Not So Accidental

In a previous post I offered some thoughts and images in a series called The Accidental Artist.  What I found myself doing was simply opening up my camera to objects, twigs, trash etc around me that had gathered randomly into a pile of art.  It’s purely a photographic journey for me that will continue.  But what it’s done is also wake up some images that are in more familiar territory:  Digital manipulation.

I seldom know where the piece is going to end, but I’ve gotten better and better at following the story as it unfolds.

For the past few years I’ve been artistically intrigued by describing the world in heavily layered images.  Some of the layers are very simple and totally relate to one another, some are parts of the same picture but many are simply emotional responses I may have to the developing piece.  That emotional element is explained by a color or a shape or even my attempt at a picture of an idea.


Dobbins Point is a piece that I finished recently and is made up of a landscape shot of downtown Phoenix, another photo of trees and scrub surrounding a stone building, NASA galaxy images and a fractal that I generated.

Each of my digital collages has, of course, a beginning point.  So I thought it might be interesting to see a before and after of a few pieces I’m working on right now.  With The Accidental Artist post I introduced some photography that got me going back into manipulation, so here’s some of the images from there — followed by some early layering I’ve done to each.

SEEING RED — Original photo               Artists: Canvas Strap Maker, Carpenter, Painter
SEEING RED — Manipulated

On this piece I’m actually only doing color and contrast manipulation.  I really just want to emphasize the lines, texture and color then abstract it to a much simpler level.  Oh yeah, and I flipped it 90 degrees clockwise.

I like the original photo enough that I’m not sure about the digital work I’ve done.  We’ll see.

Here’s a very simple layering effect that I do like.

SIDEWALK ANDROMEDA                     Artists: Cement Layer, Ten Thousand Shoes

This is pretty obvious but it does seem to fit for me.  I simply took the name of the original piece (Sidewalk Andromeda) and made it literal. Another beautiful NASA image overlaid on the cement sidewalk. This is all about color and texture to me and I’ll keep it pretty simple I think.

LARIAT                                                                             Artists: Rebar Maker, Mason, Rain
LARIAT — Manipulated

This photo was all about the movement of the rebar as lines through space so I just continued that idea.  I tried to emphasize the lines of the metal and in the process the rusted rebar popped out in color and texture … so I went with it.

I first took out the background and replaced it with layers of rusted metal, old wall paper and general grunge.  I then manipulated color more to try to tie it all together and added hard shadows from the rebar to emphasize the lines even more.  It kind of makes me think of an old beat-up iron bed in a crumbling tenement bedroom.  Or that may just be me.  I smoked a lot of weed in college.

GOLIATH                                         Artists: Steel Mill Workers, Mechanic, Bolt Maker
GOLIATH — Manipulated

OK I’ve taken a lot of liberties with this one.  The photo was so very macho that I wondered if I could soften it up and pull out some lightness.  So, what I’m trying to do is manipulate the image with strong distortion and color change to find a sort of ethereal overlay.  This is what’s occurring so far, and I think there’s a bit of a sprite that’s coming out of the bolt when I overlay it onto the original photo.  Yes?  I think the colors that developed also add to a less muscle-bound-ness. (Is that a word?)

SYDNEY OPERA                             Artists: Corrugated Steel Fitter, Mother Nature
SYDNEY OPERA — Manipulated

Here’s just a very simple graphic that’s coming out of the Sydney Opera photo. Small overlay but mainly it’s about abstracting the iconic lines and bringing it down to basic black … and white.

RAZOR RABBIT         Artists: Bag Maker, Razor Wire Maker, Mason, Wind, Blazing Sun
RAZOR RABBIT — Manipulated

The original photo is all about curves and movement to me so I’m trying to emphasize that again and again.  I trashed the background, leaving me with the simplicity of the metal curves, the danger of the razors (that I highlighted) and the wispy fragility of the plastic bag remnants.  Because of the barbed wire and razor wire I added a very light cage-like overlay in the background along with deeply colored curves and circles to give it some heat and immediacy.

