Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Compact - A Creative Process Blog

The Compact - Third in a series of ravens
20 x 30 Mixed Media on Canvas $1500

I was culling through my photographic files when it occurred to me I had yet to do a creative process blog on this painting or the one before it, The Conversation. The Conversation is very much like Conspiracy of Ravens which I did a process blog on. But The Conversation is different. More metallic paints and more oil stick were used. And the three ravens are different colors. I thought that gave more meaning to the compact they are entering into.

And because The Compact is different that the two raven paintings before it, the process was a lot longer. Going though the photo files to collect all the progress photos used in this blog showed I had begun it in April immediately after finishing The Conversation, but I only recently finished it. Artists paint even without a brush in their hands. This painting had a lot of that time.

Sky poured and sun floated

I knew what I wanted as far as sky and the middle ground of another canyon scene. Those are the unifying elements in the there raven paintings. So up to the progress photo below all three paintings began the same. The Chinese like the use of waterproof India ink with their watercolors. It sets the shades and establishes form before the wash of color.

Black India Ink added on ravens

But India Ink comes in more than one color so I was able to use the waterproof colored inks to establish the differences in my ravens early on. I like to be sure the inks are totally dry so my focus in the painting shifted to the filling in of the Monument Valley background.

Colored India Inks on birds and beginning painting of canyons

Up to this point things were moving along apace. Some paintings are just faster than others. But at the stage below The Compact entered into the contemplation phase of painting. It sat up on my studio desk where I could not miss seeing it as I went through the studio to the garden. Sometimes I would stop and stare at it for long period of times. And there were some composition changes at this time. The band of green in the foreground was supposed to be a stream connecting with the band of green in the middle ground. I realized I like the blocks of color in the foreground only.

Back ground blocked in and canvas covered on foreground

Finally I broke my stalemate with the canvas and began to lay in colors. Just any colors. Sometimes you have to be wrong before you can be right. The version below was just too hot. But with watercolors you can layer or wash other colors over the tops and change their tone and even color if you go from light to dark. And the metallic paints also help with that. They add light.

Canvas covered

And the oil sticks. Yes, the basis of my paintings are watercolor. That is really true of the backgrounds and foregrounds. But the primary focus or middle ground of my paintings are truly mixed media. The ravens are India Ink, watercolor, metallics, and oil sticks.

I invite you to study the differences between the progress photo above and the one below.

All but the details

This progress photo lacks some detailing on the ravens' eyes and beaks and claws. This is where the ink pens come in. And then of course it has to have the crows in the sky and be signed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Week 30 - 2015 in Photographs

Day 204

Week 30 and not a single flower photograph. For the lovers of flower photographs there will no doubt be some next week. The hollyhocks should be in full bloom any day now. For me the week was not so much about taking pictures but culling through pictures already taken. And a horrid toothache I had. See Sidetracked Charley for that story.

I culled through photographs from 2011 into 2013. Not finished with that year yet but the number of pictures I had not done anything with got me reviewing the last few photographic folders of this current year and finding treasures I had overlooked. So since being quiet worked best for the toothache I worked the dry darkroom and painted in my studio. The painting I am working on is inspired by my trip to Johnson Mesa and the Folsom, New Mexico area and all but two of these photos are from that trip.

I absolutely love the photos I took of the church on Johnson Mesa and so you will no doubt see more of them. Before the snow falls I really must go back. Fall sounds like a delightful time. Summer has been so lush and wet and the grass over the drainage field is three feet high. I am letting the grass go to seed to replenish my property. Took the picture below from the ground up to give you an idea of the grass.

Day 205

Back to Folsom, a dying town I really must explore more. Like I said, Fall. Can you imagine the Folsom Hotel with the trees all red and gold. Photographers take not just the picture before them but their minds make notes about the pictures to come.

Day 206

Meanwhile dawn on my home grounds happened. Monsoon time makes for wonderful clouds to act as a canvas for the morning sun.

Day 207

Back to Folsom area. The greens are so varied. I am having trouble with that in my painting. I am used to canyons more than grasslands. But I cannot help to wonder what the color of this Laughlin Peak will be come fall. I will return.

Day 208

And then there are there are the Folsom trucks. They will remain the same color. But I have no doubts that if I were afoot with my camera there would be more to be found.

Day 209

I do not know what it is about photographers and painters that so loves an old truck but on my tour of Folsom there was a woman who did not do either and she remembered exactly where these two trucks were and made sure we stopped.

Day 210

So the tooth causing all the pain is gone. I will be out with the camera again. My less than two year old Nikon D3200 failed for the second time on this trip. Thankfully I had my trusty Nikon D90 with me. And culling through my files from 2011 through June 2013 has once again shown that it is not about the camera. And I like my D90 better.

