Thursday, June 29, 2006

This blog can truthfully complain it's my most abandoned brain child. That's because I've been so busy being out there in the world gathering new experiences, seeing new sights (or old sights for the first time, or old sights through a different day or.....) that I'm almost not on the computer at all, nor have I had any time to create or use any of my new experiences in an artful way. I'm still not home. I'm currently at my son Joe's home in San Diego. We'll be here until halfway through the weekend, then it's a day and a half drive which will probably take three days because I have two more kids and a handful of grandkids to see on the way home.

But I noticed that folks have come here to visit this past week and I have been a terrible hostess, NOTHING NEW to entertain any of you. I picture you all clicking yourself across the vast desert that is the world wide web, hoping to find an oasis of creativity here at this website, only when you finally trudge in, weary, exhausted, you find NOTHING. Okay, so maybe I'm projecting some of my traveling experiences onto your life, but it's my fantasy so that's how I see you.

So I decided to pop in and comment about a few vignettes of my recent road trip.

- I get some of my best ideas for writing and images while I'm driving long distances. I've got several poems and dozens of new art ideas all swirling around in my head, clinging desperately to a neuron or two. Unfortunately it's impossible to draw or write and STILL drive. And stopping by the side of the road in 100 degree heat isn't really a fun option. Even if I didn't have a 14 year old with me who would complain so loudly that I wouldn't be able to think anyway. I kept telling myself that I'd write it all down at the next gas stop or the stop for the night, but I don't remember when the time comes. Or, you try writing in the dark with a flashlight when you have only ten brain cells still awake. (We've been sleeping in our new-to-us pop up camper)

-The southwest might be dry and hot and full of scorpions and snakes, but it's also full of sky. And beautiful landscapes everywhere you turn. Alas, the most picturesque spots seemed to be when we were driving along a cliff slope or a highway with no way to pull over and take a photo. Pout.

-Since my son and DIL have to work, during our visit here our mornings and half the afternoons are our own. I spent three hours yesterday alone in Balboa Park. I went to the San Deigo Art Museum. Spent $10 to get in and, honestly, eh. It was okay. They had an Andy Warhol exhibit there which I actually liked a lot more then I thought I would. There were a few O'Keefe's. I adore her work and have never seen any in person before, so THAT was cool! But clearly it was bad timing. Just having come back from all those museums in London and Paris - San Diego just couldn't compete. Gawd, does that sound pretentious or WHAT!

-I really enjoyed a second museum I visited, I think it was called The Charm Museum? The entire first floor was filled with displays from Carnaval around the world - you know - Rio de Janiero, Mardi Gras, and so on around the world. The top floor had a wonderful display of personal adornment from different cultures - mainly headdresses and necklaces.

-I'm still having trouble getting good shots in low lighting with this new camera of mine. I know, I know, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Phbbbt.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I went to the trouble of turning a few photos this morning for you, even though I feel sick and yucky. But not restless. I guess that's a trade off. Hmmmm.

So, here are some more photos from Glastonbury. The first two are on the grounds of the ruins of the abbey. If I have the history right (too lazy to go double check), Henry the VIII destroyed the abbey (as well as many others) in order to add their considerable wealth and jewels to his own stash. That and I'm guessing a fit of pique at the whole "you can't get a divorce" ruling the Catholic church handed down. Even in ruins, the grounds are still a peaceful and beautiful place.

These first two photos, the one above and the one below, are all about framing and "doorways". Framing a photo is an easy way to create a focus, and the doorways always make me, as the viewer, wonder what lies beyond, in the more distant scene that we're only allowed a glimpse of.

Looking back at my holiday photos as a whole, I realize that because many of the images were shot during the middle of the day when we visited these locations (and when they're open to the public), I didn't get to play a lot with shadows. That's a shame because they can add so much to an image. Plus, the lighting is different in the early morning or late in the day. It was more challenging to take photos that showed depth or contrast without the extra help of shadows and lighting changes.

