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Monday 30th May 2016Post-Production Tutorials

As a digital photographer, it can be almost intimidating to see the vast array of options for processing your images after you finish shooting. Photoshop has an overwhelming array of (tools which is why it has the reputation of being so powerful) but that power can be a double-edged sword, especially when you're just starting out. Lightroom is designed to be more carefully geared towards photographers, but even it has developed in a complex and powerful tool in its own right. With all that in mind, we've put together a selection of some of the best post-production tutorials to help you add the perfect finishing touches to your photographic masterpieces.

Contrast Adjustments
Getting just the right contrast can be difficult, but when done properly the tonal range of your image will be expanded and perfectly balanced, creating a pleasingly professional looking image. You may need to do additional touch-ups with masked layers, but that's a more advanced tutorial. Check it out here:

Colour Balance
Adjusting your colour balance can be key to achieving the exact effect you were looking for when you originally saw the shot. It opens up a huge array of possibilities for artistic license, when a directly photojournalistic image isn't your goal. This one even has a handy video! Check it out here. 

Cloning and Touchups
There's nothing more frustrating than taking a great shot, only to discover later when you're in post that there is some slight flaw that ruins the image. Rather than tear your hair out or wait forever to get that perfect shot again, a little bit of Photoshop magic can help smooth the way towards a better photo. Check it out here

High Dynamic Range
High dynamic range photographs are incredibly beautiful, but sometimes difficult to do well. They allow images that contain a high degree of detail in both the light and dark areas of an image, preventing the washed out highlights and overdarkened shadows that are inevitable with standard dynamic range photos. Check out how to do it here.

Of course, if you have other software such as Photomatix, it can be even simpler, but these programs are only available for purchase.

While these tutorials won't instantly make you a Photoshop master, they're definitely going to help you along you way and help you start creating better images at once!

Posted on May 30th 2016 on 05:47pm

Friday 27th May 2016Artist Spotlight: Frank Auerbach

On today's edition of Artist Spotlight, we're going to take a look at the life and work of Frank Auerbach, who has had a rather extensive career. He was born in Berlin during the run-up to the Second World War, but fortunately was able to escape the persecution and find safe harbor in England, where he now resides in the Camden Town area of London.
He is eminently quotable, and sums up his general artistic drive in a very simple way that nevertheless resonates quite powerfully: "It seems to me madness to wake up in the morning and do something other than paint, considering that one may not wake up the following morning." 
Curiously enough, despite having a long working life (he's currently 85 and still painting), he has a fascination with a remarkably small number of subjects. This is actually a hallmark of his work, where he repeatedly revisits the same subjects and portrays them in a completely different way. 
"If you pass something every day and it has a little character, it begins to intrigue you."
In and of itself it's a fascinating idea, which gives pause and makes you wonder just how well you truly know the things you see on a daily basis. How many different ways are there to see the exact same thing? How much more can you learn about it by giving it the chance to reveal itself in a new way? And if you can give such consideration to an inanimate object, how much more complex must people appear in such a light?
He winds up with a rather unusual practice as a result. He may spend the whole day painting, only to wind up scraping the image off in dissatisfaction, feeling that he hasn't accurately captured the subject in the way that he wants.
This appears to go double for people, as some of his dearest subjects are his wife and friends, who are doubtless long-suffering and kind to sit for so many iterations of their own image. The Manchester Guardian newspaper remarked in 1956, "The technique is so fantastically obtrusive that it is some time before one penetrates to the intentions that should justify this grotesque method."
But it's hard to deny the efficacy of the approach, as his resulting works are both haunting and captivating. 

