Artists Tributes

Hey Everybody. Today, I’d like to talk a little about celebrity deaths, and share a couple tributes from some great artists that I came by recently.

Unfortunately we’ve recently lost some celebrities to cancer, and it has hit us pretty hard as a collective consciousness. I’m mainly talking about David Bowie and Alan Rickman (and just before posting this, Glenn Fry also passed away). This has sparked a slew of tributes posted to social media, and rightfully so. Both of these men, especially Bowie, seemed to strike a chord with creative types. While Bowie was a musician, and Rickman an actor (in simplest terms), both were creative artists, and certainly prompted responses within the visual arts community.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make the time to create my own works of art in their honor. Therefore, I thought I’d share some artwork from other artists whose work I appreciated. Here are some images below, and I’ve captioned them with the name of the artist.

I also thought I’d muse a little bit about my reactions to these events, which may be different than you might expect. First of all, let me say that I wasn’t much of a fan of David Bowie. I didn’t DISlike him, and I certainly enjoyed his performance as the Goblin King in the Labyrinth. How can you not appreciate the glass ball juggling (I still want to learn how to do that), and I appreciated him as a musician. His style just wasn’t my cup of tea. I was more of a fan of Alan Rickman. My favorite role of his being, of course, Hans Gruber in Die Hard. I also enjoyed him immensely in Galaxy Quest and the Harry Potter movies.

Let me say up front, that I’m a pretty sensitive guy. I grew up with two sisters (no brothers) and my Mom. And my Dad had 4 sisters (and no brothers). So, I’m very much in touch with my feminine side. I enjoy romantic movies, and cry heartily at touching movies, and even select commercials. This is why I find it extremely surprising that the news of celebrities passing doesn’t hit me as hard as it seems to hit others. Even the death of Robin Williams, I think, hit my daughter harder than it did me. We both grew up on his performances, albeit different eras. I grew up on Mork & Mindy, Dead Poets Society, and HBO’s Comic Relief specials. My daughter grew up on Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Hook and Flubber.

Also, growing up, I never really had a personal experience with death. I had great-grandparents that lived long lives, and finally died in their late 90’s. All four of them. And I only lost a couple grandparents around the time I was in college. That’s about it. So, nobody really really close to me, and no one was lost to anything close to a horrible disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s. Maybe I don’t have the childhood trauma to well up in me and make me relate, like many people have.

My wife Alyx was a huge fan of Jim Henson. When he died, it hit her very hard. It was very emotional for her. Something about losing a childhood hero, someone that helped shape your childhood, can feel like the loss of a close friend or dear relative. Even if you’ve never met the person. So, with the recent losses of Bowie and Rickman, many people feel that loss very profoundly.

But not me. For some reason, I didn’t connect. It got me wondering… what it would take? Who do I revere enough, that it would profoundly affect me at their passing? Do I just not project that feeling of closeness or family onto celebrities? Do I actively hold people, famous or not, at a big enough distance to keep me from feeling the hurt? I certainly hope I don’t. Would the loss of Mark Hamill do it to me? Ralph Macchio? John Lassiter? Since I grew up on science fiction, fantasy and comic books, many of the characters and people that might mean something to me are fictional. So, their deaths are also the stuff of fiction and don’t affect me. Maybe I have too real a grasp on the reality of an actor’s role, and that they are doing a job, so I separate them from their characters, connecting personally to the character, more-so than the performer. I don’t know.

A few years ago, I lost my Dad, and that DID devastate me. So I know I’m not immune to or desensitized by death. That it can and does affect me, and losing a loved one will hit me very hard. I just wonder why I don’t have that reaction to celebrity deaths like others tend to. Or have I just not come across the ones that would mean enough to me yet?

I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on what I’ve said. Also what, if any, celebrity death hit you in a special way.

Thanks,

Craig.

Bouncing Back

Alyx here.  I know I haven’t been on in a month, but I’ve been busy with other things in my life . . . and I’ve been licking some wounds.

I recently attended a seminar on wholesaling for artists and at the end of it, I paid for a critique of our MAS Artwork portfolio.  The person giving the critique didn’t have much to say about our actual images, but she wasn’t happy about our overall collection.  She kept saying that we didn’t have a cohesive body of work . . . that what we have seems scattered.