This last picture, below, I took while climbing the backside of the Glastonbury Tor. You can see St. Michael's Tower on the top and a few of the MANY steps weaving their way up the left side of the image and disappearing on the top of the hill. I like the way the horizon is sliced horizontally and how the top and bottom images seem to be working independently of each other. You expect the stairs to lead to the tower, and you still assume they do even though the in the scene they don't visually lead you there. And if you click and enlarge, you can see that tiny spot of red is William, waiting up top for his slower mother.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I've been feeling blah about computer time lately. Sorry 'bout not posting something yesterday. Today even, what you're getting is a hodge podge of images that were already set the right direction to upload without messing around having to turn them 90 degrees or anything. Not that I wouldn't have ultimately shared them, just that I'm sharing them today because they were the easiest next pics to upload.

I'd like to say I haven't been on the computer much because I'm being creative or productive but, well, I'm not a very good liar. What I've been doing is being idle, which was one of my Wordplay words on Beach Treasure today. Let's hope it's one of those useful idlenesses in which one recharges one's batteries before breaking out with new enthusiasm and energy. Uhm, yeah. Sure. It's possible.

I did a jigsaw puzzle last night. Took me all night. Went to bed at dawn. It was a 1,000 piece puzzle of a quilt. Does that count as making a quilt? Okay, nevermind. Just asking.

So, the photos:

These first two are close ups I took at Stonehenge. I took a lot of photos there and wish I'd taken even more. It's fun to see the composition, the contrast, the lines, the shapes made from both the positive and negative spaces. I think I'll have to play around with all my Stonehenge images in Photo Shop. When I eventually get around to figuring out how to use Photo Shop. (Yes, Deirdre, I know. I promised. Apparently I'm not to be trusted with that sort of promise. You know me well enough by now to have figured that out!)

This next one I took more to remember the moment then to create an image, but I think it's rather like an Impressionist painting, don't you? Of course if it was an Impressionist painting, there probably wouldn't be all those plant markers in the foreground. I dunno. Maybe. I used to hate little bits of "reality" intruding on my images like that, but recently I've started to think of them as adding to the image instead of distracting from it. So, I rather like them there. But the richness of the textures in all that green, and the figures sort nestled in the middle of it all, that's what reminds me of a painting. If not a Monet, then maybe a Robert Duncan garden scene.

The woman was sitting there on that bench with her son while I wandered around this historical herb garden on the grounds of the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey. She sat there calmly, resting, waiting, I don't know, while her son chatted happily and without apparent pause or breath, talking, if I recall, about the plants and the day and just generally being a little spot of joy. The mother wasn't ignoring him, nor was she feeding into his chattiness. She was simply the calm at the center, occasionally adding a gentle "Ah-hum" and "Yes dear" and other loving responses.

As for the greenery, it was fun to discover that I had most of these same plants growing in my own gardens back home.

And my son? He was laying in the grass by a small broken hedgerow on the opposite side of the garden, bored, hungry, and tired of waiting for me to look at stupid plants. Ah, the beauty of reality.

I really like this next image. It's looking up through the top of what was a..... not a church, more of a look out, some sort of.... be right back..... the British National Trust website describes it as " the 15th century St. Michael's Tower" which was on the summit of the Glastonbury Tor. I like how the abstractness of it contrasts that tiny glimpse of medieval stone.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What! No new photos this morning!? Sorry. I'm feeling distracted and restless. I'm sure after a few hours of working in the garage, my selected torture du jour, I'll feel far more inspired to sit at the computer and upload photos. So check back later.

In the meantime, I picked up a copy of our county fair premium book the other day. Deadline for filing entry forms comes up in about a week and a half, but since I'll be back on the road again (damn, now I'm gonna be singing Willie Nelson all day), I have to decide what to enter before I leave. Mainly what I want to enter this year is lots of my travel photos.

