Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Self Portrait 1988

From a hand-made sketchbook, Arches paper, 7 x 10 inches, pen & ink. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Self Portrait 1967

My brother Jim (CrustyPiMan) and I had a conversation about sharing self portraits that we have done over the years. This is the oldest example that I can find—although who knows, there might be older ones I haven't discovered yet. This example is 9x12 inches and from a  sketchbook dated 1967. The media is soft, vine charcoal of the type we all used in life drawing class in the 60's.

We'll be posting self-portraits on an irregular basis. Check out Jim's at:  http://crustypiman.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Medical Tests-1972

The year was 1972. I was having serious stomach problems. I went to see Dr. Chamovitz. Tests were performed. It kept me up at night. The fear of more tests eventually cured me.

Fortune Cookie 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Transformation 1996-2000 | An Art Installation Project

This project began innocently enough, I was faced with a 250 lb. three-dimensional painting that I had done in oils on built-up particle board and plywood. The painting was one of my last in a “Corporate Icon” series that I had worked on from 1988 through 1992 and it was, frankly, gathering dust and became too cumbersome to keep moving. Margaret certainly didn’t want it on the wall—and I was not so sure that I could affix it securely enough anyway. So, given those circumstances, and a desire to do an installation on our property in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, I carted the heavy painting into the woods. I chose January 1, 1996 because it seemed like a good date to start a project—what better way to begin a year than to deposit a painting in the woods and watch it deteriorate over a five year period.

Over the course of the next five years I photographed the installation in all kinds of weather and in all seasons—usually once a month—at least the first year. As the years went on I photographed it less regularly but faithfully. We referred to it as that “art thing in the woods.” Our non-artists friends just looked at me funny and smiled if I took them to see it. Come to think of it, our artist friends looked at me funny too.

Oh well, it was a grand experiment, but with none of the finesse of an Andy Goldsworthy installation. (I only learned about Andy in the year 2001—by then my installation was almost completely transformed)

The symbolism of the degradation is obvious—all things decay, dust to dust, aging, etc. But somehow, it seemed like there was a positive message in this as well, which is why I called it “Transformation” rather than “Degradation”. The almost dignified manner of the gradual transition, the stoicism, facing the elements—weather of all types, nibbling animals, and woods wanderers. And through it all, quietly facing it’s fate, hanging on to it’s color and shape up until the end.

A fitting model for any of us. I hope I can face my fate with an equally brave disposition.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Photographic Entry for the Robert Morris Univ. Show

This handsome group was photographed on Labor Day, 1978, at Garing's Farm in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh. This campground of about 100 acres is comprised of small cottages situated along the Connequenessing Creek. On Labor Day each year, the residents have a parade and a progressive drinking party where each cottage and their family members dress up to fit a particular theme.

I was wandering around this campground early one afternoon, and stumbled into this gathering where the family members had decided to dress in mock KKK outfits. You can see the reaction that at least one member had to my taking photographs. True, they are only joking, but why would anyone even consider this kind of a theme? Disturbing, no?

The print that I'm submitting to the Robert Morris Faculty Show is an archival digital print, 24 x 18 inches, printed as a Quadtone on 100% rag, textured fine art paper. The print is being framed with a beveled, 8 ply museum board mat, conservation glass, and a simple black frame.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Robert Morris University Faculty Show

I started teaching a course at Robert Morris University several weeks ago. The course is Portfolio, a class for Senior Graphic & Web Design students. As you might imagine, the objective of the course is to prepare the "Final Portfolio" which will be used to get a job or to get into Graduate School.

RMU is having a Faculty Show on September 25, and I've been working on preparing my entries for the show. I settled on submitting a collection of work that will include both Fine Art  as well as Design related work. In the Fine Art category I'm submitting a photograph, a mixed media piece, and the drawing shown above. The drawing titled "Heroes" depicts three of my favorite people: John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter, and Ayn Rand. Keynes the famous British Economist advocated among other things that markets and the private sector operate best without state intervention, this fits my independent political views. Schumpeter is the Austrian economist, former Harvard Professor who borrowed the phrase "creative destruction" from Karl Marx and gave it a capitalist twist. By Schumpeter's definition, "creative destruction" is a process in which old ways of doing things are destroyed and replaced by new ways—the Silicon Valley set are famous for using this phrase. This idea forms the basis of entrepeneurial capitalism—again, something dear to my heart. And then there is Ayn Rand. Well, I loved "Fountainhead" and in particular, the fictional character Howard Roark, the architect who choses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic ideals. I can't say that I've ever actually done that, but I do admire the thought.

