©Sam Lightman 2014



Beyond the Lens, into the Realm

of Imagination and Creativity

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I am an emerging artist. Given my somewhat advanced age, this qualifies as an unusual state of affairs, not to mention a somewhat unpromising one. When I look at the work of people who have spent their entire lives developing talent they have manifested since childhood, the unlikelihood of my ever arriving at their level becomes clear.

Nevertheless, one persists, largely because I am an adherent of Joseph Campbell’s dictum to “follow your bliss.” So I do that, with reasonably gratifying results. Particularly since I am working with a very limited set of tools, almost exclusively provided by Photoshop.

Most artists love to play, make a mess, and bring order out of the resulting chaos. I do, too; but I have zero manual dexterity. So when I attempt to physically do artists play, the resulting mess remains a mess, because I have no facility for ordering it. But the mess I make on the screen is another matter entirely, and here I don’t so much impose order on it as allow the order to emerge on its own. That is, I allow the image to take me where it wants to go.

I should probably take a moment to explain how I arrived at this parlous state. I have been in love with photography since I first discovered it in my twenties. At one point I even quit my job and tried to become a freelance. I ended up working in a commercial studio for a year, before acquiring my penultimate vocation as a marketing communications writer. When I first moved to Salt Spring Island, B.C., 40-odd years ago, I found myself with no place to put a darkroom, and no prospects of ever having one. So I shelved my Nikons and busied myself with the development of my property and local environmental politics, while following a new bliss that took me expedition kayaking all over the B.C. coast.

In the early days of the personal computer, we all bought all the software that emerged; it was like gaming today. You had to have the latest and greatest, and that’s how I got into Photoshop, Word and all the rest of it. Becoming proficient in that software as well as several other packages led me into graphic design, and I maintained and enhanced my proficiency with Photoshop right up until I decided to sort of retire.

And that’s when I decided to follow my first bliss, and get back into photography. I bought a Canon G6, and then a Nikon D80, and starting taking pictures again. I have now graduated to a Nikon D800, which is a spectacularly fine instrument.

It didn’t take me long to become disenchanted with the results. Everything I saw through my viewfinder began to look like a cliché. And then I attended a Photoshop seminar, and came home energized and better equipped to explore the possibilities rattling around behind my eyes. Admittedly, these were the products of a lifetime of looking at art. In particular, I found I related to the Modernists, the Post-Modernists, and various contemporary artists of schools for which I know no names. The results of these early explorations appear here in the “Transformations” portfolios.

After I began to develop a style of my own, a friend suggested I have a show. My wife, a former art gallery manager and PhD art historian, insisted I could not do a “best-of” show; “Artists,” she proclaimed, “present series.”

So I went about creating my first deliberate series, and the result was “Seascrapes.” If you work your way up from the bottom of the list of Portfolios presented on this site, you will see what transpired, how my vision and my craft progressed over time. The most recent of these series is “Impressions of Hawaii.” These images demonstrate my current approach to what I see and how I work, the place where I have now arrived. I no longer take pictures. I photograph potential elements – details, lots of close-ups – and then I bring them up on my computer and begin the messy pursuit of making them work together in a sort of pointed harmony. It’s my attempt to go beyond the lens, into the realm of imagination and creativity.

Nevertheless, one grows or dies, and I am now experimenting at last with messy, non-pixelated techniques; I am fooling around with ink on lots of other substrates besides digital photo papers, messing the printed images about and otherwise disporting myself in a most unprofessional manner. I am also collaborating on creative projects with my wife, who has artistic talents of her own which nicely complement mine. One of my inspirations is “Digital Art Studio,” by Schminke, et al. I highly recommend this book to any artist who wants to integrate digital art with more traditional art-making techniques. I can’t do most of what they present in there, but I’m really good at doing what they tell you not to do.

Once people get over the idea that photography-based digital art is somehow less legitimate than other art making techniques, it will simply become in the art-buying public’s mind what it really is – just another medium, like acrylic or watercolor or collage, for realizing the artist’s vision. I intend to live long enough to see that day, and with any luck at all, benefit from it.