Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who Decides the Winners?

I am in a big holiday fair this weekend. I got into the fair by competing for a spot. And all of us are now competing for the attention of those coming to the fair, and for the precious dollars they have to spend.

I had not thought to enter this week's Magpie event until I went this morning to see the prompt and read some of the poems and there was this old "loving cup" trophy.

Why did they call them loving cups? Per Wiki a Loving cup is a shared drinking container traditionally used at weddings and banquets. It usually has two handles and is often made of silver. Loving cups are commonly used as trophies. They can be found in several European cultures one example is the Celtic quaich.


Such loving friends until that race
The trophy given
Pride of place on the shelf
The friendship the loss.

The loving cup
Once polished
And treasured
Left to tarnish in an attic box.

The friendship broken
Molders in a corner
Of my mind
I would have rather lost the race.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Bright Side - Up a Ladder

Two of my favorite paintings this year have been the hardest to photograph. Homage and Portals are each 14 x 48 which means your wide angle zoom lens can add curvature that is not really there. And if they are not exactly level on the easel or your aim not at exact center your rectangle becomes a trapezoid. To complicate it all the smooth nature of the sky shows every subtle sheen of the light. So the camera is on a tripod, the sun past the windows of the studio, etc.

Naturally the photographs I took of these two paintings in June were lost in the computer debacle that I just experienced. Ergo they had to be rephotographed. Then the tripod broke. I seriously considered making do with just the progress photo of these two. Then I saw the ladder I had gotten out to take them down from the studio walls. I looked at the studio floor below the ladder and no streaks of sun, but would it be light enough that I could hold the camera steady enough?

The two on the jute rug
To hold the camera out over the center of the pair meant I could not lean far enough over to use the view finder or the viewer in back of the camera. I just held it out over what seemed to be the center and aimed down. I took about 20 photographs and picked the one which showed the squarest outline. Photoshop did the rest.

As I get into painting bigger and more irregular proportions I no doubt will revisit this arrangement. I do have a ladder which may be safer for this now that I know this technique works. This was my 6' tripod but I have a 13' one too. I guess some good always comes of misfortune. I didn't even get ladder shadows on the paintings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creative Process - Photographing your work

Uncropped Cactus Blossom Panels
Back today to the visual creative journey. Poetry has just seemed easier of late. I was emotionally devastated by the loss of three years of digital files on my desktop computer and since I make a living with my painting, as opposed to my poetry, I have been most concerned about recovering my digital portfolio. The good news is I have put a lot of it on CD's for entry to shows or promotion of my art to galleries. And I also backed up a lot on FlickR. But some of the newer work had not gone through that process yet so I have been rephotographing it while taking pictures of my newer work

I have a new digital Nikon D90 that has twice the mega pixels as my D70 did and so it has allowed some creative ways to photograph smaller works. Above is four of my 8 x 8 inch cactus blossom panels. They have been a pain to photograph in the past as the easel swallows them and tripod configurations make it hard to square everything up. I photographed these four on the floor with my tripod mounted camera pointed down. Then in photoshop I cropped them to the four and saved and then cropped each individually.

Cholla Cactus Blossom
I like the diamond shape for smaller works and even use it on my 13 x 13 mission paintings. They have in the past been very good sellers. Placing them on the ground and photographing them seemed like a good approach too. I had four of them to rephotograph for my digital archives.
Mission at Moonrise

Mission at Sunrise


Placing them on the floor allowed me to avoid the glancing light through my studio windows as well as squaring up the camera with the painting. The floor method is, however, not going to work with the larger works I do because the tripod legs get in the way. But I am going to haunt some photography sites to see if there is a different tripod or a clip to go to the bottom center of my current tripod that will allow more of this technique.

Even if you are not a professional painter yet I think it is important to record your creative progress. I even print mine out and put them in a hard copy portfolio so I can thumb back through to remember previous successes or failures. I try to carry the successes forward and drop the failures but even in the failed paintings there can be a technique, subject or color I want to work with further.

Record your path. And back it up multiple ways. Don't depend upon only one backup system!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mag 40 -- Pearls for Frogs

Prince of Toads

Pearls before swine
Frogs to princes
With but a kiss.

Silk to satin
Pigs' ears to silk purses
My velvet purses full of trash
Not golden coin.

If wishes were horses
As the childhood rhyme promised
Beggars would ride
If trash was treasure
I rich lady I would be.

