Fine Art Photography Blog
Photo prints on dibond
Over the past few months, I’ve started working with a new printing and mounting process that I’m getting pretty excited about!
I’m printing my photographs on film and laminating them onto dibond, a composite material made of thin aluminium sheets on the outside, with a plastic core on the inside. It’s lightweight, rigid and durable, and the panels can be hung on the wall with or without a decorative frame.
Mounting prints onto dibond isn’t really new, but what’s exciting me is printing on clear films and laminating those to dibond with lovely surfaces, such as brushed aluminium. This allows the surface of the board to show through the films. The combination of layering the printed images on the dibond sheet creates some very interesting opportunities.
I print the clear film using my Epson large format printers, which provides very wide colour gamut along with archival permanence. Then I laminate the prints to the dibond board.
Shown here is one recent example, titled Fusión.
First, I printed my photograph in reverse on the clear film. This allows me to flip the film over so the printed image ends up on the back side, the film thickness creating a protective layer. I mounted the print film to the brushed aluminium dibond using optically clear laminating adhesive film.
As you can see, the clear film is very glossy. So I made another variation of the work by applying a matte laminate afterward (see the last image below). I like both looks—it just depends on the specific image, and the planned installation.
Next, I will be working on layering multiple printed images on separate films to create a composite 3D effect.
I’m really loving this new process, and it opens up a lot of new possibilities. In the past, I have also had metal prints made by directly printing onto the brushed dibond… but this requires a very large, flatbed printer. And the UV-cured solvent inks on flatbed printers provide nowhere near the quality I can get from my Epson pigment-based printers. The best thing is that I can produce these entirely in-house!
Much more to come on this … stay tuned.
How to read a picture
In modern societies most people learn to read written language, but many have never been taught how to actively ‘read’ pictures, such as photographs, paintings and drawings.
This is a shame, because a lot can be missed when our engagement with a visual work is done half-consciously and ill-informed.
Instead, you can get the most enjoyment from viewing a photograph, painting or other work of art by viewing it actively instead of passively. Here’s how.
Activate your awareness
The first thing you can do when viewing a picture—whether it be a photograph or other kind—is to put yourself in a heightened state of conscious awareness.
Normally, we tend to go through much of our day not being fully aware of our surroundings—even what’s going on in our own minds! We are thinking about so many things at once that it’s easy to be distracted. As a result, we are often not completely ‘tuned in’ to any one thing in particular.
So, to actively read a picture, first bring yourself fully into the present moment, paying close attention to both your external experiences and your internal responses. …In other words, wake up!
Watch where you look
Next, look away from the picture for a moment and then bring your gaze back to it. At first glance, pay careful attention to where your gaze is attracted. Then notice the path your eyes take as they travels across the image. Eye travel is an inherent part of viewing an image, but we usually do it without thinking.
What elements do you most strongly notice? What do they look like? …What do they remind you of? …How are they interacting?
Remember to also scan around all the edges of the picture—sometimes there are joyful surprises to be discovered there! You may also encounter elements that distract your attention from the main point of the picture.
Stand (or sit) at a distance that allows the picture to occupy most of your field of vision. Allow your eyes to relax and defocus a little, as if you were looking “through” the picture, not at it. This allows the edges of the picture to fade away into obscurity, immersing you more fully into the picture space. Then, once you’re deep into the image, bring your focus back to clearly observe the individual elements within the picture. You will pick out many of the same objects that attract your attention, but you may also notice new things.
Associations, themes and metaphors
The brain is an association machine—everything we recognise and understand is based on something we learned before. The mind is constantly (and unconsciously) evaluating visual input to compare with what is already known. New stimulus provided by the unfamiliar creates new intellectual interest and new pathways in the brain. And even the most abstract imagery can trigger memories and emotions through these associations.
Many artworks are created to tell a story or convey an idea. While looking at the picture, consider what you interpret the artist is trying to say with the work. The best visual artworks have a clear point to make, even if the image is soft and the message is subtle.
Where do they want you to look, and what to see most clearly? Is the artist’s intention aligned with your physical experience of seeing the work?
Try to apply some words to visual elements you perceive and your viewing experience in general. Let’s use my photograph of Castlepoint Lighthouse as an example.
Start with simple adjectives that describe individual elements, larger groupings and the work as a whole.
