Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Artistic Year in Review

The Long Walk  - 2nd Place MVAC Winter Exhibit
The year 2011 kicked off with a ribbon for a painting. But best of all a ribbon for one of my dark paintings.  I saw the award as endorsement of the new directions I was taking with my art. And sales, even in a poor economy, seemed to be further validation.

However, I was feeling the pressure to come up with a lower price point product for my studio. For numerous reasons I have gone on about in depth in previous blogs I did not want to get into giclee prints. But photography seemed a possibility so when I was urged to enter the Ralph Solano Competition I decided to take the plunge.

Been There - 2nd place Amateur  division
I entered three photographs in my first ever photography exhibition and got a second place and sold another.

Morning of the elk - 1st sale of a photograph
I felt totally encouraged and quickly entered two more competitions. Was not accepted in one. Accepted in the second but won no prizes. Undaunted, even though my sister beat me by winning 1st place in that second show, I quickly entered another show. And sold my second photograph - Been There.

Volkswagon Acid Trip - 1st place MVAC Fall Exhibit
Course my sister beat me with Best of Show in the same exhibit. However, I find I really love photography. The neatest thing is that with competitions I don't have to have a finished work before it is accepted. And I can sell more than one of an image. Currently I am doing limited runs of 20.

Admit I am not painting as much as I once was. But that could be because I am not doing fairs anymore. And so am not turning out volume. I am waiting until inspired to paint. Stampede below was one of my favorite paintings for the year even if it won no prizes.

 And I was very pleased with the painting below - Celebration.

Rumors that I am giving up painting are exaggerated. I painted and sold enough paintings to be encouraged. I still very much enjoy the process of painting. But I am also very much in love with the total photographic process. And this April and May my sister and I will have an exhibition of our photography at the Angel Fire Visitor's Center. And I am currently looking for the special half dozen photos I will enter in exhibitions in 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Like a River

Like a River

In the last couple of years my sister and I have been through some major life events. It has resulted for us in changes in some of the traditions we have held for a few years. And we are making new traditions like the Christmas Day photography expedition. Last year was Ocate to Hidden Lakes and beyond. This year was Cimarron to Ponil Creek and up to the Elliot S. Barker Wildlife Management area. Don't tell anyone we were looking for the road to Dawson. Expeditions are like life: you take what you get. And sometimes what you get is better than what you had planned. Even if it does not seem that way at first.

Like a River

My life has flowed
Or stalled
threatened to jump the banks
Or dwindled to a trickle.

Still it flows on
Heading to the sea
dancing in celebration
Or slipping beneath the ice.

Over the rocks
through the trees
Or under a fallen log.

The waters flow
Remembering only the rain
knowing not where they go
Or how long the trip.

Babbling along
Or silently flowing
reflecting its path in its surface
holding to its journey.

No matter what comes
Still water
Shallow or deep
heading to the sea.

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

Posted on The Poetry Palace Rally. And winner of the Perfect Poet award.

What a kick
Great way to begin the year
Now to sustain the momentum 
Move forward
Not fall back.

Begins with a Promise
And long way to go.


I nominate Mystic Mountain's poem Labyrinth Reflection

Monday, December 12, 2011

Magpie Tales 95 - At Sea

Image by  Mostafa Habibi

At Sea

The image lingers
I can taste the salt
feel the sand
know the dread.

My ever over-active mind
turning wound blankets into sand
hopelessness into rising tide
fog masking my choices.

I awake
filled with dread 
of where I have been
knowing it more real.

I walk
the sand under foot
the brine in my hair
to the shower
to wash off the fear.

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Talk of cold

Ice on the Coyote
Talk of cold

I would like to talk today of cold
the cold that seems to go to your very soul
the sun seems to have no warmth
and the wind steals what little there is.

Long johns and sweats
shawls and lap robes
a roaring fire that gives no heat
zero, less than zero.

Another cup of hot tea
more fuel for the body to run on
more logs for the fire
a hoodie under the shawl.

I would like to talk of cold today
but my teeth seem clinched against it
my fingers numb deep in my pockets
the thermostat says the house is warm.

But my very marrow is chilled
listening to the wind howl outside
the crackle of the fire
the whistle of the kettle.

All are of no use.
It is so cold.

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

The weather station says this is the coldest it has been in 40 years for this time of year. Even the dogs don't want to go out and walk. The Stellar Jay has fluffed itself up to a big blue ball waiting for its turn at the feeder. How cold is it? the old joke goes but I am to cold to remember the answer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Magpie Tales 94 - Isolation

Lunch by George Tooker

Not natural
to eat
with a pack that is not yours.

