Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What's it all about?

Tulip Abundance
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
-- Maya Angelou

Day 3/100

Call it art. Call it hubris. 
This act of taking something, be it raw color, a musical note, a lump of clay, a bit of bright pixels, a seed of possibility that with the proper care might turn into a turnip, a tulip, or a new technology, this reworking of what is into something new, nurturing an essence into an expression, … this is what we do.

We call it creation, call ourselves creators, call our work creative. It’s part of each of us, perhaps the most essential aspect of this stage of development we call human. 
Created, we create. Evolved, we evolve the world around us. (Assuming, of course, we are fortunate enough to live in a world where our basic needs of food, water, shelter, and safety are met.)

However, the question always remains: in service of what do we create these expressions? Survival? Growth? Transformation? Beauty?

Orange Tulip from Ananda Village
Yesterday, I was filled with joy because an art piece I was working on “worked.” It pleased me.

This morning, I wonder if I added anything to the mix. Is my “Tulip Abundance" better than the actual tulip captured by my camera many mornings ago? And, is that tulip “better” than the potential residing in the bulb from whence it came? 
It reminds me of a song from my youth … “What’s it all about, Alfie?"

Wikipedia: "Alfie" is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK) and Dionne Warwick (US). 
Click here to hear Dionne Warwick sing "Alfie"

Monday, September 18, 2017

My fungus friend

Top side
Day 2/100 
Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.
-- Paul Stamets
Shortly after I moved here in May, I noticed a fungus growing on the side of a rock planter in my patio. I expected it to die away, but it just keeps getting bigger. I've become very protective of it, putting pots around it to keep workers from accidentally kicking it when they're working around here.
Bottom side
Fortunately my camera has a rotating LCD so I could get a picture of the underside. I know nothing about fungi so if anyone knows anything about this one, I'd love to know more.  Google thinks it's a  lingzhi mushroom or reishi mushroom and the Vietnamese name for it means spirit/soul mushroom. If this is what it is, it has been used in Chinese medicine for 2,000 years.
I'm glad I'm being nice to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A New 100 Days of a Photo a Day

Independence Child
Today is Day 260 of this weird, worrisome and wonderful year of 2017.

A companion on the digital art journey posted that she is on a 100-day challenge to capture and post a photograph on her blog every day. My first reaction was: 100 Days! I’ve been delighted with just finishing my 30-day challenges. Second reaction was: I want to do that! Third reaction was: Sleep on it! So, I did.

This morning when I discovered that there are 105 days left in this year, which would give me 5 days of wiggle room, I decided to go for it. 

Day 1/100: Celebrating Independence

It’s the celebration of Independence here in Mexico, so I’ve taken a lot of photos over the past few days. Which to choose? 
Since many of the activities here are focused on the children, it’s hard not to fall in love with their faces. I call this one Independence Child and the expression on her face makes me think she was being most patient with the adults around her including me. May she stay independent ... and patient. 

I added the red backdrop to emphasize the colors of Mexico.
There's an option on the sidebar to the right to sign up for the blog if you want to follow along.

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Quinceanera Life ... a few decades after the fact

For most of you, this will be TMI ... but thank you so much for being part of the journey ...
From a series of intentions I created.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009. My life changed on this day as I opened up to the world with my first personal blog post. I will be eternally grateful to my blog sister and amazing artist, Diane Walker for leading me into blogging. (Diane’s blog:  http://www.contemplativephotography.com/)

In that first post, I wrote about starting the blog and remembering the powerful quote of Maya Angelou: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
For the past few years my life has been chaotic and filled with loss. Not wanting to dwell on my pain, I stopped writing and many untold stories gathered inside me, until Maya reminded me that not writing can also be an agony. Her words were the last prompt I needed to start this blog which, I hope, will tell the story of my journey back to joy.
I've decided to indulge myself in remembrance by looking at the posts closest to the anniversary date each year.
2010: The year I left Lafayette, Colorado to return to my beloved California and began a two-year roommate adventure with my best friend, Lynne Snead.

I celebrated my first anniversary of blogging with a quote from Bali which has become one of my favorites: Someone out there needs you, live your life so they can find you. And, I reveled in a poem by Herman Hesse: Sometimes.
Remembering the importance of time.
Sometimes when a bird cries out,

or the wind sweeps through a tree,

or a dog howls in a far-off farm,

I hold still and listen a long time.

