Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dark Waters - Magpie Tales 235

Dark Harbor by N.C.Wyeth

Dark Waters

beneath the hulls
yielding a cold harvest.

swallowing the light
taking the last of the day.

taking its toll
sapping the last strength.

a cruel mistress
whispers good night.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Path and The Way - A Creative Process

The Path
30 x 10 Mixed Media on Artist's canvas

The Way
30 x 10 Mixed Media on Artist's canvas

I worked the two painting above not as a set but together. Often when I am painting smaller works I like to do two or more together because I can use the same palette on them. Before my solo show at Gallery Main in Trinidad, Colorado. I had bought a lot of stretcher bars including several to do a triptych. Time and energy curtained that plan. So after the solo exhibit at the gallery I had stretcher bars and canvas left and repurposed them into at least two vertical paintings.

Most paintings sold are horizontal but with houses having more windows and less wall space tall narrow paintings have become quite popular as they fit in spaces between windows and by doors and in halls. They are a composition challenge, however.

Skies painted

I worked these two together from the very beginning so they would be able to be hung side by side should the collector so decide. Even the basic drawings were done to compliment. The path is a visionary view of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico with the mission church in the background, and The Way is the two "towered" Spider Woman pinnacles at Canyon de Chelle in Arizona. The stairway on the path echos the canyon in The Way.

Putting in the Shadows

I will admit to relatively slow progress working on these two pieces. Maybe because of the flurry in which I worked before my solo show it was nice to relax on these two. But I admit to a lot of staring at the work and waiting for guidance on how to proceed. Not to sound too airy fairy but I believe the muse was with me.

Adding the canyon walls

I wanted the walls of the canyon in The Way to resemble the walls of the pueblo in The Path. Both were walls to my way of seeing it. Visionary or illusionary schools of art are a lot about how the artist sees it.

Nearing completion

Once the major blocks of color were in place it was time to consider the two works separately. And be sure each was a complete composition within itself while carrying over the lessor colors into both paintings.

The Path and the Way Together
Very nearly done

As you can see from the almost done photograph of the two above they will look very good hung together or near each other. But they are two separate pieces of art. This Thursday will be their first public debut in Angel Fire, New Mexico at the Visitor's Center. Visit Binford-Bell Studio in Black Lake or on FaceBook for how you can acquire one or both of these pieces.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Exercise #1 - Pick a color

Horses in the field behind my house

Exercise #1 in Five Self Assignments was Pick a color. I picked green. When I lived on the Eastern Seaboard I hated the green. Everyone thought since I was from the desert (oh, so many people misunderstand New Mexico) I would love the green. But it was all the same color of green. And nothing seemed to break it up. I would escape to the beach at every opportunity to get away from that one constant shade of green.

So landscape photographer aside I do not feature a lot of green in my subjects. And I hardly use green in my paintings. And if I do it is a sage green. I loved this picture of the horses in my field because there are so many shades of green in that one picture. Nature has a lot of shades of green.

Angel Wing Begonia

I took all these green photographs in about 20 minutes. And by walking no more than 20 feet (includes the horses). Having a greenhouse and a garden helped this exercise. But if you look back at my last few posts you will note green is not the main color in any of my photos on the whole.

Agave Colorata Mescal Ceniza

Not only is green so many different shades but sunlight changes the green like on the leaves on the euphorbia below.

Explosion of leaves on a Euphorbia

And the buds on a hollyhock are barely green.

Hollyhock buds and lemon grass

And even green plants are not all green. I love the red stalks and blue flowers on borage.


I include the photograph below in my exercise on green because that is the way green usually shows up in my photographs - something out of focus in the background of the main subject.

Bee coming in for a landing

The green is a Lemon balm plant, the white an onion flower (note green stalks) and the bee just intruded.

Week 34 - 2014 in Images

Day 232

I wrote more blogs this week but took less photos. Frequent readers are bound to be familiar with a few of these images because they were featured in other blogs I did on photographic exercises like shapes, and within 15 feet in 10 minutes in my kitchen, the exercise on something different which for me was flowers.

But some have different treatments and slightly different framing. The sweatshirts below are actually upside down because I liked them better that way.

Day 233

And I used one of my very favorite filters on the peaches and mangoes. Most of them have now been eaten but I really did like them as a subject. And I have been so busy with painting photography has taken a back seat. I have been picking up the camera as a last thought and doing a quick exercise or recording subjects close at hand.

And that may be very good because it has gotten me out of my focus on wide vistas and stalking the herds of elk.

