Author Archives: Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

About Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

Pioneer, provider, artist, brewer, peony addict, trail runner, currently helping large organizations transform.

Book #20: Mini-Accordion Photo Book

It arrived! My 20th book in mini accordion format manufactured by Mpix. Here are some baby pics:

 

Thanks go to Steve Ballinger for sharing his mini accordion book and manufacturer with the Lyceum Portland photography salon last month. I was intrigued!

If you like the book format, here are a few more posts you may find useful:

 

 

It’s All About the Book

I love making photo books. I have hand-made two books of alternative process photography that have appeared in juried shows and one chapbook of poems and self-published 11 books and one magazine. My work has been included by publishers of three books and one magazine. And I have my first accordion file book on the way.

That’s a grand total of 20 books or magazines. I am clearly crazy about photo books.

Five of those books have been made from images I took while traveling. Photo books are a perfect format for travel photos because consuming the book form mirrors the travel experience.

Event

Looking at a photo book is an event with a time and date certain just like your trip.

Physical

Turning the pages of a photo book is a very physical experience because to look at it you must hold it in your hands and turn the page with your fingers. Likewise, your trip was very physical because your body had to go somewhere. There is no virtual travel.

Intimate

Looking at a photo book is intimate. Unlike looking at a photo on the wall, you hold a book within your personal space. What you remember and record from your trip is very personal too. No two sets of travel photos are exactly alike. Your point of view shows up in every frame.

Pace

You control the pace as the reader. For the most part, you control the pace of your travels, what you do on which day and in what order.

Connection

There’s a continued relationship with the content that makes friends. When friends talk about an upcoming or former trip to say Greece, you can share your book, as a way to share the experience.

Multiples

Unlike painting as a medium, where there is one, photography naturally enables multiple copies of the same image. So does the book.

Travel photos in a book are not a bound portfolio. The selection of photos is different because the purpose of the book is different. We chose photos that would not go in the portfolio because a photo book is story driven. We chose photos to support a narrative, maybe about the place you visited, and maybe not. Maybe the story is much more about who you are and what you notice than it is about where you went.

If you like making photo books, here are some other posts that will interest you:

 

 

 

Making Peace

Some interesting things have been going on in my life lately and how I feel about them has been a struggle. I decided to start drawing again. I didn’t intend to work through things through drawing but it became obvious that I am. In each drawing I’m creating and reconciling differences. There’s enough tension to create interest and there’s enough harmony to create some sort of visual balance. While I started in a place that’s pretty on the nose, in each drawing what I was working on evolved. I’d like to share that with you.

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Cluster by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

In the first drawing above, I used only one shape, a triangle, and did everything else to create differentness. I varied the color, size, pattern, orientation and context of each triangle. In the next piece (below), I moved toward a landscape with a wall disrupting it. None of this was conscious at the time. I followed the question of what happens if I do this? and this? and this?

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Tension by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Throughout the work I actively engaged the question, “How can I make each piece work together as a whole and keep each piece vibrant?”

Tidy_Panorama1_Edited for blog

Tidy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Inked shapes lend a physicality to just glimpsed internal questions about the contrasting edges in life.

Flowy Zen Combined Flat for blog

Flowy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

By the fifth drawing, I used haphazard shapes contrasted with pattern to create characters and a sense of a world environment.

StoryWorld_Merged_for_blog

Storyworld by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

While working on this series, I stumbled upon this verse: “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24 While I’m trying to work out how on my own, and control of one’s path is such a value in our culture, God is saying, that’s not the story of your life. Have faith, trust me. I will arrange the pieces of your life into a beautiful whole.

Original work: Sumi ink and Micron pen on 11″ x 14″ Strathmore Bristol paper.

Shop the collection on RedBubble.

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In case you’re curious about how this work relates to other similar work, pattern drawing is not new. It has a long history. Just think of Chinese dish patterns and Muslim geometric patterns on architecture. Fast forward through centuries and more recent developments include Neopoprealism and Zentangles.

Russian-born artist Nadia Russ coined Neo-Pop Realism in 2003 for the patterns she started drawing in 1989. Russ’s method requires that the pattern drawings be done from a subconscious state of mind.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas trademarked a similar method of pattern drawing as Zentangle in 2003. Zentangles are limited to certain patterns drawn on 3.5” rectangles in order to enter a meditative state. I took a Zentangle class a few years ago and have kept coming back to the practice. My most ambitious project to date is a 4’ x 6’ canvas of zentangles drawn with a Sharpie. This series also deviates from the rules of both movements in size, method and source of patterns.

Modern day illustrator Stefan Bucher pioneered the method that I used of creating organic shapes from Sumi ink on a toothbrush and compressed air in his series Daily Monster.

Design Your Own Artist Residency

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Fabrication by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

As he laid out his photographs on the table for the group to critique, Jimmy (not his real name) said, “This is the work that I created at the XYZ Residency on the coast.” Normally, I would be jealous. Of the time, the space and the opportunity.

