January 28th, 2017
Judaic artist, Marlene Burns, pairs two paintings depicting authentic prayer...for healing and mourning. As a lay leader, I've discovered that these are the two times that people are most likely to pray sincerely. The painting on the right is an expression of Moses' plea to G-d to heal his sister, Miriam.....El Na Refa Na La. The painting on the left is an expression of the mourner's prayer...Kaddish Yatom. In both instances, our prayers are extremely personal as we attempt to reach out to G-d to heal our loved ones and ourselves on many levels. The lines of connection are there in heart, soul and before our very eyes. These paintings were painted 7 years apart with no plan to connect them in any way. Clearly, there was another plan, at a higher level.
The complete series with texts, can be seen at her website.
Contact her directly for orders: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 1st, 2016
The most blatant difference between creating as a painter and as a photographer is what to do with the end product.
For the last several years, I haven't added to my stack of canvases and have only been accepting private commissions that get shipped off when completed.
But for photographic images, there is a much different storage issue.
My solution from early on, was to compile books of specific themes or methods. I've got about a dozen to date.
I can take a quick look back and assess how far I have come, how my experiments have morphed from one concept to the next.
I also use youtube to get videos out into the public arena with similar groupings as my books.
This year, 2016, has been quit ea prolific one for me.
The minute I sent off the latest book, I started churning out new images, one a day for the next few months.
Here is a link to my latest video, a collection of 40 new images from 2016:
February 21st, 2016
In the past week, it has come to my attention that Google's Picasa program is going to be abandoned in lieu of Google Photos. I guess it was inevitable since the former hasn't been updated in years and the average person taking photos for social media uses a small percentage of Picasa's capabilities.
Artists, however, are not average. In my case, Picasa offers tools that it's replacement program does not.
So, I spent the better part of this past week, searching for a new image editor. I think I've found one that will do, but not do as much as my old friend.
In light of how I 'paint' with my urban abstract images and then combine them into a new compositions, software tools are integral to my process.
As I ponder this reality, it occurs to me that ANY image editor affords an artist a wonderful opportunity in honing their design skills. These tools enable us to critique our own work and decide how and why we need to improve upon an average image to make it better.
You can resize, correct lighting, remove blemishes, change hues, intensity and light.
In my particular case, I can group, border with my own images and then crop the project.
I don't look at these modifications of a photograph as a cop out. I don't see it as cheating.
You are honing your design skills by using elements that can improve your photograph.
How can that be a bad thing?
February 14th, 2016
A holiday created around cards, flowers, chocolates....blah, blah, blah.
Forget about who you love today, or how important it is to the companies who manufacture the above mentioned items.
Let's talk about WHAT you love.
If you are an authentic, passionate artist, you already know.
It would be easy to say today is just another day, but it is not.
Every holiday is an opportunity to look in the mirror. Where are you on your journey? What goals are you actively trying to reach?
Knowing what you love is half the battle. How are you proving your love?
If you've been honing your skill set regularly, you have earned a day off to breathe. If you've been ignoring what you love, it's time to step up and prove it.
Today will be a day off for me. I have been producing one image a day for my Urban Abstracts series for over two months now and I need put down the proverbial brush and just enjoy where my passion for creating has taken me thus far.
However you decide to spend your day, my wish for you is that it is a memorable one for all the right reasons.
February 10th, 2016
I have often been asked what or who is my muse. Quite frankly, it was never more than a passing thought. I face the process of creating art as my job. As a student in University, I got up early in the morning and worked at honing my craft all day. That work discipline has never changed throughout my career.
There is something within me that needs the challenges that I wrote about in my last post. In recent years, since I have had the perspective to look back at a career that has spanned 4 decades, my inspiration (or muse, if you want to call it that) resides in the real world. No spiritual beings or spheres involved...just a stack of bills that need to get paid and creative expression that needs a voice.
So let's set this notion of needing a muse aside. In all reality, those waiting for a muse are either overthinking or procrastinating.
As a creative, you have a mission and a message. You approach this job like you would any other.
You discipline yourself to work whether the mood so strikes or not. Why would you add the pressure of discovering your muse to that mix? It's hard enough to work when you don't feel like it or when you don't think you have anything to say.
That said, if you want to be a starving artist in the proverbial attic, filled with angst, hold onto the notion that you need a muse. The angst you will feel will be self induced by the pressure you are putting on yourself.
Now, let's get back to these urban abstracts....When I wasn't able to paint, I could be out taking pictures. I was working toward something and I sensed early on that the images were not going to be the end all. I could snap a picture just about anywhere at any time. I toss nothing out because I don't know what I will see next week that may be a great complement to something I took last week or last year,
Which reminds me....I was going through the car wash this morning and snapped away and that noodles and suds on my windshield... I should go take a look at what I got!
