Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Sacrifice by J. Binford-Bell
36 x 21 mixed media on canvas

September of 2012 I went on a trip to photograph the colors in the Chama area. One of the great discoveries of that trip was Las Mesitas San Isadore Church on the New Mexico/Colorado border. I love photographing churches and ruins of churches and have used them as a basis for paintings a lot.

San Isadore Church ruin

The above photograph was the basis for the painting, Sacrifice. I have several other pictures of this church and so was able to provide a footing for the structure so I could have figures walk through it.

Sky painted in

On of the things I always disliked a bit about the photograph is the clouds. Not enough to be interesting. So I decided to delete them from the painting which has very little sky.

Ghosts not painted in

Decided early on that since the church is a ruin the figures were going to be ghosts which always brings up the question of how to paint a ghost. Shadow like.

Canvas covered
Ghosts more solid?

Once the ghosts were roughed in fairly well I became discontent with empty space like the celestial window and the sky above the Sangre de Christo mountains. I always put my ravens in last and was debating the filling of the sky pieces with the arch and windows with flying ravens.

Painted Desert Raven in place

The rising moon over the mountains echos the light of the candles the ghosts carry and I had taken a photo of a raven at painted desert which I did a painting of. He seemed perfect for the celestial window but the moon too small. I added details to the foreground and the candles and the ghosts and enlarged the moon for the finished painting in the opening of this blog.

Week Four of 2014 in Images

Day 22

I gave myself the assignment of shadows this fourth week of January 2014. Shadows are present in most photographs but sometimes they are dominant enough that they are the object of the photograph and sometimes merely a major element. And sometimes they merely alter the primary object of the photo.

The preponderance of the photos this week, both those I used and those I did not, were black and white. If you are photographing the shadow what need color after all? And initially what drove me to photograph a shadow was how it was altered by the surface it was cast upon, as in Day 22, or how it altered the landscape upon which it lay as in Day 23.

Day 23

Day 24 was more of a duet, as it were. The photograph is the marriage of the shadow with the objects casting that shadow. I was quite happy with Day 24.

Day 24

The element of the shadows in the picture below were very static until I tilted the camera to take the picture. It made the depressions of the melting foot prints in the snow more a part of the photo too. They seem to lace themselves through the dark lines.

Day 25

Day 26 was a real puzzle. I was drawn to the shadow across the urn because it seemed to be Pi running.
And yet in an extreme crop which I played with it looked more like a distorted moon rising. Does the shadow steal the show? Probably.

Day 26

Day 27

If day 26 was a failure Day 27 was a success. The shadows wrap over the mound of snow not unlike the shadow of the rail wraps around the urn and they are fanned out by prospective unlike the shadows in Day 25. The shadows in this photograph create movement and are married like the bench and shadow picture with the grove of trees casting the shadows.

The photo below of the temple bell another attempt at marrying a strong shadow with an object like the urn in Day 26. Unlike the urn it works. And maybe it is because of my intent. Day 26 was about the shadow and Day 28 was about the bell.

Day 28

Week five is open. After a week of walls and a week of shadows I want freedom.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Memory of Snow

The Mill by Andrew Wyeth 1964

She remembered snow
and snow ice cream
snow shovels
and snowballs.

Not everyone she knew
remembered snow
its feel
the way it melted on your tongue
or landed on your lashes.

Snow came no more
climate changed
her grandmother laughed
fanning herself
on the porch in Maine in December.

She once told great stories
about the last Arctic Vortex
and the six foot snow rabbit 
they fashioned that July
now she just sipped her iced tea
and fanned herself.

The memory of snow
just a wistful smile
and an album of yellowing photos
in the box she kept
under her bed.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week Three of 2014 in Images

Day 15
All the images from this third week of 2014 were taken on January 4th as I entertained myself in a parking lot waiting for a friend. In week three I revisited this photo file and came up with different digital dark room interpretations of this walls.

Day 16

Before spending this week working and reworking a small set of images I was not that aware of all the varying possibilities of simple walls. In image one I changed color and saturation and played with hue. In the next I just played with the saturation and tone. The image below is without color.

Day 17

Color can get in the way of shape and line and shadows. And can also be too real. In the photo below the box shapes at the far end of the shadow dominated ramp are disposal containers for medical waste. In black and white they could be robots or just interesting shapes placed for artistic purposes.

