Sunday, October 29, 2006

'Good Morning Sunshine'

The latest small scale work off the drawing board, this one is 6" x 6".


Friday, October 27, 2006

A Day at the Zoo and Other Musings

A trip to the National Zoo in DC earlier this week with artist friend, Paula Waterman, turned out to be a very rewarding day of reference work. We headed into DC basically to gather material on the recently born trio of tiger cubs but found many other interesting subjects as well. The cubs were having a great time, romping around their enclosure, playing, rough-housing and doing the usual tiger cub things. Mom was quite attentive and when called for, very patient with the hyper active trio. Though the enclosure was quite shaded and the cubs often managed to situate themselves in the darkest corners, we did manage to snag a few good shots.

I believe that there are two female cubs and one male. It was obvious to me that one of the cubs seemed definitely larger and bulkier in body shape than the other two, so I would surmise he was the little male. But all three were very active and playful throughout the morning of shooting.

We also spent some time walking the new Asia Trail that opened to the public earlier this month. The enlarged panda exhibition was very well designed and we got a few glimpses of little, well not so little any more, Tai and his mom. The layout of the 'trail' was quite nice and several of the new areas were very appealing. Unfortunately, the clouded leopard, another of the subjects that we were specifically interested in, was not out in its enclosure as there was work being done to it. But the sloth bear area was very nice, as was the new red panda area complete with waterfall and nice rock formations.

We meandered over to the bird area and got some interesting images of several species that I have seen in Africa on my several trips to that continent, but had never really been able to get good close shots of, including the beautiful and colorful lilac breasted roller.

The marabou stork, with its appearance that 'only a mother could love' was another of the species that caught my eye. Another tough subject matter to make use of in a drawing, I can't help but be 'drawn' to their unique appearance. My good friend, Matthew Hillier, recently painted a magnificent oil painting of a marabou in bold strokes of paint and with a wonderful touch that brought such emotion to the subject that each time I see his painting, I wonder if I might ever be able to capture that same feeling of unique beauty of this motley bird, as Matthew did.

And, as a final note to today's entry, I read with great pleasure an entry to my friend, Carel's blog page this morning. He wrote quite wonderfully, on Monday of this week about photography and the artist. This was his third entry on the subject and I thought, by far, the most informative. I am often asked what I think of the use of photography in gathering reference material for future works of art and if I make use of photography in my work. Of course I use photo images for reference material when pulling together an idea for a new work. Sketch books play a major roll as well, with notations of light sources and movement and gesture and such, but I do make use of photography as well. But, as Carel so correctly put it, photos are just another of the tools in the 'tool box' that an artist carries with him or her, and act as reminders or points of departure. Take a look at Carel's page (linked to the right here) and read his explanation of how he makes use of photos and the examples he has used to flesh out his words. His words do best to define how I too, make use of photography in my work. Thanks, Carel, for your great description of this very controversial method of reference gathering for the artist.

Monday, October 23, 2006

'Little Rhapsody', a newly completed little work for the Waterfowl Festival in two short weeks! The image is just over 3" x 3".

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A bit of a morning diversion from the drawing board today as I spotted this vulture sitting atop one of the trees in my back yard, a tree which is frequented by both vultures and crows. I guess the view is quite something from up there!

In any event, this guy sat for quite a long time warming up in the sunshine of the chilly morning. Not a subject that would be appealing to most, I will find some way to use this material in another work at some point in the future, just as I have used similar reference of other vultures in one of my recent bridge works, seen here on this blog some months ago.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some photos today from a recent trip out to Chincoteague Island on the eastern shore of Virginia, just south of the Maryland border. Along with the usual compliment of egrets and herons, there were some other interesting sightings on that particular day.

What can only be described as a swarm of tree swallows kept flying around a stand of trees as I photographed some snowy egrets. Eventually, several of the swallows perched on the telephone line above my head and I just clicked away happily gathering some wonderful reference material!

This is a shot of a horned grebe, all alone and just enjoying an afternoon swim! It drew quite a bit of attention from several other photographers and I imagine that it is a pretty rare sighting.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hot off the drawing board ... 8" x 11" and will be heading to this year's Waterfowl Festival with me about a month from now.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Moooo-ving right along!

Friday, October 06, 2006

What? Another cow? Yep!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dmitri

As I have mentioned in several entries to this blog in the past, music and those who create it and play it, play a very important roll in my studio time. This year marks the 100th Birthday celebration of Dmitri Shostakovich and yesterday, I attended the opening concert of this year's Baltimore Symphony season, the orchestra under the direction of Director Emeritus, Yuri Temirkanov. Mr. Temirkanov knew Shostakovich before his death in 1975 and was the perfect conductor for the performance of Dmitri's 5th Symphony, a piece written in Russia at the height of Stalin's purges of not only the general populace, but also of creative people in all fields of the arts.

Throughout his entire life, Shostakovich walked 'a tightrope blindfolded without a safety net', in the words of Russian music scholar, Laurel Fay (as mentioned in the program notes for yesterday's concert). Like so many at that time and even before him, Shostakovich needed to remain true to his inner creative voice, yet at the same time, he needed to pay sufficient 'lip service' to the Stalin regime as those such as the celebrated writer, Maxim Gorky, lost their lives.

In the mid to late 1930's, a time during which millions of Soviet citizens lost their lives to Stalin's societal dictates, Shostakovich, then in his late 20's, premiered his opera, Lady Macbeth of Msensk in which he spotlighted his dissonant music in a 'lurid tale of lust and murder'. Quite popular with the audiences, when Stalin finally attended a performance several years after its premier, the dictator was horrified and left the theater before the end of the opera. Thereafter, Shostakovich became a 'non-person', his fellow composers avoiding him and speaking out against him. Such was the fear within Shostakovich for his very life, he, like many others, kept a suitcase packed in readiness for flight from the country at any moment.

But, by the late 1930's it was apparent that Shostakovich had weathered the uproar and was given a chance to rehabilitate himself by 'writing a suitably triumphant symphony for Leningrad's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution'. He set out to counteract the response, in Stalin, to his advanced, modernest music in the opera by simplifying his musical language, making it more consonant and tonal, more melodic and thus hoping, more pleasing to the authorities.

The 5th Symphony, much easier on the ears than many of Shostakovich's earlier works, was quite a success when premiered and remains such today. And so, Shostakovich, unlike many of his fellow Soviet artists, writers, dramatists and players, survived the Stalinist era and went on to write some of the most intuitive, individual and thought provoking music of the 20th century.

Like Shostakovich, painters and others in the fine arts have had to weather similar periods of time and walk the same sort of tightrope throughout history. It is comonly felt that the arts do indeed reflect what is happening in society at any given time and therefore, artists tend to attract the wrath of those in society, in the majority or in seats of power (either actual or implied), or those with the loudest voice!

We creative souls though, must I feel, as Shostakovich did throughout his lifetime, allow our inner beings to command. We must follow our hearts to whatever end they shall lead us. We must reflect what is around us and at the same time, make peace with it, sometimes being more tentative than direct, but always putting down on canvas or paper that which dictates our rising every day, our joy in work and our need to make art that can inspire, educate, tell a much needed story or, in the end, fulfill the need for those around us to have the arts to escape to.