My world turns and goes back to the place

where, a thousand forgotten years ago,

the bird and the blowing wind

were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,

and an animal, and a cloud bank.

Then changed and odd it came home

and asks me questions. What should I reply?
2011: The first year I was accepted into an art gallery and truly began to think I might actually be an artist. The post that coincided with my anniversary described my first experience of taking photos of an environment and creating a piece of digital art from that. An artist friend began hosting meditation groups in her inspiring art studio and, on a whim one evening I took a mass of photos of her supplies and the objects around her studio. Those photos pulled me into a different type of art piece. It broke open a whole way of looking at the world.

2012: I finished a memoir about death and finding joy “after the fire,” and it began to set me free. The mid-September post talked about the found art of life:
This morning it occurred to me that life is found art.  Stuff comes to us … some rusty and bent … some shiny and bright … and it's our choice as to whether we weave it into the tapestry of our lives … or toss it away … or even walk past it not recognizing its potential.  A great deal of the found art of our lives comes from people: family, friends, the quick sales interaction in a department store,  a fragment of conversation heard while walking down the street.  

When we begin to notice these fleeting moments … not as something immediately practical designed to serve us … but rather, as bits of bright glass and rusty parts that help us create a new work of art … our lives … we start to accept our role as artist … creator … of this experience called life.
Beauty and Time
2013: An interesting year. I moved to the central coast of California, got accepted into a new art gallery, and almost stopped blogging. There were no posts from August through December of that year. Interestingly, the July 4th post celebrated our democratic DNA:
On this day 237 years ago, our ancestors here in the U.S., gave us the gift of great genes ...  a DNA of democracy, reverence for education, law and order, equality and justice. Like all peoples, we haven't always lived up to our potential but today is a day to remember what we were given and to renew our commitment to protecting this great gift for future generations.

Desert Wine
2014: A year of great change. I entered into a new relationship, which didn’t last but prompted me to sell my house and gave me the freedom to have a four-month-long adventure in Mexico. My near-anniversary post reflected on a celebration of the revolution in Mexico and a shout that I heard frequently: Arriba!

Reflecting on that shout, I wrote something that seems especially relevant for where we are in 2017:
… all of this has made me think about how many things begin with a shout, words said with emotion and power, to ourselves and to others. Perhaps we need a word like "Arriba!" to energize ourselves to take action, to do the things we know we want … and need … to do.  What is our shout?
There's Always One
2015: Another year of change. Returning home from Mexico, I was basically homeless. Finally, I bought a house in Grass Valley, where I thought I would stay “forever.” 😉  It was another low year for blogging and the only post in September reflected on the effects of climate change on political stability by comparing the collapse of Syria to what might happen if the same devastating drought happened in Florida, a political entity of about the same size and population.

Started making memes.
2016: Since I wasn’t associated with an art gallery, my creative energies were focused on writing. After self-publishing a novella, I began a novel inspired by one of the most inspiring videos I’ve ever watched … How Wolves Change Rivers that prompted a remarkable trip to Yellowstone for research.

My near-anniversary post begins: I want to read this book. The Secret Life of Trees.

I’m a bit chagrined that I still haven’t read it … however, I now have the audible book. So, I’m going to start listening to it … today!

2017: I’d say another year of change, but that’s becoming redundant. I was in the perfect house in the perfect community, when I decided it was time to move to Mexico. I had self-published a gratitude journal and was on the final edit of the Yellowstone book when arrived and realized that all I really wanted to do was make art.
So here I am in a place that has awakened all my senses. While I lost my darling companion Missy down here, I am on fire making digital art again, living a healthy, walking life-style, meeting people with the most incredible life experiences, and re-dedicating myself to this blog. 
I have found an online community of digital artists who inspire me every day, and I  just launched my new art website which you can see if you click here.

This is one of my favorite recent pieces of art. A young woman in her quinceanera (15th birthday) dress on the cusp of change. Who knows what new joys and sorrows will come her way? Who knows who she will become?

