Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the incredible lightness of being

Yes let me set the record straight. I'm an artist on a number of being computer, graphic image distortion, a kind of pop-art, poster art; I don't do vector art (yet) and have moved beyond xerox art which was an old passion. I also write and play music but you can read about that on other blogs...

I owe a lot to Blogger for providing me a place to get started with this genre- and it's also amazing that digital photography has made it possible for one to simply take pictures and waste no more than batteries, no powerful developing chemicals down the family sewer anymore. What a time to be alive! Businesses like Google may want to make money off of people like us (low-down free-blog-using image panhandlers) but they've been very generous so far and I've been able to 1) write volumes in hopes of becoming a better writer; 2) store photos that I've distorted, saturated and sharpened, 3) download & upload photos I've taken, taking up mbs of bandwidth, all free; and this is what, because someone thinks I'll click on a google ad? I might. But so far I've been taken with the opportunity to be part of the media in my free time. I'm a content producer...and I don't care if nobody notices me. It's just nice having an outlet...

As for pop art/poster art, I'll get it together. I plan to have a few exhibits- posted deliberately and prominently- in spaces that are genuinely and unequivocably mine. You see, I also owe a lot to SIUC- which provides most of my images too btw- by that I mean, it's the place where I see shapes, images, views, angles, and somebody, I'm sure, put in the gardens for just that purpose...but it also has given me a job, a place to go every day, and as part of that, web pages, a corner, a domain- all these old pages that nobody uses. I feel that as long as I'm using them for siuc- which I am, I'm helping them out. I'm here to help SIUC see itself from a different angle; hopefully a good one, but definitely a colorful one. It's a beautiful place, a garden; a paradise of its own.

But, back to the original problem, I got onto my own image uploading, and found out that I've only used 35 out of 1025 possible mb, or whatever. Plenty of space up there. Blogger obviously sets the terms, and does what it wants; simplifies the images because it wants to save space; doesn't let you organize what you put up there, because it wants to encourage you to sign up for Picasa and thereby draw you into its paid services. I've never signed up for Picasa simply because I don't want it immediately grabbing all the photos in my computer, which at any given time, any given computer, are both personal and work, two different kinds. I'm sure someone from Picasa will tell me, no problem, you simply organize after you have an account- but how can I know that from here? Since I find that to be hard to do on my present image host, I have to assume it's hard to do wherever one goes...

Signed up for Bubbleshare the other day because I like those moving carousels. But I never put anything on my account. This will either happen or it won't. It could be like one of those hundreds of accounts around there that I have but barely use & steadily recede into oblivion. Someday all the free providers in the world will band together and make "george washington slept here" pop art monuments in my name...

"I'd asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, 'Well, what do you love most?' That's how I started painting money." -AW

images on blogger
Free image hosting on Blogger- issues
image hosts and comments
how to post an image in its original size on Blogger or "Blogger scales down my images"

Monday, December 8, 2008

blogger & the artist's easel

My problem here is that I've been using blogger to store temporary pictures, to decide if I like them enough to save them and hang onto them. And to some degree, it's worked fine. They sit on my blog for a few days; I open the blog several times; in the course of those days I either keep liking them, or give up on them and let them go. Letting them go often means letting them sit in the blog indefinitely, as opposed to storing them in a place where I'm more likely to have active use, more likely to pick and use them.

Now here's the problem. Even with my weak and weakening eyes I can tell that blogger is skinflinting on the pixels. In other words, in order to save space, blogger has been reducing everything it's asked to store, since it's just on the free blogs anyway. It's actually a problem I've noticed on the wider web too. Really nobody likes to store the really big-bundled pictures, even though they are clearer; they take up tons of space. And on a daily basis it's even hard for some computers to grab them and focus them; for blogger, carrying a lighter-bundled picture might mean that people like me are aggravated about their vagueness, but Joe OldPC out in the bad-(connection)-lands can at least get his weblog-view in under five minutes. And it will keep him on blogger, using the carousel, taking the world tour of blogs.

