Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dragoon Mtns west - photoseries

Two weeks ago, I went on a nearly all-day trip to the nearby Dragoon Mtns with fellow artist and WetCanvas'er Drusilla, who lives on a ranch in the area.  Not knowing much about the local sites, she offered to take us out to the western side of the Dragoon Mtns.   A week prior, I had been to the eastern side of the same mountains with another local artist; some of those photos were featured in my recent blog post on winter skies and odd cloud formations.

Anyway, on the day we went, it was a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in the sky.  Access to the Dragoons is via a road that lies just north of Tombstone.   Dru gave me lots of background about the local history of the Dragoons, including pointing out the location of Council Rock, where the Apache Cochise signed a treaty with the whites over a century ago, and she showed me the remains of a very old adobe fort, probably built around the late 1800's.  I did get some photos of that, along with many of the mountains, which are primarily composed of pink granite that has eroded and crumbled into a variety of shapes from massive boulders to balanced spires and occasional whimsical shapes.  We hiked a bit up the trail that traverses the mountain saddle from west to east, which I definitely plan to come back to in the future. 

Below are some select photos to show the rugged beauty of the mountains and surrounding area.  The rest may be seen in this new Picasa gallery.  The vegetation in the area is part Chihuahuan desert scrub at the base and part Pinon-Juniper woodlands in the mountains.   Some people think that the desert doesn't have four seasons, but it most certainly does.   They are subtle and perhaps not appreciated or seen by those who are used to the "in your face" season changes in the midwest or east coast.   Some of these photos do capture the essence and delicate beauty of the "winter desert"; others highlight the sculptural forms or minute detail in nature that I have an affinity for. 

Granite hill crest
A spent agave flower stalk adds a sense of space to the scrub oak hillside and large protrusions of granite
Lone Oak
A scrub oak sits atop a small hill near a large outcropping of rock
Afternoon shadow play
Shadows cast by the canes of an ocotillo - a native desert shrub - fall on the adjacent rocks, forming an interesting pattern.
Tree form with rock
This dead or dormant tree, nestled within the surrounding rocks, creates a dramatic contrast against the bright afternoon sky.  Manzanita, ocotillo and dried grasses add to the botanical diversity

Lichen in Detail
This chartreuse species of lichen forms distinctive colorful patches on the Dragoon rocks
Catching the Sun
The afternoon sun lights up the tips of these grasses, producing a sharp contrast against the distal field, trees and mountains.

Winter Afternoon
The late afternoon light warms the face of the Dragoons, while a large yucca casts a long shadow in the foreground.
High Desert Shadows
The late afternoon light showcases the folds and contours of these hills adjacent to the Dragoons, while the winter grasses break up some of the foreground shadows.
Yucca Pair
These yucca plants, characteristic flora of the Chihuahuan Desert Scrub, appear to float in a sea of dried grass.
Sunset from the Dragoons
The Huachuca Mtns form the distant horizon for this picturesque sunset

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Evening Clouds over Mule Mtns.

Wow - I didn't realize that 9 days had passed since my last blog post; time has been getting away from me!  I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend, and is staying warm in the parts of the country getting heavy snows and winter weather.  On Christmas day, I went on a hike up in the Mule Mountains, which are the small range that Bisbee is situated in, and took some photos that I will be posting in a future blog.   The evening sky and the Mules were the subject for my latest pastel painting, completed almost a week ago. 

I have a fascination and affection for roads, trails and paths, probably because of my love of road trips, exploration and wondering what lies around the corner.  I will definitely do a series of paintings at some point, as I am continually inspired by even my simple drives around this region. 

This painting was based on a photo I took during my first photo series taken after I got here.  I made compositional adjustments from the original photo, eliminating some elements and detail, and shifting the clouds so more emphasis was on them.  I generally try to avoid too much blending with my pastel paintings; I prefer to work with color layers to achieve the effect or color I'm looking for.

After taking the photo, I discovered areas that I will end up reworking slightly, such as the holes in the clouds and the dashed highway divider lines, but overall, I was pleased with how this turned out. 

