Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mid-Summer Mood

Our recent heat and humidity wave almost did me in.  After several cool days in Seattle, I returned to what seemed a blast furnace on arrival at BWI.  I survived and the last two days with rain and cooler temperatures have totally rejuvenated me.  Part of this year's summer is a general lack of focus in my creative life.  I've been all over the map and generally resisting making a commitment to any serious project.  We all get into a rut from time to time.  For me, working with a camera, sketchbook, or painting/drawing app like Procreate gets the creative juices flowing.  Along with that I look through old sketchbooks. The above is a photo collage of a few things I found in a sketchbook  from about three to four years ago.  It reminds me how much I love birds--especially ravens and other "blackbirds".

I was sitting on the patio yesterday and feeling happy again about the mosaic rocks that decorate the rock wall that surrounds the area.  All were created by Rick Shelley.  See his whimsical and exquisite works at www.rickshelley.com.  These are ours:

Because it's summer, here is a favorite summer photo from the past.  I call this "The Gate Keeper".  This praying mantis was very comfortable with us as we worked in the garden.  Although we were in and out of the gate all day, she stayed put and kept an eye on us.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just returned from Seattle, WA where I was visiting family.  Still feeling a bit of jet lag, but had a wonderful time with the twins, Lillian and Penelope, who are now 2 1/4 years old.  We had art play on the patio several times.  Drawing with them is an energy filled experience.  They draw fast--sometimes big gesture arcs and zigzags followed by carefully placed little lines and dots.  I might color in some of the shapes as they are formed and they would shout out the color.  They are just starting to use words, although they definitely have a language they understand with each other.  They get frustrated when we don't understand what they are trying to say--so understandable.

Loved being in the Seattle area with July temperatures in the 70's.  Flowers were amazing and I saw many gardens but really had trouble taking photographs with the little girls along.  I did have my iPhone and took several videos, but haven't figured out how (or even if it's possible) to post videos on Blogger--another thing to research.  Here in Pennsylvania, flowers are blooming nicely too.  Above is our favorite daylily.  We love its creamy pinkness and beautiful fragrance.  The scent is particularly  lovely at the end of the day--it envelopes the back garden.

With the small amount of time I had for working on my texture layer challenge, I did manage to try a couple of things.  I don't think I've mentioned before that I use Photoshop CS5.  I've used Photoshop several years, but still feel like a novice.  There are endless things to learn about this program.  If you are interested in working with layers and don't want to spend hundred's of dollars on the latest Photoshop, I recommend Photoshop Elements which you can buy for under $100 and it does everything the average photographer might need for basic editing as well tools for more creative editing.  Below, I used the brick steps from the previous post and turned it into a night scene with a ghostly figure.

Next is the photo of me on game day with my sisters combined with another archived texture which I converted to gray-scale using Channel Mixer.  This was a quick trick because I wanted to get a post in today.  I'm having fun with these exercises and hope to share a few more in the near future.

And here are two photos of cosmos--one of my favorite summer flowers as seen in Gettysburg, PA

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Texture Layers

Recently I met with my sisters for a hearty breakfast and a game of Word on the Street.  The game board and large letter tiles make it look deceptively simple.  We played with the "moderately difficult" stack of cards, which seemed about right for us, but I have this nagging feeling there's something in the rules of play we overlooked this time.  Nevertheless, here I am looking confidently in control.  I like this photo and decided to frame it with a texture layer.  I found this one on Flickr.  There are several "Texture" groups on Flickr.  Some of the groups collect photos of things that have a textured surface.  The ones I'm interested in have photos, of what I would call, found or created texture.  I'm even more interested if the photographer says they are free to use and have fun with.  The above was created with such an example.  One of my favorite texture makers is Linda Vachon.  Below are two textures she posted in the Flickr group:  textures free.

A quick example of how I might use a texture layer in Photoshop, I choose the spider web above and added portions of a photo of me.  I used the Liquify tool to distort my mouth and eyes and added some dark brush strokes for a more sinister atmosphere. 

I have created some texture layers of my own, such as the photos I took of my scratched and stained studio table, water drops on glass, the texture of certain papers.  Here are three examples of photos I took outside our house. 

Blossoms on Brick

Camera Motion on Brick Steps

Webs between pavement and stones

I challenge myself to come up with new photographic works featuring these texture photos.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Celebrating July 4th

A laziness is starting to take hold now that it is July.  I just want to relax with a book in the shady garden down from the patio.  In fact, I did do some of that yesterday, but I also brought out my easel, pastels and charcoal and worked on some sketches of the garden statuary.  These are good subjects.  They don't charge a fee, they don't move and they have interesting textures.  It felt good to be working outside and taking time to really see the variety of greens and other colors that exist in the filtered light of tall oaks.  

Thinking of making art reminded me of my volunteer day at the York Art Association last week where I had a conversation with the Office Manager (also talented artist), Jessica Lee.  We talked about the challenge of making art when art is not financially supporting the artist--the subject was not specifically stated, but as I recall it, this was certainly the undercurrent.  Jessica is creating art everyday.  This past year she immersed herself in learning poured acrylic techniques--a technique that requires lots and lots of paint and acrylic medium.  She is exhibiting somewhere all the time and posts her works on Instagram and Facebook everyday. When it became known that she was having trouble affording art supplies for poured acrylic paint technique, donations of various art supplies started coming in.  She is thrilled with the gifts which are challenging her to move in new directions. She is still creating art work everyday--currently pastel works, which is why I decided to work with pastels yesterday.  Looking at her work is helping me.  See Jessica Lee on Instagram @jessalynn08.  There is a link there to her website as well.

