Monthly Archives: June 2012

Late Night with CMD

There are many things to do in Ann Arbor after midnight. One involves a camera and a rock star.

Chris is going to school for hospital administration. Not only is he a good friend of mine, but also a perfect subject for my photo narrative style. He came prepared with a willing attitude and an active imagination. Below are a few from a session that included, but was not limited to: a tripod, timed exposures, flash, ambient tungsten, motion, and more! This was the first of many shoots with Chris.

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Painting Class: The Difference Between Kids and Adults

I start teaching children’s painting classes today at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. If you’re not familiar, CCS is a top-notch educational institution churning out incredibly talented artists and designers, including a huge pool of talent that’s recruited for the Big Three. The building I teach in, the Alfred Taubman Center is an impressive facility with dorms, an art supply and book store, a gym and a materials library (which I’ll be using in a few weeks when I teach fashion illustration).

One of my favorite aspects of teaching children is that there’s still time to make an impact. With adults, myself included, we’re too set in our ways. Our sense of improvement is hardly objective and is a tumultuous process. With kids and young adults, there’s still time to challenge and watch them accept new concepts. There are technical lessons I learned when I was very young that have stuck with me because I learned them the “right way” rather than trying to think I was good enough to just figure it out on my own. To my mentors and teachers, I’m terribly grateful.

Here are the five biggest differences between teaching and working with children and adults in the art studio setting.

1. Children aren’t afraid of color. Adults just think they aren’t. | The color wheel is engrained in my mind. No matter how many hues I use in my work, I’m constantly fretting over each color’s relationship to the one next to it, how it does or doesn’t activate. Kids worry about no such thing, or at least don’t tend to until their teens. They may even know that red is complementary to green on the color wheel but they don’t think twice about how to use it and what to mix with it.

2. It doesn’t have to fill up the whole canvas to be a brilliant work. | There was a news story once about a 4 year old girl who’s “paintings” were going for exorbitant amounts of money to so-called collectors. I scoffed at this idea. The parent and dealer’s (yes, you read that right) consensus was that she was an artistic genius because unlike most children her age, she filled the entire canvas with paint. Most children don’t have the attention span nor commitment to “finish” an entire plane, they said.

After long pondering, I think that’s a crock. Some of the most enthralling children’s work I’ve seen has more life than a German Expressionist painting and can be a painterly form of a singular figure. Adults finish their canvases because it’s to be expected. But rules are meant to be broken. See Dubuffet, Basquiat, Matisse…

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tenors, 1985 |  Image:

Which leads us to:

3. Kids take about half the time to do the same project. Adults have more concentration. | This should come as no surprise since we learn to focus and commit as we get older. There are exceptions to this rule but children under 8 generally do not work on a project, even a large one, for more than an hour. Adults have their notions, agendas and expectations. Those take a lot longer to work out on paper.

4. Adults take better care of the materials. Kids don’t. | This is probably largely due to the fact that adults pay for their art supplies and they realize how costly creating work can be. Kids push the bristles of the brush into the paper, they don’t wash their brushes well enough, they leave their brushes face down in the water. But hey, they’re kids!

5. Children and adults are both eager to learn, but in different ways. | Turns out that’s the universal reason for being in the classroom. But kids are more inclined to appreciate the designated amount of time to create and play. Some of them truly do want to learn technical methods (especially as they get older) but adults are more adept at following direction. Even if they digress back to their old habits later on.

Adults can learn a lot from kids and vice versa. I always get a schooling from my students whether I like it or not. Wish me luck!

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to the man that started it all for me.

We’ve gone on some pretty fun shoots together.

Let’s keep shooting!

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Finishing the Look: How to Choose Frames for your Art, Part 2

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, framing is truly the finishing touch to collecting and displaying art. The embellishment (or lack thereof) in a frame and mat is the window which lends an air of intent, theme and mood to the piece. For art with historical content, a period frame (one original to the same era in which the painting was created and at times the only frame that has accompanied the work), is important to its integrity and scholarship.

In this photo you see that the frames are ornate and intricately fashioned. Many of these frames are original to the period (mid to late 19th century) and are also hand-carved, a sign of workmanship that is rare to find today except in exclusive framing and high end art dealing.

Image: Cleveland Art Museum

When we look at contemporary art in the same academic setting the trend has swayed toward minimalism, leaving large canvases to fend for themselves against white walls. What do you think of this contradictory handling between say, Impressionism and Contemporary art? Does scale have anything to do with the lack of a frame?

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art

There are a few key things that should be consistent when you’r shopping for frames. The larger the piece, the wider the width of the frame should be. This is for safety as well as visual reasons. Imagine a poster sized painting being framed by a 1 inch wide frame. Not only would that be off-balance visually, it would be hard for a piece of glass to be held in place by such a small frame. Conversely, the smaller a piece of art, the thinner the width of the frame. There are always exceptions to this rule, if you’re looking to make a large impact but these are general guidelines to keep in mind.

The above reproduction of a Maxfield Parrish painting is an example of a well-fitted frame. Adding about three inches on either side, it lends a nice contrast to the lighter palette of the work and is wide enough to visually balance the large image.

Image: East and Orient

These prints are no larger than 8″ x 10″ and are handsomely housed in thin width frames, no larger than 1 inch. They also have a matching mat with a beveled edge liner in gold/tan to draw attention to the outer line of matching color. This gives the series an overall motif to match the subject matter.

If you’re considering a colored frame, that’s an adventurous and effective choice to enhance the painting. Make sure that you choose complementary hues rather than trying to match the painting to its exact palette. For instance, the nature series above would have looked handsome with a dark wood frame or even a marbled wood with various tones to pick up all the different neutral tones in the piece.

