Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 8 - 2014 in Images

Spent my week in the studio. The winds outside just didn't cry out for a photography trip. Besides I was busy finishing a painting and photography all my recent pictures to enter four into the New Mexico Women Artists show at the Old Pass Gallery in Raton. The photo below is rather typical of my week.

Day 50
Throwing myself into my work

Week 51 - Bashful Orchid

I have been following this one orchid at a friend's greenhouse. It has had buds for what seems to be months and this week one of the buds began to open. This was also the day I knew my Nikon D3200 was failing. It is just four months old and its failure has been as slow as this bud opening.

Day 52

This Crown of Thorns above is in my studio and always blooming so it was easy to photograph it between shoots on the paintings.

Day 53

Had to go out to the shed to look for a box of the appropriate size to ship the under warranty camera back to Nikon. Wind does not effect cattle panels and wood. I had my camera with me because I was still doing photos with it and recording its failures so I could fill out the return form in detail. This one was in focus. Love the lines.

Day 54
Back to the Nikon D90. It is less pixels but still takes an amazing photo. Nikon D3200 stripped and in box and winging to California. But before I shipped it I took the photo below. Most of it not in focus but it was still a great picture.

Day 55
The photo below was with my Nikon D90 on the same setting and all the dried flower is in focus. I love my Nikon D90. And maybe when it is back from repair I will love my D3200.

Day 56

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Don't Paint Yourself into a Corner

Binford-Bell Studio Chaos

I am currently in a highly creative period of my life. Which is surprising for me most especially, coming, as it did, after a period of more than a year when I seriously did not know if I was ever going to paint again. That was not the painter's equivalent of writer's block. I just didn't want to paint. And I took up the camera which had always been a tool for painting, not an end in itself, and just took photographs. And like with my painting I immediately won awards for my images.

It took a while to realize I was not a photographer. I do not get excited about fstops and ISO. I really hate tripods. I maxed out on photographs of the moon and see nothing enticing about photographing star tracks. I love the hunt for the perfect capture of elk or truck or reflection in a pond or glass. I enjoy the being outdoors with my camera and my dogs. But I am not a photographer. I am a painter who would not paint unless it was in pixels.

Abstract in Pixels

And since I have suddenly begun to paint again the question keeps coming up in casual conversations or in my head - What changed?

Why I stopped painting is really easy. I no longer liked it. Why I no longer liked it was a great deal more complicated but it boils down to I had painted myself into a corner. I was not painting for me but for galleries and art fairs and the expectations of others. Photography won out because I was taking photographs for me. Not even for possible paintings. Of course I was going to like photography more.

But photography was just treading water. And one day as I was reviewing images I had pixelated on my computer I became discontent. There was this photo which was not quite right. It failed just short. And I thought of what it would look like in a painting. It was not an image any gallery I had been associated with would like to carry, it wasn't like any that I normally used to sell but it needed to be painted. For me.

Meraki (mA-'rak-E) -- Greek noun

The soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.

And in that moment I began to paint again I knew that was why I had stopped painting; my soul had been missing from my work. I had reduced painting to the mechanics of the exercise. Easy for me to do because I am a college trained fine arts graduate. And in a conversation with another friend who knows all the right techniques the other day I came to understand how limiting that can be. She asked how to escape that training and I told her to cut off her right little finger. I literally did in 2006 and so wanted to create that I began painting with my left hand.

I had forgotten that. It is so much easier to put up barriers to creativity than surmount them. Artists are perfectionists and we will abuse ourselves for not obtaining that. Another artist soul I know stopped painting because she did the best she thought she could do on her last painting. "Good enough place to stop." But it isn't. You need to see every painting not as a door at the end of a hall but a door that can be opened to the next painting.

Why have you stopped creating? There is no more place to hang paintings, no place to store them. I have not come up with a new idea in x time. Nobody is buying art. I need to clean the house, build birdhouses, feed the dogs, etc. Argue for your limitations and they are yours. Or you can cut off your little finger on your right hand. Or your ear like VanGogh. Just stop, take a deep breath and listen to your soul.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Week 7 - 2014 one day at a time

Day 43

Photography has definitely taken a back seat to painting this week. As I wrap up week 7 there is not a single photo for week 8 set aside and no images I have not uploaded on my camera. Yes, I have used the camera this week but to record progress on paintings, and to record the finished image for use on blogs and website. And that is what I most used the camera for before winning my first prize in a photo competition.

