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The Bytesmiths Editions Newsletter December 2000


And The Winner Is...

(drum roll, please) Paul and Andrea Covey, of Portland, Oregon, have won the free print drawing this month!

Paul and Andrea visited us during Portland Open Studios, and bought an 8"x12" translucent print -- thanks!

Remember, YOU may be the winner next month! Each month, I'm giving away a FREE signed, open-edition print in an acid-free mat, ready for framing, to a random email newsletter subscriber. The winner selects from any print currently in stock. (Winners are ineligible to win again for a year.) Relatives and Bytesmiths employees, er, I mean "volunteer helpers," ARE eligible to win -- heck, without them, I wouldn't have much of a mailing list!

Studio Sale: December 2-3 (Sat-Sun)

Since Portland Open Studios was such fun, Carol and I have decided to open our studio again, this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, December 2nd and 3rd.

This time, we're planning to add works from other local artists, and have coordinated our sale with Ann Fleming, a West Linn potter, who will also be opening her studio to the public this weekend. You can visit Ann at 1245 13th Street, or stop by my studio first, and I'll give you a map.

I was hoping to involve many other West Linn artists this year, but organizing artists is like herding cats -- some already had other plans, some didn't think there was enough time to prepare, others just needed more coaxing than I was willing to do at this point!

But next year, I'm hoping to repeat this event on a grander scale, also on the first weekend of December (1-2). With the help of Ann Fleming and clay and tile artist Roxane Roberts (who together form the West Linn Arts Commission), I'm hoping to organize as many as a dozen local artists for next year's group studio sale.

So mark you calendar now for next year, and I hope to see you this weekend!

Feature Article: What Is Digital Fine Art?

Art is difficult to define. Buildings wrapped in colored fabric, a crucifix in a bottle of urine, the antics of three men in dark clothing and blue masks -- all are touted as art.

Yet Cristo turned an entire island into an ad for British Airlines, Roger Maplethorpe's photography promotes cognac in magazines, and The Blue Man Group is selling Pentium III Processors on TV. (Paradoxically, The Blue Man Group use only non-Pentium Macs in their performances.)

These examples underlie the basic struggle of the artist. On one hand is the aesthete, striving for pure expression, unencumbered by material concerns. On the other hand, one has to pay the rent and put food on the table. Has the world-renown artist "sold out" by doing a commercial for millions of dollars? Has the struggling, unknown artist "sold out" by licensing their work for use on puzzles, tablecloths, or wallpaper, for pennies per hundred sold?

"Fine art" is particularly difficult to define. In general, it refers to art that is original, rather than reproduced. But this makes "fine art photography" a paradox, since in the usual case (except for Polaroid transfers), the end result of photography is a reproduction. In general, fine art seems to combine uniqueness with long-life.

My research yields little guidance. It appears that "fine art" is in the eye of the beholder, or in the case of a show or gallery, the jury committee. Commercial galleries informally define "fine art" as "what sells." Some non-commercial shows define "fine art" as "what doesn't normally sell in commercial galleries." Art is fraught with paradox!

When you add "digital" to the mix, things only get more complicated. By its nature, digital processes are easily reproduced, thus blowing them out of the traditional definition of "fine art." Yet computer technology offers unprecedented creative control to the artist -- must such an artist be locked out of "fine art" markets simply because of their choice of tools?

Finally, merging "photography" with "digital" creates new ethical problems. A "photograph" of a wolf peering from under a snow-flecked fern won a prize in a contest. Later it was revealed that the captive wolf was taken in the summer, and digitally composited with the winter fern. What is "real" anymore, and does it matter?

In struggling with these issues, I came up with my own definitions that I use to describe my work:

I define "fine art photography" as limited-reproduction photography, using materials and techniques that will outlive the artist.

