About Me & My Artistic Philosophy
Why bother to state my philosophy? It’s not because I am pretentious, rather, I try to work through a philosophy because it defines the very nature of what I do and why I do it. Throughout the years, I’ve done a little of everything: music, dance, art, writing, photography, publishing and technology; consulting and designing in both a nonprofit and corporate setting. So when I “stumbled” into desktop publishing and video editing – first out of curiosity and later on, out of necessity – my life experiences found their way into my creative process as well, so my philosophy is really an extension of who I am, as a media artist.
I fell in love with writing and publishing in the fourth grade, and began creating and publishing class newspapers through high school, becoming an expert cutting stencils and operating rexograph and mimeograph machines. During the late 1970s, I took up photography and by 1983, established “hotshot unlimited photography,” producing an exhibit at the Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center in Queens, entitled “100 Photographs,” in 1985. Having worked as a word processing specialist, I was on the cutting edge of technology, working on NBI, IBM DisplayWrite, Wang, Syntrex and Barrister (dedicated microcomputer-based word processing machines), eventually migrating to personal computers using programs such as WordPro, WordStar, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word. I supervised word processing centers at major law firms and taught at technical schools in New York City.
I became involved in desktop publishing during its infancy back in the late 1980s, when most art directors still clung to press type, and worked as a freelance desktop publisher. In the early 1990s, I edited and published phati’tude Literary Magazine using PageMaker, Arts & Letters and CorelDraw; submitting it to the publisher on a new medium called “Zip” disks. Video editing was a natural progression and when it became affordable, I began to dabble in the craft, turning it into a career. From these experiences, I quickly found joy in taking raw materials such as the written word, moving pictures, graphic elements and sound, to cut, shape and polish them into an imaginative message. But in order to successfully create these messages, I began to follow and adhere to what I call the “4 C’S”: content, context, communication and closing the loop.
It’s my job to take a client’s content and create the message they want conveyed to their audience. Not only am I responsible for closing the loop on both content and context, I have to find the best way to visually communicate the message, which usually requires an exhaustive search to find the simplest yet effective solution available.
But while a simple approach is laudable, that’s not to say it should be “simplistic.” A simple approach respects the end user’s ability to interact with the content of the message, and this is usually achieved by drawing a straight line between content and context; style, interface or personality should not stand in its way. On the other hand, a simplistic approach can have an opposite effect, and the results can be distracting, condescending, or worst of all, manipulative, because it does not respect the end user’s ability to make up his or her own mind about the message. So whether I am editing the written word, preparing press releases and promotional material, producing a television program, video editing, designing a piece of artwork or creating a web site, I am constantly taking into account how the creative approach and delivery medium affects the context in how end users will interact with the content.
Like good visual or mechanical design, good communication design is intuitively clear and as effortless as possible for the end user. When one ignores context, the end result can be confusing and counterproductive. Distractions such as cuter interactive interfaces, flashy cinematic technique and twenty dollar words are often more harmful than useful. Often, these techniques are pressed into service because they are the creative trend of the moment, but while each can be useful, they should be weighed carefully before being used.
I spend a considerable amount of time “closing the loop” on projects and I am constantly thinking and re-thinking how traditional and digital technology contributes to the context of an end user’s relationship with the final product. Sometimes closing the loop requires a methodical approach. Sometimes it requires testing the approach with real people, which I often do. Sometimes it manifests itself through “gut instinct” or a judgment call based on my own life experiences. In each case, I believe it’s important to use technology to deliver the clearest, most direct path between the end user and the content, but at the same time, not overuse technology to the point that it smothers both content and context, thus, killing the message entirely.
Content, context, communication and closing the loop are basic elements that I find extremely engaging and challenging when working on projects. I’m not afraid of technology and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting, whether it’s a technical or creative aspect of a project, because in the end, I’m constantly learning new techniques and skills. From this, I’ve grown to love creating artwork, music and video with the latest technology and often think of myself as a “media sculptor” who takes disparate materials and process them through a computer, allowing me to sit squarely at the focal point of art and technology.■