Friday, February 26, 2016

Week Eight - 2016 in Photographs

Day 50
Stellar Jay in Aspen Tree

I mentioned in another blog I was not the type of photographer who wanted to be able to count the feathers on a bird. I also never set up with a tripod in the freezing temps (well, once with my sister) to capture the perfect bird photo. For me a bird picture is a capture like this one with the vivid blue of the jay in stark contrast with the white of the aspen bark.

Day 51
Sunset with Waxing Moon

And I have done my time trying to capture the perfect rising full moon photograph. Photographers with cameras which attach to telescopes can do better. I was taking a photo of the red clouds at sunset and the waxing moon was just there.

Day 52
Garlic braid

 And, interestingly enough, while I captured a clear and precise image of the garlic on the stucco wall I chose to use a brush stoke filter on the image to make it look more like a painting. But the water drops on the banana leaf I left crystal sharp. 

Day 53
Banana leaf

I love photographing reflections in a mirror. And this was an especially great mirror. The question is do you focus on the mirror details or the image reflected in the mirror. I liked the image with the empty chair in stark focus drawing attention to its emptiness.

Day 54
Mirror on the wall

I do like taking photos of animals but I am also always looking for the different capture. I liked the two young deer in front of an adobe wall below. The day was grey and so no stark shadows. It looks like they posed in a portrait studio.

Day 55

Took quite a few photos of this squirrel. He was unwilling to leave his seeds so I was able to take the shot I wanted. The classic squirrel photo is a profile. But I liked this heads on one. I used a vignette filter to minimize the background clutter. I had focused on the nose, whiskers and fingers.

Day 56

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lonely Cloud - A Creative Process Blog

Lonely Cloud
30 x 18 watercolor on artists canvas
Been a while since I have done a canyon painting. And to be totally honest this one did not even begin this way. I wanted to do a cloud painting. I as inspired by another artist, a dear friend of mine. Of course I did not want to copy him. His clouds were over the high plains. My choices were to put my clouds over the top of a mission church (did that one recently) or over an arch (may still do that one) or a canyon. 

Clouds poured

Clouds are fun to do. Essentially they are poured like my skies are generally but they have a lot of negative space where there is no color. And then I work with really advanced tools like sponge and q-tips and paper towel to blot off color and dab in color. The shape of the canyon, which is masked off, predicts to some degree the shape of the clouds. Both artistically and in nature. Up drafts from the canyons make the clouds rise and build.

Far Canyon Walls painted in

Some of the colors of the back canyon walls which are catching the sunlight to the left are reflected up on to the clouds above them. It helps unify the clouds with the canyons. One of the reasons I like doing canyons is they are relatively fast because I pour the foreground walls. Using various watercolor mediums I can achieve texture and blending which looks rugged. It is distance which makes canyon walls look smooth.

Poured front canyon walls

I had initially imagined all the floor of the canyon to be a river, but then the painting would not be about the clouds but about the river. So I decided to give it a sandy bottom like most desert canyons. But if it is raining somewhere above there will be some water in the bottom too.

Canvas covered
Covering the canvas is always a milestone for me, but it is not close to being done. I added washes over the far canyon walls to make them recede in the distance. And I played with my sandy bottom and the wash of water quite a bit while doing details on the walls and fussing with clouds. In the version above I decided the water was still too much and so in the version below I added another spit of sand.

Ravens added
And I put more gold in the sandy bottom of the canyon to echo the walls in the distance. The ravens draw the eyes up from the canyon wall to the clouds above. Or down from the clouds to the heart of the canyon.

It is not totally a cloud painting. The canyon pulls the eyes into their heart. So obviously I have to do another cloud painting. But I like this painting very much. Sometimes I do not feel totally in control of my creations. It is as if they decide what they want to be when they are finished. Best to not fight them.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Fat Grass Series

Fat Grass Country

I first moved to New Mexico when I was in the second grade. Since then, except for time off for good behavior as I joke, I have mostly lived in this magical state. And when I travel it isn't far. There seems no need to go beyond the edges of the Colorado Plateau. But a dear friend, born and raised in Raton, New Mexico, took me for a day trip into what he calls Fat Grass Country. It is where the volcanoes, which ring the Colorado Plateau, enrich the land with their volcanic ash and the grass grows deep and green especially this year with the rains. It is dominated by Capulin Volcano and other volcanic peaks, Johnson Mesa, and the clouds.