The Nikon D3200 is coming back hopefully next week. It was the auto focus system which failed both times. Should be on a recall in my humble opinion. It was one of the attempts to put the drive motor in the lens instead of the camera to make the camera lighter. It makes it slower and the weight is still there because you do not carry the camera without the lens. Cannon did not do any better with the experiment. My sister finds the auto focus lens fail. And the Nikon Website for service sucks.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mag 280 - By the Sea

Visual Prompt provided by Magpie Tales
By the sea
Waiting to be returned
The relic lies.
Washed ashore
By the last

Waiting to leave
Like the others before
A visitor from another land
Above or below
 the rising sea.

They wade by
Debating the strangling's orgin
How far away on the waves
Had it come
Did its people miss it?
Or were they missing?

J. Binford-Bell
July 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Week 29 - 2015 in Photographs

Day 197

I decided to dedicate this week of photography to flowers. With our wet spring and summer they seem to grow and bloom like weeds whether wild or cultivated. I had thought my Borage did not make the winter. Instead it came up outside the hollyhock bed. Only one of those has bloomed thus far but the buds are numerous.

I begin this week with an orchid blossom from the plants in my studio. For years I bought orchids to enjoy the blooms on them when bought and they never seemed to bloom again. Now I have three blooming for a second and third flowering and a baby which was spawned off of the older orchid seems to be setting up to bloom itself.

Day 198

The salmon poppies were extraordinary this year. And even our heavy rains did not daunt them. I am including a bonus picture of half the field of poppies this year. If one poppy because of size and depth is difficult to photograph a bed of them is even harder especially with a slight breeze.

Bed of poppies

My peony bloomed this year. It has yet to be highly successful but it produced two blooms and I captured one of the buds just opening and with an ant on it. There have been more insects than we are used to this summer.

Day 199

The first hollyhock to bloom was the newest, a variegated double ruffle pink. Its blooms were too heavy for the stalk and I captured this photo before I staked it of a cascade of blossoms.

Day 201

And another of my neglected (forgotten) irises bloomed. The danger of planting too many things at once is you forget what you plant. The longer I garden the more I learn. Only one or two new plants at a time. I say that but I have put in three new hollyhocks this summer and some new grasses in the wild herb bed. Thankfully it has rained enough I think they are surviving my neglect.

Day 200

And then there are the blossoms which I have not had to care for: the sunflowers on the sides of the roads and the cholla cacti.

Day 202

Both species put on a grand show this last week or two. Desert plants and high mountain botanicals have taken advantage of the moisture after the drought of several years to bloom and pollinate.

Day 203

And what photographer doesn't want to take advantage of that. I promise no flowers next week. I have saved up some photographs of Folsom and Johnson Mesa for the coming week.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Magpie Tales 279 - Spirals in My Mind

Visual Prompt Provided by The Mag

in the dark of the night
spiraling up 
from the depth of sleep
pulling my mind

spiraling out of control
climbing higher
with increasing thoughts of doom
chasing sleep

of dread climbing ever higher
hamster wheel thinking
spiraling in my mind

Jacqui Binford-Bell
July 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Week 28 - 2015 in Photographs

Day 190

Photography is all about light. It is about recording light. First on photographic plates and then on film and now a digital memory card. And to me the best images are about light. As in the photograph above which shows the light edging the clouds. Or below where the light is just beginning to illuminate the iris blowing in the shadows of a building.

Day 191

Light and shadow is an important part of my attraction to the four deck chairs below. That really shows up in a black and white photograph which is all about light and dark.

Day 192

Capturing my black labradoodle as something other than a black blob is all about catching the light dancing off her coat. It helps that she is silvering out.

Day 193

Light is essential to the photograph below. It is about light in my opinion. But many viewers of this image have interpreted based on their faith. One was sure I had to be praying when I took the shot. Actually focusing. Though if you are into the chop wood/carry water forms of meditation I was at least meditating. Taking a photograph in marginal light requires a stillness within yourself.

Day 194

Day 195

Taking a photograph of something white is almost as difficult as something black. Too much light and not enough shadow and you "blow out" the image. The subtle shadows in the depths of the peony make the image work.

Day 196

I was attracted to the contrast of the delicate flower lying on the rough stone, the difference in texture, the soft petals and the hard lichen. But the shadows cast by the flower and the plant it fell from makes the photo.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Magpie 278 - Headed Out

Headed Out
Image provided by Magpie Tales

Lament of the Engineer's Wife

Her bed shook
When the trains
 rolled past
wheels clicked over the rails
 whistles blew at the crossing
But she slept on.

The trains came
three times
during the night.
She would fall asleep 
to the rumble of the 9:45
its lonely whistle calling her dreams.

The midnight train
always in sync
with his grandfather's clock
which stood in the hall.
her basal mind
 registered both.

When the 3:25
train did not come
she was instantly awake
knowing the turn it failed to make.
Dressed in widow's black
she headed out down the track.


Jacqui Binford-Bell
July 2015

Note: I have lived in small towns near the tracks and the only trains which ever woke me in the night were those that did not come.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Week 27 - 2015 in Photographs

Day 183

Summer. There is a fullness about the earth and a warmth in the sun which even the frequent rains do not diminish. And the sense of light is somehow different than even a cloudless winter sky. I was once again drawn to the wooden chairs on the patio. And their shadows. In this morning light they seemed to be warming up for loungers with mugs of coffee. I wanted to put down my camera and linger.

