Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bunny Drama

First, the little bunny comes into the backyard and nibbles the grass and clover.

It catches sight of me, and freezes for a few moments (predator!).

Then it goes back to eating and hops around a bit. But everything itches!

To reach that back area, the bunny does a full-on Exorcist twist.

Then the little bunny suddenly jumps up and runs away. Why? Uh-oh, here comes a bigger bunny!

The big bunny catches sight of me, and stares (predator!).

The big bunny has solo access to the bean patch (absolutely favorite bunny food) for a while. But then, the little bunny approaches, slowly hopping through the carrot tops.

They nibble a bit. The little bunny gets closer and closer to the big bunny. They circle each other.

The big bunny comes up to smell the little bunny. It looks like they might get along.

But no! The big bunny makes a sudden move, and the little bunny becomes a leaping blur as it catapults over the carrot tops.

It looks like the big bunny has won this dominance contest. But here comes the little bunny again. . .

Getting closer and closer . . .

How will this end?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Karmic muffins

Periodically, I give baked goods or other foody gifts to our neighbors. It just seems like a nice thing to do, particularly since we ask them to take in our mail or watch the house while we are away. Last summer, for example, I made tons of blueberry muffins and gave them to all of our (close) neighbors. Yesterday, our neighbor across the street came by with her son to bring us homemade banana muffins (with vanilla frosting and colored sugar, no less!). The bible says “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” -- a way of saying that good deeds will bring you benefit. Well, I guess I cast my muffins on the waters, and they were returned with frosting!

We ate the karmic muffins, and they were delicious.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grave statuary

Why is it that so many of the statues in cemeteries depict female figures? From our meanderings in a cemetery in Montreal, we saw a number of beautiful examples of statuary, particularly female figures. We saw this one when we first came into the cemetery, and were struck by its lovely lines and the eloquent way it depicted grief -- "how original!" we thought. Then we saw several others with the same design, and figured there was some mortuary catalogue with this headstone as one of the designs. *Sigh* It lost some of its eloquence after that. But it's still quite pretty.

This one had a bit of added whimsy, since someone replaced her bow with a stuffed animal (honestly, it wasn't me!).

And, of course, angels could be of either sex (or sexless), but seem to be depicted as female or feminine in many cases:

I love the way that metal gains additional texture with age -- she almost seems to be weeping. I'm not sure what the significance of the large feather is, though.

So, why are women keepers of the dead -- why are we charged with grieving and mourning and watching over the graves? Is this found in all cultures?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Giving myself a hand . . .

Well, more like 1100 hands. Illustrations of hands, that is. I scanned in 1166 19th-century illustrations of hands from one of the Dover publications of permission-free images. Now I have lots of handy (pun intended) digital illustrations for use in my artwork. Whee! Here are just a few of the illustrations from the book:

I love illustrations and clip art -- I get all kinds of ideas percolating when I look at them. I wish all the Dover books came with CDs, but at least I can digitize the images myself with the scanner. I have a number of other Dover books that I will scan in (in whole or part) when I have time -- that way I can build up a library of digital images to use when inspiration strikes me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today's visual inspiration

From a cemetery in Montreal, Canada. I love the strong vertical lines in this statue, and the swooping curve of the trailing sleeves. There is something very elegant in the clean lines, and her pose is peaceful and meditative, without being too sorrowful. Again, I see the Art Deco influence in these statues.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today's visual inspiration

Art Deco details from the Hotel Clarendon in Quebec City, Canada. I think these types of designs would look fabulous as surface design elements on a garment -- I'd love to interpret them in gold foil or embroidery on a coat or jacket. I'm not usually drawn to Art Deco, but just look at those luscious spirals and elegant lines -- beautiful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pondering the elements of design

I came across three photos I took of this lighthouse on the St. Lawrence river (near Tadoussac in Quebec, Canada), while we were on a whale-watching/fjord boat trip last year. Each one placed the central design element (the lighthouse) differently within the frame:

