General Thoughts

Fogbank and Surf at Dawn, — Pacific Coast, CA © jj raia

Any art is always influenced by the work of other artists because none of it is created in a vacuum. Whether it is a conscious effort to mimic a style of one particular artist, even if in a differing medium, or the simple subliminal effects of being exposed to the artwork of others, those influences inexorably find their way into our own. It is unavoidable. There is an ebb and flow of those influences, as one or more will exert a stronger pull at any given time, only to be replaced by new ones or those long subdued as we move forward. When searching for something to record within the frame of the camera, or any other medium as well, does the scene conjure up thoughts of a particular style within our mental library, or does the library itself allow a recognition of a particular element within view, and thereby judging it worthy to record? The answer lies well above my capacity to determine which, if either is true. In any event, those mental images we’ve stored create a familiarity with the scene before us, we are comfortable there and find it almost necessary to record.

As I peer through the camera, I often find I talk to myself about recognizing the style of a particular painter or photographer in the scene within the camera’s frame. Mark Rothko, Wolf Kahn, Jackson Pollock as well as a few photographers, most notably Eliot Porter, always seem to creep into my mental conversation as I compose. I encourage the exploration of the work these artists have produced as inspiration for ourselves in our own pursuits, and to continually explore the art of others to fill our individual mental libraries.

There is something about the minimalism in the work of Mark Rothko that tugs at your senses in their simplicity, and I have used his work as inspiration for my own. There are times when a literal rendition of the scene will work, as in the image at the top of the post. I can still recall my inner conversation as I made it, thinking exclusively of Rothko as I composed the image. Other times, more involvement is needed to create something a bit less literal. For the image below, I was faced with a completely cloudless sky and a total lack of foreground elements and began to think of a motion blur utilizing the opposite shoreline. But, I also liked the subtle ripples in the water nearby which would be lost in the motion blur. The solution seemed to be two images to be blended together later, one utilizing a shutter speed fast enough to stop the water’s movement, and another with a longer shutter speed to allow the camera to be moved while it was open, creating the blur. To keep some semblance of a shoreline during the blur, the camera was only moved a tiny bit left and right. Otherwise it would have been a simple dark line across the entire image instead of illustrating the small, smooth cove that reflected a bit more of the orange sky. After several attempts, what was needed for the top half was finally recorded, the two merged in Photoshop and the Rothko image envisioned came to life.

Rothko - Just Before Dawn — Falls Lake, NC

Just Before Dawn — Falls Lake, NC © jj raia

A bit more involved than simply pressing the shutter release as I did in the previous image taken along the Coast Highway in California just before dawn, looking west at the earth’s shadow over the ocean. It was the dividing line of the fogbank that made it into a Rothko, just as the shoreline and blue/purple reflections divides the image from Falls Lake. The texture in the water of each image maintains the context to give each a sense of place after closer inspection. When viewed at a distance, these two images are a simple exploration of color placed within a square, each hue providing clues to the subject not readily discerned.



2 thoughts on “Painters

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