Day 184

There is a balcony above the cobblestone patio and the lounge chairs. It is of another era though built at the same time. It opens an expansive view the wooden chairs do not share. But it is right they are on the garden level. And the balcony is on the drinks level.

Day 185

Feel like Georgia O'Keeffe with another poppy creation. I do not paint them. Somehow paint cannot capture them like digital photography. Still looking for the penultimate depiction. This is very close. But there are more days in the season to practice.

Day 186

It has been a rainy summer which adds the dimension of dew and rain drops to photographs of simple flowers. I love this peony just opening to the sun this last week. Our humidity is generally in the single digits but today I checked and it was 88%. Hard to tell the dew from the mist from the rain.

Day 187

And everything is going bonkers growing. The grasses are so very high and all the flowers seem to be blooming at once. Hard for a photographer to narrow their focus.

Day 188

Rain adds to the streams and to the ponds. And when the sun is out before the clouds come in the water sparkles as if it just fell.

Day 189

Or seems to reflect all the green around it. I am generally not a green palate person but it is hard not to appreciate all the green after several years of drought.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Invisible Rules

Bathers by George Tooker
Visual prompt by Magpie Tales: Mag 277

the careful pas de deux
of strangers
the beach.

drawn in the sand
polite society 
should know
not to cross.

delivered by frigid stare
making it clear
surf yes, showers no.

Invisible lines
set by cultural rules
polite animals
do not need warning.

J. Binford-Bell
July 2012

  1. In ballet, a pas de deux (French, literally "step of two") is a dance duet in which two dancers, typically a male and a female, perform ballet steps together. The pas de deux is characteristic of classical ballet and can be found in many well-known ballets, including Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Giselle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Magpie Tale 276 - Evening Watch

Midsummer Night's Melancholy by Michael Sowa
Photographic prompt by Magpie Tales: May 276

Evening Watch

after a long day 
For the sound of their people
from a day at the beach.

for their humans
As the long day
into night in a strange house.

J. Binford-Bell
July 2015

Week 26 - 2015 in Photographs

Day 176

Wish I could say this week had a theme but I cannot. Beyond the fact that it was summer. And it was not yet the height of tourist season. I could get out with my camera and visit the spots I like to photograph before they got crowded. And this year it was a green summer. I debated getting my camera a rain coat and included a plastic bag in the camera equipment.

The wet conditions created frequent morning fog as captured in Day 176. I am still debating how to post process fog photographs. I do like them in black and white a lot.

Day 177

The frequent rain storms also gave some lovely clouds to capture. This is looking to the southeast out my studio door. I love the horizon line with trees on the right but I frequently have to crop or clone out tops of neighboring houses. Yes, I live close to the back country but so do other people.

Day 178

Another nice thing about summer is the tractors are out. In in my neighborhood that can mean you will see a collection of oldies and goodies kept under tarps in the winter. I have photographed this old red tractor more than once, but never head on. I was attracted to the bundle of baling wire on the front. I can see the driver stopping and gathering up the offending wire and wrapping it to the grill before continuing on with clearing of the irrigation ditches. Probably not going straight to the trash. You never know when you might need a piece of baling wire. Who knows how long this bundle of wire has been there - added and subtracted.

Day 179
Eagle Nest Lake looking east

There is a lot of debate over just how long the drought has existed in the west in general and northern New Mexico specifically. Or if it is over. It seems to depend upon how long you have lived here. I know people celebrating the rising level of Eagle Nest Lake. And I was happy to see how far up it had come from 42% capacity low. But I also know in the photograph all the foreground green was once water. And I know the lake is a storage area for irrigation water owned by ranches down stream. As long as the rains continue downstream the lake gets to keep most. The State Engineer's office closely monitors water and water usage and water rights.

I took this picture before a series of rain storms which dumped between 2 and 4 inches of rain on already saturated ground. Poor Cimarron Canyon got too much and the road was flooded because of avalanches and fallen rocks. It was closed for two days. I think we got to keep a lot of water in the lake then. Not all because you cannot kill the Cimarron River and its fish. It is home of some rare trout Fish and Game are trying to re-establish.

Day 180
Shirley Poppies

Photography can be educational and not just about f-stops. I frequently take pictures because of color and form and the light, then come home and research what it is I photographed. Easy to just say poppies for the above photograph, but they are not just poppies. They are Shirley Poppies. They have a smaller seed pod in the center and bloom earlier than my oriental poppies which are just beginning to bloom.

Day 181
Another picture of Eagle Nest Lake. This one from the north parking area of the state park. More water means more reflections. And more rain this year means more new green grass and more yellow wildflowers on the banks and the hills. Even the conifers on the hills are a different green, more blue, as they take advantage of the rains to sprout new growth.

The photograph below shows the bright green of the new foliage on the aspens mixed in with the pines. And it show now snow on the mountains around Black Lake. Summer is here. Is the drought over? Or is this just a brief respite before it returns? We are all hoping for the former.

Day 182