I don't have the dress but I still feel like I'm living on the cusp of change, not knowing what's coming my way or who I might become. There is no bigger change than the one I'm heading into. I deserve a dress!
Into the Unknown
Some tidbits I’ve discovered about the past nine years of this small-time, non-commercial blog: 

Page views: 193,795
Posts: 828
Most Popular posts: January, 2011, was dedicated to poems by Rumi as read by Coleman Barks. Those posts are by far the most popular ones I’ve posted. The most popular of them is “What was said to the rose …” and if you google those words, my post is #4 on the first page. Minor stardom.
The most popular of my own posts is simply a digital image: Art for Today: Intend Peace. I’m touched that the world seems to like that image and thought, so much that I reposted it yesterday and renewed my own commitments to the 11 intentions.
Audience: It surprised me to learn that other than the U.S., the largest number of page views comes from Russia, Ukraine and Israel. And PC-users outnumber Mac-users 4:1. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The broken windows of our lives

It doesn’t matter 
if I forget to make
my bed,
     I’m just going 
     to sleep in it 
     again tonight.
It doesn’t matter 
if I eat that last 
piece of pie,
     it’s small and 
     it was so good.
 It doesn’t matter if I miss yoga class,
     they won’t miss me.
 It doesn’t matter if I don’t make that call,
     she’s probably busy any way.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t create art today,
    no one will notice or care.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t write that poem,
     few people like poetry anyway.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t vote today,
     everyone knows who’s going to win.

There is a theory of broken windows that says little things matter. People see other people getting away with minor crimes and they think they will also. They see broken windows in a building and assume no one cares, that it’s okay to break more or take that interesting bit of decoration. The first tagger who spray paints his name on a billboard opens the door to others.

Thinking about this concept made me wonder about the broken windows in my life. What are they and what effect do they have?
Obviously, little things matter. If I don’t make my bed in the morning, I have a tendency to throw things on top of it and soon it’s a looming mess. Eating that last piece of pie is sort of like a broken window ... if I can eat that, I can also order fries instead of salad, and oh those mocha lattes! Maybe no one will miss me at yoga class, but my body knows and after awhile, it tells me about it.

They're small things those
Unmade beds,  
unwritten poems,
unplanted flowers,
unexpressed love,
uncreated art, 
and uncast votes ...
They may each seem as if they don’t matter,
but they all add up to a life unlived.

Everything matters.
Every breath we take, 
Each decision we make,
All the lessons we learn ...
I … you … he … she … we ...
Every one of us matters.

Everything matters.
Earth, air, water, sunflowers, frogs, fungi,
even chiggers and bacteria,
every micro nit beneath our view,
all the stars, black holes and universes
beyond our scope,
Every thing matters. 
(c) Copyright, Joyce Wycoff, 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Today I met an ordinary Mexican family

That doesn’t sound all that earth shaking to meet an ordinary Mexican family, but it’s actually not that common, especially for someone who is still language challenged. 
Most of the people we gringos interact with are other gringos. We tend to be retired people with lots of time and, generally, a bit of discretionary money. We flock to yoga, language classes, the plaza for coffee, restaurants, and all things artsy.

The Mexicans we meet tend to be service people … doctors, vets, lawyers, taxi drivers, gardeners, house keepers, restaurant servers, people who make clothes or furniture or fix things around the house. Almost everyone here except the very elderly are working, and in their leisure time, they hang out with friends and family.

But, today I met a real Mexican family and had a chance to hear a little about their lives. The parents are care-takers on an estate owned by some Tapatios (folks from Guadalajara) and they have four children. The parents are education-oriented and their two older children are attending university, studying nursing. This is a financial challenge for the entire family.

Their day begins at 4:00 a.m. in order to get the older kids on the hour-long bus ride to Guadalajara at 6:00 a.m. After taking classes all day, they will make the return trip home in order to help their parents, care for the younger kids, and do their homework. On Saturday, the family sells tacos and on Sunday, they run a cosmetics stand and take English classes. I didn’t get a chance to meet the mom because she was cooking for a party hosted by their employers.

The entire family is driven by their purpose of helping each child get an education so they can get good jobs. There is little in the way of a security net down here except family. These parents are exceptionally dedicated to educating their kids, and, so far, they are making it. However, they are on a thin edge and an unkind wind could easily blow them off track.

The family I met is not only an ordinary Mexican family, it is very much like families all over the world. Some have it easier; some have it harder. My family had it a little easier, but like most post-war families of the 50s and 60s, they knew education was the key to a better life. No one in my family finished high school let alone college. I was blessed to have parents who supported education, just as these kids are blessed to have the parents they have.

