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11 August 2012

Today's topic: More Than One Way

"You know there's always more than one way to say exactly what you mean to say." That's a line from a contemporary rock, power pop, pop rock song (pick a genre). Genres, now there's a whole other blog topic, and no, this isn't a blog about music but rather a struggle to make peace with certain perceptions.

When I was a kid... yes I know, when I was a kid dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but really, when I was a kid the lines of musical demarcation were much clearer than they are today. There was classical music, gospel, country, rock, pop, rhythm and blues, jazz, choral and barbershop... which if you think about it is a stylized form of choral music. I'm sure there are more so forgive me if I left out one of your favorites, or better yet, tell me about it.

I have my son to thank for introducing me to a whole new generation of music. I suppose it was inevitable that some of his music, today's music, would make its way into my ears. It seems only right that some of his favorite songs would become some of my favorites. He grew up listening to my favorite artists which is to say that some of my favorites are some of his favorites as well. It all washes back and forth, like the tide, at least between my son and his father.

There's always more than one way. I've found that to be true more often than not. In computer graphics there are often far too many ways to "say exactly what you mean." Having several "ways" can be a blessing as well as a burden. If I appear to live in a black and white world it isn't because I can't see gray or colors, it's because I'm looking for the ideal or best way, not just "a" way. I hope that makes sense.

One can approach depiction of a floral still life in the manner of a Jackson Pollock or perhaps as Georges Braque or in any of a number of other styles including black and white photography. Each approach has its own unique set of rules, if you will, which is to say you can't apply the photographic technique of "burning" (extra exposure given to an area or areas that need to be darkened) to an oil painting however you can darken an area or areas of a painting by using pigments that are darker than those around it.

In the illustration below, by painting each side of the "cube" a different shade of the same color, a 3 dimensional form appears, or at least the illusion of it. By painting all 3 sides the same color, the illusion disappears and the form takes on a flat, two dimensional look.

Green Cube

This is just one possibility, "one way to say exactly what I mean to say" when I say "green cube" in a graphical way. This is as simple as it gets. Anything less and the illusion fails. 2 shapes painted 3 different colors. 2 shapes? The side and the top are made from the same shape. One is in its original state while the other has been flipped horizontally and then rotated 90 degrees.

Computer graphics make it possible to undo your work if you don't like how the last step looks. Try that with oil painting, or better yet, with pen and ink. There are literally hundreds of ways one can "treat" a surface or shape to make it look like, well, darn near whatever you want. Some of those treatments are very predictable while others require experimentation to both discover and perfect. A current project has me looking for the best way to "erase" coffee stains from a handwritten note, written in pencil, no less, on the back of a black and white photo. Before computer graphics, how would you fix such a thing? You wouldn't.

The challenge in all creative endeavors is to find a method, a way that produces the most acceptable results, preferably one that is easy to remember and simple to replicate... a technique you can handle, time and again. If that requires trial and error, experimentation, analysis, a "this works but that doesn't" approach, so be it. Let them say what they will about "black and white" thinking. It's a critical building block of the creative process.

Q: Which came first, black and white photography or color photography?

A: Black and white photography predates color photography by almost 100 years.

Now answer me this, which came first, the chicken or the egg?


Until next time...

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