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The internet is awash with “x-easy-steps-to” tutorials that over-promise and under-deliver. This is not one of them, unless you are easily confused by my use of confusing semantics. Success is an elusive goal, to reach it takes effort and dedication. Let’s take that first step to getting found. It is not easy. Nowadays just about everything is done online, so the first step is to get on the internet. Unfortunately there is no such thing as people driving down the internet midway and seeing establishments right and left. You got to be in some place that people frequent to be noticed. In this first installment of this series we will take a look at social media, specifically Facebook.
You most likely have a Facebook account already. That is not quite good enough to build an artistic presence and reputation. No doubt you interact with friends and places. Many of your posts just don’t support the image of an artist, after all, they are just chatter with friends about all sorts of subjects far removed from your art.
Facebook offers “pages” – fan pages where you can show your art and interact with art collectors, other artists, and all interested in your creations. Currently Facebook offers a link at the bottom of the left sidebar to create a “Page”. Here is the top of my “art page”.
With the page you get a simple Facebook address too. Mine is facebook.com/Ludwig.Gallery – Neat, isn’t it. I can link to it from many other places on the internet, but that is getting ahead of our story. You can, of course, choose your cover image and profile picture to make your page uniquely yours. I have chosen a flower rather than the more customary personal portrait to identify my page. Also please note the very prominent “Shop Now” link, we will discuss that in a future article.
Go ahead, set up your own page. Add a few posts with images of your art. Now will people come to admire your work? Nah, nobody will see it. Nobody will come. You got to promote your page. So the next step is to invite your friends to “like” your page. You will find an option to do so in your view of your own page. Once they have done this they will occasionally see a post from this page on their home page. Just a fleeting post among the plethora of stuff that one gets on Facebook. But it is a step in the right direction.
Facebook will be quick to try and make money from you. You will see invitations to “Promote” your post. Sometimes Facebook makes it enticing by offering you credit. For just three bucks they will show your post to a thousand people. Much better than having it show up on just three friend’s feeds, no? No. Nothing much will come from those ads except that you are out the money.
Getting found is hard. You really have to work at it. At least now you have a place showing some of your work. You have to keep up posting. And you have to find ways to direct viewers to your page.
Ask your friends on your regular Facebook page to like your art page and to share your posts on their own timeline so their friends in turn can see and admire your work, and hopefully do likewise. You would really like to go viral that way. To do so you need very compelling, captivating posts.
This was my first small step that I suggest you undertake on your road to success. There are many more, but where will they lead? We have not taken up the details, the definitions of success, “getting found”, “becoming famous”, or “being rich”. Every artist sees these differently. We will take those up in the next article along with the next small steps on our quest to success.
You worked long hours, sometimes tedious hours, to get each piece just right. At the start it was the idea, the composition, the lines, the light, the message. You poured yourself into each image. The final “processing” helped you to share yourself, your inner thoughts that words could not express. Now you are standing next to just eleven of your works from the past five months. These are the ones the gallery selected, but they hung them, just these, yours, in a side gallery of your own. It had been a hectic week to get everything ready, the artist’s statements, the business cards, all the details. But now the lights are on, the doors are open.
People are actually coming, coming to see your works of art. An elegantly dressed lady approaches your “Holiday Market”. Oh, she stops, she is actually looking at it! She hardly diverts her glance as she takes a sip of her Chateau Gloria St. Julien. The gallery has really gone all out. Well it isn’t just for you, four other artists are having their exhibits alongside of yours.
This appreciative art aficionado has taken a liking to your piece. She hold the wine glass daintily by the stem. You can’t help but notice the large diamond on her ring. She step back but continues to admire your painting. You can hear your heart pounding, hoping nobody will notice.
The stylish lady turns to her husband behind her, “Isn’t this marvelous? The colors would match beautifully with the new carpeting in the downstairs guest room!”
“Match … carpeting?” The words hit you like a ton of bricks. None of the emotion, none of the nostalgia, none of the holiday spirit, that you worked so hard to bring out in your image, just the colors? Is your art seen as just a decorative accessory?