I was also blessed to grow up in an era when college was inexpensive and government helped with affordable college loans and the GI bill. As a country, we believed in the importance of education ... affordable education. Seeing this family today, struggling to help their children, makes me sad for the young people of this beautiful country who will not be able to afford an education for a better tomorrow. It also makes me sad for my own country which seems to have forgotten how important education is for our future.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Photography: The critical importance of feedback and how to give it to yourself

"Good photographs are quantum packets of understanding;
they allow ideas to leap from one person to another, almost magically."
— Jeff Wignall, National Geographic photographer

From an early Instamatic with film the size of my little fingernail, my life has included a long series of cameras. However, it wasn’t until digitals arrived, that I started getting better. Not that the cameras were that much better; it was the instant feedback. I could see what i was doing wrong and play with other ways of shooting.

For the past couple of years, I was a member of the Nevada County Camera Club and every month we had about ninety photos submitted for critique by various judges. I made sure I had my allotment in every batch of those critique sessions. Some months I walked away bruised or confused, some months I floated away on sweet words. However, viewing and listening to the critique of ninety images every month ground some fundamentals into my psyche, but also left me wanting a more in-depth critique of my own work.
Black Ebony by Gabriel Olude
Now, I’m in Mexico with a new camera club that hasn’t grown into the capability of NCCC, so the question becomes how do I get the feedback I need to keep improving?

I need a set of criteria. But, which criteria? I started making a list and then decided there must be lists online. There are, of course ... dozens of them. A lot of the lists mention technical excellence, clarity, composition and so on. However, I liked an interview with National Geographic photographer Jeff Wignall who said that a photo could be technically beautiful but still not touch someone’s heart.

I definitely want to create photos that create a feeling, have an impact and “allow ideas to leap from one person to another.” So, impact has to be on the list. Let’s call it “Wow!” This photo art by Gabriel Olude is one that makes me say “wow!” every time I see it. It will be my benchmark for a rating of 10.  (From Issue 27, May 2017 of “Living the Photo Artistic Life.)

Wignall also said, "One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to get your pictures in front of other people where you can see their reaction."

Dune Dancer by Ann Lavin
Something that several of us from NCCC did was print 50 of our favorite photos and have a “speed dating” session where we silently passed them around and let each person rate each of the photos of the others. It takes awhile but the results were enlightening. For one of my favorite images, it turned out that some of the reviewers didn’t even know what the subject was! Somehow, I have to make sure that the subject or the intended feeling is transmitted with power and “clarity."

This image above, "Dune Dancer" by Ann Lavin is a beautiful role model for clarity.

Tulip in Blue by Nancy Brizendine
Today’s cameras are excellent and even an average photographer can produce technically excellent photos. And, now there are dozens of apps that will transform ordinary photos into unique works of art. When I asked Google how many photographers there were in the world, the answers ranged from 75 million to 2 BILLION. A major question becomes: how to stand out from that flood of images?

The answer that surfaced for me is what in writing we call “voice,” a striking personal style, fresh viewpoint, or a unique way of seeing the world and capturing it in an image. Each image should give the viewer something he hasn’t seen or felt before. 
Obviously, with all the photos being taken today, it is not easy to find a novel way to capture an image, however, it is a criteria to strive for. “Uniqueness," became one of the criteria, spurring an intent to make images that were uniquely mine. 

It takes a lot to make a photo of a flower pop. "Tulip in Blue” by Nancy Brizendine has it all: style, voice, color, movement, light. It’s a great example of taking an overworked subject area to a higher level and is a role model I would like to live up to. (From Issue 29, July 2017 of “Living the Photo Artistic Life.)

Breaking the Pattern by Evelyn Elwan
I am currently in an online training and community focused on photo artistry and led by Sebastian Michaels. Dozens of artists are posting their images on a private Facebook group every day and top images are published in the “Living the Photo Artistic Life,” magazine. One thing I’ve noticed in looking at hundreds of works of art from this group is that some create a unique mood through a blend of light, subject, color and movement. It’s a bit difficult to describe, however, you feel it when it’s done well. So, add “mood” to the list. 
 An amazing  example of mood comes from Evelyn Elwan’s “Breaking the Pattern” (From Issue 27, May 2017 of “Living the Photo Artistic Life.)

