At bedtime Olympia went to talk to Oliver about what Ned had told her.
You know what Dad said, she whispered?
What, said Oliver?
He said that there is no magic, because it’s all just advanced technology. Do you think that’s possible?
Anything’s possible, said Oliver, but how would you know the difference?
I wish I could ask the Magic Typer, said Olympia.
What would you ask it, said Oliver?
If it was magic or technology, said Olympia.
How would you know if it gave you the right answer, said Oliver?
from The Magic Typer (author me).
I am always wondering where the line is between art (magic) and science. What makes a photograph art, as opposed to just chemistry? Sometimes I am pretty sure photography is not art at all, and is merely a technical achievement that imitates art. Then again there are times when some photograph I see moves me in an artistic way. Is this magic or just advanced technology pushing my buttons? There is no definitive answer, of course. Most photography is not art, that is certain. And most art is crap too, for that matter. So how do we judge it all? I gave up long ago, back in architecture school when I came to the realization that even the so called experts can never agree on what is good or bad. So I just allow my senses to inform me about what I like and don’t like.
What got me going on this subject was taking photos today with my Fuji Instax camera. I think it was Cartier Bresson who said anyone could make a masterpiece with a Rolleiflex camera. He may have been right. Photos I get from the instant camera often have more art in them than the best I can take with my super pixel DSLR. Maybe because it’s all down to the subject and composition, as opposed to colour rendition, focus and sharpness of details. In any case, I enjoy the results, even if they are less than spectacular technically. That is what I enjoy about watercolour painting too, because it is imprecise and fuzzy – at least in my hands!
Here are three takes on a big old oak tree in the meadow nearby.
A tree at sunset, and two pieces from a local pub done today:
a bike ride on the trail downtown
tall buildings and street people
coffee shops, pot shops, names like Heavenly Smoke
tattoo parlors full of posters
waiting rooms filled with customers
adorned, pierced, pre-decorated
jewels in orifices, eyebrows, nostrils
plentiful tourists consulting maps
riding pedicabs, human powered rickshaws
even a giant horse plodding
halfway there coffee with a view
extracting a pocket paint box
twelve colors in tiny squares
holes in the centres after many years
these colors have lasted long
since I gave this box to my mother
nigh on thirty years ago
she never used it but I have made many a sketch
blocks of paint with years left
at the rate I wash them down
hard to blend colors without making them dull
I use them straight, like whiskey
my sketches are so rough
a price paid for speed and simplicity
yet they improve when no longer compared to reality
for a sketch is distilled, yet murky
distinguished by what is missing
Mt Fuji painted
Hokusai, thirty six times
Me, BC Leg three
9 am: not hokusai #1
10 am: not hokusai #2
11 am: not hokusai #3
Yesterday I hit the road again, this time with my watercolour box in the pack. When I arrived at my destination, known only to my subconscious until I got there and looking out at the scene declared this to be the spot, I decided to use the watercolours, seeing as how I had them with me. This sounds like logic working here, but I assure you it wasn’t, simply randomness. Anyway, I settled down on my collapsible stool with the paint box on my lap, having dispensed with the tripod stand as being too much equipment, and proceeded to do two sketches. They are contiguous, the clue being the scrawny tree in each. The cruise ship season has begun, and there was an immense boat across the water at the dock. I’ll probably never set foot on one of these things, but they do make for good sketch subject matter.
seaview sketch 1
seaview sketch 2
A word on my paints: I’ve tried every available watercolour paint medium, from tubes to pans, and I have to say the best I’ve found is a fairly cheap German set of 24 round pans, called Angora. This set is half the price of the cheapest 12 half pan box of Cotman paints, which my testing proves are certainly no better paint. They cover well enough, and it’s easy to mix and blend colour right on the paint pods themselves. When some paints in the previous set ran out it was cheaper to buy an entire new box than try to fill the spaces with paint from tubes. The price of three tubes of watercolour paint is equal to this box of 24 colours.