I believe in the oneness of mankind. I believe that we are all connected, and that art is one very good way of making us aware of that connection. – Rudy Umans
What’s your background?
My Background is in the aerospace industry. I was a purchasing agent/contract administrator for high end test and measurement equipment for mechanical, electronic, and chemical laboratories. Later I became a small business specialist for Palm Beach County, Florida where I specialized in women and minority owned businesses. In 2001, my wife and I started our own consulting company for start-up and emerging businesses that my wife runs now for the most part with her accounting and tax service.
You were a specialist in women, or female owned businesses?
LOL. Both really! No, seriously, female owned businesses. For decades the US government had a program called Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises or M/WBE for short. These groups were considered economically disadvantaged, so they had this program that gave them preferential treatment on quoting and bidding on government jobs. A colleague of mine and I rewrote the local county ordinance on the subject actually. Over the years, many States expanded the program to include the LGBT community. The last number of years however, the government got a little bit away from all that and it is now mainly a gender and race neutral program to give all small businesses a boost.
Does your artwork come from that background?
No, not really. I was interested in photography ever since my parents gave me my first camera when I was six years old. A Kodak Instamatic. I still have it. My creative skills (I suppose) are inherited. Pretty much everybody on my father’s side was always very creative. For instance, one of his sisters was a blind sculpturist. She was very good. My father was always making something, and I might have been fortunate enough to inherit some of those creative genes.
Would you tell us more about your aunt?
Yes. During the war and after the war, she designed female fashion. Dresses and things. She never did that professionally, but I saw some of those designs she made and they were outrageous. If it wasn’t for WW2, she might have been famous. Over the years however, she became little by little blind until she was completely blind and nobody was able to figure out why. So, she was blind for decades and during that time she made those beautiful sculptures. I don’t have any so I can’t show one, but they were beautiful. A number of years ago, a doctor from “Doctors without Borders” ran into her and knew immediately what it was.He diagnosed it to be a tropical virus he encountered while on duty in the rainforest. He gave her something and within a matter of weeks, see could see again like nothing happened.
Even though I am a photographer and visual artist, what I love, I think that music is one of the highest art forms. I don’t think there is an artform that can stir the soul more than music can. Unfortunately, I can’t sing or play an instrument if my life depended on it. – Rudy Umans
Talking of your quote, above, what is the music you like to have in the background?
Music Choice by Rudy
Depending on my mood, but mainly old school blues like Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins , John Lee Hooker and the like. (that was where the inspiration of my one and only selfie I sent you came from). I also like Smooth Jazz like Norman Brown, Four Play, Grover Washington, Joe Pass etc.. In addition, I like David Gilmour/Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones,and a bunch of other styles and musicians, but for the most part, blues and smooth jazz. The Stones btw and to a lesser extend, the Beatles, were heavily influenced by those old blues singers like Muddy Water, Howling Wolf and others.
What are you trying to say with your work?
Not all my art has a message. Most of my work is just to hang on the wall and enjoy it. Having said that, I do try to show people that you really don’t need fancy equipment or anything. All you need is a set of eyes and the courage to look. I mean actually look and not just superficially glance at it. Look beyond the obvious and absorb what is in front of you, which could be a beautiful landscape or a small detail on a concrete building. Take my Everglades landscape pictures for instance, most of the tourists I encounter in the Everglades (I live close by) kind of race trough it and see the whole thing in a couple of hours while complaining how boring it is. Now if they would stop every now and then, they would find it is not boring at all, but fascinating. I guess that is what I am trying to say with my work. Look beyond the obvious and really appreciate what is in front of you. Most of my Everglades landscapes are done right there from the main road and accessible to everybody. The same with some of my other work. I have an image of an ordinary downspout that people find fascinating, or a wooden gate, or a spigot.
What made you choose the medium you work with?
Well, I did get that camera when I was six. Later, I encountered people who had their own darkroom, which was a whole new world. The whole process fascinated me. Still does. It gets me out of the house. I learned and learn how to see. It is challenging to translate a three dimensional scene, person, or object into a two dimensional flat piece. You work with light, colors, objects that become alive if you try to record their beauty, what part will be sharp in an image and what not (Dept of Field), the size and relations of objects or elements, etc. and all these things form eventually a composition for people to enjoy.
Landscapes and architecture for instance can be particularly challenging because you have to work with what is in front of you. You cannot change anything. The elements are given to you and it is the photographer’s job to translate that the best way she or he can. Nowadays, you also get to work with software, which is almost a discipline in itself and can be just as fascinating and challenging. I love working with image editing software. Some people call it “The digital darkroom”, but I don’t see it that way. It is so much more and powerful. These challenges are pretty much a lifetime endeavor. At least for me it is. Even though I do this for over fifty years now, I never stop learning. There is one universal law and that is the law of change and that definitely applies to the world of photography, which is a big part of the attraction.