This piece is actually an archival digital print, 24 x 18 inches, and is a composite made from three separate drawings in sketchbooks. I scanned the drawings, did a "live trace" in Adobe Illustrator--converting them to "vector art" so that I could manipulate the paths and line weights. I then opened an EPS of the Illustrator file in Photoshop, created a Quadtone image, primarily so that I could create a super-rich black. The print has tremendous depth of tone— a very dark brown/black. This is being framed now along with the other work which I'll post later.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright by Portrait Master: Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) is one of the masters of 20th century photography.  His body of work includes portraits of statesmen, artists, musicians, authors, scientists, and men and women of accomplishment.  His extraordinary and unique portfolio presents the viewer with an intimate and compassionate view of humanity.

Portraits by Karsh have come to be the iconic remembrances of the famous people he photographed. From Fidel Castro to Mother Teresa, his unique style has never been duplicated.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Art Show Judging in Oil City

I just returned from judging an art show in Oil City, Pennsylvania. The show is part of the 30th Annual Oil City Heritage Festival. The show included over 200 works of art, in five media categories and judged at three levels: Professional, Intermediate, and Amateur. The show was held in the National Transit Building—the headquarters for John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. A view of the gallery is seen on the top, the middle photo shows "Marilyn" the winning entry in the Professional Oil/Acrylic Category. Photo above shows the lobby of the National Transit Building. The building was saved from the wrecking ball by Ralph Nader, who later donated the building to the City. The city is encouraging artists to move to Oil City and offers inexpensive studio space, a low cost of living, and an enthusiastic market for art.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Work: Day / Night

24 x 18 inch Inkjet print. Printed on Epson Enhanced Matte Paper

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Seldom Inn Tionesta Pennsylvania

It was Bike Night at The Seldom Inn in Tionesta, Pennsylvania. This gentlemen is the owner. All was well in Tionesta that night, except the Seldom Inn has now imposed a two dollar cover charge. My buddy Phil & I were exempted from paying because Phil promised we'd leave before the music started.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Number Awareness Runs in the Family

This just in. Brother James had this same idea in 1992. Just another case of concurrent discovery—even if separated by 1 6 years. Hats off to Jim though for his beautifully executed calligraphy. Jim, my older brother, for those who don't know him, is an artist, calligrapher and tenured math professor. For those who are familiar with him know that he will forever remind me that "he thought of this first". And so, all of the credit for discovery that "Numbers Rule Lives" rightfully belongs to Jim. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Numbers rule our lives whether we like it or not. Even if we ignore them, they are there to haunt us and at times threaten us. From birth at zero to our known life expectancy, numbers rule us. Just a few examples: our age, our I.Q, our E.Q. (emotional quotient), social security number, SAT scores, GRE scores, PSA level, blood pressure, mortgage rate, EIN, birth order number, anniversary, bilirubin level, cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, portfolio value, loss, gain, driver's license nunber, "The" number, various and sundry phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank and brokerage account numbers, shoe size, hat size, weight, age, height, glove size, underwear size, pant size, ring size, tire size, VIN number, automotive horsepower number, hourly billing rate, salary, probability of outliving our money. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Tell me more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Time Trials

OK, so speed isn't necessarily the most important thing in art, but this is an example of a painting done in under two minutes on a moving bus.

In the late 80's I was on a bus tour of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales with Margaret, Evan and my parents.  I constantly found myself observing beautiful landscapes through the window of the moving bus. So I set up my little sketch book, a 4 x 5 inch mini, and my watercolors, and after looking at a landscape as we passed it, tried to memorize the details of a scene. In this case, a lovely rural landscape on the road from Edinburgh to Leith. This little exercise of taking "mind photographs", then putting them onto paper became a favorite pastime of mine on the trip and sharpened my observational skills. Try it. It's a fun exercise, but you've only got two minutes! 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Whatever Happened to City Chicken? & What is it Anyway?

City chicken is a food entrée that consists of cubes of meat that are placed on a wooden skewer (approximately 4-5 inches long), breaded, then fried and/or baked. The origins of the entrée and its name are not entirely known, however it is rumored to have begun during the Depression Era, when people took meat scraps and fashioned a make-shift drumstick out of them. During this period, pork was cheaper than chicken in many parts of the country, especially those far from rural poultry farms. Sometimes the meat was ground, and a drumstick-shaped mold was used to form the ground meat around a skewer. Today, better cuts of meat (usually pork loin, beef, and/or veal) are used. In spite of the name, the dish usually contains no chicken.

