Search Daniel Colvin Art

Meadow Dreams

The summer of 2008  has inspired some magical meadows

One of my favorite themes are meadow scenes which anthropomorphically incorporate Figurative imagery inspired by the Mythical idea of  Female deities and Goddesses. The Shape of Flora and Fauna tessellate back and forth, commenting on the universal forms in nature.  In this first piece, Starmate's Meadow, I've used metallic pigments to depict a white gold mist flowing over a field graced  by silver and sable nymphs

Starmate's Meadow, 2008, Metalic Pigment, Sumi Ink and Acrylic on Washi Paper, 38" x 22"

This year I had the strange experience of meeting three people with birthdays just one day before mine. Since my birthday is the first day in virgo, all three of these people were just over the cusp in the last day of Leo. I'm not super fixated on horoscope lore, but pay attention and am often intrigued.  I painted this image of a magical meadow for one of these friends, the very gifted photographer, Anne Marie Simard, whose own rich black and white images of patterns and nature inspires me quite often.

Starmate's Meadow Detail

Meadow Sylph, 2008, Acrylic and Ink on Paper, 40" x 25"

In Meadow Sylph,  I've embraced the same theme while utilizing a  much brighter pallet of color.  This piece also includes something else that happened to me this year, Calligraphy!  I'm just beginning to explore this but I'm enjoying the ability to add textual elements to the work in an aesthetic and organic way.

I'm very intrigued by Calligraphy, its history and how it feels when I do it in my art. I must admit it took me a little mental adjustemt to write directly on the artwork, but in truth, the entire calligraphy experience is possible because I'm treating each letter as gestural stroke rather than 'writing a letter'. I'm fairly certain this engages an entirely differn't part of my brain.


Redwood Forest


To give you a sense of the scale, that fallen tree across the stream is at least 5 feet in diameter.

There is a story about the these woods. They are in northern California and contain the 5 tallest trees in the world. Naturalists try to keep the location of the tallest trees hidden because people inadvertently destroy the forest around the tree to go see it. In the 1970's the Nixon administration relaxed logging rules ahead of the enactment of laws that were to go into effect protecting these lands. As a result, Timber companies logged Around the clock to get as much of the old growth forest as they could. They stopped at midnight on the last day they could work and were just 300 feet shy of what is now the tallest tree in the world.

When these trees fall over and die they cross each other on the forest floor and eventually rot into the earth. But that takes a long time, and in the mean time, the forest floor becomes very un-flat, with huge holes being formed by the voids in criss-crossed trees. So off trail hiking can be a challenge. You have to be very careful. Also cougars roam these lands. A few months after I visited, a cougar attacked an elderly couple on trail not very far from where I took this photo. The cougar grabbed the man's head and would not let go until the woman bashed it over the head with a log. Both people lived. In our modern insulated age, we often forget that the earth is wild. I always love the moments where I remember that.

Technical notes: This was taken at around 4pm on an overcast summer's day. The cloud cover was quite light and the sky was very bright. On the forest floor the light is almost all completely top down. The shadows on the underside of the roots of that fallen tree were very very dark. So I decided that I would not try to get any detail in the sky at all, just let it go white. And set my exposure to just give me a bit of detail in the shadows. I used color negative film, which has a latitude of over 8 stops, and that helped a lot. Still the film as it came back looked very blah. But after enough nursing of exposure and curve adjustments I started to get something I liked. In fact this image shows more than the human eye could fully realize had you been standing there. ( the human eye will shut down to protect itself from the harsh radiation in the sky, making the shadows go very dark. It's only when you step directly under the canopy of that root ball that you see any real detail.) (This technique is sort of a poor man's HDR. Because my film scanner does not make pixel perfect repeatable scans, I can not do HDR very effectively right now) The inclusion of the texture in this case, in addition to helping the antique atmosphere, brings detail back into the blown out white areas.


Harvest Alchemy


Initial Alchemy


Some times talking about art is zero sum game. Perhaps this is because artists often work in the proto linguistic languages of intuition, imagination and feeling.  Thought they can be very articulate in there own way, these creations do not always have an analogue of words that make any sense. In other words this will be short blog entry. :)

Recipe for art: 











The Journey towards Abstraction

Photography or what?


Remixer Two, Ink jet print, 36" by 65", 2008


Where does an image stop becoming a fine art photograph and start becoming a piece of graphic fine art?

Or I could ask, How do we get

from here,darklandP.jpg











                                                                                            Darkland, 20 x 20, inkjet print, 2008


to here?   RemixerOne.jpg                 











I'll try and explain!


darklandPGrungeWS.jpgOften when I'm working with post processing faze of photography, I begin to adhere to what I call the Cult of the Antique, and begin adding faux self-reflexive elements from old photographic processes that mimic noise and grunge of the analogue world.


I do this because it helps, in my opinion, combat the sterile perfection of the digital world that seems to surround us more and more each day.





                                            Darkland with Grunge, 20 x 20, inkjet print, 2008

And so while I embrace digital tools as merrily as child in the proverbial candy store, I sometimes temper these powerful processes with things that make the image feel more 'real' ,or at least, effected by the causality of real world forces, such as time,  wear and tare, and dirt.

