Back to the World

It’s 7:44 AM, Saturday–the day we’re to head back home.

This year’s vacation has been great. Games were played, movies and anime were watched, and a whole lot of chilling out was accomplished. We did things we didn’t plan, and yeah, a few plans we had didn’t quite come together, but all of it was awesome.

We take this trip every year, spend the week at a friend’s house, and come back feeling recharged and ready to take on the back-to-school rush and the threat of another winter in New England. This year, I feel especially so.

Going home’s going to be hard.

Vacation

Tomorrow, my daughter and I head off to a friend’s place for a week. It’s something we do every year–hang out, play games, have fun. This year’ll be much the same, but we might toss a road-trip or two into the mix. We’ll be only a few minutes drive from a relatively large city (well, New Hampshire’s largest, anyway), and I’d love to run around it with my camera.

Speaking of cameras, here’s a photograph I posted recently over on Instagram…

I’ve been using Instagram a lot lately, mostly because I’ve been really using my shitty, smartphone camera a lot. In fact, it’s kind of become my favorite way to shoot. Part of that’s down to convenience–it’s always with me, fast to use, and doesn’t attract the attention that my “real” camera does.

Mostly, though, I’ve found that I can actually take a pretty good shot with it, if I pay attention. It doesn’t work for everything I want to do, but it does for enough that I find myself shooting most every day.

 

And on that note, I’m off.

Cards and Photos

Do you like photographs? Do you like greeting cards? Do you want to give me money? If you answered “yes” to all three of these questions, then you should take a look at my Zazzle* store, which I’ve imaginatively titled: Jeff Clough Designs.

Not roadkill. Not dystopian.

For now, this store contains a collection of 15 greeting cards, the fronts of which are adorned with photos from a collection that I’d describe as…

“Some of my more ‘accessible’ photography. With subjects ranging from flowers to architecture, these pictures represent my take on traditional compositions.”

That’s really just a fancy way of saying…

“I think these photographs would make good greeting cards.”

When what I really mean is…

“I usually take photographs of roadkill and other things that remind us we’re in a late-stage-capitalist dystopia, but fuck it! Here are some flowers!”

I’ve also added these photographs to a new gallery, which you can see over on my Photography page.

In the future, I plan to add more photographs and possibly more products, but I’m not quite sure what direction I want to go in.

When I do figure that out, I’ll let you know.

*If you are unfamiliar with Zazzle, the idea is this: they provide all the products, printing, billing, shipping, and customer service; I provide the design (including the photo). When you order one of these cards from them, they are the ones who bill you, produce the physical object, and send it your way. They get most of the money, I get a “royalty,” and I don’t have to crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels or a few dozen amyls in some doomed-to-fail attempt to roll my own e-commerce system.

Artist’s Statement (Or, the Duality of Man)

What do you know, it’s an update! I’d be sorry about the gap between posts, but we’ve had an absolutely gorgeous week weather-wise and I don’t regret a single one of the many hours I spent outside and away from boxes which beep at me. Anyway, there are a few quick bits I want to get out of the way before I get settled into what will assuredly be a long, nonsensical rant.

First, I now have a “proper” gallery for my photography. It’s sparse, poorly-organized, but it looks halfway-decent and you should check it out.

Second, I’m using Instagram pretty hard. I’ve put some of my “real” work up there, but mainly it’s a place to experiment with my phone’s camera and have fun.

Lastly, I’m getting a number of my more “traditional” or “accessible” photographs together and will soon be offering them for sale in one form or another. I can’t really give you any specific details right now, but that whole project should be ready in another week or so.

And therein lies a tale…

Something I’ve been lead to believe is that, as an artist intending to show or sell your work, you are expected to write something called an “artist’s statement.” This would be a paragraph of text crafted to explain your motivation, vision, or goal as an artist. One (hopefully) brief manifesto which answers the question: “Why are you an artist?”

Related to this, I’m further told that each piece of art you present should also come with a statement, necessarily related to your overall statement, but specific to the work. It answers the question: “What is this piece about?”

There is, I am assured, no way out of writing these statements.

And I assure you, there appears to be no way for me to write these statements without sounding like a pretentious douche or a total fraud.

Every time I put my hands on the keyboard to knock out something which sounds even vaguely like I know what the hell I’m doing, I flash back to that scene in Full Metal Jacket:

Pogue Colonel: You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You’d better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?

I can’t even begin to count the number of times this scene has cropped up over the years, in conversations with the various artistically-inclined folks I’ve counted as friends. We use it as a joke, the very archetype of an on-the-spot, talking-out-of-your-ass explanation for the inexplicable.

Someone asks you to explain your work and you’ve got no idea what to say? Mumble something about “the duality of man,” look bored or disgusted with them, and you shut down the conversation without revealing yourself for the imposter you believe you are.

If I was being honest, I’d say that the photographs I’ve taken thus far are motivated by one (or more) of three different impulses:

  1. I saw something pretty.
  2. I wanted to experiment with my camera in order to hone my skills.
  3. I just needed to take it.

I’m pretty sure numbers 1 and 2 aren’t what most people typically think of when they think about art at all. But as for number 3? How can I give you an answer when I don’t even have one for myself?

Q: Why did I crawl up under an overpass, through four-inch-deep piles of dried bird shit, risking an out-of-control slide into high-speed traffic just to take a photograph of some steel beams and graffiti?

A: Because, at that moment, no other choice in the world made sense.

Yet still, I’ve persisted. I’ve taken a few stabs at both a “general” artist’s statement (you can find one sorry attempt over on my Photography page, but I hate it so, so very much that I expect to replace it soon), as well as a few token efforts at describing just what the hell I was going for when I took a particular photograph.

I wonder if it’s always going to feel like this, or if it’ll get better once I know what I’m doing.

Intermittent Interludes

My daughter’s summer vacation began last week, spinning my already-unpredictable schedule into a new dimension of chaos. I’ve got so many different things going on–each dependent, in equal parts, on the weather and my mood–that trying to work according to any sort of plan is beyond futile.

In no particular order…

  • The RPG is in play-testing mode, a necessary and time-consuming step in the process of getting the game’s rules together. And due to certain…realities of this collaboration with my friend, I’m pretty much stuck in a holding pattern until we have the rules sorted. No new writing, no revision work, no layout–so, I basically get the summer off from this thing, outside of my role as a play-tester.
  • I continue to go out with my camera whenever the weather is good. However…
  • Now that my daughter is home, getting outside and walking around together without the distraction of my camera is a thing that’s also happening, and by definition that takes some time away from shooting.
  • I’ve been working on a number of projects that require stinky chemicals like contact cement and spray paint. My daughter’s costume is one, art I’m doing for it’s own sake is another. Since all of the required nasty substances require a “well-ventilated area,” and the only well-ventilated place you can find in a mobile home is outside, a fair bit of good weather is being eaten up by these projects.
  • That “art for it’s own sake,” thing? That deserves a post of its own, but the bottom line is that I’ve found myself in the grip of an unrelenting need to create and experiment with various forms of visual art. And while I’m enjoying this journey immensely, it’s also taking up an immense amount of my time and attention.
  • I’ve had an idea for a novel kicking around in my skull for quite some time, and lately it’s been very insistent.

These are the big draws on my time, but there’s about a dozen other little things I’m trying to get done this summer, and the whole unsorted mess is making my head spin. I’m writing this post at about 7:30 on Monday morning, and I seriously have no idea what I’ll be doing right after it’s written, let alone how the day’s going to shape up overall.

I’d say I feel like something has gone horribly wrong with my life to be in this situation, but honestly? Flying blind doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would.