My Story about Trying to Be an Artist
As a child I wanted to be able to produce images, but only later in life did I realize why I wanted to do this (I’ll tell you later). Nevertheless, by the age of 10 or 11 I decided that I was unable to draw images worth looking at. Classmates laughed at my attempts and humiliation forced me to drop the idea. But when I was 13, a hot shot cousin, and her new husband, gave me an enlarger that they had built themselves but which they now wanted to replace with a store-bought one. I slowly learned the elementary methods of photography and darkroom work, and with my Brownie camera, off I went. At 16, my folks got me a second hand Kodak Retina II and I took it everywhere, which mostly meant that I took it on hiking trips in NY State and then on a cross-country trip to New Mexico, where I spent a summer hiking at Philmont, a vast Boy Scout-owned ranch.
One morning, at dawn, I emerged from my sleeping bag on the top of Mt. Baldy, at 14,000 feet the tallest mountain in New Mexico, and I saw this scene. I could not figure out what this was, but as I took this picture I realized that for the first time in my life I was looking down at clouds. For me this was new knowledge, and this photo is my reminder of that moment of insight.
I continued doing photography through college and medical school, but at a reduced intensity.
Under a dogwood tree, looking up, I decided that the trans-illuminated leaves were interesting. This photograph won a prize at an NYU competition:
By now I hope it’s apparent that my fundamental attraction to this stuff is esthetics. Photography was also valuable in my life as a pathologist, but that is not related to my esthetic interests.
Retirement was the occasion for transition to the world of “I wanna learn how to draw and paint.” And this is what I want to tell you about. I am still interested in photography for esthetic reasons, but I have discovered that someone as untalented as I am can use photography as a crutch to learn how to draw and even paint. So now I try to create artistic photographs, and some of these I try to copy as drawings or paintings. I’m not yet (nor ever will be) where I want to be, but I am having a wonderful time with this, and I hope you get some pleasure seeing the work that I enjoy doing. In fact, I invite you to try the same thing.
First, here is an example that explains a little of what I am after in photography. This is an everyday garden snail plucked from a lawn in Salt Lake City. You might get this kind of snail if you order escargot in a restaurant. Those four rods coming out of the head are called “tentacles.” Each of the upper two has and eye at its tip. The lower two contain “taste” sensors, and the mouth is the vertical slit on the bottom of the “chin.” To me this is an interesting portrait, and it points to some things I want to learn more about. Things I’ll find in books. But this visage, the most inscrutable visage I have ever seen, is of special interest in and of itself.
It is a good subject for drawing. Try it. Draw it quickly 10 times.
See if your drawings improve as you continue.
And now for the next step: Below is a mariposa lily I found in northern California. It is closely related to the sego lily, the state flower of Utah. Since I knew nothing about painting, I thought I’d start learning by painting right over this photograph.
THIS IS WHAT I GOT:
This gave me hope. I didn’t want to just paint over photographs, but this gave me the confidence and the drive to go ahead.
What I do now is just make a drawing of the subject, perhaps using the photograph as a constant source of reference. Sometimes I make actual measurements on the photo or a tracing of a difficult area, which I then use for planning a painting, and sometime I make a drawing, with no reference to anything in reality. And that was the case for the next, and last, image.
This subject matter was inspired by an Ethiopean fabric which told the Bible story of Jacob’s dream, but had my own ideas about the image I wanted to produce.
Here is Jacob, grandson of Abraham, sleeping and dreaming the dream put into his head by this angel. He is told that he will be the progenitor of the Jewish people, and henceforth his name will not be Jacob, but Israel. This painting has a number of items that have deeper meaning, but we won’t talk about that here. The expression “Jacobs Ladder” refers to the ladder used by the angel to descend from heaven. But I left that out, because angels don’t need ladders (so why does it say ladder in the Bible? Hint: It’s the same reason God says to Adam after he has sinned, “Adam. Where are you?”).
If you are going to paint, or draw, you automatically look (or think) deeper into the actuality of your subject matter. You try to grasp its nature, its identity, at a deeper level. This is true for insect anatomy, or a Bible story.
Bible stories are a great starting point for paintings. The masters already covered that ground, but if you use your imagination you will find news ways to tell the story. I don’t believe any prior painting of the angel and Jacob’s dream has any resemblance to this one. And if you
think of your own way to imagine bible stories, you can make your own original paintings.
Some of My Publications & Things Like That
In addition to the below examples of my work in photography, there is a much larger body of my work that has been published in books and international, peer-reviewed scientific journals, or presented at scientific meetings. That work, however, is documentary rather than artistic.
Bloom, S. Portraiture on the Enchanted Islands. PSA Journal, Oct. 2002, pages 26-28.
Lecture, Phototourism on the Galapagos Islands, Sept. 2, 2003, PSA International Meeting, Houston, TX, September 1-6.
Cover Photographs, Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association: March, 2003, Tupelo Swamp; May, 2003, Wild Plums; March, 2004, Seeds of the Red Maple; May, 2004, Jack-in-the-Pulpit Seedhead
Exhibitor at Guachoya Art Center, Lake Village Arkansas: Dec, 2003; Sept-Oct, 2004
“Award of Excellence,” Photographer’s Forum 24th Annual Spring Photography Contest. Image, Seeds of Butterfly Weed, published in “Best of Photography Annual 2004.”
Bloom, Sherman. Better Business Cards Through Digital Photography. PSA Journal, February, 2005, page 34.
Honorable Mention, 2005 Shutterbug Photo Contest. The photo, “Honeysuckle Bloom,” was published in the Nov 2005 issue of the photography magazine “Shutterbug” and in the November 2005 computer journal “MacHome”.
“Bright Eyes” exhibited at “Photo Works of the 21st Century and Beyond,” Center for Fine Art Photograph in Fort Collins, Colorado, June 23 through July 17, 2006.
Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson, MS, Oct & Nov2006. One man show.
U Arkansas Med School Library, 1 May through 9 July 2007. One-man show.
Exhibition at One Blu Wall Gallery, Jackson MS June thru Aug 2008
2nd Annual Photography Masters Cup (2007). Nominee in Nature, Amateur, for “Crane Pair Flying Close.” Published in Photography Masters Cup Yearbook 2008.
Portfolio of “Orchid Interiors” published in the Silveshotz Folio of 2009.
Exhibition at the Salt Lake City Main Library, January 22– March 4, 2010, Rocks and Orchids: Composition, Texture, and Metaphor.
Salt Lake City JCC, December, 2011, Forty One Fine Art Photographs.
PSA Journal, April 2012, Orchid Metaphors.
Two photographs selected for display at the F2 Sociedad Fotografica International Salon. July, 2012 at the Dante Alighieri Association, Buenos Aires: “Mayes Lake After Rain” and “Piazza Della Santissima Annunziata.”
Photography Show and Benefit Sale at KCPW FM Radio Station in Salt Lake City, July 2013 to May 2014.
Three photographs displayed at Utah Cultural Center sale, February-March 2014.
Wasatch Camera Club show at the Jewish Community Center of Salt Lake City, September, 2014
There may be more, but I stopped recording these things.