Posted on May 27th 2016 on 05:20pm

Wednesday 25th May 2016Preserving Art, One Gecko Foot at a Time

Following up on our theme from last week's Artist Spotlight, today we bring you an interesting new invention that will help art conservators inspired by geckos (yes, the tiny adorable lizards!).
For those of you unaware, geckos have a remarkable ability that is unlike almost anything else in the animal kingdom: they can walk straight up walls and upside down across ceilings, no matter the surface is made of. Even the smoothest glass is no impediment to them, thanks to a series of microscopic structures that adorn their feet in the millions. This allows them to get a tight grip on virtually any surface, and it has inspired a number of inventions in the scientific community.
As with almost any old things, whether it's junk in the attic or a priceless masterpiece, fine art tends to attract dust when put on display in a gallery or museum. Not out of any odd properties, but simply due to the fact that no matter how good your ventilation system, it's impossible to keep 100% of the dust out of the air.
This poses a large problem for art conservators, especially when the works they are tasked with protecting are already extremely fragile. Even the gentlest cleaning cycle over a long enough timescale has the risk of introducing flaws into paintings.
In a brand new twist, scientists have developed a material that very closely mimics the microscopic columnar structures that give geckos their unique climbing abilities. Instead of being adhesive in any way, which would naturally damage the artwork dramatically, the sheets of the new and as-yet unnamed material are extremely flexible, and can attract dust with a simple gentle tap. They contain a very slight electrostatic charge, which enables even the very smallest particles of dust to be immediately captured and removed safely. 
Cindy Schwartz, an art conservator at Yale University explains: "Acrylic paints are incredibly porous, so anything you’re putting on the surface could get into the pores, and then work from the insides of the pores to soften the paints." 
Whether or not this will remain a tool for art conservators is as yet unknown, as the material still hasn't made its way to the general public just yet, but it's only a matter of time.
As for me, though, I'm holding out for gecko gloves to scale any surface with ease. One day. 

Posted on May 25th 2016 on 04:40pm

Friday 20th May 2016Artist Spotlight: Mike Tyka

Mike Tyka is an interesting artist for a number of reasons, one of which is that art is only part of his work. Not only does he work in a wide variety of media, he's also an engineer at Google working on their neural network program. As you may or may not remember, the part of the project we find the most fascinating is the Deep Dream image processing algorithm, which we've written about extensively.

Tyka was involved in the very initial stages of the entire Deep Dream project, and was among the first to get the chance to play around with it from an artistic perspective. He also had four pieces featured in the Google Deep Dream art show that auctioned off pieces created with the system, including one that has one of the most appealing names of all the pieces in the entire show: Ground Still State of God’s Original Brigade.

The piece itself isn't one of the better ones in the show, but the name is top-notch. What makes it even more curious is that it wasn't completely of Tyka's devising: the same neural net that enabled the pieces was used - albeit in a slightly different way - to generate the names of the pieces themselves.

Tyka has a fairly extensive career outside of the whole Deep Dream project, which is arguably more of a conceptual art piece than something that generates a particularly attractive output. There are exceptions of course, such as the piece 'Instrument 3' attached to this post, but most of the neural network pieces are less visually appealing.

Unsurprisingly, he's been fascinated by interactivity and motion-responsive work, but also with sculpture. As a collaboration with several other artists, he helped design and construct the massive interactive piece Groovik's Cube, which is a collaboratively-solvable gigantic version of the classic Rubik's Cube puzzle. A crowdfunded effort, it recently made an appearance at the massive festival-slash-performance art piece known as Burning Man.

This isn't his only foray into the world of sculpture, as he has created a vast body of work in various types of metal. Blending both science and art in his practice, his sculptures are intricately crafted examples of protein synthesis, a seemingly-sterile yet remarkable engaging series. .

"Life is a dynamic equilibrium of creation and destruction. Inside our cells the protein nano-machines, to which we owe our distinction from the inorganic, are perpetually recycled and rebuilt, forever battling the inevitable fate of entropic decay."

If that's not an artist statement, I don't know what is.

Posted on May 20th 2016 on 04:23pm

Wednesday 18th May 2016Super 8 Does Comedy

It's a running joke about motels and hotels that they are the patron saints of terrible artists. Nothing caps off the perfect cheap room like a terrible painting, whether it features sloppy brushwork, lazy composition or just general bad taste. Often, the cheaper the room, the cheaper the painting, and there are some very cheap motels out there..

This joke has been ongoing so long that one of the biggest motel chains in the United States decided to have a little bit of fun with it as part of their latest rebranding effort. Super 8 is a fairly wide-ranging chain across North America, and they are probably one of the largest purchasers of truly awful art in the world (aside from our elderly relatives) - but that isn't going to work with their newest plans.

