Sunday, March 22, 2015

Stu, Stu, Studio, Just Say the Word

Many of you out there probably don't think of me as a studio artist. It's true. There's been a bit of travel-Kona, Iceland, Italy, New Orleans, Santorini, heck even the Texas coast. If that weren't enough, I've not spent a lot of time in the studio recently. No, actually I have been working on my house. My house has a lot of work to be done, you see, so I've been concentrating on that more than any art related projects right now. I've got to do boring things like get a new roof. While I'm sure you don't want to hear all about my new roof and all that goes along with things like that, it prevents me from doing a lot of studio work. But, studio work has been on my mind.

I've even been thinking about expanding my studio space. You see there's this new movement in architecture called basically "tiny houses" and there are a lot of really cool looking pre-fab type very small spaces that are really getting my attention. Those of you who know me also probably know that I'm really a frustrated architect. I'd love to build and study buildings and I love the idea of working with space and decorating and the dimensions of scale and perspective that comes along with architecture. These new cool spaces really have peaked my interest.

Now, I don't have a large yard (I have bad allergies and prefer to avoid surrounding myself with fields of grass) but I do have a small space in need of sprucing up. All of that, and I would really love to have a little extra space to play in, specifically to use for art related items. When you combine these factors, I've been looking for a new backyard studio space.

The word "shed" really stirs up some nasty looking buildings. Seriously. It's an ugly word. "Shed." I mean, who in their right mind wants a shed?

Just Google "artists studio spaces shed" and you will get some idea of some of the cool looking spaces that are being disguised as "sheds" these days. They are really hot looking (well, if you're into that sort of a thing, which, hate to admit it, but I am.) So, there you have it. Officially, I have "shed envy" and I plan to do something about this. At some point, maybe not right away, but at some point, I'm going to put in one of these spiffy looking sheds. Seriously. And I'm going to use it as a studio space, so I can go back to painting more. I might even use it for a place to do some photography too but I have some serious plans for it. If I don't move, I'm so going to put in one of these fabulous sheds.

That's what I've been working on. I know it's boring, and I know my title as "studio artist" is currently at high risk, but there you have it. I'm actually thinking about building a new studio. Somewhere to work. Someplace to call my own. Someplace cool that I can cover in paint and escape to and have fun in and compliment my already overflowing home with more "art space" because, heck, let's face it, who does not love (or need more of) art space?

This is a mixed media piece, photo and encaustic (and doll head) created when I was once in studio (and had a lot more studio time!)

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day - A Pint in Dublin

Today's image: something green from the archives for St. Patrick's Day. I hope you have a happy one, wherever you might roam.

One of my bucket list items is to have a pint in Dublin. I've actually come close a couple of times to knocking this off too-several plane transfers, layovers, and the like would have landed me, if nowhere else, in the airport long enough to score a pint. But, I don't want to live that way, no, I don't. No, I prefer to remember the ole Emerald Isle the way I first encountered it-from the window seat of an eastbound jumbo jet bound for London originating in New York.

Picture it. It's my first trip to London, to the UK, heck I think it was even my first trip overseas. There I was, sitting in my window seat for hours on end, wondering what London had to offer. I was twenty-something and I was going to Europe. Go me! Back in those days, I never really had the travel bug, in fact, I'd have to say I maybe didn't enjoy travel nearly as much as I do now. I was firmly in the "take it or leave it" camp-sometimes enjoying the experience but often celebrating the return back home more than the trip itself. Suffering from so many short hop type flights, you know the ones, flights that force you to spend two hours in misery and, just when you think you are almost about to get comfortable or, heaven forbid, nod off into dreamland, the pilot comes on announcing it's time to put the old tray tables back up for you're about to land. Yeah, I have always hated traveling via "short hop." It's almost like death by paperclip only not as messy, although there is more paperwork involved. Anyway, I had suffered through so many of those types of trips that I had forgotten how enjoyable a longer connectionless flight can be. So, there I was, sitting comfortably on a cross Atlantic flight, wondering what I was finally going to get to see in this big bad "Europe" everybody always talked about but I had never experienced.

