Artist Carolyn Haas's Petroglyphics Art may look like paintings of dogs and rabbits and mystical images. Instead, they are natural formations found on the rocks that the artist has enhanced with digital photography. She makes these formerly undiscovered and sometimes unseen pictures come to life in a collection of captivating digital artwork.
A lifelong lover of rocks, Haas recently turned to them as a creative outlet.
"Ever since I was in grade school, I began collecting rocks, starting in what must have once been a riverbed that was in a large field behind our house. My sister Mardee and I would run out the back door almost everyday to see what treasures we would find. It was full of fossils and semi-precious stones. A dream for the child I was, and still would be! Every place I visited, a rock would have to come home with me - a habit that has never died. More recently, I started creek walking with a dog in my life that loves water. I found myself stuffing pockets with rocks and photographing what I couldn't take with me, if it attracted me; and so many did!"
As her observation and collection of stones grew, Haas began to see images on the rocks. At first, she thought it seemed a little crazy, but she explored further. First, Haas started photographing each stone and then used digital software to examine each image. Given the different qualities of the type of rock she found, such as Pennsylvania fieldstone, some fascinating colors emerge along with the images.
The artist shares, "In many cases, I was stunned to see what appeared to be realistic-looking eyes, even to the point of having a bit of "light" shining in them. I always look for the eyes first, on a rock, then, sure enough, I see the other features. In almost every case, the images are animals, sometimes single, sometimes multiples. At times it appears to be an image, upon an image, and so on. I have to stop myself from bringing forth all I see as I imagine that I may end up working with one rock for a lifetime; therefore, I choose what I feel best serves the finished product."
Similar to rock carvings known as petroglyphs, where images are made by pecking directly on a surface using a chisel and hammerstone, Haas uses a digital process in Photoshop to create these pieces. She does not add anything to the rocks to generate the images. Instead, she reveals them by enhancing their natural formations through her digital technique. The art has been there all along.
Although there is no carving or rubbing with an actual hand tool, the digital tools are, in a sense, doing precisely that. Chiseling layers away while following the patterns naturally in the rock brings forth the art in the rock. These images of faces, figures, patterns, and more have always been there, waiting for discovery.
There is somewhat of a mystery to the rocks and the stories Haas is drawing from them. "I feel these images tell stories that I can not quite figure out. Giving them a title is a struggle, and I attempt to provide each such a name that expresses what I believe to be seeing. However, not everyone can see what I do until I point it out, and at times, not even then, and the title won't necessarily assist with this.
I am providing a description the best I can, but given that it is merely my interpretation, I feel I may be way off base. I say this because I genuinely think these are not my creations; instead, I am the messenger to reveal them. Of course, I could be way off base with this also; but who's to say?
I see a tremendous amount of emotion in many faces, some good, some not so good. I am pleasantly surprised when it appears to be playfulness that is surfacing. I would also go so far as to say that some may be pointing out virtues, or lack thereof. Many of my descriptions are pretty off the wall, even to me. I am merely trying to point out what I see, down to detail, in hopes that others will see it, but then again, as art is often open to individual interpretation, I should allow others to judge what they see. I sometimes choose to be vaguer, although I see a tremendous amount going on with a particular image."
Most images are animals -predominantly dogs, rabbits and elephants, and several others. Some are intermingling, as in the well-known painting, "The Peaceable Kingdom," and others show anger or fear towards each other. Very few feature humans, and those she has found so far, have a much less realistic appearance than some animals.
Occasionally, she finds letters, and one image even appears to have initials with a date, as if it were an artist's signature and the year. If she sees heart shapes, she almost always highlights them. She also often sees interesting patterns that she may or may not bring forth.
Haas questions why she sees what she sees in the rocks,
"Why do I see such things? I can't begin to guess. Is anyone else seeing anything remotely close to what I'm seeing? Not according to my research thus far, but that doesn't mean it's not happening to others. I do believe, though, that it is a gift that was given to me, a gift that I'm trying to utilize to the best of my ability and hoping that I will, someday, have a greater understanding of what it all means.
I have some ideas but hesitate to share them. Perhaps a few images show sufferings that have been happening at the hands of humans and those willing to fight such darkness. However, as do millions of others, I also believe that we are in a time of a great awakening; we are seeing some very unusual things going on in our world; some good, some not so good, and some just downright bizarre. These rock creations are an example of the bizarre, which some may dismiss as nonsense, but perhaps understood by others. No matter, but I feel that great things will surface all over our beautiful earth; bizarre and glorious!"
At times, my talents have not been discovered by myself but by those close to me. For example, gifts of cameras and art supplies, which I had no interest in at the time, became a significant part of my life. As a result, I eventually sought education in photography, art, and digital art.
I have been in and out of the art world most of my existence, with very little to show for it, other than acceptances into competitions and decorated walls in my home. Other interests and life, in general, tend to push my art creativity into the background. When I start getting strong urges, almost in the form of agitation, I know I need to get back to the drawing board.
Having worked with many conventional mediums such as acrylics and colored pencils, I have enjoyed some moderate recognition for my work. However, although the medium of photoshopped photography is not out of the ordinary, the subject material with which I now find myself enamored with is quite unusual. This journey has combined my affinity for art and love of nature into a collection of art that's entire purpose has yet to be discovered.