Friday, April 1, 2022

Archival Works Friday - No.7!


As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting!

These posts are now on the first Friday of the month – lo and behold this one happens on April Fools Day! Ha! Well it may fit the circumstances somewhat – there were some big goofs on my part with this painting!

I really appreciate the opportunity offered by folks in our area, to allow me to have access and walk their properties. I'm not as big of a hiker as I once was but I still try when the opportunity arises. This property is one I'd hiked several times between 2008-2012. I still drive by there quite often and have done photography and artwork from the 'edges' on occasion.

This particular painting almost never saw the light of day. It was a beautiful and still summer morning...probably late August or very early September...judging by the vegetation I portrayed along the roadside edges. I remember there was a lot of ragweed present and that's how I painted it.

But as I said – it nearly never became a painting. Why? Well, even though I break my own rules sometimes, in general I don't usually paint a scene if my mind is set on recording it as a photograph from the beginning. I found myself on this small one lane dirt road at the SW corner of the owner's property and the sun was about to rise. I was in my old beater S10 pickup and climbed into the bed, as I often do – to gain a bit of elevation and perspective.

I had just bought a new camera...not a really expensive one but I had needed to replace my old Nikon D1X. The D1X was the flagship 'digital' Nikon that came out around 1999-2000. It had an “amazing” capability of 5.6 MP if my memory serves me correctly. Boy did things advance quickly after that! But I was still making calendar and magazine sales with that camera – it was top notch at the time. But 10-11 years later it was having issues and I had no choice but to become a camera consumer again...this new camera had 12MP, which was well over twice the old one...but nowhere near the head of the pack with all that were available then – but it was fine for me.

My new camera had good auto-focus capabilities and I was looking forward to that...these old eyes need any help they can get. Well, back to the pickup bed. I was setting up the tripod with my new camera and suddenly realized – I had totally forgotten my glasses! For crying out loud! I never had much trouble with 'distance', but closeup...looking through a lens or at the digital back screen – I was flying blind...big time Mr. Magoo...Then I though “Hey, this camera can be totally auto-focus, not to worry”!

I loved the composition of the scene before me, and the early light was great...the colors were just singing a song I couldn't get enough of! I wanted to catch the sun just as it broke the horizon and waited for it.

I set the tripod head to swivel the camera for 4 frames – I was visualizing a panorama and one frame just wouldn't do it. I could go heavy wide angle and get the panoramic view...but I'd have to crop a lot of stuff in the image to get what I was 'seeing' – and the size I wanted to output to (print) would have required too much enlargement of the small file to look decent. This is a camera technique I still use to this day – stitching several frames together can achieve a higher resolution for more demanding work.

But back to the camera...since my glasses were apparently still at home, I trusted the auto focus to do it's thing. It had worked at home the day before when I tried it out so I wasn't concerned...just still a bit disappointed in my dumb move. It was a great image – I was sure of it!

Well, I took the camera off and set the tripod over the side of the pickup bed and walked to the edge of the tail gate and hopped off onto the ground.

I remember just totally losing my vision to a bright flash of pain, then everything as quickly went black -it is hard to adequately describe. I came around and found myself on all fours just screaming in my head. “I shouldn't have done that.” went through my mind. Its like a traffic accident. You spend way too much time thinking back...trying to stop what had just happened. Needless to say – I didn't take any more pictures that morning.

The chiropractor saw dollar signs I'm sure when I limped with a cane into the office that afternoon. In all fairness I'm being facetious, but it was 2-3 appointments a week for a while and at least 6 months before I felt I had finally gotten through my injury.

But back to the pictures I took. To add insult to injury, when I brought the image files up on the computer – EVERYTHING was out of focus...fuzzy beyond salvation! my nearsighted blindness, I just could not make out the small print on the camera controls – I was sure I had selected “auto-focus” but apparently had disabled it instead. Aaccck!!!!!!!

I was a mess to put it one should ever be seen by another human being when they get like this. Poor Georgie!!! (She sure puts up with a lot, let me tell you!)

Its bad enough losing a productive day, but losing nearly 6 months to rehab on top of it makes it grimmer. I don't remember how much time passed, but one day when I was about to dump all the files from that morning, I thought “If I could just work through the out of focus mess – this would make a beautiful painting!”

I really do not remember how long it took to have this epiphany, or how long I kept tossing this idea back and forth in my mind, before I committed to trying – but I eventually tried. I started the painting in January of 2012...I figured if the Mayan calendar was right and the world was about to end – then, hey why not. (Ya, that was really a 'thing'.)

It took a bit of work re-imagining the 'near' objects – they were just 'blobs' of shapes; the back ground was a bit easier but still no cake walk...the color was still there and the tonal range of the image was very helpful. I hacked my way through and finished the painting the first week of February – I was sooooo happy with what was brought back from a total loss and very pleased how well it was carried out.

I should never have let go of this painting – I regretted it the minute I spent the check! Seller's remorse – we've all experienced it. But it went to a great home – an appreciative home...and made for a very nice share of return business from this first-time client from out-of-state. There's several silver linings – and complete flops in this one painting!

"Southwest Corner Fence Line Along the Jordan" - oil painting © Bruce A. Morrison

(from a private Vermont collection)