How should artists feel when their masterpieces, into which they poured their soul, are seen as decorations? Is this not insulting? Demeaning? Do we grit our teeth, smile graciously and take the money? Is this it?
Well, stand back and take a look at history. Art has always been decoration. Some of the most famous works were commissioned as decoration. Remember Pope Julius who commissioned that sculptor Leonardo to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Even the great Rembrandt took a commission for a painting for a new city hall. The piece was rejected!
Much art is purchased to make living spaces pleasant. If it pleases the buyer, be proud, be happy.
Fine Art America recently added a feature to show pieces in familiar settings. Buyers can even use an app that shows the candidate pieces in their own homes. I am showing several of my works in these simulations. I have offered my pieces printed on gift items, from shirts to shower curtains, no snobbish attitude here. I am glad to make my admirers and customers happy.
“Supermoon wows sky-gazers for only time this year” – Fox News. “Stunning pictures show the spectacular phenomenon, which has only occurred once this year, rising across the world’s skies.” so reported NBC-NEWS. The super moon mania is a rather new phenomenon. Only in recent years has there been this craze about an astronomical event that has recurred a few times each year for eons. And you find it only in the popular news media. For astronomers and sky fans it’s just a big yawn. Here is how the next super moon event, January 1, 2018, is covered by Sky & Telescope magazine: “The first full Moon of the year (for viewers in North America) coincides with its closest perigee of the year.” – Nothing special there. For the super moon of December 3, 2017, the one so breathlessly described by Fox and NBC, this astronomy fan publication had just this to say: “The last full moon of the year floats about 2° to the lower right of Aldebaran. The Moon, which is at perigee, will occult the star near dawn for Alaska and Asia.”
Photographers and artists, however, seem to have taken to the fad. For photographers, however, there is one big problem. There is no spectacle there. The “super moon” is only about 14 percent larger than the minimal-sized full moon. Oh, you can see the difference if pictures are pasted next to each other, like here, but up in the sky, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.
Is the super moon brighter? Not really, although it appears so to our eyes, as you can see here, but that is just an illusion. The popular media might say otherwise, but they are misinformed, or worse, “misinforming”.
Here is an old photo of a super moon that I took several years ago near Savannah, Georgia. I never shared this picture, it just isn’t very impressive. The moon is invariably over-exposed, washed out, if the landscape is exposed to have detail showing. Other photographers, no doubt, have the same problem. So what can you do? Fake it! Make it look bigger than it really is! It is easy enough to use a telephoto lens and take a bigger image then paste it into some other, nice photo. It is done all the time. The internet is replete with such images. Many are embarrassingly badly done.
A “close-up” of the moon, processed to show detail, will be too dark to match a landscape photo with some detail and some glow around the moon. It will look obviously fake like this image here. Hint to would be fakers: The darkest part of the moon will always be brighter than the brightest part of the surrounding sky – including clouds! Hint Two: The moon is never in front of clouds! Visually such a fake will look like the moon is a big beach ball tossed into the air. Even our colleagues who create with brush and paint get this often wrong. What can be even worse is a huge moon pasted into an obviously wide-angle photo. Even unsophisticated viewers will recognize the unrealistic perspective.
If you must be “creative”, stick to being close to what is real. I tried to do this with this, my last offering here.
Outside the wind is driving the torrential rain sideways. The howling is frightening. Lights flicker a few times then go dark. My laptop is the only source of light in the room. No point going on typing, the indicators on the router also went out, the internet connection is down.
It lasted just a few minutes, but here I sit in the dark. Hope the power comes back quickly, it did the last couple of times in the past half hour. The storms are over quickly, but the power was out for six hours just a few days ago.
Yes, that’s our plight around here. Cold air from Canada races across the plains, meets up with warm moist air from the Gulf and wham, a vicious cold front races across the east and southeast of the United States. Tornadoes are spun up this way often enough. These fronts pass quickly, sometimes within minutes, but these quick thunderstorms, and wind, and rain, do plenty of damage.
