Some of the Thoughts Behind the Art - Blog Archive

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Finally! - Saturday, May 2, 2009

Two days in the 90's this past week with several more well north of 70 means that the flowers and leaves have just exploded, but also leaving me fearing a quick exit for those flowers as well.  Daffodils and others don't like that really hot stuff.  Fortunately the heat has backed off for now and a cooling wave means we'll be able to enjoy the flowers a bit longer -- and give me some more scanning opportunities!  Last night I tried some arrangements of ornamental cherry blossoms, exploring different compositions of the same buds and flowers to see how the variations compared.  I was working fairly quickly (buds wilt!) so haven't been able to review them so we'll have to see what editing exposes.  It's a strange irony of this art form that smaller, more intricate buds usually work better for scans as they leave more room for alternate arrangements -- but do add to the editing time!

Insanity - Friday, April 10, 2009

I've been working on and off on a piece that I should make me a candidate to be locked up in in the proverbial padded room.  It is an arrangement of celosia and ornamental grasses.  What's so insanity-provoking about that?  The devilish detail in the grasses.  They complement the pinks of the celosia nicely as they have quite a bit of rosy colors in them as well, but all of the tiny individual threads of the grass means some excruciatingly detailed editing is required.  For most of my work, editing down at the 9-12 pixel level is about as tight as I have to go.  For the 1200 pixels per inch scan density I usually use, this means editing at about 1/100th of an inch level.  These grasses are forcing me to edit around them at the 3-4 pixel level, or about 1/300th of an inch!  I captured this picture in 2008 and not sure if it will be done even this year.  Love the colors, so I'm going to continue plugging away at it in between other more sane works.  Stay tuned!

Averted Eyes - Sunday, February 22, 2009

When I was a teenager I was quite interested in astronomy.  My lawn mowing earnings went to buying a telescope and I spent many enjoyable nights exploring the moon, Jupiter, the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy.   The telescope has long since been sold but my casual interest in astronomy hasn't waned.  What made me reminisce about this earlier stargazing?  Well, there's a curious observational astronomy trick that takes advantage of a little-known (outside of the ophthalmic profession, anyway) feature of the eye.  For a very faint object in a telescope, staring straight at it can often be less effective than looking slightly to the side.  This is because the optic nerve attaches directly behind the retina, so leaves a small "blind spot".  Looking just slightly to one side allows the eye to gather in all of the light from the faint object in the telescope's eyepiece and makes it visible because it isn't hitting this dead area but slightly to one side.  It turns out the same happens when editing dark areas of a scanner image on the computer screen.  Sometimes a few tiny specks of just-brighter-than-black mar an otherwise flat black background -- just a few pixels overlooked when painting the background.  They're so faint they would never be noticed on a print, but I have to fuss over these and brush them electronically away, and the averted eyes technique works just as well on my computer monitor as it did to catch a glimpse of the faint details of that glorious galaxy in Andromeda.  So the next time you're at the eyepiece of a telescope, give it a try!

The Darkest Days... - Saturday, February 14, 2009

...are slowly passing behind us.  It's actually a bit light out still when I head home from work, not that black when you head in/lights on when you head home period about six weeks ago.  In about 3-4 weeks it will be time to get some seeds started, scanner fodder for this summer!  Today in the grocery store I wasn't drooling over the éclairs but instead over the Valentine's Day bouquets.  No doubt other shoppers thought I was scrutinizing the offerings to see what would be best for my wife, but with a cat at home flowers in vases quickly become either cat food or a nice collage of glass and water on the floor.  Instead I was eyeballing them for color combinations and flower sizes that would work well on the scanner platen.  Hmm...maybe there will be some "day old" offers tomorrow?

What's Next - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I had the pleasure at my main job (art doesn't pay the mortgage yet, unfortunately) of being our "Y2K" coordinator -- helping to make sure we successfully transitioned to the new millennium and survived any computer bugs.  That seems like an eternity ago now, and for good reason: we're about to embark on the last year of this decade, with fervent hoping that this coming one is a darn sight better than the one just banked.

