Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not An Artist

He’s a salesman. Hawking images like any other commodity. Might as well sell them by the pound.

He always jockeys for the best position in an exhibit. Can’t let any other artists have a prime spot. When the gallery staff is inattentive, he’ll sneak in an extra piece, having one more opportunity over the rest of the exhibitors to cinch a sale.

And if that isn’t enough, he’ll work the floor during a reception, drawing an unsuspecting browser over to his image, trying to make that deal. If needed, he’ll work every floor. There’s an anecdote that he ran into some trouble at a hospital because he was bothering everyone with his pushy personality, visiting each nurse’s station with his sales kit. Apparently his wares wore thin.

You never see his wife at any art events. Embarrassment? Who knows? But other artists are embarrassed – and angry – when his self-centered antics make all of them look bad.

But he’s a salesman, not an artist.

Good art sells itself.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So Where Have I Been Lately?

I’ve been plagued by distractions, especially this computer. No, it didn’t crash, but sometimes as a tool it’s wanting.

I enjoy printing out my own photos via the digital darkroom. But inkjet printers – at least the one I have – can be a pain in the ass. What you see on the monitor isn’t necessarily what ends up on the page, especially when a key color gets gummed up and your print-out looks like crap because there’s absolutely no yellow in it.

For some reason the yellow ink in this Epson printer likes to fail. Then I have to clean the cartridge a few times which uses up even more ink, all the colors, not just the yellow. After I get the inkjet more or less working properly, I print a few 8 by 10 prints and the color cartridge is almost dry. It costs over $60 to replace the cartridges, both the black and the color. Epson is making too much money off me, the bastards.

But I’ve learned a few tricks on my own. Instead of printing out the whole image, I select a key area, around a couple of inches or less square, and test print that. For example, a wasp was the subject. I wanted to emphasize its yellow color. What I saw on the monitor looked more intense than what was hitting the page. So by adjusting the color and then printing out a few little squares, I got the yellow hue I wanted. Then I printed the entire image. (Screw you, Epson.)

And as with any tool, there’s maintenance. I wanted to defrag both hard drives, the computer was getting a bit cranky, but I couldn’t because there were too many large photo files stored on my PC, not enough available memory. So I spent about five hours the other night sorting and backing up files on CDs, then dumping the duplicated files into the trash bin, freeing up the space needed to run the defragmentation program. And don’t forget, you also have to run an anti-spyware program on a regular basis. That eats up time, too. (Screw you, Bill Gates.)

Anyway, I got my photos printed, then I had to mat and frame them. Two are now on display at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts on Brinkerhoff Street in Plattsburgh. And just up the street from the NCCCA is the public library where another group exhibit will be sponsored, but this one only features photography. That should be up by this weekend with three of my images. So if you’re in the downtown area, you can see what my stuff looks like in meatspace, instead viewing it on a computer screen.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Second Pair Of Eyes

Sunday afternoon. Another damp, overcast mid-autumn day. My compact digital camera sits in its bag, slung over my shoulder, underneath the protective layer of my jacket.

The gray skies leave me uninspired. Sometimes I spot something that would look interesting after it gets dark, nighttime lighting: watery reflections, close-up shots. But nothing catches my eye. I walk into the coffeehouse to warm up with a cup of joe.

Around 5PM my friend Janis stops in. The sun has set and it’s already dark outside. She asks me if I could take a photo for her, something she noticed on the way in.

I follow her outside to the table I had passed by earlier without a glance. And most likely I would have been oblivious a second time when I went home, unaware of how the night had transformed its wet surface.

The tabletop is painted with a purple background, one of her two favorite colors. Bright yellow stars dot its metal surface. Rainfall has been reformed into big beads, a striking pattern of reflective liquid lenses. The main lighting isn’t the best, just the yellowish glare from an antique streetlight. Janis is aware that the light is low, meaning that getting a good shot while handholding will be tricky.

But I try it anyway, shooting wide-open at 1/6th shutter speed, trying to stand still, imitating a rock-steady tripod. Then I go inside, grab a chair, and then brace my camera on its back. I take a few more shots. I review them on my LCD screen; they’re OK but they could be better.

So I trudge home, return with my tripod, and get closer shots with longer shutter speeds and therefore more depth of field. I play around with the color balance on the camera, changing it from automatic white balance to tungsten to fluorescent lighting. Different settings, different color casts.

I end up with some good shots. Images that I would have missed if not for a second pair of eyes that spotted what I had overlooked.

Thanks, Janis.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Plattsy + Plattsburgh = 0

Plattsy groans,

Uuuuuuuuu – where am I? It’s all over… that’s right. No one wanted me as mayor. In fact, I pulled in –2% of the vote. That means I owe votes the next time I run.

Yes, I will run again. Next year I have my eyes on a seat with Plattsburgh Common Council. I’ll be seeking the position of councilor at large. Plattsburgh is divided into different wards, but as a councilor at large I will be overseeing the mental ward. This town is indeed one big nuthouse.

You people have to be crazy. Don’t you realize that it takes a loser to run a loser town?

You could’ve had fun with me in charge. Remember when former mayor Dan Stewart wanted to fire a cannon at noon from the steps of city hall? What’s the fun in that? Me, I would get a circus cannon and fire either city councilors or department heads out of it. And just like the city, there wouldn’t be a safety net.