"Evening Clouds over Mule Mtns"
pastel on 320-grit garnet sandpaper.  9x11

Friday, December 18, 2009

Interiors of a Hotel - photo series

Inspiration comes to us in many forms and sometimes from unexpected sources.  For myself, it's most frequently in the form of the landscape, open spaces,  intriguing or beautiful things in nature, such as flowers, rather than the interiors of buildings.  In general, my expectation when I walk into a building is pretty low, and is of a functional rather than aesthetic nature:  to purchase items, receive services, perform work, or call a living space.

In my first blog post after arriving in Bisbee, I mentioned that I have a part-time innkeeping job at the Letson Loft Hotel.  It is classified as a "boutique hotel" - a place that places a high emphasis on the experience of staying at the hotel, vs. "just a place to stay for the night".   When you enter the Letson, you immediately know that it is a special place - the original building is 130 years old, but has been impeccably remodeled and decorated by the current owners, while maintaining its old Victorian-styled charm.  It has 8 rooms - all different, and all beautiful, that are outfitted in premium-quality linens and lovely furniture.  My duties as an innkeeper include showing guests around the property, and of course, the features of their particular room.  Guests love staying here, and I did not have to work here very long to see why. 

One day, when the rooms were open and I had a few spare moments between my duties here, I brought my camera and tripod along and decided to capture what I felt were some of the unique features of several of the rooms.  Below is a select group of photos that I feel helps to show the essence of what the Letson Loft is about:  interiors that celebrate the marriage of physical comfort with aesthetics, and provide an inviting and memorable experience for guests...and a most unexpected source of inspiration for me!

Reading Light
Like to read in bed?  This bedside lamp, plush down pillows and luxurious linens in room 4 invite you to curl up and enjoy a good book after a day out on the town.

Light from Above
Late morning sun from a skylight brightens this section of an antique-styled sitting couch in room 5.

A Pair of Hearts
This ornate headboard and piles of pillows on this king-sized bed in room 5 entice you spend the day in bed without guilt.  It is perfect for a romantic getaway weekend.

Sit and Reflect
This comfy couch, torchier lamp and beautiful mirror are just part of the furnishings in the seperate sitting area of room 7.

The kitchenette in room 8 is perfect for guests who enjoy cooking wherever they travel.

Crimson Paisley Pillow
This chair, and its fancy pillow and matching curtin, are also found in room 8

It's All in the Details
The beautiful finish and hardware detail on this vintage-styled cabinet in room 8, is where the flat screen TV sits.

Light and Shadows
Light from the north-facing bay window falls on this wooden headboard, found in room 1, allowing its intricate carved detail to be fully appreciated.

A Room With a View
A bay window in room 2 overlooks Main St. (along with rooms 1, 3 and 4), allowing a northerly view of the shops, hillside, and sky.  For the sake of this photo, I purposly metered for the interior here to provide a silhouette and to keep the outside view from competing with the interior.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter Skies - AZ-style

At the moment, I'm sitting in an outdoor cafe, enjoying picture-perfect weather in the mid-60's, sunny with bright blue skies.  It just doesn't get any better than this in mid-December (at least for me!).  However, less than a week ago, we had a winter storm blow through that produced some very unique cloud formations.  I had made plans to go on a photoshoot with a local artist I recently met, and since it wasn't raining, we proceeded with that plan.  On the way to his house, I stopped and took some photos along the side of the road.  Our trip took us out to the east side of the Dragoon Mtns, location of Cochise Stronghold, and due west of the Chiricauha National Monument.  Photos I shot in the mountains were unremarkable due to the poor lighting, but the area itself is worthy of revisit in better weather and in morning sun. 

Here are some of the photos taken from this past Sunday.  It was a windy, cold day, which is what resulted in these unique cloud formations.  I suspect they are variations of lenticular clouds - the "flying saucer" type that is frequently seen capping mountains.  I've never seen anything quite like them before; I hope you enjoy them.  I often take photos for the purpose of using them as a reference for future paintings.  However, there are times when something is best left as a photo due its odd features that would not translate to a believable (or aesthetically pleasing) painting.  These photos are examples of that. 

