Monday, December 30, 2013

When limitations can be freeing . . .

I went to Martha's Vineyard this year and I didn't take a tripod. It was an emotional, last-second decision (I'm taking too much stuff, it's taking up too much room in the suitcase, so screw it).

It was a mistake. I missed out on a lot of possibilities.

However, there's a part of me that enjoys limitations, seeing what I can do with what I have rather than bemoaning what I left behind. In fact I will often -- on purpose -- take just one lens to a location and see what I can do.

It's a freeing feeling in a way -- having limitations.

Instead of going to a photo location with a plan, a set of preconceptions, I relax. I let the photos come to me instead of trying to bend them to my will. I'm more open to what might happen. I'm more open to experimentation. And I often return with photos I might otherwise never have taken.

How did not having a tripod help me in Martha's Vineyard?

I figured that instead of looking at possible out-of-focus images as a detriment, I would try enhancing the out-of-focusness by creating photos that show movement.

A couple of little girls playing in the surf at the end of the day became expressions of childhood delight as I used long-ish exposures.

I played with long-exposure "sweeps," making the ocean or landscape into broad swaths of color. When I was lost in the woods, I made the most of low light by creating vertical tree "sweeps."

I was on vacation. I wasn't burdened with a tripod. Yes, I missed out on a number of photo ops, but I had fun!

I loved the freedom having no tripod gave me, the ability to walk long distances unencumbered. The ease with which I could duck into a shop or a coffee bar and not worry about bumping into things or finding a place to stow my stuff.

What's my point? Limitations, constraints that seemingly work against you, can actually become liberating agents, encouraging you to see things differently, to experiment, to play.

I blew it by not taking a tripod. But my resulting experience was just delightful -- spontaneous, unplanned, and freeing.

Lemons? Here's your lemonade.

Wishing you all a most happy, healthy, and serene 2014!

©Carol Leigh

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Just Plane Art . . .

Put me in an air museum and this is what I tend to see — not the whole picture, but little vignettes such as these.

Although I love that I can see this way, can pick out little bits of what others might consider nothingness and make them look cool, I wish I could also grasp the big picture and make something equally interesting out of that.

And isn't that the beauty of photography (and of art in general)? Each of us sees in our own unique way. And each of us creates in our own unique way.

Add to that the fact that we all can share what we do so easily via the Internet, that we can also see and be inspired by others via the Internet.

Ah, 'tis a good time to be an artist, don't you think?

Wishing us all years of creativity ahead. And years of seeing and sharing what we're doing.

©Carol Leigh

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's a good day to . . .

. . . visit your local fish market! (It's Dungeness crab season, folks! Get 'em while they're fresh!) ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to you . . .

Wishing you all love, peace, health, and happiness!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joyful days!

Well, based on this stamp, Christmas is all about wearing cool clothes and flying around . . . works for me! Hope you're having a happy holiday season, no matter what you're wearing, no matter what you're doing. Love to all, Carol Leigh

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Latest work: "Old Papers and a Feather"

An arithmetic book from the mid-1800s, a check from 1878, paper from a vintage Japanese book, and more went into this collage. The feather? Found it on the beach. ©Carol Leigh

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's a good day to . . .

. . . balance hoses on your tongue! ©Carol Leigh

Friday, December 20, 2013

Latest work: "Twenty-Six Stripes"

For someone who is pretty clueless at math, I'm drawn to numbers (and letters) as graphic elements. So I began this piece with a blank white canvas, added the number 26, and then started adding photos I've taken of cement, hand-painted papers, and a fishing boat (yup, that's where the stripes come from!) and there you have it. I like the bright colors, the stripes, and the overall texture. This was fun! Hope you like it. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Photomontages on Pinterest . . .

I've begun a board on Pinterest containing my photomontages, and here's the link:

As I create more and as I locate more, I'll be adding additional pictures each day. If YOU are on Pinterest, please send me the link to your board so I can see what you're doing, too. I'm new to this and am interested in learning as much as I can. Thanks!