I entered photos a long time go and then, because it's a lot of work to make them the proper size and frame them all, I didn't enter them again until last year. They did really well. I won lots of ribbons that is. The premium money however, was probably just enough to pay for all the expense of blowing up all the images to 8X10. So I have to be a bit selective. I'm hoping some of the images I create will serve a double duty as both fair entries and then holiday or birthday gifts. I did that with a few last year and it worked great.

I learned a lot entering last year's photos. For example, no matter how many great photos you have in one class (category for you non fair goers), it makes no sense to enter them all since you are then competing against yourself. You might want to enter several, but after that there's that point of diminishing return. Too, some categories are more popular then others, so try to find a way to make a photo work in a category with less competition and you have more of a chance of getting a ribbon. Now, I did well even in the popular categories, so that's not to say you shouldn't enter those too.

The one thing you can't plan for is subjectivity. I entered a lot of photos last year and some I thought were a sure thing didn't place while others I just entered with a "what the heck" attitude took first place! And it doesn't help to keep in mind what the judge's preferences seemed to be last year as it might not be the same judge this year.

I've helped with the hanging and judging of the textiles and quilts (and sometimes the 4-H or junior entries, the canned and baked goods, the school project entries, the florals...) for ten years now and every year or so they switch judges. I think it's actually a rule they must do that, although even if it wasn't, it only makes sense. Too, the judge has to be someone from outside the county. Another good idea because I know that by now I could probably guess with a high degree of accuracy who entered what. It's a small community and there's a lot of us "regulars" who participate in the fair.

Some judges are great, others are dumber then a rock. (No offense to rocks btw, some rocks are quite wise in my not so ordinary opinion) Anyhoo, one year I remember that the quilt and textiles judge preferred neutral tones. Everything that won a ribbon was done in either beige, brown, tan, gray, or taupe. It was NOT a good year for several fair participants who were unfairly overlooked.

Every year I tell myself maybe I shouldn't go to all the trouble to enter because it is so much work and effort and stress. But every year I do because I know I'll feel like I totally missed out if I let it pass. One year I did pass, accidentally. I missed the deadline. By one day. Head bang. The fair was still fun but there just wasn't that sense of excitement, the thrill of anticipation, of feeling like I was part of it. I am unabashedly a fair junkie.

I'm off to the garage. To toss, sort, organize, fume (why did my husband think that throwing the giant holiday candy canes on a stack of snow tires and bicycles was a GOOD idea!? And I distinctly remember using my most threatening voice when I asked him to HANG them in the rafters where they are properly stored), and if I'm lucky, sort through some ideas for the fair.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm finding it a lot harder then I thought it would be to decide which photos are "artsy" and should be shared here, and which are "touristy" and should be shared over at Beach Treasure. A lot of the photos could go both ways. Today I put up a bunch of Stonehenge pics over there and there were dozens more that were even more artsy. But, a decision was made.

I love gargoyles. Love'em. And since one of my sons has taken gargoyles as something of a "totem animal" for himself, I love them even more. I was really excited about seeing as many as I could while I was in England (and let's not even start with the gargoyles in Paris, which will send me into shivers of excitement - patience my bloggees, patience) and I wasn't disappointed. It was amazing how many different kinds of gargoyles there are, actually. We tend to think of only the scary monster type ones, but there were monster gargoyles and animal gargoyles and people gargoyles and bird ones and mythological ones and angel ones and.....

A lot of them, like the one above, have been weathered over the ages into something completely different from what they started out as. I'm not sure what this one was shaped like originally, but I thought he was a bit goofy and a bit frightening at the same time. Like the sludge monsters that make an appearance in movies.

Between the gargoyles and ceilings, I could have spent the entire vacation with my neck craned up. This wouldn't have been a terribly good idea however, since they also have lots of stairs and cobblestones in historical areas, which means basically EVERYWHERE. But I did look up as much as I dared. This beautiful ceiling was in a church in Lacock. This particular church had been recently used for the wedding of some relative of Camilla Parker-Bowles....does she have another last name now that she's married to Prince Charles? Anyway, the church was still filled to overflowing with the flowers and greenery from the ceremony and it made it smell wonderful. I wish, along with the visual images, I could have snapped "photos" of smells and sounds and textures as well.