Well, enjoy yourselves with Mayor Mxyzptlk.

Uuuuu, my head. I drank too much of my own elixir, Plattsy’s Patented Panacea. Remember that nickname for Congressman Tom DeLay? They called him The Hammer. Well, you can call me The Clown Hammer. I’ll be back…

How To Fix A Dog

Photographically speaking, that is.

One major problem with a small camera is that its flash is located too near to the axis of the lens. This causes the burst of light to bounce off the back of the eyeball, resulting in red-eye with humans and blue or green eye in certain animals.

This dog would look cute if it wasn’t for its crazy eyes. The poor critter looks like it’s demon-possessed, or has been radioactively mutated, ready to blast me with its death beams.

A quick fix with Photoshop fills in the green with black. Now the dog’s pupils look like two flat discs. Still creepy-looking. Also, the background is distracting.

So another fix. Eliminate the background. Darken the dog's left pupil but leave a catchlight, a gleam that helps it to appear more three-dimensional. Copy that manipulated pupil, rotate it 180 degrees, and pop it into place in the right eye. Better, but the pupils are really big. Still looks a bit freaky. But the white background is a lot better, so I’m making progress.

Pressing on, I keep the manipulated pupils but make them smaller. Then, I pick up some of the natural brown eye color and use it to fill in around the pupils. Now the eyes look more natural, at least a lot better than a couple of bright off-blue discs.

How much time did I spend on this? Well, since I’m teaching myself to use Photoshop through trial and error, the time spent can be measured in hours, not minutes.

In case you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting lately…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Plattsy IS Plattsburgh!

Plattsy sez,

Dear Voter:

Dim-witted. Bumbling. Wrongheaded.

No, I’m not referring to one of my opponents in the Plattsburgh mayoral race. I’m talking about me, why I’m the best candidate to lead the ‘Burgh. My qualities are Plattsburgh’s qualities.

One of my opponents declares: Performance. Not Promises. Well, I can top that: Promises AND Performances. No one can spin as many plates on long slender poles than yours truly. In fact, in clown college I stated in my doctoral thesis that German dishes were the best for spinning. That earthshaking concept has become known as Plattsy’s Theory of Plate Teutonics, if you get my drift.

And I won’t be just making plates spin. Imagine the reaction by previous Plattsburgh mayors who are no longer among the living. If elected I’ll be making the dead spin in their graves!

So remember me tomorrow at the polls. My motto: Plattsburgh’s A Circus: Elect A Clown!


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ruff! Ruff! Vote For Plattsy!

First Dog Barney barks:

Woof! I vote for Plattsy. He make good mayor. My master not good president. He said he would keep war on. He not listen to anyone. He said, even if only two agree, war not stop. The two, mistress Laura, a human, and me, a dog. He got it wrong. Barney try to warn him, long, long ago. I bit him in poop-end. Again and again. He invade Iraq anyway. He no listen to Barney. Barney right. But Barney got hit with rolled-up newspaper.

Master not smart. He dropped Barney. Ouch, ouch! How is life with moron master? Ruff!

But Plattsy nice. He rub my belly. Vote for Plattsy. He rub your belly.


(Barney’s paw print)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Creating & Posting

Someone asked me the other day why I haven't been posting that often to this blog. I appreciated his interest; I explained I was busy with different projects.

I do try to post something at least once a week. But I have all sorts of chronic distractions that interfere with my creativity, both writing and photography. I'm not one of those people who write every day. I write when it's time to write. As for photography, it's a lot easier than writing in that I can go out and capture a number of images. But those images have to be sorted, picked over, and then from my choices I have do additional work in Photoshop, from the basic task of resizing the image for the web to sometimes fixing the image or even manipulating it.

In the area of manipulation, the image below shows how I can go wild with a basic picture. It probably doesn't look like much to some people, but it took me eleven tries and two hours to get this one photo. Even then it's not perfect, but it will have to do for now. I'm still learning how to use Photoshop; my instructors are trial and error.

Even though these blog posts are short, it sometimes takes a lot of effort and some time to just get one completed, especially when I'm created something like the example below. So please keep in mind that what takes you a minute to read or view might take hours to finish.

All I can say is keep checking back. Eventually something will pop up here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Plattsy: Best Choice For Mayor

Viki Vinyl writes:

Citizens of Plattsburgh, you are at the crossroads. The path you choose on Election Day could lead to a dead end where the barking dogs of desperation and despair are snarling and peeing on the lawn.

In these uncertain times you must evaluate what all the candidates for mayor are espousing. There is a difference between promises and performance. The future beckons; you must pick the right beacon. Don’t follow a light that will lead you into the rocky reefs of rack and ruin.

I have known Plattsy for many years. Only he has the talent, the promise, the forward-thinkingness that will save Plattsburgh during this perplexing time of rising taxes and less services. We must protect our vital infrastructure by maintaining the quality of life while concurrently balancing the conflicting dichotomy of fiscal demands and public needs during a run-on sentence.

Plattsy will not only stay the course, he will create a new and better course. He likes to golf. So keep that in mind on November 7th.


Viki Vinyl

PS: Golly, I have to be honest. Those words I just said I didn’t say; Plattsy wrote them. He thinks I’m an airhead and can’t say the right thing. Well, I don’t mind signing my name to his writing. I’ll blow his horn any time.