Artist’s Journal

From Black Box to Fieldwork — Still Cookin’!



It’s a lucite paperweight with the artwork etched in from the back.

I, James S. Oppenheim AKA J.S. Oppenheim, and Communicating Arts have enjoyed it as emblem.

Properly lit, it’s striking.

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Among the early dreams for Communicating Arts in 2006 when the move was made to Hagerstown, Maryland, a county seat in the western panhandle — and a terrific location in the mid-Atlantic collection of states — was that of shooting small objects: jewelry, inkwells, candy dishes, alabaster statues, glass eggs, and so on.  That offering continues.

As good as our cell phones have gotten with recording, much in commercial and fine art continues to recommend studio-level control.



As energies decline, and, alas, they do, some things remain more inviting as work than others.  Communicating Arts has had the privilege of spending some quality time with a very special cat, “Graycie”.

Graycie, Koch Family, November 20, 2015

Such efforts involve connection, empathy, and patience.

I’ve no idea how the catfood people wrangle or direct their talent, but method is very simple: set up, sit still somewhere, and pray.


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Communicating Arts has also enjoyed getting band work.

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Still, there may be nothing quite like an intriguing face.

Sitting Portrait, April 2012

I may have developed too much consistency in style.  Perhaps Communicating Arts should be shooting more exterior portraits and directing and producing more atmosphere and look.

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And then there’s the more cared for snapshot: “Fieldwork”, I call it.


I know I would tired of being stuck indoors with objects hour after day after week on end — but gardens and fields (add the drive, add a glass of wine, and when the light is no more, work in a restaurant for reward), they are the best places, rain or shine.


All things countryside continue to attract my attention.

It’s generally good just looking and sometimes looking twice.

White Spring


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Project: North Tract

The North Tract, National Agricultural Center, Ft. Meade, Maryland.
The North Tract, National Agricultural Center, Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Communicating Arts has a large file of gorgeous landscape and nature photographs made on what was once a combat training site for the U.S. Army.  Back when I was shooting, the “North Tract”, also known as the Patuxent Research Refuge, was treated as a Wildlife Management Area with a managed Federal hunting program that had grandfathered in that use of the land when the tanks were sent south to Arlington, Texas.  I partook.

And navigated with compass and map.

And when permitted, took a camera along.

The digital files made from 35mm were scanned at 2400-dpi and the jpegs diminished for the dial-up web of the day.

Times have changed.

The resident scanning device, which has been at my station for a while, scans at 5,000-dpi and broadband Internet has grown up.  Editions of editing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop have also advanced.  As it is still winter and I remain active as a photographer, the day has come to dig out those old files and prepare them for online display and print sales via Fine Art America (for the time being).

From about 2006-2007, the advent of blogging and broadband and numerous online communities and services, all old enough to remember the darkroom’s “soup” have been through a chaotic journey along myriad contours of the digital frontier.  We’ve made friends on Facebook and Google+, have launched inventory across social media and services like Flickr, have worked on e-retailing with such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, and Fine Art America — and I would venture to suggest we have learned that it is possible online to simply run out of energy and time doing nothing more than communicating.

On clear weather days and come the end of winter, there will be more fieldwork from Communicating Arts — landscapes and nature, travel — but the journey through this period, 2007-2015 has been broad, chaotic, energetic across quite a few areas of interest and skill.  Having grown wide, it may be time to narrow down some or recalibrate relations between a “trifecta” in the arts: “writer, musician, and photographer” — all true — may be finally ready to settle down.

Reflection and ripple at the North Tract, Patuxent Research Center, Maryland.
Reflection and ripple at the North Tract, Patuxent Research Center, Maryland.


Note to Self as Caretaker of a Vast Web Estate

Saint Paul's Lutheran Church, Strasburg, Virginia, October 18, 2
Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, Strasburg, Virginia, October 18, 2014


Not all channels, links, and paths will take my fans, followers, and general creative writing, music, and photography readers to the Fine Art America page (psst: where prints may be purchased): however, I am asking the familiar tough questions here, chief among which is, “Do I wish to remain in business throughout 2015?”

Hell yes!

That was easy.

For one thing, I’ve been “all in” for years with Communicating Arts and the related e-mail address anchoring a fair part of my life.  In essence, I made myself — symbolically, cybernetically, virtually — an institution and much beside: “Miniversity”; “Bar, Grill, and Home Theater” (oh yeah); and, of course, “The Library” as well as the “mansion inside a cottage inside an apartment on the eastern edge of western Maryland.”