I don't just love this photo, I LOVE this photo! This gentlemen (and isn't he the quintessential British elder) was caring for the cemetery with a hand clippers. Carefully bending over and taking care around the gravestones and flowers. I doubt I could even bend over like that anymore without... well, I could bend over like that. What I doubt is whether I could straighten up again afterwards.

I can't tell you how many times (which is sort of odd really, that I've been to cemeteries and/or landfills so often) I've come across cemetery caretakers in the States who follow the protocol of tossing all the flowers, fresh, faded, or plastic, into the back of a pick up truck, and dumping them at the county landfill, and then having a clean shot at running over the dead with a nice efficient power mower.

And that's when the cemetery allows you to leave things on the graves in the first place. It's no wonder that many of our ancestors and loved ones are abandoned to their graves when we are so discouraged, as a culture, from keeping them in our lives, from visiting them. I found the exact opposite at cemeteries we visited in England and Paris. There, there was much evidence of visitors and offerings at gravestones, even very old ones. I was particularly enamored of the beautiful highly enameled ceramic bouquets and statues that were left on graves in Paris. Just the fact that they weren't stolen or vandalized (although we saw evidence of vandalism, not in graveyards, but in other historical settings) was amazing.

Of course I'm generalizing here, and I'm being slightly unfair. I have seen offerings and visitors at American cemeteries. Some very touching. And at some of the smaller cemeteries, the rules are less strict. I haven't visited every cemetery in every part of the US nor have I visited more then a handful of cemeteries across the pond. But from what I've seen, it makes me think that we're a lot less comfortable with the concept of death in America then folks are in Europe. Of course they've have a lot more history of dealing with death then what we have over here. Overt history that is. I'm well aware that history in the Americas did not begin with Christopher Columbus, even if the school books pretend it did. I only mean that Europe has a much longer written and visible history then we do. As William commented while walking down the street somewhere in England "You can't walk two steps over here without bumping into something historical!"

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I like posting these photos, and taking them was certainly an artistic endeavor, but I'm getting restless to get back into doing something in my studio. I think. The problem is, I'm not sure what sort of medium I want to work in and just about anything but what I have set up, which is fabric, would require purchasing, finding, co-ordinating, organizing. Sigh.

And then there's another part of me that wants to leave the studio door shut, let the cobwebs accumulate unbothered, and spend the rest of the summer in the garden. Another sigh.

Back to today's photos..... if Blogger lets me post them, which is another story, which I've already blogged about over on Beach Treasure..... grrrrr.....

I liked the wooden gate, the hedgerows and the tiny little path between them. Why were two hedgerows put so close to each other? And where does the path lead?

Doesn't this remind you of Hagrid's hut? All it needs is a window, perhaps a bit of clutter and a place to sit near the front stoop.

It was actually a building on what I believe was part of an old manor house estate. I like the way the reflection of the roof peeks out of the pond in the foreground in this photo from a farther distance.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I was surprised at how much humor and profanity there were in the statues, sculptures, tombs, and so on. Here's a sweet little cherub playing with a skull. Well, holding a skull. There was one tomb, the lid of the coffin was a sculpture of the person trying to climb out and skeletons pushing him back in. Didn't get a picture of that one as it was in a No Photos situation, but there was a lot of that sort of thing. We think, or at least I had imagined, people in the past as being either very spiritual and reverent on one hand or bawdy, superstitious and earthy on the other. It appears the reality is it was often a hodge podge of both.

We didn't eat at this place, although I had intended to come back here. There was just so many choices, we forgot and moved on. But I took a photo because I loved the name - The Moon and Sixpence. I have no idea if it's an original whimsy or from an old poem or quote, but it made me think that if it wasn't, it should have been.