Do you work in a studio?
I wish. No room for a permanent studio at home and an outside studio is cost prohibitive. So, right now, either my living room or my garage is my studio. But my studio work is all small and manageable. It takes me a little bit to set things up and break them down when I am done, but that’s Okay. My wife keeps telling me just to leave it (she is very supportive and understanding) but I don’t want to do that.
What is the one thing in your studio you just could not be without?
I live in South Florida, so air conditioning. From a technical point of view though, I cannot point out one thing, I need all of it. Other than that, I like to have relaxing music in the background
Who are your biggest influences?
Another great question. Where shall I start? Besides my father’s family I mentioned, I need to break it down a little. So, for color, I really like Frans Lanting, Galen Rowell, and Elliot Porter. For Black and White, Clyde Butcher (who I met and is in my neck of the woods) and John Sexton. For digital and mixed art, I really like Matt Mahurin. There are so many.
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
This is a hard question. I don’t really have one that stands out for me. Generally, I am happy with about 80% of what I do. The problem is though that it fluctuates. Today I really like this one, tomorrow, I like that one. It depends on so many things. Overall, I do like my little race cars, most of my Elephant Planet work, some of my landscapes and some of my artsy “beyond the obvious” things I was telling you about. For me, it is not just about the finished product, but about the whole experience. Maybe not for the viewer, but for me, memories and associations are a big part of it. Looking at artwork, even your own, is supposed to open up certain emotions, if it doesn’t, well, then it’s just another picture I guess, but like I said, emotions fluctuate.
As a teenager, I had pet lizards and snakes to great dismay of my mother. I had maggots that I fed vitamins and all that so, once they turned into flies, my lizards would get the vitamins they needed. (smart huh). One day, we had about 4,398 big fat flies flying around in my parent’s house. Apparently, the jar had fallen over, and the top came off. Fortunately, those flies were so fat and full of vitamins and goodies that they didn’t go that fast and were easy to catch. Thank goodness, my mother was a great sport. She could laugh about things like that. – Rudy Umans
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
Not counting the time it takes to go to a location and taking the images, so limiting to post processing, anywhere from a couple of minutes for straight shots to a number of days for complicated work. I have half finished work that I started months ago and will remain half finished until I figure out what to do with them.
It also depends on my mood and general state of mind. Sometimes it is a breeze, even for complicated things, and sometimes even the simplest images seem to take forever.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
I never really know if something is “finished”. It wouldn’t be the first time that right when I think I am finished, I think this is no good and start all over again. Especially with Black and White.
With the more complicated pieces, I let it sit for a couple of days and look at it again, and again. So, no, it is not easy to walk away and say this is done, but at some point, I just take a leap of faith
What project are you working on now?
Bunch of things. Some big, some small. As far as the bigger projects go, currently I am working on two books. One book is called “A slough in Black and White”, which is a sort of environmental educational book about the Everglades and some adjacent areas. It is full of Black and White images and I explain with each image what it is about and the environmental significance.
A “slough” btw, which is pronounced the same as “slew”, means a slow moving body of water, what the Everglades essentially is for the most part.
The other book is a Children’s picture book with short bed time stories about human virtues. These virtues are a little bit in disguise and hopefully open up conversations between the reader and the listener.
I am looking for a Brick and Mortar publisher for both
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Be honest with yourself and always work toward being the best you can be. There is always room for improvement
What was the first piece of art you sold?
I remember that one clearly. It was a silhouette of a bird in the Everglades against a very large and red morning sun. It was on 35mm film. The image was 16 x 20, matted and in a wooden frame. A daughter bought it for her mother as a gift during a solo show I had at the time. Her mother was crazy about birds and turned her backyard into an aviary. I even remember her name.
Music choice by Rudy
Do you find it hard to navigate the artworld?