Something Missing
After looking at so many images and reviewing all the criteria I could find, it seemed like there was still something missing: a quality of depth where there were constantly new things to be discovered, that kept attention roaming around the image. I decided to call this illusive quality, “abundance.”   
When I looked at the images that seemed to offer this abundance, I found two and couldn’t choose between them, so here they both are:

Artist: Doris Seybold
A Promise by Carol Entin
Both of these images offer a satisfying feast of details.

So, to recap, the five criteria I have chosen to critique my own photos with are:

Wow! - images that pop, giving you a feeling of having seen something new, felt something at a deeper level, connected with the essence of the artist and the subject.

Clarity - focus on a subject or intended feeling in such a powerful way that the viewer knows deeply what the image is trying to convey.

Uniqueness - a striking personal style, fresh viewpoint, or a unique way of seeing the world and capturing it in an image. Giving the viewer something he hasn’t seen or felt before in an image.

Mood - a blend of light, subject, color and movement that creates a definite feeling or sense of time or place.

Abundance - a quality of depth where there were constantly new things to be discovered, that keeps attention roaming around the image.

Now I’m off to see how my photos and art images match up with these qualities. Feel free to use these criteria for your own work … or explore the source materials below to choose the ones most appropriate for you.

*******  Source Materials:  *******

1.) Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.
2.) Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.
3.) Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.
4.) Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.
5.) Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
6.) Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
7.) Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
8.) Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.
9.) Lighting —the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.
10.) Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.
11.) Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.

12.) Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.

Five Factors That Judges Consider in Reviewing Photo Contest Entries  - National Wildlife Federation
  1. Originality
  2. Technical Excellence
  3. Composition
  4. Artistic Merit
  5. Overall Impact
Came up with lists of possible criteria before homing in on five:
  • Adherence/Appropriateness to Theme
  • Uniqueness of Concept
  • Originality
  • Clarity of Expression
  • Humor
  • Creativity
  • Innovative Means of Delivering Message
  • Entertainment Quality
  • Visual Design
  • Overall Artistic Impression
  • Composition
  • Clarity and Quality of Submission
  • Color, Lighting, Exposure and Focus
  • Audience Appeal
  • Marketability/Commercial Appeal
  • Newsworthiness
  • Inspirational Power
  • Expression of Theme
  • Usage of Brand to Reinforce Theme
  • Overall Impression/Impact
  • Current/Potential Social Impact
  • Level of Detail
  • Inspiration to Others
  • Wow! Factor
  • Memorable
  • Technical Execution
  • Visual Appeal
  • Artistic Merit

Rather than have a one word criteria, MKD suggested defining the criteria, for example:
    • Impact– what you feel when you first view the Entry. Does the photo evoke an emotion from the viewer?
    • Creativity– how the Entrant was able to convey their idea, message or thought in an original and imaginative way through their lens.
    • Style – how the Entrant is able to showcase their personal originality and technique to influence how the image is presented and interpreted.
    • Subject Matter– was the subject matter displayed in the photo appropriate to the story being told in the Photo Entry submitted and does it fully represent the Sponsor’s promotional theme?
    • Story Telling– how the Entrant is able to let their Photo Entry evoke the viewer’s imagination, which may differ by each viewer. Is the story being told the right story for the Sponsor and their brand?
    • Technique–the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
    • Composition– how all the visual elements harmoniously express the purpose or intent of the image. Does the photo draw the viewer in to look where the creator intended?
    • Presentation– having that finished look. Was the Photo Entry truly ready to be entered or were some finishing touches still required?
    • Color Balance– can bring harmony to a photo. Do the tones work together, effectively supporting the image? However, Color Balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
    • Center of Interest– the point(s) in the photo where the Entrant wants you to view the image. Does the photo draw you in? Does it have more than one center or interest or none at all?
    • Lighting—how the Entrant was able to use and control light. Was the lighting applied in the photo (manmade or natural) properly used to enhance the image?

excerpted from Winning Digital Photo Contests, by Black Star Rising contributor Jeff Wignall.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A black bunny came to visit

What would he call us?
This morning a black bunny gamboled onto my patio. I’m not sure how he got there since I’m surrounded by walls, but there he was, his dark coat gleaming, obviously a pet out looking for new adventures. Yesterday I put out some sliced apple for the birds; he thought they were for him.

What does it mean when a black bunny visits you the morning after a full moon? According to some mystics, this full moon portends "a time of big energy that can be quite emotional and overwhelming.” Does that mean we can blame all of this political chaos on the moon?