So for me, the question becomes: what can I use as a desktop, where I can look at my pictures, mess with the colors, decide if I'm done or not? The actual computer desktop now has hundreds, and I can't see them all, because they have little icons instead of thumbnails. But even the thumbnails wouldn't work for the purpose I'm talking about. I'm actually better off using my photo storage itself- and I've had some trouble here too- to have a place where I can open them up and take a look at their color.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

shepard fairey gets his ten minutes

Wanner, Rene (2008, Nov. 5). Web poster exhibition- Shepard Fairey posters for Barack Obama.

Nicole Stamp's Hope is Taupe poster, and hope poster and copycats, from pageslap weblog.

Jacang Maher, J. & Warner, J. (2008, Aug. 29).
Shepard Fairey, creator of iconic Obama 'Hope' poster, arrested at DNC
. Denver Westword Blogs.

Village Voice. (n.d.). Spoofing Shepard Fairey's Obama "Hope" posters, where I first saw all this.

OK, so Shepard Fairey is at the top of the world; his first poster struck a nerve, and though he intended to give it away, someone almost immediately turned it over and sold it for big money on eBay. That was the original scandal, though it happened after he was arrested at the DMC (third article). The fact that he was mad at someone for using eBay to take him, was perhaps the first story that caught the public's eye, and I ran across it somewhere after trolling around, amazed at first encountering Wanner's article (top).

So my own personal timeline goes something like this: Stumble upon Voice article, read comments and find Wanner page, be overjoyed at stumbling upon landmark of modern graphic pop art collected in a single spot; research further to find out how Fairey had caught public eye, and how he had been arrested. Yesterday, btw, was offered by MoveOn a free sticker by Shepard Fairey- they are tossing his name around as if I already know it. I took it; it should arrive in 8-10 weeks.

Slowly I've been reacting to all of this. First, he reminds me a little of AW, getting the public's attention through stark, bold, simple color, the right perspective done the right way, though I'm surprised that, as I troll around on good macs and little dell pc, it's really quite different on each. He is also like AW in believing in getting his work out there in vast quantities, not so concerned about the profit from each. It sort of follows (at least it did in AW's case) that if you become famous, all your artifacts become valuable anyway; might as well see to it that you rake in the fame first. Finally, the graphic artist obviously has an important role to play in the making of political change. In fact, I think everyone had a role in this one, right down to the tiniest blogger (thank you), but, S.F. played a major role here, and I think he's getting some duly earned fame.

Then, finally, here he is in NYC in a graphic studio, producing stuff much like AW. Brings up a few questions: do people make enough money doing this to support such a studio, or was his pre-fame life a little on the edge? Is NYC the capital of the graphic arts world, due to AW's footsteps, or patterns put in place long before AW? Does a studio like SF's attract the great visionary graphic artists of our time, from small towns across the USA? Just curious.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heading into another pop-art phase, because I'm a writing teacher again; I grade endlessly, fall asleep grading, and, in order to have any time to myself at all, take a few minutes to do pop-art between stacks. But have noticed that blogger is taking digital camera pictures, and storing them quite poorly. The picture, or the pop art, or whatever I make or do, doesn't look so good when blogger takes it and stores it temporarily on the blog system. Maybe it's their way of discouraging use of that free service. Maybe it's enough that they give you billions of blog-kilobytes, free, virtually no questions asked. It's not like I'm complaining; google is my friend.

I did, however, get off my lazy backside, and start taking my own photos, so now I have a crisis related to where to put them, how to store them. fotopic is good for social stuff, stuff I don't mind showing, but maybe I need other places too; stuff where whole bundles can be placed and kept safely. hmmm.

Still mulling over some of AW's ideas. Get art out to the masses. Choose a medium that makes art really spread. Take icons; play on the common person's idealization of reality. Put everything into every picture; don't hide stuff, or make deep, hidden meanings. Let the art put the whole thing on the table.

Not sure if that's how AW would put it, but, after all, I've been influenced by Actualism. One doesn't need a course in Greek philosophy to participate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

a.w. notes from a grainy pocket

I set about reading a little about A.W., and was influenced by two articles which I stumbled upon, and then which spent two months, more or less, in my pocket. Now however I am cleaning out my pocket, and will continue to put some of the things I've found about A.W. in this blog and, if I get time, develop it a little.

