Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pictures Contain Stories

Poets sometimes shuffle evocative photographs in front of their eyes to stimulate associations and gain new ideas for poems. Pictures contain stories, but it is up to the viewer to supply the text.
I have over thirty thousand photos in my files, so imagine how many poems could be written. Here are a few to talk about:

This photo was taken while I sat in a car on a street in Agra, India, home to the famous Taj Majal. I was waiting for someone and my window was down. A woman spied me and approached, pushing a young girl ahead. They could see I was “western” and supposed that I had money to give them. The child stood in front like a soldier, just as the mother expected her to be, and wore a pitiful expression of fear, despair and blight. The woman reached out her hand and on her face was a mixture of pain and hardness, with a wild look in her eyes, ready to devour—even as she devoured the life of the child.

I have spent endless hours roaming streets with my camera, not knowing what I am looking for, keeping my eyes wide open for an unexpected moment to surprise me. While in Florence, Italy one afternoon, I happened by this black woman leaning on a railing. Behind her was a huge poster of a white woman, some kind of artist. I looked into the woman’s face and saw she had scarification typical of parts of Africa. I enjoy those beauty emblems, and we gazed at each other before I snapped her picture. She is obviously content with herself, and bemused that I would stop to photograph her—and in that moment, she is the real star of the show.

The last picture was taken in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I stopped in a village along the way to a sojourn in the jungle to ride an elephant. As I was walking on a narrow trail, I passed a little girl, holding her puppy. The sight was beautiful, and immediately I sought the best view for a picture that had to be taken fast. I dropped to my knees so as to be at eye level with the child. She obliged by standing still and gazing at me with her arms wrapped around the dangling puppy.

Go to my website, Graphixshoot, see more artistic photography.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Passion For Creativity

"Rio Grande River Autumn" oil on linen, 36 x 48 inches
There are countless ways for human beings to be creative, and creativity is not just for artists. Of course, accountants, judges, assembly workers, surgeons, and many other professionals are in situations that require creativity to be minimized, but when these people are off duty, they can choose creative ventures like cooking, writing, photography, landscaping, and many other pursuits that require creative thought.

As an artist, I have a passion for creativity. When I set up a blank, white canvas on an easel in my studio, immediately I am challenged. How will I produce a work of art? My tools are paints, palette knives and brushes, but I must decide how to mix the paints, what colors to produce, what lines and shapes to make, what textures I want to be seen . . . and then I have to work with skill to be able to produce a worthy result.

When I am working on a landscape painting, I often work from nature on location. This has special challenges, i.e. the light constantly changes, the weather can be windy, rainy or cold, and sometimes a location is far away from my studio. I have painted so many pictures outdoors, that now, I know the colors and textures of nature and how to achieve them—even if I choose to work from a photograph in my studio, where the environment is controlled. Usually, when people view my paintings, they cannot tell the difference between ones painted outdoors and those painted from photos. The landscape I am showing above is a recent piece, done in my studio from a photograph.

Being creative means experimenting with whatever modality is at hand. With the advent of digital imaging, photography can be manipulated as easily as painting. Special software, such as Photoshop, allows pixels to be changed and recombined to marvelous advantage. Because of my traveling, and passion for photography, I have tens of thousands of photos in my files. In the next photograph, I have combined two images taken in Venice, Italy, to achieve an unexpected result that goes beyond typical photos. The last image is a similar technique of combining images taken in Paris, France—one, a bronze relief from the Louvre Museum, and the other, a texture found on the wall of a mausoleum in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. This is the fun of creativity—to explore and discover.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


Heidi Of The Mountains exclaimed, “We will have a dog for our gallery!” We were visiting a prominent Santa Fe gallery during a Friday night exhibit, and Heidi had spied the gallery dog, a white poodle, sprawled in the office.

The thought stayed with her, and occasionally, I made slight objections. Not long ago, I lived fancy free, traveling extensively, and while I like pets, I had made a choice to regard my freedom first. Now, our main priority is to establish our business, The Steven Boone Gallery.

Pedigree dogs can be expensive, but Heidi Of The Mountains puts energy into achieving her goals, so when I finally agreed to a pet, she set a financial target for holiday sales in order to win her reward of a poodle. We began looking for a breeder with puppies, and I found one in West Texas. When Heidi met her goals, she was elated and we called to ask about the poodle pups. Out of a litter of ten, two boys remained, and we chose one, based upon pictures.

Today, we drove two hours east to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, as the breeder drove two hours west from her home. We met, picked up the puppy and now he is home. A couple days ago, Heidi pondered what we should name him. I suggested naming him after a river, and thought of our local Chama River. Then a young friend of ours mentioned that in her home country of Venezuela, it would be more appropriate to call our dog Chamo, meaning “little boy.”  So there we have it. It all began with an affirmation.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Passion And Enthusiasm

12 x 12 inch square abstract that transformed into a piece of the work below
 Society likes definitions, to better categorize and compartmentalize facts into groups and classes. Professions are built upon specific training that produces skilled workers who are given diplomas in arts and sciences. Usually, a class of professionals, such as physicians, has subclasses, i.e. internist, ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist, etc. In art, the categories are fewer, but there are sculptors, painters, performance artists, installation artists, and more. It is generally accepted that an artist finds his passion, develops his skill and becomes known for his excellence within his class of discipline. When the public becomes accustomed to the pleasure of his work, they eagerly anticipate new productions that recall past accomplishments. The more famous the artist, the more public taste demands a recognizable product.

Creativity and commerce can be a difficult marriage. For instance, Norman Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) became a beloved American artist because he so deftly and expertly conveyed in his paintings homespun American values and warmth—and the images were reproduced frequently in magazines and posters. But imagine the outcry if he were suddenly to abandon his former path and take up another, say, abstract expressionism.  For the most part, society is about favor and taste, not creativity. That is why so many artists have endured hardship—pursuing visions that often take years before society accepts.

When the impressionists first produced their remarkable paintings in France, they were snubbed and spent years in poverty, because public taste was for academic realism with a historical narrative bias. By passion and enthusiasm, they persevered, until gradually their work was accepted and praised. In art history, this theme of misunderstood art has been a common one.

Occasionally, an artist becomes famous as much for his creative personality as his art. Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) for instance, could pursue many different styles and tangents, and the public followed along with his “genius.”

The problem for many artists is that it takes years to develop a mature style, and would take more years to change. I have been restless explorer from the start, and have not been willing to follow the commercial advice to find a personal style and make a niche market. I can’t live in a niche. I try many approaches, knowing that I must investigate the unknown. For the most part, I am known for my landscape paintings, but I also explore photography, mixed media, portraiture, drawing, and abstract art.

This week, I made an abstract painting (seen above at top of page), which then became part of an assemblage of three other paintings and transformed into one 24 x 24 inch artwork. Each piece can stand on its own as an abstract, and together, all the pieces make a whole.