It has long been a goal of mine to make my artworks move. I get a chance to go deeper into the trance-inducing nature of my kaleidoscopes. I also have the opportunity to show the audience how my work is constructed.
Cochlear Calla Lily is constructed in very few parts. I was taken by the simplicity in form of the subject blossom and wanted to reflect that feeling in the work. There is a simple background layer and a central hub. There is a large wreath-like motif and four corner doodads.
The most complex part of the piece is that main motif—a twelve-layered repetition of a single image. When I give my artwork movement, I can show how these distorted and reflected calla blossom dances into place around the wheel.
The matilija poppy is a sun-loving native of Southern California. It’s large crepe paper blossom with a showy yellow puffball of stamens in its center give it the nickname of “fried egg plant.” The photograph that inspired “Matilija Prairie Installation” presents the delicate flower and furry seed pod against a brilliant blue sky.
I never go into my work with specific intentions. Each component is created on the fly, based on what I feel is needed for the current artwork. I find a photograph I love and then work within my process to find the pieces to assemble. This means taking the photograph into a software environment (U&I Software’s ArtMatic Designer) that I use to make the various reflections. I don’t know what the results will be when I begin to explore the parameters of the reflections. I find faces and insects; there might be seductive openings. I keep changing setting, looking more images that please me.
In this piece, I found an intriguing structure created by reflecting the seed pod. I thought it looked like the turn-key in an old windup toy or maybe nautical cleats. The white square structure felt like a stretched canvas, slightly bowed in at the edges, now held down by these cleats. Also holding down the canvas is the bottom layer that breaches the bounds of the white layer on top. The petal layers have a celebratory air, particularly when festooned with dots. They almost seem to jump of the surface. In the heart of the piece, the blue sky is used to balance with color and dimension.
Every one of my kaleidoscopic artworks starts with a photograph. I’m going to use as an example the piece Bird OParadise. As you might have guessed, the subject is the bird of paradise flower. The sturdy purple and orange blossom shows up against a muted green background. They come together for a natural display of secondary colors. Pay special attention to the blue-violet flower petal speckled in dewdrops emerging from the structural flower’s beak-like sheath or spathe.
I import the base image into a graphic synthesizer program (ArtMatic) for manipulation. The photograph is filtered through a variety of mathematical transformations—stretched, bent and reflected through fractals, polar space and fun-house mirrors. Interesting results are saved as key-frames that can be rendered into large-scale graphic files.
The key-framing process allows an image to be animated over time (videos) however, for this series, I only capture the still frames, instructing the software to render the kaleidoscopic reflections. I call the resulting images “foundlings.” I collect the foundlings and tuck them away in a folder, preparing for a digital collage.
After creating several foundlings, I examine them in large scale—sorting, selecting and sometimes creating more, as the artwork requires. I prepare the selected foundlings in Adobe Photoshop using a technique called masking (think of a digital X-acto with a lot more control). I gather the masked foundling into layers and manipulate the light and shadow to enhance the illusion of depth in the finished artwork.
I was working on Judaic Art but had hit a roadblock. I wanted to have my designs custom printed on silk to make into prayer shawls (tallit). The results were beautiful, but the cost was too high to make them profitable. I was frustrated and needed another artistic outlet.
In January of 2011, I attended an inspirational seminar, Matrix Energetics. And while I did not become a practitioner like my brother, it did lead me to begin my series of photography-based kaleidoscopic artwork. When I got home, I created the first piece, Magnolia Pod-me Hum. The base image is a magnolia pod from a tree in my garden. It was placed there by my landscape designer as his gift to me and as a reminder of his business, Mother Magnolia.
I was looking though the various experimentations I had done with U&I Software’s Artmatic, a modular graphics synthesizer that I enjoyed fiddling with. I found an example I made from a piece of beach rock marked with holes. It was a simple reflection without any further manipulation. But it gave me the spark to play around with the idea of incorporating photographs into the six-pointed stars I had been creating in Artmatic and manipulating in Photoshop.
An idea was born. I used the Artmatic parameter tree (see blog post, Where did it all begin? Part 1) from Holey Beach Rock as my starter point. I made many variations on the theme with the photograph of my magnolia pod as the source. I took the resulting renders and imported them into Photoshop to be masked, shaded and layered. I decided the result needed a little something extra so I put in little versions of the magnolia pod and some dots. I can’t remember why I decided to try dots, but they seemed to work and added an extra something. The result was Magnolia Pod-me Hum–the first of what would become a series in excess of eighty pieces and still growing.
In the beginning, I set myself up with some rules, kind of like an assignment. I alway said that I work best under assignment. This time it didn’t come from the outside. My pieces would be made from a single photograph. They would be six-sided symmetry. They would have dots. I made eleven pieces like that until I created Rose Frills In Four which is titled such because I used a four-sided symmetry. Then with twelve pieces in the series, I made my second calendar.
Many people ask me how I started this series of kaleidoscopic artworks. There is no short answer, but I’ll try to address it here. As to my background, you can read about it in my About Page. But briefly, I love kaleidoscopes, geometry and unusual plant forms. My background in graphic design got me well versed in image based software. For example, I was using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from their inception.
My curiosity led me to some pretty amazing programs that modify images by applying advanced mathematics to alter their original structure or to generate images from scratch. These programs go way beyond fractals. The ones I rely on most are Synthetik Studio Artist and U&I Software’s Artmatic Designer, with the latter being the one mainly used in my kaleidoscopes. I have another, completely different body of work that was created using Studio Artist, but I not going to talk about that at this time.
When I purchased Artmatic in 1999, I spent a lot of time working with fractals. The program has a randomize button that is useful when learning the software. There are hundreds of parameters (tiles) that can be strung together in different structures, or trees. There is no limit on the number of tiles that can be placed in the tree. Each tile has one to four sliders that can be adjusted. So using the random button and pre-designed trees are good jumping-off points.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I came across the small corner of the program that worked with center-based mirrors. I was working with Judaic themes at the time and I experimented a lot with six-pointed symmetry to relate to the Magen David star that has been adopted as a symbol of the faith. These artworks were created entirely inside the computer. I wasn’t yet using photographs for the source. In 2010, I had enough of these images that I decided to put together my first calendar. This means that in six years, I had created only 12 pieces like this, or enough for me to consider them a series.
It was in early 2011 that I began using my photographs to create the stars. I had already been using Photoshop to alter what Artmatic generated–cutting up several images, layering and weaving them together to make new artworks. As an example, the piece shown here, Magen David – Jewel Tones, is made from four variations of the same Artmatic tree, each with different surface decoration. When I discovered what using photographs did for my art, I ran forward with the idea and never looked back.
At the moment, my series of photographic based, kaleidoscopic artwork numbers in excess of eighty. Next, I’ll discuss the very first one.