I liked the photo so much that I never imagined where it would take me on my computer … but I do like the road I’m on.  Not better, just different.

I’ve got a lot more work to do on these and a bunch of other Accidental Art to work with — so back to it.  I’d love to hear from you with any reactions whatsoever you may have of this and other posts.  Till then.

See more of my work at

The Accidental Artist

When I finally accept and respect the potential in all things to be elegant, then I see beauty.

I find myself in a country that I don’t recognize. It’s much uglier than I remember.

I’m knee-deep in an America that seems hell-bent on (at best) ignoring and (at worst) destroying all that is beautiful. Truth is negotiable, a child’s life is less valuable than a handgun, the environment is monetized, women are chattel and isolation is a goal. These are not ideals that inspire. These are not pretty times.

So I’ve decided it’s time to find beauty … even when it’s almost hidden by all the noise surrounding it. I’ve decided to try and see if I can’t catch a glimmer of beauty out of the corner of my eye.

The Accidental Artist. That’s what this series of images is about. It’s about people who make things that become art … regardless of the makers’ intentions.  Though nature may have been a collaborating artist it’s important to me that a human hand is central to the creation of each piece.

In the end, what I’m most intrigued by is this disconnected artists’ collective that unwittingly contributes to the creation of something beautiful.

Accidental Artists don’t necessarily know that they are creating art. They undoubtedly never met their associate artists. It’s unlikely that they even saw the final work of art.

I guess I’m a partner in this process as well. I’m the witness. The scribe. The guy who appreciates all the artists’ hard work and records it. I hold it up for folks to see and suddenly we’re all in the same room experiencing a tiny moment of beauty amidst a chaos of ugly intentions.

FLOTSAM                              Artists: Iron Worker, Concrete Layer, City Pot-hole Filler Team

I’m always drawn to abstraction in art: A single line, a shape, a combination of colors that urge me to develop an emotional connection with the artist’s intention for a moment . Though many (most) of my images have quite recognizable elements, the juxtaposition of them, their accidental relationships, brings a fun level of abstraction to my eye. Though each composition visually references its tangible elements, I hope that we are more involved with the lines and colors that they produce.

SIDEWALK ANDROMEDA                     Artists: Cement Layer, Ten Thousand Shoes

Since I began The Accidental Artists series a strange thing has started happening to me. I’m seeing pretty things everywhere. And most of them are just sitting out in plain sight in the middle of some really trashed out backgrounds. I have to wonder why I never noticed them before. Then I think, “You know, it’s because I didn’t need to see them before.”

As I was alluding to earlier, the shit-show in Washington right now has really pushed me toward some sort of primal need to make sense out of squalor. I have to remind myself that, regardless of a political mandate to narrow my vision, myopia is not a good thing. More than ever I want/need to expand my view of what is beautiful … not diminish it.

So, now I can’t stop.

ARCHEOLOGY                                      Artists:   Pavers, City Streets Worker, Rain, Car Tires
Zero                          Artists: Concrete Layer, City Streets Worker, Myriad Truck Drivers
CRACK A SMILE     Artists: Tiny Woodland Creatures, Asphalt Repairer, Shedding Tree
CARGYLE            Artists: City Water Workers, Iron Worker, Asphalt Layers, Rock Kickers

So then, I got to thinking, “Are these just pictures of dirt and junk?” The answer is yes,  but as Cheech and Chong might say,  “It’s really good junk, man. ” And this particular junk has a tremendous abstract effect on me.

I admire two distinct aspects of these works:

1) The hours of human labor that went into the designing and building of the functional pieces that are then re-formed by years of being subjected to the elements.

2) The  wonderfully accidental abstraction that occurs when taken out of context and when the content is framed as just an arrangement of colors and forms.

Having said all that, it occurs to me that it’s really all about me. What I see.  No, what I choose to see. If I open my eyes to expanded possibilities of what’s beautiful, then it’s everywhere. If I look for form and line and color then I’m rewarded with art.