City Chicken seems to be regionalized to the areas surrounding Pittsburgh, PA, ranging from Central Pennsylvania, Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, to as far west as the western suburbs of Cleveland, OH and Hamtramck, MI. It is also known as mock chicken.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Who Knew Sex Could Even Sell PEZ?

The American Look

American design and styling at the height of capitalistic, consumeristic splendor. A promotional movie produced by Chevrolet in 1958 which celebrates American Design, stylists and the American spirit of post-war excess. Great, nostalgic settings for anyone who grew up wealthy in California. Me, I don't recognize my childhood in any of these scenes, but apparently all of this was going on somewhere in the world while I was living in a rented house in Beechview with my parents and four brothers. 

Friday, April 4, 2008

Moran's Photo On Display at Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, Colorado.

My photo titled: "Kids on the Roof" taken on the South Side of Pittsburgh, was chosen for exhibition in a juried show being held at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Center for Fine Art Photography presents its newest exhibition of photographic fine art, Street Photography. This exhibition will be on display in the Center’s galleries from March 28 – April 26, 2008. The artists’ and public reception for this exhibition will be held from 6-9 pm on Friday, April 4, during the Fort Collins Gallery Walk. The Street Photography exhibition shows a wide variety of the way we view our world on the streets. This exhibition consists of sixty-one photographers representing Australia, Canada,
Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.

Michelle Dunn Marsh, was the juror for this exhibition. Michelle is the Deputy Director of Aperture Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to communicating with photographers and creative people everywhere. She is also a freelance book designer and educator focused in design and photographic history.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Sign of the Times

Financial turmoil, banks teetering near bankruptcy, war in Iraq, political blah-blah-blah with no worthwhile candidates, a market producing negative returns. Ain't life grand sometimes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Studio 1978

When I first went into business in 1978 with the formation of the optimistically named "Dennis Moran Design Associates", I worked out of my home attic in Mt. Lebanon, PA. These were simpler times before computers, when the tools of the trade consisted of a full set of "Magic Markers", and drawer full of "Presstype", boxes full of Prismacolor pencils, gallons of Bestine Rubber Cement and the (toxic) Bestine Rubber Cement Thinner. All design work from concept through "finished art" was produced by hand. There was a magic to the work as far as clients were concerned and they respected the work far more than they do today. In these days of computers, there is a mistaken belief that design expertise comes endowed with the purchase of the latest version of Adobe's Creative Suite. Forget creative and artistic talent, knowledge of typography, color theory, art history, design theory, an understanding of psychology and perception, marketing and communication—just go by that big box of software and suddenly you are a designer!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Going On The Whale

A sign found in Nantucket, 1987.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dewey's Stews & Brews

This is a photo of a sign taken somewhere in California in 1977, part of a collection of photographs of signs gathered over the past 35 years. Mr. Dewey is obviously responsible for the "brews" part of their joint business arrangement, but seems unhappy with Mrs. Dewey. Bad stew? Or, is it just the way she carries her end of the sign. Could he be upset because Mrs. Dewey insists on wearing that formal dress when she knew that they had to hang the sign today. She doesn't seem to care though, she's resolute in her decision to dress and carry as she pleases.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Experimental Imagery

This experimental piece uses images that I shot at The Vatican in Rome, on TV, in Scenery Hill, and Venice. The photographs were composited in PhotoShop then printed onto gray etching paper using an Epson 7600 with Ultrachrome inks. The image was then drawn into using prismacolor pencils and pastels. 

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"What We Might Lose"

I'm working on a photographic documentation project titled "What We Might Lose."  This is a four year long project that began as a study of the region where I live—Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania. I was interested in recording the beautiful landscapes, architecture and agricultural community that surrounds our home & office. This project has since changed focus since we learned that Allegheny Power plans to build a massive power line through our community. We became actively involved in the formation of a grass-roots organization which we named "Stop The Towers." The photographic project is now being expanded to include not only the area in and around Scenery Hill, Washington County, PA., but also neighboring communities and Greene County, PA. These are the places which will be negatively impacted by the construction of this power line.

Making books and boxes

Lately I've been trying to learn how to do hand bookbinding and the construction of "clam-shell" style boxes to hold art & photographic prints. I'm experimenting with different sewn binding techniques and case construction. I'm making hand-painted end and cover papers, and making books using part of my photographic documentary study of Scenery Hill, PA.