With that in mind, I've been looking over the art works I've created this past year to try and gain some insight into what worked and what didn't and think about some new approaches to consider in 2009.

- I've been experimenting a bit with some interesting arrangements of plant material outside of the "natural arrangement" form that most of my works have taken thus far.  Curious ornamental grass leave arrangements is one that comes to mind.  Editing isn't done on these yet to be able to post them here but a couple of them look promising.  I hope to explore more of this type of work in '09.

- I participated in two arts/crafts shows last year, but none in 2008, mostly because of the unknown factor of the shows -- how much art will there be vs. hobby crafts?  Objective 2009: scope out more of these to identify prospects.

- Back up more religiously.  I've been fairly good about doing so, but not as often as I should be.  Wouldn't take much to lose some new works that of course would have been the best ever -- the one that got away is always the biggest/best, right?

- More in the garden.  That's the source of the material, so I need to spiff it up even more this year.  We had some good success with growing a variety of grab-bag ornamental flowers but I need to spend some time in these dark months to map out what to plant when the sun decides to grace us again.

There -- some goals, and achievable at that.  We'll see how I do.  Now one resolution I'm not going to write down as I doubt very much I'll be able to keep -- avoiding buying some flowers for some mid-winter scanning.  Can't go 5-6 months without creating something new, now, can we?

Space is Limited - Saturday, November 22, 2008

Where did the summer go?  And fall, for that matter?  There's a narrow window between green leaves and brown raking fodder when that red, gold and orange richness that is so special to New England envelopes our back yards and hills.  What did those first Europeans think when the forests around them flashed into color that first autumn they were here?  They must have been quite amazed.

Despite the colors that surrounded me this fall I didn't do very many scans.  Partly it was a factor of wanting to create something new.  I've already done the collage of leaves type of work, for example - I love them, don't get me wrong, but just was interested in something new.  The problem with leaves, however, is their size.  A nice maple leaf, while a rich panoply of color variations in that "just a red" leaf, unfortunately is too big to do much with other than a "head shot" of the leaf.  My scanner is a standard 8 1/2 x 11 size, so a five inch leaf doesn't leave much room for arranging other leaves or dried flowers around it.   Instead I explored the possibilities with some ornamental grasses.  Devilishly cumbersome editing in process but hopefully worth the wait.  Well that's what long, dark winter nights are for!

There's a fairly new web site for scanographers (or scannographers -- no consensus yet on the "proper" spelling) at http://www.scannography.org/.  There you can get a taste of the growing variety of scanography art, with several new joining the fray every few months.  I'm getting to the point where I can recognize the artist from their work -- their composition style, use of colors, or even choice of floral or botanical (or human!) materials.  Interesting to see how the art is evolving.  Enjoy!

Frustration - Saturday, August 23, 2008

We went kayaking today, a gorgeous late summer Saturday that is the epitome of what summer should be -- sunny, blue sky, just enough breeze to keep things fresh even though it was just in the upper 70's.   However, it was also a frustrating trip because so many of the flowers were off-limits.  Not because of being endangered species or anything like that but limitations of the scanography technique itself.  Large flowers  just don't scan well, and the lake we were on was loaded with beautiful, saucer-sized water lilies.  Because of the limited depth of field for scanners they're just not feasible.  For my particular scanner, items are only in focus within about half an inch from the surface of the scanner.  Depth of field is no consequence when using the scanner for it's nominal purpose of scanning paper.  For flowers, however, it's a good news/bad-news story.  The shallow depth of field causes the nearly 3D effect with deeper parts quickly fading into shadow, making the images "pop", but it also means subject matter is constrained a bit.

The other limitation will be more familiar: the flowers need to be able to stay fresh long enough to get home and capture a scan.  The lake we were on was loaded with bladderworts, an aquatic carnivorous plant with small, orchid-like pink flowers that would have unfortunately wilted to nothingness by time we got home.

So here I am out on a delightful day with the epitome of mixed emotions, enjoying beautiful flowers that I am gliding past on a calm, clean lake, but frustrated that I can't keep any image other than a mental one.

