Monday, April 30, 2012

Castle of Gold

Cities of Gold by J. Binford-Bell

Castle of Gold

High on the canyon wall
it hides from all but the sun
looking down on the valley floor
cliff palace
Coronado's goal.

Cities of gold
made of mud and rock
built by peoples that wore no armor
who thirsted for water
not gold.

Castles without moats or kings
sheltered by the cliffs and canyons
glowing golden in the evening sun
tucked away
from enemies and history.

J. Binford-Bell
April 2012

See Jingle Poetry at Gooseberry Gardens for other poems about castles and palaces.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Creative Process - Mind Games

Dawn Banishing the Night by Jacqui Binford-Bell

I have been talking and writing for some weeks about getting back to painting. It always brings up the question as to why I haven't painted seriously in several months. And it has a lot to do with Missions - the adobe church type. Missions were always my biggest sellers. It was something that tourists to New Mexico liked as I was faithful largely in my rendering of the church architecture. And I did them in smaller, more affordable sizes. But they were never my first love. Or even my second.

Lamentations of the Spirits below was one of my favorites. And one of the paintings of mine which won prizes and acclaim. And in which I had invested some of my spirit. Like my "Goddess paintings" like the one above it was in my opinion creative.

Lamentation of the Spirits by Jacqui Binford-Bell
Anyone can paint a church. And there are a lot of churches to paint. Lots of people's houses, lots of their pets, endless flowers. I am not even fond of photographing all those things except as an exercise in the technical aspects involved like getting the pet to sit still.

But the paintings I invest my soul in don't sell as fast and the cute churches. I got to a crossroads. Mass produce churches or not paint. But after doing Stampede I knew I could not give up painting.

Stampede by Jacqui Binford-Bell

But what to paint? I took the sabbatical I wrote about in a previous blog on the creative process. I photographed and took my photography seriously, and I sketched possible paintings. I am working on three sketches for three paintings at this time. And thinking about them a lot. The old me would go from drawing board to production line by now. I had gotten into the "produce for fairs" mind set. But I am not doing fairs now. Just entering exhibitions. Stampede has been entered in one.

Artistically I like my three sketches equally. And I may end up doing all three. But I am most fond of the one with the old vintage car. But I want it to say something to me at least. So there sits the sketch on the drawing table. But it is alive in my dreams too. Mentally I add and subtract things from that sketch. There is a Route 66 sign that was not in my photograph. Photographs were always my launch point. They have only recently been a destination as well. But I digress. Back to that sketch. Now I am toying with a mirage and a skull.

Who knows what will go in and what will come out. And there is sketch two in the back of my mind. It began as one thing and is morphing into another. So lately when people ask when I am going to paint again I am tempted to say I am already. I am painting in my mind these two sketches. Where, after all, does a painting begin? At conception or when you put paint to canvas?

I lived with Horace, my borrowed horse skull, and my memories of Dead Horse Mesa for a long time before I painted Stampede. The same thought process went into the other two paintings. Mind games are every bit as important to the creative process as the paint and canvas. And producing for fairs does not allow me enough mind time.

So as we approach another summer art season look for me at my studio either painting on canvas or in my mind as I tend my garden.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Beneath by J. Binford- Bell


Looking up through the surface
spying the earth
in all its glory
from a watery grave.

Reflections of life
passing over me
beyond my reach
and gradually beyond my desire.

I sleep in eternal rest
as the wind
ripples the barrier
between me and life.

J. Binford-Bell
March 2012

Image by Alex Stoddard

Sweet Tweet

Cliff Swallows by J. Binford-Bell

Sweet Tweet

Tweet Twit
I've tried
My life
in 140 key strokes.

I have galore
by never tweeting
A single line
of 140 characters.

I attempt 
to translate
from time to time
On a dull day
Machine stroke hieroglyphs. 

50 monkeys
at random
with infinite time
are smarter
than infinite tweeters and 50 keys.

No one
can write a poem
as lovely as a tree
or as base as a tweet
for my taste
I will take the tweets of birds.

J. Binford-Bell
April 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creative Process - Sabbaticals

Raven in the Star by J. Binford-Bell

As a painter I have been on sabbatical. Other than a few small pieces like the one above I have not painted since last fall. I got bored. Bored with subjects, bored with producing, bored with techniques. Bored! So the little painting I did explored new subjects like the raven above. Or the horse skulls in Stampede below.

Stampede by J. Binford-Bell

That it was also a very slow art market this winter did not help inspire me to new output. But artists must create so I dove into photography in a big way and won prizes and sold photographs and secured a two month local exhibit for my sister and myself. I toyed with giving up painting entirely. Especially as I got more and more into post processing of my photographs.