The flight itself was listed as a "dinner" flight on my itinerary. I was old enough to know what that meant. Oh, gosh golly, it was "rubber chicken" for me. What I must have done in a past life to deserve this nonsense! What my itinerary didn't tell me was that this particular flight also had breakfast.

It's no secret that I love tea. Here I was going to England, the "land of tea and civilization" as I've grown to call it. And, let me be the first to tell you, it's not always in that order. This flight was no different. You see, on this trans-Atlantic flight which now featured a "surprise" breakfast, I was offered Irish breakfast tea with clotted cream. Just when I had woken from half a sleep, the pilot came on to announce we were going to have breakfast. Just when the pilot came on announcing our breakfast, the flight attendant came around and offered me this nectar of the Gods at 35000 feet. Oh, it was to die for, that tea, really it was! I love breakfast tea with clotted cream (this can be an acquired task if you've not had it before but, despite the fact that I grew up in New York, "land of coffee and muggings," I somehow acquired a task for a strong breakfast tea with clotted cream.)

Just as I was starting to enjoy my tea, I noticed on the little monitor (stuck in the seat in front of me) that we were flying over land. "We're landing?" I asked the flight attendant, "I see we're over some kind if land and it's been nothing but blue down there for hours."

"No," she replied, "that's Ireland. We'll be landing in about an hour."

Ireland? Ireland? Really, Yes, that Ireland. Since it had been hours since I had seen anything resembling land ho at all, I decided to take a peek out the window. And, that's when I saw it.


Ireland really is an Emerald Isle. The only way I can describe it is it really was as green as they chalk it up to be. From the plane, I could see it. Green, grass covered, with patches of different shades of green, looking like big squares from a children's coloring book-well, if the child in question were given only a green crayon. It was green and it was beautiful and it was the first sight I had of Europe and I knew right then and there that, one day, hopefully some day, I would go and visit this magical Ireland, this beautiful Emerald Island. I would have to see this up close and personal at some point in my lifetime. Words can't really describe how I felt at that moment. Maybe because I was (literally) up in the clouds, I felt as if it were a spiritual moment.

So, yes, I would love to have a pint someday in Dublin. I'd love to pull myself up to a bar in some tiny little local pub and enjoy a taste of a fresh beer. I so want to do that someday, really I do. And, I wish you have the happiest of Saint Patrick's Day, I honestly do. But, I so want to go and visit that thatched island of green, up close and personal, the way it was intended to be explored. Because in that moment, that tiny fraction of a second I was experiencing Ireland, with my window seat, my fancy breakfast tea and clotted cream, and my dreams of what could be.

Today, on this day, it's said that we are all a bit Irish. That day, long ago, in my window seat, tea in hand, flying over Ireland, I know exactly what they mean. For one moment, one brief moment of my life, I was as Irish as the Emerald Isle and I'll not forget that. The pint in Dublin would be nice but I really want to explore and do *that* again. Yes, the next time I fly over Dublin, I want to actually land and see the place close-up, for myself. Wouldn't you love to see it someday too?

Until next time...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Winter: What I Like About You

Close up detail of a blossom from a Bradford pear tree in Cedar Park, Texas
Yes, it's true, Spring is on the way, but, before old man Winter fades off into the distance, I thought I would post a few things I'm actually going to miss about the ole' guy. Now, I know it's hard to believe that anybody can actually miss anything about winter. Let's face it, this has not been the easiest of winters, in fact, I'd go as far as to claim it was one of the worst in recent memory, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the world. There are good things about winter, really there are. It's just too easy to get caught up in the "oh no! It's showing! Again!" business to remember (sometimes) the good stuff. So today I thought I would remind us a few good things about Winter.

For starters, and this really is one of my favorites, there are fewer bugs in winter. No fleas. No critters. All those pesky critters? Gone. Off to hibernation land. Good luck trying to find a yellow jacket or a nasty wasp in the depths of a frozen January. They just, well they just aren't usually there to pester us all that much. As somebody way more eloquent that I once proclaimed, "I thought I was brave once, and I was, right up until the day I realized cockroaches have wings!" Indeed. No winged things chalks up as one of the things I love about the Winter months.

