Tag Archives: Jerry Uelsmann

Fluster Magazine Features My Artwork!

Fluster

Fluster Magazine is an Italian-based publication covering art and artists worldwide. In this showcase with a very in-depth interview, they ask many insightful questions about creativity and my process. Fluster is a cultural creative project about personal expression, culture, reportage and recreation from the readers’ different perspectives through dedicated galleries and headings produced by the editors. The magazine is published both in English and Italian. I would consider this the definitive interview to date about my technique and thoughts on the surrealist photomontage medium. Interviewer Marinos Tsagkarakis asked some insightful questions, and I’m hugely grateful to have been featured. Here’s the article, with a few links interspersed to related rsmithing.com content:

Richard Smith explores unexpected interrelationships between everyday images through surrealist photomontage. Working with elements from nature, pedestrian objects, specially-commissioned photos, and scenes from his travels and neighborhood, he fuses these components into ethereal yet cohesive views that transcend their origins. A self-taught graphic artist with 20+ years of professional experience, Smith incorporates assimilated photographic techniques and modern photomanipulation approaches into his hand-crafted compositions at rsmithings.com.

Interviewed by Marinos Tsagkarakis
Up With The Sun - rsmithing

Hi Richard or do you prefer “rsmithing”? Really, what are the roots of nickname “rsmithing” that you chose to use as an artist?

Hello, and thanks for asking — just call me Richard. The “rsmithing” term is my quick online handle, giving some more personalization to my otherwise very standard name. It originated way back when Google rolled out Gmail. By the time I got on board, “rsmith” was already taken, so I added “-ing” as a concise means of personalization. In a metaphorical sense, I like to think of it as the verb form of my name, representing action. It also works for “Richard + Smith + Blogging = rsmithing,” which is my blog (rsmithing.com) and “Richard + Smith + Things = rsmithings” which is where I showcase my art (rsmithings.com). This is the most I’ve ever revealed in one place about the rsmithing handle!

Tree In A Moth - rsmithing

Richard, how did you come to photography and graphic art?

I’ve always loved art, and I remember getting a thrill from when my mom would post my drawings on the refrigerator. Come puberty, I discover rock ‘n’ roll and take up music, and I also get into producing flyers. Little did I know I was teaching myself graphic design. Finally in college, it all comes together at the university newspaper when I discovered Aldus Pagemaker — the digital way of doing what I’d been creating by hand with photocopiers and cutouts from newspapers. From there, I decided on a career in graphic design, and it’s been great. Along the way I continued making music and writing, but graphic art — and more so these days, photography, is the passion that sets me on fire.

The Aha Moment - rsmithing

Please, tell us more about the special technique you have developed for the composition of your images.

My technique is this: I constantly snap photos of whatever’s around that I find interesting. Once the urge to create strikes, I then start a synthesizing journey. Sometimes I know exactly where I’m headed; other times I’m just along for the ride, letting magic from the universe do the driving. 

My process is like carving a sculpture, with the edges of my fingers forming lines to define shapes and reveal serendipitous relationships — not unlike physically placing individual elements as in a paper collage — except I do this through masking, blending and mimicking established photographic techniques like solarization or vignetting. Each piece is meticulously crafted with these and other ingredients, using direct touch to form a hierarchy of narrative. A final composition is the culmination of fusing disparate elements into a kind of empyreal abstract union.

From a technical point of view, I mainly use a now-extinct app called PhotoForge2 on my iPhone, which functions much like Photoshop with layers and masking, only in what I see as a more personal manner. With a smartphone app, your fingers become the brushes; your movements become the brush strokes, and you literally cradle a creation as it comes into existence. Far from being impersonal through a degree of technology, I believe art created this way is extremely intimate. The end result taken in by viewers is something the artist has stared at, in hand, literally touching over and over as the elements come into place.

Star Power - rsmithing

Your images are constructed in many different levels, composed from multiple images. What is the visual message that you want to pass to the people who see your work?

