Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wildebeest painting

"Wildebeest" by Paul Hood copyright 2015 all rights reserved, no duplication or usage without my express written permission.

This is my latest completed painting, currently titled "Wildebeest". I wanted to have fun with bold brush strokes and colors, especially on the body. This "looking back over the shoulder" is apparently pretty common with the wildebeest, or Gnu, based on several pictures I've seen of them it just seems to be a common thing that they do. I roughed out the general shape in pencil, then I played around over that with colored chalks and with gesso. The gesso and chalk under-layers were mostly obliterated when I went in with paint. I actually wanted to see if I could "fix" the chalk with a casein based fixative that we have, but to be honest it never really worked. I'm interested in working more with casein because I like to combine drawing with painting. I'm fond of line work, brush work, and the shading that can be done with pastels or charcoal, but getting it to 'stick' and be durable when you come in with paint or clear varnish is tricky.  The landscape and horizon line background is something I started months ago, when an extended case of vertigo prevented me from doing much of anything at all, including painting. At that time I was going to overlay a stylized horizon line indicator from aircraft type display-- having it skewed to mirror my vertigo, but I couldn't stand to do that. I found the flat horizon line so comforting at that time, that I couldn't stand to mess with it. I used that painting therapeutically, to stare at it from the couch when my vertigo was bothering me, and it actually did help.

Ironically, my vertigo started to come back around the time I started in again on this painting, but by then I really wanted to do more than the flat horizon anyway and the vertigo didn't get any worse. I have a series started now, of African animals, so I'll do that until I'm done with it. They're all colorful, with a certain amount of bold brushwork, bright color combinations, and aspects of my personality that mostly seem to come out in my art.

Here's another guy experimenting with milk-based fixative:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The White Elephant

So, it's been awhile. I decided to take up painting more seriously, and since I seem to enjoy painting large mammals, lately from the African continent, I painted an elephant. This one is a mixed media piece in that I used charcoal in addition to acrylic paint. There are also some hints of graphite from the under layer. I generally leave some of my "working marks" because I like the effect. Obviously I'm not after realism. It's a fairly large piece, at 30 by 40 inches. I went into it not knowing exactly what colors I would use, and it ended up to be a bit of a "white elephant". Now, a white elephant gift, in my culture anyway, is an odd gift that you give as a sort of joke. Everybody shows up and tries to outdo each other with the weirdest gift around. However, looking up the origins of the "white elephant gift" I discovered something a little more interesting here . I'm pretty fond of elephants, actually, and I didn't paint this as a joke. Despite their size, they seem to be pretty gentle creatures and it's hard not to be fascinated by them. While elephants may not be sacred according to my spiritual beliefs, any more than any other creature, I nonetheless have some feelings of reverence towards them. At this point in time I don't have any intentions to paint anything that isn't uplifting in some way, and respectful of my subject, so I'm moving forward with that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Giraffe Riddle

 On an unrelated note, this is me with my giraffe painting titled "Tall, with freckles". OK now, our story:

It’s not you. It’s “The Giraffe Riddle”.  It has nothing to do with giraffes. It’s a riddle on Facebook and it went sort of viral.

Here’s the riddle:
“It’s 3 a.m., the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese.
 What is the first thing you open?”

As riddles go, it’s screwy, in that it’s written in second person and present tense and it’s supposed to be designed to trip you up so that you get the “wrong” answer. If you get the wrong answer you have to change your Facebook profile pic to a giraffe for a week, or three days, or something. It’s a bad riddle because it immediately garnered not one but two potentially right answers and a lot of people are disagreeing about which one makes more sense. Others meekly agreed to just be a giraffe, and I guess to try to trip others up. So, you know, spoiler alert, I’m going to get specific.

You’re supposed to guess quickly and guess wrong. If this was a good riddle it wouldn’t have gone viral. This is the “hanging chad” of riddles. It drew accidental attention. Somebody even made up a hoax that it’s a virus or an insidious plot of some kind. It isn’t. Wrong guesses would be any one of the food choices or the wine. Right guesses, depending on who you talk to, are “the door” or “your eyes”. These two choices are now hotly debated on the internet as to which is the right answer. News stations have picked up this riddle and broadcast it. And there are giraffes galore, and people refusing to be giraffes because they’re sure they’re right, and/or pressuring their friends to be giraffes because they got it wrong.