Looking back on what she said now, I can see that it’s not horrible, but it really hit me hard at the time.  I realize that artists can become too attached to their work and not be able to view them objectively, so I tried not to let it affect me too much, but I kept hearing “Your stuff’s not good enough” in my head (even though she NEVER said those words).

So I buried myself in another project that had been on my plate for a while.  I didn’t touch any photos for two months.  And whenever those thoughts popped into my head, I steered the focus elsewhere.  But all the while, I’ve been mulling it over subconsciously, and I’ve come up with some thoughts about it:

  1.  Art is subjective.  I know this.  I’ve read this in SO many places.  I’ve even seen it first-hand when I hear one person gush over one of my photos and later hear another person say that same one isn’t one of their favorites, but that they like a different one.  Art.  Is.  Subjective.
  2. I’m still a relative newbie at this, so it’s going to take me a while to build up a cohesive body of work.  I’ve read articles about artists who’ve taken 8-10 years to get noticed by galleries & other prominent people.  I’ve only been doing this for the last 5 years as an amateur, and have only considered myself a professional for the last 2 years.  I’ve got a long way to go.
  3. I actually DO have more collections than what people see on the website.  When I go to take pictures, I take 10-30 shots of each subject, in a variety of angles.  Heck, I’ve got about 12 different angles of the Athens National Library Steps.  I just assumed that people would be bored from looking at THAT many photos of one subject, so I only posted six of them (two of which are the same image, just one is in black and white.
    Athens_Library_Steps_BW
  4. She wasn’t critiquing my work, just my (apparent) lack of any collection.  So I need to hear the feedback for what it actually is, and not take it as an attack on my skill as a photographer.  Heck, while I was licking my wounds those two months, I also won awards for photos that had been submitted to some contests a while back.  Both Heavenly Light and Athens National Library Steps 2 won awards during that time.Lake Tahoe 2012 - Heavenly LightAthens_National_Library_Steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, now that I’ve had some distance from the actual critique, I’m feeling better about my photography again.  I’m ready to get out there with my camera and take more pictures.  I might even use the feedback to help me focus in a certain direction with my pictures.  Who knows . . . by this time next year, the site might look completely different.

Stay tuned . . .

Welcome, Marilyn Monroe to our new portrait website.

Craig Smith here, and today we welcome a new entry to my art website. The honorable, talented, sexy, and even quotable Marilyn Monroe.

MarilynMonroe_eyes_400px-wideAs many of you may know, I just launched my portrait art-based website (www.masartwork.com/art). Now, I am starting to create more portraits of famous people to populate the site. There is no one better to start with, than Marilyn. I decided to start small; this portrait is only 5″x7″, but I wanted to do one relatively quickly. Luckily, the stippling style stands up to enlargement really well, so this will look good at almost any size.

When choosing the image, I wanted to select a photo where she was easily recognizable and iconic, yet an image that hasn’t been seen a lot (at least by me). So, the images of her over the sewer grate were definitely out. I came across this one, and think it shows the beauty of Marilyn without it being a caricature of herself. It shows the more mature side of her, yet still hints at the innate sexiness of her confidence and intelligence.

MarilynMonroe_Coat_300max

This piece took me around two months of lunch hours and evenings to complete, and I think it came together fairly smoothly. With a subject like Marilyn, how can you go wrong? I’ll tell you how. Too many dots in the wrong places and it could make her look really old, or with bad skin, or a lazy eye or something. I think I sidestepped those landmines quite successfully.

 

So, without further ado, here is a thumbnail of the image. To see it larger, just click it, and it’ll take you to my website where you can enjoy it full size, as well as many other pieces of my artwork.

 

Also…

The base M•A•S Artwork site used to hold both Alyx’s photography as well as my artwork. I have now removed my stipple art from the site, so it is now fully dedicated to my wife’s photography. You can click here (www.masartwork.com) to see her unique images and order some prints for Christmas.

Stay tuned for more images from each of us, and don’t forget to share our websites and blogs with your friends. I’m sure they like looking at great artwork too. Really, you’re doing them a favor.

Thanks,

Craig P. Smith

 

Validation

There are some great moments of validation in an artist’s career:

  1. When someone likes a piece of your work
  2. When someone likes a piece of your work enough to buy it
  3. When you win an award for a piece of your work

Thankfully, I’ve had the first two happen . . . and now I can say I’ve hit the trifecta!

