Today I turn 72. As an artist and author, I have accomplished much more than I ever dreamed I would. Often I did not know where I was headed, but I just kept going. In hindsight my creative work has brought me immense satisfaction and consistently steered me in the right direction. It has been the cornerstone of my life.
How my art came to be and came together is the subject of this blog. I write this in the hope that it might help other younger artists who are struggling -- and wondering if they have taken the right direction. My advice: hang in there, trust your instincts, keep on keeping on.
This autobiographical eBook is free and online. It is now published under the Creative Commons copyright, meaning you can quote from this eBook without special permission as long as you credit me, Rick Doble, as the author.
You can also download this as an eBook in the standard eBook (epub) format.
Over 2000 people around the world have looked at this eBook since I wrote it.
I always knew I wanted to be an artist -- whatever that meant. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was seven when I wrote a little book, illustrated it and bound it in a cardboard cover.
On the left above is the cover, on the right side one of the pages in the book.
To me being creative was something I had to do, something I was meant to do -- it was really the only path I could take. But of course there was a price to pay. Early on it became clear to me that wanting to be an artist put me at odds with most people my age. They were trying to fit it and were headed for careers and jobs with companies. I was striking out on my own.
who are acting out their own unfinished business.
Standing up to pain
became a badge
boys don't cry
take it like a man
is that all you got?
give me more
as a male it was your fate
to suck it up
never let it get to you
as said in Tea and Sympathy
to be a "regular guy"
and not just physical pain
but also emotional
such as humiliation by a teacher
only there was more to it
we thought we were just hiding our feelings
instead we were learning not to feel
like all boys I paid lip service
to this show of manliness
later I realized it was like playing
5 notes in a 12 note octave
we were denied the full range,
confined to the sounds those few notes could play
as the depth of emotional chords and complexity
were not available
we were allowed to yell at sports
or to be angry - perhaps the easiest emotions -
but sorrow or joy, hurt and affection
were off limits
and then I saw the results:
teachers whose dead-end lives
meant they took their anger out
on boys they were mentoring,
their cruelty masked as a rite of passage
a Latin teacher was noted
for taking a chalkboard eraser
and slamming it against the back of a student
when he did not give a correct answer
or took too long;
often the instructor picked on the same boys
who emerged from class
with their coats covered in white
- like a mark of shame -
and the boys had to pretend not to be bothered
by my senior year I had found the truth:
what they wanted
was a kind of spiritual death,
it meant that my life would be one of shadows
where emotions became so disguised
I could never reach them
so I let some of my classmates think less of me
because as an aspiring artist I knew that
what I felt was at the heart of who I was
"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,"
Robert Frost told us
when I had heard him speak at Exeter
revered like a saint,
that was all the permission I needed
I had learned not care
about what others thought
not even what I thought myself
when the pen in my hand meandered
across pieces of paper
drawing line after line
after months a kind of alphabet
had evolved --
yet it was more drawing than writing
each 'letter' part of the next
by that time
the characters had become automatic
like speaking in tongues
like a language that my heart knew
but my brain could not decipher
buying reams of blank paper
I often stopped after only a stroke or two
while other sheets were more complex
"What do these mean?"
a friend asked
"I don't know," I said
then on a weekend
at the beach
the shore empty late at night,
I drew in the canvas of the sand
like a calligraphy brush
that can draw thick or thin
I straightened my fingers
to plow wide grooves
and then turned my palm sideways
to carve sharp and narrow -
after minutes I used my feet as well
the work went
for ten yards
etched around seashells
and across the side of a dune
when the tide came in
it erased most of my script
but left an edge
above the high-water mark
later on Sunday
a breeze blew
and my writing merged with
the wind ripples in the sand
in the style of Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze known as Wols (1968)
The sensation was hard to explain:
lets say it was like memories
that I threw into a closet
until it was stuffed, overflowing
and when I believed what I had been told
- that I was not visual -
I pushed the door shut,
squeezing scenes I had seen
all my life:
from the car's rear window at age 5
the snow on the mountain
the civil rights marches
the smiles of my friends
the nakedness of girlfriends -
I had to push the closet door hard
to get it to close
years later when I picked up a camera
I was only going to take a few abstract photos
just for fun
instead the closet door popped open
and a thousand memories feel at my feet
then a few months later
in a darkroom I saw my memories
or whatever they were -
maybe dreams I had made real
maybe quiet moments I wanted to freeze -
become black and white in the developer,
while the pictures -
like pieces of paper
in the pond where I grew up -
floated gently in the tray
that first night after printing
I floated in my bed -
the scenes emerging
like ghosts from a forest
and then there were
those architectural pictures
a few years later,
my first foray into color:
the abandoned Holly Springs high school
with peeling paint
sun splintering through a rounded window
echoes of students running in the hall
in the ground glass of an old
Rollei twin lens reflex
I saw my past
about lost time, lost love
at boarding school
later a painter told me
she had come to my photo exhibit
but had to leave -
the sadness of those
moving her to tears
before it was demolished in Holly Springs, NC (1973)
The visual, physical, hands-on, outgoing aspect of photography was the perfect compliment to the internal, mental, cerebral requirements of writing.
But having to master two crafts meant that it would take me much longer to put my artistic statement together. No artist knows how long they have to live and whether they will live long enough to say what they have to say. I had essentially added ten years to the normal length of time it should have taken to master my craft. And to add another wrinkle, at the time photography was not considered an art by most people and was not well respected.
Again, I felt I had no choice -- the two art forms felt right. But my friends wondered why I had not settled on one or the other.