Our neighborhoods have grown up quickly here, and so have the trees. Atlanta prides itself on being a sea of green. Take my “memorial oak”, for instance. I brought home a shiny acorn from a fall hiking trip in northern Georgia about thirty year ago. I put it into a flower pot and came spring there were a couple of shiny green leaves. It seems to like the spot I transplanted it to, next to my driveway. That concrete must fell like the rocky sites in North Georgia that are its natural home. Now my chestnut oak has grown into a towering tree easily three times higher than the house. It would be quite a specimen were it not for the older trees all around that reach even higher for the sky.
My oak doesn’t play the fall tradition very well. It starts losing its leaves before any turn color and they fall, wrinkled and brown. Mostly from the top of the tree so it looks like most of the leaves are still on, even though I have raked and raked. Now, finally, the lower leaves have started to turn golden. Glorious hand-size leaves in their unique shape looking like chestnut leaves from a distance. Now they have turned yellow, starting at the edges and filling in day by day. Fall at last.
Other trees play the slow tease as well. The bigger than hand-size sycamore leaves are everywhere. The gigantic sycamore next door stands in a sunny spot and has made itself into an overarching umbrella. So much so that one large branch hung over the power lines. The arborist crew took care of that just yesterday. Unfortunately the thousands of trees in the area grow much faster than trimming crews can clip.
That is our problem. Jut about every storm brings down branches and whole trees. Most of them fall on power lines. Our neighborhood is especially vulnerable. The area grew up very fast and many power lines are above ground on poles. The trees grew even faster. Our power reliability is rather poor, as a consequence, every storm brings outages. It doesn’t help that most internet cables are strung along-side the power cables. You can see that in my photo. So I sit here, hoping the power company crews solve the outage quickly.
Ah, salvation! The power is back on. The router lights are flickering. The internet is up. Those crews work hard, in any kind of weather to keep us fussy neighbors – and internet users – content.
I can post!! Better get to it before the next squall comes through. Isn’t it great, living in the South!
It was frustrating, excruciatingly frustrating. A small task, an easy chore that I had done many times before, on this day it just did not work. What could be so difficult about setting a header on a website? Programming had been part of my working career and this wasn’t even coding, just pick and place.
My mind was numb. I needed a break. I needed to share my agony. This was fodder for a blog lament. Maybe a handful of my online friends would at least show a little sympathy by clicking like.
Wanting to set down my thoughts I started Paint. No, not Live Writer, not Word, not even Notepad, but plain old Paint. Plain lines, shapes, colors to express my feelings, that is all I needed, all I wanted. Oh, I envisioned the outcome and would reach for other tools before finishing my piece. This is how my mind works, images first. Days later I finally started typing text, on my phone, early in the morning.
Funny that I so automatically started with the image before the words? It has always been thus for me. I recall a story my mother told me one day when I had come home for a visit. When I was just a toddler, one day my grandmother took me over to the neighbors. They had found a turtle. I had never seen a turtle before. When I got back home I was excited and wanted to share my experience. I ran and got a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a pretty good representation of a turtle.
Visual expression and logic have been the basis for my engineering career. I also remember the time, as a young boy, when I was outside late at night. In our small village the nights were dark and the skies were clear. I admired the stars when suddenly one of them jumped. Yes, the star jumped from one place and stopped a little distance away. I was awed. It was still, nothing else in the firmament showed anything but utter stillness. I told my father about the jumping star. He sat me down and patiently explained meteors to me. It was a good, scientific explanation, but of course, I knew better. I had seen, seen! the star jump!
Everything in computers is crucially predictable, controlled. Everything works just as instructed, logically, precisely. Or it used to. Lately things are no longer as they seem. We live in Alice’s wonderland. The words have lost their meanings, what we see is no longer reality.
As so often happens, I started a number of images, some I finished, some are but sketches. The exercise was calming and I completed two images that expressed my frustrations as well as a little bit of hope. Later I finished my lament and posted my comments and older images as well as the two newest ones. See my lament, Losing It, over on my blog This ‘n That.