WIth all this in mind, they partnered with star comedian and author Amy Sedaris in a joke art show, where the old pieces that graced the walls of Super 8 rooms across the continent will be given away free, first come, first served. Of course, that's assuming anyone would actually *want* them. If so, the comedy/art show will be held in New York City at the Openhouse Gallery.

"That art could not be uglier. The hardest thing I ever did in my life was to come up with names for it all. That was really hard. You're just looking at something, and I don't know what to call it — 'That (expletive) Duck' — mindless art," she explains.

The plan for the new art apparently will be to avoid the generic nature scenes and pastoral hilarity that covered the walls in the past, and replace them with scenes that reflect the actual location that you're in. When every motel room looks like the same, it can be rather disorienting to wake up in a room after a long trip and suddenly lose all sense of where you are.

No matter what you think about the art, it's impossible to deny that they have a sense of humour about it. Wouldn't it be nice if hotels and motels around the world suddenly became some of the foremost patrons of the arts? With the rise of AirBNB and similar crowdsourced accommodation websites, it's possible that an individual proprietor's sense of taste would work in their favour, as good art can help attract clients - rather than just make them laugh. 

Posted on May 18th 2016 on 02:00am

Friday 13th May 2016The Birth of Glitch

It's not very often that you get to see a new genre developing right before your eyes. In the past, artistic movements took time to gain steam, to gain followers and eventually reach a critical mass when it suddenly tips and begins to be considered a genre in its own right.

The digital world has dramatically accelerated this process, thanks to the speed that ideas are disseminated across the globe. The smallest genres that would have fizzled and died before the internet suddenly become viable because everyone around the world can pool their collective ideas.

Take glitch art. Don't worry that you haven't heard of it before, it's still it's infancy - or it may still even be in utero. There isn't an exact nomenclature to discuss how this process works that is readily accessible to most people outside of academia, and even then it's still fairly fluid.

Glitch art is based around the premise of what happens to digital information (which is to say information encoded in 1's and 0's, as all computer files are) when some of the 1's and 0's get scrambled or dropped. You've seen this phenomenon watching modern television, or looking at an internet video that was poorly encoded. Across the arts, creative people were sitting up and taking notice, and glitch was born.

Brian Eno, the famous electronic music artist who helped pioneer the genre, said it best in his book A Year With Swollen Appendicies:

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

The same holds true with the nascent genre of glitch art. The digital artifacts that come from missing data *become* data in their own right; they transcend themselves even as they transmogrify themselves. Already at least one major music group (The Glitch Mob) has arisen from the glitch movement, and there are many visual artists who are also eagerly awaiting their breakout moment of recognition.

Posted on May 13th 2016 on 07:42pm
Labels: , genre, glitch art

Wednesday 11th May 2016The New Gallery Experience

The modern gallery experience began with the advent of the self-guided tour. It eventually progressed to a podcast that you could download to your iPod, and then eventually to the ultra-modern app-based experience that is still the leading choice for the forward-thinking gallery. Now that's all changed.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the next wave of art appreciation would arrive from California. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA to those in the know, whatever that means) has recently unveiled it's newest digital approach to the guided tour.

Naturally, it's based in an app for your smartphone, but instead of simply guiding you through the space, they've taken it one step further. Thanks to the advanced location technology that is standard in almost every smartphone on today's market, the museum can pinpoint your location within the space and provide you with commentary related to the piece that you're looking at.

SFMOMA has partnered with Apple, who created a high-resolution map of the museum space that enables their technology to pinpoint your location precisely, and play you the appropriate element of the tour without having to enter any codes or mess with your phone at all.

The voice of a veteran radio announcer is the first thing you hear upon loading the app, with a hilarious and reassuring message: “The guides will tell you where to go. They’ll wait for you, because they know where you are too. *pause* Oh, that sounds creepy—it’s not.”

They've taken it one step further, though, providing a number of different and sometimes wildly contrasting tour guides, sort of in the same way that you can download the voice of Homer Simpson for your car's GPS navigator. Homer has yet to make an appearance in the SFMoMA guide app, but it may just be a matter of time.

Instead, you can listen to actors from the popular HBO show Silicon Valley discussing your pieces, or perhaps the French tightrope walker Philippe Petit analyzing the balanace of light against brushstrokes.

