I’ve always had some weird affliction with red & black. I really don’t know why. First off let me say I had this affliction long before the White Stripes came along, I think it started when I saw my dad’s pair of Air Jordan sneakers when I was a kid, but who knows. Either way it’s gotten to be a bit of an obsession for me. I find myself drawn to things that are red for no other reason other than their colour. The impact of something red next to something black is something I always just really found visually appealing. So a few years ago I started creating these images using only red, black and white. At first I called them Manufactured Landscapes, but then realized that Edward Burtynsky had already created a series with that title. I never really thought much about a name after that and just started calling them the Red & Black images. I’ve been adding to the collection since April 2008, creating the last piece on Tuesday (May 24, 2011). (Read on for more info & a link to the screen recording on the making of the last piece)
I hadn’t done any work on this project in quite a while, however I had 2 more to do to get to my goal of 20 total pieces. I had started doing these with an intent to create surreal landscapes. I began combining images from various parts of the world, using all my own images, and found I could create images that I envisioned taking. After the first few I found that perhaps I didn’t have the necessary images to create them so I began taking images specifically with the Red & Black images in mind. These were by no means overly exciting photos. I would take a photo of a lamp post, power lines, or a city scape. But to pull what I needed out of the images I would sometimes need to over-expose the image so the sky could more easily be removed. I worked about 6-8 months straight in early 2010 on about 10 pieces, and then slowed it down a bit. I didn’t want to only be working on this project & would re-visit it periodically. A final number of twenty was the completion point.
I’m not 100% satisfied with all the images I created so they aren’t all being displayed. Similar to a photo shoot where only the best images are selected, the same is true for my Red & Black images. Anytime you create anything it’s always hard to leave pieces out. Painters must struggle with this all the time. You work on a piece for months, sometimes years, then it never sees the light of day. You see it happen a lot after a musician passes away, they find all these old songs that weren’t released, bootlegs that the artist didn’t feel lived up to the quality of work they wanted to display.
So early last week I started getting the creative urge to finish this project. I had always wanted to do a screen recording of me creating them and figured it would be interesting for people to see the process. After a good tip from a friend & co-worker (Richard Grewenig) on which software to use, I sat down to create #19. After about 2-3 hours of creation and feeling very happy with the resulting image, I hit the “stop recording” button, and the software crashed. I spent hours trying to recover the video, not to mention blowing through my whole vocabulary of swear words, but to no avail. I only had one more piece to create and if the software crashed again that was it, I would never be able to share this with anyone. Sure I could have decided to create one more, but I am a firm believer in sticking to original plans with projects. “If you set out to make 20 pieces Denis, don’t just make 21 for the sake of a video”. Saying that, I do believe a project can change course as you move through it, due to factors you can’t control. However this project was very controlled and I had no intent on changing the original plan.
I am happy to say the software didn’t crash and that you can view the creation of my final piece at the bottom of this post (or you can link to it here). The video has been drastically sped up so you don’t have to watch it for hours and hours (no I don’t really move that fast, surprising, I know…)
So after 3 years and a goal of 20 pieces, this project is complete. It’s important to have projects, but a big problem with them is people don’t always complete them. We will start a project only to get bored, or lose motivation, and move on to another project. It’s important to push through these blocks, but also important not to force things. I would sometimes find myself creating a piece purely because I thought I had to, and the results were very dissapointing. However not pushing through will cause you to have a bunch of incomplete projects on the go and you’ll feel overwhelmed to try and finish them all. Everyone works differently and some people can multi-task very well but it is knowing your personal limitations. Don’t take on more than you can handle and be sure to finish the things you start.
*A gallery of the Red & Black images can viewed on my website here*
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