It was a photographer's dream on the day I went. All the empty country with shadowed peaks on the horizon. But not what I paint. I don't do green. But the Fat Grass Country or high plains had struck a cord. Before I knew it I had departed from my usual themes to produce, one by one, what I now call the Fat Grass Country series. This spring I want to return to explore more and no doubt photograph more. And paint more.

Home in the Fat Grass
20 x 30 Mixed Media on Artists Canvas
I will admit I began to paint my images of the high plains mostly for me. I had pictures of the landscape and other pictures of the antelope and long horns but none of them perfect. In paint it is easier to merge one with the other for me. And the fat grass country came along just when I was bored with horses bit. I photographer has to just be mildly interested to record a digital image but a painter has to be in love to devote the time to a painting. Especially so if you are going to put away all your reds and golds to paint with green. And not one painting but two.

Alone on the High Plains
 14 x 30 Watercolor on artists canvas
When I began the second I told myself it was the clouds that drew me. And I was willing to bring out the green paints just because of the colors in the clouds. Oddly Alone on the High Plains was done from a black and white photograph and my memory. I joke that I paint what it is you thought you saw when you took that photograph with your iphone. The truth is I paint what I remember I saw regardless of what the photograph I took with my mega pixel DSLR. The discrepancies between the two are why I do not do plein aire. The landscape I am trying to paint is always a major disappointment to me.

Two paintings do not make a series. I told myself it was just a diversion. A tithing to the muse to restart the creative juices.

The Empty Pew
18 x 12 watercolor on Artists Canvas
From inside Johnson Mesa church

But when I painted the third I had passed that magical number the FBI uses to define a serial killer. And I realized it was not the green or the antelope or the vistas I was trying to capture but the sense of aloneness which drove residents of the Kansas plains mad. But not quite that either because I have spent more time than I wanted on the Kansas plains. And maybe it is the elusive quality of living on top of a volcanic field which the high plains has and Kansas doesn't.

A volcanic rise

Maybe it is the feeling, even though in the course of the whole day I never saw another person not with my party, that if i stare long enough I will see the dust of a pickup on the expanse ahead, or the person who was just a moment ago saying a quite prayer in the empty church. There was not a rose on the pew in the photograph but it belonged in the painting. There was not a hat on the bench or an open hymnal on the piano before I painted it in. But I felt there should be.

Missing Melody
16 x 20 Watercolor on Artist's Canvas
Painting number four and I must call it a series because I know there will be more. As I delved through my photo files to get the photographs to accompany this blog I chanced upon the long horns. What is so magical about long horns?

There is an empty canvas in my studio just possibly the right size for a painting of long horns on the high plains deep in the fat grass.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Night Run - A Creative Process Blog

Night Run
18 x 24 Mixed Media
The trouble with becoming known for a specific subject or theme in your paintings is coming up with a new take and not duplicating yourself. I first faced this issue with the canyon lands of Utah, and then with the Mission churches of New Mexico. Now it seems to be horses. Churches of the southwest follow an architectural formula and horses a biological one. So it comes down to color and arrangement and interaction with background to achieve uniqueness in each new composition. 

Unlike my mission period I am no longer doing four to eight art fairs a year and so do not have to "cookie cutter" my horses to produce volume. And I am working in larger formats so each painting takes more time and thought.

I stepped back from horses recently do produce a few paintings in my Fat Grass Country Series which has a different subject and palette. I was inspired to do another horse painting by a photograph of a snow sculpture on the internet. It was, of course, white and so I got to choose my colors. I decided on night sky.

Sky poured

 It is not my first night painting of horses. Tres Amigos was my first and I was very happy with the result.

Tres Amigos
20 x 20 diagonal Mixed Media
My problem after the sky is poured is always what color to make my horses. I don't feel I have to stick with the colors they come in naturally but lately I have been sticking closer to those. I still want to do one with carousal horses one day. After laying down India Ink on outlines of the horses and then under them to define them further I washed in basic colors with watercolor.

Horses defined

Laying in foreground color
I like obscuring the hooves of my horses because it gives more a sense of movement. And I would rather spend my time on other details. Like stars and manes and grasses.

Grasses filled in with Oil Sticks

And after spending time filling in the foreground and a lot of details on the horses I arrived at this sticking point. As I gathered the progress photos into a folder to be able to do this blog and delete from my photo files the numerous other photographs I took of the progress of this painting I realized how quickly I had worked. And then how long it set at about this point because something was not right. I call it my Is-It-Done-Yet phase. It sat on the easel where I couldn't avoid looking at it while I worked on the drawing for my next painting.