Lightning - Sunday, August 17, 2008

If you're a weather watcher, this has been a summer to remember.   We've been stuck in a weather pattern of storms coming nearly every afternoon and evening, with many quite intense and plenty of lighting.  One night the lightning struck our church, zapping the door alarms and several of the computer systems.  Two nights later it was my turn: the power supply on Old Betsy, my trusty vintage 2001 desktop, was fried.  Disk drive was OK, so no hit there thankfully even though I'm fairly rigorous about backups.   I was able to move the drive into the kid's computer for a while until a new computer was ready.  I suppose we were due, and certainly this new one is fast and furious, something I knew my ancient iron wasn't capable being upgraded to.  Opening and saving my scan images is several times faster, and the new screen (LCD versus the old CRT I had) makes the images really pop -- bright and with terrific colors.  Tonight I expect to do my first scan with this new system (sorry, haven't had it long enough to learn what it's name is yet, not like Old Betsy) and I expect the faster USB 2.0 ports will make that process faster and more enjoyable.  Certainly there were times with the old system where ideas were coming in and I had to slow down to wait for the images to save -- not as conducive to the creative process.  Or is that just a justification for the speed demon we now have?

At times it does seem like a bit of a conspiracy: faster hardware gets sucked up by CPU-hungry software, feeding a self-reinforcing cycle of upgrades.  Isn't it in the Terminator series where the computers rule the world in the future?  Or has it already happened and we just don't realize it?

Anyway, back in the saddle and finally able to scan and edit again after about a week and a half out of commission -- and at the height of the flower season as well!

Ikebana - Friday, August 1, 2008

One of the first scanography pieces I created was Shibumi.  I chose that name partly because of it's somewhat Japanese feel.  I've been given a book on the art of Japanese flower arranging, known as Ikebana.  From what I've read so far (and it look's like I'll need a couple of passes on this book!) there are some very formalized proportions that have been shown as most pleasing.  The shape and size of the container figure fully into these pleasing proportions, a factor that of course doesn't figure in to scanographs, but the proportional forms may indeed have application in this art.  The tight 8x11 size of the scanner surface will force some careful consideration, so stay tuned!

A Nice Surprise - Friday, June 20, 2008

Last night I went to the open house for the Premier Image Gallery's exhibit and competition for artists of the Franklin Art Association.  I'm expecting a quiet reception with members, enjoying the various art styles and discussing techniques and experiences as artists while sampling various finger foods.  To my surprise as I walk in I learn that I was the first place winner for the event with Shibumi!  I had several pleasant conversations that evening with various members, learning when and why they had first picked up a brush or pen or camera, but despite these enjoyable chats they'll hopefully forgive me if I was occasionally distracted!  Quite a nice and unexpected surprise.  For those in the area, the exhibit will be on display through July 24th at the gallery in Ashland, MA (directions).

Opportunities Missed - Monday, May 26, 2008

Many years ago when I bought my first SLR film camera (remember film?) I made the mistake of not confirming that the film was advancing properly when I put it into the camera.  I then proceeded to take the most fantastic shots of fall leaves ever recorded since the invention of color photography.  At least, that's how my memory recorded the images because the  non-advancing film sure didn't.  It was a lesson sorely learned and one not forgotten: always check to see that the film is advancing. 

Even without film there's still plenty of chances for missed opportunities in the scanography world.  For me, they happen when I encounter flowers far from my computer, as happened this past month when I had the delightful pleasure of visiting Switzerland.  Weather was wonderful, traffic was non-existent (apparently, gorgeous May is a low travel month), and wildflowers were everywhere.  So even with snow-topped Alps, beautiful weather and sparkling clean countryside, that was the downside.  There were so many acres of wildflowers I had to try and force myself not to think about the lost possibilities.  ("Hmm, that white, yellow and red trefoil would go nicely with those buttercups...")  Sigh.  I guess I'll just have to survive with the hundreds of flowers that we can grow here in good ol' New England.  Still, I have this sneaking suspicion that those "missed scans" will become legendary over time (in my mind).