We share
only with our friends.

And eat
totally alone
when surrounded by strangers.

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

I dined with friends last night. The experience was so dynamically different than George Tooker's painting. I live in a near wilderness surrounded by open space. But once I lived in a crowded city and took of food in crowded diners. Never I think was I so alone. So are all of Tooker's diners.

For more takes on the Magpie Tales prompt.

Far Away

Surrounded by Time by J. Binford-Bell

Far Away

I believe
I am
When far away.

J. Binford-Bell
December 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Letting go of Reality

I have an artist friend who said the longer he was in art the more abstract he became. That is certainly true with artists such as Pablo Picasso and Duchamp. And I can set myself heading that way. It first showed up in photography. And on some levels it has always lurked there because I love textures and detail photos like the ones above and below of ice.

But lately with the discovery of post processing it has shown up in use of color and extreme cropping. And I have just begun to experiment with layering.

Grand Canyon Dawn

At first I just began to push color a little bit like the picture of dawn in the Grand Canyon above. But every editing section began to more and more be an exploration in extremes.

Fire Escape

Shadow Dancers

And lately I have found myself wanting to take my photos, as I have done for years, and turn them into paintings. But now it is not the realistic canyons but the abstract compositions I want to paint. It is no longer about rendering the subject faithfully or even in a visionary manner but rendering the feeling and emotion.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Red Love Seat

How like a love seat
Always just a bit uncomfortable
But so desirable
And in red so difficult
To ignore.

You could not miss her
The moment you walked into the room
You wanted to find a way
To include her
In your decor.

And yet
Red is such a hard color to match
It always seems to clash
With all other elements
In the room.

But there she was
The center of all the attention
Even when at the end
She was abandoned in the back alley
Of life.

I had a red love seat
Sort of friend
And as hard as she was to accommodate
I shall miss her.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011
In Memory of Libby

Posted to Magpie Tales 93 hosted by Tess Kincaid.

Come the Winter's Embrace

Icy Embrace by J. Binford-Bell

Winter's Icy Embrace

Come the winter
To the lands of fall
Streams sealed
Beneath an icy embrace.

Hope fighting back
Helped by the midday sun
Bubbles form
Below sheets of ice.

Race away
Run fast
The December snows.

October's pond
Sealed off
In winter's icy embrace
Before November's end.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Magpie Tales - I wonder

Woodward and Newman posted by Magpie Tales

I Wonder

When I see
People kissing
Are both

Are their noses
In the right place
Their teeth brushed
Is the kiss

Or are they
About what the other 
Must think.

Am I doing this right
Is this as awkward
As it is going to get
Will the next kiss
Be Bliss?

Are these just my insecurities
Or do others
About their tongues
The shoes on the bed
Worried about who
Is looking?

Will I get
Another chance
To do this

Jacqui Binford-Bell
November 2011

I often am transported by the Magpie prompt for the week but this one just made me itch. I worried about the wrinkles on the bed and the shoes, and how long they had to hold that pose for the photographers.  It all transported me back to my early days of kissing. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shadow Sisters

Shadow Sisters at the Grand Canyon
My sister and I did a ten day tour in October of national parks and federal lands along the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. Usually we set up the tripod and do a photo of us in the we were here mode but this time we chanced in day one on the Shadow Sisters. They went everywhere with us.

Shadow Sisters

Me and my sister
When young she was my shadow
Baby sister following me

Me and my shadow
We both grew up
Now our shadows play together

So thankful
For my sister
And the shadows we cast
In each other's life.

Just me and my sister
And our shadows
At play in the western sun
Thankfully together.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art or Snapshot?


I have found a group of photographers to explore the realm of the possible with. I am going to call it digital art. But given the things I used to do in a black and white darkroom during college I think it is still totally permissible to call it photography.

Devotions above is the current state of play with a photograph I originally took as merely a snapshot in Mesa Tower at Desert Overlook on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I say snapshot because I was in a recording mode with my digital camera. I had taken this ten day vacation with my sister to be inspired to paint again, and to get some wonderful photographs that were not on film, and spend some time with my sister.

We are both photographers be it as a hobby or an art form that we are pursuing. As such there were times we set up tripods with a specific purpose in mind like sunrise in the Grand Canyon that morning. And times when you just point at an interesting juxtaposition of colors and shapes and snap.

