Monday, November 30, 2009

A Different Kind of Art

Sunday was an interesting day for me.
We had a wedding scheduled in downtown Roanoke. The bride was an hour late because of traffic issues, so this left me standing outside the wedding venue with the wedding party for just about an hour. There's only so much you can do to kill time with wedding portraits in that situation, so I started looking around for something to shoot.
The urban scene is full of interesting things to shoot. Signs, multicolored tarpaulins, interesting windows and people. On the way to the wedding, while we were searching for the location, I noticed a crowd of people dressed in all kinds of interesting fashions, waiting outside a club to get in. I also noticed, about half a block down the street, spray painted artwork on the side of a gallery.
Now the only thing I can compare this to is the graffiti on the rail cars that pass through the small town of Clifton Forge here and this was nothing like that. The art was complex and colorful and I found myself wondering how anyone could take the time it would take to create that if it was illegal. After all, wasn't the building's owner bound to notice someone spray painting the side of his building and call the cops?
So in my quest for something interesting, I wandered down the street toward the crowd at the club. I looked down the alley that opened up beside the art gallery and I saw someone standing on a ladder with a can of spray paint in hand. Immediately, I changed course and went to see what the story was.
I met this gentleman, one Scott Noel (and I hope I have his last name spelled right). As it turns out, the owner of the gallery commissioned him to paint the back quarter of the building and Scott has created an impressive black and white and somewhat abstract image.
The first thing that impressed me about it was the fact that it was black and white. The other artwork on the building was multicolored, full of yellows, blues and purples. Scott's work as all black and white, shades of gray and silver that boldly stood out against the other works. It had the kind of tone I that I try to achieve in my photographs, bold and demanding attention.
The second thing that impressed me was how he created it. As you seen the portrait I took, he has a piece of paper that has the artwork drawn on it that he's creating the piece on the building from. You'll find him in that alley, on a step stool with a can of spray paint in one hand and his drawing in the other, meticulously recreating the original on the brick. It's very impressive, both the design and the skill that it takes to pull that off.
Since he was kind enough to let me photograph him I left him my business card and promised to send him photos if he called with some kind of address, mail or e-mail. I wish I'd had more time to spend with him, but I had a wedding that booked my attentions about a year prior to meeting Scott. I'm still interested in the logistics of something like that, especially how he transferred the design from a vertical image to a horizontal image and how he managed the scale.
There's always a story. I'm willing to bet Scott's is pretty interesting. As a writer, I'm interested in the story and the process behind the art. As a photographer, I'm interested in the art and the artist.
The world is an interesting place if you take the time to look around a little bit.

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