Monday, December 29, 2014

The new camera

The bad news is I dropped my Lumix just before Christmas and the zoom function was ruined. At a cost of $160, the repair wasn't worth it.  The good news is that my sweetie got me a new camera for Christmas.  It's smaller and less of a photographer's camera but I think it will serve well for our upcoming trip.

The Sony DSC-WX350 is a point-and-shoot model but it has some intriguing capabilities. Here's a sampling.

First, three different takes on the Amaryllis flower. The first with the regular lighting, the second with what is called soft focus, high key, and the third in monochrome with high contrast.  Quite different effects.

Now we get really wild with posterization, high contrast and pop effects:

Then, just for contrast, this is with what's called a retro effect.

Of course all of these effects can be achieved with photoshop or another photo editing program. But I've never really gone deeply into these so it's fun to be able to do it with a camera setting.

 These photos are taken with a setting that allows only one colour through. This is with the partial colour yellow

The next is with the partial colour blue (showing only the teapot)...

And of course, the partial colour red.  All very interesting effects, I think, although you would want to be careful not to overuse them.

Here are a few different shots of the same view with different settings. Can you see why I am excited about the creative possibilities?  

Now that I have this exciting new toy I can hardly wait to do some experimenting when we get to Mazatlan. We leave Victoria on New Year's Day for Vancouver and fly out the following morning.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas is now in the past

Christmas dinner with friends and family.

What could be better than gathering around a festive table with loved ones to enjoy a feast? We had a wonderfully fun time celebrating. The only drawback was that my sister Jan wasn't feeling well enough to come.  Maybe next year.

Our Christmas season ended that night though. On the 26th we took our tree down and chopped it up and put all the decorations away.  We are now in serious departure mode for our two month get-away to Mexico.  We will be leaving on New Years Day and will spend two months in the balmy warmth of Mazatlan. Today we're getting travel insurance, cleaning the oven, beginning to pack and sorting out all the details involved with being away for 8 weeks.

Now I'm beginning to get excited. It started when I pulled out the summer clothes and realized that it will be 80 degrees instead of 34. We are leaving Geordie the dog at home with Carol, a friend from Massechusets, who is coming to enjoy our balmy weather. It's all relative!  

I'm thinking that I'll be inspired to do a bit more blogging in the new year with the tropical experience. So keep in touch. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

A new author

Don't you just love it when you discover a wonderful new author?   My new discovery is Amy Bloom, an American writer of poignant, funny books that are both tough and tender. She has an amazing literary voice that brings her characters to life.

I first read "Where the God of Love Hangs Out," a collection of connected short stories set in the present time. Then I read "Away," a tale of a plucky woman who lived in the late 1800s in America. The latest read may be my favourite to date. It's called "Lucky Us" and is the tale of a young girl's coming of age in America in the 1940s.

All I can say is this: If you haven't read anything by Amy Bloom, run don't walk to your nearest library or bookstore and get one. I think you won't be disappointed.

Thankfully there are still several books by this author that I have yet to read.

Two different artists in one day

The other day I got to see some new paintings by two artists who are a big part of my life: Ben Fox and Bill Porteous. They paint very differently; Ben is a landscape painter and Bill does abstracts. But they are both exceptional painters whose work is to my mind just gorgeous.

First, look at Ben's work. He spent the summer and fall up in Haida Gwaii and came back with some beautiful work that captures the serene beauty of these islands off the north coast of BC.

This is Ben standing in front of two paintings of the deep woods. You can see they're quite large paintings and they really reflect the sense of the west coast landscape. I visited the North Island in the early '70s and seeing these paintings was like being transported back to that magical place.

We got to visit his studio (the living room of his apartment) where he had a showing and sold three paintings in one day. Congratulations Ben.

The same evening we attended the opening of Bill's annual show. Bill has been doing abstract paintings for forty years and is quite well known in Victoria. He is also the mentor to those of us in the Wednesday Art Group.  He doesn't bring his paintings to our group so I hadn't seen these works before.  These first three are smaller works 16 inches wide.  

And this one is larger about two by three feet.

Bill's work uses colour in a really gorgeous way. Looking at his paintings makes me want to run back home and start painting. (Although I won't be able to do that until we get back from Mexico in March).

Can you see why I like these paintings so much?

If I'd had time I would have done a separate post for each of these painters because their work is quite different.  But Christmas approaches and I'm not finding much time to blog.  On December 26th we will go into serious departure mode, packing and organizing our house for the dog and house sitter who is arriving on December 30th.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December in the city

We love living so close to the city centre. Tonight before dinner we walked up to a little wine bar and restaurant about three blocks from our house to have a glass of wine before dinner.  I had the most delicious white wine, although I can't remember the name of it. It had hints of pink grapefruit! Here are a couple of views of Stages. It's a fun and happening place--and so close to our house.

By the way, they are looking for abstract paintings for their walls so when we get back from our trip to Mexico in January and February I'll be trotting some of my canvases over there to see if they're interested.

