Monday, April 1, 2013

Come On Over

When I recently decided to start blogging again, I thought about picking up here and adding to this blog. The problem is, my idea for the new posts is pretty specific and not what I was doing here. So I've decided to start over with a new blog--Picture Lit.

My current artistic passions are for writing and photography, so I've created a blog where I can explore the interplay between them. Three days a week, I post one of my photographs along with a story inspired by the photograph. It's a lot of fun, and it makes you look at photos of ordinary things in new ways.

So, if you like photography or stories, come on over and see what's happening at Picture Lit.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Baby Rhinos Are Cute!

I got the opportunity to see this baby rhino at the Fort Worth Zoo last weekend. I'd never even considered the idea of a baby rhinoceros before--rhinos are big. Surely they just arrived that way?

He was very cute, though he didn't quite look real. His skin looked more like a recliner than something alive. Mama was being very protective, even though baby kept sitting on her head to try to keep her underwater. A fun game, for sure.

I guess the moral of the story is, even a 4,000 pound rhinoceros starts off as a cute little baby. Makes the book "Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?" more understandable!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photo Writing Prompts

On Sunday, I spent some time at our local lake. I went out there looking for driftwood to use as photo backdrops when taking pictures of my paper beads for my Etsy site. I took my camera with me anyway, because that's pretty much my new philosophy. Leaving the house? Take the camera.

I didn't expect to find much of interest to take pictures of, because I'd been all over this park with my camera a few weeks ago. This time, though, I saw something old in a new way.

I saw tree stumps. I've noticed these stumps before, but that day, they seemed to be telling me a story.

Do you see it? Or, I should say, do you see somthing? There's no reason you should see the same thing I see, and that's great. That means we could each write a story prompted by these pictures, and they'd probably bear no similarity whatsoever.

I had intended to tell you what I see, but as I write, I realize that would defeat the purpose. I don't want to impose what I see on your imagination. Write what you see.

This is an aspect of my new photography hobby I hadn't considered beforehand. Rather than distracting me from writing, it can contribute to it instead. I see things differently when I see them through a camera lens, and seeing things differently is the first step toward being able to write about them.

This shows me, once again, that I shouldn't try to pigeonhole myself as a writer or an artist or a photographer. I don't think any creative person should. All the arts can work together to become a beautiful work of creativity.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shooting Animals the Humane Way

The other day I told my son I might not be here when he got home from school.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm going to the zoo to shoot some animals."

I hoped for a funny reaction, but since I've been so obsessed about my new DSLR, he knew what I meant and didn't give me the satisfaction of getting upset. Oh well.

I still haven't made it to the big (Ft. Worth) zoo, but we have a local zoo with less unusual but still shootable animals, and I went there last Thursday. It was a gorgeous day, so I took a picnic and my Canon and about 400 pictures.

Luckily for you, I've narrowed them down. A bit.

By the way, while it's wonderful to know I can take as many pictures as I want without it costing me anything, I learned something after this experience. If I don't want to spend half my life hunched over the computer, sorting and editing pictures, I should still be more selective about what I shoot.

I also learned that at a small zoo, there's cage issues to deal with, because they don't have the money for natural-looking, bar-free exhibits. On some shots, I was able to use manual focus to make the cage "disappear"--the word's in quotes because you can still see it as something that looks like a heat haze. When the animals were active, though, I just had to leave the cage visible.

I learned that giraffes and ostriches will hold really strange positions long enough for me to shoot six pictures of them, and I learned that a zoom lens is great for critters who try to hide.

I also learned that even at a zoo, the squirrels and birds running around free were some of my favorite subjects. I think I should put out a bird feeder at home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My New Canon Rebel T2i

I am having the best time playing with my new digital SLR camera.

After doing a seemingly endless amount of research, I went with the Canon Rebel T2i. I thought about going with an upper end point and shoot, like the Canon G series. It seemed like that would be enough of a step up from the point and shoot I'd been using. I decided I wanted something I could grow into, though, rather than something I could handle now.

So I have a lot of learning to do.

Even without knowing much about photography at this point, I'm thrilled with the pictures I've been taking. I read the manual from cover to cover and read a library book about photography techniques. I'm working mostly in AV mode at this point, meaning I choose the aperture. I hope to eventually work in full manual mode, but I'm not there yet.

I plan to visit the zoo in the next few days to shoot the animals. But for now, here's a sample of what a raw beginner has been able to do in her first few days walking around her home area with an entry level DSLR.

I love the amount of detail I could capture!

I love the sharp foreground and blurry background. That's what playing with aperture can do.

I didn't know these guys lived walking distance from my house until I went walking with my camera.

I love the vivid colors I can capture.

Unfortunately, the bead pictures I've tried to take haven't come out so well. I'm obviously going to have to learn a different way of doing bead photography, because the methods I'd used with my point and shoot did not transfer over. That's okay. I'm sure once I've learned more, it will be well worth it.