But here I sit taking stock of trinkets
Treasure troves of memories
Long forgotten through time
Their value only to me
Lingering with my fingers on their treasures.

Oh, I have wished upon a star
But I have given up my dreams
Of princes rampant
In velvet cloaks.

Pearls of wisdom
I have learned after kissing many toads
Come only with time.

J. Binford-Bell

Skies - in th beginning they were all blue

A sampling of skies
Haven't written a blog on the creative process lately so figured I was over due. And since yesterday I was working on some new 12 x 12 panels for the up coming Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Holiday Festival my mind was on skies. I begin with skies. This is in part because my skies are mainly poured or floated using the liquid watercolor I prefer. And it is partly because the sky sets the tone for the painting. And because while the scenery in New Mexico and the Colorado Plateau is awesome the skies are without parallel.

When I first began painting back in college I stuck with blue skies and they were a bit of an after thought. Frankly skies scared me because many a great painting (in my mind) was ruined by my treatment (or non-treatment) of the sky, as I saw it as merely a backdrop for the subject of the painting. Pouring skies was more than a technique change. It led me to a totally different approach to the entire painting.

 Of the four church panel paintings above the top two are going to be night scenes and the churches will have luminarias lining the path to the doors, and large rising full moons. The metallic glitter was another happy accident in my attempt to capture skies filled with stars. The bottom left is a sky I have done before and like for "hot desert days." The bottom right is a new sky. I am trying this one out. It is prompted in part by the top picture in the opening photograph, and in part by a photograph of Laguna Mission with a very stormy sky behind it.

My Tres Cruces triptych was an adventure in skies that worked. And difficult because it was on three separate canvases but had to look like one sky going from dawn to sunset to dusk. You may have noticed my skies are no longer blue.

Tres Cruces Triptych
Sometimes my adventures in poured skies work and sometimes they don't. I blogged previously about the struggle I had getting to that top pink sky with clouds. It really was an accident. Lots of my skies begin as accidents and then liking the effect I seek to repeat it. I have tried for sunset and gotten dawn as in the first time I did a yellow sky. Starry night skies are thankfully very repeatable as they are very popular. But while it is "repeatable" they are seldom exactly alike. Water and liquid watercolors have minds of their own even if I can urge them in different directions from time to time.

The skies make each painting unique, even when I repeat a subject, because they dictate the time of day, the light on the subject, and, most importantly, set the mood of the painting. Ergo they are seldom just blue. It always works better if I follow the sky rather than try to force the painting to a preconceived idea. Mind you I do have an idea of where I want a painting to go, it is just that sometimes the paint wins and those can be very happy adventures.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mag 39 and a Late Poetry Wednesday

Kill the old Red Rooster
My father in the closing days of World War II had read a popular book of the times about existing and thriving on an acre of land. He bought two and begun a house that in my memory never seemed done. We had a "truck garden" on half an acre and raised all our own vegetables and sold some too. And he raised and field trained Beagles and Irish Setters, and because of the training hunted for rabbits and all manners of birds. And Mom raised chickens and sold eggs. I was trained in egg gathering before school. God, how I hate chickens!

Kill That Old Red Rooster

Chickens little peeping in my skirts
Chicken shit on the bottoms of my feet
Egg snakes trapped in the fence
That big red rooster stalking me in the coop
Gathering eggs on a damp Missouri morning.

Eggs hatching in the incubator
Fluffy yellow chicks for Easter
Fried chicken for dinner
Scrambled eggs for breakfast
Hiding broken eggs that fell from the basket
I had swung at Rooster Red.

Washing eggs clean of chicken shit
Putting them gently in cartoons to deliver in the wagon
Dipping beheaded chickens in boiling water
Getting plucked feathers all over my face
Up my nose and all over my clothes.

The smell of warm blood and wet feathers
The squawk of the hens and the thud of the axe
Echoing in my dreams with the slithering egg snakes
On butchering day
But smiling that at last
That ole Red Rooster was gone.

J. Binford-Bell 2010

On blogger Magpie Tales has a weekly writing challenge. It is always nice to stretch our wings. Magpie Tales posts a visual or written prompt every week that a host of bloggers take up and develop into short tales and poems. This week the prompt was the picture of the Rooster above. I encourage my readers to go to the link above and read some of other entries linked there.