A biography of Andy Warhol. (n.d.). Andrew's Art Archive. Accessed 7-08.

"Warhol mocked art..." (par. 3)
"The repetition and crude synthetic colour are the instruments of a moral and aesthetic blankness that has been deliberately contrived. Warhol had an obsession for boredom..."(par. 4)
"Warhol not only wanted to turn the trivial and commonplace into art, but also to make art itself trivial and commonplace. Warhol applies the criterion of 'quantity as quality' to people as well as to consumer articles." (par. 9)

Churchwell, S. (2007, May 29). Too many Marilyns. Guardian, commentisfree.,,2090030,00.html. Accessed 10-08.

"Warhol's coloured Marilyns are some of the most recognisable, and valuable, 20th century works of art, each now worth about the same as a Van Gogh." (par. 2)
"Using a publicity photo advertising Niagara, a 1953 film, Warhol launched his career over Marilyn's dead body." (par. 5)
"It is not pious nostalgia to point out that we are evacuating our values of meaning: reputation once meant character; fame once meant honour. The old studio system was no slouch at exploitation, but Hollywood once made movie stars by creating franchises out of personality; now it creates franchises out of spin-offs. We live in a world of derivatives, and Warhol's many Marilyns helped get us there. The price we continue to pay for them is not really &14m. It's that we can no longer tell the difference." (par. 7)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yo Andy

Some time last summer, when I was grading stacks of fifty into the middle of each night, and grading more at work, even when I had access to a nice newish mac, G4, or whatever they're called, I started playing with the "photo booth" function of the computer and noticed that I could turn my face, my stack, or any of my visitors into a number of different appearances, including a cartoonish one, and a "pop art" one, that had four brightly colored rectangle images together; this one of course reminded me of Andy Warhol and his famous Marilyns, so in my early phase of using this "pop art" function, I made my own Marilyn, but also a pop art JFK, a pop art Iowa map, and pop art Salukis. I was off and running, grabbing everything in my office and making pop art out of it; eventually I found free photo image editors on the web and started making pop art and poster art out of many of the photos at my disposal.

My curiosity was aroused about Warhol and I eventually found out several interesting things about him. He was born in McKeesport and raised in Pittsburgh; this gave me an affinity for him. When he moved to New York, he set up what he called the Factory, to mass-produce his silk screens and give him a crowd of adoring fans who also depended on him. I'm not sure if he sought fame, but his prints of Campbell's soup cans and then his famous Marilyns brought it to him. He was shot by one of his followers, and died early; he had done tons of drugs, said lots of pithy and shallow things, amassed an enormous estate (which brought great respect among the established and the powers that be), and, made his pop art so recognizable that any of us would think of him immediately, upon seeing four brightly-colored rectangles in a checkerboard on the computer.

The Marilyns have been called perhaps the most recognizable of all 20th century art, clearly famous. So, the first thing I'm curious about is this: Why did it strike such a nerve in American consciousness, just at that moment when it came out? The image, with the purple lips and all, is clearly a color distortion of her real self, but he had simply stolen it from a movie poster, and she was dead, so nobody disputed his ability to launch his career from it. Nowadays there is considerable antagonism for him, related to the fact that she never saw a penny, and he became a millionaire, all for stealing the right image at the right time. I don't take this lightly, as, so far, all I've done is steal images myself, though I'm just playing and not trying to make money. Some have said that the mass production, the mere choice of silk-screen as preferred medium, gives the images a kind of moral blankness, a repetitiveness that is empty, purposely and strongly vapid. This had been lost to me in my memory of the picture and what it had stood for; I was surprised to read this. It may be that he made and sold thousands of them, but I didn't really know this, or remember it.