Yet photography, it turned out, allowed me to freelance and make a living -- an unexpected benefit. I taught photography classes independent of any institution -- and was able to attract more students than the Arts Council or the community college. I did this in part because I wrote a column for a local monthly magazine in which I featured the photographs of area people. This was the first time I was able to combine my writing and my photography.
Then I hit another fork in the road. In the early 1980s, when I was almost 40, cheap personal computers became available. I felt sure they were a key element to what I was trying to do and that they were the technology of the future, so I added this third discipline to my skill set. I had no idea how they were going to work with my art -- but I was certain they would. I became fluent in the BASIC computer language and again added another ten years to the learning of my craft so I could master the digital world as well.
BTW: This may be the only poem with lines from an actual computer program.
You might find it odd
to read a poem about computers:
bits, bytes, and Boolean
but I will do just that
all at once in '83
cheap computers were everywhere
and everywhere I went
some kid had tweaked the thing
so it repeated his name
"Chris Jordan was here Chris Jordan was here Chris Jordan was here..."
the urge to declare existence
now entering the electronic age
and I thought
"Well, if a kid can do that..."
so I set about figuring it out
watching youngsters in the stores
punch in text commands in BASIC
as the early computers required
after a couple of weeks I typed in:
10 print "Rick did it "
20 goto 10
and like fireworks
"Rick did it Rick did it Rick did it Rick did it"
filled the screen
side to side and top to bottom
until the store pulled the plug
that night I could not sleep
my dream world pixelated
broken into computer bits -
the digital world was calling
in spite of what my friends said -
that computers were just a passing fad -
I took a sharp right turn
and went from cameras and f/stops
to RAM and ROM
I cannot tell you
what I understood at the time
but it was something about
a digital common denominator
of the future
about power tools for the mind
in which I digitized black and white photographs from the landmark work
by Eadweard Muybridge of the human figure in motion.
Then using computer programs I wrote,
I colorized his black and white photographs. (1987)
My writing compliments my photography, my photography compliments my writing. My computer skills allowed me to make the switch to digital cameras ten years before most of my colleagues. And because I was then on the leading edge of digital photography, I was asked to write three print books on the subject, one by the second largest publisher of photography books, and also to write an expert column online for my publisher.
-- but it has found wide acceptance in Europe and Asia.
My Facebook page for my book and Time-Flow photography has 1,172 likes:
In 2009 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Italian Futurist movement, I co-authored and presented a paper entitled The Future of Futurism to the Generative Art Conference in Milan, Italy -- the birthplace of the Italian Futurists.
Dr. Mauro Francaviglia invited me to be part of the SCIENAR (Science/Art) exhibit in 2010 in Bucharest Romania at the University there. My photograph of the violinist is at the top of this poster. In addition to my photography, the show also included my explanations of my work and my approach.
of my moving van in an 8 second exposure
-- a picture that required digital photography
The conflict between writing and working visually did not exist for me.
My ability to do research and verbalize has led to a number of ideas in my photographic work, such as the connection between the Italian Futurists of 100 years ago and the new capabilities of digital photography -- which led to my style of photography that I call Time-Flow photography.
My photography, in turn, has helped me illustrate and explain my ideas and my thoughts.
Finally computers have helped me put this altogether to reach a global audience. More than half of the tens of thousands of pageviews and document downloads I have received have come from 100 countries outside the United States. 20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to reach such a wide audience.
Everything I do now is digital: my writing, my photography, my publications, my publicity, my art. I have had an art Internet website since 1997 -- one that I designed myself.
While it seemed for at least a decade in the 1980s that I was slipping behind, it turned out I was actually 10 years ahead of my colleagues in photography when the digital world took over because of my knowledge of computers. So instead of being behind, it turned out I was on the leading edge of the photographic arts.
While most artists do their best work in their 30s or 40s and almost none do it in their 50s, I have done my best work in my 60s.
Seems like I am always breaking the rules just a bit.
I have worked independently for most of my life which has given me the freedom to work on original ideas without having to worry about what others might think. When the Internet came along I was then able to continue my independence with my own website, blogs and documents. At the academia.edu website, I am listed an an independent researcher: https://independent.academia.edu/RickDoble
- If you would like to view the development of my photographic work you can download a free eBook in PDF format:
40 Years of Evolving Photographic Imagery: From Film to Digital, a Personal Journey by a Photo Artist, an Illustrated eBook by Rick Doble
- You can also download the above as individual pictures and display pages in a zip file.
- You can view a chronological show of my work as it developed on the Internet with this document:
19 Years as an Internet Artist: A Timeline of Rick Doble's Experimental Artwork and the Response
- You can view my 9 year collaboration with the European SCIENAR (Science/Art) Project:
Rick Doble's Space-Time Photographs and Writings with the European SCIENAR (Science/Art) Project
- If you would like to read more about Time-Flow photography -- a term that I invented and an art form that I am primarily responsible for in digital form, click on this next link.
PDF: Time-Flow Photography: Experimental Imagery with Continuous Motion and Long Shutter Speeds by Rick Doble
- The above Time-Flow photography eBook is also available in PowerPoint format
- You can download a complete PDF eBook of my essays about contemporary and digital art at which is also available in
PDF Version of eBook: 15 Years of Essay-Blogs About Contemporary Art & Digital Photography: In-Depth Articles from 1997-2012
- My experimental digital photography section at Academia.edu lists about 20 online documents.
which are free to view and/or download
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2500+ pages, 1 million+ pageviews