  • Digital Neutral: digital adjustments are used, but only to make the end print as close as possible to the original scene or artwork. This is what I do when reproducing original artwork of other artists, or when photographing architecture, for example.
  • Digitally Enhanced: color balance, contrast control, and other adjustments are performed to create a pleasing image that may not match the original scene, but no changes are made to actual objects in the scene. This produces a result similar to that of traditional photo-chemistry using highly saturated film or traditional darkroom techniques.

    Most of the prints I produce fall in this category, since I am generally more concerned with producing a compelling print than with a perfect representation of the original scene.

  • Digitally Manipulated: some objects in the scene may be changed in some manner that does not change the overall meaning of the image, such as stitching together multiple frames to make a panorama, or removing small distracting objects that do not contribute to the overall meaning of the image.

    For example, although I loved this image of Mount Hood, it had been taken on high-speed, grainy film. The grain isn't objectionable in much of the image because of texture, but the sky looked awful! So I sampled the color of the lowest and highest parts of the sky, and then filled the sky with a computer-generated gradient between these two colors. That looked unreal, so I then added in some "faux film grain" in the form of random noise.

  • Digital Original Artwork: this involves extensive digital manipulation in a way that significantly changes the meaning of an image, such as creating a montage of multiple images to depict an imaginary scene that never existed in reality.

    For example, I stitched eleven frames together in Crater Lake To Diamond Lake, and then compressed the result in the horizontal dimension, yielding an exaggerated, un-worldly vertical scale.

I don't want to get involved in what is "real" and what is "unreal" in photography. Modern high-saturation film (like Fuji Velvia) distorts color in a way that anyone would perceive as "unreal" in many cases (such as Caucasian skin tones), yet chances are 9 out of 10 that any striking nature scene you see in a magazine was taken on such a film.

The best I can do is to describe the processes I use, and their impact. After all, what does "real" really mean?

It appears I've raised more questions than answers, and I apologize if you thought I was going to provide some neat, tidy definitions for you! The growing influence of digital technology will continue to change the way we think about art.

Class Schedule

Due to requests from customers, Carol and I, in association with two Clackamas County community education districts, have planned a series of classes.

If you live in Clackamas County, you have already received class information in the form of the Clackamas County Community College Catalog. If you aren't interested in college, you might have tossed it, but only the front half of the catalog is for-credit college courses -- the entire back half of the catalog consists of listings of non-credit "Community Education" classes suitable for anyone, of any age, regardless of their college plans!

This is a rich resource for Clackamas County residents -- ten separate community education organizations list their schedules here -- so the next time the catalog shows up in your mailbox, don't recycle it without giving it a look first!

What if you don't live in Clackamas County? Don't worry, you aren't excluded, as long as you're willing to go to West Linn or Canby on a weekday evening for the class.

Here's a listing of the classes Carol and I are offering, by topic. Registration information follows the listings. When registering, refer to the class code in curly braces {}.