The image “Shattering World”, expressing my pain, is the upper one. Dark and ominous, it shows an explosion of sharp, multi-colored triangles with the pieces pointing, moving in all directions and toward the viewer. My final effort, “Hope”, is vastly different in feeling. It pulls the viewer the other way, towards a warm light at the “end of the tunnel”. This too consists of triangles in various colors. The surrounding environment is mundane and gray. The triangles now are more structural in nature, they are reminiscent of open doors rather than shattering shards. I tried to make this a reassuring, hopeful complement to my first work.
Returning to my website, I find the problems still there. Ach, I must start my Paint program again …
Everybody knows what a black and white photo is. It is an image devoid of color, just grays in shades from black to white. So why isn’t it called a gray-scale photo? Well, it is. It is also called a monochrome. But somehow the term black-and-white has caught on. If you look up “grayscale photo” most likely the term will be explained by calling it a “black and white photo”.
In its first half century of existence photography was monochrome. Not until the mid-190os did color photography become popular. I tried looking up how the term “black and white” got started, but with not much luck. Granted, I didn’t work all that hard at it. It seems the terms is so ingrained that there is little need to explain it.
For much of my photography I have used black and white images. There is the abstraction of the subject into form and tones that allow creating a message more directly, with more clarity, that has always appealed to me. Yet in recent years color has taken over much of my work.
It was a neighbor who just a week ago gave me a nudge by challenging me to a black and white image a day for a week. It is my habit to take things to extremes. And so I did with the black and white photograph here.
This is truly a “black and white” in every sense of the term. Just black areas and white areas. None of the traditional grey tones in between. I had a small collection of photos from a construction site that I took that afternoon. I decided to make some black and whites.
My editor, Photo Gallery, offers several B&W conversions. I picked the yellow filter effect. For eliminating the grays I used the simple approach of just moving the histogram sliders together.
The black slider up so the darker grays would be rendered black, and the white slider down to turn the lighter tones to white. I selected the point where the sliders met to provide the effect that I liked.
Just for fun I also dug up an old selfie that I had turned to “real” black and white.
Go ahead, feel challenged to do some really, really black and whites!
Pupusas are the official national dish of El Salvador. What is a pupusa? Think of pupusas as corn-flour pancakes stuffed with a savory mixture of cheese and meat or vegetables. I can’t take you to El Salvador, but I can show you a bit of the Gateway International Food and Music Festival. As festivals go this annual event each September in Norcross, Georgia, USA, is certainly not one of the larger ones. For years, however, it has been one of my favorite festivals.
You might think with the word “International” in its name it brings acts from countries far and wide. Not so. All the singers, vendors, dancers, musicians, artists, cooks, and other participants are from local communities. These are groups that keep cultural and national traditions alive with dedication and great enthusiasm. “Food” comes first in the title, but let me delay that here for just a bit and give you a glimpse of the color, the spirit, the sheer enjoyment of the event. The first group here are spirited Salvadoran dancers in their wonderful blue and white dresses.
The festival ground is ringed with booths of artists and artisans, but the important ones are the food vendors. Here a wide variety of delicacies are prepared and consumed. I will visit just one of the “pupusarias” and show you how pupusas, these delightful edibles are prepared.
It takes experienced and talented hands to bring the corn flour dough to the right consistency. The cook grabs just the right amount and flattens it out. A savory filling, consisting of mainly pork and cheese, is pressed into the center. The dough if formed around it and rolled into a ball first, then into a thick disk. Ninety five seconds for one pupusa. This is not mass production but careful, loving cooking.
Don’t let the Italian apron fool you, this is genuine Salvadoran cooking. The pupusa is friend on both sides like a pancake and served with a traditional curtida slaw and salsa roja. That’s it. No recipe here, I could not see anything being measured. It is a learned tradition, handed down in each family.
Allow me just one more comment. As you can see from the pictures, this event brings people together from many cultures of the world. From places where hatred and strive cause hardships and much suffering. Yet here, at this festival, in in this country, people of different backgrounds, different cultures, can live as friends and enjoy the crafts and traditions of one another. This is the quilt that is the real America. I only wish there were not so many tears and holes in that quilt.