In fact, I cleaned up the studio and stretched two canvases and transferred the new drawing to one of those canvases and the painting Night Run sat there until I could define what bothered me. In no particular order they are: large silver metallic spot over palomino, the palomino stallion drew my attention too much, the color of the grey mare seemed to fade into the sky, the red horse had no tail.

So the red horse got a tail and that reduced the amount of palomino neck you see and made the buckskin more more prominent. And the blue mare became a dapple grey which oddly enough makes the red mare stand out more. Oh, and I put gold glitter on top of the silver spot.

I posted the completed painting again so you do not have to slide back up to the top to compare.

I am not totally sure why it takes me so long with some of my paintings. Maybe if I was a better artist I could turn them out faster. I did when I was doing cookie cutter missions for fairs. An artist friend says I think too much. And at the moment I am at the Is-It-Done stage on the painting I began while this one sat on the easel being contemplated.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Week Seven - 2016 in Photographs

Day 49
 It has been a fantastic week weather wise. Warm. Snow melting. And green houses to escape to when the wind whips up. For middle of February it has been perfect.

Day 48

That said I really do not have a theme for this week or a focus. I just sort of walked around and pointed a camera. The clarity of light made for great black and white images. And I found myself again drawn to the stark lines of trees and bushes without leaves. Must remember come spring to take the same photos with leaves but then there won't be the snow either.

Day 47

The photo below is full color. Another thing to love about winter; it makes for great monochromatic photographs. I also have this photograph with a Stellar Jay in it. It will be featured next week.

Day 46
 And, of course, one of my most frequently photographed groves of aspens. Something about the light and shadow.

Day 45
 And the orchids are blooming in one of those green houses I frequent. A photo group on Facebook I belong to had an exercise in fill the frame approach. Several of these photographs were practicing that.

Day 44
 I posted these backwards this week. For no particular reason.

Day 43

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Week Six of 2016 in Photographs

Day 36

Except for the opening photograph this week the pictures are about snow. It seemed to be everywhere until this week of warm temps and melting snow. Snow is beautiful. Prettier than mud but it also came with super freezing temps which made it uncomfortable for photographer and equipment.

Day 37

Snow also presents other challenges like getting where you want to go. I live, however, in an area which deals with snow well. So I get to enjoy the shadows and light on the snow and not digging myself out. But I am very grateful for the GMC 4 x 4 wheel drive truck.

Day 38

Shadows are blue on snow. But I find I love black and white treatment of photos of snow and shadows. The super cold temperatures made for an amazing sense of light and clarity.

Day 39
 And the snow seemed to sparkle.

Day 40

Even the wild life seemed to sparkle from snow. As the snow dropped off the trees it fell on the deer walking under the branches laden with snow.

Day 41

For all the great opportunities presented by the snow I am thrilled by the warmer temps and the comfort provided by the sun. No doubt there will be more snow because winter is not over, but I love New Mexico and the vacations from winter.

Day 42

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Week Five of 2016 in Photographs

Day 29

 If there is a theme to this week it is landscape or objects in the landscape. It was not an intentional theme. Nor did I realize everything was horizontal. Though there was a point at which, in a discussion with an artist friend, I decided I was doing a lot of vertical compositions in paintings and photograph.

I think of myself as a landscape photographer. I love the wide open spaces in which I live and cannot by pass photographing the vistas. Though often I focus on a foreground object with the landscape merely the background. It can lend scale and distance to the spread of mountains. That explanation advanced it is to be noted that Day 29 has no mountain range, and Day 30 no foreground object.

Day 30

However, Day 31 has both. I really loved this unwinding stock tank used for target practice. I have about five different takes of this one object. I want to back and photograph it again from a greater distance so it is just a small object against the expanse of plains and mountains. Like a snail on a beach.

Day 31

 I am not a bird photographer. That is a subset of photography like wedding photographer. But they do show up as a fixture in a landscape from time to time. And I am a bit of a bird watcher. I have a very informal life list. And thankfully a couple friends better at identifying them. So I snap a photograph and email it to them and they tell me what it is. I could argue this is a Harrier Hawk because of its low perch. But there are no high perches in the immediate area. So I could be wrong.

Day 32

Photographers should always keep their sense of humor. If for no other reason than it keeps you from crying now and then. The odd comic photograph is also good for social media posts. I originally framed this one up in the view finder as a reference on lake depth since I have been coming to the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. Clearly the lake has been lower. And higher.

Day 33

The vista below is taken from the refuge. In fact, all the photographs were within a few miles of there which is not far from Cimarron, New Mexico. I am part of the Artistic Vistas and Treasures Art Trail which passes through here. I have been trying to get a number of photographs of vistas to put on the website. At least that is my current excuse for spending a whole day out of the studio.