I want people who see my work to understand that beauty is everywhere and that we should take time to notice it. Art surrounds us, whether in architecture, words, music, or just in nature. And having an appreciation for that can make life more meaningful. Through surrealist juxtaposition and taking artistic license with the limits of visual reality, I aim to slow down viewers’ processes of perception enough so that a “wow” moment can happen. Maybe I do that at first with something that’s just visually striking on an initial level, but then layers of meaning can emerge and previously unexplored connections can form. That’s really the most exciting thing for me about any art — experiencing meaning through new connections.

Reverse Ghosts Afloat - rsmithing

Do you prefer to create color or B&W images and why so?

I prefer creating and viewing black and white images. While there’s nothing wrong with color and I greatly respect many artists who use a full range of hues, for me working strictly in black and white is part of distilling intent and message down to the essence. Also, blending stuff happens faster when there are just two colors. =)

Reflection Two States - rsmithing

Richard, how long have you been practiced on this special technique?

I’ve incorporated collage and photomontage in my professional (non-artist-day-job) work for at least a decade now. Much as I do these days for personal expression, I would work montages into advertising materials wherever the fit was right for the client and project. But I’ve been in love with surrealism and, specifically, the photomontage format ever since I was a teenager.

Oneness - rsmithing

Are there any other special process/composition techniques that you have practiced, too?

Sometimes I experiment with rules. Working within a set of restrictions can be oddly liberating and extremely satisfying. What can you do in only one hour? What can you do only with photographs from this weekend? What can be done with photos only from one certain location? I’ve often thought, “why do anything if you can do everything?” So the idea of working within limitations and then pushing myself to do all I can in those paramaters is a process I enjoy and recommend.

On The Verge Of Something Of Course - rsmithing

Are there any specific photographers or artists who have inspired your work?

I owe everything to Jerry Uelsmann. He is the undisputed master of photomontage and my ultimate inspiration. I’ve even done some recreations of his work in my format just to grow my understanding of his vision. I always want to acknowledge Uelsmann wherever possible since his work has been such an inspiration. If anyone reading this likes my work, I recommend immediately seeking out Jerry Uelsmann. It was a mind-blowing experience when I first saw his creations, and hopefully others will have that experience as well.
My direct visual inspirations also include fine artists such as Dalí and Escher; photographers Man Ray, Francesca Woodman, and Minor White; along with contemporary creators like Sion Fullana and Tommy Ingberg.

Momentary II - rsmithing

As I know, you are a musician, too. You play guitar and sang. Do you think that your relationship with music has influenced your work on photography and how is that?

Most definitely, music influences my art. It’s as obvious as the occasional song title or lyric being adapted as a title of one of my visual compositions. Personally, I feel creativity comes from one area in the soul, and it manifests itself in different ways — be that visual art, writing, music, dance… or whatever captures your passion. I loved art before music as a child; I loved music before writing as an adolescent; I loved writing along with art and music as a young adult; and I’ve managed to make a living as a creative person as an artist and writer who also plays music for fun. Inspiration and expression can come from anywhere — you just have to be open to the experience and do what you can to get it out there.

Let Love In - rsmithing

A common characteristic of your images is accuracy and symmetry. We could say that this is mainly a special characteristic of European photographers and artists and that American schools of art are more liberal. As a man who has grown in an American thinking environment, how do you explain that?

Having a formal understanding of graphic design is now in my DNA, so I naturally consider grids, the rule of thirds, white space, contrast, and other traditional elements in my compositions. I employ elements of symmetry and accuracy in my own art as one more way of drawing a viewer in. The human eye generally seeks to understand and organize information, so things like balance and detail help make this happen — part of what I do is to establish this foundation, then take the mind’s eye even deeper through subtle deviation. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in Rome, Florence and Paris, and have a deep reverence for the masters, so maybe that figures in my art at a subconscious level. I would sure like to think so.

Find What You Love - rsmithing

Do you thing that your images as a work of art, are closer to photography, painting, graphic design or something else?