Our illustration here shows an image of a worksite with some shovels stuck in dirt on the left. Clearly that is a photograph. Then it blends into some colorful “satin tiles”, digital art, on the right. It is even signed. Clearly not a photograph. Yet the right part was derived from the photo of the work site, it is a digital manipulation. It would be quite a stretch, and unacceptable by most, to call the right part a photograph.
We have wonderful digital tools these days that permit us to do magical and imaginative things. These tools allow us to use an image as if it were just paint on a brush and let our creativity roam. An art form usually called “digital art”. Let’s take a look at a couple more images.
Here we have another photograph and a, well, digital art. We are getting closer to the question of our topic. Any doubt in your mind as to the distinction? Would it matter if I told you that I spent more time on post-processing the image of the building than the one of the dancers? Would it matter that I removed a sign in front of the bushes and a gutter grate from the drive to avoid those distracting elements? Is the image of “The Little White House” still a photograph?
Since the earliest days of photography the artists have processed, post-processed, edited, retouched, enhanced, and changed the images produced by their cameras. Rarely is an image straight from the camera fit for publication. A photographer plays her camera like a violinist plays his violin. The setting, the subject, the time of day, the light, the arrangement of the details, the camera settings to control what is sharp, what is blurred, all play into what will become a photograph. Once the shutter is snapped, a whole other process begins. In the early days that was done with chemistry in film processing and repeated in the printing process that also involved many other tricks.
Nearly seventy years ago I was an apprentice to a master photographer. He taught me the details of camera operation, managing the setting, the art of the chemistry and much more. He also taught me to use a brush, sometimes with just a single hair, and the mixing of the dyes to retouch the image. Small defects and distracting details, especially in portrait work, had to be removed or modified to produce a pleasing and natural image. He always stressed that my retouching work must be so perfect that no one will ever notice it. There was never any thought that our work was anything other than photography.
Nowadays photographs still require the master’s touch. Sometimes we soften the wrinkles in an aged face, because when we see the person in life, we do not really notice them. Sometimes we remove a distracting blemish because it is temporary and not truly a part of the parson. That goes for landscapes and other photographs as well.
A photographer captures not only an image with his camera, but also with his mind. We see things that others experience differently. We want to share what we saw, and how we saw it, with the viewer. The camera, no matter how finely crafted the optics, how precise the sensor technology, does not match our eye and our vision. Yet, in the final image the photograph takes the viewer to the place, the subject, the moment in time, and sees what the photographer saw. The expert photographer brings the viewer to the subject so directly that there is no hint of the photographer’s intervention. It is as if she had stepped aside, behind the curtain, and left the viewer all alone with the subject. That is what I call a photograph.
Yet the tools of the trade permit us to go beyond reality and bring our dreams to life in our images. Here are two more of my art.
You can no longer identify the dancers. The identify of the individuals has been replaced by their art. I have tried to present not the dancer, but her art, her embodiment of music. The rustic Spanish scene is no longer a specific place, no longer a moment in time. but a feeling, an experience of joy. Clearly these are no longer photographs. These images make subject, place, time, vanish. The viewer is taken into the artists dreams.
I have shown and described photography and I have explained my feelings about digital photo manipulations. A photograph takes the viewer very directly to a subject, digital art presents the artist’s interpretation of a subject. Since the latter is derived from the photograph there is a boundary between the two forms of art. The question, “when is a photograph no longer a photograph”, is a valid one, but is it relevant? When does that transition from reality to vision happen? What guards that border?
For most artists the question is not relevant until the work is presented to a curator of a gallery, to an editor of a publication, and has to answer, “what is the medium?” The creator may feel that she is a photographer, who are we to argue? Can you make the call?
Allow me to present one more variation on the shovels. With this work I do not see a photograph.
