfie” is made popular by the availability of cell phone cameras and elevates the self-portrait to an essential component of identity. “Replicated Self” is an experiment using a 3D selfie rendered to 3D forms. Using readily available tools and software, the captured 3D data provides a departure point for my first basic inquiry – deriving a “contour map” of my head and reconstructing the map in 3D using a CNC router table cutting corrugated cardboard. From here I begin a decomposition revealing my current state of discovery and curiosity about the process.

 

Streaming South at the Wilson Center for the Arts

Streaming South postcard I'm excited to be exhibiting Streaming South at the Florida State College of Jacksonville - Wilson Center for the Arts. The exhibit opens August 17 - September 16, and a reception is planned for August 27, 5-7:30 pm. The exhibit contains 32 - 30x20 prints and includes a special behind-the-scenes area containing work prints and other fun stuff. The year long project evolved from humble beginnings and became a labor of love with many rewards. The project is ongoing with this short rest and regrouping. Sharing the results with the public and talking to others helps to reframe my approach and make adjustments. It is vitally important for me to produce material responsive to my audience. The project's primary purpose is environmental advocacy by awareness of "special places." I don't expect everyone to run out and jump in a kayak, but I'd like for each of us to consider spending time in those places that are special to us. It is through those connections that we become passionate and caring, qualities necessary for actionable responsibility.

Photolucida Portfolio Reviews

On March 16 I received an email from the Outreach Director at Photolucida telling me that a space has opened up for the Portfolio Reviews and I am next on the wait list. All I knew is that I wasn't ready for this but this opportunity doesn't come often. So I immediately said yes, I'll be there and sent my check. Now that I'm done I can truly say that this was a good decision, although there were moments of extreme agony wondering why I every even considered subjecting myself to such an ordeal. For those of you unfamiliar with the reviews, this is the Granddaddy of all reviews, the big one, and it happens only once every two years. It is four days of reviews, I had 20. The experience was priceless, from the standpoint of the feedback you receive, the people you meet, and the inspiration you receive from special speakers and other photographers. The fine art photographic industry is here looking at work. I was humbled to be among many experienced photographers who were showing some incredible work. My conversations were with publishers, gallery owners, museum curators, industry consultants and collectors. I spent 4 days in this room

The system of elevating your career in fine art photography is curious, and the portfolio review circuit is one of the many channels providing opportunities for artists to inject themselves into the system. These sessions are offered at several major photo festivals during the year, lasting usually 1-2 days. You have prearranged meetings with reviewers who spend 20 minutes with you answering questions and offering comments on your work. It's a brilliant system for meeting that key individual who would be virtually impossible to access otherwise. Can you imagine trying to come to New York and booking meetings with a museum curator, publisher, and gallery owner to meet you and see your work? Good luck! I've participated in many reviews prior to this so I knew what to expect, but the enormity of the entire experience really blew me away.

The highlight of the event was called the Portfolio Walk at the Portland Museum of Art where we had our portfolios out for the public to see. I was astounded by the response of the Portland arts community and their level of interest in photography. It was a special night.

Photo Walk - Portland Art Museum

There are so many lessons learned from attending Photolucida. All I can say is that it changed the trajectory of my career, I feel that this initiation was critical, and now I am on my way.

Facebook B&W Challenge

I spend my fair share of time on Facebook and try to keep my activity minimal, with a few posts of new work and events. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch, but I find myself wasting a lot of time just getting trough all the posts, most of which are totally useless. My high school friend photo-journalist Bruce Lipsky invited me to participate in the Facebook Black and White Challenge, which was making its way around. This challenge asks for 5 B&W images posted on separate days, with an invitation to 5 other photographers to continue the chain. I decided to oblige. I went through my archives to pull 5 different images from various projects. Most of my work is color so it wasn't too difficult to isolate 5 images. I do enjoy working in B&W because of the simplicity and directness of the result. In many ways it is more abstract than color because one dimension of realism has been removed. This allows the artist to insert their own dimension. I find that the fundamental concepts of composition, form, contrast, and metaphor are greatly enhanced. Here are the 5 images I chose to post.