It all starts with photography, but I certainly don’t consider or bill myself a photographer at all. I have a sense of what makes a good photo or interesting subject, but I’m always thinking in terms of ingredients for photomontages. It’s certainly not graphic design, since that implies a more formal structure than what my pieces have, and also implies missing elements like typography, lines, or mainstream commercial appeal.

My images are closer to painting or even sculpture, since forming the compositions is such a physical act of moving things into place, bending reality into new shapes.

Dream Catcher - rsmithing

If you had the possibility -only for one day- to photograph one famous person, one object and one place in order to compose an image, what would you choose?

My famous person choice would be Dalí just so we could hang out. Or maybe Jimi Hendrix for the same reason, and to see him play with my own eyes in the same room. An ultimate object photograph for me would be Stonehenge, right up close, really taking in the textures and incredible angles from inside and around the rocks. If I could compose an image in one place, anywhere? That’s easy: Hawaii. It’s paradise.

(Images © Richard Smith)

More about Richard Smith’s work here

Photo Synthesis – Jerry Uelsmann Review

Jerry Uelsmann: Photo SynthesisPhoto Synthesis by Jerry Uelsmann

This is a great introduction to the world of Uelsmann’s photo magic. I saw this book 20 years ago in a creative writing class, of all places, and made the effort some years later (after Amazon.com was invented) to seek it out and am glad I did. Looking back on my career and life since then, I can say unequivocally that it changed my thinking and helped set me on a creative path I’m still having fun exploring.

I copied & pasted this review via Goodreads.com, a site I’m only now getting into, since – although I love good writing – I’m always hard-pressed to find works that I can really sink my teeth into. How fitting that my first review there is for a book of photography… but whatever. It really is a fantastic collection, and if you’re at all interested in perusing some mind-blowing images, I highly recommend it.

What do you think? Are you on Goodreads? How do you find the next book you’d like to read? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Dream Theater After Uelsmann: Learning From The Masters

So I thought it would be fun to do another photomontage along the lines of my favorite visual artist, the amazing Jerry Uelsmann. Here’s my version of one of his works:

Dream Theater After Uelsmann

“Dream Theater After Uelsmann”
Click to view in high-resolution (way more interesting than the size shown here)

Here’s the original by Jerry Uelsmann:

Dream Theater by Jerry Uelsmann

Dream Theater by Jerry Uelsmann, 2004.

And here are my source images, all photographed by me over the last few years, with links to the full-size versions:

Originals for Dream Theater After Uelsmann

Original photos by me. Click for full size view.

Uelsmann is The Man

I hope to make it abundantly clear that the inspiration and vision for this image is 100% Uelsmann — I take no credit for the origination of the composition, and I’ve made efforts to make this clear in a number of places. My effort here is strictly a study of technique and a visual challenge, with full respect and homage to someone who inspires me. It was fun to do, and I’m pleased with the result.

What do you think? Have you ever photographed, drawn or painted after one of the masters or someone who inspires you? What was the outcome? Where do you go for inspiration? How does that take shape? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Artwork Feature At Lensblr.com

Many thanks to Lensblr.com for featuring my photomontage art today! The folks there were kind enough to highlight my recent piece, “Find What You Love,” which I created earlier this month. Here’s what it looks like at Lensblr:

"Find What You Love" by rsmithing

My art featured at Lensblr.com. Click to see more of my art at 500px.

Lensblr is a site that, in its own words, “advocates the original photographers on Tumblr — the ‘creators’ in the Tumblr world.” The site focuses specifically on Tumblr, where it seeks to “bring more attention to the creative works of the content creators on Tumblr.”

Social Media, Art and Blogging All In One

This is great for a Tumblr newbie like myself, since only recently do I understand Tumblr – which is exciting for more reasons than just having my artwork featured. I never would have discovered Lensblr were it not for the direct suggestion of another Tumblr user at Darkdisturbingbeautiful, who suggested I submit my art to Lensblr after having followed my blog and then messaging me through the site. Thanks again, Jason!