Speaking of Switzerland and film, what made me think of the failed-to-advance film scenario was visiting the rightfully famous Lauterbrunnen valley just south of Interlaken.  With views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, this U-shaped valley is stunning, with some 125 waterfalls to complement the mountain scenery, though many only make their appearance during spring melts or heavy rains.  (While we were walking there early one evening, we heard a distant crack and roar like and looked up to see a new waterfall appear down the face of the Schwarz Monch mountain -- apparently some ice dam high up burst and sent a new cascade temporarily down the face, much to our amazement and delight.)  My father has had the fortune of visiting this valley twice, and both times he suffered a malfunctioning film camera, leaving him to walk away with just memories.

So for those of you still stuck with or preferring film cameras, always check to see that the film is advancing properly.  If not, you'll be forced to deal with that perfect shot that got away, a problem that plagues scanographers as well!

Lessons Hard Learned - Sunday, April 27, 2008

If ever the old adage of "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," it is in the world of scanography art.  Flowers are exploding back onto the scene now that spring has finally decided to pry loose winter's grip, seemingly finger by agonizing finger until this past week.  So I'm finally able to get back into scanning again, and that's where the lesson and adage come into play.  I scanned an arrangement of daffodils and tulips on Friday, adding in some pasque flowers for interest.  Dust is the enemy of high resolution scans, so you need to very carefully clean the scanner glass bed prior to every scan.  Did that.  You then need to carefully shake loose any excess pollen.  Oops, didn't do that.  Pollen has been touted as an holistic cure-all, it certainly is critical for farming and foodstuff production, but it is decidedly the bane of scanographers.   The pasque flowers turned out to have decidedly more of pollen than I realized, so I've just set myself up for some long hours of editing to make these images clean and crisp.  I think I need to invest in a decent can of compressed air to blow things clear.

Odds and Ends- Saturday, March 22, 2008

There's that feeling at this time of year that nature is on the cusp, just waiting to burst out.  You can see it with tree buds that are suddenly noticeable as thickening tips on what previously looked to be a naked branch, or a tiny green tip of daffodil leaf peeking out from the still crusty soil (how do they survive that?).  Yet we still wait, though that first day or two of 60+ weather will have things bursting out, and make it abundantly apparent the amount of yard work I need to do!

I sat in on a demonstration by a watercolorist a couple of weeks ago.  She made a very nice piece but unfortunately I didn't get much out of it.  I was hoping to hear much more of her thoughts and reasoning for her color selections, placements on the paper, or mistakes she's learned from, but instead there were rather long periods without comments but instead just watching her touch up detailed areas of the work.  Somewhat like watching paint dry, to reuse a rather tired old cliché.  Live and learn.

I'm putting off the inevitable -- getting a new computer.  This one has served me very well, and perhaps like an old cavalryman not wanting to part with an old war horse I'm hanging on too long.  But the demands of storage and compute time this field of art puts on a computer means I'm sure I'd enjoy the speed of a new system.  This one is 6+ years old, after all.  I'm avoiding the several days it will likely take to get it configured, hardware options moved over, software updated and more.  Maybe I can keep old paint going for a bit longer here.  (Sorry, that's a very weak pun to say the least!)

A Jolly Good Shew - Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24th, marked the opening night of Hopkinton's Cultural Art Alliance photography show "Different Views," shown at their 98 Hayden Rowe Street place from January 24th through March 12th.  What a nice evening!  Delightfully nice people to talk to, interesting discussions about cameras (we all pretty much confessed to being amazed at the pace of change in digital photography), and of course the most important, some very pleasing art.  I always enjoy the "why didn't I think of that" moments when I look at other artist's work, and there were several opportunities for that at this show.  I had a great many questions about scanner photography, with several guests spending 10-15 minutes discussing the technique and asking questions.  Overall, the quality of the pieces and blend of diversity made for a very enjoyable evening.  CAA is located right next to the Hopkinton High School so check out the show if you get a chance!

Color - Monday, December 31, 2007

The holiday break is giving me a chance to catch up on some editing of the many flower scans I was able to do late summer and early fall -- lots of them, but none yet finished up.  Some of them have such detail that they're going to take a while, probably 20 hours each to edit.  But a bleak gray winter day is a good time to look at the vibrant colors of those earlier times of year.