Ice Fan by J. Binford-Bell

And at some point this spring it seemed that my photographic art was coming closer and closer to my painting. A collector of one of my old junker car photographs asked why I didn't paint a car. Fodder for the muse inside.

Get Your Kicks Too by J. Binford-Bell

I have this one set aside to paint. Even have the correct size stretcher bars. The green grass goes away. Yes, I could do that in my digital manipulation program but I feel myself doing it with paint easier. And with more enjoyment. I have taken a long enough sabbatical from painting that I have come to miss it. But I am also getting textures in photography I will miss. I could switch to oils if I had a thousand extra dollars hanging around for paints and brushes and easel. I don't.

But I think I may have found a solution to that with oil sticks. I ordered a set yesterday. And I have the limo and another subject I want to do on canvas with water media and oil sticks. Back into the studio with lab time. But lab time is another blog post entirely. This one is about taking a break.

I know friends of mine worried - still worry - I won't paint again. I frankly considered that an option at one point this winter. Then I began to think about painting. If it is something integral to who you are you will not abandon it entirely. But leaving it alone for a while allows you time to break ruts and explore new possibilities. In this case it allowed me to develop my photography which eventually fed on my artistic vision in my paintings and now it is feeding back into my painting.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Upside Down Rainbows

Paradise Pond by J. Binford-Bell

are all around us
when we choose to look.

Liquid colors spreading below us
arching above us
held in a tear.

A promise
of brightness that is for us
if we but open our eyes and see.

J. Binford-Bell
April 2012


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Muckn' Around - The Creative Process

Psychedelic Morning by J. Binford-Bell

I have a friend in Australia that would call this muckn' around. I would call it pushing the envelope. She may well be more accurate. But the truth of the matter is all creative people must push their limits. I think the average art patron would be shocked to know how many "failed" creations their favorite artist creates. Since the first cave paintings artists have rubbed out, painted over and redone works of art. Available space, cost of materials, etc means often an artist decides to reuse a platform for new artistic expression because they have moved beyond the older style of techniques.

But sometimes artists just try something outside their norm and it doesn't work. I am about to take a canvas off the stretcher bars because the painting did not work. Photographers that learned their craft in the day of film are likely to see each snap of the shutter as too dear. Digital allows you to snap away to your hearts content. And photoshop programs allow you to go where you would not dare. Be it a painting, a poem, a photograph we all learn from our mistakes it is hoped. And we grow by muckn' about.

It is snowing today so I have been muckn' around with my camera in my studio and pushing the envelop in post processing.

Will hiding behind the plants

Willow up close and personal

Willow, the artistic approach

It was rather fun to take a random shot of my cat and crop it down to a great up close shot. And then I wondered what it would be like in my current favorite technique on my dry darkroom software.

Vase and Aspen twigs

If you are an out and about photographer a day stuck in the studio can be boring. I was trying to shoot this vase when I got the picture of my cat. The object of this exercise was to get natural lighting on a still life per the directions in this photography book. The neck of the vase still shows some reflection off the windows but I did not need to use a flash and there is not a hard edged shadow. Lesson learned but not mastered.

Garden of delights

I usually go hard edges and bright colors like the vase so on this landscape I blurred and softened. It is called lateral learning to explore the far extremes of a subject. And whether you call it muckn' around or pushing the envelope there is something to be learned in getting out of your comfort zone. It is not important to create a masterpiece each and every time. But it is important to explore beyond the limits you have set for yourself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Creative Process - Intention

Red Tail Hawk by J. Binford-Bell

Yes, this is the second blog in the same day when I specifically stated that my intention was to do a blog a week on the creative process. But there I was walking around with my camera in my hand and thinking about intention.

I had my camera on the walk so my intention must be to take a picture or two or three though I will be honest and admit I have sometimes walked for hours and never lifted it to focus. But I have made myself a promise this year to take the camera with me everywhere (except when I intend deliberately not to take it but that is another blog) so I was out on my morning walk with the dogs and the Nikon D90 went with us. I don't, however, always take the entire camera bag with me. It gets heavier every time I have any money to spend. But I had been using my wide angle of late for those pond reflections featured earlier. I changed to my long lens this morning, checked the battery and the memory card.

My intention was clearly to not take sweeping vistas but to focus more narrowly on my world. My 70mm to 300 mm lens is good for long shots and oddly enough macros. I was looking for evidence that spring has begun to emerge from beneath the melted snow.

Great Mullen sprout

And it can get up close and personal with the pollen blossoms on the tall aspen trees. It was also a desire of mine to get a picture to post on Facebook.

