Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Multi-blog Poetry Wednesday

I have been laying around with the flu for a few days and the fur kids have joined me. And I finally had a clear enough head to pen this little poem.

Every ponder the continence of the cat
The poetry of their little nose
Their prim little mouths
The tear drop corners of their eyes.

How perfect every hair
Their direction and length
Funnels around each whisker
Never ruffled up.

Little Buddhas in fur coats
With inscrutable expressions
Zen wizards purring on our laps
Unaware of our stares.

Or do they just grace us
With the glory of their presence
So we can stare at them
Give them their due.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

If you have a poem for us this week leave me your url here or 360 on on Twitter. A lot of people here in blogland seem to have the flu so attendance this week is light or perhaps just slow. Or I was slow to get poems linked in. Promise better next week.

My So Called Life

Heidi B


Nicholas V

Shouting at Street Lights

Friday, April 24, 2009

Foto Friday

The above photo was taken at Arches National Park. Nope, there is not an arch in the photo. But the mesa or plateau upon which Arches sits offers some wonderful visitas of the surrounding "low lands" and distant mountains.

Out west here you can literally see forever especially when away from a major city. From a hill not far from my house I can see a mountain ridge that is 126 miles away and on the other side of the Colorado/New Mexico border. That clarity can work against you in photography because it tends to "flatten" things out.

I am working on a painting where distance - or the sense of distance - is going to be critical so I went through my digital library of photos I have taken to pull up some of the ones where there is that sense of distance to study.
This particular day in Utah had some mist left over from rain storms that had passed through and that works to make the picture a more interesting one.

Some of the best days are not ideal for a great photograph.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Poetry Lounge is Open

This is only the top half of a very tall Pine that my sister and friend discovered on our last trek. It seems to be inspiring me to write a poem about it. Toying with phrases in my mind as I do laundry and wash dishes.

But my friend Bekkieann has already chosen her poem. And an Aussie friend, where it is already Wednesday, so I figured I would open the poetry lounge. Leave a comment if you have a contribution.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The New Challenge

Probably the next hardest thing to paint beyond a hole in rock is a tower of rock in the middle of a flat plain. Actually there is more to Shiprock than just this tower. There is a long ridge that runs out both directions. But to show that then you paint it from a direction other than the one most people are familiar with.

Still I have wanted to paint this landmark in the northwest corner of New Mexico for a while now. I have the canvas for it. I have been thinking dutifully about the sketch. So easy to just copy its all too familiar profile. But it hit me as I was driving back from my sister's house that what probably is the most striking thing about Shiprock is the nothingness around it. Here in the middle of nowhere is the pinnacle of rock rising up out of the Colorado plateau.

That and the sky that surrounds it.

So that will be my painting.

The emptiness that is Shiprock. And the vastness of the land.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Multi-blog Poetry Wednesday

I am opening the poetry Wednesday blog and hopefully will have something to post by tomorrow morning. But if you have a poem you wish to share please leave me a comment here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fenomenal Foto Friday

If you are a photographer and you decide to visit Canyonlands or Bryce or Arches do go on line and get one of several guide books for photographers. The one my sister and I used went into detail about what overlook and what arch was best photographed at dawn or sunset or mid day. It will save you a lot of time and aborted efforts.

The above picture is Mesa Arch on the northern part of Canyonlands National Park and it is best photographed at sunrise. And so my sister and I started out in the predawn dark and drove up to the parking area and stumbled in dim light toward an uncertain edge to get our photographs. We were not disappointed. This is only one of several awesome photos I took of this arch before breakfast with my Nikon film camera. (pre-digital for me). I also have a photo taken of this arch in early afternoon and it is beautiful too. Just not as breathtaking. Though the two lovers standing under it do enhance it.

I remember breakfast in Moab that morning. I was starved by the time we got there. And I ate like a horse. Course that was true of much of our exploration of Utah parks because we hiked for miles hardly aware of the distances we had covered because we were so intent on taking pictures of this breathtaking landscape.

Open for Business

Now I need an "Open" sign to be put up and taken down. I also have plans to put flags on poles on either side of the gate to attract attention to the place. Now that weather is getting nicer it will not doubt get done. I would also like to make a more attractive and artistic gate. I have some old "barn wood" that might serve.

I have plans also for the "walkway" from the drive to the studio. I was going to do the pour your own paving stones but currently the broken shards of terracotta pots seems cheaper and easier. It is not shown in this photo but there is a goodly amount already laid out toward this gate. My sister and a friend are saving me their broken pots. And as the snow drifts melted away I noticed I had a few more myself.

In this new economy I am learning the true meaning of "Progress - not perfection."

Grand Opening for the Trains, Trails and Treasures Art Tour is Memorial Day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Multi-Blog Poetry Wednesday

It is almost Wednesday here in the states. One of my Kiwi friends is going to lead us off on this poetry Wednesday event. Our third here.


Jacqui BB on Chats with Charley

And on Sidetracked Charley




On Both Your Houses

Shouting at Street Lights

So it is time to dig up those poems or finely polish the last lines. And leave a comment here or on Twitter or Y!360 so I can link you in. Thanks to all the participants.

To avoid having to update two blogs with links I will host it here but you can leave comments, or your url here, or there or on Twitter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I think this is it

There is another cloud in the sky for balance sake and some lines in the arch to define it more. And another wash over the distant pillars. And a patch of desert green in the front that I thought was just too rude. But all other changes were relatively minor.

I made most of the changes this morning after staring at it with a cup of coffee in my hand and then I walked around it all afternoon. So done. If any painting is done.

My parents had some I had done in college. Every time I went home regardless of the passage of years I could pick out what I would have liked to have changed about everyone of them. Some I wanted to trade out for later works but they loved them.