FLAT PEPPER                                       Artists:  Construction Worker, Dickies Steel-toe Boot

In looking at these Accidental Artists’ work I realize that I’m only seeing what’s at my feet. Why is that, I wonder? Am I really so depressed by the world at the moment that I’m actually unable to lift my head? I doubt it.  Do I have my head in the sand? Don’t know.  But, if I do then there’s an easy solution … LOOK UP!

NO BIRDS                                                                                  Artists: Telephone Line Worker, Sky

Will you look at that, the Accidental Artists are exhibiting everywhere. Actually, I didn’t look up from the ground this quickly. Baby steps.  First my eyes crept up in degrees toward the horizon …

Polyethylene Python             Artists: 3M Linespeople, Irresponsible House Painter, Wind

… Then I chanced a glance up higher (keeping within the safe visual confines of a wall) …

Linen Concrete                                       Artists: Graffiti Painter, Cement Wall Builder, Lichen

… And then said screw it and went all the way.

VERTIGO                                        Artists: Light Pole Maker, Electric Company, Pole Digger

As it turns out, the Accidental Gallery is filled with incredible works by all kinds of  Accidental Artists. It’s everywhere and I’m like a kid in a candy shop trying to decide what to chronicle first. Things can be breathtaking when I can let go of preconceived ideas of what is and what isn’t art. Everything begins to mesh into a gorgeous collage when I can become more inclusive and less arbitrarily judgmental.

RAZOR RABBIT         Artists: Bag Maker, Razor Wire Maker, Mason, Wind, Blazing Sun

The razor wire was evidently a hit with me because I took a load of pictures of it in various states.

DANGEROUS MUPPET                Artists: Razor Wire Folks (again), Textile Mill, Mason
SNAG BAG                                 Artists: Bag Maker, Razor Wire Hanger, Wind, Mason

Signage allows the Accidental Artist to communicate not only with line and color but with specific intent as reflected in the words they choose to include in a piece.  Once again, their intention was probably to write for their purpose not ours.  But, as I’ve discussed, the Accidental Artist really has very little say in the final piece.   However, we the viewers are given the opportunity for yet another level of interpretation.

PARTIAL INSTRUCTIONS                      Artists: Sign Painter, Carpenter, Weather
LINE CAGE                         Artists: Sign Painter, Chain Link Maker and Hanger, Sun

I find that I’m also drawn to the Accidental Artist who chooses an interesting perspective and/or point of view as a mode of abstraction.

OVERVIEW                                                          Artists: Sawmill Worker, Plumber, Years
GOLIATH                                         Artists: Steel Mill Workers, Mechanic, Bolt Maker

But in the end the art that I love is back in the realm of true abstraction- Art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.  And the Accidental Artists are brilliant at that.

SYDNEY OPERA                             Artists: Corrugated Steel Fitter, Mother Nature
BLUED ITS STACK                                                Artists: Logger, Painter, Pallet Builder
LARIAT                                                                             Artists: Rebar Maker, Mason, Rain
SEEING RED                                      Artists: Canvas Strap Maker, Carpenter, Painter
SKYSCRAPERS                              Artists: Metal Workers, Painter, Granite Layer
INCLINED                                          Artists: Painter, Girder Maker, Metal Stackers

As I look at all these pictures I think that maybe what I’m doing is just taking pictures of street art.  I guess I am.  Literally.  Street Art.  Not to be confused with Street Art . For that you need to check  out these sites that are loaded with really, really cool Street Art. 

Those artists aren’t in the least accidental.

Being aware of the art produced by the Accidental Artist has opened up some doors for me.  I love wandering around with a camera and just allowing the beauty I’m surrounded by seep into my psyche.  Maybe it has something to say, maybe not.  Worse case scenario it gives me a few minutes vacation from the Ugly spewing out from Mar-a-Lago.

It’s possible that all I’m doing is still-life photography. Nothing very earth-shattering about that, right?  But, whatever it is, I really do enjoy it.  Heck, I may just go indoors and see what’s up with that. Radical.

As always, I’d love to hear from you with any thoughts this blog may have sparked.  As a matter of fact, I’d like to see images of any Accidental Artists work you’ve come across!  Send it along to and I’ll publish it.