Day 18

Day 19 made its appearance in the previous Week Two blog. I figured it deserved a day of its own this week.

Day 19

Day 20 was included in the previous week in black and white and without a crop. I said I looked and re-looked at a small group of images. I think often my first instinct is the best but that is not always true.

Day 20
In this version of the same photo it becomes more just an abstract painting than a slice of wall.

Day 21

I included the drains mounted on the wall because of the starkness of the wall behind them and the shadows. Shadows play a major part in this week of wall images. Next week is all about shadows.

I am not going to promise to have each of the 52 weeks of 2014 be on a theme or subject or area of exploration but there is a benefit to me as a growing photographic artist to do this and so as a reader of these blogs you will be able to look over my shoulder as I give myself assignments.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cloud Spinner

Cloud Spinner by J. Binford-Bell

I have been working on this painting for a rather long time. It is one of my most complex because of the design elements involved. Based in part on the Navajo Spider Woman myth the central figure spinning the clouds came from a photograph in an old book about Indian country a friend gave me. Yes, not everything is on Kindle, or at least my kindle. I love leafing through what were once called coffee table books. I get a lot of my ideas from elements in those photos. This painting has Whitehouse ruins at Canyon de Chelle, and Monument Valley in the distance. You cannot see one from the other.

I wanted the Navajo spinner to be spinning water and she ended up spinning a rainbow that runs under the little girl watching her. I had a full sketch and some colors set in my mind until a follower of my work said she thought it would be neat if the sky went from dark to light.

The sky and clouds
I was not wild about the sky when  first poured it. And it pointed out some flaws with the canyon walls which I extended into the background.

I used to begin with the center of my painting and then add around it. I ruined too many paintings. It is sky, background and then foreground as I circle the focal point of the painting.

Cloud Spinner emerges

While filling around Cloud Spinner I worked on developing the setting she is in. I did not want her to look as if she floated in space.

Canvas covered
At this point I was pleased at where the rabbit bush and sage were going, still upset with my pink sky and ready to change the cliff dwelling yet again. The detail work with inks, and the oil sticks are yet to be deployed.

Getting there
The oil sticks are fantastic for clouds and vegetation. But it does seem to add more time before a painting is finished. Between this photograph of the painting and the finished one which opened this blog there is a lot of oil stick work. It added depth and ground for the central figures. Only then did the ravens get added in the sky and the painting signed. Tomorrow it gets the first of several coats of UV archival varnish.

I have been putting ravens in my daytime skies for several years but in only the last few have I added the one raven all alone to represent one who left. Can you find it in the top photograph?

Week Two of 2014 in Photos

Day Eight

Art is a journey. I have believed that for a long time, and that belief is why this blog is called Creative Journey. This week I have been traveling on that journey with both photography and painting. My painting is going through a metamorphosis and so is my photography.  And photography in general is evolving because of the dry darkroom possibilities with digital technology.

I have been going through my recent photographs selecting photos for a show called Insight where it only has to begin with a photograph. It is not about how good your photograph can be but how artistic the end result is. So it is not surprising for me that this week I was looking at four subjects, each in two different ways. Day eight was subject number one. I loved how this city wall looked like a canyon wall especially when colors were enhanced.

Day Nine

But to me it looks far more monumental in black and white. These two photos were taken one right after the other. In the film days you could say the occupied neighboring cells on the strip of film. I am a camera turner. Not unusual for me to stand in one spot and move the camera rather than me. The play of light and the oblique angles in this building attracted me. The question was first how best to capture them. And then once on the computer how best to translate those images.

Day 12 - Same building/other side

Another example of me standing in one place and just turning the camera or me or zoom lens is Day 12, and a photo which will be posted most likely in the coming week.

Day 15???

I treated both photos differently in the dry darkroom of my photo processing program and they look like two different buildings. BTW you can twist the images in your computer rather than your camera on location. I have played with these piano key windows quite a lot.

I have said before that every photographer needs to turn away from their subject and see what is behind them. With buildings you also need to walk totally around them. These windows were on the right side of the first two photos. And the ones below were on the left side or back of the building.