Often when doing this I'll start to get ideas about graphic design and other manipulations that go beyond the normal photographic idiom. In this case Darkland with Grunge became a foundation element for Traverse. After adding the wonderful 'grunge' to Darkland, I proceeded to embed it even further into a varieties of textures and graphic elements, which, when combined with another image taken at the Getty Museum in L.A., became this wide format work of art  I call Traverse. Here is the point I believe the work of art stopped being just a photograph:

Traverse, Inkjet print, 20"x 62" 2008 

 (To see a larger version where you can scroll around on this go here. )  I like this piece, I really do, but I also see the wide aspect ratio as a possible liability in terms of display. So I  tried making it into two pieces that could be displayed together in separate frames, the right hand version looking like this:


So, at this point,   I became curious what would happen if I kept folding and manipulating the image. I broke the wider version of Traverse up into three overlapping files, rotated each of them into a vertical position.  Then I sectioned them off in areas roughly approximated by the golden mean and flipped those sections in the horizontal and vertical. Next,  I combined all three together in the same file, and added several more flips and then some circles. The circle elements were done by selecting a round section of the image rotating it 90 degrees.  Other areas had their density and gamma adjusted to steer the eye in the proper directions and then the color was manipulated as a last touch. in this case the whites were pushed towards yellow and the blacks were given a purplish tonality. And now we have entered, I think into the land of true abstraction. 

Remixer One, Ink jet print, 36" by 65", 2008

Remixer Two, is mostly a variation on this same process, with some more graphic overlays added on top. Hope you enjoyed this description of my journey from specific image to abstract imagery.


Faux & Hoax


A fragment of the last letter or word ever received from my great uncle George, found along with the above photograph in Uncle Arthur’s ‘secret chest’ along with the other difficult & awkward items.

“My dearest Abigail, I trust this letter will cross ocean and desert to find you comporting your self in a continued state of bravery and the normal stoic wisdom you draw upon in my times of absence. Today a wondrous thing happened! The Berber guides took us up some difficult terrain to the entrance of a hidden valley that shows amazing signs of Greco Roman Culture further south than anyone ever dared dream finding it! I’m so excited my dear one! Tomorrow we leave camp again at dawn to thoroughly explore this amazing canyon. I am optimistic we will overcome the hesitancy of our guides to enter this place with a little bribe and some inevitable squabbling. They keep insisting on some drivel about a curse—the usual high drama my dear, clearly a ploy to get more money from the mad Englishmen, I'm quite sure of it.. We will progress without them with if need be. I’m sending some undeveloped emulsions along with these notes and letters and please, please take great care in getting them to Professor Higmans at the Royal Museum. He will know what to do. In the mean time I remain your faithful George and hope that this discovery means that soon our over-tired little troop will be able to come home in triumph and then we can move on in our lives, my precious bird, to fulfill all our dreams!”

Signed: George Tomland the III, Somewhere south of Tamanrasset, 1879


Lately I've been more and more enamored of the combination of words and images.  Often Poetry, but in this case a little piece of micro fiction.  Just makes me smile. 


Following Your Dreams

A philosophy of art.


OregonGrassDuneSoftWSfix.jpg Oregon Dune Sonata


Landscapes are special to me because they can represent an expression and a  striving for the ideal--the longing to roam in a a world of beauty and sophisticated balance. The other night I dreamed of a landscape quite different form this. I don't know what it was, some insanely beautiful combination of Scottish Highlands, New Zealand and Norway. Alpine meadows and streams running over the land. You could hike anywhere in this world and see divine vistas. Life in such places is completely free and there are no consequences that last beyond the morning's bleary eyed awakening. Dreams will forever amaze me

So this desire to recreate dreams in art... I've thought a lot about this and for a long time was haunted artistically about the impossibility of being able to do this. Especially in the world of Cinema, my other big passion and beloved art form, it is very expensive and hard to re-create the imagined visions. But two things have helped me: First the magic  of the tools become more affordable even as they become more powerful, and two, I've learned something very important. And that is to follow the dreams without expectation for where I will end up.

Inevitably when we follow a dream we are disappointed by barriers and things that stand in our way. But, if we are willing to be flexible and take an interesting turn at each barrier, looking for what opportunities are there, sometimes we can eventually find a sort of idyllic dream space, though perhaps  not the one we thought we were going for.

This has become one of my big driving philosophies of art. To be willing to give in to the change in plan, the new idea, the alternate direction, and let go of the strict preconceived idea of what I was setting out to do!

Does this make any sense to you?

I guess in a way I try to trade the haunting shroud of desire for the bright light of faith--faith that by always stepping forward I will eventually get the golden moment. And the process of art is  much more interesting and surprising this way


These images of the Oregon Dunes were taken late in the day in the summer of 2007. The one below is has a much more low-con processing scheme and overlayed with the texture from one of my favorite washi papers.




Strategies: Getting Separation


When ever I set up to make a photograph I always ask my self "How am I making the subject separate from the background" (unless I'm doing abstract work, which is a different ball of wax as far as creative process goes) In this case I had the idea that the blossoms would be the brighter tone relative to the background on the right side of the image and then on the left the blossoms would be darker than the background. I got a Polaroid that worked great but of course my negative, once scanned had lost almost all this effect so I then proceeded to do my normal umpteen adjustment layers. Added some washi paper texture and its cookin' again.

The blossoms here are light and pink and in the color shots stand out great from the white, but in Black and White the pink goes very close to the background color. Later this evening I'm going to use my gray background and see if I can get the branches and leaves to go darker than the b.g. and the blossoms to go lighter, another strategy for the same idea of achieving separation.


This photograph was taken with a 4x5 camera using Polaroid55 film. The film as the unique ability to provide both a positive and a negative. The negative, though a bit fragile, is also quite sharp and of high quality. I'm saddened though that Polaroid is going out of the polaroid business at the end of the year. Its not really clear if anyone else will pick up the torch.