Saturday, July 22, 2017

Week 29 - 2017 in Photographs

Water on the High Plains

Day 197
Laughlin Peak

One of the great places to go which is very close to my home but "out of Dodge" is the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in the central high plains. When you live surrounded by mountains escaping to the wild open plains can be a world away, and definitely out of Dodge. The first time I visited this jewel in the midst of ranch country it was in the middle of a drought. That has not deterred me from returning. And I was rewarded this trip with more water in the lakes and more water birds to photograph and clouds reflected in the water.

Day 198

Day 199

I also went to visit nearby Stubblefield Lake (lake 11 but not within the refuge). Lakes within the refuge are lakes 12, 13 and 14. I can only assume the other lakes are within the water management area but on private land like Stubblefield or have dried up. Stubblefield has a a 1.7 mile earthen damn which continues to Laguna Madre Lake. I don't know its number but it is on my list for my next visit to the high plains.

Day 200
 All of these lakes are part of a water management district based on the old acequia systems from the days of Spanish occupation and the Anasazi. Water in New Mexico is a precious commodity and something you once could get shot for stealing. Rumor has it you still can.

Day 201

The Southwest monsoon season has begun and hopefully all these lakes will capture the water so it can be shared and also provide for the wildlife which depends upon it. Rain falling on the mountains will make its way down to the creeks, streams, acequias, and lakes. I want to go back after this rainy season and check on these lakes.

Day 202
 Pelicans, antelope, elk, deer, herons, and even bears will benefit. As well as the cattle, buffalo, and camels (yes, camels) on the surrounding ranch land. Residents of New Mexico quickly learn the etiquette of crossing private lands to be able to fish state managed waterways. Carry a fishing rod or camera and follow the dirt tracks and a world of silence and beauty opens up to you.

Day 203

Always be a good neighbor, and a great visitor, and you are welcome. And never despoil the water.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Week 28 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 190
California Poppy
 When the flowers bloom in the high country you have to pay homage. For me that is capturing them in photographs. We have a garden club here in the high country. I could never belong because I take what I get and love them natural but this year after the massacre of my salmon colored poppy bed I actually built a flower bed and planted more poppies safe from people who don't watch where they are driving.

Oriental poppies, like those destroyed, bloom once a year so I bought California Poppies and Icelandic poppies to fill in until the new orientals bloom next summer. What a joy.

Day 191
Icelandic Poppy

Day 192
Oriental Poppy
 The garden club is having a grand reception in August and they asked the artists to add flowers to our airport exhibit where the reception is being held. Day 192 and 193 are two of the three photographs I am having printed on canvas this week to hang for that show. 

Day 193
But flowers hold my focus just so long. All photographers have favorite subjects and I am basically landscape. And skyscapes.

Day 194
Besides I had been home too long and so I took off to a nearby wildlife refuge in search of water fowl and grasses. And reflections and waterscapes which will be featured in the week ahead.

Day 195

Day 196
Landlocked pelicans

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Week 27 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 188
 All about New Mexico skies this week. And more specifically all about the skies from the deck on my studio. I have chairs. Stop by and visit my studio and sit on the deck and watch the sky change colors. These are all about dawn but some lovely ones at sunset too.

Day 183

Day 184

Day 185

Day 186

Day 188

Day 190

Monday, July 3, 2017

Week 26 - 2017 in Photographs

All About Flowers

Day 176
 This week was all about flowers. Because they were there. And also because I did not have to go far to find them. Sometimes my day jobs get in the way of hopping in the truck and going on a photo trek. But while I don't paint flowers I do photograph them.

Day 177
 And because of a wet spring there has been a lot of flowers in bloom whether in open fields or my flower beds. And the advantage of the flower beds is I can take a ten minute break from my gardening, deck improvements, and new flower beds to capture a moment in time and light and color.

Day 178
 And for a bit of diversion I played with flowers in black and white. I am particularly fond of the poppy below in B&W. The intense red color seems to obscure the structure of this showy flower. And it is just as eye catching without the color.

Day 179

Day 180
 Day 180 is the Austrian rose which I thought was dead. I had two in my front bed on either side of the irises and one oriental poppy. One of the roses bloomed this year. And the poppy gave forth with a lot of flowers instead of its usual one or two a season. They helped make up for the demise of my salmon poppies in the curve of the driveway.

Day 181
 And to wrap the week up is this tiny Rosemary bloom. This coming week is all about skies.

Day 182

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week 25 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 169
 If there is a theme to this week it is landscape. This was the week I wish I had the extra wide angle lens my sister owns. Everything I pointed my camera at seemed to sweep beyond my wide angle lens. So the photos here are a just a segment of what opened before.

Day 170
 Framing of a photograph may be becoming an art of the past because digital and mega pixels means you can just shoot and come back to your studio and crop to the important part.

I began photography at seven and so I still frame in the field. Though I admit with the zoom lens I have learned to bracket manually. Wider than I think I want and then narrower than I think I want, even though narrower can be achieved with cropping back in the dry dark room. What cropping there was this week was off the top and the bottom.

In the wetlands photo below there is a road and a culvert where I am typing. 

