Reflections in a puddle

20130701-123531.jpgIt is an early summer morning. It rained the night before as I walk a mile or so before I climb into the car for the morning’s mega commute. The parking lot near my home is dappled with puddles slowly evaporating. It reminds me of when I first started taking black and white photographs in high school. One of my favorite subjects was reflections of the sky in puddles.

I do not remember what initially attracted me to the subject matter, but I remember loading a 35mm SLR manual camera–either an Olympus or a Pentex–with a spool of film, pulling the leader and lining the sprocket holes with the sprockets, securing the leader to the spindle, closing the back door and advancing the film a couple frames. I would sling the camera over my shoulder and head outdoors to capture a surreal glimpse of the heavens from the perspective of puddles on asphalt. Or pools of water on gravel roads or a grassy field.

After collecting images captured and hidden on a roll of exposed black and white film, I returned to the darkroom at the high school and processed the film. First developing the amber film strips and then placing it in the enlarger to make prints. The way the image emerged from the paper as it floated in the developer solution was no end of amazement for me–like watching an unseen ghost suddenly materialize. The image of a lamp post in a puddle near the grainery, the water tower with clouds dancing from the pavement, the side of the building of the Coal Miner’s bar on Main Street or a self-portrait reflecting in a pool of water in an alley.

Something about a reflection seen from a different perspective captivated me. How can I look at a subject differently? How can I view it from a different angle–another perspective? I guess that is how I approach a lot of things today–asking myself, What is the wider context? Some days I just need to take a long walk on an early summer morning and look for those puddles, search for a different angle of the sky, watch the fog on the mountain tops from a mud puddle. Maybe a distorted, impressionistic reflection will inform me of something I did not see before.

NOTES:
From the archives. Consider this a Throwback-Thursday-what-did-I-write-five-years-ago entry. #TBT, #ThrowbackThursday: https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2013/07/
Six years ago I wrote this: A bookless American library: https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2012/08/02/a-bookless-american-library/
Eight years ago: Making its own app adds revenue for beleaguered newspaper: https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2010/08/02/making-its-own-app-adds-revenue-for-beleaguered-newspaper/
Ten years ago: https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2008/08/01/998/
25 years from now I want to: https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2009/08/04/scumblr-microwalrus-gumnos-mediatinker-com/

Thursday Great Lakes blues

Thursday Great Lakes blues

Lake Michigan. Last week. As viewed from the the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Baumgartner Galleria. Glass sculpture.

Winter window garden

Winter window garden

Enduring below freezing and sub-zero weather is a challenge. Green plants in the window are a delightful remedy if not evidence of common grace.

Sunset over East Town

Listening to a recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion Aria: “Gebt Mir Meinen Jesum Wieder” while the sun sets over East Town. It is going to be a late Friday night.

I went to school for graphic design

Sharing this post[1] with you from nikography — plus my own story afterwards. Because graphic design is hard work.

i went to school for graphic design, and did not spend my nights getting drunk. instead, i worked my ass off, spent most of my outside-class time learning/trying/doing as much as possible, and then got an awesome job after graduating.

protip: if you’re lucky enough . . . to be in college, you should be spending all available time learning, trying, making things, messing things up, experimenting and READING. . . .

i didn’t waste a single day. and neither should you. build your momentum and go with it.

for the but-i’m-an-artist’s: you want money? learn a technical skill related to your field and get good at it. then get better at it. . . . just sayin’.

final note: i had a BLAST in college, and miss it like crazy. working hard does not mean no-fun-allowed, it means relax harder 🙂 [2][3]
nikography


I had the unique opportunity to enter a graphic design career during the transitional years of the digital revolution in design (somewhere between the Upper Peasealithic and Macolithic periods). The university offered computer graphics classes during the final year of the academic program called commercial arts. The degree was catalogued as a bachelors in science (as opposed to a bachelors in arts).

All other graphic design classes were hands-on, analog, technical application of composition, typography, illustration, photography, color theory, and so on. And for that fact, I am grateful.

One afternoon, during critique of students’ work a professor called two of my classmates out of the room. Most of the students knew why. One of the two owned a personal computer (yes, this is back in the paleolithic days before wifi, laptops, and mobile phones). They did their copy layout (design jargon for arranging blocks of advertising text — usually Lorem Ipsum — on a page) using a personal computer and printer. Then they inked over the print outs and submitted their work. Or so the rumors went.

No one else in the class owned a personal computer and had to lay out the text for a three-panel brochure by hand using rulers, graphite and non-photo blue pencils and rubylith film for color overlays.

The professor had caught them cheating. They denied using a computer to do the text layout. Hushed conversation relayed that they were nearly suspended for the act.

The recollection of that afternoon seems so arcane and archaic. The level of craftsmanship and skill required to accomplish print layout work was demanding. Each design student spent hours a day in the studio working on each project.

It used to take weeks of hand-lettering and composing mock-up pages before submitting the design samples for ad director and client reviews. Now it takes me a morning to generate three design layout drafts of a two- to four-page project.

The digital revolution allowed for faster turnaround of design projects, but graphic design is still hard work. It is something I try to impart to interns and young designers.

If graphic design is not good, hard, rewarding work, than you’re doing it wrong.


NOTES:


[1] The original post was shared from Tumblr, January 20, 2010. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2010/01/20/nikography-i-went-to-school-for-graphic-design/

[2] orginal image via synecdoche

A cold, bright Cathedral Square Park

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The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, full moon (or nearly full moon) rising, and Christmas lights brighten the cold December night.

Afternoon walk


Somedays a walk to the river is a remedy. Amid . . . read more ->

Frosted window at sunrise

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When night winds leaves subzero signatures on the Saturday morning window, it is time for coffee and jazz and few lines of poetry… [1]

Try to count the colors
In a frosted window at sunrise
try to imagine the hues and shades
Of a Wisconsin winter morning…

NOTES
[1] With apologies to Three Crosses, inspired by song “Michelangelo”

My breath — a smoke signal

DSCN5088[sqr-basic-vintage-HKfilm]Yesterday’s afternoon walk was a bit chilly. Air temperature was around 10°F with wind chill of -7°F. Especially at the corner of Broadway and East Wisconsin. It was practically a wind tunnel. Crossing Water Street was not much better. But I finally made it across the bridge and to the River Walk. 

The river was not quite frozen. And for the most part, very few people are out for a wintery stroll. One woman pulled her faux fur lined hood over her head and quickly shuffled out of the Wells Fargo building to a waiting SUV. A couple guys, both dressed in thick dark coats, waited for a bus. There was a man waiting at the street corner smoking a cigarette. He wore a red flannel jacket and no gloves.

Funny how cigarette smoke is so distinct in the frigid air. The subtle distinctions between Camel Turkish Gold 100’s, Marlboro Red, Newport Menthol Blue and Chesterfield Bronze is almost as unmistakable as the scent of a fajita or a falafel. Wondered why he had no gloves.

There was a Tranströmer poem I tried to recall as I walked along the River Walk. My breath, thick clouds, attempted to signal a line of the poem. What was it about? A train? A couple in a hotel? Something about night? Or was it a horizon? The frozen river surface does not help. And forty minutes in the cold temperature sent me back to the warm harbor of the office building.

Rainy river walk

20160108-133453.jpgIt is difficult to believe that it is winter in Wisconsin. The weather reports offer that snowfall is in the forecast for this weekend and sub zero temperatures. But for now, a lunch time walk along Milwaukee’s River Walk is a damp pleasure.