Tag Archives: beautiful

Gratitude: Solitude

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Today was a weird day. This is a weird picture. 

The picture and the title don’t really go together, except inasmuch as you can see the corner of my office—bookcase and window—reflected in the eye, and my office is where I most often enjoy my solitude.

Some people have difficulty being alone, and some people have difficulty not being alone. I can cheerfully spend entire days without human company; it takes at least 3 or 4 hours of solitude a day to recharge my batteries. It takes a while to really settle into that quiet place, so I’m grateful for solitude.

This lovely blue eye belongs to my friend Scotty, who always shares my blog posts. I still don’t know how you light a person’s eyeball so you can really see all the detail of the iris in a macro image.

 

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When Life Gives You Lemons…

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If you lived in Arizona, you’d know what I mean.

If you’re on the east coast, or somewhere up north, this image might not make sense, but today in Tucson it’s into the 90s, and the entire city is infused with the scent of citrus blossoms. It’s really wonderful. The Kids’ grandmother gave us a bag of lemons and we’ve already finished our first pitcher of lemonade of the season, spring in Tucson being more similar in disposition to summer in most of the country.

Knocked this one out in just under 4 1/2 hours; it’s much easier when there’s no text, and I think the image speaks for itself.

The Humble Dandelion

Everything's in the details.

Everything’s in the details.

One of the limitations of macrophotography, I’ve found, is that the gradations of depth are so fine that keeping your entire subject in focus is almost impossible unless your subject is 2 dimensional. I have about 10 shots of this dandelion. In some of them the, anthers are in perfect focus and the stigma can barely be seen. In others, the stigma are insanely sharp, but the rest of the flower is just a yellow blur. This image is sort of in between; you can see all the parts, but everything could be sharper.

My sister-in-law gave me a book on macrophotography and I’d like to read it; maybe there are solutions to my problem (short of photoshopping 2 images together) but man am I busy all the time. Although being sick for 10 days has, necessarily, cut into my productivity. Now this blog post is 14 hours late and I have to go get the kids in 24 minutes even though I’m not dressed and only halfway through breakfast.

Back to this flower. I love dandelions and I think people who kill them so they can have boring expanses of useless grass are wrong and in need of education about what’s important in the world. So-called “weeds” are the best part of having a lawn. We don’t have many dandelions here (this photo is from San Francisco), but we have other amazing volunteer flowers on our quarter acre: apricot mallow, wild daisy fleabane, evening primrose (you have to catch it at just the right time or you’d never even know it was a flower).

On this same roll I also had a decent shot of an ant (pretty well in focus but the ant is in a shadow, so it’s imperfect) and an excellent picture of a water strider, very sharp and clear but just not as colorful as this. The macrophotography books suggests that, while flowers and insects are the most popular themes for macrophotography, there are other interesting things you can do with it. Personally, I find that if you can shoot a clear image of a bug on a flower, there’s nothing more interesting.

What Goes Up

Sometimes you have to land.

Sometimes you have to land.

This hummingbird lives in one of the aviaries at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum; this picture was taken last Wednesday in the late afternoon. It’s cropped pretty closely and then I played with the color until it matched my mind’s eye a little more closely. The brightness is correct, but I’m afraid the color at the bird’s throat might not be. If this is, as I suspect, an Anna’s hummingbird, the tone should be more purple than red. Still can’t trust the camera. But the untouched image doesn’t come close to demonstrating the brilliant dazzle of a hummingbird in sunlight and this is a little more indicative.

Like the hummingbird, I need to rest between flights. I have a couple more pictures like these, from that same day, which I’ll try to share this week, but I’m taking a little vacation from comics. They’re noisy in my brain and I need some space to think. I want to write a poem, and an article about comics, and finish at least 2 T-shirts, so it’s time to land for a few days. I think I’ll sit on the floor, with a notebook and a pen, and write.