The artworld has different aspects, but for creators, we can split it up in on line and off line. The on line artworld like POD sites is not all that confusing. Those sites make it fairly easy for the artist. The main tasks for an artist pertaining to POD sites are creating, uploading, pricing and marketing. Now as a photographer, all my work is already in digital format. Painters and people who draw on paper have the complication to digitize their art, which is an extra and crucial step they have to take and learn
Off line, like shows in brick and mortar galleries or arts and crafts shows, is a lot more complicated. It is hard to find out what is out there, what shows or galleries are suitable for you, what you need, what they cost and all that. That can be pretty hairy. I also found where I live it is hard to find information about upcoming art and craft shows and how to apply for them. Brick and Mortar galleries and musea can even be harder. I found that they are more about selling yourself than anything else, which is the hardest thing to do for many artists
The one thing both have in common are they are both hard work. Neither method comes free and both require a lot of sweat equity. Being an artist, and especially when you do it for a living, is very hard work and not at all that glamorous as it sounds. Regardless of what your discipline is, it is 90% business and 10% creating. Once an artist understands that, life becomes easier. Less fun, but easier.
Music choice by Rudy
What are you personally doing to advance your work career?
The main thing I do is marketing, marketing, and marketing. and proving materials for another marketing campaign. My preferred method is email, but the way things are going and with the new European data storage and handling laws, that might change at some point. I also network on line on social media, but that only goes so far and is not enough, I also go out and network. I am involved in local community affairs and sponsor charity events either as a main sponsor or with silent auctions or both. Those are business decisions and I want people to know my name, so I make sure the whole world knows about it, which is btw another very hard thing to do for passionate people like artists. Many like to stay behind the scene with charity events and all that and don’t like to make a fuss about it, but you have no choice if you want your name to be out there. All my solo and group shows happened by talking to people face to face. It is the best way and maybe even the only way.
As far as your last question goes, yes I follow art/photography trends. I subscribe to some newsletters and I am on some forums. It is amazing what you can learn on those forums. That is how I found out about those new European laws, which are important to know for an artist. The local news surely won’t tell me.
I make plans and set goals (I used to write business plans for other people). This year for instance, the goals are the publications (or at least, get a contract) for my books and I want to show in a few local musea. No results yet, but it looks promising.
Technically I also like to stay informed as well. I read articles and magazines about what is going on in my field. I like to know what manufactures are doing, what other artists are doing, new books that came out (and who published them) etc. It is not that I necessarily need to have all the latest equipment, I don’t, but I still like to know.
How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?
My pricing is based on a number of factors and based on methods I learned and developed over the years. I constantly do research and read expert articles about pricing and if I need to adjust, I adjust. More importantly though than how high or how low my pricing is, is consistency. I make sure that my prices are more or less the same throughout all my outlets whenever possible. I believe there is nothing more important than consistency, you cannot sell a piece for $1000 at one place and for $500 at another.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
As far as on line goes, I have a business page on Facebook under Rudy Umans Imaging. I just started that and want to see how it goes. For my face to face social networking, I carry a stack of business cards and I try to talk to as many people as I can about what I do. Face to face is for me still the most important form of networking.
Is there anything that really annoys you about the artworld?
Yes, and what annoys me in the artworld is the same as what generally annoys me in every day life. You know, people stuff and politics. I don’t do politics in any way, shape, or form
What advice would you give new artists?
Don’t listen to your friends and family for critique. They love you and they know nothing.
Try to be the best you can be in your art or craft. Hone your skills all the time. Never stop.
For photographers, don’t go crazy about the latest and the greatest. Cameras don’t make art. Art is made a couple of inches behind the camera. If you invest, invest in lenses and not cameras. Cameras are disposable. Also remember the old saying, buy it cheap, buy it twice. Don’t be penny wise, Pound foolish.
Study your subjects. If you paint, photograph, or write a story about something, really study that something from top to bottom. The more you know about your subject, the better the end result will be.
Eat, sleep, and breathe your art. Be obsessed with it, but not to a point that you might end up all by yourself.
Oohs and aahs don’t pay the bills. Learn business skills. Especially if it is your living (in whole or in part) learn marketing and bookkeeping. Find your weak (business) area and improve on that.
Your name is more important than your art. Not sure about paintings, people seem to look more at the name of the painter I think, but in photography, people remember the photograph, but rarely the photographer. So, slap your name on everything, but don’t work for credit. Have some pride. Credit is overrated. If a (potential) client ask you to work or submit something for credit instead of money, say no.
Find a mentor. Everybody needs at least one mentor. Just ask somebody you like and trust. You will be amazed.
Have you got hobbies?
Hmm. Well between my photography, writing books, articles and white papers, household stuff like groceries, cleaning, and cooking, two dogs and three indoor cats and everything else life throws at me, I like cycling. I am originally Dutch and was practically born on a bicycle. I also like listening to music.
Where are you based?
Right now, my wife and I are in Miami, Florida
I live in Manchester, UK and try to promote other artists and writers when I can.I'm so pleased you found our community and I hope to chat to you soon!!Please comment on my posts if you like them 🙂