Carol Leigh

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Latest work: "Mastodons Are On Their Way"

I finished this one this morning and uploaded it to Fine Art America. It, and a description of the various elements in it, are at my Faux Poste blog. (So many different "portals" for getting my work seen and it gets really crazy sometimes.) Anyway, just wanted to quickly post it here as well. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pay attention . . .

I had granola for breakfast with sliced strawberries on top. I sat at the table eating, reading my e-mail and didn't really pay attention to what I was eating and tasting until there were just two bits of strawberry left.

A wonderful breakfast and I missed it.

I missed the gingery flavor in the cereal, the taste of the pecans, the softness of the oat flakes, and the cold, fresh bite of the strawberries.

I had breakfast but I didn't realize it. I wasn't paying attention.

What does that have to do with photography, with the images I create?

I pride myself as being a person who notices things, who sees a lot that others miss. I even have a blog on seeing (woefully ignored over the past several months). I am a noticer.

I didn't notice my breakfast. And that's going to change.

Maybe we're conditioned to notice not everything, but selected things. Someone may be particularly attuned to sound. Another to color combinations. Another to makes and models of cars. To architectural styles, to textures, to shoes. And maybe that's a good thing, for if we noticed everything, we'd explode from sensory overload.

Where am I going with this?

As artists, it's our job to notice things. We see the designs and patterns on a sea urchin shell. We notice the way the shape of something over there echoes the shape of something over here. Or the way the wind blows the spray back from a cresting wave.

And all these things we notice we bring into our art.

That sea urchin design may show up on the side of a clay pot we're making. The echoing shapes may show up in a collage we're creating. And the spray off the crashing waves? Well, sometimes things are just meant to be quietly admired and appreciated for what they are. Simply noticing the spray adds to the quality of our life, and who knows (right now) how and when it will show up later?

What's my point?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Pay attention!

©Carol Leigh

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Latest works . . .

I've been generating a prodigious amount of work lately with no lack of ideas and with the luxury of having a decent amount of time to create. I'm not sleeping much at all (which isn't good), but I'm loving what I'm doing.

What I especially love is the surprise, the way images turn out that bear no resemblance to my initial concept(s). I try an effect, something bizarre happens, and so I run with it, often tossing it out later but that doesn't matter -- it's the process that's important, and everything I discard gives me a stronger foundation for future images. (Did that make any sense? Am I taking myself way too seriously?)

As I'm working, I'm constantly uploading my pictures to Fine Art America, where I currently have slightly more than 800 available. And sales have been good. I'm excited at how well I'm doing there, and am extremely grateful.

Here are five examples of current images. The prayer flag project continues. I'll probably upload one more "set" (three individual images plus a triptych) and then, even though I've got many more for this particular series, am going to change the look, see if I can come up with a completely different series of them.

Old papers, cement, my own sketches, lines, and marks are forming the backbone of what I'm currently doing. I'm also looking at previous "failures" and seeing if there's anything I can do with new eyes and more skills to create something better.

It's 3 a.m., 19 degrees outside, Chris and the cat are sound asleep, and here I am in my little office, bleary-eyed but very pleased with how things are progressing. Wishing you equal pleasure in your work, whatever it is that is capturing your heart, but hoping you are sound asleep right now and that your weather is a bit warmer than we're having here.

©Carol Leigh

Friday, December 6, 2013

Latest work: "Corvus Star Chart"

The basis of this piece is a part of a map, a map called the "Pilot Chart of the North Pacific Ocean," printed in 1944 by the U.S. Navy. I got it at a flea market. (It was brown, ripped, torn, dirty -- perfect!) Other items are a star chart, a crow I photographed on the Oregon coast last week, a diagram showing how a seagull flies, foreign currency, and more. What I like is how the crow, dark as night, stands out against the star chart and the map.

Some of you (who shall not be named) aren't particularly fond of crows. So you (who shall not be named) should just look away!  :-)

Oh, and it's snowing right now here on the coast. Very gently. It's still dark so I can't see much, but what I can see is lovely. Hope some crows show up . . .

