Visit with Jim – In the Moment and Flow of Creativity

A question that I have been pondering and wrestling with is: What is collective consciousness and what would the structure look like to support that?  I assume there needs to be a fabric or connection between us to allow the sharing of our consciousness across a distance in time or space.  Given we are bound by our senses and experiences, I began to envision that this photograph could represent that concept.  Your thoughts are welcome here.

Well here we are in 2023.  Another routine turn that our planet makes closes out the day and a full rotation around the sun to call it a year.  It is pretty remarkable how much energy and effort we place in one turn of a clock that is identical to every other turn of the clock, and calendar, from whence we invented the ability to mark it on the calendar.   To say we are creatures of habit and ritual is an understatement.  None-the-less, I truly wish you all a prosperous and healthy life ahead, regardless of the somewhat arbitrary calendaring effect at play. 

My last few days of 2022 were spent at home and were restful and quiet.  For today’s post let’s dissect how difficult it is to create the photographs that I enjoy sharing and hopefully brighten your day.   The extra time and energy ‘focusing’ on how light behaves have begun to pay off.   My technical skills are getting better with experimentation, time and repetition.  But that is how we learn.  We lean in on what is working to achieve our goals and we work around, over or through barriers, obstacles or errors that make it more difficult to get to a desired end point.  

Some folks have asked how I balance my full time job and this passion.  The answer is pretty simply: 1) repeatable processes 2) software automation for scheduling and posting content 3) time discipline in the mornings, evenings and weekends.  I enjoy waking up in the morning to have my coffee and catch up on posts, comments and questions (cleaning up this post early this morning as an example).  When my full time work ends, I have dinner and have a few options for the evening.   The weekends are filled with time for my wife and family when our sons return home to visit.  There is often plenty of weekend time for photography and printing.  Our two sons are finishing up college in other cities, so most of the year there is abundant extra time.  When they visit, I dial back on the photography and put more time to spend with all of of them as a family. 

Returning to the photography, here is the needle that artists need to thread:  I need to capture at least ONE photograph, that speaks to my heart and mind.  That image must, in turn, merit being developed and printed, so that you may consider that it might belong on your wall to fill an empty space or harder still replace another piece of art.   That, my friends, is one very, very difficult challenge and speaks to why being a successful business in the art world is very arduous.  So I am grateful to be able to do this out of passion and the desire to brighten your days.  Within the realm of threading the needle, there is a very intriguing phenomenon my wife and I have observed: the ‘I gotta have that piece of art’ customer.   To know and understand what sequence of events happens in that mind is deeply fascinating and perhaps a conversation for a future post. 

As you have read before, I start off with an experiment using a tag line ~ the science of photography that ask what would happen if …?  A day in the studio is sometimes an easy success.  Things simply flow and come together seemingly without excess effort.  Other days are less successful.   Despite four high wattage studio lights, the objects are sometimes moving too fast and everything is a blur-o-gram.   In total on New Year’s Eve,  I shot 1640 photos.  The majority of which as you can imagine from the screenshot below will end up in a digital dust bin. 


Airbrushing the inks in the petri dish

Moving past the focus and blurring, fingers frequently get in the way.  With my left hand on the remote trigger and the right hand moving the inks, it gets complicated.   As you can see on the left, it can be a very small space that I work in to hone my craft.  This is a shot subsequent to the finished photograph above: The Cognitive Universe.  There are many other photos with shadows or ones that are blown out, overexposed or underexposed.  

It is all about the pursuit for the one image that speaks to me. The clearly unique photograph that I would print, would hang on my walls, share with friends and my community.   That is where The Cognitive Universe stood out in the long line of images. 

The Air, from the four elements Oil, Inks, Glass and Air, creates the whorls, spirals, and shapes you see in the photos is coming from a airbrush, a pipette and soon to be a heated air gun that we purchased.  

  As the air escapes either of these two tools, the inks rush back to fill the void that creates the unique patterns like we saw in Tuesday’s post.  The element Air also speaks to the way light bends when it moves from a solid or liquid into air and bends according to strict laws in nature and articulated by physicists. 

It is that magical needle and thread series of events that plays out and continues to bring me joy in the discovery of an image that will go to print.  

The pipette in the Petri dish
The studio and lighting arrangement

A statistic or two may help ground our thinking about the speed of the objective moving in front of the camera.  The target in the image above as you can see two pics above is a bit larger than my fingers.   The camera lens opened and closed in 1/1250th of a single second.  If my Google Sheets is working correctly, that is: 1/2 second divided in half somewhere around ten times.  In other humbling terms, my son the math genius walked by and imparted ‘oh yeah that is less than 2×10^{-4}’.  That is a very small interval of time.  The brightness of the studio lights comes from 800 watts of Neewer studio LED continuous cans shining with such intensity that my forearms can feel like a sun burn is developing. 

 The irony is that is happening in a darkened studio without the sun.   That amount of concentrated light is required to permit the shutter to fire so rapidly and seemingly stop the motion.  IF I could figure out how to do it I would add more light to be able to probe deeper and capture more detailed photographs. Prompt to the audience – suggestions welcome.

It is not unusual on the weekend for me to be seen moving swiftly across the house to my office to import the images in Adobe Lightroom and begin to sift through, and curate, a week or two of potentials.  Some simply jump off the screen and self select as ‘the one’.  I can sit with my wife and talk about which one(s) catch her eye and which ones I prefer.  Going back to the ‘I gotta have it customer’, above I am trying to learn what catches people’s eye and why.  It is great conversation.  This time together is precious and marks a moment in one of the the week’s evenings where we can connect after a long busy day. 

And so we have arrived at a place where we have a print that exceeds my hopes and expectations.  The next step is naming…   

How to name it?  That is actually quite an illusive set of steps.  For reasons that I do not fully understand it can simply come to me in part, or in total, and often very quickly.  Usually I have a good sense of what the picture should be called.  This is often somewhat bounded by my life experiences.  By simply releasing all distractions and activities a name often comes to the front and center of my mind.  There are some occasions where I will use would like to explore “flow” in a subsequent blog post.  It feels like what that concept describes when I name each picture.   

Visual Thesaurus Screen shot

Given what the first paragraph speaks to as a current concept, the title naturally leaps forward in my mind in a manner that is quite unforced and feels right as it appears in front of my mind.  

I will occasionally use Visual Thesaurus as a tool to visualize the relationships between words as a method to adjust a word or two.  However, for most pieces, the process is often remarkably fast. This particular naming simply spoke to me in clear and certain words.

The Cognitive Universe was the result of me seeing a white neural cerebral structure floating in the deep calming blues that looked to be deep space or universal.  For me, it speaks to our deeper thinking moments, our connectedness to the universe, to the contrasts of darks recesses of the universe and brightly lit ones, of our real and now virtual connections to each other both near and far.  Frankly there are many layers to what this picture can mean or evoke. I would enjoy reading your thoughts around this topic of collective consciousness through the various posts, this blog or message me for a Zoom chat one evening. 

Join me in a fireside chat via Zoom in the evening to discuss any aspect of my artwork.  To qualify, and join a video conversation send your contact information here and let me know what you would want to talk about.  The selected participants will receive a 25% discount on any of my unlimited edition pieces of art.  I will personally sign the piece at printing.  Even more, the gallery is offering this purchase risk free for you. Free shipping, Free return, and no questions asked if you are unhappy with the art work.  You can keep the print for 30 days to enjoy the selection in your home or office. This risk free offer does not apply to metal, acrylic and other specialized media prints.





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