My advice for this week, not asked for but about to be given anyway, is STOP feeling you need a muse. You just need to commit to honing your skills daily.
My latest Urban Abstracts series can be found at:
URBAN ABSTRACTS BY MARLENE BURNS
February 3rd, 2016
What are the chances that you will produce something that has never been done before?
Most likely, slim.
That said, the process that fuels this challenge is probably the most exciting of all for artists, inventors and the like.
We already know that we see the world differently. That knowledge should makes us feel obliged to share what and HOW we see, with the rest of the world.
To be honest, when I started taking abstract pictures some 4 years ago, my goal was to have some good reference for my paintings. I have never cared about quality equipment, lighting, etc. because those images were meant only for me. I still don't care. I would never take a leap and call myself a bona fide photographer. I am a painter taking pictures.
Something happened along the way in terms of my purpose. I can look back now and see it was about the challenge.
I was taking pictures looking down, not out, at the city. Few images identified one city from the next yet, I can recall where each was taken. Each image became a bookmark in my experiences, much like an old song.
Marrying two images together from different times and different places was an honorable challenge.
I knew there were lots of people out there taking urban abstracts. Run a search and see for yourself.
The challenge would be for me to do something with these images that had not been done before.
I often see photographers use 'paint' filters from Photoshop and other programs to make their photographs look like paintings. That's fine for them. I don't need to make an image look like a painting because I can paint it. The challenge I needed was much more complex.
So, are you already thinking about your challenge?
A bit of advice here..I wouldn't suggest agonizing over coming up with something never before created. You will render yourself paralyzed from the pressure. You will over think. Keep the big picture in mind that you'd like to come up with something brand new and that will be enough for you to jump right into the process.
Trust me when I say, you won't know where it will take you.....
Check out my latest Urban Abstracts here:
January 29th, 2016
Getting back on topic, I'd like to share with you some of the many ways I put images together.
In the beginning, I was thinking of posters. I made them of different cities with little thought to how each image related to the ones it bordered. Those were the easiest combinations of all.
I then moved on to diptychs, triptychs and collages of like images. For example, grouping sewer covers together or cement cracks or construction equipment. I used a simple and free program that did the grouping and I rearranged the images into combinations. When I look back on those early days, I cringe at my lack of understanding of borders. When these collages are made, the pixel count goes up and a much larger image can be reproduced. The borders are overbearing when enlarged. To be honest, I have come to hate the borders. Rather than compartmentalizing my images, I must have known that I really wanted to merge them.
So, I started over with a new goal in mind. In my list of tags, words like 'marry' and 'blend' were added. I set my sights on unlikely pairings.
My messages for today are:
There is no challenge in putting together the obvious. A child can look at a group of images and match up what goes together.
As artists, we see things differently. That gift, I believe, comes with the responsibility to share your vision.
Using your gift takes hard work.
That's my topic for next time.
January 25th, 2016
I'm dedicating this blog post in honor of Lisa who stopped by with a comment on my last post. In case you missed it, I spoke of being able to remove something that was really terrific from your composition if it wasn't working with the other elements. In essence, this is the ability to critique your own work.
Where does this ability to self critique come from? At the risk of being redundant, I will repeat that it is about learning the rules of good design and keeping them in mind with every move you make as the composer. A young artist will have to consciously run through each element and the seasoned artist will move through them at a subconscious level.
At some point, the rebel in you will want to break these rules. I am neither condoning nor condemning. What I will say is that you need to consistently use the rules once you have learned them before trying to eliminate them successfully. Play with one rule at a time.....see how far you can remove your composition from the rule and still make the composition work...ok, not only work, but be gloriously brilliant.
Let's look at one element of good design as an example....
Contrast is an important design principle to use. Let us consider color contrast that is created by pairing opposites on the color wheel.
No doubt,some of you are having an 'aha' moment as you realize that you aren't familiar with the color wheel.
Clearly, it is time to learn about it AND about primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Add a lesson in values (dark and light, warm and cool) while you are at it so that you can use values and temperature for contrast as well. Thanks to the internet, not much is beyond our reach.
Once you understand the importance of using opposites not only for contrast but for balance as well, you will struggle less with figuring out how to mix and use the right colors as your artwork develops. When you know what works, what doesn't work will scream right off the canvas. More often than not, a problem area is a problem for good reason. Figure out the reason and you have taken your first step toward self critique and consistently better work.
Thanks for your patience as I segued a bit...I'll be back soon to continue my journey. In the meantime, enjoy my latest Urban Abstracts by clicking on the
'more information' link.
January 21st, 2016
Although I mentioned "painting" with slices of photographs, I didn't understand at the time, that that was what I was doing.
