Category Archives: Arts

Enjoying Photo Overload

Since starting at the big daddy of photography, I’ve certainly been surrounded by imagery. Given that photography was a hobby of mine before then, I was a little worried that the interest would wane after being around photos all day long. Thankfully not.

Surveillance Cameras Surveillance Camera Duo

Some of the photo stuff I’m enjoying:

  • Linked before, The Big Picture blog puts together some great galleries on current world events.
  • Go install the Cooliris (formerly Piclens) plugin now! Exploring their selections, or browsing Flickr photostreams is so very cool-looking, and more practical than clicking “Next” page after page. (When the plugin doesn’t mess up, of course)
  • Browse the Getty Images Olympics coverage (also Piclens/Cooliris enabled!) for some great stuff.
  • My new lens, and my first Canon “L series” lens. Expensive, but totally worth it. I still need to shoot a side by side comparison with my first kit lens (similar wide angle) to show the quality difference.
  • I’m still posting some to my other Flickr photostream, but that’s getting to be a bit much with the iPhone and pocket camera (plus video mode) all contributing to the photo backlog.
  • Weird Olympics photos from the Guardian.
  • I keep hearing great things about the new version of Adobe Lightroom and will have to check it out, but I’m loving my Aperture workflow. Good organization tools, auto-tagging with the FlickrExport plugin, and all the adjustments I ever used from Photoshop.

Last September, I wrote this summary of three years with Flickr, and reaching the 1,000 photo-upload mark. Less than a year later, I’ve broken the mark of 2,000 photos on Flickr (somewhere in the midst of my bulk dodgeball photo upload). And in last year’s post, I claimed 32,000 views of my photos, but I think that was actually the view count for my photostream. Total views of my photos has now just topped the 150,000 mark, which I think is pretty crazy. Who are these people?

I guess I’ll keep taking photos as long as there’s stuff to be seen, and people keep looking.

PicLens Abstract Digital Glitch Art

Yesterday I fired up the slick PicLens plugin to play more extensively after only ever seeing videos or over-the-shoulder pieces of it. It really is an awesome plugin and smoothly panned through my various Flickr and Facebook photo feeds and searches. While browsing through some of my historical Flickr stream, I ran across this awesome bug/glitch/computer-expressing-itself-through-art feature:

The top one was the first I saw on my screen and I loved it. I went straight for the screenshot keys a couple times and then gingerly closed the window, hoping it wouldn’t be lost. To my relief, I was able to reproduce the glitch on some more photos. I started browsing my photostream for bunches of photos that might look good all mashed up together. Whatever the bug was, it didn’t really follow predictable rules, so many of my rational creative attempts were in vain.

The bug was also very intermittent. I’d scroll through a few screens of photos with nothing, and then finally get another surprise. But still, this process went on for longer than I’d like to admit. As you can see, there was an occasional continuity or pattern in the images, but not all. I like the glimpses of eyes, faces, or occasional landmarks sneak into focus in some panels.

What a beautiful bug! Some people pay hundreds of dollars for filters or plugins like this! Thank you. (not sarcasm, it really is fun)

PS – PicLens: If this is your bug, I was not able to reproduce this when looking at Facebook albums, only my Flickr stream so far. Browser: Firefox 3.0 Beta, Mac. It happened on clicking for a larger view of an image in the default view. When the higher-res photo finished loading, it would display as the glitchy image. They sometimes show the background window contents appearing in places. Following the link to the original image site, the photos always appeared OK.

PPS – Mozilla Firefox 3.0: If this is your bug, I’m using 3.0 on a fully patched Mac OS X 10.3. I think I had Bloglines and another Flickr page open in other tabs.

PPPS – Apple OS X/iMac: If this is your bug with system, drivers, or graphics card, well, see above if that helps. I don’t want to go buying another computer right now. :)

Edward Scissorhands in Dance

Sunday evening I went and saw Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at the 5th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle. I’m a big fan of the movie and love the Danny Elfman score, and when I heard they’d turned it into a stage show, at first I was a bit skeptical. When I saw that there was no dialogue at all, and it was purely a dance performance, I was even more usure. But all of my skepticism was quickly put to rest. The show was absolutely amazing.

Danny Elfman’s original score was used and expanded a bit, and it works wonderfully as the backdrop (and sometimes the star) of the show. I was never bored of the dancing, and actually thought it was a great way to tell what’s already a very surreal, magical story. I also found a lot of the performance much funnier than I expected. The suburban scenes and elaborate group dances did an excellent job of demonstrating the variety of quirky characterizations.

Check out some of the short videos online here, as well as the longer interview/montage with the Director/Choreographer Matthew Bourne. And if you’re in Seattle, I highly recommend checking out the show. It’s playing through May 13th.