Speaking of color, I continue to be amazed at the color variance that does exist in every petal and leaf.  A while back I had the privilege of watching a pastel artist create a nice work of red tulips in a vase.  She started with grays and blacks -- for red tulips?  Over the course of completing the piece in about an hour and a half those red petals earned some orange, yellow, even some touches of green.  And the green leaves were of course far from pure green.  In fact, she noted, if you did make them just green they wouldn't look natural at all.  Instead, they needed to be built up of layers of color, with some yellows and whites at least blended in.

So it is with the images I capture.  Check out this very extreme close-up of some ornamental grasses we have in our yard.  They are quite shiny when they are first out like this, only fading to tan and brown later, but look at the color variation when new:

Ornamental grass up close

This image is enlarged about 70 times so if it doesn't look like grass you're forgiven.  Pinks, shades of white, yellows, greens -- all in there.

Here's a fragment of an "orange" maple leaf (about 100x magnification this time) -- and again, the diversity of color is apparent:

Maple leaf close up

Just like the individual leaf colors blend to make a single tree a montage of color shades (and thus the forest as well), so it is with each individual leaf.  The colors are delightful to work with and fortunately today's print services can deliver that color fidelity to your doorstep so they can be hung on the wall and enjoyed all year.  I can remember as a child we would "preserve" fall leaves pressed between two sheets of waxed paper ironed together -- a pale substitute for the transient colors of the leaves.  The leaf images captured here lock in the colors so nicely and they really "pop" against that black background.

Can you tell I'm somewhat obsessed by fall leaves?

Byting Off More Than I Can Chew - Tuesday, December 18, 2007

OK, so that humor is a little forced, but it is trying to explain why not much new has appeared on the site recently.  It is the nature of the medium to a large degree:  summer is the period of capturing images, winter is editing time.  There are indeed a few pieces nearing completion but have a fair number of hours remaining as slave to the mouse yet before they are primed and ready for posting.

I did have the interesting experience of my first art/craft fair back in November.  A bit more work than I anticipated, but fortunately everything I anticipated worked out.  My checklists kept me from forgetting anything, had all the right tools and tape and all, so that was nice.  Not quite the traffic and buyers I had anticipated but I did learn some for tuning the process and product for the next show, so not a total loss.

If you didn't notice it on the home page or under Ordering there's a 2008 calendar available from Lulu for only $16.00.  Too late for Christmas but still will make a nice gift for any January birthdays or just a special thank-you.  I knew I wouldn't have it ready for Christmas, but in developing it and vetting different printers it is actually here and available and came out quite nice.  Enjoy!

Serendipity - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm continually struck in this art form as to the amount of serendipitous creation that occurs.  Sure, I have to get a notion that certain flowers and leaves will complement each other nicely, but so often a particular composition seems to "fall together."  A single scan that I capture may be the result of 20 or more test scans.  (I want to get it right -- at the high resolution I capture my images at each scan file is nearly 450 megabytes -- nearly half a gigabyte.)   Even with this many test scans it is often 5-10 captures before I really find an arrangement that I like.  In many ways it is just like photography: "back in the day" when film was the medium it wasn't at all unusual to get only one or two really nice shots out of a roll of 24.

"Constellation" was one such happy accident.   I had tried many different compositions with this set of flowers and each just left me feeling flat.  It wasn't until I had nearly given up in exasperation that I tried one last arrangement -- and arrived at this pleasing image.  I find the gentle curves of the different flower bracts quite delightful.  Editing around each tin floret was a bit time-consuming, but the result is worth it.  (Note to self: Fewer Queen Anne's Lace next time!).

I am pleased to say that I have joined up with another shop -- Hammertown in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.   My wife and I discovered Hammertown while on vacation this summer and were delighted by the unique furnishings they provided -- much more unique than I've seen in chain stores and of a nicer quality to boot.