Keep it very basic at first: “blue”, “cloud”, “lines”, “water”, “rocks”.
Then expand your mental language to articulate more complex ideas: “twilight”, “coolness”, “outside”.
Work your way to broader concepts, such as “solitude”, “hope”, “safety”, “searching”, etc.
What you’re doing here is using language to translate optical input into ideas, describing the characteristics of the picture using terms and concepts that you are intimately familiar with.
You’re also engaging multiple regions of your brain in the process. This is how viewing a picture becomes an active experience rather than just a passive, disengaged stare.
Importantly, whether or not you actually find the image appealing, this process allows you to make a more direct connection with the work, to determine what you think it’s trying to say, and to recognise and clearly understand your own personal response.
Broaden your horizons
Active seeing can not only enhance your experience viewing art but throughout your life. This state of awareness, in and of itself, is likely to bring you surprising revelations as you begin to notice much more in the world around you. It’s also in these ways that photographers and artists find such a deep, meaningful connection to their subject matter and, more broadly, to their lives.
To review the basic steps:
1. Activate your awareness
2. Watch where you look
3. Go deep
4. Consider associations, themes and metaphors
5. Use language
New Work: The Lexicon, 2022
In December 2021, Ruth and I visited the beautiful city of Lille in northern France. Exploring the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, I discovered this scene in a shadowy doorway. I made a number of exposures, shooting handheld, working to create the strongest possible composition while abstracting the graphics by removing the visual context of the surrounding scene.
After applying only very minimal adjustments to enhance tone and colour, I printed the image onto Breathing Color archival canvas. I stretched the canvas onto pine stretcher bars and then, using a small brush, applied clear acrylic—over only the lines. They stand out nicely against the dark background, and the hand embellishing creates a unique, one-of-a-kind mixed media work.
I’ve mounted the canvas in a black, wood float frame. The finished work is just over 24 x 36 inches and is priced at £950.
Contact me to enquire about a purchase
The Art of Photography Conference 2021
I’m super excited to be organising and presenting at the all-new Art of Photography Conference!
17 April 2021
10 am – 10 pm
British Summer Time
This one-day (all day!) online event features an incredible lineup of 16 top photographic artists, each presenting a special session about their personal passion and process in photography.
Tickets are on sale now – spaces are limited so register today!
Welcome to the all-new NatCoalson.com!
Thank you very much for visiting – I’m thrilled to have you here, and to introduce you to my new website. I’ve been working on this site for several years, behind-the-scenes, as I was also producing many other projects. As a very significant labour of love, I am pleased to present the new site. I would love to show you around a bit. read more…
Seeing More, Seeing Better
Most of us go through life looking without really seeing.
While this doesn’t always directly cause major problems, everyone can benefit from practicing more active seeing.
For photographers and other visual artists, being able to see effectively is the most important skill you can develop.
See what I mean?
To demonstrate how easy it is to have your eyes open but not really be seeing, try this simple exercise:
- Sitting comfortably in a safe place where you won’t be disturbed, fix your gaze on something around you. It should be in the middle distance; not too close nor far away.
- Keeping your eyes open and trained on that same object, recall a favourite memory of a time in your life that you can vividly remember. It could be yesterday or years ago; it doesn’t really matter. Immerse yourself in this memory — put yourself back in that place and time as much as you can.
- After spending a few moments with your mind fully elsewhere, bring your attention back to the present moment.
When you regain present moment awareness, immediately notice that while you were concentrating on that memory, the input from your visual systems was effectively put “on hold”. While your eyes were still open and generally taking in your surroundings, your brain was otherwise engaged.
In this state or mind, you’re looking without really seeing. This example demonstrates how the eyes and brain must be working in tandem to fully take in and understand what we see. read more…
The Joy of Seeing
Like most people, I am blessed in many ways. The birth lottery has been good to me and I’m thankful every day for all the health, safety, comfort and opportunities that my life provides.
And I am most grateful for the gift of sight. Not a day goes by without experiencing moments of true amazement provided by this most vital of our human senses.
It’s a sad fact that most sighted people take their vision for granted. Maybe this is to be expected — but it shouldn’t be. Human vision can provide a gateway to the most awe-inspiring moments of a lifetime, and this should be fully appreciated and actively nurtured. Thus my guiding mission in life is to share the joy of active seeing and help other people gain the benefits that this awareness can provide.
