Karl asked me last week: What am I trying to say with my Patina photographs of old paint on old cars? Within the context of what I had just been doing — starting to work with strong color and abstract patterns — I quite honestly answered that I didn’t know. But to work with the images, I had to retrieve them from a computer directory “Junkyard cars” that was paired with another one, both under the rubric “Patina-Altered Surfaces.” It wasn’t until browsing later that I was reminded of that second directory called “Rocks.”


I think it was at most a couple days after my first junkyard foray last summer that I was hiking in the mountains and the full project came to me. It was revealed on a rock, graven by sun and rain, lichens and other organisms. I realized that all around me were rock surfaces altered by chemical and biological weathering. Though the substrates and mechanisms were different, the results could be intriguingly similar to the car paint. My project would be to illustrate that comparison. Not in a scientifically precise way, but hopefully in an artistically satisfying way.


This idea pleased me very much. Although I was fascinated with the weathered paint, I didn’t want to just do the same kind of series as many other photographers have done. The connection between man and nature, machines and minerals, gave the idea some weight and made it different enough to seem new. Most likely something like it has actually been done before, although I don’t count those vast compilations of patterns on every conceivable surface. If it, then I’d like to know, but I’m still pretty sure mine will be different somehow. Guess it’s that vanity Rex talked about.


I have to admit I feel a tinge of uneasiness laying out my idea here for all the world. Even though it’s not exactly earth-shaking, a part of me wants to keep it secret until it has come to fruition. What if somebody else runs with it and gains fame and fortune before I do?! But I’ve decided that if anyone wants it, I’ll wish them good luck and good work. Not all ideas want to be shared, but I’m willing to let this one go.


In any case, I’m still a long way from knowing clearly what I want to say with this project. I just have a hazy outline of a concept. That’s what the project is for, to wander through the haze and discover what, after all, I might wish to say. And simultaneously, as these things tend to go, how to say it. Maybe discussions with you will help me get there.

How do you get your ideas? Do you keep them secret for a while?