Jessie and I also talked about drawing and I told her about an assignment I had in Drawing 3:  draw something in super-size.  At the time I was in love with my Canon A610 digital camera and made that the subject.  I found two photos that picture it.  In one I'm working on it at home on a ping pong table.  The finished drawing is on the classroom wall.  I really enjoyed that assignment.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Seen at the entrance to the Contemporary Wing at the Baltimore Museum of Art

In my last post I mentioned James Turrell in reference to the new Building 6 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art which now houses nine of his works.  I mentioned the Ganzfeld piece as one of the nine light installations.  Yesterday I read another article about Turrell in the June 19, 2017 New Yorker magazine--this by Elizabeth Kolbert.  She is with him at Building 6 where he is fine-tuning an apartment-sized piece called "Perfectly Clear."  I'm not sure it's perfectly clear to me, but his statements indicate that rather than considering light as an illuminator of things, he wants to examine the physicality of light itself.  With this thought in mind, consider that," in 1980, a woman mistook a wall of light in his work on display at the Whitney Museum for an actual, physical wall.  Trying to lean against it, she fell and sprained her wrist".  I just have to get over to Building 6.

The above photo prompted me to play with the shape and color of the light.

Other experiments today:

This is another photo of the table in my studio in which I've turned the original into a negative, bumped the contrast and adjusted the RGB channels individually to get the most blue.  At first I thought of a blueprint and then I saw shapes communicating with each other in a night sky.  I'm going to experiment with this some more.

Leaves in a Mist:  This pile of brown leaves has been transformed in a Channel Mixer layer in Photoshop.  I love how I was able to put space between the leaves making them seem to progress through a mist.  There is a peaceful, softness I really like.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thinking Big

At the end of May I bought a Sunday New York Times.  Because I have so many demands on my reading time, it takes about two weeks to finish reading it.  I save the Art and Books for last--like dessert.  My favorite article in Art was about the recent opening of Building 6 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Massachusetts.  This is a museum that can handle some really big installations along with performing arts events.  The museum is on 16 acres that had formerly been a 19th c. factory complex.  Although the original plan in 1986 was to simultaneously rehabilitate all 28 buildings, economic necessity required a slower development.  This past May marked the opening of Building 6 which houses works of James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson,  Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg and Gunnar Schonbeck.  The article discusses each of these artists/artist estates and the works that will be on exhibit over the next several years.  I am ready to plan a trip during a slow time and simply enjoy exploring the site and discovering artists that are relatively new to me.  Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson are most familiar to me.  I'm most interested to see James Turrell's light and space installations.  "The showstopper here is Mr. Turrell's Ganzfeld installation, one of the tallest he's ever constructed.  Stairs lead to a large rectangle of color that you can step into: a 30-foot high chamber bathed in slowly shifting hues that slide through the spectrum from the softest gray to a saturated tangerine red, challenging depth perception.  Mr. Turrell has programmed a quick strobe blast every nine minutes as a palette cleanser for your eyes."  Read the article here.  I was thinking I would like to blow up some of my glass images as an installation.  Even better would be super-sized chunks of the glass itself with special lighting.

Last night was the opening of Ophelia Chambliss' "Contiguous" exhibit.  Experiencing diversity through art by representing the diversity, connectedness and commonalities of York County, PA residents.  She chose 60 of her York County contacts on Facebook, and using only their profile photo, made a contiguous line portrait (drawing the complete portrait without lifting the drawing instrument from the surface until the drawing was complete).  I was one of the chosen and I loved the experience of being part of this project and meeting new people who support the arts in York county.  Part of the project included writing a statement about ourselves.  Here is a short sampling of the statements:

1. Adult children have crashed 5 cars in 1 1/2 years.
2. Artist that paints large pieces with glass.
3. Commissioner for the PA Liquor Control Board.
4. Fresh Meat with York Roller Derby Dames.
5. Drives a yellow corvette that was a gift in high school.
6. Mosquito hunter who also keeps York beautiful.
7. Stone sculptor

I didn't include my statement because you would know right away it's me.

Other photos from the opening:

Check out more works by Ophelia Chambliss here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Art and Life and Gardening

The peonies are finished in our neighborhood.  We feel lucky to have space for our one tree peony.  Thankfully, our neighbors have several of the herbaceous type and we were the recipients of a large bouquet when they had peaked.  When the flowers started to fade, I cut off their heads and floated them in a bowl of water just to keep the scent going.  Even though the pink color faded each day, the scent carried on for several days.  I just threw the petals into the compost today.  More and more I'm appreciating what a creative and artistic activity landscaping gardening can be.  I think I always knew it, but I'm appreciating it more as I get older.  We've had a few hot days in a row lately, so I've taken some time in the shade with a cool drink and a few garden books.  One is Rosemary Verey's, THE AMERICAN WOMAN'S GARDEN, published in 1984.  I purchased it not long after that and still feel inspired by the stories of visionary gardeners.  The photography is inspiring too.  Tucked into this book was an article from the Wall Street Journal by Sara Lin (the date is lost) about Courtnay's Daniels 350 acre garden near Charlottesville, Virgina.  At the time of writing, Ms. Daniel's garden was believed to be one of the largest privately owned gardens on the East Coast.  Before turning to gardening full-time she was a trained painter and now looks at her work as painting with plant material.  "It's a painting that's never finished".  That's how Barry and I feel about our garden.  

A new book in my gardening library is GARDENISTA by Michelle Slatalla (with the editors of Gardenista).  The volume is full of kindred spirits and stories of how they developed their gardens--some very tiny and some grand.  It's also a source book for garden furnishings, tools and expert advice.  Just love this book.  I've been dragging it around the house and outdoors since my sister presented it to me as a gift.  

Here are four images from our garden.  The snake is most recent.