A few weeks back I submitted one of my photos for an online contest with a company called Art Forward Contests (unfortunately their site is down for maintenance, but please check back):

Lake Tahoe 2012 - Heavenly LightThis piece, called Heavenly Light, is one of the images that, while I was capturing it, I KNEW would be amazing (provided I caught it right).  So I was thrilled when I saw how it turned out.

That’s why I thought to include it in the Art Forward contest.  And when I heard from them two weeks ago that I won, I was over the moon!  There were over 800 artists who submitted their pieces for this contest, and mine was chosen for the Bronze award!  According to the congratulatory letter that came in the email, my name will show up on a double-page spread in an upcoming International Gallery Guide.  This guide is distributed in Galleries, Museums, and other locations, and apparently reaches hundreds of thousands of art patrons around the world.  In addition to that, my image and contact information will appear in the “Winners” section of the website (when they finish updating it), which has a following of about 15,000 and growing.

I think I literally bolted out of my seat and jumped up and down for joy when I read the email, for I can now call myself an award-winning photographer.  I did win one before for a piece called Open Reflection, but that was when this was all just a hobby for me . . . when I was just testing the waters to see if I could make a go of this photography business.  For some reason, this award seems more of a validation, saying “Yes, your photography is good enough.  You may continue.”

It also encourages me to continue submitting my photos to contests.  Who knows, the next award I receive might be the Gold.

To Add or Not

I’ve been having a slight existential crisis about my photography lately.  Specifically, I’ve been wondering what my artistic voice or style is.

According to this great article on 99U.com, there are four phases of developing your creative voice, and I feel like I’m somewhere between Phase 1 and Phase 2 right now.  I’m still trying to learn what I can about my craft, and still fiddling around with my camera to find the best ways to capture on “film” what I see in my mind’s eye.

And then, there’s what happens when I fiddle around in Photoshop with the pictures I’ve taken . . .

Most times, I simply enhance the color or saturation of my photos, or remove an unphotogenic piece of the overall picture.  But every once in a while I get a bit of whimsy in my craw and create something that seems a departure from my other photos.

Railroad-RorshachFor example, during my first foray into the Alameda On Camera (AOC) exhibit at the Frank Better Center for the Arts, I took the black and white image of an old set of train tracks, and mirrored the image once, then again.  The potholes in the pavement–when mirrored against each other–seemed to me to look like a Rorschach Test.  So, Railroad Rorschach became the title.  It’s one of my favorite pieces, but has gotten very little love.

 

Ode to EscherThen, the following year of AOC, I came up with two fanciful pieces.  I’d drawn a housing subdivision as my section that year, and all I could see were the columns, columns, columns of these cookie-cutter houses.  I’m not sure why, but that led me to think about M.C. Escher’s Belvedere.  So, being a HUGE Escher fan, I took on the daunting task of turning all the columns I saw (as well as other things I’d taken pictures of that weekend) into this amazing piece of visual trickery.  Ode to Escher didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted (though you can definitely see the resemblance), and it wasn’t too well received.

That same year, I also happened to take lots of pictures of the lawn animals that adorned the lawns in my section.  For some reason the song Teddy Bear Picnic came to mind and I wondered what it would look like if all of the lawn ornaments got to take a little break from their regular positions, and enjoy a day out at a local park (which was in the same section).  This wound up being a diptych, titled Gnome Garden Party.  At the exhibit’s opening night I heard lots of people say they thought it was a cute idea, which felt good.GnomeGardenParty - Blog

Some-Assembly-RequiredMother EarthLast year, I saw two rocket-shaped structures sitting outside a party store warehouse and thought how funny it would be if someone were to try to sell the rockets, but with Some Assembly Required.  And this year, I saw a cool lawn ornament with a globe and placed her out in the galaxy somewhere.  Mother Earth didn’t even make the cut of being added to the exhibit, but I’ve since heard some people say they like it very much.

The lack of love for these whimsical images doesn’t stop me from doing them, but I wonder how commercially viable they’d be if I were to put them on the website and try to sell them.  And should I even try to add them to the site, since they seem a departure from my other photography?

Another case in point is a newly edited piece that I really like, but am not sure whether or not to add it to the site.  It’s not as whimsical as some of the other pieces discussed here, but if I were to add Spiral Silhouette to the website, would it go in the Stairs gallery, or in Miscellaneous?

Spiral SilhouetteI’d appreciate your feedback on that.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to develop my own creative voice.  And right now, that voice seems to truly reflect who I am: someone who likes looking at things from unusual angles and loves to see light play . . . but who also has a playful sense of humor from time to time.

