On Ornery Artists

On Ornery Artists

There’s something noble about being the “ornery artist.” The one who switches it up when he or she shouldn’t. The one who you can’t pin down. The one who avoids fame and publicity.

As I walked around the Ann Arbor Art Fair on Thursday, especially looking at the photography booths, I couldn’t help but notice how similar they all were: landscapes, sunsets, flowers, bodies of water, animals, HDR (blah!).

Art fair artists are there to sell things, I get it. It’s hard to be ornery and sell in mass quantities.

For me, it’s more fun to root for the curmudgeon.

Welcome to Art Fair

Every year, during the hottest week of the summer, Ann Arbor puts on a giant art fair, shutting down streets downtown and welcoming thousands of people over four days.

I’ve been to Art Fair several times, but this is my first time working on campus during the event. As the artists set up their booths, I walked around town grabbing some of the behind-the-scenes shots.

It’s fun, seeing the event before the event starts. A lot of the art was already on display, but many artists didn’t have their tent up yet, and their wares were sprawled out on the University of Michigan lawn, waiting for hanging.

There were these weird juxtapositions, like fake cactus and palm trees baking in the Midwestern sun, or giant metal sculptures just hanging out on University Ave. And hot. Everything was hot.

Should be a fun couple of days, trying to get into work.

For a few minutes yesterday, though, the setup gave me a great chance to wander around and see what I could see.

A suggestion: If you find an artist you like at one of these art fairs, a good way to support them is to buy a small print or notecard, especially if you can’t afford one of their bigger prints. I found one from photographer Amber Tyrrell that I really liked, so I bought a notecard from her. Three bucks and some change is an easy vote of confidence.

Any little bit of support helps the artists, helps the arts economy, and makes the whole humid thing seem worth it.

Other Art

Check out other art other than your own.

If you’re a photographer, do you only check out other photographers’ work? Is there value in digging into architecture, say, or sculpture?

I follow lots of photographers whose work I enjoy. Usually, their work is so different from mine. Lately, I’m trying to follow other artists, too, just to get a broad view of the creative world. Photography is great, but so is music, dance, painting, film.

Artists have a lot to learn from each other.

Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond your own artistic corner of the world.

Photographer Interviews

Photographer Interviews

During the winter, especially in January, it’s hard for me to make photographs. Usually, I tackle some other kind of project during the cold months – a photo book, or a portrait project idea, or just catching up on editing photos I made during the warmer months.

This year, I’m trying something a little different.

Over and above photos, I like making things. Books, videos, graphics, tinkering with electronics, etc. Keeping my hands or my brain busy is important to me.

It’s why, above and beyond portraits, my Artists In Jackson project is so multi-layered. I wanted a book and a website and an eBook, and so on.

So this January, I’m sending some photographers I like questions, and each week I’ll feature a different photographer profile. The profiles will include a sample of their work, some background, and then a question and answer session.

Portrait photographers, landscape photographers, abstract photographers – I’m working on getting a variety of styles.

It’s a way for me to learn more about my favorite photographers, and to share the work that I appreciate. It also gives them a tiny bit of promotion – my way of sharing the love. And the editor in me loves this kind of project, where I mix and match a bunch of good material into a cohesive whole.

Read the photographer profiles »

(And if you’re interested in participating, please send me a note!)

Artists In Jackson

Since June, I’ve been working away on a portrait project featuring artists from my hometown of Jackson, Michigan.

For one, it’s the second part in what I hope will be an annual project of highlighting interesting people in my community. And two, I love talking to people with interesting talents and hobbies. It was great to meet the 15 artists profiled and chat about artsy stuff with them, the artistic community in Jackson, and what their successes and roadblocks look like.

The project is now just about ready for primetime. You can see the particulars at

There’s lots more to do. I’m working on a printed book, the flagship end product of this project. Once that’s done and ready to print, I’ll publish the artist profiles on the website, and release an eBook version of the print book.

And from there, I hope to have a show of some sort in the Jackson community, and invite the community to meet the artists and see some of their work.

It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of fun. Artistically, it’s very different from the kind of photography I’ve focused on in the past. I feel different, too. It’s like all the portraits and images I’ve worked on before this have been overly amateurish.

With this project, I’m actually making photographs that matter.

I hope you join me for the ride in the next few weeks.