Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why I’m a Photographer, Not a Painter

My first acrylic abstract painting, or attempt at one. A work in progress, maybe?

Remind me to think twice before attending an acrylic abstract painting workshop when I'm feeling under the weather. My first painting to my mind ended up looking like lavender almost-floral wallpaper with a dash of blackberry jam thrown in!

Okay, so it was totally exciting when a checklist of art supplies came in the mail beforehand listing everything I’d need from canvas to paint tubes to some weird substance called “gesso” to a spray bottle to paint brushes to pallet to pallet knives to rags. The glistening white canvas sparkled with creative freedom in all its glorious possibilities …

Then came the big day, this past Saturday. The instructor was a personable professional artist named Mel Grunau who assured us that we could paint however we liked, that there was no right or wrong. Well, that was before he saw me in action, creating what passed in my opinion for attempted art … as opposed to actual, real art.

Anyways, Mr. Grunau gave a demonstration of laying down colors and water on canvas. What fascinated me was that you didn’t even need a brush to start painting. As long as paint hit the white target somehow or other, it was all good. So I carefully picked out my three favorite colors of Brilliant Purple, Chromium Oxide Green, and Cobalt Blue, and was all set to make a masterpiece!

Meanwhile, there were several other acrylic abstract students at the workshop, all female. Most had previous painting experience. One shy soul coyly claimed that this was her first time, but once she got going, I was skeptical. Either she had beginner’s luck or massive raw talent, but this particular lady in my estimation already looked to be professional enough to exhibit and win awards right now. Maybe she had drawn or painted in other mediums like oil or watercolor and meant that she was only new to acrylic paints. Anyways …

Here’s how I wound up being different from the other workshop attendees:

  • Everyone else used paint brushes. I used torn up pieces of cardboard with a flat edge. Apparently, everyone else was afraid of getting their hands dirty. Me, I was afraid of getting my brushes dirty. My hands were covered in paint to the point that I might have almost been doing finger painting.

  • Everyone else felt the need to put recognizable representational objects or at least easily-guessable symbols into their work, such as flowers in a vase, a clearly-defined beach horizon, or a dreamy image showing what some called koi fish and I called red parrots. Me, I was happy to stick with colors I liked and primitive hints of geometric shapes.
When I thought I was done, I let myself be talked into adding violet splotches to my painting. Personally, now that I look at it, I'm not sure I like them. Maybe I'll paint over them.

Questions for Readers: Have you ever attended a workshop, art or otherwise, and found yourself different somehow from everybody else there? How did this affect your learning? Or on the other hand, have you ever attended a workshop, fit right in, and taken to learning the skill as easily as a duck to water? Do you enjoy hobbies best in formal groups, with friends or family, or on your own?

Friday, March 20, 2009


Between winter and spring, day and night, water and land, dead plants and new growth, shadows and light ... there are borders all along the edges of the Dreamkeeper Pond in Northeast Ohio.

Spring is here. What new adventures await?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Erin Go Bragh

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This is a photo of Ilnacullin, also called Garinish Island, located in County Cork, Ireland. I visited here on my birthday years ago. Photo taken in 1991.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Me from the Top of the World, But One Bit Me on the Way

A herd of wild horses lives at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park near Mount Rogers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

May 6, 2007. There had been signs, of course. “Do not feed or harass the ponies.” Good enough. I was content to take pictures from a distance. So it was entirely thrilling and every little girl’s dream when the ponies caught sight of me and came trotting right up. Wow … I must be special, they must really like me, I thought. My mistake!

A real cutie representing the wild horses welcoming committee moved in close and grabbed my jacket pocket with his teeth. Nothing in there but camera batteries. Apparently, he was looking for an apple. Apparently, many people disregarded the signs and brought snacks for the ponies. So the horses were not only used to handouts, but demanded them.

Perhaps thinking I was hiding a treat, the horse began tugging at my jacket as though trying to take it off me and steal it, the better to rummage through my pockets at his leisure. Eventually he gave up. I took a picture of him, as shown below. Maybe not the best angle, but then, I was trying to avoid the business end of his teeth.

“Careful … I bite!”

I decided to saunter back down the trail the way I’d come and head to the safety of the parking lot, even though this meant I wouldn’t get anywhere near the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It was then that I met a feisty little old German lady, her American husband, and their dog. They looked safe enough, so I decided to walk with them. “The horses been giving you trouble?” The woman bent down, picked up a piece of wood in one hand, and tapped it meaningfully against the palm of her other hand. “Here … If they come close again, I’ll drive them away with this stick!” Her pronunciation of the final word came out sounding like “shtick.”

She then proceeded to walk at lightning-fast speed along the trail, with her husband, dog, and me struggling to keep up. I admired her excellent physical shape. Her husband was having trouble keeping the pace because he was hobbling along on a broken foot. The dog had a tough time due to being a small little thing whom the horses had a habit of chasing around. I had trouble because the elevation was about 6,000 feet, and I don’t breathe well at any hint whatsoever of high altitude.