I'm a perfectionist and I can worry a painting to death if I let myself. I wonder if Michelangelo wanted to change anything about the Sistine Chapel?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Getting Close

This is the Zen part of painting. This is where you ask yourself is it done yet. I am happy with the journey that has gotten me here and the question is whether there is further to go without having pushed too far.

I added the water because that has almost become a signature item for me. And the rain in the distance would flood the valley floors and the narrow canyons and turn the thirsty plants green and give flower to the desert wild poppies and other flowers. And I added the crows because that is a signature for me.

I did a lavender glaze over the clouds and the sky and a white glaze over the monuments and the land before them to give a sense of distance. I then went back and added some definition to the shadows on the towers.

The question remains as to whether to add details in line to the arch itself, and whether I need additional glazes to the horizon to push it further back.

I generally at this point live with the painting for several days. I set it up where I can see it when I enter the studio. It is often the little thing you catch out of the corner of your eye that needs fixed or added to. With all the labor expended to this point it is best not to rush. And I have found the bigger a canvas is the more this part has to be considered. It is easy to spot a mistake or omission in a small painting but big and complex ones hide their secrets well.

More Detail Added

As I said in the previous blog I worked on more of the distant detail yesterday and would post a picture of that before I began glazing it. All the pictures I have looked at in my preparation of this picture feature the arch most predominately. Yeah, they are pictures of the arch. But I also wanted the distant landscape to have a role in this painting. Not easy as the arch is so attention capturing. But I did a lot of tweaking yesterday; adding colors that are in the foreground to the background, making the sky more dramatic with the approaching rain.

Changes to the painting at this point seem minute. You might catch the differences between yesterday's post and this one by scrolling from one to the other.

I became obsessive I think. It is one of my traits that I sometimes think makes me a good artist and other times makes my myopic. It can definitely not be good physically. I exhausted myself yesterday putting on a few strokes of paint, setting the canvas up, walking away from it to study from a distance. Water media has to be painted flat unlike the oil paintings. Whoever said painting was a passive activity needs their head examined.

Anyway today I hope to begin the glazing of the distant landscape and adding detail to the canyon/arch walls. Hope I am not boring anyone here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Moving Right Along

This is the painting with all the major blocks of color placed. The black around the edge of the arch went in first and then lots of masking to keep it from running into the sky which was next. Then the monuments and the foreground. After years of searching for a perfect high country green I discovered it by accident - Payne's Gray and Burnt Umber. Who would have thought it!

The black is not really black entirely either. It is Carbon Black with a great deal of Indian Red to make it warmer. And while it does not show in this photo when I lifted the masking up around the tear drop shape I ended up with a white canvas line which I then painted in with a black with even more red. Still it is a lot more black than one of my first college art professors would have let me get by with.

Since I took this photo I have done a great more refinement on my clouds and landscape beyond the arch. I will photograph that tomorrow morning when the light is good before I begin any glazing to give a sense of distance. The paint has to be very dry before I do that.

I think I got eager to see how it was going to turn out and painted too much today. My back and legs (painting this one standing up because it is on a low table - too big for my painting desk) are telling me things.

PS: Forgive my photography on this series. Notice the canvas is not even square to the camera.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Next Step

This is my painting of Teardrop or Keyhole Arch after the first two pours or floats. Working in this large of a format I find it works best to flood the area with water and then drop on the high concentrated liquid watercolors and float them around with a combination of brush and tilting the canvas in the direction I want the "rock faults" to run. You can also "scare" color away from an area with a brush with dish soap and blow on puddles of color to get them to spread out.

I did this in right side and left side. For those that think this kind of handling of paint can speed up the covering of large areas of canvas you are right and wrong. Right in that a lot of paint goes on at once but wrong in that with manipulation of the surface and drying time it becomes a lot longer. I did the right side first and let it dry and then the left. Both have to be completely dry to remove the masking and paint in the black.

Thus far I am pretty happy with my results. The right has more red due to sun striking it but also to give the arch dimension. If both sides were the same colors it would flatten it out.

Tomorrow the black.

The Plan

I promised to post the sketch for this painting. This is done in Conte' crayon of which I just have a basic set of 5 or 6 colors so the colors are more of just a blocking tool here. And when I transferred it to the canvas I moved it to the right about an inch plus so there is more arch wall on the left and less on the right.

I have decided to post progress photos of this painting if I don't ruin it so stay tuned. At this point I have masked off the black and the center so that I can pour the red canyon walls.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


The above is one of many photographs to be found on Google Images of Teardrop Arch in Monument Valley, USA. It is not the one I ran across in a book on the southwest I was reading recently. In fact, The Southwest Inside Out by Thomas Wiewandt and Maureen Wilks called it the Keyhole Arch. My Google results with that name were not mentionable.

I was looking through "coffee table books" of the Colorado Plateau in search of a subject I had not photographed. After a very productive few weeks I am down to three huge canvases and was looking for something unique to fill them with. And there it was. This subject will also allow me to utilize my new glaze skills on the distant landscape seen through the arch.

So if I had a perfectly good picture why go Googling to get other pictures of it? To see different light and shadow patterns and get a better view of the distant monuments on the horizon. And see it larger for details. The picture in the book is about 3 x 2. I will be painting it 30 x 24.

Today I worked on the sketch for this painting. And then placement on the canvas. I did not want the teardrop right in the center. And I wanted to pick up some shadows to create a flow that would lead the eye through the painting and not just grab it and hold it in one spot. With an image this dramatic it should be an interesting challenge. I intend to pour the rock of the arch and put in only minor detail on the face of it. I want the viewer's interest to be drawn to the far horizon and beyond.

Tomorrow the sketch which is a marriage of several pictures of this stunning natural formation on the Colorado Plateau.