This reminds me of poorly written tests I’ve had to deal with ever since I was a kid, and through college, and hopefully never again. One question I remember said “Can you give three examples of. . . blah blah blah” and so I answered it, “No, I can’t. And that’s the right answer.” I didn’t get credit. It was the right answer. Not to worry, I’ve graduated with three degrees, Cum Laude. And I have other funny things to say about college some other time.

But back to the giraffes: any answer you give is the right answer for at least two reasons. Given that the riddle is written in second person (you) and you’re the one reading it, you get to decide what you’d do in that circumstance. After all, the actual question is, “What is the first thing you open?” Well the first thing you open is the first thing you open. Free will. It could be anything. They ask (and presumably, “they” are a consortium of giraffes who have learned to type, go online, and join Facebook) essentially, “what do you do?” Well you’d do whatever you’d do. For the purposes of illustration, some of the first things I’d open if my parents rang the doorbell at 3am expecting breakfast: the gun safe, a box of ammo, the closet where the baseball bat is stored, things of that nature. One clever respondent stated that the first thing they’d do is “open fire”. In a calmer moment, the first thing I’d open is a competency hearing if both my parents showed up at 3am for a light snack, or any other meal.

I’m just getting started.

We know that any of the food choices are deemed wrong. But seriously, depending on your relationship to your parents and/or the possibility that one or both of them are dead, you might indeed open the wine if they’re ringing your doorbell at 3am for any reason. You might not be in so all fired up of a hurry to break bread with the undead who walk the earth seeking, oh, I don’t know, to eat your brains? Yeah. Have a glass of wine first and ponder the options. Given this scenario, however ironic it may seem, any of the food choices opened with the intention of feeding the zombie parents would be wrong again, because in fact, your brains are the only thing they’ll eat. Nothing else is palatable. But again, given this scenario, opening the door is also the wrong choice if you’d rather keep your brains. And the other “right” answer, opening your eyes, was probably a bad idea too, assuming that your door is locked. Better for your psyche to sleep through the parental zombie show.

This might bring us to the fact that the second-person present-tense riddle also appears to be written from an omniscient narrator perspective. Sure. Why not. You’re asleep, the bell rings, you wake up, now be careful here— you may or may not have opened your eyes— it’s present tense and we don’t know, not yet, because everything is happening right now. Perhaps through extraordinary psychic abilities you know, you just know with absolute certainty, even though this is entirely unexpected, that it’s your parents at the door wanting breakfast, that the time is 3am, you’ve an accurate mental inventory of the foodstuffs available and some vague sense that something must be opened. Don’t forget now, that the correct answers are either “the door” or “your eyes”. Here’s the deal, second person omniscient in the present tense means. . . you are now God. What need have I of “doors”? And my eyes are all seeing throughout the universe and all of time. My choice is going to be to open the gates of heaven, and me and the zombie parents are walking right in. This honestly feels like the right choice, intuitively, and being omniscient I’m sure I’m right.

As an aside, however, I have to mention that it’s downright bizarre that God has wine but no coffee. Must be an oversight in the Giraffe theory of the cosmos.

Next scenario: Maybe we assume the narrator is not omniscient. So, even though it’s still written in present tense we make a huge leap of logic to presume that you woke up, opened your eyes, discovered with absolute certainty without opening anything (blinds, drapes, window. . .) that your parents are behind the door and that they want breakfast. You’ve looked at a clock or your watch and you know that it’s 3am. Have you “opened a light” ? My partner is from the East coast and that’s what they say there, “open the light, close the light.” Sorry, no, that would be a wrong answer. The gods of meme have determined this. Somewhere in there you’ve either checked the food inventory without opening anything like the frig or pantry, or your razor sharp mind at three a.m. with no coffee already knows exactly what you have and have not. Remember the question is not “what do you open next?” it’s “What is the first thing you open?” I may have opened my mouth to yawn. Wrong answer. I may have opened my mouth to speak— which may have been part of the conversation with the parents telling me they want breakfast. Wrong answer. OK, ok, we give the benefit of the doubt that all kinds of stuff have already been opened, even though, peculiarly, we’re speaking in present tense. “What is the first thing you open?” Which should actually read, “What is the next thing you open?” I’m giving enormous amounts of presumption here. With the presumptions, “your eyes” is the wrong answer because you’ve already been up for awhile so of course your eyes are already open. And you aren’t blind. Or deaf, because you had to have already had a conversation through the door to determine that it’s your parents and they’re here for breakfast. The remaining right answer is “the door”, given all the presumptions and, oh yes, this presumes that the door has not already been opened, even though this is not stated, not anywhere.

