Friday, May 29, 2009

Hope in a Bookstore (& Now the Internet!)

Books & Tulips © 2005 Dianne Poinski

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." Louisa May Alcott

Reading has given me endless hours of pleasure and insight. As a young girl I would come out of the bookmobile with a pile of books, anxious to get home and lose myself in another world. As I got older I discovered that in addition to entertainment, books were also the most direct way to learn just about anything. I remember checking out a book from the library on “Teenage Grooming” once I got the green light from my mother about wearing makeup.

Through the various stages of my life, books have helped me a great deal. Bookstores represent hope and excitement to me. I walk in and instantly feel like anything is possible! Then came the Internet and now information is available just by Googling a word or a phrase. Free and instant “self help”!

As part of an assignment in the blog class I just completed, we were instructed to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. Ok – I thought, this is good. A great way to stay connected, and as an artist I can feel pretty isolated at times. I have enjoyed meeting new people online and getting to know them through their blogs and various online postings.

What I didn’t see coming were Facebook “Friends” and Twitter “Followers” tempting me with links to articles, blogs, and even, the biggest bookstore on the planet! All places I can go and learn how to be a better artist, photographer, friend, parent, entrepreneur and the list goes on……………… I don’t want to miss anything, so I click away. I feel constantly challenged by my inability to stay focused and do the work I need to do.

The only thing saving me from becoming a complete “internetaholic “ is the fact that I have declared my studio a “no tech zone”. My home office is where I do the bulk of the tasks necessary to run my business. This includes anything that requires my computer and since my photographs are processed digitally, I spend a great deal of time in front of my monitor. My studio is where I hand-color all my photographs, teach workshops and show my work. The only piece of technology allowed in there is my IPod.

I have heard many times that to avoid this problem you have to schedule your “online time” during the day. Since I am very resistant to schedules and I am pretty sure I am not the only one out there suffering from “information overload”, I will just keep on checking Facebook, Twittering and Googling until I find a solution that might work for me.

P.S. I am always looking for new “Friends”!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

There's No Place Like Home - Part II

Oak Tree I © 2006 Dianne Poinski

Here a few of the images I promised in part I of this post. Oak Tree I & III are from the foothills east of Sacramento and “Twilight” was taken about an hour west of here.

Oak Tree III © 2006 Dianne Poinski

Twilight © 2008 Dianne Poinski

Since I wrote my last post I have realized that finding local places to photograph comes with an advantage I had forgotten about – the pressure is off. If you are an hour or two away from home and a shoot goes horribly wrong – equipment malfunction, bad weather, or operator error, which usually means mistakes like improper composition and/or exposure - it’s no big deal. You go back and get the shot when the stars are properly aligned .

Getting a “do over” isn’t usually possible when you are in , say – a foreign country.

This brings me to the reason for this post. As many of you know, I am going to Paris in July. I am excited about visiting this magical place for the first time. I am also feeling a little stressed out with the thought that "I have to come back with a portfolio of new and compelling images to show everyone". Most of this is self induced pressure, but I do have a couple of regular visitors to my website and my studio that have said “we can’t wait to see what you come back with!”

I have to remember that this is also a family vacation, and with two adult children I am not sure how many of these are in our future. I want to enjoy every aspect of this trip, and that will include plenty of photography, but I don’t want a repeat of what happened to me in Italy.

Italy was not a family vacation. I went with my cousin and we had a blast, but it was also a trip designed around photography. That’s why I was there. Around the third day I became consumed with the idea that I was not taking enough pictures and none of the pictures I had taken were any good. My cousin ignored me during this “episode” and waited it out. In the end I came home with quite a few images I was happy with as well as lots of stories that continue to drive our families out of the room whenever my cousin and I start reminiscing about our trip.

So I have a plan. While in Paris, I will have my cameras with me, but I won’t always bring my tripod. I feel this is a good compromise. A tripod wielding photographer is not a lot of fun, so I will reserve that for outings with more time and less people. I will just concentrate on having fun while taking pictures and then let go of the results and any expectations I may have. This might be easier said than done, but I will give it my best shot (pun intended).

If anybody has any other ideas or suggestions for great and easy places to photograph in and around Paris, please let me know!

Monday, May 18, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Babel Slough © 2007 Dianne Poinski

When I first started out as a photographer I thought that to get the images I wanted, I was going to have to find a way to get to Europe. At art festivals I noticed the lines of people waiting to buy the classic shots of Italy, France and England. These were beautiful images and people connected with them.

Ten years ago I got my first chance to visit Europe. I traveled to England with my family, cameras and trusty tripod. We rented a car when we first arrived, put 10 miles on it and took it back. We feared that if we continued to drive in this foreign country we would not make it back to the States in one piece. Not having a car put a little crimp in my plans to make the cozy scenes of England part of my portfolio but I did my best, and came back with more than a few images that I was proud of.

A few years later I went to Italy. This time I had a car to explore the countryside with. The Italy adventure included a car accident, (no one was hurt) great food, and in the end, many rolls of film to process when I got home. Another successful European photo shoot!

Then a strange thing happened. I started to notice that right in my own backyard were many scenes of beauty just crying out to be noticed. One day I asked a friend of mine who lived in the Sacramento Delta town of Clarksburg to drive me around with the hope I would find a few places to stop and aim my lens at. I was delighted by what I found! The delta region is rich with images and the light is amazing. My friend knew the back roads where sloughs remain hidden to everyone but locals.