First Art Faire Wrap-Up

Well, we just had our first Art Fair experience at the Alameda Art and Wine Faire.

So, I’m sure you’re asking… “How’d you do?”
We were very pleased with our experience overall. The fair was down a main street in Alameda, CA, which is 5-6 blocks from where we live (the proximity was not a coincidence). There was still more work than we thought. And we were being very realistic in our expectations. We rented a van to take all our setup: tent, tables, bins; inventory of framed work; inventory of the prints; office and transaction supplies etc. The hard work came when we had to carry all that equipment and artwork from our office on the 2nd floor (no elevators) down to the van, go to the location, and then unpack the van and carry all that stuff into the tent location. After the show we did it all again in reverse after standing and working the show all weekend. We were POOPED!

Here is how our tent setup looked.
Alyx and Craig in Booth-small

Booth Shot-small

We had a lot of visitors, and almost everyone commented on how much they liked the images (and they weren’t even our relatives). So, our egos got a good healthy boost.
Thank you, to all who signed the guestbook and otherwise joined our newsletters. We really appreciate it. We can’t wait to send out more information and images for you to enjoy.

There was also a really strange and mysterious happening in regards to our location. Apparently, there was something really interesting about the restaurant across the street. There were so many people that walked by staring at that building instead of all the booths and art, that we couldn’t help but to laugh. It became a “thing”. The only thing that would make sense is that it was a fairly new restaurant at that location, but the novelty didn’t seem to match the amount of attention it received. Weird. Here’s what it looked like directly across from our booth. Maybe it’ll make sense to you.
New Restaurant-small

Craig Working on Stipple-small

During the days, I tried to get some extra work done, as well as letting the passers-by see how I do the work I do and get a taste for it. I think it went really well, and I garnered a lot of interest, and many of our business cards left with them, both mine and Alyx’s. Here’s a picture of me doing my stippling on the street.

All in all, we were pleased with how we handled the whole process. Our financial results were less that we had hoped for, but we got a lot of exposure, positive reinforcement, and experience. We signed up some good people to our newsletter, gave out lots of business cards and promotional postcards, and made some sales.
Our goal is to expand to sign up for at least 3 street fairs next year.

In the mean time, don’t forget that you can see our images and purchase prints EVEN NOW on our website (www.masartwork.com). We can’t wait to see you all at the next event. Stay tuned to see what it will be.

 

Craig Smith

My First Commission – Part 1

There are many ways for artists to make a living.  Craig and I already have our website up, with many of our pieces for sale, and we’re about to test out another way, in the form of an art fair next month.  We’re also currently doing some research on how to sell some of our designs on a wholesale basis, although we’re probably a year or so away from fully engaging in that method.  But one way I hadn’t considered before is commissions.

I had always thought that when a photographer took a commission, it was generally for family portrait work, or maybe photographing a wedding.  Since I know I’m horrible at taking pictures of people (they usually end up looking either stoned, sleepy, or like their worst mug shot), I figured I’d probably never do commission work.

However, that changed, quite serendipitously, when someone I volunteer with found out that I was a photographer.  She expressed an interest in getting a photo of the dock out by her house, and wondered if I’d be willing to do a commission of it.  Capturing inanimate objects is a specialty of mine, so I readily agreed.

I had to do some quick research into the world of commissions: how much to charge, how much time it might take, and what the client should expect, among other things.  I told my client that this would be my first commission job and we agreed upon a price.

I’m technically still in the midst of this job, and thankfully my client didn’t have a specific time frame in mind.  She just wants me to capture a certain mood that would help evoke a memory for her.  I’ve been to the location a couple of times to take some preliminary shots, just to get a feel for the subject, and I think I’m already seeing the finished pieces in my mind.  Here are just a couple possible ways for me to go:

Elizabeth Keuny - 033

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Keuny - 022Elizabeth Keuny - 009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously I need to work on the lighting and will probably need to do some post-production work in Photoshop, but I’ve shown her some of these and she feels that the mood is right, thankfully.

I think I’ll be working on this for the next few months, capturing these in different weather and lighting, to see what else I can come up with, but it’s exciting to have been asked specifically to help capture her memories in picture form.

Stay tuned here, because when I’ve finished the piece(s) I’ll share it/them here in a future blog.