Wait, wait now, that’s funny, why would we presume all that PLUS the idea that the door has not yet been opened? Why, indeed. Dropping the idea of omniscience, everything stated in the scenario has been verified by the senses. Heard the doorbell, opened your eyes, looked at the clock, went to the door and opened it. It’s your parents, rather unexpected, but there they are and they want breakfast. You invite them in and check the pantry for a rather paltry list of foods—(where is the coffee, damn it?). And now the question. “What is the first thing you open?” In this scenario and in present tense, all eyes are open. Mom and pop are on the couch. Door has been safely opened and closed again. The food is waiting and everyone is hungry. Any food choice would logically be the right answer. “The door” or “your eyes” makes no sense whatsoever in this scenario, because with eyes wide open you already invited your vampire parents through the front door at 3am. Dang it. Open your veins and become a creature of the night. It’s a family tradition. But see, that’s the “wrong answer”.

The really funny part is this: Some of my friends said, “Duh! The door.” and they were deemed correct. Some others said, “Your eyes.” And they were deemed correct, or not, because then fights broke out. Friendships were lost forever. People became giraffes. Anybody who named a food or a drink was “wrong”. At least one of my friends said, “I felt really dumb when I heard the right answer.” Yeah, that’s the funny part, because the riddle was written badly. Every interpretation could be right, or wrong. “Your eyes” means you interpret the question as “What is/was the first thing opened?” “The door” means you interpret the question as “What is the next thing that is to be opened?” oddly presuming that the door has not yet been opened, despite all evidence to the contrary, and that choosing to open the food is a trick and is therefore the wrong answer. In order to answer the question you have to presume or guess what the questioner is looking for. You have to censor, judge, presume, rule things in, rule things out, and most of all suspend your disbelief at this preposterous and likely dangerous scenario.

For the record, I first guessed "the door" and then “your eyes” and about ten seconds later determined that the riddle itself was a fail with no absolute right or wrong answer. Now it seems to be that the internets have decided that the first thing you open is the door. I don’t know man, the door to consciousness would be a better idea. Open the conversation with the parents as to why they’re ringing your bell in the wee hours for breakfast, but by all means do that before you open the door because even if they are neither zombies nor vampires they’ve probably been kidnapped and are in the company of terrorists and therefore breakfast is the least of your worries. Inventory the food at some future time when the threat has passed. But seriously, who shops for you? No coffee, no tea, no cream or eggs? At least stock up on some brains or whole blood for marauding relatives with an odd sense of timing.

Here it is again, that crazy riddle: “It’s 3 a.m., the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese.
 What is the first thing you open?”

If you no longer have any compunction to even try to answer this riddle, then my work is done.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some photos I shot in Bellingham, WA

 In the name of keeping up my artistic interest I am revisiting some old photos like these. The one above I shot in Bellingham in about 2005. My main reason for shooting this was to spook a dog who was charging me by popping my flash unit at him. It worked, and he stopped. Then I discovered that I liked the image.

 Bellingham Bay is a beautiful little body of water. Deceptive in that it seems sheltered and calm, but there are some serious currents. I understand that kayaking at the wrong time of day can leave you swept out to sea and unable to return. Nonetheless a lot of kayakers take the trip, and of course so do fishermen. Some do not return. The shot above is of a kayaker returning home at dusk. He's assisted by a companion seagull.

Another shot of Bellingham Bay, this time a fishing boat is shown in soft focus due to the long exposure. I like the dreamy, soft feel of this shot.

Quincy, California. Just a couple photos.

So, yeah, this is the Quincy public library.

We went to Quincy, CA, and I took a liking to some of the local scenes. The top building is the public library and the bottom one is an unknown building-- seems to be in use but I don't know what it's for.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Single Strand

"A single strand" Image I just shot in my favorite field across the street from my house. I'm mainly testing to see whether this image shows up better here than it does on Facebook. I may upload and unretouched ( except for resizing ) too, just to compare. Yeah, OK, why not:

Smoother gradients, reduced vignetting. Different color. I may prefer this unretouched image.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nicole Hugaboom test shoot

Trying several tonal variations after a short test shoot with Nicole Hugaboom. I was just sitting across the table outdoors at a Starbucks here in Chico, California. These are all natural light using different post production techniques. Nicole herself strikes me as very sweet and polite, down to earth. Most likely we'll do more shooting together. She has some kind of cosplay shoot in mind before halloween, so that should be fun. I'm still getting my bearings from having done almost exclusively nature and landscape shoots for the past year.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Brenda Lockie-Knight plays the harp, ukelele and sings at Peet's here in Chico, CA.

