Shakespeare and nature

I recently took the family to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s hilarious-yet-touching production of As You Like It. At one point in the story, the exiled Duke Senior is cheering up his entourage as they seek shelter in the forest, extolling the benefits of a life away from court. I find that his speech mirrors how I feel when I get lost in my studio making art from nature:

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”

inspiration in the common and overlooked

My abstract photographs explore our personal relationship with the natural world we experience everyday. I find my inspiration in common and overlooked scraps of nature, like this fallen leaf. They are a part of our environment we usually ignore, or at best consider a nuisance. Yet the more time I spend with each leaf, the more I discover and learn. I am amazed how something so small and humble, that we so easily take for granted, can actually have so much to say.

Persistent – an abstract photograph of a fallen leaf.

finding an ocean in a patch of ice

June 24, 2019 in About my arttopics:

Ocean Storm - an abstract photograph of melting ice.
Ocean Storm – an abstract photograph of melting ice.

Every year, there is one or two precious days were conditions are just right for beautiful ice sculptures to form outside my home. A storm will pile snow and ice on the railing of my deck. Then when the sun breaks out, the ice will transform into fantastic shapes, like the turbulent waves of an ocean storm. I have to work fast, for I usually only have a short time to photograph before it all melts away.

I created this photograph from a small patch of ice that formed outside my home this past winter. Within the turbulent swirls and bubbles, I imagined an ocean being battered by a massive storm.

see more art that suggests a story

Scarcity

When I was a kid, scarcity was part of the music experience. We’d scour used record bins in the backs of stores for quirky or interesting albums. We’d jerry-rig antennas to pick up that one crazy little radio station playing Frank Zappa. We save up our money to buy that one album, then play it again and again and again.

But my kids’ experience with music is different. There is no scarcity. They have access to almost literally every kind of music, instantly. When my son first heard a Hawaiian guitar, he was intrigued and was able to instantly access the entire genre of music. When my daughter posts her videos online, she samples music from across the decades, with no bias.

I am sometimes a little sad that they can’t experience music like I did. But then again, they have things I could only dream about. Money doesn’t severely limit their access. Geography doesn’t severely limit their access. They can experience music as a nearly unlimited resource, and it is fascinating to watch that happen.

As photographers, we used to be able to only take a few exposures, then pray to the darkroom gods that they came out. We took extreme care with each frame — not because we wanted to, but because we had no choice. Whereas now, we can quickly take hundreds, thousands of shots, and the darkroom gods live in a little rectangle we carry in our pocket. It’s a different relationship to photography. But it is fascinating and wonderful to experience.

Celebrating the end of winter

April 01, 2019 in About my arttopics:

In the middle of winter, I bought my daughter some gerbera daisies to brighten up her room. But once they started to wilt, I stashed them into my studio to watch and study. I find flowers much more interesting when they are fading. The bright and bold blooms get a little more humility as they wilt, and a lot more character. I probably should have gotten rid of them weeks ago, but I find that the longer they dry, the more fascinating they become.

Cold dense energy

March 26, 2019 in About my arttopics:

It’s a little funny, thinking so much about ice — and its cold dense energy — while the weather outside warms and softens.

Working fast with melting ice

March 12, 2019 in About my arttopics:

Every year, there are only one or two precious days were the conditions are just right for these beautiful ice sculptures to form on the deck just outside my kitchen. We first need to get a heavy enough snowfall, so that snow collects in heaps and mounds on everything in sight. Then the day needs to warm just enough for the precipitation to briefly turn to rain, quickly preserving the fallen snow under a hardened shell.

I then have to move fast, for I usually only have a short amount of time to photograph these sculptures until they break apart or melt away. I often take hundreds of pictures, trying every angle and lighting condition I can, as they transform before my eyes. I then come back to the warmth of my studio, and work through all the photographs, exploring what I found.

Breakaway

May 09, 2018 in About my arttopics:

Breakaway, by Daniel Sroka

I often explore how one part of nature can suggest another quite distant from itself. I found this vibrant red maple leaf far inland, but I saw in it the surging energy of the ocean. By balancing its sharp details, rising like mist, with the soft swells of vivid color, I created an image of the surf just before it crashes against the shore.

Discover more of my art with a similar color and style.

what I see in the leaves of autumn

November 21, 2017 in About my arttopics:

Autumn is my busiest time for creating new art. My days are a cycle of collecting leaves as they fall, studying them in my studio, then photographing them. Watching the motion of the falling leaves, I see more than just pretty colors.

I see the dancing flame of a candle, or the curl of smoke rising above it.

I see waves cresting on the beach after a storm.

I see an individual, leaping away from safety, out into the unknown.

The leaves of autumn are full of life and energy, full of mystery.

Forthright

September 18, 2017 in About my arttopics:

Leaves, as you might guess, are my favorite subject to work with. But every autumn I worry if I will burn out, and not be able to find anything to photograph. But every year, come October, I am inspired again and again. In this case, it was the rich color of this leaf that caught my eye, like a dark red wine spilling on a tablecloth.