The lighthouse is centered, small and distant

The lighthouse is centered, larger and closer

The lighthouse is still larger and closer, but now off-center

How do these different types of placement affect the response to the photo? I generally like the main design element to be large, close, and centered (as in the second photo), but in this case, I didn't. The second photo is fine, but looks too much like a stock picture or a postcard. The first photo, while not providing as much visual punch, gives me a sense of the lighthouse being lonely and isolated, which seems appropriate as a theme. In the third photo, I get a sense of movement and energy that I don't get in either of the other two -- I should remember that an off-centered design element can be very engaging. Which one do you like best, and why?
Addendum: I hadn't thought of it, but someone pointed out that the horizon line also differs in these pictures -- the third has horizon line more horizontal and the line of the hills is just below the largest part of the lighthouse, which is part of why it is so pleasing.

Today's visual inspiration

I love the textural quality of this. Can you guess what and where it is?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lessons from the garden: Weeding, pruning, and thinning

When I first began gardening, I thought mostly about adding to the garden (that is, putting in plants), but a big part of gardening involves subtracting from the garden through weeding, pruning and thinning. These are still the tasks I have trouble with, but they are important components in all aspects of life.
  • Weeding: Weeding is about eliminating unwanted volunteer plants. Weeds are constantly cropping up, and they have a tendency to crowd out the desirable plants, leaching away water and nutrients and creating a messy look to the garden. So we pull them up. The lesson here is to be vigilant in looking for weeds in our own lives. Are there projects or commitments or activities or habits that you don't want, that are stealing energy and time from your goals and priorities? If so, it may be time to uproot and eliminate those unwanted aspects of your life. But remember that something may seem like a weed to one person, but not to another. I am determined to uproot every pokeweed plant in my garden, but I have a friend who loves to watch the birds feast on its berries. To me it is a weed, but not to her. Just because something may seem like a waste of time to others, doesn't mean you must eliminate it -- you are the only one who can determine whether it is unwanted in your life. And sometimes, the unintentional plants are a delightful contribution to the garden -- I'm happy to see the petunias that re-seeded from last year's plants, even though I didn't intend for them to be there. Just because something is unplanned, doesn't mean that it is necessarily unwanted.
  • Pruning: Even desirable plants need to be cut back from time to time. Not only do we cut away the dead wood, but we cut them back to make them smaller, to train them to a particular shape, to encourage more vigorous blooming. Pruning helps maintain healthy plants and keeps them from overgrowing the space. Yet I find it difficult to motivate myself to prune -- the holly gets bigger and bigger, but isn't that good? The rose brambles take over an entire corner of the garden, but how could that be bad? Yet now the holly is pressing against the house, and that spectacular rose now shades the lavender and coneflower. Even desirable parts of our lives can become too big and unwieldy and may begin to crowd out other goals. Sometimes we need to check the balance in our life, to make sure that some activities or commitments haven't exceeded the space we meant to allocate to them. I have always enjoyed baking, but at one point, I had so many people on my holiday cookie list that I ended up baking cookies for days on end. What had been enjoyable became a chore; I needed to scale back, to prune. Is there something in your life that has grown too big?
  • Thinning: Every year, I put in vegetables from seed: carrots, kohlrabi, radishes. I sprinkle the seeds in the ground and am rewarded with rows of tiny seedlings. This is when I'm supposed to thin the plants -- to remove enough of the seedlings so that the remaining ones have space to grow. Every year, I resist thinning. How can I remove perfectly healthy plants and throw them on the compost heap? I pull a few and then give up, figuring the rest of them can fight it out. But by being unwilling to thin out the plants, I doom the whole lot of them to become thin and pallid, unable to develop fully. This really is the hardest lesson for me. I want to be able to do everything, to teach and research and sew and bead and dance and read and garden and cook and bake and write and take art classes and learn Arabic . . . but I can't do it all. If I try, I end up doing a little of everything rather poorly, or taking on commitments I can't fulfill. I have to be willing to prioritize, to thin out the activities that are less important, so that I can achieve my goals. I struggle with this constantly, and I keep hoping that I don't have to thin. Maybe all those carrots will do just fine on their own. Right? The garden keeps trying to teach me to cut back, to eliminate, to clear space for what matters. Maybe one day I'll actually learn that lesson.