Structured Harmony

"Structured Harmony" - Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco CA 2011 - B&W Challenge #1. This photograph should be easily recognizable as one of the most photographed bridges in the world. I wanted to create a different view emphasizing the cable structure and it's relation to music, without the distraction of color, which is very distinctive for this bridge.

 

Open Hearts and Hands

"Open Hearts and Hands" - Art Walk August 2011 at Main Street Park, Jacksonville FL. B&W challenge #2. Hearts and hands are symbols of love and friendship. This was a last minute shot of some children behind artist David Montgomery's projection screen after I instructed them to do something. I love to be surprised!

 

Luminous Morning

"Luminous Morning" - Jax Beach Pier, Jacksonville Beach FL, Dec 2011. B&W Challenge #3. Sometimes there is a special luminosity in B&W photos that surpasses anything in color. Glowing radiance or muted softness is best expressed in monochrome. I seldom venture out to the beach and on this rare visit I was rewarded with clouds and light.

 

Driftwood Tangles

"Driftwood Tangles" - Big Talbot Island, Jacksonville FL 2009. B&W Challenge #4. The "Boneyard" at Big Talbot is a favorite spot whenever I'm in the mood for studying the raw textures and forms of the fallen oaks that line the shore. It's hard to capture a successful image as everything begins to look the same. These studies are ideally suited for B&W because they are largely devoid of color. One can focus on dimensionality and gesture in the branches and try to make some sense out of the rubble. This scene reminded me of the complexities in nature and of our own lives and how eventually everything is reduced to drifting bones of wood along the beach.

 

Dock Alphabet

"Dock Alphabet" - near Gulf Shores AL, 2011. B&W Challenge #5. Evidence of Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005 remain to this day. On a 2011 New Orleans road trip with Bill Yates, we found this to be a common scene. The arrangement looked like Kanji characters but I found no translation. It sorta speaks for itself.

A video reignites a project

Last week filmmaker Clif Brewer took some footage for a video on my On Fertile Ground project. When Clif approached me he wanted to do tell a story about an art project and I thought the farm series would be perfect. After the initial exhibit in September 2011 at Studio 121, I put everything away hoping that one day I would finish it. Pulling the prints and finding all of the files got my juices flowing again, and after Clif showed me what he had done with the Artist Statement I knew that this was back on the burner. Clif and Doug. Photo by Faith Brewer

Clif's daughter Faith blogged about our film session on her site, Breathe Deeply.

Here is the completed video (updated after final editing):

Mounting big prints

I'm beginning to print some of my Forest re:Framed big tree scrolls and needed to figure out a way to mount the print for display. Push pins to the wall isn't going to get this into a gallery. I had an idea to use 20" aluminum roof sheathing as the substrate so that it could have some rigidity, permanence, and could be rolled for transport. I purchased a $200 roll laminator on eBay and a roll of two sided adhesive. This was essentially a huge roll of double stick tape. Ryan came over to assist in the grand experiment. First step is applying the laminate to the aluminum. Then you remove the second backing paper as you roll the aluminum + print combination through. Given that we had no practice, we made it all the way with just a little wandering. I think uneven pressure on the rollers caused the sandwich to slip. After the print was affixed to the metal, a some velcro tape was used to attach to print to a frame. We plan to upgrade the structure to aluminum channels. Mounting adhesive to aluminum Mounting print to aluminum Pulling everything through Frame construction with velcro tape to hold the print The finished print hanging in the studio

PhotoJAX at CoRK

PhotoJaxLast night the second annual PhotoJAX photography festival had a reception at CoRK. We had lots of people coming through the studio and I appreciate all the nice comments I received on my space and some new work. I made a decision to print some of my large panoramas from our trip to the Canyonlands, namely the image from Goblin Valley State Park and the sunrise from Hiway 24 looking towards Moab. The Goblin print was 30x150 on canvas, the sunrise was 30x96 also on canvas. I also printed a large image taken at Yellowstone back in 2010. This was a burned out area near the Thorofare Trail trailhead. Last minute I printed a 60x40 tree from Sam Taylor State Park in California (near Pt Reyes). Sometimes you just gotta print these things out to see what you have. Images living in your computer can only take you so far...having the print changes everything. Large prints are cool!