©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Latest project: Prayer Flags

I've been working practically nonstop on a new project. I got the idea seeing some prayer flags hanging in my sister-in-law's house in La Jolla. My idea was to create my own handmade prayer flags, not what you see here. But somehow my ideas rarely seem to come out the way I think they will.

I was blending together various photos of vintage papers and metal and whoosh! All of a sudden I had an image that looked very much like a prayer flag. Well, that was cool. Is it possible to make a bunch of prayer flags, all with the same sort of look and feel, yet different?

(I'm thinking SERIES. Over at Fine Art America they sold a series of my photos -- seven of them -- and it was great. So my brain is sort of fixated on the concept of series these days.)

I ended up making 36 prayer flags. Thirty-six! So now I'm in the process not only of uploading all the individual prayer flags, but I'm making diptychs and triptychs using them as well. And it's taking me a long time.

Here's an idea of what I'm doing. Please wish me well!

©Carol Leigh

Uh-oh . . .

This is unusual for us here on the coast. And snow in the forecast? "Most peculiar, mama!" ©Carol Leigh

Monday, December 2, 2013

Latest work: "Crow In Golden Light"

These photomontages didn't begin the way I thought they would. Wait. Yes, they began the way I thought they would, but then things just began happening and my whole concept changed. I'll go back to my original idea and will continue it some day, but for now, these crows just insist on being here. It's hard to argue with crows sometimes...

©Carol Leigh

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Latest work: "Golden-Crowned Kinglet"

Every once in awhile a bird will fly into one of our windows and my heart just drops. I always go check to see if the bird is okay. Ninety-nine percent of the time they're fine, just stunned. So I pick them up, rearrange their wings, and wait for them to "come to." This way they're not helpless prey for some opportunistic crow or cat. It's a privilege to be so close to a bird, to be able to admire its coloration, its feathers, its little feet grasping my finger.

A golden-crowned kinglet like this fell victim to my window. I gathered her up, admired her little whiskers (something you never see in the bird books), and waited until she was ready to fly away. And waited. And waited. I finally placed her on a little branch and, a few minutes later, she zoomed away. I can just imagine her telling her fellow birdie friends, "No, really, a huge hand came out of the sky and lifted me up, up, up, and watched me with big eyes, and then let me go! Swear to god! It was an alien abduction! Okay, so don't believe me . . ."

This photomontage was made with an image from a vintage bird book, photos I've taken of torn papers, and those little boxes in the lower left? Those are photos of cellophane tape on an old book cover. Weird materials perhaps, but I love the result. I hope you do, too.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Latest work: "Winter Fall"

A compilation of various papers, including a letter written in 1831, aged and weathered cellophane tape, vintage Japanese papers, and torn cardboard. Thank you Kathleen A. for one of the papers and CJ for the ripped cardboard and cellophane tape! You know me so well...

Other women love receiving diamonds and clothes; I squeal over rusty washers (Elena N.), used stamps (Patty H.), and foreign coins (the Bears). Thank you, too, to Linda H., who introduced me to SCRAP. And a special thank-you to Chris, who finds things I don't even know I need until I see them! ©Carol Leigh

Friday, November 29, 2013

"The Artist's Way"

My latest work: "Amida Buddha Postcard Collage"
which I just uploaded to Fine Art America this morning.
This book has been on my shelf for at least 11 years now, and I keep vowing to work through it, but I never seem to get past the first chapter or so. It's The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and it encourages you to accept your artistry and enhance your creativity. It's a tad "woo woo" for me, but this time around I'm giving it a decent go.

Part of Ms. Cameron's philosophy (well, it's a huge part of her philosophy) is to write three pages of what she calls "morning pages," three pages of anything you wish to scribble down. Even if all you're writing is "I don't know what to write. I don't know what to write."

Gotta say, as much as I love writing, I don't relish doing these three pages every morning. But I've done them now every day for more than a month, so I'm proud that I'm hanging in there.

Have there been any big revelations? Any huge breakthroughs? I'm not sure yet. I know that I have gotten some good ideas, but then I always get ideas, whether I'm writing every morning or not. In fact, I have so many ideas that I'll need numerous lifetimes to carry them out.

