Category Archives: photography

Do things smell better if your nose is held high?

I came across the most curious discussion.  I searched for a watercolorist presentation and discussion group on one of the popular artistic media websites.  What I stumbled into was an intense debate on the subject of “who *really* is an artist.”

It started with a discussion over whether a piece of work which was predominately watercolors but also included some ink lines was *really* watercolor art?  That moved on to discussions concerning *how much* of the work was ink and how much watercolors (ah, the artist ink police!).  Not stopping there, the discussion went one about whether one should use a pencil sketch as an underdrawing, and if one did were they *really* a watercolor painter.

That wasn’t the end.  The next subject concerned why watercolorists represented only about 10% of the marketable art world.  (Internecine fighting would be my answer)  Another way to interpret that was “are watercolors really art?”

So here’s what comes to mind.  Watercolors in basic sets are available to most kindergarten children, just as water-soluble finger paints are available.  The argument seems to be that if the medium is available at the kindergarten level, anything produced with that medium is probably not *serious art.*

Oh balderdash (I cleaned that up).  The result can be art regardless of how it is produced.  I would tell my new colleagues to stop trying to be so full of themselves, or to paraphrase Laura Ingraham — shut up and paint, don’t worry about what you use.


Sketching evaluation

For those of you who followed this concept, I began around the first of February — maybe a week or so earlier — to try to teach myself how to create pencil sketches.  Access to a learning center where I lived abruptly closed this year, so that left me to figure this out by myself with the use of those youtube teaching videos I could find.

I have just about completed my first sketchbook and I can look back to see how I progressed – a kind of self evaluation in some sense.  I began sketching things I could see, and noticed I was able to produce a recognizable hand — in proportion and with appropriate shading — right out of the barn.

I progressed to some landscape scenes and discovered that I was very heavy-handed with a pencil.  I had to go back and learn pencil use skills, something I figured I had conquered in first grade.  Pencil skills included the ability to reproduce four shades of gray which along with the white of the paper would give me five B&W tones.  That turned out to be quite a challenge which took a couple of weeks to conquer.

I progressed to portraits and found I had a real problem with proportions of the human body – I call this my “cubist” period.  It was necessary to study each component of the face (overall shape, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears) individually.  It took quite a while to reach adequacy.

At that point my sketches began to look like human beings, just not the people I was drawing.  More practice and study led me to the concept of a very light sketch underlaying the sketch itself.  I knew painters often sketched a rough out of their work before applying paint, but it never occurred to me that a pencil drawing required the same thing — or at least in my case looked better if I did.

I discovered that all of this work about ways to affix a range of tones to the drawing really improved my photographers eye for lighting a black and white photograph.  And I also found that I can interpret a scene in color as gray shades, something quite new for me.

I’m returning to landscape drawings, but for those interested here is a link to those sketches I thought were good enough to post on my photography webpage.

Photographer’s Block Part 2

As Paul Harvey used to say “and now, the rest of the story.”  (I know, I’m the only geezer here old enough to remember Paul Harvey’s radio broadcasts).

I did the change of locale trick, taking a short vacation to Surfside Beach, SC.  While there I took many photographs — none I will say consisted of especially new techniques or image ideas, but the experience seemed to get the creative portion my brain restarted (regardless of how small that part might be, some would say).

I posted a skyline image of Myrtle Beach here.  Its a combination of photography and photoshop, but creates a kind of other worldly look to the image.  I also have this composition taken at Atalaya Castle, Huntington Beach State Park, SC.  The tonality and textures got my interest.  High resolution version is here.Atalaya 3_small

Moreover, I have an interesting idea that may allow me to directly print from an inkjet onto wood veneer.  I’ll post here how that idea works.

But to summarize, apparently there is a kind of creative block (be it photographer, novelist, poet, or for all I know quilter, clay thrower, or any similar endeavor).  The mind seems to circle in on itself and revisit neural paths already used, get tired of that circularity, and essentially go into pilot mode.

We look for something to wake up the creative pilot flame in our minds.

Photographer’s Block

I have spent some months now with not a single really creative idea for photography.  Sure, I had to take a month out for a medical crisis with an aging parent, but its more than just a time issue.  Its as if the right side of my brain has decided to take a vacation, creativity supposedly existing in the right hemisphere.

Yes, I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to use photoshop in new ways on some past work, just to see what the result was — but I felt this effort was more busy-work than anything else.

So I ‘googled’ the exact phrase “photographer’s block” and found 8,090 hits — when I finish this post I guess it will be the 8,091st.  At least it is reassuring to learn that others have experienced the doldrums of a creative or idea block.

I read a few of the articles and suggestions, which seemed to me in many cases to be kinds of pop psychology for photographers.  I wonder if the determination about whether one trick works or not is in fact a matter of chance.

One idea did seem to have merit — and its one I will try.  That idea is to make a forced change of locale — look at and experience something new and different to see if the mind can be stimulated back into productive ideas.

We’ll see.  I will report back.  Has anyone else experienced this condition?  Any suggestions on how to find a way out?

The Speckled Butterbean


An image of the former “Speckled Butterbean,” a down-home, backroads Florida, buffet style restaurant.  I have no idea how long it was at this location, but it no longer exists.  The building was purchased, the Butterbean torn down, and a “modern” strip mall is being built in its place.  Progess?  I suppose that depends on one’s definition.  But we are losing our past to development, and I find that quite sad.

If you click on the image, you can access a full-sized version.  Please credit “Photo by John Bennett” if you use the image.  Thanks.

Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap Creek_small Middle Saluda_small

I have long been a fan of the Hudson River School in painting.  I had two images I had taken about eight years ago in upstate South Carolina at Jones Gap Park which I didn’t like in their color version — the water was too brown looking for my tastes — although I otherwise liked the images.  However, as I have been learning how to extend the tonal range in black and white photos, I discovered that these two made rather painterly scenes in the Hudson River style.  I have consequently posted them in my gallery.  Take a look at the latest I have been doing using this black and white technique — a process I borrowed from the high dynamic range methods of photomatrix, and similar tools.  The images start here.