Nicholas Baxter

Blog posts tagged “Photography”

Notes & Advice 3: Photographs vs. Paintings

The appropriate and effective use of reference material–notably, where and how to deviate from it to actually heighten illusions, ironically–has been an ongoing commentary of mine on this blog, being mentioned in a few past entries.  I consider this issue a central concern for any painter working in the realist genre, or who depends upon “fool the eye” illusions for the success of their images.  I’m always trying to increase my knowledge and refine my skill in this area, as well as find succinct and poignant ways of explaining it to others.
Austin-based, British-born artist Edward Povey, whom I’ve recieved valuable instruction and mentoring from over the past few years, had an interesting take on this concept in a recent email newsletter:
Artists and photographers are really both image-makers. The camera truly sees, and the artists could learn from its honesty. The photographers could learn from the artists’ profound sense of composition, knowledge of color, tonal value constructions, and expressiveness–relying less on the cleverness of the modern camera.
I believe that the wisest artists will be intimately aware of this dichotomy, and will strategically use the best of each world for the overall success of their images.

Wildlife In the Post-Natural Age 2

This past Friday, September 14th was the opening reception of my friend Cara‘s curatorial debut at the WIlliamsburg Art & Historical Center in Brooklyn, NY, in which I had 2 hand-retouched photographs featured.

Tonight I found a rather heartwarming email in my inbox regarding the exhibit, and thought to share it here.

I’m honored to be a part of this, and I’m proud of my friend’s accomplishment:

Dear Cara, the participating artists, interns, volunteers and staff members and all.


I and the WAH staff members  want to thank you for bringing a great show to the WAH Center. It is a big duty for a curator to put up a show as big and as excellent as this one. Cara is not only a fine artist but also a great curator/organizer who could see with her keen aesthetic judgement and logistical abilities how to bring the show to fruition. The opening was a full house with many new and young visitors all celebrating with good cheer.


We would like to share with you this video of the opening reception on  Youtube.


Since the show still goes on for another two weeks, please tell your friends and people whom you know to come and enjoy it, as it is a worthy show that one cannot miss.


Many many thanks again,


Much Love,

Yuko Nii, Founder & Artistic Director

WAH Center (Williamsburg Art & Historical Center)


“WAH means peace, harmony, or unity in Japanese”

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the opening reception, nor will I be able to view the exhibit in person before it comes down, but here is the video mentioned in the email above.


Wildlife In the Post-Natural Age

I have two recent photographs included in a group show this month at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center in Brooklyn, NYC, called Wildlife in the Post-Natural Age. This thoughtful and gorgeous collection of work, featuring several renowned contemporary artists (who I’m humbled to be showing alongside), was curated by my talented friend Cara DeAngelis.  If you’re in the Northeast and have any interest in wildlife, ecology, or environmentalism, this show is worth checking out.

Cara’s eloquent press release describes the concept that inspired the exhibit:

“The show focuses on work that addresses the interplay between wildlife and our domesticated selves and spaces. It probes the persistence of wildlife in American culture and individual imagination through the work of a diverse group of city-based artists. The varied works evoke a reconsideration of the term ‘wild’ in what Gary Snyder has called a Post-Natural Age, and the role that artists are playing in exploring these issues.”

The photos I submitted for the exhibition are from an ongoing series of macro studio photography I’ve been working on for approximately 2 years now. These digital images are a scientific document of the myriad lifeforms I discover or interact with in my travels and adventures on Planet Earth. This project was partly inspired by the Terry Gilliam version of 12 Monkeys, a surreal post-apocolyptic harbinger, which took hold of my teenage brain and hasn’t ever truly let go.

The photos below reveal some of the process of preparing my prints for display, followed by the original digital versions of the images featured in the show.  Stay tuned for more images from the series, which has a working title of Specimens.

At Jeff’s house proofing the images. Taking an image from digital to print for the first time is tricky–this was an all-day affair.

A print emerging from Jeff’s monster EPSON 5million (ok, thats not a real model number. But it’s huge). The reds in this image proved incredibly difficult to dial in.

Back at the studio with all my proofs. Hand-painting, signing, and numbering each one to make a little series of prints I can sell. No sense in throwing away all these proofs that were nearly indistinguishable from the final full-sized print.

Hand painting some effects on the full-sized prints that will be mounted and sent to the exhibition.

Mounted up and varnished, drying.

Detail of some of my paint/re-touching effects.

“Frailty (Grackle, Austin, Texas)”, photo/digital, 2011

“Gluttony (Engorged Wood Tick, Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, North Dakota)”, photo/digital, 2010

Photo/Digital Manipulation

I’ve always been just as in love with photography as I am with painting. Because I paint in a highly realistic style, they’re two disciplines that go hand in hand in supporting my overall aesthetic and conceptual goals.

Photography is arguably the most convincing lie of the visual arts.  It intersects with cultural conditioning and social norms in a way that I find intriguing and inspiring.  What I mean is, as 20th and 21st century human beings, we’ve been more or less culturally and socially trained to accept the photograph as a factual–even scientific–representation of physical reality, due to its ubiquitous use and massive omnipresence throughout our entire lives. This belief, which can approach the level of faith, presents an irresistable opportunity for manipulation of perception by illusionists and countercultural provocateurs such as myself.

Long having been an artistic obsession of mine–to subvert the audience’s assumptions and paradigms–the advent of Photoshop was a digital godsend.  I’ve spent years honing my craft of button-pushing and mouse-clicking in order to take my illusions one step further into disorienting believability. Whether the end result is a reference image for a painting, or a finished piece of art in its own right, the aesthetic I attempt to achieve is the same.  This is how the two mediums work in concert for my overall artistic advancement.

This practice of “wanting-to-be-believable” manipulation to the visual field is also quite important to my conceptual mission as an artist: to inspire the viewer to question everything, to dig deeply behind the limiting surface appearance of not only reality, but their own selves, to take nothing for granted. In this way, I hope to make my art the embodiment of one of my favorite quotes:

“Art is the lie that tells the truth.”
–Pablo Picasso

Here’s my latest experiment combining photography and digital manipulation:

Glass & Dust

"Glass & Dust", photo/digital, 2012

And a few other favorites from recent years:

Call It A Day

"Call It A Day", photo/digital, 2010


"Archetype", photo/digital, 2009



"Capsized", photo/digital, 2008