Kalishnikov’s Dream

Until a couple of years ago, the Ontario Society of Artists’ annual Open Juried Exhibition (OSAOJE) had a theme each year. In 2013, the theme was Unintended Consequences, and that tied in with some things that were running around in my head at the time. For some reason, I had read the Michael Kalashnikov regretted inventing the AK-47, as it had been used for so many awful things that he never intended. Not everyone believed his regrets, but still – interesting link for Unintended Consequences.

Here’s the final image. I’ll go through my thinking and some technical aspects below. Note: All the images are from the Internet; I was unable to get clear attribution on any of them, since various organizations had re-posted the images without attribution.

A photo collage of Mikhail Kalashnikov & child soldiers with an AK47
Kalashnikovs Dream

From the beginning, I wanted the child soldiers represented in overlapping ranks, with colouring that would look like a flag. I started with a single image and trimmed out all the background. Overlapping was much harder than I expected, especially since I wanted the central child soldier in each rank to be in front of those to each side, as you can see. There was a lot of positioning by pixel coordinates, then grouping, copying and pasting in new positions. The colour bands are rectangles, sized by pixel dimensions and partly transparent. I also checked to make sure that the colours I had chosen did not match any existing flag, because it’s not about any specific conflict.

The AK-47 is simple isolated from its background and given a golden glow so it floats above everything else.

My original thinking for the left side was to have a map of Europe at the end of the Second World War, with AK-47s pointing out from the USSR like the defensive line Kalashnikov wanted. There was a little infographic comparing intended defence and unintended child soldiers. It just didn’t work.

Then I got the idea to have the 3-frame graphic novel you see in the final version above. Turning a photo into an image that looks like it’s from a graphic novel took a lot of interesting learning. Here’s a clip showing the third frame’s layers.

How I made Kalashnikov Frame3
How I made Kalashnikov Frame3

You can see that there are two layers with the base image of his face (which I tilted to reflect how traditional portraits are made, and to add a sense of motion). The upper layer is partly transparent so that, when the modifications are added, the unaffected bottom layer still shows through. This adds a little definition to the final result. The three adjustment layers are, in order, brightness/contrast, threshold and posterize. Together, they create the pen-and-ink effect I wanted. The top two layers are for the thought clouds and text.

This is one of my favourite images, not just for the technical difficulty and the learning I had to do, but for all the thinking I had to do to relate it to the OSAOFE theme. I hope it makes you think, too. I doubt it will ever sell, though.

(BTW, I have another Unintended Consequences image in mind, based on the American Constitution’s Second Amendment, layered with their Founding Fathers and maybe a single day’s worth of American gun violence.)

Serenity

I often talk that art should challenge, make you think. Edginess has always been important in art, and some of my work certainly is. But serenity is important, too.

In Kalashnikov’s Dream, I use his own words of regret, combined with images of child soldiers.

A photo collage of Mikhail Kalashnikov & child soldiers with an AK47
Kalashnikovs Dream

If I could but lift this jewelled veil and set thee free again – what more can I say about this blue heron, found dead after the remnants of Superstorm Sandy blew through Newmarket? The only manipulation here was to deepen the red colour of the leaf that seems poised to pierce the bird’s breast. (The use of direct flash at night was an homage to Weegee.)

Photo of a Blue Heron, found dead after the remnants of Superstorm Sandy passed through Newmarket
If I could but lift this jewelled veil and set thee free again

But a lot of my work is also serene, such as my florals.

In this image, Floating Dock, a dock seems to float on clouds, as well as on the lake.

A dock seems to float on clouds, as well as on the lake.
Floating Dock

Simple foods is just that – a simple composition of bowls with flour and hummous and a couple of pita chips.

Photo of bowls with flour and hummous
Simple Foods

In Thanksgiving, I reflect on how much I have to be thankful for. It was taken on Thanksgiving, and I love the Autumn.

Photo of a yellow Muskoka chair with autumn leaves
Thanksgiving

The Wedding Tent is a deceptively simple composition. I had to position myself so the lighting on the tent was right, then wait for the little clouds to move where the tent’s peak would be in front of them, seeming to hold them.

Photo of the peak of a large white tent with blue sky and clouds
The Wedding Tent

So – edginess is important, but I also understand that art should be enjoyable. Serene images can be part of that enjoyment.

Inspirations & Aspirations

Minor White | Edward Weston | Richard Avedon | Margaret Bourke-White | Ansel Adams | Walker Evans | W Eugene Smith | Dorothea Lange | Edward Burtynsky | Diane Arbus | Paul Strand | Lewis Hine | Shin Sugino | Man Ray | Harry Callahan | André Kertész | Group of Seven (+) | Abstract Impressionists | Peggy Stevens | Margaret Atwood | Roo Borson | George Bowering | Susan Musgrave | Christopher Dewdney | A K Dewdney | Heisenberg | Existentialism | Elizabeth May | Bill McKibben | Naomi Klein | Leah Buechley | William Gibson | Beethoven | Douglas Cardinal | China Miéville | Paolo Bacigalupi | Al Gore | Georgia O’Keeffe | Garry Winogrand | Jeff Nye | Jerry Uelsmann | …