"Seeds of Life"
2010, Digital Composition, 30"x18"
Artist: Anthony Vodraska
Inspiration: In March, I began exploring more explicitly my thoughts and practice of blending as a source of inspiration in my creative process. In this blog posting, I will develop this further. The work entitled "Seeds of Life" began as a series of photographs of late afternoon reflections on the water surface taken off a dock at Emerson Bay on West Okoboji, Iowa. I am drawn to water reflections (along with shadows) as a source for inspiration. Their ambiguity serves as a tool in eliciting creative thoughts and visions.
The pod is a metaphor for that pre-existent spirit. It is immersed in a field of creative potential awaiting to be individualized at conception as an embodied soul to begin its earthly sojourn. Each is unique and latent with potentialities awaiting to become capacities that are expressed in our lives. At least that is the narrative that guided the development of this work. But like all narratives, it may only carry a grain of truth.
Source Images: This digital composition started from just two water reflection images. I went down the "rabbit hole" and teased out a figurative element from the water reflections floating in a sea of dreamlike energy streams. Fellow artist, Anita Gilbert, upon viewing that work in progress, suggested that the water patterns may look interesting on the surface of a seed pod. That sent me down yet another path of blending and conjuring new visual metaphors from everyday images.
We collect seed pods and have many images to select from but in the end I was drawn to aesthetic beauty and simplicity of Andy Goldsworthy's negative space cairn shape, part of the Three Cairns outdoor sculpture installation at the Des Moines Art Center which I photographed in 2009. As the intermediate images developed, I felt a need for more defined lines that implied a simplified structure (and visual tension with the preponderance of organic curvilinear forms) as an expression of intentionality in the organic order of things. I blended in lines from a panel out of my triptych entitled Veil Series: 1 "Burn Away the Veils" inspired by the architecture of Frank Gerry and discussed in an earlier blog posting. These were my sources and from there everything else flowed.
Conceptual Process: Previous blog postings have discussed the technical aspects (e.g. tools, techniques) of blending images. I will focus in this blog on describing a possible conceptual process for blending. The external world presents a vast range of potential perceptual experiences. We navigate our world by filtering out from conscious awareness most of what is potentially there to experience. What we consciously experience is the result of complex largely subconscious processes that filter (i.e., veil), select, and frame the set of stimuli that we eventually become aware of and respond to.
With practice one can be more mindful of some aspects of these processes operating at the preconscious level of awareness, sometimes experienced as intuitions. These intuitions can guide our response to experiences and for visual artists this may guide their efforts to capture/create images linked to those experiences. For me, there may be no clear intention as to how I will use these images, just a compelling desire to record some aspect of the experience at that moment.
Back in the studio, in a very limited and controlled environment separated by time (weeks, months and even years) from the original experiences, I review the images. The tool (i.e. Adobe Bridge) becomes a necessarily limited surrogate for the external world and some of the original intuitions and responses are experienced again, filtered and shaped by many other intervening experiences. I usually select two or three images and start a process of blending them with a software tool (i.e., Adobe Photoshop) usually starting with a set of favorite blending techniques that I continuously expand upon.
Once again, I try to be mindful of my intuitive response to the emerging blended imagery looking for what it evokes in me. This is an intensely creative process constantly shifting between analytical, aesthetic and metaphorical responses that lead to further adjustments and blending of the images. The search for meaning drives my work. Eventually, the elements of a narrative develops and becomes a lens for how I view the work. This lens then guides the final blending and refinement of the image.
Once the image is printed and made available as a work of art, it becomes a part of the world of potential experiences. Others may contemplate or ignore the work based on their own filters, intuitions and memories. Whether the work evokes anything of the original narrative intended by the artist is actually secondary to the creative response it evokes in viewers as they construct their own meaningful relationship.