Day 11

I loved the play of shadows on the ramp and wall. I am posting the original of this photo right off the camera below. I am not done with this image. All good digital art must begin with a good basic image. You may note that other than changing it to black and white I digitally straightened the most dominate vertical line in the finished photo.  I have seen some really good photographs fail because it makes the viewer uneasy because of a lack of anchor. Oddly you can make viewer really off balance like the two window pictures but not just a little tipsy. I am playing with that in a sketch for a painting I am hoping to finish today: How far is too far?

The original of Day 11

One of my frequent fans on my Facebook fanpage thinks I have gone a bit too far with the photo below. She believes the viewer has to work too hard. And that is a definite legitimate concern.

Day 10
I liked this treatment because it becomes more about the drip lines down through the misted window than the image behind that window.  And I was drawn too that because the drip lines look like the trees the droplets of water conceal.

Day 14

In the image I posted today of the same subject from a more oblique view the photograph is more about what is behind the glass rather than the glass. Color helps but also making the horizontal lines in Day 10 more angled draws the viewer beyond the glass. Horizontal lines are static especially in the bottom third of the photograph.

I am sometimes amazed at how much of my four years of fine arts I remember. And it is one of the reasons I shy away from photography workshops. They seem all too much about F stops and all too little about art.

I didn't put Day 13 on this weekly blog because it was off the topic. Visit Binford-Bell Studio on Facebook to see it. Better yet, become a fan and see the photos as I post them daily.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Swallowing Sea

Phare de La Jument off Brittany Coast by Jean Guichard

The seas
beat with the rhythm
of waves and tides
they ebb and flow
and swallow.

The swallowing seas
take down to the bottom
boats and men
and pirates.

The tides
roar on to the beaten shore
smash the waves
against rocks
and beacons.

Swallowing waves
undercutting docks and towers
the sand 
beneath or feet
turning land 
to sea

J. Binford-Bell
January 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week One of 2014 Images

Day One - Bright New Year

We always seem to want to begin the new year with a bang and rush out of the gate with all promise and energy but I had very divided focus the first week of the year. Much of the time I would rather be in my studio painting, drawing, stretching canvases or just planning future paintings. The camera was frequently forgotten or just picked up as an afterthought as I led the dogs out for the morning walk. A couple times I even forgot it then and quickly snapped a picture at my computer desk like the one below.

Day Two - Now where did I put the stapler?

And day three was a black and white treatment of the photos taken on day one. I liked the quality of light that dawn. BTW the glowing shaft of light to the lower left of the sentinel tree is not someone beaming down but the sun striking a telephone connection box.

Day three

Day four - geometric shapes

On Friday, January 3rd I had to wait for a friend in a parking lot in Santa Fe. I had remembered my camera that day because it fills large voids of time. I am not a patient person. As I child I ran with scissors and now I stalk buildings with cameras. This was a particularly interesting building and you will see more of it in week two. This photo yielded another mysterious element - the orb coming out of opening in the wall. Probably a lens flare but that's boring. I like its round shape against the sharp lines of the geometry of the building.

Obviously it was going to be a week of strange artifacts in photographs. The photograph below is of a stain on the wall due to seepage of water from the lower pipe (black round hole). The sun or moon is actually a PVC lined hole through which the sunlight was coming. Believe it or not I did not do much post processing on this image. Just tone mapping and a filter to bring out the texture of the stucco wall. The title says Madonna but I think it looks more like a Navajo Yeh.

Day five - Madonna of the wall

Day six and seven I was back to forgetting to take the camera outside. I was spending computer time working on post processing of more photographs from the parking lot. And when off the computer I was painting in the studio. I had the camera there to take progress photos of Cloud Spinner. And among those photos was a still life and a geranium to wrap up the week.

Day Six

Last year during my love affair with still lifes I fell in love with several blur applications on my post processing program. Then I got the new megapixel camera and began a love affair with total clarity for a moment in time. I was happy to rediscover blur this week. There can be TMI in a photograph. Something to be said for the dreamy vintage look because it can make the ordinary seem special.

Day seven

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rain Slick Streets

New York at Night  by Vivienne Gucwa

slick with rain
reflecting lights 
through the fog.

clicking in the muted night
whispered words
accompanied by tires 
on the cobblestones.

The City
on a rainy night
given over to lovers
walking home.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2014