Day 234

There is definitely something to be said for getting out of our comfort zone.  The onion blossoms below are a personal favorite. They are a macro closeup and not colorful like most of my subjects but I am really proud of how they turned out.

Day 235

The hollyhocks have been a favorite this summer. My fans on my Facebook have probably gotten rather tired of them. I wonder if anyone said that about Monet's water lilies. I understand he did not much like water lilies but they were a favorite of his father. I love hollyhocks. And poppies.

Day 236

It occurred to me as I was putting together this blog that the majority of the featured pictures this week were vertical. Being a landscape photographer I am far more likely to choose horizontal as a format than vertical. But I was also working on two vertical paintings. I wonder if that effected my photographic choices.

Day 237

I rather like the shirts ready to go upstairs. I could probably put together a whole series of photographs on clothing at this point. Coats last spring, hats next week, sweatshirts this week and now shirts on hangers. When it is raining outside they are a colorful and handy subjects.

Day 238

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mag 234 - Where to Begin

Starry Night by Alex Ruiz
Visual prompt provided by Magpie Tales

The canvas
was too small
the sky too big.
The painting 
would take forever.

The moon
laughed at his folly
the stars giggled.
He was here to paint
but just where to begin.

The day
traversed into night
as he stood in awe.
No pen to paper
and no paint to brush.

The sky
etched its brilliance
upon his mind.
His plan
collapsed in wonder.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2013

Exercise 3 - Shoot Something Different

Tall Wild Sunflowers Dancing

I am most comfortable with sweeping vistas, towering clouds over mountains, and reflections is ponds. This year because of the abundance of wildflowers and flowers in my garden I have made an attempt to do something my sister is best at. Or my photographer friend Terry Atkins Rowe. And it is not that I have never photographed flowers. My loyal readers have seen my portraits of orchids. Such beautiful posers in the controlled environment of a green house.

I do not have a macro lens but my 55-300 mm zoom does a great job at macro if you can get far enough away from the subject. And I like the fact that I do not have to lie down on the ground or erect a tripod necessarily. I often do go into the human tripod - butt, two feet, and elbows on knees. Butt on ground only if it isn't wet.


You are never suppose to shoot down on a flower so unless they are tall like the Tall Wild Sunflower or up on a hillside like this thistle it does require some kneeling. Something which I was more than happy to do this year with the salmon colored poppies in my yard.

But because I really am not the photographer in love with painful digital detail, my photos of flowers, I like to think, are more painterly.

The first Salmon Poppies

And perhaps, poetic. And the out of focus is every bit as important to me as what is in focus. Especially since the lovely background above was in fact my driveway. But the out of focus seed pods in the solitary poppy below is the making of the subject - the last poppy of the season.

The last poppy of the season

But at some point one has to make a stab at that mega pixel challenge and see if you can get a flower with pinpoint accuracy. Then you can say I can do that just do not choose to. Rather like Picasso who could draw very, very well but didn't.

Onion Blossoms

I also do not like to cut my flowers and take them out of their environment to control the breeze or the background. The onion blossoms were in my bow tunnel so quite unintentionally they got the opaque plastic behind them.


The hollyhocks got the rest rest of the plant for their setting. They looked their best in the evening light.

Double Ruffle Purple Hollyhock

It was upon coming in from attempting to capture my hollyhocks at dawn that I caught the growing light on the geranium in the studio.

Pretty in pink

A word about self assignments. There are those we give ourselves consciously and those which are rather subconscious. And some exercises like the 15 foot circle I have blogged about can be done in 10 minutes and others which take a great deal longer. The pick a shape exercise was a few days. The flower pictures were over five weeks. And it was the blooming of the poppies which made me dedicate myself to trying to truly capture them not the article I have been linking to. It just made me see that flowers have always been something I was not good at and sort of avoided.

Reflections, which is exercise #4 on Five Self Assignments That Teach You To See I have been doing for about five years. It has ceased to be an exercise and may have become an obsession. I am debating doing a blog about that or not since reflections are so often featured in my photo blogs.

That leaves me with exercise #1 - Pick a color. It would be so easy to wait until fall and do yellow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Circles Within Circles - Exercise Two

Peaches and Mangoes

This exercise, number 2 on Five Self Assignments That Teach You To See, may have been too easy. Or I made it too easy by picking circles. They seemed to be just everywhere. Circles on top of circles within circles.

Cooking breakfast

Duck Eggs Medium

I took the photo below before I began this particular assignment but was posting it today as one of my 365 Day Challenge and realized the water drops filled the assignment to a T or would that be O.