Artist Residency

Artist residency programs give artists the opportunity to live and work outside of their usual environments to reflect, research, experiment with new materials or processes and / or make work. A residency lasts for a set period of time. It’s a formal affair. Artists fill out an application and submit a curriculum vitae, motivation for the residency and often a project proposal for a residency that is typically six months to years out.

But today, I was different.  Residency programs are earned and require advance planning, and I wasn’t in a position at the moment to do that. If I wanted the opportunity to focus more intently on my purpose and craft as an artist, I’d have to be creative. I knew I was going to be in Portland for seven days solo. I’d have focused set of responsibilities but with that I would also have some free time.

The Math

It’s true that some free time carved out isn’t the same as a residency. But I could turn that time into something. I had 7 days or 168 hours. Out of that I needed to subtract:

  • hours for sleep (56)
  • working out (14)
  • eating (21)
  • other responsibilities such as job hunting and house management (28)
  • social engagements (3) and
  • personal maintenance (7)
  • spiritual practice (7)

That left 35 hours. I could carve out a work week within a week! What could I accomplish?

 Goals

In a bright yellow notebook, I penned 3 main goals:

  1. Develop a better understanding of the photography community in Portland
  2. Create a new artist statement that was better than the one automagically generated by artybollocks.com
  3. Produce new work

Activities

How did I go about all this? To develop a better understanding of the deep photography community in Portland, I:

  • Enjoyed looking at photographers’ work at Camera Work, Blue Sky (especially the Pacific Northwest Photographers Drawers), and Vernissage as well as other media at other galleries (Disjecta, Carnation, Augen, Land, Froelick, Elizabeth Jones Art Gallery)
  • Met fellow photogs in a monthly photo group critique
  • Met more fellow photogs at the one-year anniversary of the Portland Darkroom (rising from the ashes of Newspace) including one of the founders
  • Plumbed the depths of the film and camera experts at local gem Blue Moon Camera and Machine
  • listened to an interview of a local photographer and publisher
  • enjoyed thoroughly reading a book by a local photographer whom I had enjoyed meeting

To create a better artist statement for me than artybollocks.com was able to generate, I researched to remind myself what should be included, looked at and reflected on my own work over the past 20 years, read over 100 artist statements, and looked at photographers’ work. I wrote more about the process here.

Lastly to produce new work, I took a multi-step process to revive my now discontinued Contax 645 medium format camera, found Kodak Portra 120 roll film and a place that will develop it (the aforementioned Blue Moon Camera and Machine) and focused us on a new subject, the place where I stayed. The first two rolls were terrible. I have more hope for the 3rd now in development. I’ll share more soon. I experimented also with combining film with zentangles. Those results coming soon too.

Key Takeaways

The opportunity I designed to evaluate my work with methodical and sustained focus was a real gift. Time with friends was a welcome and joyful elixir. My key takeaways were:

  • The photography community in Portland is vibrant and multi-faceted. Each artist I met was working to manifest his or her highest work for a given body and topic.
  • You may not be able to have it all, but you sure can have more.
  • Designing your own residency is completely possible. If you time bound your design, artistic pursuits can be balanced with work and family. For example, there are 24-hour comic contests where comic book artists get together for 24 hours to see if they can make one 24-page comic. That’s doable with work and family.

At the very end, I decided to call this The Tesseract Art and Design Residency because the benefits from the time will feed my work at TAD.

Artist Statement Develoment

.albumtempA few days ago I set out to see if I could write a better artist statement than one randomly generated. I read over 100 artist statements and a few main themes emerged as driving forces:

  1. ritual remembrance of an influential family member
  2. truth and beauty
  3. a significant illness usually of the artist
  4. social change in response to outrage
  5. exploration of interests, for example in flora

The more common theme is “must”. Many artists expressed some feeling that they must create. And that response, while gratifying, was not the driving force. Amen to that.

So here’s my terrible first draft.  Please give me your comments and feedback and help me make it better! Thank you!

My day time super powers are to create ways of doing new things for the first time and to organize people, processes and information to create more peace. (My useless superpower is being able to sing the lyrics of songs from the 70s and 80s with little prompting.) My night time and weekend superpower is creating art.

As an artist, I create to make peace between things that are framed as opposites. I also create to surface and express emotions without words by turning things over with my mind’s hands without looking at it with my mind’s eye.

Media / Process

I loved drawing and painting in grade school and I kept my drawings safe between hay bales in a tin shed that doubled as my entomology lab where I watched caterpillars turn into chrysalis and emerge butterflies.

Later, I loved photography and desiring to hone my craft I earned an MFA in Digital Media. I continue to learn other disciplines because the challenge brings me energy and fun. For example, I have worked in: sculpture, jewelry, painting (acrylic, oils, pastels), drawing (ink, pencil, thread) collage, assemblage, installation (audio, robotics), books (handmade, self-published) and photography (film, digital, mobile, alternative process).

Subjects

There are a few broad themes that I return to over 20 years across different media:

  • I love faces. Which is funny because I am an introvert.
  • I lost much of my eyesight by the time I was 8 years old. Without my contacts in, many of my closeup photos reflect how I see.
  • I love flowers, trails, botanicals.
  • And there’s everything else.