Ask the framer or bring a friend along if you’re unsure about choosing frames. Ultimately, it should be an engaging and exciting experience. And don’t fret about it if you get it back and it doesn’t look quite right, framing can always be changed to match the mood of the painting. Good luck!

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Finishing the Look: Framing Your Pieces, Part 1

It doesn’t matter what you’re hanging on the wall, framing (and matting) a piece makes all the difference in the world. If you can afford to have a professional do it, I urge you to. (If it’s a piece on canvas, many times a piece won’t require framing, it’s simply an aesthetic decision. See instructions for installing eye hooks and wire below). Even if you’ve never done it before, it’s an enriching experience on top of purchasing the art itself. Additionally, a framer follows a process of securing and using materials that are acid-free which maintain the current health of a piece. Using masking tape and everyday tools can actually harm the condition of your work.

Tacoma Art Museum

When you arrive, the framer will ask you a few questions such as: Do you want regular or museum glass? Would you like a mat? Are you looking for metal or wood frames?


Regular glass is heavier and will have the glare that you’re typically used to. If you have a piece of art that you’re adamant about hanging in direct sunlight or an archival piece or photograph, you may want to spring for the museum glass which is UV-coated and will allow you to enjoy your piece with little to no glare or reflective qualities. Typically, it runs 25-50% more than regular glass. A third option for large works of art is plexiglass. In the unfortunate case that it were to be dropped, the plexiglass wouldn’t shatter, possibly damaging the art underneath – or the person carrying it.

Left: regular glass, right: museum glass


The mat is the heavy board piece that surrounds the actual art. You may not realize it, but there are an endless array of colors to choose from including dozens of shades of white. The larger the piece, usually the wider the mat. If a piece is very large however, say 24″ x 36″, it may not visually require a mat.


You’ll notice that there are a hundreds of frame corners surrounding you on the walls. These are meant to sit on the corner of the piece or mat for comparison. Don’t be shy about asking to see different colors or finishes in the same style, they’re usually available.

Typically, metal frames are recommended for contemporary or modern (mid-20th century) pieces. Wood and ornately carved frames are better fit for historical pieces or portraits and landscapes. There are always exceptions to the rule and your framer will have some great suggestions to handle each situation.  *Tomorrow’s post will be about the aesthetic aspects of framing so check back for that!*


If you find that you can’t afford to take a piece to the framers, look for pieces that are standard frame sizes such as 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, 9″ x 12″, 11″ x 14″, 16″ x 20″, 20″ x 24″, 24″ x 36 and 30″ 40″. There will be other sizes depending on manufacturers but these are the most common. Remember to figure in a mat size if you choose to use one. They’re available at most craft and art supply stores and some carry frames with mats included.

Image: Lazy Peacock

Once you have the parts you need, find a clean, dust-free environment. Make sure you’re using acid-free tape for suspending pieces from the mat or foam board you’re posting against. Use a ruler and level so that all measurements and cuts are plumb.

Install the pieces of your frame in this order: glass, mat (if you’re using one), art attached with acid-free tape attached to backing, foamboard (if necessary to meet the back edge of the frame), staple back edges of frame.

Hold the staple gun at 45 degree angle, striking the staple in the inner edge. Push the staple over the back of the board as needed.

These are the first steps to framing your own pieces handsomely and securely. But as I mentioned before, there’s nothing like the archival and professional finish of a framer! Good luck!

Preparing a canvas for hanging

Here’s what you’ll need: eye hooks (make sure you buy the proper size for the weight of canvas you’ll be hanging), picture hanging wire, picture hanging kit (look for proper weight)

1. Using a ruler, measure 1/3 down from the top of the canvas on both inner sides of the stretcher (the wood vertical bar the canvas is stretched over). Mark with pencil. Don’t worry if they’re not level.

2. Screw in an eye hook into both marks. *Make sure you’ve screwed the eye hooks against the inner facing stretcher bar. Imagine if they’re sticking out from the back, they’ll leave scratches on the wall when hung. If you’ve done this by mistake, you can put rubber bumpers on each corner to keep this from happening.

3. Cut 10″ more than the width of the canvas. String the wire through an eye hook leaving a tail of 3 inches. Carefully (the ends of the wire are sharp!) wrap the tail around the wire in tight corkscrews. Repeat on the other side, leaving a slack at top of wire. If the wire exceeds the top of the frame when you pull it taut, trim the wire or wrap more on the other eye hook.

4. Voila! It’s ready to hang and dazzle you – and your guests.

Check back for Monday’s post on how to choose frames that complement the art. Have a great weekend!

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A Milestone for Chin-Azzaro, Personally-speaking

Yesterday we didn’t take any appointments. Instead, we hid out from the world a bit to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. Not only do we have the privilege of working together, we’re partners in life, sparring about all the little things that matter. For most couples gifts and dinner are in order. We like to take it an extra step and document things in style.

For every marketing plan I want to implement, N has a campaign concept.

For every advertising placement, N has an accompanying image.

When we think of how far we’ve come…

…it’s exciting to rediscover the place we met.

For better or worse, when you call on us, you get a package deal. Our innovation, all preconceived notions cast aside, our vision.

It’s worked well for us so far.

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Shoot the Moon

The moon was quite bright and nearly full once again, making it perfect to capture on it’s own or as part of a larger picture.

We can’t wait to see what’s in store tonight for the partial eclipse of the Strawberry moon. See you tonight.

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