Today’s Quote

December 22, 2016
blogquotes-13Design copyright 2016, Jim Sizemore

Hip Shots

November 19, 2014

Chain Links

By Catherine Bruce

(Click images to enlarge.)
Fence1 Fence2 Fence3

The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames exposed the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.

Copyright © 2014 Catherine Bruce.
 

Hip Shots

September 19, 2014

Windows

By Catherine Bruce

(Click images for larger views.)

Window9470

Window9471

Window9467

The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames exposed the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.

Copyright © 2014 Catherine Bruce.

Hip Shots

June 14, 2013

Patterns

By Catherine Bruce

IMG_4424

IMG_3807

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The “Hip Shots” series of Doodlemeister.com photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames  exposed the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that can be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own pictures, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below. Meanwhile, click the “Hip Shots” tag above for many more examples. This feature will appear most Fridays.

Copyright © 2013 Catherine Bruce.

One-Minute Memoir

June 12, 2013

Trains

In May of 1977, I was depressed about the breakup of a relationship — which, for me, was not all that unusual back then. But an abiding interest in photography became a tool that I used to, if not cure my malaise, at least divert me from my sad-sack self while I figured out if I needed to seek professional help as an individual, or sign up for cheaper group therapy sessions with an odd-ball collection of other interpersonal failures. But I digress . . .

The “train project,” as I called it — photographing vintage rail cars at the Baltimore and Ohio Train Museum in Southwest Baltimore was something I had thought about for several years. Each time I had taken my two very young sons there — I saw them every-other weekend on court-approved visits — I would think about photographing parts of the rail cars, treating the smaller sections as abstractions, isolating areas to create compositions based on the size and shape relationships of the various elements. The pipes, levers, armatures, wheels, etc., were beautiful to me. The idea was to reduce the massive machines to circles, rectangles, triangles, and so on, visually “deconstructing” the cars, so to speak. It was a post-modern photographic concept before I knew what the term meant. In this digital age it is quaint to note that back then we made our photographic images by exposing rolls of chemically treated acetate film and developing the exposed frames in solutions mixed (in my case) in a tiny dark room rigged up in the kitchen area of my three room apartment. I kept out ambient light with a thick temporary curtain.

One design trick I used to emphasize and simplify the basic shapes was high contrast, reducing the component parts to basic black and white, with only a few middle tones. To get that effect, I relied on very fast film (Tri-X), which I exposed in bright sunlight for the juicy shadows that retain good detail, and used fast shutter speeds, then printed them on high contrast paper. All the rail car shots were composed “in camera” and printed full-frame. Whether or not I managed to make “art” with my approach may of course be debated, but I have no doubt that the activity worked well for me as therapy. At the very least, it got me through a bad emotional patch and on the path to more conventional help. (Click images for larger views.)

This is an edited re-post from 12/10/08

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces of up to a thousand words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for the lighthearted tone, and if need-be we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us by leaving a comment or inquiry below.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

Krazy Kat

February 23, 2011

Until I came upon the Bill Watterson essay, below, I had planned to write one myself about the brilliant George Herriman comic strip, Krazy Kat. But I now know I can’t compete, so I’ve decided to filch the whole thing and present it to you here as-is. (Hope they don’t sue me.) P. S. Get The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat book (see link below)  and view the amazing — and oh so juicy — drawings of George Herriman in all their graphic glory. They don’t make ’em like this anymore, folks — and more’s the pity.

In Which We Read With Awe And We Read With Wonder

From the introduction to The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat

A Few Thoughts on Krazy Kat

by BILL WATTERSON

As a cartoonist, I read Krazy Kat with awe and wonder. Krazy Kat is such a pure and completely realized personal vision that the strip’s inner mechanism is ultimately as unknowable as George Herriman. Nevertheless, I marvel at how this fanciful world could be so forcefully imagined and brought to paper with such immediacy. THIS is how good a comic strip can be.

Interestingly, Krazy Kat gains its momentum less from the personalities of its characters than from their obsessions. Ignatz Mouse demonstrates his contempt for Krazy by throwing bricks at her; Krazy reinterprets the bricks as signs of love; and Offissa Pupp is obliged by duty (and regard for Krazy) to thwart and punish Ignatz’s “sin,” thereby interefering with a process that’s satisfying to everyone for all the wrong reasons. Some 30 years of strips were wrung out of that amalgam of cross-purposes. The action can be read as a metaphor for love or politics, or just enjoyed for its lunatic inner logic and physical comedy.

Despite the predictability of the characters’ proclivities, the the strip never sinks into formula or routine. Often the actual brick tossing is only anticipated. The simple plot is endlessly renewed through constant innovation, pace manipulations, unexpected results, and most of all, the quiet charm of each story’s presentation. The magic of the strip is not so much in what it says, but in how it says it. It’s a more subtle kind of cartooning than we have today.

To the bewilderment of many readers, there are few endings in Krazy Kat that qualify as “punchlines.” Instead, it’s the temperament of the writing and drawing throughout the strip that is the joke. If you don’t think it’s funny that a strip should have an intermission drawing, or that a character would refer to his tail as a “caudal appendage,” you’re reading the wrong strip, and it’s your loss.

Quirky, individual, and uncompromised, Krazy Kat is one of the very few comic strips that takes full advantage of its medium. There are some things a comic strip can do that no other medium, not even animation, can touch, and Krazy Kat is a virtual essay on comic strip essence.