They also say, "This is a good time to dream your future.” Right now the future that I would dream would use all the excess moisture from Harvey and Irma (and Jose and Katia) to quench the fiery west, with enough left over to clean the swamp spewing forth from the White House. However, that’s probably a dream beyond my measure. So, back to my bunny who is now asleep on my patio as if he might stay.

One blogger about the meanings of things reports that dark-colored animals connect us to our deeper feelings, the dreams lurking below the surface or in unexpected places. That seems a little serious for these nose-twitching, peaceful and curious beings.

While I watched him today, he munched on a stem of a flower, sampled my apple, hopped around the garden nibbling grass, slept in the sun, scratched and munched some more. I think he’s demonstrating how to live life. 
“Dumb bunny” is a disparaging term we call ourselves or others when they do something stupid. It makes me wonder what bunnies would call us with our complicated, striving lives and our difficulty knowing when enough is enough?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A new muse arrives: Profunda - Surprise and Mystery

Profunda (more at Digital Art Gallery above)
A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Beauty of bad photos and accompanied it with an earlier version of this painting, titled "Fashion Fairy." What a surprise when a friend asked a question that made the Fashion Fairy reveal her true identity as one of the nine digital muses.

To recap the story: deep in central Mexico, there is a sacred place where, if you stand in just the right spot, your voice echoes as if you’re in a deep valley. There is also a wooded glade known to be inhabited by elves and fairies. Visitors bring small toys and candies and hope for a glimpse of the wee folk.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to see an elf or a fairy but I did find many of the toys left for them, including one that caught my imagination and led me into using it in a painting. I knew when I saw the discarded doll that she had a regal, compelling stance and demeanor. For the entire process of creating her image, however, she withheld her identity from me, merely calling herself the Fashion Fairy. I was okay with that.

Then a friend asked me if the Fashion Fairy was one of my nine digital art muses. The question shocked me since I hadn’t even thought about that possibility. Sometime ago, I came up with a list of digital art muses (click on the heading above for more info), so I went through them to see if any of the descriptions fit the Fashion Fairy.

It took me aback when I read the words for Profunda: Surprise and Mystery … unexpected combinations or altered perceived distances or locations can create a sense of surprise or mystery that lets us see things in a new way and deepens our connection to the world.

Here was this broken and discarded toy, left in a place of mystery and mud, and some how she became a figure of fashion and beauty, a queen of the elf-world … a muse. After writing that, I heard her say, "You thought I was a castaway when actually I was an offering to the elf world. I am here to help you see beyond your eyes."

I hope she forgives my ineptitude as I now introduce Profunda, digital muse of surprise and mystery. You can meet her sister muses at the Digital Art Muses heading above and clicking on the Digital Art Gallery heading will take you to my gallery.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The beauty of bad photos

Fashion Fairy (More at Digital Art Gallery above)
I love bad photos … sometimes the worse, the better. Blurry, badly composed, tilted horizon; it doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing I like them because I take enough of them.

When most people are looking for that crystal sharp picture with the subject smack dab on the rule of thirds grid, why am I fond of the rejects? Because they invite me to play. 
When a photo is really good, it’s almost a sacrilege to change it. When it’s all warty and lopsided, I can mess with it, stretch it out of shape, smush it together with another misshapen image and see what they do together.

A few weeks ago, I journeyed to a strange place … Foco Tonal, a flat place with an echo when you stand in the exact right spot. It has been turned into something like a spiritual Disneyland complete with multicolored towers. I still haven’t figured out why my voice resonated when I stood on the special spot, but it was a lovely place to walk quietly in the gardens and meditate on the mysteries of life.

From the Elf Garden
I almost missed the elf garden, but someone pointed the way and I found a glade strewn with broken toys and candies left by visitors. This is one of the little scenes I photographed and the Barbie elf charmed me with her flowing gown and beguiling look. However, of course, this was not a “good” picture; nothing more than a casual snapshot. I was surprised when she clambered into a photo and demanded my attention.

Foco Tonal
Several hours later she had become the “Fashion Fairy.” You can only do this kind of stuff with bad photos. The good ones want to be cherished for what they are, maybe tweaked a bit or cropped a little, but no rough stuff.

Fortunately, I have a life time of bad photos to play with.