Steamboat Slough I © 2007 Dianne Poinski

Steamboat Slough II © 2007 Dianne Poinski

All these new images and I didn't even have to get on an airplane! I learned a very important and valuable lesson that day. Practice "seeing" and you can take photographs anywhere! Also, it's true – there's no place like home……………………….

Next I will share some images from the foothills just east of where I live.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Questions & Answers

Hope © 2009 Dianne Poinski

Over the last 10 years of showing my work, I have gotten used to people asking many questions about my photographs. Some people are not really sure what they are looking at when they first come into my studio or my booth. Since my coloring can be very delicate, some people’s first reaction is that they are looking at black and white photographs. Then there are the people that mutter under their breath that I am creating these images in Photoshop. (I use to find this statement offensive until I started working in Photoshop and discovered the challenges of this sophisticated art form.)

I have come to believe that one of my most important jobs as an artist is to educate. With that in mind, here a few of the most common questions I get.

Are you using film or a digital camera?

Until 2007, all of my images were shot with film and printed in a wet darkroom on a fiber based photo paper. As the supply of traditional photography materials began to decrease, it became very clear that it was time to start learning everything I could about digital photography. I bought my first digital camera in 2006. I went completely digital in 2008 and have not looked back.

My originals are not hand-colored in Photoshop. In addition, I don't do a lot of work on the images in the computer. I basically do the same thing I did in the darkroom – adjust contrast, and burning and dodging.

What do you use to color your photographs?

I used photo oil paints on all of my prints that were printed in the darkroom on photo paper.

Since these oil paints could not be used on inkjet prints, one of the challenges with going digital was finding a way to still “hand-color” and produce originals. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered that I liked working with pastels on the digital prints.

My black and white images start as archival prints made on Museo Portfolio Rag. This 100% cotton, acid-free paper is one of the finest digital art papers made.

After making the black and white print, I shave down my pastels to a fine powder using a razor blade or sand paper. I then apply the powder using various tools designed for pastel artists. I recently discovered Pan Pastels which has almost eliminated the need to shave my pastel sticks. I also use pastel pencils to add highlights and fill in small areas.

Why do I choose to hand-color?

I answered that question in an earlier post, but it’s worth repeating here. It’s simple – I love the way it looks and I have come to rely on the meditative quality of this hands-on process.

So these are the most common questions I get. If you have a different question, please leave it as a comment and I will answer it as soon as possible.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A New Way of Doing Things

Oak Tree II © 2009 Dianne Poinski

Here is the hand-colored version of Oak Tree II.

I showed the black and white image in my last post and talked about having professional scans made of the hand-colored original.

I picked up the CD with the finished scan from Sacramento Giclee yesterday as well as a couple of proofs. After a couple of tweaks, the color was right on.

Now, I have been hearing for years how important it is to have professional photographs made of your art, but as a photographer I didn’t think they were speaking to me. I was wrong. I was wrong because even though my medium is photography, the fact that I hand-color the print creates an “original” and it’s important to reproduce that image as closely as possible.

I had a system that worked for many years. I would make an 8 x 10” print, hand-color it and use that as my “original”. Then I would scan it using my flat bed scanner. This is a fine way to do things if you are just trying to document your work but to make high quality prints from this scan was a challenge. The color was never right and while it may have looked good as an 8 x 10” print or even an 11 x 14”, try going larger than that and you were in trouble. I did make larger prints and to almost everyone else they looked fine, even good, but I knew if I wanted to take my work to next level it was time to start having those professional scans made.

Before I made this decision, I briefly played around with “hand-coloring” in Photoshop which is not really “hand-coloring”, but I did it anyway. I thought I would still have originals and my prints would be the images I did in the computer. This didn’t feel right either. I wanted my prints to be actual “reproductions” not just similar images.

Now with my new way of doing things, the scans are made from a 16 x 20” original. This change alone would make a huge difference, but now I also have quality in the color and the contrast but more important, it’s something I feel good about showing.

This is going to be an investment in time and money but it feels right, and since I am not busy doing shows right now, this is the perfect time for this project.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Slow Art

This time last year I was preparing for the first of three weekends in a row where I would be showing at an art festival. Leading up to the first show, I tried to anticipate what I would need for the following shows since I knew I would not have much time to recover and create more inventory. So I spent an incredible amount of time and money making prints, packaging them, framing originals and the list goes on. Looking back, that behavior seems a little insane but it’s what I have done for the last 10 years.

It rained this weekend. I loved it! In California most of our rain happens in the winter when it’s cold and dreary. A warm spring rain is a wonderful relief. It is also something I did not get to enjoy much because rain in May meant there was a good chance a show could get rained out. Almost every show that I have had rained out occurred in May. My memories of the past 10 springs include many hours of obsessively checking

So this is different, very different and in some ways a little uncomfortable. I had focus, I had drive, I had the potential to pad my checking account but you know what I have today? Art. I am calling it “Slow Art”. Instead of frantically creating inventory I gave myself a project. I am now going back to some of my favorite images and with the additional knowledge I have gained over the last year about Photoshop, try to create the best black and white print I can. Once I have completed the black and white version, I am taking my time hand-coloring the print with pastels. The finished original is then being professionally scanned (something I never did – ever hear of a flat bed scanner?) and from this file new reproductions will be made. My plan is to have this project completed before my trip to Paris in July. I am anticipating many new images to work on after that trip and revisiting older ones will not be on the schedule.

Here is the black and white version of my first “redo”. I dropped the finished original off to be scanned last week and should have it back Monday or Tuesday. I hope to post that here soon.

Oak Tree II - black and white pigment print 16 x 20"

2009 Dianne Poinski