What I want is clarity, a more solid direction for me and my art. But I get bored going in just one direction. Who wants to spend their life doing just one thing? I blame it on being a Gemini... I cast my fate to the stars -- it's totally out of my hands!

Anyway, just wanted to mention what I'm reading and why. It's fun having all these books around to be picked up at times throughout the day. I read a few pages, nod sagely, make a few notes in my "idea book," and then move on, refreshed.

So I hope I can make it all the way through The Artist's Way this time, even though I find myself complaining, as I write my morning pages, how I could be at the computer or in the studio actually making something right now, rather than sitting on my butt writing, writing, writing . . .

How about you? Anybody else working their way through this book? (I know you have, Laura Lein-Svencner, and I'm enjoying reading your blog where you're talking about it.) And is it putting you in a different space? Is it elevating your artistry, your sense of yourself as an artist? Please say yes, otherwise I'm doomed to harboring 12 weeks of resentment as I grumble my way through this book!

©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Latest work: "Folded Indigo"

Artistic slumps come around and I know they always move on, but it's sure tough while they're here.

But in a way, no, they're welcome, because they force me to think more, to experiment more, to learn more. And man, this one, which I just finished, was a real learning process. Things weren't coming together the way I thought they should, so I kept asking myself questions, looking things up online, experimenting, tossing things out, etc.

So this one's done, but as I look at it, I'm thinking of different ways it can look, so maybe tomorrow I'll pull it apart and transmogrify it into something similar, but different. We shall see. In the meantime, it's not raining here, it's low tide, it's overcast -- perfect for walking on the beach! I'm outta here!

©Carol Leigh

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Overheard . . .

Overheard in a restaurant: "What size suitcase do you have?" Long pause. "Blue."

I swear, I can't make this stuff up . . .

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Being thankful . . .

We had a good afternoon the other day up at the docks. Lots of walking, lots of looking, lots of (really bad) photos taken, a tasty lunch. We have so much to be thankful for . . .

At one point this lone crow (hello, Laura!) walked along a heavy rope, something unidentifiable in his mouth. I was shooting straight into the sunlight and look at how the sparkles on the water turned into a lovely bokeh. (Pronounced with the stress on both syllables "bo-keh." The out-of-focus circles.) It was so pretty I added a few more sparkles down at the bottom using Photoshop. Not so many as to be really obvious and gimmicky, but enough to repeat the pattern and to keep your eye moving up and down in the frame as well as horizontally along the rope, following the crow.

Next is a simple shot of the door to a boat's cabin. I liked the dark triangular shadow lower left and how it echoes the dark glass of the window upper right. But the cool part was the patina on the lock/doorknob.

And finally, Chris snickered when we walked past a dumpster and I said, "Ooh, great paint drip! You scoff now, but I will use that!" "I know you will," was his response. "And you'll use it well!" So here it is combined with lettering on the side of a fishing boat. A very messy "S."

In this season of giving thanks, of being especially aware of gratitude, I thank you all for being here, for taking the time to stop by my blog, and, every now and then, taking the time to comment. May we all never take any of this for granted.

©Carol Leigh

Friday, November 22, 2013

Street art . . .

Sometimes the coolest patterns and designs are right under your feet. Or in this case, right under your tires. Gotta love this "street art" I found in San Diego. ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On creativity and slowing down . . .

I read a lot, always have, remember very little, always have, but things hit me hard once in awhile and make me pause.

I've just begun reading World Enough & Time by Christian McEwen and it's a delicious, slow read. Concurrent with this book, I'm also reading James Lee Burke's Creole Belle, another slow, delicious read. Burke keeps me glued to the story. McEwen keeps me coming back for more, little sips at a time.

McEwen's concept is in her subtitle: "On Creativity and Slowing Down." And that's what caught my eye when I learned about this book.

I'm creative. And I have decided to slow down (again). What a perfect book for me to read right now.

She talks about teachers who have to deal with larger and larger classes, with "no child left behind" requirements, getting up early to grade papers, to prepare for their classes, and who are often "overtaxed and anxious." And aren't we all these days?