Lots and None At All - Sunday, July 22, 2007

That's the answer to the question "What new pieces do you have?"  The answer "Lots" relates to the new scans that I have done, and the "None At All" to the companion question of "are they ready?"
It is summer, so in the tradition of making hay when the sun shines I'm focusing mostly on capturing  some new scans, deferring the editing to after that dreaded first frost.  I do have one piece that I haven't been able to resist working on because I like it so much, but it has so many tiny florets in it that I'll be at it a while (I've got perhaps 20 hours into it already, with another 3-4 still to go).

While I'm enjoying creating new pieces immensely, there are indeed a few frustrating elements with this art form.  Nature not being entirely cooperative is one in the forefront -- two flowers that I have in mind that would be exquisite together, for example, just don't bloom at the same time.  Various color combinations pictured as I drive by a nicely designed landscaping often leads to naughty thoughts of illicit nighttime forays with a clippers.  Rest easy -- no floral fiend here!  Instead it is giving me ideas of what to plant next year (but, oh, waiting a year to do the scan...sigh).

At Last! - Sunday, June 10, 2007

Finally summer!  Well, perhaps not according to astronomers, but as far as I'm concerned it is.  Trees full out, garden growing, warm days with crystal blue skies.  June has to be one of my favorite months.  It is cool enough yet to do yard work without getting exhausted by the heat.  I confess to finding weeds a bit less offensive when it is 85 and humid out!

What I see most at this time of year is possibilities.  Hmm, that purple coreopsis will go nice with some of those fern leaves out back.   Lupine are up nicely...can they be scanned or are they too large?  A myriad of possibilities, to be sure.

One "possibility" that I had been planning to do for quite some time is a study of fiddlehead fern curls (check it out in the Spring Gallery).  Fortunately I found some at the right time -- there are only a couple of days where they're at the right size.  I had to find a decent sized patch as I only wanted to take one "fiddle" from each plant.  I never realized until looking at them up close, and of course in doing the detailed editing of the resulting scan, how hairy those fiddleheads are.  Interesting the number of plants that are hairy or fuzzy, no doubt as part of their defenses against insects.

And the Winner Is... - Saturday, May 12, 2007

Heavens, do you think life works out that nice and clean?  No, it wasn't me.  That would be to simple and, in the long run, probably not as good for me.  Artists are supposed to struggle, aren't they?

The show turned out to be quite impressive for what I originally thought was a sleepy little art association.  There were nearly 110 pieces, most (at least to this untrained eye) quite delightful.  The best in show piece, an oil by Vail Pagliarani titled "Stillwater Farm," was an excellent choice.  Quite nice up close, and then when you moved back in the room the colors and light got better and better.  I chatted quite a while with a nice chap originally from Latvia who had an impressive Cape Cod watercolor scene.  The detail in it was amazing, something that must be very difficult to master in that medium.

I was a bit disappointed that there only seven photography entries, but perhaps to be expected.  No other scanography pics, of course!  I'm sure the judge didn't know that mine were scanographs, as there's no such entry class.  I guess I'll have to seek out shows more aimed at photography.

First Timer - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

This Saturday, May 5th, will be a new milestone for me: I'm participating in my first art show!  It will be a fairly small event, a local showing of the Franklin Art Association exhibited at the Norfolk (MA) Town Library (directions via Mapquest).  Called "Spring Awakenings," the show is running from May 12th through June 1st.  I'm exhibiting two pieces, "Shibumi" and one of a single clematis blossom that I haven't yet posted here (I know, I know -- get going!).  If you haven't figured it out yet Shibumi is one of my favorites -- it's the work I used to make the site banner.   Serendipity is the word that comes to mind when I think of this piece, as the shape of the flower stem, the colors and textures all just fell together when I made it.  The long flower stem with it's crook at the end is the result of a bit of a windstorm that knocked the flower stalk down (hence my right to appropriate it for scanning!). I'm hopeful that same serendipity will show up with some small honor in the show.  Well, I'll find out soon enough -- wish me luck!