Our lives with computers may not have begun so accidentally: IBM and Bill Gates knew where they were going before Apple showed them a whole other way of living.  However, 2006-7 broadband x blogability x that War on Terror x Facebook (Google+ not so much for me, thanks anyway) brought quite a kit to the affording Everyman’s desktop: social networking, shopping, pizza delivery.  Yay.  Now I am wondering which of my links, early (like Oppenheim Arts & Letters), redundant (but more real, less all business, like J. S. Oppenheim — All Together) or successful but, alas, not remunerative (yet) like BackChannels (it’s approaching 12,000 view annually in an arcane area — political psychology) should I wish to cut and all content lose?

“You wanna keep that old blog alive, you better pay up!”

Five easy blogs (I still think Communicating Arts: The Journal looks cool): would just one do?

Setting old history aside, I’m inclined to more deeply mine my digital and film assets in photography and better work the “Fine Art America” outlet.  That mission’s either already sitting on the drives or in old negative and 35mm slide files.

However, I have lost the will to post one image, essentially, in a half-a-dozen different online spaces!

Forgive a not-so-old but older man for tiring at last and in need of a few projects focused and routinized.

Composing and playing music . . . would have been much, much easier than all of this sprawl across multiple artistic and intellectual dimensions and its concordance counted in blogs and Facebook circles.

To manage the transition from an HTML web and a higher-priced e-mail host, I dealt myself a reseller’s account on a popular platform, so I have got this primary page-and-mail space, and I and it are going to be around this year.

Homes in the Countryside, Strasburg, Virginia, October 18, 2008.
Homes in the Countryside, Strasburg, Virginia, October 18, 2008.

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Petunia and Nemesia, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014

Petunia, Sunsatia Terra Cotta, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Petunia, Sunsatia Terra Cotta, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Petunia, Sunsatia Terra Cotta, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Petunia, Sunsatia Terra Cotta, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Nemesia, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Nemesia, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Nemesia, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014
Nemesia, Balcony Garden, Hunter Hill, May 11, 2014


When has the photographer stepped up from snapshot to photograph?

I don’t have the definitive answer but believe that when the tripod has been set up, the business of recording has been slowed down and one may then make decisions about composition and depth-of-field somewhat different than one might if inclined to merely point and shoot with greater convenience.

As my several lives distract one another, especially my life online tangled up in global conflict, politics, and political psychology, I have found each grows its own little show.  The match here between artist, garden, Gitzo, and Nikon (D200, 16-85mm VR mounted with a circular polarizing filter on top) would seem about as convenient as photography may get: for everything else, including other gardens, one has to arrange a session or commit to travel, which is fine if the call comes to perform.

If the call doesn’t come, well, than one may do as budget and leisure allow or encourage.

With so many bins for leisure, photography, which I feel wants for visual adventure through travel, has over the past year or two taken some knocks.  It has had politics, online networking, music, books, and “journaling” with a fountain pen — definitely “unplugged” in the diary-keeping department — for competition.

So be it.

I’ve been given business cause to mobilize lamps, stands, tripods, and cameras this coming weekend, so here it is good to go over everything, from wires to light meters to lenses.

It feels good.

And the garden this spring seems yet a fine place for relaxing.

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CA Continues to Photograph Fine Art


Acrylic on plywood, 18-inches x 4-feet, October 17, 2013.
“Add Water” by Gillian Lisette-Coubert, acrylic on plywood, 18-inches x 4-feet, October 17, 2013.

Communicating Arts continues photographing art by other artists.

“Gillian Lisette-Coubert”, whose name is a nom de brosse, has been a friend of Bill Roberts for some time, and I had promised as part of the work undertaken for him — his inventory in paintings mounts into the hundreds — that I would shoot a few works by Gillian as well.

"Rain Scape", Acrylic on plywood, 4-ft. x 3-ft., December 2013.
“Rain Scape” — Acrylic on plywood, 4-ft. x 3-ft., December 2013 – by Gillian Lisette-Coubert.

While I find “technical everything” somewhat unpleasant — where is my art!? — I’ve really come to enjoy both artists’ delight in color, depth, and texture as well as admire their ability to draw.  Both have demonstrated ability to draw to photo-realism standards were either so inclined.

"Crystal Silence - Gillian Lisette-Coubert - Acrylic on plywood, 2-ft. x 2-ft., July 27, 2013.
“Crystal Silence – by Gillian Lisette-Coubert – Acrylic on plywood, 2-ft. x 2-ft., July 27, 2013.




Painter Gillian Lisette-Coubert,  Hagerstown, Maryland, April 22, 2014.
Painter Gillian Lisette-Coubert, Hagerstown, Maryland, April 22, 2014.