Day 34
 The boys below once had a landscape behind them but I cropped it to focus on them. That is the advantage of more pixels. The one with them as a part of the vista is too much much blue sky.

Day 35

Monday, February 1, 2016

My Favorites of 2015

Clouds' Illusions 

Maybe this blog is less about good photographs than the soul of an artistic mind. I posted 365 photographs in 2015 as photographs of the day. To get those 365 I was out with a camera or in front of my computer post processing some portion of every day. I would daresay I took thousands of photographs. Some I posted on other platforms and for other reasons than the 365 Day Challenge. 

And there are always other reasons to take photos. Reasons people with iPhones take pictures; a great garden, a special flower, a new kitten, selfies, self portraits, great sunrise, WIP photos of art work or home projects. Occasionally those personal snaps make it into the 365 Day Challenge just because it is a reflection of who I am. And the same is true of these favorites in this blog. They were photo of day for one of the days of this year. But they are also the ones I remember most. And the are mostly those closest to home. The opening cloud formation is one of many which rises over the Sentinel Tree on the hill across from my house. There is something about the shape of the hill or the land behind it which creates currents that builds fantastic clouds.

And the two photographs below are from my garden. I don't paint flowers. I do not pretend to be Georgia O'Keeffe (besides I like her landscape work better), but I photograph flowers. It is a relatively new focus for me. My sister, Deborah Binford Baker, is the flower photographer. It is not as easy as it looks. So many variables to factor in not the least of which is breeze with large petal flowers like poppies. The one below owes a lot of its charm to the light, and using a very fast speed. My camera thinks flowers are sporting events.

First poppy

Poppies and hollyhocks grow like weeds. I am not a gardener of Prima Donnas. I will spend more effort on vegetables but flowers need to volunteer. I also do not spend a lot of time in capturing their digital images. The hollyhocks before were a quick snap of a stalk bent under the weight of an afternoon rain. Before I staked the stalk I took its picture.

My other favorites are experiments. Frequent followers of my blogs will know I love to do reflections. There are a whole bunch of rules on reflections oddly enough. When I began taking them I followed those rules. Now I am into breaking them. Number one rule is never flip a water reflection. Reflections look upside down. The one below I flipped. The trees are never right side up in a pond reflection. A little accentuation of the ripple effect using a filter and instant Monet.

It is wise to remember at this point that I am a painter first. Well, that is a matter of focus. Pun intended. Photography was a hobby and a support for my paintings. I do not like plein aire painting for myself. Outdoors is for movement. So I take pictures and take them back to my studio. The advent of digital cameras and post processing programs gave me the luxury of playing with my pictures before I played with my pictures. Lately this playing around has given me an itch to paint with oils. Now I just need a small business expansion loan.

Monet's Pond

Meanwhile I am turning some of my photographs into faux oil paintings. Yes, I could just print the photograph on canvas. And I have done that. And is that any different than doing the painting, taking the photograph of the painting, and then doing a giclee (just French for ink jet) print of the painting?

On the icy shore

Another of my learning curves has been in black and white images. Here again my sister is the master as it were. But I have been working at black and white post processing of some of my images for some time. And taking blacks and whites. Yes, my camera has a setting which would allow me to skip right around color. And yes, a photo is better in black and white if you have that intent. By intent I mean looking for certain elements of design which make a good strong black and white. Elements like noisy sky (or background) and strong light and shadows. The original digital image is in color but from the moment I aimed my camera my mind said black and white for the photograph below.

Meeting room at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Another area of exploration has been the DSLR selfie, a self portrait without aid of tripod. I do not mean to be anti tripod. I own three. I just often find them more work than aid. And with the selfie they do not give you the deer in the headlights look of the iPhone. And unlike the iphone the DSLR selfie gives you the chance to include context. At the very least the "I am a photographer" element. I like the one below because it seems more like a painter's self portrait than a profile shot for a web page. Well, except for the DSLR.

Selfie with Camera

I don't take portraits. Used to do a lot of candid portrait work. Seemed to open me up for requests to do weddings. I don't do weddings. Or children. But I do fur kids. And I currently have a kitten, Thicke, who is a ham. He loves to pose in bowls, baskets, basins, and boxes.

Thicke in the Basin

So now in addition to my camera going in the car with me it goes around the house with me. 

To sum up these favorites of 2015 are very personal to me because of subject matter or as milestones on my path to being a better photographer.