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Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

I’m not saying that every successful artist and writer I know suffers from Impostor Syndrome. Obviously, some creatives have massive egos. Then again, some of them evince massive egos to hide from the world the fact that they don’t think they deserve their success. However, I do know quite a few people who have received and continue to receive recognition (positive reviews, regular sales, prestigious awards) and also live in fear that someday the world will figure out that they’re not really that good, and they will lose it all.

One problem is that success can be so fickle. After Robin Williams’s death, most of us probably thought first, “But he was so great, so funny.” But some of us probably thought, a little bit later, and with a little bit of guilt, that The Crazy Ones wasn’t great or funny. I had to Google just to remember the name of his last sitcom, of which, like many people, I watched a single episode before making the choice not to follow. And Robin Williams was great. He was funny. But art doesn’t work like that. The emotions Williams made us feel in Dead Poets Society don’t keep The Crazy Ones from getting cancelled. So there is a sense that no success is real success in the arts. You’re only as good as your last performance, and if you’re hesitant to schedule the next one, you’re a has been resting on your laurels. You have to keep producing, and each production has to be better than the last.

Every little success is a boost to the creative mind, but the next day is a blank slate. If you don’t sell as many books, if your webpage doesn’t get as much traffic, if your critics are a little bit less congratulatory today than they were yesterday, you only feel the negative.

Most of us (the less insane ones, anyway) did not go into the arts for the accolades. Most of us went into the arts because our weird artistic brains literally did not give us any other choice, which makes success, or lack thereof, that much more difficult to process. Even if you’re great, even if you know you’re great, our society doesn’t look kindly on those who go around explaining how great they are. You might feel bad about your success because you want your art to transcend the need for positive feedback, or because there’s something illegitimate about becoming popular. You might feel bad about wanting or enjoying success.

Many of us simply believe we don’t deserve to succeed: because we don’t think we’re good enough, because we think others are better, because we feel that we haven’t suffered sufficiently, because we feel like there could be shame is being successful. And then there are those who are afraid to succeed, because to attempt success is to risk failure, and if we don’t believe we deserve to shine, we inevitably keep ourselves in the dark.

Origami Lotus Candy Wrappers and Other Beautiful Trash

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter's lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter’s lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

My dear old friend, the artist Jeffrey Woods, went through a period when a great deal of his work involved covering glass with tiny vinyl dots, painting the glass, and then peeling off the dots. As a result, his entire property (I’m talking the inside of the washing machine, the cat’s tail, the artist’s feet) to this day remains infested by colorful, sticky, vinyl dots, forming their own patterns across the landscape. There’s a metaphor in there about the persistence of art, I think. If you ever visit his workshop (which you wont; you can’t; he doesn’t let people in) you’ll notice that his trash is gorgeous. Picture paper plates which have sat on turntables inside an airbrush booth, sporting rings of complementary colors, crammed beside gracious curves laser cut from clear blue plastic, stuffed stuffed alongside sinewy white stencils into a plastic bag with the remains of yesterday’s lunch. Splashes of color on the walls and floor from which those prone to pareidolia cannot help but search for meaning: constellations of random mess.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

When I was little, I was always intrigued by artist’ palettes, the random smears of color sometimes more lovely than the finished works. I seem to find patterns spelled out on a piece a paper that I’ve used to blot my paintbrushes or wipe my fingers.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

I’m the kind of person whose hands sometimes go on without her, particularly when it comes to small, malleable pieces of refuse. I remember once, years ago, picking a twist tie off my cousin’s counter and, without really thinking about it, curling it into an elaborate butterfly. Her son took an instant liking to it and, shades of Hawthorne’s Artist of the Beautiful, smashed it into a wad. My cousin was horrified. I laughed. It was perhaps beautiful, but it was also a bit of trash.

I'm just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right material to hold their form, these scraps could easily be beads.

I’m just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right varnish to hold their form, these collaging scraps could easily be beads.

Challenge yourself to find something pure and shining in the discards of your life and watch the world made magical.