Brenda Lockie-Knight plays the Harp, Ukelele and sings too. Wish we could have heard her better, it's a little noisy on the outdoor patio at Peet's here in Chico. She says she also plays at Cafe Flo sometimes. Found her on Facebook but she says she's not on there much. Super nice lady. We told her we'd post these photos online, so, with any luck she'll be able to find them.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The first wedding I ever shot in 2005

Looking back at a favorite image from the first wedding I shot in 2005. I realize that it's unusual to see a bride in white holding a baby, and that's part of what I've always liked about it. Life is unusual. It's hard to believe it will be eight years as of next month.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wedding and Portrait Photography in Chico

I decided it was time to go back and look through a set of photos that Sheryl and I shot at the Naked Lounge ( it's just a cafe with great coffee ). Talia Lupita Azul was our model and she did a great job. This was shot with available light only, and Sher helped me modify it a bit to get what I consider to be beautiful light. I really enjoy doing work like this, and I look forward to doing more in the near future.

I had thought that putting up a few ads on Craigslist would get me some bookings, but around here that doesn't seem to work very well. My general impression is that approximately nobody is using Craigslist in the Chico area to find a photographer. I get a few website hits which can be traced back to Craigslist ads, and I've gotten a few contacts, but I also notice that no other photographer posts consistently to craigslist-- they all drop off sooner or later and that wouldn't be so if the ads were actually working. I'll have to explore other channels for selling my work.

I'm actually biting my tongue right now to avoid commenting too much on what other local photographers are doing. I decided a while back to keep a very loose, casual eye on what they're up to. Well, it seems to break down into a few different categories. There are the hobbiests, and there are tons of those. Digital photography just keeps growing in popularity. There are serious hobbiests/ semi- pro photographers. Some of those are pretty good ranging to very good, but in that group mostly what I see is that they get reduced to playing "dress-up" with friends who want to be models or at least play at it. This is likely true all over, not just in Chico. You can be a great photographer but if you aren't good at marketing and selling, you probably won't get hired except by family and friends, and some of our locals are pretty damn good. 

The phenomenon of getting hired by family and friends, church members, coworkers, fellow club members, etc, is that as a marketing strategy, if it were one, it works better than, say, advertising. Your friends may actually follow through with hiring you. There's some trust there already built. They'll probably expect a discount and they'll probably get it, especially when you just think of yourself as "turning pro". You'll probably bump into them over and over again until they remember to actually pony up and do a shoot and so on. None of this is true when you really are a pro. As a pro you have to build trust through other means, you can't afford to offer bottom barrel pricing, and your potential clients aren't predisposed either to hiring you or actually following through, even if you've spent significant time with them already. They won't see you again so it's easy to blow you off.

What's actually bothering me that I've been avoiding talking about is that some of the local photographers who are actually getting some work ( cut-rate work, yes, but still work ). And what bothers me most is that they are absolutely awful at photography. They haven't a clue what they're doing, and it shows. I'm not even being picky: we're talking baby picks where the baby is completely out of focus, bad light, bad composition, bad color, underexposed or wildly over-exposed. . .  pretty much everything a photographer can do wrong is done wrong.  Only fifty bucks for the shoot? So what. And yet, and yet-- they're working and continuing to be hired by family and friends, building confidence, planning to do more and more and more: but they aren't learning from their mistakes. They aren't getting any better. Somehow their clients aren't complaining. What I have to assume is that the proliferation of amateur photography is keeping expectations very low. Is it because the low rate photographers are so cheap? Well there's cheap and then there's worthless. Maybe if the end result marginally beats a cell phone pic it's considered acceptable? I don't know. This "dumbing down" of the art of photography is pretty troubling to me, where the expectations of quality are so low, and the price point as well. The low end photographer and the low end client threatens to kill off the mid level photographers market where there's actually some talent.

It's a bit like Walmart. Your local hardware store gets driven out of business because everybody is buying the cheap crap at Walmart. One day you go back to the old hardware store because you need something good and it just ain't there. Gone.

The thing about the mid level photography market is:
#1 That's where all the new talent gets developed. Eventually this feeds the higher end markets and that's where the top end talent gets nurtured.
#2 It's accessible but not "dirt cheap" to consumers. Maybe there's just enough profit to keep a dedicated photographer going, to continue to build his skills and move onward and upward. 
#3 It helps to "set the bar" for a certain level of quality in the field, and expectations for better things to come in the future.
    So I don't think we can afford to lose that. It's kind of like the middle class in America, it drives everything.