Thoughts on the Olympic Sculpture Park

I finally made it down to the Olympic Sculpture Park this past weekend. It was still quite crowded 3 weeks after opening, but not nearly the mess it was on opening weekend. The setting is quite impressive for what it is. There’s plenty of well-landscaped space, and you hardly notice the busy Elliott Ave running right underneath you.

On the downside, the only real view from the park is looking West and a bit South, and while it’s a really great view of the sound and the Olympic Mountains, every other direction is a massive block of trendy new condominiums. That’s just what you get in Belltown. The Space Needle is visible in a few places, but is mostly obscured by the buildings. On the Western-most side of the park, you can look South all the way along the train tracks to Pioneer Square, which is pretty cool.

The sculpture itself was presented really well, except for the flourescent blue signage that was everywhere, asking people not to touch anything. The signs were a more common conversation topic than some of the art. And people were still touching everything. I’m a big fan of Alexander Calder, so his Eagle was a favorite, along with Richard Serra’s Wake. I do miss having the Calder right in my neighborhood in Volunteer Park, but the new location is a bit more fitting.

I look forward to heading back on a sunnier day, and catching some sunsets from the park. And for now I’ve got a small set of photos that most everyone gets from walking around the park:

Olympic Sculpture Park

FILE Magazine Project: Utility Fixtures

Utility Fixture I’m happy to share that my Utility Fixtures photos have been featured as a project on FILE Magazine. You can enter the gallery from the project intro page here. The project gallery is just a subset (with most of my favorites) of my growing collection of 70+ fixtures. There’s also a new Flickr pool for Gas Meters that’s growing quickly. I even recognize a familiar one.

Hey Baby, nice Lensbaby

I ordered myself a Lensbaby (2.0 version), last week, as well as the macro attachments. It arrived just the other day, and yesterday I ventured out to give it a try with some mixed results…

Ladybug 4 Flower Abstract

A few good shots out of about 80 total. I had most fun playing with the macro attachment, but even normal scenes give good results. The principle is simple: you’ve got a flexible lens mount, so as you bend it and compress it, you’re changing the focal length and therefore adjusting the plane of focus as well as the “sweet spot.” It took me a while to get the hang of focusing, especially on the shaky macro shots and moving subjects (pesky insects!). Want a different aperture (thus expanding or contracting your area of focus), just pop out a disc and put a new one in.

Even though the lens is about as manual as you can get, my Canon continued light-metering in Aperture Priority (Av) mode, and adjusted the shutter speed accordingly. This is pretty nice, since it takes one extra piece of guesswork out of the process. Of course I still found myself making plenty of adjustments.

I’ll keep playing and continue to post the successes in my lensbaby set on Flickr.

The Wilderness and the City

Over the weekend I watched Grizzly Man and I was amazed. It covers the life and death of Timothy Treadwell who spent 13 summers in the Alaskan wilderness living with the Alaskan brown bears. He filmed his last 5 summers there, and the film is made up mostly of his footage, along with interviews of people who knew him (not as compelling as the rest). At times the wilderness is just jaw-dropping. He is close enough to these bears that he can touch them, and he has arctic foxes following him as if they are his pets. He formed a bond with the wild that’s hard not to admire. On the other hand, he has a screw or two loose, and he is more than a bit fanatical and delusioned about his purpose. Even with his environmentalist, anti-establishment ramblings and all-around kookiness, I couldn’t help but watch in amazement at his energy and passion for what he was doing. Maybe his closeness to the bears was misdirected and may have hurt more than helped (getting them too used to human presence), but it was still raw and powerful. And again, the footage he captured was just amazing.

On a different, but somewhat simlar vein, today I followed a link to this site of an autistic guy who has created an entire city through drawings and writings. There is a short video on him online here. He has written history, economics and demographics for the city and the detail in the drawings is remarkable. The cohesive vision and depth of content is what really makes it come to life.

Two passions for very different subjects, from not-quite-normal minds, both impressive and inspiring in their own right.

ColdK is Lame

ColdK is Lame I was rather disappointed when I saw this faded ColdK ghost last weekend. It was on a brick wall of a beautiful old building on Capitol Hill, around 10th and Roy. I’m sure any more aggressive cleaning of the tag would begin to damage the brick. Some street art can be beautiful, but ColdK’s prolific ghost tags have long since become an eyesore around Seattle. I think there’s some distinction between tagging and street art, and it’s mostly subjective. Who’s to say what the intent is, except maybe the artist himself. Unfortunately, the defense and explanation of his work doesn’t exactly inspire. My advice? Exercise a bit more restraint and tact in your urban doodling. Some of the most memorable street art I’ve seen, I’ve only noticed once or twice in obscure locations, not necessarily dozens of times on everything including shop signage, garage doors, air conditioners, and windows. It sure is a lot of practice you’ve been doing, and so far I haven’t seen any improvement. Take it back to the sketchbook, please.