A Delightful Honor - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Take a look at some of the pictures in the Featured Artists gallery at West Coast Imaging's web site.  WCI is the fine art print studio that I use for my prints (and a stellar job they do at that!).   Their list of previously featured photographers shows some pretty impressive talent and some very unusual pictures.  I'm particularly struck by Jeff Olesen's pictures of earth from his U2 reconnaissance plane -- you can actually see the curvature of the earth!

Today WCI announced that I would be their latest featured artist -- you can see the writeup here.  Given the quality of the previously selected artists and their works I am very much humbled by this selection.  It means a lot to me because I have a great deal of respect for this firm -- great results, easy to do business with, and a helpful and courteous staff.

Now I have to keep it up -- set the standards for anything new I create that much higher.

Franklin Art Association - Thursday, April 5, 2007

Last night I checked out the Franklin Art Association's monthly meeting with a very nice demonstration by Cape Cod pastel artist Rosalie Nadeau.  Her commentary and explanations were insightful as we saw the still life of a vase of tulips and a plate of sliced pears emerge on her easel.  I'm not expecting to take up pastels anytime soon (though the colors were stunning) but I found her descriptions of proper form and how to arrange so as to lead the eye into the picture something I'm anxious to try out in my own arrangements on the scanner glass.  To say that her work emerged on the paper is of course a cliché but accurately describes the experience.  I was taken aback when she began her work with a fast sketching of the basic structure of in brown!  These were red and white tulips, green leaves, a blue-green vase.  But as she continued and built up color upon color her descriptions of light and dark, when to apply highlights, how to make sure the focal color isn't lost and more resulted in many "Ah, of course!" realizations -- obvious .  Very enlightening.  Rosalie's light, engaging style and obvious depth of experience made it a quick two hours for her to produce her finished piece.

The evening also furnished an excellent "it's a small world" example.  The first person I met and began talking to that evening in the social time prior the official start of the demonstration was an affable gentleman who favored oil painting.  His name was moderately unusual so I mentioned that I had heard of one other person with the same name, a programmer who had created a software program that played the oriental game of Go (a fascinating game immeasurably more complex than chess, by the way).  Turns out that was his son, living in California!

New England Flower Show - Thursday, March 22, 2007

I was able to take the afternoon of from work today and head over to the New England Flower Show in Boston with my oldest daughter (college spring break).  We had heard of it for several years but had never made it to the show for one reason or another.

To describe some of the flower arranging competition as "eclectic" would be wee bit of an understatement.  Some unusual categories and the submissions anted up to the challenge.  There were some very inspirational pieces but few, if any, that you'd enjoy on your dining room table.  More at home in the mod house in the movie "Beetlejuice" than any house I've ever been in.

The garden exhibits did offer up some interesting ideas.  I was impressed by the sizes of some of the natural stones brought in for the displays for pathways or endless water streams.  Some of them easily surpassed a ton.  Makes me think about putting in my own water garden, an idea I've been toying with for some time.  Is this finally the summer?

The orchid exhibitors were by far my favorite.  Two firms in particular had brought an amazing variety of orchids, all seemingly in peak bloom.  I'm a sucker for the ones with the slightly glistening flowers (Phalanopsis? not sure), sparkling when you look at them close under bright light.  A good lily provides a similar glint, but then they can't compete with the exotic nature of the orchid.  Of course, while I'm looking at them I'm conjuring up various contraptions in my head as to how I would dangle the flower and pot over the scanner so I could capture and image of the flowers without having to cut them!

While we enjoyed the show, I must say it wasn't as big as I expected.  Perhaps you can chalk it up to all of the (over)marketing that happens these days with so many things -- expectations get inflated beyond reality.  Still, an enjoyable afternoon.

Invasion - Monday, March 19, 2007

Today I posted a newly completed image of Purple Loostrife in the Summer photo gallery area that I call Purple Devil IV.  I certainly haven't coined the usage of the term devil with regards to this plant but it seems fitting as it is known for its invasive properties.  Here in central Massachusetts just about any low lying area is thick with it.  For some places, like in the highway median, it produces a welcome dash of color in what is often otherwise a fairly sterile landscape.  The problem arises when it takes over entire wetlands.  I've seen some driving around the state or while kayaking where there are acres of a marsh covered with a rich swath of purple.  Beautiful?  No doubt.  But wouldn't the color be even better when intermingled with other varieties, other colors?  And therein lies the problem.  Environmentalists decry the monoculture that can occur when Lythrum salicaria takes hold, driving out other native cultivars with the resultant ripple effect: how many butterfly species are reduced or lost completely due to reduction of a competing food plant, for example?