  • Craft:
    • Making Simple Books, Carol Wagner. Learn to create practical and simple books for unique, personal gifts, or for your personal use, in this one-evening workshop. Materials provided; bring your own scissors and ruler. Tuesday, February 13, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School Art Room, West Linn, Oregon. $11 {APA-2-807}
    • Paper Bags and Boxes, Carol Wagner. Learn simple paper folding techniques and create a variety of attractive and functional gift bags and boxes. All materials provided; bring your own scissors and ruler. Tuesday, February 20, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School Art Room, West Linn, Oregon. $9 {APA-2-809}
    • Decorating Your Paper Crafts, Carol Wagner. Add embossing, stamping, and applique to your paper crafts; turn simple paper projects into beautiful personal expressions. Bring paper to decorate (or purchase at class), scissors, and ruler. Tuesday, February 27, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School Art Room, West Linn, Oregon. $9 {APA-2-804}
  • Gardening:
    • Composting, Carol Wagner. What are the four essential elements of composting? What will compost do for my garden? What's a "worm bin," and why do I need one? Learn the answers! Bring garden gloves to play with the worms! Tuesday, January 23, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #B102, West Linn, Oregon. $5 {PLT-2-800}
    • Landscaping With Native Plants, Carol Wagner. Discover the benefits of landscaping with native Northwest plants. Find out which plants attract and shelter native fauna. Determine optimal plant locations and sizes. Tuesday, January 30, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #B102, West Linn, Oregon. $5 {PLT-2-801}
    • Organic Gardening, Carol Wagner. What does it mean to garden organically? How can you control pests without toxic chemicals? Can plants flourish without chemical fertilizer? These questions will be answered, and more. Tuesday, February 13, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #B102, West Linn, Oregon. $5 {PLT-2-802}
  • Photography:
    • Beginning 35mm SLR Photography, Jan Steinman. A four-week introduction to 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) photography; basic theory and techniques. Age 12 and up (with parents) welcome. Need four rolls of film and a manual-capable SLR camera. Four Tuesday evenings, January 16 through February 6, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #A101, West Linn, Oregon. $30 {APA-4-800}
    • Nature Photography, Jan Steinman. This can be taken by itself for those with some camera experience, or as a follow-on to the previous class. Learn intermediate photography techniques, such as basic composition, close-ups, lighting, and more. Age 12 and up (with parents) are okay. Need five rolls of film and an SLR camera. Share carpool costs to field trip to Silver Falls State Park. Four Tuesday evenings, February 20 through March 13, 6:30pm to 9pm, and one Sunday field trip on March 10, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #A101, West Linn, Oregon. $20 {APA-4-808}
    • Digital Photography Overview, Jan Steinman. Megapixels? DPI? Smart Media? Learn the jargon that is changing photography in this two-hour introduction. You'll learn what to look for in a camera, computer, software, and printer. Some experience with computers and cameras helpful, but not necessary. Wednesday, January 10, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Canby High School #CLRM, Canby, Oregon. $8 {DPS-2-102}
    • Digital Photography Overview, Jan Steinman. Same as above, but in West Linn instead of Canby. Tuesday, Februrary 13, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Ridge Middle School #A101, West Linn, Oregon. $5 {APA-2-805}
    • Digital Photography, Beginning, Jan Steinman. Learn to use digital manipulation in photography, includes digital theory, scanning, printing, more, using Adobe Photoshop and other software. Bring some slides or other material to scan and work with. Must have basic computer and camera skills. Four Wednesday evenings, January 17 through February 7, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Canby High School Library, Canby, Oregon. $46 {DPS-4-103}
    • Digital Photography, Explored, Jan Steinman. This follow-on to the previous course goes into greater depth, and may be a suitable starting point for those with basic digital image knowledge. Four Wednesday evenings, February 14 through March 7, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Canby High School Library, Canby, Oregon. $35 {DPS-4-103}
  • Registration Info:
    • For West Linn classes, contact Diane Lam at 503.673.7192 or for logistics information or to sign up over the phone using Visa or MasterCard.
    • For Canby classes, contact Carol Meewsen at 503.266.2086 or for logistics information or to sign up over the phone using major charge cards.

Seniors 62 years or older can receive a discount -- ask for details when registering.

Contact Carol or I if you have a question about the actual class content.

We're excited to be sharing our knowledge with you -- hope to see you at a class!

Top Ten Titles

Here is a list of my most popular images, based on sales of all media combined, from 25 cent postcards to huge, custom-sized framed prints of over $500.

There are no new entries this month -- just some shuffling around.

and the most popular image this month is actually a tie:

Carol's "My New Violet" continues in the top spot, based primarily on strong note card and postcard sales.

My open edition Translesce(TM) prints are proving very popular -- in fact, I've sold out of Winter Bigleaf Maple, Sunrise Tree, Rogue River Gorge 1, Crater Lake To Diamond Lake, and North Falls. I'll be printing more of these at my Studio Sale on December 2-3, so drop by if you want to see a demo of the giclŽe printer in action. Thank you for your enthusiasm for this unusual medium.

Do you have a favorite image from my Top Ten Titles? Let me know what you like!


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