A Life of Varied Endeavors

Back to bark – madrona this time



Early in my photography days (black and white film, darkrooms, class seminars – happy days!), I took photographs of tree bark, among other things. I found bark fascinating, but difficult to capture effectively. In response to one of those photographs, my professor (Bernie Freemesser) asked me a question that was like a lightning bolt. “Where’s the LIGHT, Nancy?”
Photography is about light.  The photograph in question was a mass of flat greys.

I haven’t studied bark closely for a long time, but last week on one of our morning walks, I was struck by the beauty of a madrona tree in our neighborhood. For several years, I’ve walked past this tree and it’s neighbors almost daily. I usually notice them most when their blooms cascade all over the ground. Last week I got an unplanned closer look to this tree’s trunk while avoiding a big truck on the road, and I was struck by it’s complex beauty.

Click on images to enlarge

Certainly, madrona bark is more colorful than doug fir bark, and these images take advantage of that (as well as not being in black and white). And being taken with an iPhone also doesn’t give an image the best chance of high quality. In these, the light is still subtle and a little flat. Nevertheless, this tree stuck me with it’s sensuous beauty, and I took some quick pictures.

And taking quick, casual pictures is something I gave my self permission to do a long time ago. Bernie might not have approved, but they give me a lot of pleasure.

Korean Dogwood colors the grey morning

Korean dogwood in November

Korean dogwood in November


Ah, another favorite tree. This Korean Dogwood (cornus kousa – plain vanilla version) is really enchanting in June with it’s massive coat of large white flowers. By late summer and early fall, those blossoms have turned to very large, gorgeous red berries that provide a feast for the birds, squirrels, and other not so wonderful creatures. And now, in November, the leaves are both brilliant and subtle with all their colors. Love them! A couple of these are iPhone photos again; easy and better than nothing!




Nandina photo, Acrylic Ink, and Peridot – September Little Altars

Embelished Nandina Leaves

Catching up on the Little Altars spots.  For September’s Full Moon this was my contribution:

September. Oh, what another meandering installment!

I was first inspired more than a month ago with Kathy’s prompt of Spot H – what does H mean?  I settled on Harvest.  Started to think of fruits, vegetables, and the recipes I was using for plums, pears, apples, tomatoes. I almost posted in spot H a great recipe for a Rustic Plum Cake, but you wouldn’t have been able to read it, and only Beth would get it anyway!

I thought of an illuminated letter H, but realized that my flourishing skills (as well as picturing skills) would not be adequate.  I was also inspired by a teeny, tiny piece of flotsam on the living room floor.  It was riding on a small, dried, brown maple seed that had been tracked in, and it was a little piece of very shiny, coppery-red tinsel.  It took me SEVERAL days to realize it was from a cat toy!  But in the meantime, I had decided that the color and the shine needed to be part of the (as it turned out, not-to-be) illuminated letter, so I purchased some copper acrylic ink.

Then, with the colors of the tinsel and Harvest in mind, I headed for my photographs.  I found a picture that I took last Fall of nandina leaves on our deck –in my mind a perfect fit.  I fussed over whether it should be a soft, fuzzy print on watercolor paper, or a high quality print.  I settled for high quality on my favorite paper:  Canon Matte Photo Paper.  Then I decided to make it pop a little with the copper acrylic ink that I KNEW I was going to use somehow.  Then I had to buy a couple more colors and use them!.  In the end, the whole thing needed a bit of softening, gussying-up, and dimension, so I added a strand of peridot chips on the bottom.

This is for the gardener, Beth: an embellished photo of nandinas in the Fall!

In process (1 of 1) P1050254

August Little Altars – A feather, some brass, some copper

August Little Altars Project-3 After all the ideas and iterations that I went through, I’m not sure what inspired me for August’s Little Altars spot!  There was that feather. I kept wanting to use it, to play with it.  It’s off a larger piece of feather trim that I have, but it’s been on its own for quite a while.  More delicate and enchanting as one than among many.  And then there was the TEENY scrap of 80 mesh brass screen I found from somewhere, but couldn’t find any more, so I had to go buy some more.  Luckily, I found it in a real brick and mortar store, so my ideas could progress.

Originally, I was going to use a right-angle weave beaded heart in this month’s spot (a sweet little thing I’m still very fond of), but things evolved.  So I think what inspired me in the end was the process.  The process of evaluating my choices, listening to my aesthetic, and sensing the right and wrong and good and bad.  It was one tiny inspiration leading to another:  link, link, link.  One might ask, as my husband did, “What is it?”  I said, “It’s cute.”  Nothing more, just that I like it.

I added the little leaves because I liked the spark they provided and I had the opportunity to use them (link, link). They are cut out of copper, primed with Daniel Smith watercolor ground, and colored with watercolor. I used copper tabs on the back to fasten them. More experiments with color on metal; this one is fun.

August Little Altars-1

August Little Altars process

August Little Altars Project-2

August Little Altars

June Little Altars – Simple Summer Collage

Little Altars - Summer Collage for June (2 of 2)Still catching up on the months of Little Altar projects.  Here’s what happened in June, as I wrote it back then.

This month I was inspired by a few things:  An earring that David found on the road on our morning walk.  It had obviously been run over, and though the wire was mashed, the main part was in pretty good shape and seems to be well made. I like it!

I’ve also been inspired by some collage art work in my dentist’s office.  I’ve had the opportunity to see it a few times (!), and he’s got good taste!  I haven’t tried any collage for decades, but this work made me want to approach it again.  My project this month looks nothing like the piece by Carrie Kaufman, but the mounted copper wire attachment is a pretty direct inspiration.  What I’ve found on-line by Carrie is not as delectable (to me) as the large piece I saw in person.

Lastly, it’s summer.  The hand and basket remind me of gathering flowers and harvests.  The warm colors of the basket, and the branch covered with moss tell me it’s inviting to go outside.  It’s Easy Time.  We are enjoying fresh greens, and radishes from the seeds that Peg sent. They are delish!Little Altars - Summer Collage for June (1 of 2)