Day 44

I confess, I took this one last week but had played with a couple of my favorite photo tools and came up with this marbled look.  I was on hold on the telephone and bored.

Day 45
I took several photos of this tree looking up from its base and found I am far more comfortable with it leaning to the right than to the left. I asked myself that question because of a tidbit of information about persuading someone. You should stand where they have to look to their left.

Day 46
Black and whites look best with a busy sky. I suppose the budding out aspen branches make the sky busy enough.

Day 47
The not spring of this not winter we are having seems to lend itself to black and white photographs and my grey mood. But I think it is more because I am painting in brilliant colors at the moment and find the stark B&W actually restful. Decided to add a splash of color to the week.

Day 48
I tilted my camera to the left on this photo. It provides a nice diagonal pattern with the edges of the wall. If you look closely you can see the tilted light switch behind the flowers. Nobody has.

Day 49
 Also taken last week when we still had snow on the ground. The spring like temps have melted almost all of it away. Maybe this next week there will be green grass.

Monday, February 17, 2014

High Mesa Dawn

High Mesa Dawn
Mixed Media on artists canvas
28 x 28/40 x 40 on the diagonal
by J. Binford-Bell

I began this composition style with small paintings of New Mexico Missions largely because it allowed the best display of church towers, and a smaller canvas could take up more space on a wall. I sold them often in groups of four which could be arrange in a diamond shape on a wall. In the last year I have begun to enlarge the canvases I use in this manner and expand on the subject matter. I have done two paintings now inspired by Acoma Pueblo and both have been on the diagonal. High Mesa Dawn is by far my largest to date.

First the sky

No sense in spending hours and hours on the heart of the painting and then ruin it by trying to fill in a sky. I think of my skies as an integral part of the painting. They set the mood and to a large degree determine the palette of the balance of the painting. Since I have begun pouring my skies I always think of this part of the process almost magical. Never quite sure what I will come up with.

Then laying in the blocks of color beneath

Then adding in the sunlight
The sky determined where the light of the rising sun was coming from and so all colors have to be laid in with the direction of the light firmly in mind. Watercolor traditionally is lighter colors first and then turning darker. But watercolor canvas has changed that some because the colors can be lifted from it. And it is far more forgiving of layering colors than paper. With the complex buildings of the pueblo I first laid in base colors for the shadows, then added the sunlight on the walls facing the sun. And lastly I laid over some of the warmer yellows and oranges over the early blocks of shadow.

Filling in around the central buildings
I admit to going in a different order on this painting. Usually I do the skies and then the foregrounds. And lastly work on the subject or center of the canvas. As you can see from the progress photo above the foreground was left for last. I think this approach (artists do not always know why they do something) was because wanting to create depth in this painting. I worked from back to front. I also found I changed the sketch in the foreground to give more a sense of height of the mesa.

Foreground floated

I love working rock and canyon walls with a floating technique. This can require more masking to protect the areas you do not want the color to float too. But I will apply water to an area of rock and then drop in various colors of liquid watercolor and in this case a granulation medium which creates a visual texture to the rocks. You can stir with a brush or push the colors this way or that but no painting.

Canvas covered and details beginning to be added

There are chickens on the mesa and sheep down by the canyon floor pens. Ladders are casting shadows, and deeper shadows are added to the passages off the mesa. I am still at this point working largely in watercolor and some inks for detail. Next step is the use of oil sticks to the clouds and sky and to the canyon walls. I did not want to totally cover up the great textures achieved with the floating of mesa walls but I wanted them darker to accent the sun on the pueblo.

Finished painting with ravens and signature
I reposted the the finished painting here at the bottom so you can see how it has changed from the one just above. I did manage to darken my foreground with the oil sticks, and pick up the clouds in the poured sky. I also deepened the shadows, and added more details with pen and ink.