No matter how you choose to interact with museums, this is surely going to change your perspective. Personally, this writer prefers to be dropped in at the deep-end to experience things without the benefit of a guide, but perhaps the best balance would be to work ones way through the museum as deep as possible and only then to enable the app, so it can act as a guiding light out from the darkness.

Posted on May 11th 2016 on 06:46pm

Friday 06th May 2016Artist Spotlight: Rosemarie Fiore

This week on Artist Spotlight, we're going to take a look at some of the incredibly dynamic work of Rosemarie Fiore. While the abstracts are exciting and intriguing in their own right, they way that they are created somehow manages to be even more dynamic that the pieces themselves: Her work is frenetic and beautiful, chaotic and colourful, and it's no surprise when you realize how she works. Fiore paints with fireworks.

Yes, you read that right. While it's not immediately clear how she manages to avoid setting her canvases on fire when she does so, she developed an entire series of works that are created with a wide variety of fireworks.

Her series of fireworks drawings was exhibited in New York by the Priska C. Juschka Fine Art gallery in 2009 under the title Pyrotechnics, but that's not the only way she has created. No matter what medium she's working in, whether it's fire, explosions or smoke, the process of creation is almost as important to her as the final piece.

In an interview with Second Street Gallery owner Leah Stoddard, Fiore explains her connection to her process: "I am interested in process, for it is through process that I am able to connect to a deeper meaning in my artwork. I use video as a vehicle to record some of my artmaking experiences. To me, all my videos can standalone, and the actual painting serves as evidence of the video. You can see that something occurred on its surface but you are not sure what it was until you view the video."

Watching her work is captivating, even hypnotic. You can find the videos of her working and the works themselves at her website,, as well as learn more about her upcoming shows and her latest series, Smoke Paintings.

"Fireworks are explosives. They are violent, destructive and chaotic in nature.” How could one appreciate that and then not want to capture the beauty of their chaos? Not in the admittedly a bit prosaic (by now) visual displays that accompany our New Year's Eve and national holidays, but the beauty of how they operate, the force and dynamism that truly makes them what they are at their very core.

Posted on May 06th 2016 on 06:22pm

Wednesday 04th May 2016Take that, Duchamp!

In one of the most famous modern art pieces of all time, Marcel Duchamp made a name for himself and secured his place in history. At the time it was arguably a stunt and wildly derided by those in the artistic establishment, but Duchamp didn't give a hoot what they thought - they were exactly the people he was trying to offend. The piece in question? A public urinal that had been ripped off a wall and submitted to a gallery, titled 'Fountain' and signed 'R. Mutt'. At the time, it was rejected, of course, but Duchamp's point was rather clear about his views of the state of the art world at the time. That was in 1917.

Fast-forward to 2016, and cross the Atlantic to the Guggenheim, New York City. Maurizio Cattelan, whose works have made him one of the most expensive and sought after living artists, has decided to come out of 'retirement'.During an interview on his reasons for a return to practice, he said,  “Actually, it’s even more of a torture not to work than to work.” Understandable, almost immediately so, for when you have a vision, not acting on it can be more painful than a root canal. .

Also immediately understandable is his first piece of work since his return, which is being installed in the Guggenheim this month. In the spirit of Duchamp but updated for the modern era, the piece is entitled 'Maurizio Cattelan: America' and instead of hanging in one of the gallery spaces, will be installed in a public washroom.

Because it is a working toilet made out of 18-karat gold.

99 years to the month after Duchamp failed to get his urinal installed in an exhibition, New York will finally get its artistic toilet.

Curiously enough, it's actually intended to be used for it's evident purpose, although it's hard to imagine that the lines for a public restroom can get any longer than they already are. “There’s the risk that people will think of it as a joke, maybe, but I don’t see it as a joke,” Cattelan explained, and commented that it really only becomes an artwork when it's actually being used by someone.

The commentaries on the state of modern America are obvious and rife with charged debate concerning wealth distribution and the unity of humanity, but it's also a hilarious jab at the self-importance of the rich. After all, everyone needs to use one.

Posted on May 04th 2016 on 05:52pm
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