Aspens in Spring by J. Binford-Bell

This photo above was to illustrate that aspens do bloom and that is why we are all sneezing currently. Amazing the number of people that only visit in the summer that have no idea why us locals all bemoan sneeze season. This is it. It was suppose to be a straight forward informational photograph but obviously subconsciously I wondered if one can make such a photograph interesting?

But I digress. We were talking intention. There were several intentions guiding me this morning, 1) use another lens, 2) get a photo of the tall aspens and their pollen pods, 3) look for distant wild life. If number 3 had been my only intention I would have walked around for quite a while not taking a picture. The Red Tailed Hawk didn't show up until I was finally back in my driveway.

My Neighbor

In short I think intention can be very different than focus. You can hold more than one intention in your mind at a time and therefore allow for serendipity. But had I gone out solely focused on snapping a picture of a hawk I would have set up on a tripod in a blind and probably not seen anything worth taking a picture of.

I think the same could apply to painting. If you narrow your focus on only one subject or one approach to that subject you may miss an awful lot of creative happenstance.

Creative Process - Just Do

Ice Bloom by J. Binford-Bell

When I was writing all the how-to-write books advocated sitting in front of a typewriter or computer for a set number of hours. At that time the blank word processing screen could be hidden behind a solitaire game but now you can so fill you computer screen with nonsense you will not know the word processor is awaiting your first line.

But I think it is all about intention. You sit before the computer with the intention of writing. Now I sit in front of the computer with that intention, dry dark rooming the perfect photograph, and coming up with an idea for a painting. Oh, and press releases for my work, and finding new exhibits or venues, shopping for equipment for the camera or materials for painting. So even the intention and purpose has gotten blurred.

I started this blog, in the beginning, to explore the creative process and then I got into just showcasing my work, allowing a venue for my poems, etc. I am lucky some weeks when I post one poem or one new photograph and sometimes that is in order to have something (anything) to link into G+ of Face Book. Keep that audience interested!

This blog is a promise to return here more frequently and back to my original direction at least once a week. More blogs on the Creative Process. And in customary blogger egotism I am doing it mostly for me. We teach what we most need to learn. Today it is INTENTION.

And I a finding intention is not just sitting in front of my time wasting computer. And it is not sitting in front of it. It is focusing on what I intend to do while here - or not here. At the moment the intention of photography is best served with camera in hand and an assignment be it outside or inside. This week my assignment has been reflections in ponds (and an accidental remnant of ice here and there).

Brightside down  by J. Binford-Bell
Magique at Pond's Edge by J. Binford-Bell

The weather has been great outside and with the ice just melted the ponds have been like mirrors in the morning. But more than just capturing reflections it has been about composition. How much can you reduce the image to heighten it. And of course the object in the foreground to give scale and depth.

In Brightside down I cropped off the tops of the real trees. And of all the photos of reflections in the pond the one with Magique in the front held the most magic. And then there was the one where Magique chased the geese who flew in the pond and messed the reflections all up.

Sunrise Geese by J. Binford-Bell

With art, be it photography or paint, you sometimes get what you get. The artist will recognize the happy accident. But unless you are in the studio with your paint or in the field with your camera, and dog, you won't get any happy accidents at all.

So my new intention is to not sit as much in front of the computer unless my intention is dry darkroom or a blog on the creative process.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oh, to return

Egg Island by D.J. Ajakarta

Oh, to return

To that simpler time
snug and warm
safely enshelled
safe from the hateful.

Oh, to unbreak 
the egg
remain secure
and unknowing.

Oh, to return
back into the egg
Back to the silence
and safety of the calcium womb.

J.  Binford-Bell
April 2012

A tip of the hat to Tess Kincaid of Magpie Tales for this prompt.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

From one extreme to the other -- the creative process

Dawns first light by J. Binford-Bell

The end days of winter are rather colorless. Or less colorful. Even the evergreens seem less green. So maybe that is why I am in a black and white mood. But I am telling myself it is because I am into light and composition and for that you do not need color.

Both Sides by J. Binford-Bell

In fact color may obscure the light and even the composition. Once the aspens are out in the photo above it will be striking in color. Taking this photo and making it black and white lets me know where I want to return mid summer.

Bare Bones by J. Binford-Bell

And black and white lets you reduce a photo to the bare essentials. In this case it was the trunks of the aspens or rather the reflection of the trunks of the aspens that was the strongest element.

I most often push the color in my photographs. I live in a very colorful place - New Mexico. And my paintings are vivid. Taking out the color was at first just an exercise. But now I am finding things to really love about it. And I think those things will make my color photos that much stronger.

The Bell by J. Binford-Bell