Lastly I add the ravens or crows. There are two flights of ravens in this painting. That was inspired by my visit to Acoma where you can look over the edge and watch the ravens rise from between the mesa walls and soar above you. All my daytime paintings have ravens. They have become a signature of mine. And since the death of a very dear friend there has always been somewhere in the sky one raven that is all alone.

Sky City or Acoma Pueblo is not at this time of drought this rich in water. The adding of water to my paintings of the desert and canyons is a wish or prayer for its return.

I poured the sky on February 4th and finished it twelve days later. Working on High Pueblo Dawn was a spiritual journey in many ways. But that is true of most of the paintings I have done since I quit art fairs and took the one year sabbatical from painting.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Week Six - 2014 in Images

Day 36
Winter had been so rare that year, one had to pause to recognize it.

We finally got a bit of winter this week. It merited recording. This is also been a week when I have been actively revising my definition of photography. The digital world has mad it so much more than just the recording of events or chronicling a great sunset. And a whole subset of photography has grown up which finds it limiting to be called photographers. Terms like digital artist or digital painter are bantered about. Nobody knows quite what to do with us.

Day 37
House to let

I am not quite sure what to do. Photography was initially and adjunct to my painting. And then it became a replacement for my painting. And then it became this other art I practice. I am not just into pretty pictures. I want windows into another world. I want to record what the casual viewer walking through the landscape may often miss. Make the ordinary stand out.

Day 38
The old bell stood silent witness.

I am probably a bad photographer in the classic definition because I really do not care about f-stop or that painful clarity of detail which distracts often from the image. I do not lug tripods around. I walk through my world and record what strikes my fancy.

Day 39
Winter came early that year before the gardening was quite done.

I have all these pixels at my disposal and software to manipulate the image. My goal is to capture what others miss. Everyone with a soul stops in awe of a sunset but they miss the icicles blowing in the freezing rain.

Day 41
A moment frozen in time
Of that for one short moment the sun came out behind the week of clouds and created a shadow across the snow.

Day 42
The shadow entity
But the last few weeks I have gone back to my original use for photography. Recording my progress with painting.

Day 40
Soon to be High Pueblo Dawn I hope

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Week 5 - 2014 in Images

Day 29

My mind has been into painting. Photography has taken a definite back seat. I still take the camera when I go our or to just do a spin around the house and studio. But mostly the camera has been picked up to take progress photos of paintings I am working on. Besides the January landscape (and I am mostly interested in landscapes) has been very boring. Not any snow and too early for spring flowers and the sky has been largely gray. Except for that one cold day when the fog froze on the trees.

Day 30
Now that was a sky that day. New Mexico can have such awesome skies. They are not just blue but all shads of blue and sometimes on the same day and in the same photo. But that was one day out of a week of days and soon I was back to aiming my camera at just anything. I have weeks during the 365 days of the year when I am taking so many photos I do not have to take any more for maybe a month but I do and I get way ahead on the photo of the day task. Not this last couple of weeks.

Day 31
So I go back and borrow from previous weeks. This one was Day 28 in black and white last week. I like it in color.

Day 32

I love color and I have been working on paintings in vivid colors at the moment because it is so very gray outside. So gray I was hoping for white. But when the white came it too seemed gray. It did not do that New Mexico thing of snowing and then clearing up so you had the stark contrast of blue sky and white land.

Day 33
No sunshine so even the red of the tail lights beneath the snow looked grayed. And the landscapes were just shades of gray.

Day 34

So when I took a picture of my black and white cat in a sunspot in the studio I was not satisfied even with the rust colored carpet. I had to play with color.

Day 35 - Scrappy in neon

So if the weather doesn't improve expect more insane play in the dry darkroom this next week.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Piano Toes

Image provided by Magpie Tales: Mag 205

I have danced in the Big Muddy
Tripped the light fantastic
Tiptoed through the tulips
and twisted on tables.

I have tap danced
and pirouetted 
done the hulu 
and the cha cha cha.

Worn grass skirts
flapper attire
beaded belly dance costumes
complete with seven veils. 

But I have never
sat upon the top of a piano
and tickled the keys
with my toes.

J. Binford-Bell
February 2014