Day 171
 And in this cloudscape the camera lens captured sky and fence I did not want. The original still exists as a digital file on my computer, but this is the crop I like.

Day 172
 I love the dawn views from my deck. I have photographed them a lot. But below the bottom fringe of trees are telephone wires and the neighbors' houses. A horse barn made of scrap materials and a horse trailer which has seen better days.

Day 173
 And these daisies bloom in an open lot between two houses beside a road.

Day 174
 And this field of wild irises goes beyond both edges of the photo; beyond the expanse of my wide angle lens. The mountain behind and the road in front was unnecessary. But I decided I liked the dry grasses in the bar ditch and even the snow fence. They define the seasons before the purple spring. And the cattle add scale and depth.

Day 175

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Aspen Grove in the Morning Light - a Creative Process Blog

Aspen Grove in the Morning Light
28 x 28 watercolor on artists canvas
Been a while since I posted a creative process blog. Been a while since I finished a painting. I have three unfinished paintings staring at me from the studio work table. And that too may be part of the creative process. We have long heard of composers and their unfinished symphonies or authors and their unfinished novels. Yes, sometimes death interrupts permanently the path to completion. But sometimes the spark of creativity just gets to a stopping point. And you don't know where to take it from there.

Sometimes that stopping point is the sketch book or the photograph I just really wanted to paint so I printed it out and clipped it to the shelf. And so began Aspen Grove in the Morning Light. All artists in New Mexico paint aspens but me. Several years ago I did a small study for a possible painting. It is still up in storage in the box room someplace.  It was at a gallery which closed last year.  So it wasn't bad by my standards. Just not good enough to inspire me to go further.

So finally deciding to do another aspen painting was a leap of faith or boredom. Who knows why an artist decides to revisit a subject, but revisit I did. Side note: one of those unfinished paintings taunting me has aspens in it. But I charged on. I located the old aspen study sketch and enlarged upon it. Made it a whole grove instead of a small stand of aspens, gave it a background and carved a path through the grove to it. Somewhere in this process I decided that was what was wrong with so many aspen paintings; no context. Side note 2: the unfinished painting mentioned above has context.

The sketch with masking

My usual way of beginning the painting is to do the sky. Note 3: I did the sky first on the unfinished aspen painting with context. I started with the ground on this painting as you can see. It was the ground in the photograph pinned to my shelf which made that particular aspen photograph of all the aspen photographs I had taken interesting enough to consider painting it. The ground and the light and shadows on the ground. 

Background roughed in a masking to skyline removed

Aspens seldom comprise a whole forest. They are small groves surrounded by conifer forests most often so part of the background had to reflect that.

Golden crowns filled in and sky hinted at. Masking removed.

So at the above point the painting is "roughed in". I confess I spent a lot of time staring at it and not knowing were I was going from this point. It was in high risk of being another of those unfinished paintings. But I forced myself to move on with working on the tree trunks. I used watercolor pencil and a white watercolor.

At this point I began to like it again

Clearly it was not going to be quickly done. Each aspen trunk became a meditation project. And some of what I mediated on was the background shapes, the direction of the light, the shape of the mountains, the height of the tree trunks, and was I going to ruin it with shadows.

Made the trees taller to support the crowns, added mists in the valley, and hazy clouds in the sky

Getting closer and the shadows didn't ruin it. But they required intensifying the light on the ground and even putting in more color in contrast. I also used a white wash to add distance, push the mountains back. So many little tweaks because I was seeking a sense and not an image. The sense of walking through an aspen grove in the early morning of a fall day.

Week 24 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 162

This is my "How Green is My Valley" week. Late snows and spring rains combined to make everything green.
After several years of drought we have been pulling out of aquifer depletion and moving back to lush meadows and healthy forests.

Day 163
Yes, there is a Black Lake. In fact, it used to cover much of the valley pictured in the photos below.
A meadow which was once a lake is called a cienega. My house is perched on the edge of once was another cienega on the Little Coyote West.

Day 164
The first five photographs featured this week were taken on one day of extraordinary light and clouds over the Black Lake Valley just a few miles south of my house.
This area stood in for Montana during the filming of Lonesome Dove.
But this is New Mexico.

Day 165
This area was settled during the 1762 Homestead Act and combined by the family settling it 160 acres a time into one of the larger ranches in New Mexico. It is still an active ranch though parts of the original holdings have been sold off.

Day 166

The two photographs below are from the Moreno Valley just to the north of my house. It too is very green.
And the wild iris have spilled down the side valleys running through ranch land toward Eagle Nest Lake.

Day 167

Day 168
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are at the heart of all these photographs. I live on the wet side of this mountain range.
Taos, New Mexico is on the other side.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week 23 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 155

This week was about the green. A beautiful fresh green. We have had a very wet spring and it shows. But I still had to do black and white for a couple. The last two are the same photograph. Once in green and the other in black and white. I have debated with myself at times of doing a whole week of doubles like that. And at some time in the post processing I have tried on both looks on a photo.

Day 156

Day 157

Day 158

Day 160

Day 161

Day 162