Peering over my open passport, the immigration agent carefully looked me over. "Why are you going to New York?" she asked.
"I'm going to visit some art shows," I answered.
"You're just going to look at art?"
"Well, I plan to take some photos of the city for my own art."
"You can't take photos of Montreal?"
"They don't have water towers in Montreal."
That's what I blurted out when I was unexpectedly put on the spot about my "aesthetic vision". And the agent let me enter the U.S. anyways.
Thinking back to that conversation, and sorting through the photos I did take, I realized that the water towers in my photos make for very good focal points: isolated cylinders perched like lonely, watchful crows overlooking a jumble of cubes and rectangular prisms.
I've started a new piece, based on one of my water tower photos. Who knows? Perhaps I'll make all four.
Of course I have made pieces based on Montreal photos too. What I need to do more often is get myself downtown with the single-minded purpose of finding interesting subjects for my work.
Here's what art quilter Leni Wiener had to say when she was asked about using photos to inspire her work:
"I always start with a photo because all the information I need is right there for me; I don’t have to figure out the perspective, the proportions or where the light and shadow would be. Taking the photo into Adobe Photoshop and applying a cutout filter reduces the image into manageable masses of color. I print the resulting “pattern” in the full size of the finished piece. Fabrics are assigned, paying close attention to value. Then I use freezer paper to cut out each piece and lay it in place like a puzzle."
You can find the rest of the interview with Leni on Deborah Boschert's blog. I'm a big fan of Leni's. I met her at the SAQA conference in Santa Fe this April, where she gave me a coaching session. Leni, a New Yorker, is unapologetic about using her camera, rather than a sketchbook, to make her art.
And if you can direct me to some water towers in Montreal, please let me know!