Upon reflection I had considered the Marilyns to be a statement on branding. What he was saying was, if you're going to idealize someone, make them into a symbol or an icon, you might as well go all the way, make the lips purple, or orange, or neon yellow for that matter. She's no longer a person, right? Her image is simply that, a symbol, reflecting in the sun, and catching our eye; her beauty is a kind of brand, that makes us want to grab it because it is a symbol of something we like. Kind of like the Campbell's soup can.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that what propelled him into fame, at first, was the juxtaposition of the Marilyns with the soup can, which had come out earlier. The soup can paintings made people angry at the banal subject matter, the glorification of business and corporate imagery, which to most people was profane, having been developed for money and all. Artists were most angry. Calling a picture of a soup can art was degrading or banalizing all of art. Perhaps his picture was drawing attention to the beauty of a perfect logo, the success that Campbell's had achieved with its simple cursive and perfect two-color design. I did the same with the Quaker Oats quaker, but it was clear to me that Andy had gotten there first, and all I could do was copy or reflect. He was there at the time, though, and so was I; the soup can was a high fast-ball, but the Marilyn was inside, on the corner, a perfect strike. It not only became famous, it stayed that way, and now, one can make pop-arts easily, with a click of the doc-camera and photo booth.

I have just begun to study this phenomenon; I've only been doing pop-art for a few months, and have no desire to simply copy Andy or make a number of spin-offs of the soup can and the Marilyns. I did, however, make a few, just for fun. I'm curious about the Andy Warhol museum (actually there are a few, but the best is probably in Pittsburgh)- and curious about a number of other things. My sister says that she saw a documentary about the wild times he lived in, and about a guy who hung around that crowd, and then simply disappeared, never to be found again. Wild times, she said, lots of drugs and crazy things going on, according to the movie. I'm not curious about that, so much, but: what binds pop art together? Why did such a rich and healthy genre wait so long to spring up? What can the computer and its little doc-cam contribute to this picture? If the web is my medium of choice, how is that similar to or different from silk-screen?

It's been pointed out that Warhol was angry at being rejected by the art establishment, and made art trivial as a way to get back at the established art world. Make the trivial into art, make art trivial. If repetition is reputation, then he was clearly onto the way to make himself famous, because he did; he got people to mention his name, notice his art, and listen to his pronouncements (which I would like to collect). But something about this dogma strikes me as Actualist. Actualists were poets of the 1970's in Iowa City (and elsewhere) who wrote poetry about ashtrays (as it was once pointed out to me) as a way of saying, one can find poetry everywhere, in one's own personal break times, by the old table in the back porch. One should not need an education in classical mythology to understand a good poem, they felt, and wrote poetry accordingly. Warhol would agree; if people like it, it's good; if it reaches out, and grabs them, and they buy it, so much the better. Art is what you can get away with, he said (I believe), and he set about to take this everyday stuff (like a soup can) and show us how we idealized and branded even the banal things in our everyday lives.

I have worked with this idea, a little. When a copy machine was moved directly outside of my office once, in the 1990's, the sound drove me nuts, but I reconciled it by doing Xerox art and employing what I would today call cut-and-tape photoshopping. About ten of these constructions ended up on the web; I stopped scanning them, and even making them, but my proclivity toward the graphic arts had merely gone underground. I don't think I want to be famous as AW was; in fact, I can barely handle the fame I've got, being a big fish in such a small pond. I strive only to be useful (and thus use work computer to do mostly work-related salukis, pulliams, things people in this community could like and use)…and, to express myself, show an artistic edge, perhaps create a calendar or a book once in a while for family and friends. What if fame were to find me? I've thought of it, more perhaps than I'd care to admit. After all, I’m also a major local fiddler (going nowhere) and a writer (self-published), etc. blah blah blah. It's not like I don't try. What I'm saying is, obsessed with fame as Andy was, he went out and grabbed it, directly, whereas I have issues with it, and would have to sacrifice my family, which I'm not quite willing to do, so I'm still sitting here blathering about it, as opposed to turning my attention onto self-promotion. So, my work is a secret, mostly, and here's hoping it stays that way, at least for the moment. It'll be there when I die though, because pixels are forever- and because everyone is famous for fifteen minutes.

Sept. 2008