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Friday, August 24, 2007

Art & Perception

I’ve been visiting an interesting web site called Art & Perception. If you visit, you’ll find a community of artists who share their personal journeys toward understanding what it might mean to make/share/express art. This is accomplished through the regular posting of articles that have to do with various pursuits in the fields of drawing, painting and photography. What makes it a pleasure to visit is that while you could hardly gather together a more disparate group of people and viewpoints, they all seem to be genuinely supportive of each other and their accumulated wisdom and experience makes for some very useful suggestions and encouraging comments.

One article that captured my attention was called Breaking Up is Hard to Do which dealt with making ‘Cubist-like multi-perspective’ images.

I had just spent some time in The Dalles, hiking in an alien landscape of tinder dry grasses and basalt outcroppings. Sometimes, approaching a rock outcrop was like approaching a castle wall. I often felt a tinge of excitement, thinking that perhaps I recognized evidence of human design, but the walls and forts I imagined from a distance would invariably dissipate under closer scrutiny and I would be left atop a random plateau where soil and grass struggled to achieve a foothold.

A puzzle soon presented itself. Time after time, I would climb an outcrop only to find the empty half shells of something that looked like walnuts lying about. (If Carolyn the Botanist is reading, I’d definitely call them berries)

Since there were no trees nearby, it wasn’t immediately obvious how the shells had arrived at these high islands jutting out of the tall grass.

One thing I wanted to do was to capture this puzzle in a picture. So I searched for particularly photogenic nuts and tried to show their relative isolation, their height above the surrounding landscape, their distance from nut trees, and the fact that they were empty... all in one picture.

I tracked down several instances of such nuts, but could never achieve an angle that gave me all the elements I wanted. Either the nut was lost in a landscape-image too small to be seen, or portraits of giant nuts dominated blurry backgrounds with no sense of place.

Eventually, I began to consider picking up some nuts and staging a picture, but it felt wrong somehow…perhaps dishonest.

It wasn’t until I read the article about Breaking-Up that I realized there might be alternative ways to put all the elements I wanted into one image.

The examples in the article involved arranging images into a two by two grid. This suggested other arrangements to me, like comic-strips or storyboards, which made me think I could arrange my own pictures into some-kind of narrative order.

“Congratulations,” I said to myself sarcastically, noting the complete absence of any cubist elements, “You have just assembled what most kindergartners would recognize as a simple ‘collage’."

I tried again.

I noted that even in the desert-like environment of The Dalles, a variety of trees seemed to be doing very well for themselves as long as they stayed in close proximity to the Columbia River.

There were oak trees festooned with acorns.

There was even a pair tree.

Eventually I encountered some more ‘berries’.

For this image, I ended up following pretty closely the example set by the author of the Breaking-up article. I tried to tie the images together with the stem, a natural element that serves much the same purpose in real life.

I left The Dalles with a kind of appreciation for the contrast in colors made possible at the interface between the desert and the river.


  1. Hi Scott, I like your photos, especially the ones of the mystery berries, they're very evocative.
    You're lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

  2. Almost forgot, I like the photos of the nut shells. I don't think they look lost in the landscape.


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