Scalloped Cloud Set
These clouds, seen off of Double Adobe Rd, are to the southwest, and are over Mexico.

Calling the Mothership
This shot, taken at 55mm zoom, shows the detail of this large cloud that hovers above the Mule Mtns. that surround Bisbee

Approaching from the North
These light-colored cloud stacks are seen in a northeastern direction off of Double Adobe Rd.

Cloud line from Cochise Stronghold
This tiered set of clouds gives a sense of depth of the sky when viewed from the eastern slope of the Dragoon Mtns.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A View from The Jonquil - a photo essay

I have been far too lax getting on and posting to my blog.  Work is keeping me busy and I've just been getting used to everything here.  Yesterday, during my afternoon break, I decided to go out and take photos from around the place I share with my sister - the Jonquil Motel.  It is up the road from the main downtown section of Bisbee, along Tombstone Canyon Rd.  All photos were taken on the property from various perspectives. 
Agave Base of Operations
This agave plant, a type of succulant, is located at the top of a block wall in the courtyard area behind the motel.

Nature Loves Euclid - the Proof is in the Plant
Remember your geometry?  This spent yucca stalk has got it all:  parallel and converging lines, points defining space, and lots of triangles:  isocoles, equilateral and scalene.  Alternatively, it could resemble an Anasazi petroglyph figure.  It reaches skyward on the slope behind the motel.

Cactus Fruit Chorus Line
The fruit of this very large prickly pear cactus continue to ripen through the winter.  Cactus is located in the courtyard along the edge of a wall that forms a canal for the creek that runs through town.

House on the Hillside
I have a fascination with old, abandoned man-made structures, and Bisbee is full of them.  This one resides on the hillside behind the motel.  View is northwest.

A Passel of Pods
This cluster of dried silk-tree seedpods is found on a tree in the courtyard of the model.  The brisk afternoon breeze caused them to sound like a baby's rattle.

Afternoon Sky
These lacy high-altitude cirrus clouds dance in the sky, while the hillside provides some year-around green in the form of scrub oak...a most refreshing change from the "all or nothing" green  in CT.  View is looking northeast from the motel courtyard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Celebrating the skies of AZ

I'm back!  "Back" in this case refers both to resuming blog posts and my return to the place I consider "home":  Arizona.  Stepping off the plane in Phoenix last Friday evening and seeing the fading  sunset casing a warm glow over thes sandstone rocks near Sky Harbor, I immediately felt a sense of relief, contentment and just plain joy at being away from the grey skies and bleak winter landscape of New England.  I will be spending the winter and possibly more of the next year in Bisbee.  I am exited to be doing part-time innkeeping at the beautifully restored Letson Loft Hotel in downtown Bisbee.  Bisbee is a small mining town located in the southeastern part of the state.  It is listed as one of the top 100 small town art communities in the country and is hugely popular as a tourist destination, often showing up on recommended small towns in the US to visit lists.

I promptly came down with a cold after coming to town, and combined with the resulting poor sleep, beginning work at the hotel, getting unpacked and settled in, and computer/internet access issues, I was unable to do anything art-related until today.  Today was gorgeous - bright, sunny skies and mild temperatures.  Some scattered cumulus clouds began gathering in the afternoon, presenting an excellent opportunity for some sunset photos.  Having lived and spent time in many parts of the country, I have yet to see skies or sunsets that can compare to those of the west and southwest.

Here are a handful of the photos from Friday evening's photoshoot (and two sunrise photos taken in Tucson last Saturday) that I hope will give a sense of the beautiful skies here in AZ:

First Light
Swirling cirrus clouds reflect the warm light of the rising desert sun

Sunrise Silhouette
The forms of the Sonoran desert provide a dramatic contrast against the pastel palette of the morning sky

Sunset over Tombstone Canyon
Taken from a vantage point over the Bisbee tunnel along Hwy 80

East towards Bisbee
A waxing moon and clouds over the distant mountains along Hwy 92

Sierra Vista bound
This shot was taken using a shutter speed of 6 seconds with tripod mount and shutter delay to capture the tailights of a car heading along Hwy 92

Fading sky with passers-by
The streaks of passing cars catch the colors of the final light of the setting sun to the southwest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Color series - Autumn Path

Well, I hadn't planned for almost a week to go by between postings, but time has been moving along very quickly!  This might be the last post I am able to do for a week since I will be heading to AZ this coming Friday, and am going to be shipping most of my art supplies via UPS Ground.  I'll be staying in Bisbee over the winter and possibly longer, depending upon how the work situation goes.  The good news is that I already have a part-time job there.  I plan to spend the rest of my time painting and drawing, and I can't wait to dive in once I get settled!