In their headlong rush for the “gag,” most cartoonists run right past the countless treasures Herriman uncovered simply by taking his time to explore the freedom of his medium. The self-consciously baroque narrations and monologues (“From the kwaint konfines of the kalabozo del kondado de Kokonino — Officer ‘Pup’ gives answer”) show that words can be funny in themselves, just as drawings can. The sky turns from black to white to zigzags and plaids simply because, in a comic strip, it CAN. No other cartoonist ever approached his blank sheet of paper with so much affection for all its possibilities.

The scratchy drawings delight me no end. They have the honesty and directness of sketches. So many of today’s strips are slick and polished, the inevitable result of assistants trying to develop a mechanical style that can be continued indefinitely. The drawings in Krazy Kat are whimsical, idiosyncratic, and filled with personality. The bold design of the Sunday strips neatly compliments the flat expanses of color or black, and the wonderful hatching brings character to the otherwise posterish approach.

Nothing in Krazy Kat had a supporting role, least of all the Arizona desert setting. Mountains are striped. Mesas are spotted. Trees grow in pots. The horizon is a low wall that characters climb over. Panels are framed by theater curtains and stage spotlights. Monument Valley monoliths are drawn to look more like their names. The moon is a melon wedge, suspended upside down. And virtually every panel features a different landscape, even if the characters don’t move. The land is more than a backdrop. It is a character in the story, and the strip is “about” that landscape as much as it is about the animals who populate it.

As the artwork is poetic, so is the writing. With the possible exception of Pogo, no other strip derives so much of its charm from its verbiage. Krazy Kat‘s unique “texture” comes in large part through the conglomeration of peculiar spellings and punctuations, dialects, interminglings of Spanish, phonetic renderings, and alliterations. Krazy Kat‘s Coconino County not only had a look; it had a sound as well. Slightly foreign, but uncontrived, it was an extraordinary and full world.

Darn few comic strips challenge their readers anymore. The comics have become big business, and they play it safe. They shamelessly pander to the results of reader surveys, and are produced by virtual factories, ready-made for the inevitable t-shirts, dolls, greeting cards, and television specials. Licensing is where the money is, and we seem to have forgotten that a comic strip can be something more than a launchpad for a glut of derivative products. When the comic strip is not exploited, the medium can be a vehicle for beautiful artwork and serious, intelligent expression.

Krazy Kat was drawn well over half a century ago, and yet it’s a much more sophisticated use of the comic strip medium than anything we cartoonists are doing today. Of course, a 1930s Sunday Krazy filled the entire newspaper page, whereas editors today usually cram at least four strips in the same amount of space. This reduction of size greatly limits what can be drawn and written and still remain legible, and it goes a long way toward explaining the comics’ devolution.

Even so, the whiteness of paper is still vast, uncharted territory, ripe for exploration. There are plenty of exotic lands for a cartoonist to map, if he or she will leave the well-worn paths and strike off for the wilds of the imagination. Krazy Kat is like no other comic strip before or after it. We are richer for Herriman’s integrity and vision.

Krazy Kat was not very successful as a commercial venture, but it was something better. It was art.

Bill Watterson is the creator of Calvin & Hobbes.



Jefferson Rock

March 26, 2010

By Jim Sizemore

March 20, 2010

To celebrate Spring my friend Mary and I headed to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. (Click images to enlarge.) Harper’s Ferry is about 60 miles west of Baltimore—a short and scenic drive, especially if you tend to get lost and have to take two-lane roads to avoid backtracking—which no self-respecting day-tripper would consider. After all, getting lost—assuming it isn’t overdone or dangerous—is part of the fun. Once at Harper’s Ferry, we drove through town and up to the graveyard overlooking the valley and the rivers. After hiking down to Jefferson Rock—so named for Thomas Jefferson who visited the spot in 1783—which is on part of the Appalachian Trail, we made a few pictures of the area and each other. That’s me atop Jefferson Rock, taken by Mary; and Mary below, taken by me—mutual muses.

I love the first photograph not because I’m in it (posing like Gary Cooper in “The Fountainhead”), but because Mary composed the image so beautifully. The shot is full-frame, simple shapes artfully arranged, the sky above, the boulders and hills below taking up most of the image, each odd shape with its own personality, each contributing to the overall design. Most of the time when someone sends me a snapshot I immediately want to crop it to give it more unity, make it stronger. But in this case I didn’t consider doing that. It was picture perfection. One way to better appreciate the composition is to reduce the image to lines only, as I’ve done to the right. Then we understand how Mary arranged the photographic elements so that no two areas are the same size or shape (variety = visual interest), and the focal point—the human figure—is off to one side rather than centered, the saturated blue sky acting as its frame.

Meanwhile, in photo three, to toot my horn, over Mary’s left shoulder there’s a partial view of what Thomas Jefferson would have viewed—including we happy day-trippers—had he been there last Saturday.

If you’ve never visited Jefferson Rock here’s a bit of what Wikipedia has to say about Harper’s Ferry. The National Historical Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in and around Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The park includes land in Jefferson County, West Virginia; Washington County, Maryland and Loudoun County, Virginia. Managed by the National Park Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Originally designated as a National Monument in 1944, the park was declared a National Historical Park by Congress in 1963. The park includes the historic town of Harper’s Ferry, notable as a center of 19th century industry and as the scene of John Brown’s abolitionist uprising. Consisting of almost 4,000 acres, the land marks the site on which Thomas Jefferson said, after visiting the area in 1783, “The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.”

Copyright © 2010 Mary Azrael and Jim Sizemore.