From Reference to Recording to Digital Composites of Others
Some things are best when planned. Others seem to wind their way into you life as a creative, and as you look back at works that were planned for one purpose, especially when that particular purpose flew the coop as an idea of merit, or an intention you have held for two decades, the mind turns to re-purposing. Re-purposing is a concept that we as a culture knows little of, for we are far more familiar with planned obsolescence, conspicuous consumption, and the throwaway economy. I’ve always wondered why we are such a disposable economy, and what that means to all facets of contemporary life.
As a dedicated recycler, I’ve found through the years many creative applications for cardboard to corrugated board to paper grocery bags to cloth. If one looks long enough through the works I’ve made over my career, you may see clues to this idea of repurposing things; usually though, people haven’t a clue that the leather they think the see is actually retted toilet paper roll cores. In fact, I still have plans to mount a series of diptychs and triptychs of which the predomitate substrate will be just that. For when repurposed, it’s beautiful.
The Beaufain Muse works are repurposed in a different way, however, for they are all built from within a digital environment, from the initial photograph to the final digital composite. Reference photos for a planned painted series of the human figure began in January of 2003. At first I didn’t really take that many photos, but usually 5-10 at the start of trying to figure out the pose I wanted the person to take, and at the end of a life drawing session with them, I’d be sure to take a few more of the one pose I had spent the most time drawing. That was the working norm for about three months. Soon after that, I began thinking ahead. I started doing shoots that yielded 100-200 images, bought soft light boxes to gain stronger light and shadow patterns, then would select a few for the next time a model came in for a drawing session. This all worked quite well, for about a year.
A brief attempt at moving to Colorado in July of 2004 resulted in my being hired as a full time arts faculty member, and around August 8th or so I was back in South Carolina, but had left my great third floor studio and home on Colonial Lake. A friend rented me their Folly Beach home for almost a year, when one of my fellow arts faculty friends offered me their large garage apartment, which allowed me more active studio space, plus one bay the two-car ground level to have a place to build my cradled wood panels I paint upon, other assemblage type work that was floating up, and for two years, that became my grad student digs, which came in extremely handy for I was a busy soul at that time. I began to re-purpose many of my reference photos by February 2005, on entering grad school, for my first year studio work. Before long they evolved into what I called “The Human Grid,” which was the opposite end of the spectrum of the figure work I was still planning as. Mythic, or Heroic pieces. They were to be drawings and paintings, while the human grid series was to be used as a counterpoise to the more classic work.
By the end of 2005, I was doing far more digitally originated work, primarily due to time constraints from teaching full time while doing my MFA work. It was a very tightly-packed two years, with many a moment grave doubts, as in, “What in hell was I thinking?” Yet, photographing people became a larger and larger part of my work, which escalated into doing three to five photo shoots a week of 800-1200 frames of images per session. The paradigm had shifted to “think ahead, you have a little over five years of people you’ve worked with, you may not easily rebuild such a base of willing models if you head West.
By 2009, I was actually working at four different photographic series based on people, figure, and form. All were photography/digital composite works, so it was streamlined to a point. Grad school had ended in 2007, so I was suddenly the captain of my own soul again in terms of making art again, and staying up very late before 8:00 classes started, so as to gain my release by 4:00pm four weekdays. Fridays offered freedom around 2pm. I was as much, you see, a part of the human grid compression as any conceptual idea I had deployed over the past five years.
It was a difficult time, but having moved so far afield from my lifelong role primarily as a painter, with a few closely aligned asides as media which usually supported the painting ethic, but—on relocating to New Mexico in February 2011, I found myself the owner/creator of thousands and thousands of reference images. It was like discovering a great digital archives in the attic of one’s new home.
And so it began that I tasked myself with developing three of the five planned bodies of work, allowing the other two to take a back seat for later futures. Beaufain Muse was the first I began to elaborate upward, for by 2011, I missed these guys a lot. They had become friends; we talked about so many topics over the years that my mind’s recollection became the springboard for a proper chronicling of some of the finest people I met while in Charleston.
The Beaufain photographs were all taken between January 2003 and July 2004. I worked with a number of models in those 18 months. It’s as though they have become an unintentional time capsule, but a very effective one. I always seem to be willing to go through these images, little bits at a time, and almost always within 15 minutes or so in just one folder find three or four that offer up ideas, inspirations and eureka moments in which it occurs to me that this may work for a story I’m writing, a book I am planning, or best yet, just allowing the muses to float a suggestion. After all, that is what muses do.