Tradition / Influences

My influences are a jumble across disciplines and time.

  • Photography – Teachers Dan Burkholder, Brian Taylor, and Joel Slayton. Famous artists Josef Sudek, Frederick Evans, Karl Blossfeld
  • Drawing – Lynda Barry, Mike Rhode, Ed Emberely, Eva Lotta Lam, Kris Hargis, and teachers Lisa Congdon and Kate Bingaman-Burt
  • Portraits – Alice Neel, Lucien Freud, Roualt and teacher Jane Davenport

Value Add

How am I different? I am not so sure I am. I can tell you though that:

  • I am in general delighted by the world and attempt to convey some of that.
  • I am intrigued and delighted by the discovery and expression of what makes each person a unique and individual personality.
  • I cross the lines between disciplines in the spirit of exploring what works and what’s fun.

You can find out what I’m currently doing by following me on Instagram @JHartnettHender.

 

 

Learn from Others

When you’re working on your own artist statement, you can learn a lot from how other people answer the main questions to see what resonates for you.

Easy Research – There are lots of ways to find other artists’ statements. Here are just a few:

  • Visit a gallery or a museum and look at the exhibiting artist statements.
  • Listen to a gallery talk by an artist whose work is on exhibit.
  • Peruse viewing drawers. Some galleries have viewing drawers of prints from artists and include the artist’s resume and statement. For example, Blue Sky has the Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers to promote the work of regional artists.
  • Listen to an artist being interviewed on a podcast like Keep the Channel Open or The Modern Art Notes Podcast to hear what they say about their work and their driving force.
  • Watch artists classes on e-learning platforms like CreativeLive or Lynda.com.
  • Talk to or interview an artist to understand what they think.

Sources are everywhere. Here are some things I’ve learned so far by seeking out other artist statements.

How Matters – Artists who include the backstory of how the current body of work came about are more engaging

  • Photographer Lauren Hare relates that she started in portraiture but began incorporating flora into the portraits until one day the flora became equal in importance.
  • Photographer Deb Stoner shares her progression from composing entirely in camera to composing entirely on the scanner until she found through extensive research that artist Karl Blossfeldt composed many of his amazing images by cutting up different prints and reassembling them into a new whole.

Motivation – What motivates you? Do you like to do the same style or do you like to vary it? What brings you energy about your work? Children’s book illustrator and author Ed Emberley says:

  • “I don’t like to work the same way all the time. I would prefer to experiment with different materials. I find that when I am challenged the challenge brings me energy and fun….If I have fun I can pass the fun on.”
  • “It’s very important that people succeed [viewing and using my work].”

I like what Ed says applied to artist statements as well. Your artist statement should help people succeed in understanding something about your work while viewing it.

Elements of an Artist Statement

What is an artist statement supposed to do? For the artist, it can be a way to connect with the viewer by revealing more. Elements of an artist statement generally include:

Media – Did you use oil? pastel? acrylic? Why? Artist statements tend to be posted with a show so they are often specific to the body of work on display. Bodies of work, unless they are retrospectives, tend to be very cohesive. My favorite retrospective so far is David Hockney’s. His use of a wide variety of technologies and media from pencils to iPad was inspiring.

Process – If there is something accretive to meaning about the artist’s process, include it. Jackson Pollock’s process of flinging paint was important because it showed how he achieved such a wildly different effect.

Subject – If the subject is portraits, the viewer can probably tell, but are who are the people and how did they end up sitting for you? What’s important about your choice of subject? Alice Neel painted wonderful portraits of neighbors, children, people she knew, not famous but everyday.

Why – if you’ve watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk you know that this is the most important part. People don’t care about your what if they don’t understand your why. Last night in the Basil Hallward Gallery at Powells, I read the why of the artist on exhibit, Annamieka Hopps Davidson: “People who give a damn need access to the power and the resilience that joy brings.”

Extra credit – including these in your artist statement shows that you understand more than just your own work.

Tradition – how does your work relate to other work in the same tradition? Another way to get at this is to ask yourself, “Who inspired you?” Austin Kleon suggests that you track that even further back and ask, “Who inspired them?”

Distinction – how is your work different from those who influenced you and from contemporaries? What does it add to the conversation? You are unique. There is no one else like you in the world ever. You bring that uniqueness to the work. Where does it show up?

If you’ve been through an MFA program, these questions are very similar to ones asked on the pre-thesis or oral exams conducted by a panel of teachers.

Do you understand why you are doing what you are doing? Why this material and not that one? Why this amount of embellishment and not that? How do your artistic decisions about media contribute to the overall meaning of the piece(s)? Do you understand your place in the canon? Who is your work influenced by or derivative of? How is your work new and different?

I created a notebook of all the pre-thesis questions asked over a couple of semesters at San Jose State to prepare for my own oral exams. Answering these questions requires a level of inquiry that assumes at it’s foundation that your work as worthy of study. That you’ve brought something to the “page” that’s valuable and that can be improved through examination. IMG_2046