In recent years shrimp and grits has become an iconic dish of the South. The South is that area in the south-eastern United States, from Virginia to Texas, that is synonymous with hospitality and good cooking. When I first came to Georgia many decades ago, I wanted to become part of my new community and cooking, and sharing, became a fun hobby. I still look for new ways and new recipes.
In recent years shrimp and grits has become an iconic dish of The South. It is a favorite of mine at local restaurants and I have been developing my own version. Shrimp boats ply the waters off the Georgia coast, although the industry has declined due to heavy competition from Asian sources. Local shrimp is hard to find away from the coast. Preparing fresh shrimp is a very time-consuming chore. It goes about like this: cut off the head, crack off the shell, pull off the tail, cut a slit all the way along the back and remove the “vein”. Rinse and do the next one. After a few hours, you might have enough to cook your dish. I usually buy Gulf shrimp shelled, deveined and frozen and spend by afternoon in a more fun activity.
Local grits, however, are plentiful in every grocery. Grits is coarsely ground corn and has been a staple in these parts since long before Europeans discovered America. Traditionally grits have been prepared by boiling in water. Of course, competitive cooks have taken grits to culinary heights. Grits is often cooked in milk and loaded with cheese and butter and spices for unique and distinctive variations.
When I came across a recipe in my local paper that called for creamed corn, I was intrigued and just had to adapt it to my own ways. Fresh corn is, of course, quite different from the ground dried grits, it is softer and sweeter, and should make an interesting dish.
As luck would have it, before I could try the recipe, I saw a tweet from Garden & Gun magazine, offering “the way” to prepare Southern corn. Now any recipe that starts with crisping bacon in olive oil is really up my alley. Corn is then browned in the oil and bacon bits. Add cream, butter, and Feta cheese and finish cooking. Nobody has ever accused Southern cuisine of being diet food.
|Ingredients for Southern style shrimp and creamed corn||
Southern style creamed corn
As you would expect, cooking the shrimp is not any less complicated. There must be other ingredients, or “seasonings” as an admired friend calls them. This recipe calls for bacon, of course, two red onions, one green pepper, and two large tomatoes. Also, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and a spicy pepper sauce. We don’t go for spicy food in my family, so I substitute bourbon – what could be more Southern.
But first the shrimp are marinated with salt and minced garlic for a couple of hours. The onions are then cooked with crisped bacon, olive oil and butter, slowly until they just start to caramelize. The other ingredients are then added with the shrimp going in for just the last ten minutes.
|Shrimp cooking in cast iron frying pan with “seasonings”||Plated Southern style shrimp and creamed corn|
Mmm, shrimp and creamed corn. Not bad at all. A fine variation on shrimp and grits. Sorry, dear reader, that I can’t share the dish with you, there were no leftovers.
It is said that need is the mother of inventions, but sometimes opportunity can be the inspiration of a fabulous product. I offer the story of Keiller’s Dundee Marmalade as an example. But I am getting off the track already.
For the past few weeks every time I rummaged in the dry goods cabinet, where we store rice, quinoa, barley and a colorful assortment of beans, a bag of garbanzo beans, chickpeas to some, got in the way of my searches. It has been there seemingly forever. I have no idea why I ever bought it.
Now there is a very practical reason why this bag of treasure stayed around. Using garbanzo beans requires planning. They need an overnight soak before cooking. Then they are simmered for an hour and a half to two hours. The “quick way” on the bag label instructs to boil them for a few minutes and the let them steep an hour before the final boil. This still is a three-hour chore.
I was looking for the pasta, my family had requested spaghetti for dinner, when I came across that bean bag again. For once I had plenty of time and that proverbial light bulb came on.
The name for my unique culinary treat came much later, halfway through dinner, as courtesy from my family. My working idea was to add the garbanzo beans to my marinara sauce and serve it over spaghetti.
All proceeded as planned and I served small samples of my “chickpeas enrobed in house marinara sauce over spaghetti”.
Well, there was no standing ovation. Besides the name “Persian Pasta” all I got from my family was “an interesting meal”. The word “interesting” is their way of complimenting me when praise is absolutely out of the question. There was no request to document the recipe for future use. Ah, well, I tried.