Though I’ve had fairly normal vision my entire life, it wasn’t until I reached my early 30s that I really began to see. Like most people, while growing up I was never taught about the different states of consciousness, or even that there are varying levels of awareness that all people experience every day. So, like most, I experienced life in a pretty much semi-conscious state — just another zombie among the hordes!
As a kid, I had always been passionately involved in both music and the visual arts, pursuing both with zeal until my mid-20s. I played several instruments and long aspired to be a professional musician, all while simultaneously developing a career in graphic design and media production.
Ultimately, I chose the path of the visual artist. I studied life and figure drawing; I practiced airbrush illustration, I worked a day job designing logos, websites and printed marketing collateral. This all eventually led to my present business serving the fine arts.
Looking vs. seeing
One of the most important lessons I learned in my art studies is that it takes practice to see what is really there. What something really looks like versus what we think it looks like. With each encounter, we bring our past, our preconceptions and our personal bias to the experience. read more…
The Importance of Design in Photography
When you share your photography with other people, is the reaction not what you expected? Or have you entered images into a competition or juried exhibition and been disappointed with the results?
Of course, photography — like all art — is subjective and beauty certainly ‘is in the eye of the beholder’.
But if there consistently seems to be something lacking in your photography, a new approach might be worth consideration.
To consistently make stronger photographs, you need to apply a design methodology to your image-making.
Design is just as important in photography as it is with other creative works. A design process includes identifying and solving problems, making conscious choices and working to achieve a specific outcome. read more…
New abstract photographic art: Fusión
Here’s a new artwork I’ve just released, from a photograph I made in Spain.
It’s titled Fusión and is 36 x 24 inches (plus the frame).
I printed the photo on Hahnemühle metallic canvas. After mounting it on pine stretcher bars, I embellished the canvas with gold foil transfer.
It was sold at my gallery to a collector in Warwick, England.
New Work: Shapeshifter No. 11
During Autumn 2018, I produced a body of work in abstract photography that, in many ways, fulfills my highest vision as an artist. (This is what I’ve been working toward for many years!) Today, I’m pleased to present one of my first releases of finished art derived from the series.
My aim with this series was to create a set of images that share some common attributes and visual style, but that also have a lot of variation from one image to the next.
While I was making the photographs I was observing the dynamic, captivating graphic elements and working to create intriguing, surreal images with an organic feel.
I’ve titled the series Shapeshifter; each individual photograph simply uses a unique number designator. This naming ties in with the nature of the subject matter—through only slight changes in my viewpoint, the reflective surface revealed an infinite variety of shapes, colours and patterns… Truly morphing in front of my eyes!
Shapeshifter No. 11 displays a minimalist composition, with a single black line running diagonally across the picture space. This is surrounded by subtle, organic textures in a muted, pastel colour palette.
As with much of my abstract work, this is offered as a mixed media piece, which I create by printing the photograph onto canvas and then hand-embellishing the canvas surface with transparent acrylic, bringing out the contours and textures of the underlying image. It is 16×24 inches, unframed ‘gallery-wrap’ style and delivered ready-to-hang.
Thus, each is produced to-order and is a one-of-a-kind, unique original. This art makes fantastic décor and a real conversation piece in any contemporary interior!
Order yours today for £375
with free shipping in the UK.
(International orders are also welcome; your shipping costs will be determined by your location.)
New book: Shapeshifter
I’ve just published a new book of my abstract photography; a collection titled Shapeshifter.
You can now preview and buy the book at Blurb.
See my new art at Oxford International Art Fair
New Commission: Waiting for Dawn
A world-renowned eye surgeon based in Switzerland has commissioned me to produce a bespoke mixed media work on canvas, based on my photograph ‘Waiting for Dawn’, as a Christmas gift for his wife. The artwork will hang in their home.
The Artist’s Inspiration: Abstract paintings by Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner has long been one of my favourite abstract painters. She was the wife of Jackson Pollock (and I prefer her work to his…).
As a photographer, I find the most inspiration in these kinds of paintings. I work to create a similar effect using the camera instead of paint.
Here’s a great article about the woman and her work following Pollock’s death.