In the meantime, here is the latest painting in the fall color theme I've been on.   I plan to continue with several more paintings of fall colors and landscapes, simply because I am inspired by ideas I have from the photos I took, and I have found that focusing on a subject or theme has allowed me to "learn" it much more than skipping around would.  Also, I'm pleased to report that both this painting and the previous painting, "Fall in Old Mystic", have been sold.  Thank you Kenny and Sue for your support!

"Autumn Path" - sold
pastel on 400-grit sandpaper, 9x11"
This forgotten dirt road leads to a place unknown

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall in Old Mystic

Here's the latest fall-themed painting.  I started it over the weekend and wasn't thrilled with some aspects of it, so it sat until I finally had some time tonight to re-work the road (originally in a rather bright blue) and some of the trees.  It's based on a photo taken along the road that leads into Old Mystic.  As is so often the case, the photos aren't entirely accurate for color, saturation and such.  Looking at the photo of the painting, I see some additional things I'd probably like to tweak a bit, but then there's always the risk of over-working it.  Sometimes it's best to just leave it as is and save changes for the next painting.
"The Road to Old Mystic" - sold
pastel on 220-grit sandpaper - 9x11"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bluff Point State Park - photo essay

The weather was exceptional today, and probably the last warm, sunny weekend day we'll have here for close to 5 months.  I won't be spending the winter in CT, but this was a day for getting out with the camera and going for a walk.  Location:  Bluff Pt. State Park, which is about 10 min. from our house in nearby Groton.  It is one of my favored places in the area to go for a hike or run.  It features a 3 mile loop multi-use road/path, some points of interest and areas to fish and harvest shellfish.  It also has a sandbar beach called "Brushy Pt" that is popular with beachgoers in the summer and equestrians. 

Here are some photos out of the 40 or so that I took today that give a good sampling of this popular state park.  I was on a wide angle kick today, so most of these were shot at 18-25mm. 

Saltmarsh grass along Brushy Pt, cove side
View looks to the west, with New London visible in the distance

Leading the Way
This boardwalk leads from the cove side to the "breaker" side of Brushy Pt.

Unplanned Obsolescence
A section of beach fencing lies forgotten amongst the beach grass

East towards Bluff Point
The "breakers" side of Brushy Pt.  The rocky tip of Bluff Pt. is visible.

Phragmites facing East
The faded flowers of Common Reed [Phragmites australis] sway in a light breeze

Boulders and Breakers
The surf is no match for these huge granite boulders at the eastern tip of Bluff Point.  Fisher's Island, NY, is the barely visible landmass along the distant horizon.

Salt marsh and trees
This small area of marsh wetlands is bordered by a stand of hardwood and evergreens

Floral photos for fall

I absolutely love flowers, and they became the primary subject for my photography excursions this spring and summer.  As winter rapidly approaches and the fall colors are disappearing just as fast, flowers are the perfect pick-me-up.  These are photos that didn't make it onto my original archived disk and haven't been loaded to my existing picasa album, so I thought I'd share a few that are in a folder before I pull them off onto disk.  They are from a variety of locations.  I hope they help brighten your day as well!

Some black-eyed susans provide some mid-summer cheer in a neighborhood garden

These brightly-colored mid-summer flowers on graceful, curved stems are desert plants in Phoenix, AZ

Blue and white columbine, Colorado's state flower, are seen in a private garden in Silverton, CO

This amazing hibiscus flower in a neighborhood garden is larger than a dinner plate! 

Daylilies provides a steady source of blooms during fall along the roadside here in Mystic
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