This was probably the very first peek I had of one of these little tucked off to the side areas. They were everywhere - down an alley, close, narrow street, garden.... and I wish I could have taken a photo of each and every one of them.

Monday, June 05, 2006

This little statue was on a tomb in.... uhm, I think the big cathedral in Bath. Or was it just a church and not a cathedral? I can't remember what the difference was. And if it was a cathedral, then saying it was a big cathedral is redundant. I mean, are there any cathedrals that are not big?

Anyhoo, wherever she was, I liked her. She looks like she's sitting there, for eternity, thinking:

"What a life. I'm only six years old, max, so I never get to grow up. I'll never get to grow out of the children's department at Penney's. I'll never have margaritas with a bunch of college buddies. I'll never get laid. I'll never be able to... oh wait, I'm made out of stone. So, what does it matter. I'll just sit here in this dark corner of... I don't even know where I am, watching over some stupid dead guy for the rest of my life. I guess it could be worse. I'm not outside where pigeons can crap on me. Oh great. Another stupid tourist is pulling out a camera. No, I'm NOT gonna smile. Go play with the pigeons."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Artsy Photo Offering #2

I had a new camera and I couldn't be bothered by anything as silly as reading the instruction manual before the trip. So I had a lot of trouble with focus. Sigh.

This is an underground pool in the roman baths which I believe was originally used as a bathing pool. It is now used as a "offering pool" and a sign read that visitors were allowed to leave offerings to Sulis Minerva at this site. Basically, a "wishing well." I liked the way the coins, which were from many different countries, shimmered.

I did not leave a coin here, although William did, because I had surreptitiously left one at an earlier spot along the tour where a sign said the original offerings were left, deep at the heart of the spring. Here is a photo of it below. You can't really see it in the photo, but there were many coins here as well, some old, some new, most weathered, the copper ones green with age. Although you weren't suppose to toss coins here, at least it wasn't posted for you to do so, many people over the years had done so as I did, and it was nice to see that the trust which handles the site honored the sacred intent, leaving the offerings and blessings that were given.

For more travel photos, visit my Beach Treasure blog.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Long time no see! A whole month my son and I have been gone, gallivanting around the world. It was lovely, exciting, inspiring, awesome, fun, eye-opening, educational, and exhausting. Our first day back home today has been mostly about battling jet lag from the 9 hour time difference we've traveled and uploading the gabillion photos we took of and on our adventures. I decided to post one a day on my blogs until I either a) run out of photos or b) get bored and move on to another idea. If you want to see the touristy shots of William and I standing in front of things, or if you want to read about our adventures (I kept up that blog through the month's travels) visit my Beach Treasure blog. If you want to see artsy scenic photos, artsy compositions, or photos of art check here. I figured that will help keep something new on here until I can catch up to speed with life and/or find time to do something creative in the studio. That might be awhile since even though I'm home at the moment, I still have at least three more long distance trips to make in the next eight weeks! But hey, taking all those photos was creative in and of itself, so I get credit for it even if my studio door stays shut and my fabric/beads/craft supplies continue to collect a fine layer of dust.

Oh, I did start find a knitting project eventually. Didn't buy the yarn until I was actually across the pond but I started a hat while in England. It was a good project to do during long train trips. I didn't have a pattern, I was just "winging it." I got as far as the rim and "body" of it and then chickened out of trying to finish the top because I wasn't sure how quickly to reduce the number of stitches for the affect I wanted. Now that I'm back home, I'll check some patterns and have a stab at it sometime soon.

In the meantime,

Artsy Travel Photo #1

This fearsome head carved in Bath stone is thought to be the Gorgon’s head, which was a powerful symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva. It resides in the temple room in the ruins of Roman baths in..... big surprise here.... Bath, England. I had a new camera and I'm still working out how to get sharp images in low light settings. That's why this picture is a bit blurry. Blurry but I still liked it. Click on it to see it full sized.