In my mind, I was still just enjoying the challenge of grouping images together. Specifically, what I didn't understand was that my process of composing is automatic after nearly 50 years of learning about and using the elements of good design.
Years ago, when I was first introduced, I had to make a conscious effort to run the list through my head and consider each as I painted. I had tools and tricks to help me.
Those are worth mentioning in this blog:
1. Diminishing glass
2. Turning the canvas in all four directions during the painting process.
These helpers insure that you have created the best composition.
The hardest part for me was to eliminate a part of the composition that I loved simply because it didn't work with the rest.
When an abstract is being built, the rule of thumb should be 'if you don't need it, dump it.' Regardless of the aesthetic, if it doesn't function with the other elements, it is working against them.
Think of a choral group. If one beautiful voice stands out and is not blending in with the others, it is not strengthening the whole, but splintering it.
Keeping this in mind, some of my jewels don't make the cut. However, with photograph files, they can be used again and again.
I'd like to close this blog today by impressing upon you the importance of learning the rules of good design and composition.
I cannot tell you how many times I hear artists proudly say that they ignore the rules. In actuality, they haven't bothered to learn them. And what you do not know, you cannot ignore. With this mode of operating, you can produce great work, but they will be happy accidents instead of consistently good work.
Learn the rules to the point that they become second nature and THEN, opt to challenge them.
January 21st, 2016
I had a daily reminder that the construction was coming. Our only access in and out of the subdivision was attended by some flag boys, who were going to become my friends in the coming years. The streets were being sprayed with just about every color in the rainbow, except for purple, and just seeing those sprays of color, excited me beyond belief. I took every pic I could of the new additions of color that swept across utility covers and marked electrical, sewers and water lines.
Our main road was going to be lowered four feet, so new utility lines were going to be added before the old ones were removed.
There were cones, flags, barriers and signs everywhere.
I was nothing more than a kid in a candy shop. I could barely wait until the next day to see what else would be added to prepare our roads for this massive project......
January 13th, 2016
Slicing became a fun exercise but a short lived one. I continued to pair two images together and then study parts of them to see what would fit.
I turned to the capabilities of my computer more and more often. I began to adjust sizes, so that lines would fit better and even hues and tints to make the match even stronger. Lines flowed, shapes repeated, angles extended and colors burst. I was honing my design skills with every move of the mouse.
Throughout this process I have to smile. Years ago, I was adamant that technology would never impact my art. But, along came iPhone cameras and computer programs that would allow me to experiment in the very ways in which I am now consumed. How nice is it to be able to paint without the mess!
After reviewing my small body of sliced images, I couldn't resist a challenge and started to combine images into 4's, 8's, even 12 image compilations.
January 12th, 2016
It's time for another commercial break.
Today I launched a new website dedicated to my ever growing collection of urban abstract photographs. At the website you will see both single and compilation images. All shop links head back to pixels.com for ordering in an array of materials...paper, canvas, acrylic, metal and fabric.
My latest book, ‹ber Urban, is also available directly from me as a signed copy.
I'd like to thank all of my devoted followers who have commented, weighed in, criticized and adored this piece of my journey. Your input has guided me, motivated me and inspired me.
I'll be back in a few days to continue my story. In the meantime, click on the new website and enjoy!
January 5th, 2016
At the time that I began to pair paintings with photographs, I couldn't put into words what I was doing. Most days it was just a challenge...and a fun one at that. Regardless of my thought process, I marveled at how consistent my eye had been for most of my 40 year career. Perhaps, adding the photograph was somehow a continuation of the painting...or updating it...or adding another canvas to partner with the original.
Many artists talk about how they go back to their paintings and continue working on them, in an effort to improve the final product.
I can honestly say I do not, have never done that. When the process is over, the painting is done...to go back, would be an empty pursuit, at best....the expressive piece of my painting style would no longer exist weeks, months or years later.
What I soon came to realize was that a synergy was emerging...one painting and one photograph added together was becoming greater that the sum of those parts.
In an effort to raise the bar and deliver the best compositions, I discovered that parts of the paintings and photographs worked together better than the whole images....it was time to start slicing and dicing!
December 26th, 2015
Back from the commercial break. I hope you enjoyed going through my latest book, page by page.
Picking up from where I left off.....
My realization was that whether I was painting a large canvas or finding abstracts on the city streets, my eye was consistent in what it sought.
Once I made the connection between my paintings and my photos, I went through every image of a painting that I still had, going back 30 years or so.
Without fail, I had a companion photograph to match up to each painting.
The second step of this amazing process had officially begun as I paired paintings and photographs together into one image. Sometimes, they were just side by side and sometimes, I was concerned with the visual connection, whether it be color, lines, shapes or movement.