Next up we have the food. Winter is a great time for staying indoors next to a warm stove, a hot oven, heck even a mildly oiled frying pan. Lots a mac and cheese and baked dishes. Let's face it, who does not love a good baked dish? If the end of the world ever were to come to pass, you know, you just know deep in your heart of hearts, that the neighbors and nearest family will show up with a casserole of some kind. It's just how we humans survive. Armageddon? Here have some lasagna, you'll survive! Baked dished chalk up as something else I love about winter.

The next item on my list is probably a bit of a mixed bag. Sure we hate putting them on, taking them off, and repeating this cycle, but all of the coats, hats, warm woolen mittens, scarves, and the like can make for wonderful images. There is nothing like taking a picture of somebody in a classic pea coat. I've always had a thing about following people in red coats as well. You want a great shot? Go find somebody in a red coat! Trench coats, red coats, pea coats, duffer coats, brightly colored mittens, hats and all the trimmings make for most excellent images. Good luck doing that in the summer months. Let me be the first to break the bad news, finding somebody in a red tank top? Yeah, that's not as fun. Not to mention striped socks. Oh, don't get me started on long striped socks. So, yes, the art of bundling chalks up as next on my list as something else I love about Winter.

There's also studio time! It's easier to spend a lot more time in the studio in the Winter. Let's face it, even with today's cooler lighting rigs, it gets kind of hot and stuffy in the studio with all the lights and fabric backdrops draped everywhere. The air just doesn't circulate all that much in there, not to mention all the projects you can tackle. There's no pressure to go outside, since it's not nice anyway, so might as well stay indoors and play. If you're the type who enjoys a good paint slapping, that too is better in the winter. Paint can actually dry!?! Who knew!?!

Apart from the crackling fires, the warm winter bundling of red coats, the lack of flying insects, and that no apologies extended stay in the studio with lots of yummie foodstuffs, there's also the first buds of spring. There's nothing quite like shooting the first crocus of spring or watching intently, as I've done here, as the late winter blossoms give way to fresh green leaves of spring. Gone soon will be the barren winter trees, replaced with shady canopies of abundant leaf action. So, if you're the type who enjoys the barren trees, now's probably a good time to get out with your camera. Go, enjoy the last snowfall of the season. Shoot everything all covered in white. Be on the hunt for that first crocus or that early budding tree. Follow your last red coat of the season and enjoyed a freshly made baked dish for soon, all too soon I promise, it will be time for beach attire and flip flops. You'll wonder where oh where the winter ran off to soon enough, I promise.

This shot taken with the 100 macro in the backyard, Bradford Pear tree blossom on the macro wide open, as the soft focus is intentional thank you very much.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Welcoming Spring

Sure, it's winter now, but Spring is on the way. The other day, I was thinking about the trees, about how they have branches reaching up into the wind. No leaves yet, as of late, but that will be changing soon too. My backyard pear tree is already starting to bloom-shot some close ups of the blossoms yesterday also. It's been nice out. It's been sunny and mild, with highs in the 60's/70's and a bit of sun each day to enjoy. I like it. I can't say it'll stay this way, but I like it. Nice.

I was thinking about the birds too. The birds have started to come back. I've been seeing them more and more around town, at the various hang-outs. Most of the trees, the trees I know as "bird trees" have started to fill in again and I can hear the chirping and fluttering about in the yard. They have started to come back, started the great seasonal migration back to the north from points south.

All of this spring has me thinking about new projects, about how I want to start something new. I just want to get out and go shooting and start something new. I have a few ideas but haven't started anything yet. Of course, mundane things, like my taxes and spring cleaning will probably get in the way but, hey, I can dream, can't I?

Birds. Trees. It's that time of year again.

Until next time...

This one shot with the baby Mark, not on the zoom, actually panning with a 100mm lens stopped down for the exposure time and focused slightly off to soften the results.