Safety and Pixar at the MOMA

While in NY last week, I had the opportunity to visit the MOMA to check out their special exhibitions. Since I’d just done a full tour of the museum in August, I felt I didn’t need to see every Matisse, Pollock and blue/white/black/slashed canvas again. The first special exhibition I walked through was SAFE: Design Takes on Risk. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect out of an exhibit on safety, but it was fascinating. The idea behind the exhibit is that nowhere does design matter more than in an emergency, where a tool or safety device needs to be so user-friendly that it can be understood and used immediately. The exhibit included everything from life vests, fire blankets, and Target’s new prescription bottles, to some more amusing art objects playing with the idea of safety. Some more images and examples can be found in this article.

Pixar Turntable The other special exhibition running at the MOMA was on Pixar animation. The gallery walls were filled with concept art from all of Pixar’s films, including their upcoming film Cars. There were also quite a few character model sculptures and plasma screens showing slideshows, Pixar shorts and more concept art. It was fun to see all of the artwork together, but I’d still seen most of it already in the various special features from the DVDs. But… the real highlight of the exhibit was in one of the theater spaces, where they had this giant turntable behind a glass case (pictured above). On the turntable were countless character models from Toy Story, all in slightly different poses. The whole thing started spinning rapidly, and then the regular light went out and the strobe light came on. The whole scene animated into a continuous loop of Woody galloping on his horse, Buzz balancing on a ball, green aliens walking around, and little army men jumping out of the box in the middle. In motion the whole scene looked like it was a state of the art 3D hologram projection, but it was so much simpler. It was an amazing demonstration of exactly what creates animation.

Christmas Cards

Christmas Card 2004 Christmas Card 2005

Every year my mother sends out Christmas* cards to family and friends. Not just any cards, but some of her very own handmade cards. For those of you who didn’t know my mother was an artist, well, now you do. She does etchings, embossings and collages all out of her basement studio. Above are the 2004 and 2005 Christmas cards I received. Happy Holidays!

* Disclaimer: I’m not saying “Christmas” instead of “Holidays” out of any support for that idiot but rather because it is what I happen to celebrate, and also happens to be the theme that some of my mother’s cards take.

For All Your Space Travel Needs

Space Vehicle Hull Repair Patch A refrigerator magnet, er… Hull Repair Patch purchased from the newly opened Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. located at 826 Seattle in the Greenwood neighborhood just outside the city. There are a bunch of other photos on Flickr from the store and the grand opening. Great decorations and hilarious writing throughout the store, and of course a great looking writing workshop in the back.

I Could Have Made This

I was sitting in a bar with a friend recently, where there was quite a bit of art on the wall. One of the pieces of art happened to be a red canvas with words painted in black saying, “I could have done this.” After a few minutes of pondering it and laughing, my friend said:

I think 3/4 of all art is made for the beginners who see it and say, ‘I could have done this.’

Maybe it’s an exaggeration or oversimplification or a comment on how much of “art” is crap, but I know most of us have looked at a piece of art and thought, “Huh? I could have done this.” A plain blue canvas? A bunch of splatters? A blank, unpainted canvas?! I’d have to say that context is what helps establish these things in some sort of appreciable light, and it can be fascinating finding out why that canvas with a gash in it was so important. Should you have to know a historical context to appreciate art, or is that an unfortunate by-product of ego-driven art critics in the mid-twentieth century? And if anyone could have made it, then why do we give it so much importance? To that, I would respond, 1. You didn’t make it, and 2. You couldn’t have made it. The “I could have done this,” painting isn’t hanging in the MOMA or the Whitney, it’s hanging in some bar in Seattle, being chuckled at. Maybe this context is ironically perfect, or maybe the artist is just 40 years too late. It also has a $1000 price tag, which might be the real statement. Maybe now I’ll start looking at it with a moment’s consideration and think, “I could have bought that.”

Lucky: How the Seattle Art Scene Kicked Tobacco With the Patch

Lucky Strike vs. Artpatch What the heck does tobacco have to do with the Seattle arts scene? Almost exactly two years ago, Lucky Strike (Brown & Williamson/ R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) waltzed into Seattle brandishing a giant checkbook, and a curious interest in art. A number of organizations gladly accepted the dollars thrown their way, and even a popular weekly newspaper took advantage of the handouts…

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826 Valencia

Skyler recommended I check out the 826 Valencia, Pirate Supply store before I left San Francisco, so we headed down on Sunday. 826 is the young writers and tutoring workshop started by David Eggers of McSweeney’s fame (and AHWOSG infamy). The pirate store, which is merely a commercial and fund-raising front for the workshop, was pure McSweeeney’s humor. The signs covering the walls were probably the highlight. “When in doubt. Swab.”

826 Valencia

The top half of the building was also covered by a huge comic mural by Chris Ware. The full-size original I posted on Flickr is nearly big enough to read the whole thing.

I wish I’d remembered about 826 NYC and the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. when I was there.