As far back as I can remember I have always been fond of dabbling, drawing, painting, and doodling. Photography has also been my hobby. When the technology became available to combine both, of course, I could not resist. What resulted from my early efforts I could hardly call art. It didn’t seem that any of it would be accepted by any self-respecting gallery. Maybe my favorite café might give me a couple of square feet of wall space. They didn’t, but I nevertheless called my creations “café art”.
To show my work I started the Café Ludwig sites and blogs. Actually there were, and still are, some people who cheered me on. There were even other artists who do similar work, hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Many of those fellow artists could be found online. To provide “gathering spots”, I started groups and communities; all called “Café Art”. You can find us on Facebook, Google+, and especially at Fine Art America.
When I coined the term “café art” for my own work I applied it to manipulated photos, anything that started out as a photo but is visibly no longer a “straight” photograph. In my own work that ranges from abstractions that have no hint of origin to images that are partially photographs with alteration by texturing, vignetting, softening and similar techniques.
Mind you, some of my “café art” got rejected by me at my own Fine Art America Café Art group for not meeting my own rules.
Well, I could not sell anybody else on using the term “café art” to no one’s surprise, and right from the beginning I referred to the work shown in the Café Art group as “photo-painting”. That is a hijacked term as it originally, more than a century ago, meant a painting produced on a photo as a substrate and outline and painted over. In modern terms the “painting over” is done with digital techniques. Such techniques include “filters” and tools like Topaz Simplify, Topaz Impression, Dynamic Auto-Painter, FotoSketcher, and many other such utilities.
“Straight photographs” have all had a variety of enhancements applied. Some right inside a camera, many in “post-processing”. There is a fine line between still being recognized as a photograph and something more artistic.
Not wanting to set myself up as the prime authority on the matter I decided to let my artist colleagues make their own distinction. Members of my groups decide what they want to share in my groups. There is some amazing creativity on display there.
At Fine Art America art is for sale. The organization does a magnificent job of producing art products of outstanding technical quality, from museum-quality, framed and glazed, archival reproductions to shower curtains. Artists are understandable more fussy when joining a group. There have to be narrow definitions to distinguish the many groups from each other. My FAA Café Art group is for “photopaintings”.
Label it “photopainting” and it is, subject to some other restrictions, acceptable at my Café Art group. Don’t label it “photopainting” and by definition of the artists, it isn’t, and it won’t be accepted. It seemed so clear and straight forward. I must have had the mentality of a four-year old.
Of course, this is controversial. Some artists do magnificent photo manipulations but refuse to call them “photopainting”. We have a lively discussion on the topic going on. So, yes, we see the world our own way – after all, we are artists. It is expected of us that we see what others don’t, that we imagine what others can’t.
I have illustrated this article with examples of my own café art photopaintings. These are available for purchase at Pixels. Click on them to take a look. For remarkable work by other artists visit the Café Art groups at Fine Art America, Google+, and Facebook.
© 2016 Ludwig Keck