Water drops on cabbage leaf

Pots in the corner

Even cleaning up the studio/greenhouse I was surrounded by circles. It is re-potting time and I an abundance of pots filled and empty to photograph.

I will end with this photograph of a slice of a geode on a bone. Just how many circles do you see in it?

Can you count the circles?

I think I will redo Assignment #2 with another shape. Hexagons?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Week 33 - 2014 in Images

Day 225
The photograph before is not dawn. It is a sunset looking east. West was in reds and the clouds behind me were in pastel hues. One of those rules I try to follow is always look behind me. You can get to focused on the view before you in photography and miss so much. I think I will start always making a full slow turn when out with my camera.

Day 226
I finally have two flourishing hollyhock plants. I have loved hollyhocks since I was a kid when I and my friends used to make hollyhock dolls with toothpicks and float them on the pond. They are wonderful with water sprinkled on them. So when it had not rained I sprinkled them with the hose and then took the picture.

Day 227

My geraniums have not done well outside this year so the largest geranium I left inside the studio. It has gotten very large and bloomed all summer long. The pot contains three different colors of geraniums but the pink is one of my favorite especially with the early morning light coming through the studio windows. Photographing flowers inside means no worry about wind changing the focus.

Day 228
True dawn. But the clarity of the trees silhouetted against the glowing clouds is what I like about this photo. I usually have my wide angle on when taking dawn or sunset pictures but on this particular morning I had on my 55-300 mm and knew the light would change too much if I stopped to change lenses. I was surprised at how close the trees were on this distant hill with the 300. And I remembered to back off just a hair to ensure all in focus.

Day 229

Duck eggs are grey. I found that out with a purchase of them at the farmer's market. And the artist in me could not eat them until I had photographed them. They looked perfect in this silver serving tray. Had not done an arranged still life for a while.

Day 230

Hummingbirds are the opposite of still. But in the evening after a long rain they are so hungry and metabolism down they will sit on my garden fence and wait for an open spot at the feeders. After a summer of me feeding them they have gotten quite used to my presence and the camera so this little one just sat while I took a photograph with my long lens. I get good macros with this particular zoom. And it very nicely puts the distance out of focus on the right setting.

Day 231

My closing scene is looking south as the sun moves toward setting in the west. It was taken on the same day as the first photo. I was turning around to go back inside when I caught the quality of light in the south. No photo to the north. That is where the house sits blocking my view. But I did turn to check if the light of the setting sun was doing anything fabulous on it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Photographic Exercise #5

Spice Rack

I posted a link on my Facebook page about Five self assignments in Digital Photography. I like assignments in both photography and painting. This Wednesday I am taking a workshop in a new painting technique. I am not sure I will ever paint exclusively in that manner but I have no doubts it will enrich my painting even if I only bring away one or two things from the workshop. So when I read the article on five new assignments for photography I decided I had to try a few. I had already done number 4  - Reflections. And now reflections are one of my favorite things to click.

My photography friend Terry Atkins Rowe began with number 5 - the 15 foot circle. So why not. I chose me kitchen, as space full of endless subject matter withing a 15 foot circle. And I gave myself just ten minutes. I did not want to get into rearranging anything. Or cleaning anything up. I want to take as many pictures in that ten minutes as I could. I took 22. Don't worry I am not posting all 22. But I did get maybe three or four other blogs out of those 22.

Kitchen Tools

And I picked early in the morning before dawn with just the lights of the kitchen. As I post processed I avoided the temptation of saturating the color to make the back wall hunter green. In fact, of the 22 photographs I processed many into back and whites. Probably a whole blog in itself. Below is just a sample.

The Salt and Pepper Shakers

The Strainer and shadows

The closet with the washer and dryer is just off the kitchen and within my circle. The dryer has been broken and I am rather enjoying not having it working. Especially since hanging and folded clothes provided such good subjects this morning.

Drying clothes

Collapsing pile of sweat shirts

Then of course there was food. While working within my 15 foot circle I decided to focus in close on my subjects. No broad expansive shots. I am basically a landscape photographer where I can walk around with a camera for hours without clicking the shutter. This shoot could even qualify for Exercise 3 - shoot something different but I already have an idea for that.

Farmers' Market Onions

Peaches and mangoes

Pasta and chilies

I rather amazed myself with this exercise. I am dying to repeat it in a more confined and a more open space. But there are other exercises too. I think number 2 - pick a shape would be the most challenging. Maybe I will save it to last.