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Communicating Arts to Photograph Studio Catalog of American Abstract Surrealist William A. Roberts

Deep Sea Phenomenon", Watercolor and Gauche, February 10, 2007
“Deep Sea Phenomenon”, Watercolor and Gauche, February 10, 2007. (c)2007 William A. Roberts.


Descent of Neptune, Watercolor, February 2007.
Descent of Neptune, Watercolor, February 2007. (c) 2007 William A. Roberts.


Cavern Forms, Watercolor, December  18, 2000
“Cavern Forms”, Watercolor, December 18, 2000. (c) 2000 William A. Roberts.

William A. Roberts has an art story that starts in childhood with talent and a devastating fever, suffers in the shadows of a triple murder, and begins anew after a long hiatus.  Aided, abetted, perhaps, by the local coffee shop scene in Hagerstown, Maryland — just us “old guys” gabbing over coffee and newspapers at the counter — Communicating Arts has agreed to photograph the artist’s collected and still resident works.

Canery Row, Harvey's Inn, Watercolor, 1994
Canery Row, Harvey’s Inn, Watercolor, 1994. (c)1994 William A. Roberts.

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Getaway! I May Have Overdone It

101017-a-070-2The adventure in cyberspace that began for me around 1995 got a boost around 2006 with blogging ability and access to foreign newspapers in English or English translation.

At first I thought what a cool chance to show off my photography, poetry, and short stories.  That led to Oppenheim Arts & Letters, a Typepad blog, one that I am obviously continuing to support.  In turn, dabbling on the old blog, as I like to call it, supported a new kind of trouble: one mouse click and you were in Somalia, virtually.

Or Pakistan.

And so the commenting on political matters developed along with an in-house orientation and education in the field — conflict, politics, culture, psychology, language . . . all of that — not that I recall all that I have read, but I do recall enough to reach for or reference books I have read when opportunity arises.

So it came to pass that “OA&L” (Oppenheim Arts & Letters) would beget BackChannels, which has achieved its 501st post, developed about 100 subscribers, among them “listening post” robots, I’m sure, and a reach out to readers in about 65 nations each month (if I work on it a little bit).

Meanwhile, anchored by my Communicating Arts e-mail address, I chose to develop a Facebook community around politics, that to the effect of reaching out to or accumulating about 600 Facebook Buddies and a small roster of additional followers — and these days, I’m more inclined to follow than friend personalities I like unless or until we chatype together somewhere for a while.

That e-mail address had then been associated with then conventional web hosting and a frames-based web site, which bones reside only here today on my local desktop.

That arrangement, which cost a little more too, also after several years led to this web-blog, on which account I have re-seller powers (looking into the crystal ball, I may see some CSS in my future — or terrific short story writing).


Before transitioning the business’s e-mail address, however, I had gotten involved with WordPress via the main WordPress portal, and so had created Communicating Arts–The Journal (for business) and J.S. Oppenheim–Altogether (as a cozier live journal).

I’d always thought I’d wind up landed, and in the virtual way, I have: I have made myself the owner of a small Web Estate that includes four business or personal blogs, three e-mail addresses (with more in reserve, but I’m ready to close them) and several business and social networking accounts plus the home-based resources to support them with image-creating ability and thought.

Still, for all of that effort and exploration in cyberspace (plus Skype-ability), not much has changed around here since 2006 — but the position’s pretty good for a facility promoting editorial, photography, and research capabilities (this setting aside the life in music that is by its physical character seems more bound to real space singing and playing out, at least unless or until that too becomes a media-creating recording art in this space).

There’s a summary of the structure (plus a link to my Amazon Wish List) on this weblog’s J. S. Oppenheim page.


I’d like to fold the studio’s journal into this presentation, but with the goal being to provide services to other people’s projects, I’m not in a hurry to work that issue.

At the end of each day, there really is just one me, however multifaceted, and one sole proprietorship, which is Communicating Arts.  I’ve split manufacturing — making pictures, writing short stories, writing folk songs should I return to that — ffrom providing services (general editorial, photography, and research functions) — at least I differentiate between the tow — and I think I’m ready to  tie off the packaging.

I did not want Windows to become The Window through which I would see the world.

Books are windows too.

And windshields are windows that still work Out There, as do shoes (and eyes), where the world is three dimensional and arrives equipped with weather.

* * *

I got to take a road trip over the weekend — and this noted with many thanks to those who drove and hosted me in Cambridge, Maryland (I don’t know whether they want to be mentioned by name here or not) — and got away from so much computer-based communicating, media parsing, and the online development of image and presence, which has all gotten to be too much or, perhaps, just about completed.


I am ready to work.

I am ready to retire.

The two dimensions — presence and service / retreat, restoration, and composition — blend well these days.

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