The original photo
The lighting in the Mesa tower was challenging. My Nikon, on auto, was confused. A time existed, like with film, I would have tossed this particular photo but I loved the shapes so downloaded to my computer I ran it through my post processing program.

Heightened color
My first thought had been to just adjust for brightness and contrast and see what I got. But I couldn't stop just there. I had to push the saturation level and hues because if nothing else I wanted to use it for a painting idea. And I still might.

But I was inspired by those friends of mine to add some texture to the photograph. And that gave me the opening photo Devotion. It is an artistic statement within itself. Will I still do a painting of this subject? Yes, I might. But more as a concept and with addition or rearrangement of elements. Or I may have the photograph printed on canvas and sign it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wandering Lonely as a Chair


From chair to chair
Room to room
Seeking something

From dream to dream
Always not finding
What is missing.

A chair unoccupied
A room empty
Boxes without contents
Hallow walls.

Lonely as a chair
Empty as my heart
Hallow echos
Of something lost.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Posted in Magpie Tales 91 hosted by Tess Kincaid. Visit for more poetic and creative takes of this week's prompt.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angry Clouds

Angry Clouds

The clouds are angry today
They rage across the mountain tops
Racing before the winds
Whipping the grass
To a frenzy.

The sun is depressed
Cannot seem to find its proper place
Skirts along the ridges
Looking for escape
From the day.

My skin itches
As if the wind is a swarm of gnats
The storm assaults my senses
Sucks the very air
From my lips.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Magpie Tales 90 - Cemetery Strolls

Magpie Tales by Tess Kincaid

Cemetery Strolls

Just Mother and Me
Seeing the sights
In ancient Rome
Old World Cemeteries.

All those miles in a stroller
All those centuries of history
Names carved in marble
Shelley, Keats, Bellini, 
Sir Thomas Moore and Michelangelo.

Cathedrals and cemeteries
Frescos and fountains
Fables and myth
Etched into a young mind
Recorded on Kodak film.

Albums of photographs
Recording me at two
Before Bellini's crypt
On the square at St. Peter's
Memorial to martyrdom.

At times most alone
I go to cemeteries
Walk among the monuments
To lives I never knew
And feel at home.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Visit Magpie Tales for links to other poetic flights spurred by Tess Kincaid's photographic prompt. 

Bird of a feather

Raven Chatter by J. Binford-Bell

Bird of a feather

Of Edgar Allan
Standing so still
Not on a door or window sill
But a log of petrified wood.

Poe's bird of Nevermore
Speaking nonsense in the desert sun
Not a midnight dark and gloomy
Cocking head to stare
Fixing me with its stony gaze.

I stood and stared back
Waited for him to fly away
But still he stood as if wanting 
To speak to me
Relay some important message.

I crept close with camera
To listen to the whispers from his feathers
Or capture his spirit in pixels
And he opened his beak
And cackled. 

The breeze ruffled his feathers
I waited for him to fly
But still so stoically he stood
Not until I walked away
Did he fly.

Had he been waiting for me
Some message to pass on
Not nevermore
Poe's raven had it wrong.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Cliff Dwelling at Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon National Monument was one of the last parks we visited on our Arizona junket. We did Sunset Crater, Wupatki Pueblo, and Walnut Canyon all in one day because of their proximity to each other. It could have been a park too many. We had been given rave reviews of it but compared to the others we had seen it seemed rather less than spectacular but that could be due to landscape.

Walnut canyon itself is gray. And the canyon is narrow. The cliff dwellings are built in the layers of the canyon walls. It reached its highest population density after Sunset Crater erupted. Safety seemed the primary concern of the residents.

Looking down in the canyon from the 240 steps to the bottom
There is a stream at the bottom of the canyon but it comes and goes dependent upon rainfall. The residents farmed the land at the top and built extensive trails to to other pueblos around the canyon walls and from top to bottom. The ledges are narrow and the cliff faces steep. Hopefully nobody walked in their sleep.

Debbie walking but the remains of a pueblo
As you travel down to the bottom and around the loop trail you pass the remains of many dwellings and see them everywhere on the cliffs around you. It must have been a busy center of activity.

Hidden in the canyon walls
Debbie talking to one of the shadow people
Rock Eroded by wind

Tree hanging on to cliff
At Bottom Looking up
The modern steps and paths were laid out during the depression. There are 240 steps down and you have to do those up too. No elevators. Great exercise. Yes, those tiny little figures are people walking down. And yes, it was worth the trip but we took more pictures on the way up than down. It gave us an excuse to stop and catch our breath.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Once upon a time

Once Upon a Time

It was a dark and stormy night
No scratch that
Feed in new sheet of paper.