The injured husband, by the way, was going all out to prove how manly he was. When the wife would ask whether the hike was getting to be too much and should we turn back, he would gruffly insist that we all keep going. Plus, he made sure to choose the hardest, rockiest portion of the trail, on purpose! When I discovered that this couple’s plan was, along with “climbing two or three mountains that day,” climbing a very steep forbidding one right in front of me, I told them I’d wait for them down at the bottom.

Waiting all alone down at the bottom started to feel scary, even if I was on a well-traveled portion of the Appalachian Trail. So fortunately, another couple with a dog came to my rescue … Or so I thought.

This second couple was just as quirky and unusual as the first. They were younger. The man was a lawyer, the woman some sort of accounting type, and the dog was a certified bloodhound. They explained that they had lived right in the area for many years. So I found it quite surprising when the man disappeared on up the trail and his wife started acting like she was lost. It was then up to me, who had never been on the trail in my life, to point out the trail marker and encourage her so we wouldn’t get lost.

Eventually though, we reached some sort of summit at Massie Gap near Mt. Rogers. Here’s a picture of me sitting on top of the world.

The above photo of me was taken by some guy I met on the Appalachian Trail along with his wife and their bloodhound named Birddog. He was kind enough to welcome me to North Carolina even though we were in Virginia. :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Colors of Nature’s Winter Drama When There Is No Snow

The above photo taken last week at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick, Ohio is called “Cattails and Maples at the Apple Orchard” and carries on another wintertime tradition of mine involving adding color to the season in the absence of snow.

Small scraggly magenta apple trees and looming dark maples reach into a blue ethereal evening while cattails stand softly attentive like spun gold straw in a fairy tale awaiting the arrival of a hero.

Below is the original photo.

This version is rather ghostly, a washed-out web of lines of twilight time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Okay, I Admit It – I Am the Queen of Narnia!

There is a whole lot of blogging going on by sons of Adam and daughters of Eve about how they simply cannot wait for the arrival of spring. The first day of spring for 2009 is March 20th. Currently, it is only March 7th. That gives us a lucky 13 days to enjoy the continuing majesty of winter!

I mean, how can you not love the barrenness of this tree??

All right, so maybe some of the natives are getting restless. These deer are really battling it out ... over a tiny pile of breakfast feed!

Now we all know the warning about March, how it comes in like a lion. We also know how dangerous lions can be. I say, we should all just enjoy the snow, live happily ever after in our never-ending winter, and have a nice piece of Turkish Delight.

Feel welcome to leave a comment in my winter realm. Keep in mind that anyone mentioning spring, flowers, or lions just may find themselves turned into a statue of ice!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Twilight Tranquility

Snow and ice are very much in evidence here still covering up the pond, though it's pretty much melted off the grass in Northeast Ohio, at least for now.

A couple of contemplative cattails salute the setting sun.

Of the many moods of the Dreamkeeper Pond at Mapleside Farms, peacefulness ranks high and comes in a variety of colors. Yesterday evening featured a wintry blending of peach-orange, brown, and grey.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Landscape Photography Tip for Free Spirits -- Go Somewhere You Never Thought of Before

People visiting the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee tend to head straight for Cades Cove. Sure is a beautiful place with grand majestic scenery, and so deemed a popular must-see according to the locals as well as many internet travel websites.

That said, I prefer going off the beaten track to areas about as far away from the main highways and byways as you can get. Reason being?

Well, at Cades Cove, if you’re “lucky,” you might catch sight of a black dot that’s really a bear a mile away across the field. Just about then all the cars stop to experience the excitement. Doors open. Little kids come piling out. Big kids (otherwise known as adults) come piling out. There are cameras and binoculars galore. There is much rejoicing. You’re happy to see everybody else happy. And there’s absolutely no way you can continue your driving tour around the Cove until the first car in this parade finally decides to try and spot another black dot farther down the road.

Note: I haven’t quite yet made up my mind as to whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing to meet up with a bear at closer-than-black-dot range. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

But anyways. If you stick to Cades Cove, you won’t see the cattle stampede that surprised the heck out of me one sizzling June day in wonderfully quiet Walland, TN.

This was a completely lucky shot, which means, the quality was also pot luck. While I was calmly shooting barn scenes, all at once I heard the ground to my right start thundering. I swung my camera around, blinded by the noonday sun, and took my best guesses at shooting. As for the focus, keep in mind that these are cattle in motion running down a hill and kicking up clouds of dust.

That’s why I prefer the small back roads of Blount County, Tennessee.

Summer stretches out the challenge of an open, untraveled road to adventure. Please note that I added the effect of storm clouds in Photoshop. Originally, it was a hazily gorgeous blue-sky day with no clouds in sight.

No matter where you live, there are bound to be possible places of inspiration and interest with something to offer for everyone. The ideas I’m listing below come largely based on my photo expeditions in and around Northeast Ohio, and any links I offer will reflect as much. That said, I’ll bet you can find similar opportunities for whatever area you live in. If not, you’re more than welcome to visit Ohio – it’s really a pretty cool place.
Now then. If curiosity gets the better of you or you simply just feel like it, go right on ahead to Cades Cove, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, or whatever other tourist spot strikes your fancy. As a free spirit, you’re entitled!

Question for Readers: Do you have a favorite spot off the beaten path, a road less traveled, that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.