Adding to the experience, Tumblr user zombodystripe messaged me asking about how I created the piece. My reply made for a neat post on Tumblr all by itself, since adding images and links in replies is just as easy there as blogging. Here’s what I said about my process:

Q via zombodystripe: How did you do Find What You Love on your iPhone? Is there an app? What is it called? I’d love to try it!

My reply via Tumblr

My reply via Tumblr

A: For Find What You Love I took three photos with the Hipstamatic app: the treetops, the peeling paint and the flowers. I put them all together in a now-extinct app called Photoforge2, but you can use any app that supports layers (like Filterstorm, Superimpose, others). I set layer modes according to light/dark for blending — mainly using overlay mode. Finally, I masked out areas I wanted to keep or erase, then merged all layers and did overall sharpening/exposure adjustments to bring it together. I use things like vignettes and textures to unify also, so everything has a similar feel. If you like this, definitely check out more of my photomontages at 500px, and especially the work of Jerry Uelsmann - he is the grand master of montages and my inspiration. And he does all this by hand with film in the darkroom. More on him at this post I did at my blog: “Learning From The Masters.”

Sites like Lensblr greatly enrich the Tumblr experience – and I don’t just say that because they featured my stuff. Definitely check it out if you’re into creative photography and images.

What do you think? What’s something you’ve been turned on to by way of social media or a blog? Was it a temporary interest, or did it further a lasting connection? Let us hear from you in the comments.

 

Find What You Love

Find What You Love by rsmithing
Find What You Love, a photo by rsmithing on Flickr.

And let it set you free.

This is a play on the phrase, “find what you love and let it kill you,” attributed to Charles Bukowski (or not). I like that phrase, but I also like the idea of setting something free or being set free in the name of love. This is a montage I assembled on my iPhone using a shot of a couple of treetops at sunset (with the moon rising), a roadside view of some wildflowers, and a gash of peeling paint in a parking deck. I also consider it to be in the style of my favorite visual artist, Jerry Uelsmann, whose work is endlessly inspiring to me. Click to see the originals and full-size version in greater detail at my Flickr photostream.

What do you think? Are there any literary quotes that have stuck with you through time? Have you ever been inspired visually by something from literature? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Christie’s CEO Justifies Social Media in 5 Seconds

In an interview with Marketplace, The CEO of auction house, Christie’s, Steven Murphy, put forth one of the best justifications for businesses getting on social media there is. It stood out to me for its utter salience and logic. Here is the exchange:

Marketplace: Christie’s on Twitter? I think the world just exploded.

Murphy: Yes. Well, why not? Our customers are on Twitter. We should be too. Our clients are spending 60 percent of each day online with some screen, so we need to be there too.

Jerry Uelsmann, Untitled, 1969

Who says montages aeren’t profitable? Here’s one offered by Christie’s from my all-time favorite artist, Jerry Uelsmann

Simple as that.

On the surface, a company founded in 1766 wouldn’t seem to be the case study for social media, but if that’s where your customers are — well, that’s a pretty good justification.

Christie’s is also on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, among others. I think these highly visual networks are the perfect showcase for the treasures coming through Christie’s that much of the public may never have the chance to lay eyes upon. Check out their profiles for a look at some highly compelling art.

Going once, going twice….

What do you think? Do you know of other companies making strong use of social that might not “fit the mold” on the surface? Ever purchased anything at auction (besides eBay)? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Artwork Feature at Xaxor.com

Many thanks to XAXOR for featuring my photomontage art today! The lead image is my experiment in understanding the work of  Jerry Uelsmann, documented here at “Learning from the Masters.”

Xaxor.com features my artwork today

My art featured at Xaxor.com. Click to view. See more of my art at RSMITHINGS.com.

I happened upon XAXOR.com by way of Pinterest, and enjoy the mountain of interesting visuals there – all neatly arranged in categories. The site describes itself as, “a gallery of the most awesome pictures online. Our frequently updated database contains over 40,000 articles and 1 million photos.” Definitely worth a look if you’re into that kind of thing.