Once upon a midnight dreary
Erase dreary
Once upon a midday last.

New sheet of paper
All nice and blank
Sip coffee
The lonely writer sat.

First chapters are the hardest
Begin with number two
The bed where he had lain was cold.

Light streamed through the basement window
Erase that line
Chapter 3
How long had the sun been up?

How long had he been dead
Here in his basement office
Not Writing
Goodbye cruel world.

The suicide note began
Still rolled into the typewriter
Crumpled paper
Body on the bed across the room.

J. Binford-Bell
October 2011

Painted Silence

Painted Silence

Surrounded by hills of painted sand
Whispering of a past long gone
Listening for wild calls of a forest primeval
Drowned beneath the roasting sun.

Walking a trail winding down
Into the erased past beneath
The hills of vivid color so silent
Swallowing every breath of air.

Above on the canyon rim
A reality turned unreal
Descending step by step into silence
Listening for whispers not there.

Surrounded by sands of a time long gone
Transfigured matter which speaks
In whispers not audible
Entombed in colored sands.

J. Binford-Bell
October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

San Mateo Mesa

San Mateo Mesa at sunset

My sister lives in a marvelous section of the state of New Mexico. It is filled with an abundance of little side trips you can take that get you beyond power poles and city boundaries. So when I arrived at San Fidel in the very early afternoon of our fist day of vacation we immediately loaded up the fur kids and headed for San Mateo Mesa to catch the late afternoon sun on the rock formations there.

My father maintained that Interstate 40 and 25 were positioned to go through the most boring parts of the state so people would just keep passing through. Surely they chose the routes for ease of building but the result was the same. Just off the highways lie the most interesting spots.

Lowering sun on outcrop of rock

The rock colors in this federally maintained land were fantastic. I found myself wondering if to a geologist they meant something because it is a mine exploration area and there are some mines on the fringes out of sight.

Hoodoos or vodoos or goblins

Wild variances in colors abound augmented by lichens. For a photographer it was a visual banquet.

And the rock formations are extremely varied. It was amazing to find it all in one short afternoon outing.

Debbie on top of a plateau

Ridge of rock

Reflection in a stock pond

Mesa View
San Mateo Mesa area is used for grazing and hunting and camping as well as mining. It is one of the federal lands where the combination seems to work well. I know two photographers that will probably be going back for more photos and off roading.

Friday, October 28, 2011

More of the Grand Canyon

The recent trip to the Grand Canyon was scheduled for one day. Actually we had only one goal and that was to photograph sunrise and its effects up the canyon walls. We left Flagstaff at 4 a.m. to make the west end of the south rim trail and set up tripods before dawn. No place to eat was open that early and so breakfast waited until after the sun was fully up. And so did the rest of the canyon.

Don't get me wrong. The Grand Canyon is spectacular in any light especially if you have never seen it. But mid day is not great for photographers. And the vistas can get like one more flavor at Baskin-Robbins. Both my sister and I have decided on a return trip of multiple days and staying a lot closer to the focus of our attentions. We want several sunrises and sunsets and we want more days to give all the views their due.

Where we photographed dawn is one of the most visited spots. As you head east on the rim highway the canyon broadens out and the sun rises higher in the sky. My first look at the photos I took along this path did not excite me. But just a bit of tweaking on brightness/contrast brought out the colors the digital megapixels had captured. And because the canyon is wider there are less dark shadows to distract from the patterns in the landscape below you. I found myself wishing I had taken more pictures in this expanse of canyon but I was dealing with a 3:30 am wake up and sensory overload.

Looking west at the Colorado River

At this point, near desert view, the canyon seems more like a broad valley than a grand canyon. But you get a good view of the Colorado River winding its way through the softer sandstone. Further east the river is in cased in harder rock and ergo the canyon narrower. Here it gets to meander.

Looking east at the Colorado

In this view you can see Hanse Rapid. If I remember correctly, when I went down the Colorado on a raft this was the first fun rapid. It is almost a mile long and has seven holes and crests. It is like riding a roller coaster. Doesn't look like much from up here.

The colors of the Grand Canyon are all about the layers of sediment and rock laid down at the bottom of a huge inland sea. The Colorado River exposes layer after layer after the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon also changes color based on the sun and where it is the sky. Here it was almost directly overhead. There are no shadows.

Now that I have seen the Canyon in dawn and full sun I definitely want to see it at sunset and in stormy weather.