She points out that,

In recent years, that humblest of written links, the tiny hyphen, has vanished from some 16,000 words. "Fig-leaf" is now "figleaf," "pigeon-hole" is "pigeonhole," and "leap-frog" has catapulted into "leapfrog." The reason, says Angus Stevenson, who edited the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is that we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.

What does this have to do with art? With living? I don't know yet because I'm only 27 pages into the book. But it's a delightful read. A slow read. A put-the-book-down-and-think-a-bit read. And it keeps me coming back. And did you notice? Look at all those hyphens I used!

More to follow, I'm sure, as I move through this delightful book. (I've put links to both these books in my blog, there on the right side, down a little bit, just in case you're interested.)

©Carol Leigh (who rescues hyphens whenever possible)

It's a good day to . . .

. . . practice your enigmatic smile! ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Overheard . . .

Overheard in a restaurant: "We'll need Christmas costumes like an elf, Robin Hood, you know."

Robin Hood?

Latest work: "Under the Trees"

Huge amount of experimentation going on of late. Using different tools. Doing some hand-painting. Trying different techniques. Fun stuff! This piece is a combination of an old book cover, hand-painted papers, ink and paint. I like how it looks, like the monochromatic feel, and the texture. And isn't it interesting how bits of tape morph into structure-like things at the base of this picture?! Love these little surprises... ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let's just see what happens . . .

At the end of last night's twilight shoot (see previous post), I was facing sort of southwest looking down at the beach when I noticed a great blue heron-ish bird in the surf. The bird was quite far away and out of reach of my lens, but I zoomed in as closely as I could, figuring let's just see what happens. During my 8-second exposure, my blue friend s-l-o-w-l-y made his or her way forward, step by step, as is their wont. I knew this shot wouldn't be good, but I wanted to see what the bird would look like during an 8-second period of its life. I blew up the heron part of my picture and added a bit of contrast to show you more clearly the final result. It's kind of cool, isn't it?

But why do something like this? Why bother when we know the result's going to be less than stellar? What this tells me is that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, where maybe I'm closer to a great blue heron, close enough to fill my frame, that an 8-second exposure (or longer) might just be cool enough and big enough to make an interesting, decent-size print. And it also, the morning after, makes me feel more connected to this bird. That last night wasn't just a one-night stand, rather a fond memory that will linger long . . . (But I digress!)

It was quite dark when I shot this from the bluff, but just light enough that I could see there might be a blue heron down on the beach. I'm there. The bird's there. My camera's set up. I'd be foolish not to try the shot.What would you have done?

©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seal Rock night life . . .

The sun was down but I stuck around to see how things would look at twilight. This is a 25-second exposure at f/11, ISO 100, of the waves coming in at Seal Rock, just up the road. Such a long exposure softens the wave action, softens the spray, as well as the sky.

When I looked at this photo at 100%, I could see that there were six seals draped across that little flat rock over toward the right and it was easy to see that in those 25 seconds, they barely moved at all. Well, they're seals and that's their job . . . ©Carol Leigh

Latest work: "Flight"

As usual, this piece began nothing like I thought it would as I put together my photos of cement, ink, paint, papers, hand-drawn lines, and more. The blues and the feeling of movement, however, gave me a feeling of flight, of bird migrations, air mail (!), star charts, aerial views, etc., so that's the direction I took.

©Carol Leigh

Saturday, November 9, 2013

After sunset but before the margaritas . . .

It was overcast at sunset this evening (surprise!) but I wanted to shoot some long exposures anyway, so we headed to the Waldport Marina. Folks who had been crabbing this afternoon were packing up their things and leaving the docks. Looking up the Alsea River, lights glow from windows. And then right in front of me, gulls hunker down, relatively stationary except for their heads, constantly rotating back and forth. Exposures ran from 1.3 seconds to 13 seconds to 6 seconds.

No wind, no rain, a little cool (but that's what pockets are for) and a lot of quiet. I packed away the gear and we walked over to have nachos and margaritas. A lovely interlude at twilight on the Oregon coast.

©Carol Leigh