Regardless of impact, Purple Loostrife is too pervasive now to wind back the clock.  Yet it was with mixed feelings that I produced the image of the plant.  As a lifelong environmentalist am I allowed to enjoy the image?  Well, perhaps the pleasure I have in looking at the image is tempered with some penance: this image took over 20 hours to edit out the pollen and dust and put black around all of the petals and leaves.  A rose with it's simple, smooth edged petals is a cinch compared to the intricacies that Purple Loostrife produces -- giving another depth of  meaning to Purple Devil.

Bit by Bit - Thursday, March 8, 2007

Well, I've got that put behind me -- my first formal art show rejection!  Judging from reading the experiences of other artists such as on WetCanvas! it is something I'll need to get used to.  Not necessarily because my work doesn't measure up (though that remains to be seen) but instead something akin to attaining the proper celestial alignment such as for this week's lunar eclipse.  It's having material that matches up with the aims of a particular show and the tastes of the show's jury.  And for some shows, the jury (doesn't that conjure up an image of a panel of experts assessing the submitted art?) may be only a single person.  But that circumstance may actually be preferable, since your style and technique and vision needs only appeal to the eye of a single expert and not a majority of a broader team of experts.  And while I've received some encouraging feedback I'm not so naive as to believe that scanner photography appeals to all.  For some, the high-resolution detail captured by the scanner is too sharp, too precise, not in line with their tastes for a more subtle form of art. Still, I remain hopeful that I'll find a show where the Sun and Earth and Moon are synchronized properly for the eclipse to happen.  And hopefully it will be the more at the frequency of the fairly common lunar eclipse and not the rarity of a full solar.

WetCanvas!, by the way, is a delightful community of artists.  The forum participants have been extremely helpful, with an almost falling-over-yourself friendliness and willingness to offer tips and suggestions to newbies such as me.  Quite enjoyable to be a member now of such a community!

What to Do During the Dead of Winter - Thursday, February 22, 2007

I've been a scanner photography artist for about six months now.  Why is it still so hard to say that I'm an artist?  I guess mostly because I never thought I had much aptitude for any art, unlike my mother who had very demonstrable talent in several areas, most notably her watercolors.  I've been pleased and surprised by what I've been able to create so far, but am having feelings that I suspect may be common to many artists: what if there's no more?  Will I continue to be inspired or will the ideas dry up?  And being in the dead of winter sure doesn't help.

Well, I guess there's not much I can do about the creativity worry.  After all, there's rather a paucity of of fresh material available in Massachusetts in February, even if it has been an abnormally warm winter (sign of things to come?).  OK, so I cheated once and bought some cut flowers at the local supermarket, but what's a guy to do?  Otherwise I've been forced to work on my web site (well, I enjoy that as well so shouldn't complain), take a look at possible art fairs to try and crack into, and edit some scans I made last fall.

Something else I've been able to do is spend a little more time looking at other artist's work on the web.  It's an emotional roller-coaster, though.  I look at some pieces and wonder what was I thinking -- my stuff isn't in the same league as theirs.  Then I check out the next site and think that my work holds  up pretty well, better even.  Is it arrogance?  Hopefully not.  Hopefully it is just part of being an artist, as I think that at least a reasonably successful one has to have at their core a degree of confidence to keep creating, trying different things.  Without that modicum of confidence it would be too easy to wallow into self-doubt and a "why bother, no one will want this stuff anyway" degenerate mindset.  I did warn you that it is a roller-coaster, right?

So instead I've been thinking what new flowers I might plant this spring, turning over some of the veggie garden that always gets out of control into a more casual flower bed -- hopefully less work, more scanner fodder.

Heck, maybe I'll be inspired this summer after all.