In short, this may seem more like a photography blog for a while. Hopefully I'll take interesting enough pictures for that to be a good thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Paper Beads and Studio Art

Well, I've been on an art kick lately. This is a good thing, as I love creating art. It's a bad thing for the blog, though, as I seem to be a person who writes sometimes and arts sometimes but is incapable of doing both. The lack of posts was getting ridiculous, so I decided to put up a picture-heavy update of what I've been doing lately as I haven't been writing.

First, I thought I should show the paper beads I made from the three paintings I put up in my last post. I love the way paper beads often come out looking nothing like their source paper. These made some very nice beads.

One of my art projects last week was making a mobile out of paper beads. I've been wanting a way to display some of my beads, and I've been wanting something colorful to hang in a rather plain corner of the living room. The two wants came together, and this is what I created to address them.

I strung the beads on fishing line, tied them to a wooden circle meant for making a bangle bracelet, and used fishing line to hang the whole thing. It's probably not the most professional looking decoration, but it's colorful and unusual and funky. I keep referring to it as my wind rattle, since it looks like a wind chime that doesn't chime, and I hate the word mobile.

Outside of making paper beads, I've been making myself a studio. We came very close to putting an offer on a house a couple of weeks ago, then decided the timing wasn't right. I decided that if I was going to be in our apartment for another year, I had to quit thinking of it as temporary and make an inviting area around and on my desk to be a creative place.

This is my new studio space, and while a lot of creating it meant buying things (new chair, new lamps, new storage ottoman and pillow) a lot of it meant making things, too. I actually made my desk, though I did that several years ago and it hardly counts now. I made the curtains for the window and desk opening last week, though--even though I don't own a sewing machine and had to do it by hand.

My favorite thing I made is my new paper bead drying racks. Up until now, I've been drying my beads on a makeshift drying rack made from needles stuck in a cone of floral foam. It worked, but it wasn't pretty enough to keep in my new studio space. So, I made these.

These were plain wooden book-shaped boxes I bought at Hobby Lobby. I painted them, then decoupaged pictures of Disney World onto the surfaces--one park for each surface. Here's a close-up of the back sides.

I found nails with small enough heads to slip my beads over the ends of them, and pounded them in. The new drying racks are working great, and they look so much better than what I'd been using before. I love looking at them on my desk.

There are those (my son, for instance) who would say I went overboard with the Disney stuff, but I know that it makes me happy. When I'm happy, I'm more creative. I love my new studio because it's bright and colorful and filled with things that make me feel most myself. It's also a defined-enough space that it feels like my own area, even though it's a corner of the dining room. Every woman needs a room of her own, and now I have one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Game to Trick Myself Into Creativity

"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and--snap! The job's a game."

Since Julie Andrews and Disney are two of my favorite things, it only makes sense that I would look to Mary Poppins for life advice, right? It's not cleaning the nursery I need to turn into a game, though. Oddly enough, it's creating art.

On the surface, it sounds ridiculous. Art should be a game by definition, not a job to trick yourself into doing. The problem is that anything becomes rote if you do it often enough. It's too easy to take the creativity right out of art.

I make a lot of paper beads. I love it, both for the process and for the product. I don't make my paper beads out of recycled magazines, though--I make hand painted paper to roll into beads. They make beautiful beads, but over time, they all start to look vaguely similar.

If I'm not careful, I tend to think color A goes with colors B and C, while color D goes with F and G. If I'm painting a lot of papers for beads, I tend to put the same colors together over and over again. The beads are predictably beautiful. And predictably boring.

So I've developed a game to trick myself into using different colors. The first sheet I paint, I can use any colors I want. It tends to come out lovely, but predictable. Today, this was my first sheet. (I couldn't get these colors to photograph accurately--it's much lighter and brighter in real life.)
When I finish a painting, I usually have one paint color I didn't use up. I hate to just throw it away--frugality, you know. This game originally started as a way to not waste paint, but over time I've come to see the more important parts of it.

I pull out a new sheet of paper and plan a new painting. The game is this--I start with the color I had left over from the first painting, but I'm not allowed to use any other color I already used. I have to come up with new combinations. Generally, they're much more interesting.

Today, I had a bunch of orange left over after the first sheet, so I had to start with that for my second. What to pair with orange if yellow and brown are off the table? Here's what I came up with.
In the ordinary course of events, I never would have thought to pair orange and turquoise, but I like the way this came out. I can't wait to see what it looks like once it's rolled into paper beads.

I had some turquoise left after I finished that painting, so I used it to make a third sheet. This one is less unusual, but I really like the way it looks. I think it will make nice beads, too.
This game works for me as a creativity prompt, making me think in ways that wouldn't be my first impulse. The results aren't always good, but any time you make yourself follow new trails instead of the well-worn ones, you're turning art back into the adventure it's supposed to be. That's a game you always win.