Granted, not all were worthy, BUT.... And here's the BIG BUT: I have been and always will be about PROCESS, not PRODUCT.
I was so very excited about putting these two mediums together that the product was not a top priority.
The challenge to pair them together was enough to get my creative juices flowing as I ventured into this new realm.
I named this series pHOTography..I gave up crossword puzzles, mystery novels and the like....my need to make connections and figure things out was right on my monitor.
The results of this piece of the process can be found by clicking on this link: pHOTography
December 25th, 2015
Time for a commercial break....
The bad news is that the flu can hurl a major monkey wrench in your pre holiday plans. The good news is that it's a great opportunity to put together your next book!
In recent weeks, my photographic compilations have moved to a new plateau....which always tells me that it's time to visually journal what has happened up until my 'new' now.
Yesterday, I published my latest collection of works, 27 in all. A soft bound version is available on Amazon and a hard bound copy on blurb.
I titled the book ‹ber Urban. In it, you will find loads of quality images, suitable for framing, at a fraction of the cost of buying the images individually.
Signed copies are also available by contacting me directly.
Blurb offers a complete preview...just follow this link: UBER URBAN FULL PREVIEW
Look for my new blog post next week...happy holidays and a creative and viable new year for all of my artist friends!
December 19th, 2015
I have read countless blogs about how a photographer prepares for the perfect shot....the lighting, the equipment and timing.
I was also taking pictures, but to be honest, none of the above were my concern. I'd see something on a walk or pull the car over when cruising the city, and snap away with my iPhone. Because of the bright sunlight in Tucson, I was hard pressed to see the screen or do much more than frame my subject.
One of my high school teachers taught us all about framing and finding the best compositions. Back in the day, we made cardboard frames and walked around looking for strong compositions. Without the technology, or even a camera, we trained our eyes to see good design. I don't consciously run the elements of good design through my head. It has become a second nature process for me.
Whether I am creating an abstract painting and taking a picture, the same rules apply and are used in much the same way.
The most time is spent reviewing what is on the phone after uploading the images to my computer.
This process is often filled with great surprises that can, sometimes thrills me as an artist.
My partner, with his artistic eye, looked at this one image and said " That looks just like one of your paintings!"
I lined it up with one of my paintings and sure enough I saw it!
And there was the epiphany....an artist's eye is an artist's eye, regardless of the tool in his hand.
Have I already said that?
Well..be prepared for me to repeat it again and again, until everyone understands it!
December 6th, 2015
The rest of my trip to NYC was spent looking down. Luckily, my partner and guardian angel, chose to hold onto me, stop traffic and even point out some excellent oil stains, cracks and funky sidewalks.
It never hurts to be with a man who has an artistic sensibility...it makes life so much easier when you don't have to discuss why something is powerful or beautiful...you can just be in the moment and enjoy it, knowing you are not experiencing it alone.
But, enough about finding the right kinda guy....that would be a whole nother blog!
I was amazed at how many abstracts were popping out at me....the subtle shades and the 'in yer face' screaming colors!
That year heralded a lot of traveling....to Scottsdale, Coronado island, La Jolla, Cleveland, Akron, Delray Beach and New Jersey. The streets of each city opened up a new world to me....all the while, looking down. In between trips I combed the streets of my city. I went to playgrounds and explored inner cities. I took macro shots and got obsessed with utilities.
And then, one day, right under my very nose, the theme presented itself. My road was going to be under construction for three years.
This was one of those moments where lemonade was about to be made from lemons. While my neighbors complained about the noise, early beep beep wake up calls, concrete road barriers being dropped in place that made the walls of my home shake, I secretly smiled....
I put on my proverbial hard hat and grabbed my iPhone.
November 30th, 2015
Am I guilty that I am a life long, professional painter and haven't picked up a brush in a year?
I welcome you to take a peak at my journey as an ever evolving artist, honing my craft daily.
I am still in process, but have come to realize that an artist 's eye is an artist's eye, regardless of what is in his hand.
Here's how it all started.....
Four years ago I was stepping out of a taxi in front of the MoMA in NYC.
As I exited, I tripped, followed by a perfect face plant on a manhole cover.
Instead of rushing to get out of the busy street with cabs heading in both directions, I stayed in the moment and stared at the most beautiful rust covered piece of metal that I had ever seen. I whipped out my iPhone and snapped a pic. Suddenly, abstracts were appearing everywhere. I found magnificent cracks, in the sidewalk, blobs of asphalt, dynamic diagonal painted strips. I never bothered to look up...my new abstract world was literally and figuratively, laying at my feet.
Little did I know that my future as an abstract artist would be forever changed....
Please join me as I unfold a most exciting time in my career as I share my experiences and images with you!