Here's the view of our front porch across the street to the family apartment building.  The kids who live there are starting to get excited about Santa Claus.  How fun is that!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Studio space

Well I've taken a big step today.  I signed up to rent a studio space in a communal arrangement with eight other artists.  It was a spur of the moment thing but I think a door opened for me today. I had been talking to Lynda, a fellow artist in my abstract painting group about possibly renting a studio where she paints. She's part of this cooperative, which is actually less than five minutes walking distance from our home.

Today she emailed me to say that there was a studio available and it was mine if I wanted. It's very reasonable and it will be so exciting to have a larger dedicated space and to be working with other artists.  Only yesterday I was thinking of slowing down with the painting because I've been spending so much time and energy getting ready for these shows. But today things aligned with this studio and this afternoon I was sitting the gallery at our group art show and another of my paintings sold. This is the one that sold.  It's a favourite of mine and it's going to a woman in my book club so I'll even get to see it from time to time.

This is a sketchy photo of the painting taken with my cell phone--but you can get an idea of it.

I guess the universe is confirming that I'm on a good path. I'll post photos of the building, 1580 Cook Street and the studio space soon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just amazing!

For almost five years I've had a problem with my left hip.  It started when we were in Mexico in January 2010. At that time my hip was so painful that I could  barely walk and I thought I had serious arthritis. When I got back home an x-ray showed nothing so I went to a physiotherapist who gave me exercises that helped me get back walking. Since then whenever I get pain I've gone into exercise mode to alleviate the discomfort.  Until yesterday that is when I visited a lovely man who calls himself an osteopath.  I've heard of these practitioners before but I still don't exactly know what it is they do. But what I do know is that this guy by the name of Cameron Moffat has fixed my hip.

This is the second time I've been to see him. The first time we spoke about my shoulder pain and my abdominal discomfort. He does very subtle adjustments (much gentler than any chiropractic I've ever experienced). He did some work on my clavicle which helped the shoulder pain and spoke to me about some diet issues, including the problem with drinking coffee and milk.  Since then I've eliminated coffee from my diet and have much better sleep and much more calmness in my day.

But yesterday, he cured my hip. It turns out that the problem is not the hip at all but the sacrum, which was locked up on the right side.  After some simple movements to release it I find myself today being able to take long strides with my right leg.  I didn't even realize that I had a shortened stride. But it's evident today that something is completely freed up and I can walk again the way I did when I was much younger.  It's just amazing.

If you're interested, his name is Cameron Moffat and he's been a huge help to me.  The really amazing thing is that after yesterday's appointment he said, "I don't think I'll need to see you again, as this should be a permanent fix."  I have my fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Three art shows in three months

My Wednesday art group had the opportunity to rent an empty storefront for the last three months of the year. There are eleven of us and we're sharing the cost of the rent so we can have a pop-up gallery. Each month we put up another show with entirely new work.  It's been an eye opener for me to see how much work goes into such an effort. It's not just about doing the painting, but there's the work of deciding which to submit, how to frame it, how to hang it, scheduling of the sitting of the gallery, organizing the openings, getting the word out by email and posters...and so on and so on.

Here's the poster for the October show and here's what it looked like. Our teacher/mentor Bill Porteous curates the show and his philosophy is to present the work as in a real gallery with lots of white space so people can really view the art.  It's a lovely gallery space with good lighting and the art shows really well. 

These, by the way, are paintings of some of the other artists in the group. All are abstract painters.

For the October show I submitted eight paintings and three were selected. The others were kept in the back room in case visitors were interested in seeing more of the work.  These two were selected. The one on the left is 24 x 36" and the little on on the right is 12"x12".

But it was this one, actually a pair from the back room that sold.  

Here's one of the paintings I entered into the November show. It's actually three canvases that I framed as a triptych. 

Our November opening was a couple of nights ago and the work was well received.  Now, it's the middle of the month and I'm working on something for the December show.  Again I'm working on multiple canvases, this time they're 2 feet by 2 feet so when put together it's pretty big. Actually it's the biggest work I've done to date. You can get an idea of the size from this photo. There isn't a spot in my house that I can put them against a wall to view so they're spread across the corner of the living room. I think the palette in this one may have been influenced by my time in Sedona.

It's feeling quite pressured actually having three shows in three months.  I'll be glad when it's all over.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Montezuma Castle and the Sinagua peoples

We're back home in Victoria now, my sister and I, but I want to tell you about the beautiful ruins we saw the last day we were in the Arizona high desert area. This is Montezuma Castle, a five-story 20-room dwelling recessed into a cliff 100 feet above the Verde River valley.

The dwelling is well preserved because of it's inaccessibility; others nearby are nothing but rubble now. Early American settlers named it after an Aztec King but it has nothing to do with Montezuma. The dwellings were occupied by people of the Northern Sinagua culture and were built between 1100 and 1300. It may be as much as a thousand years old!

As we wandered down the path along the river we heard the haunting notes of a wooden flute. The music and the sun through the Sycamore trees created a sense of being in another time.

A short drive away is a surprise in the desert called Montezuma Well. This is a limestone sink formed eons ago and still fed by a continuously flowing spring. The spots on the blue water are migrating ducks.

The Sinagua people lived nearby and irrigated their crops with its waters. Apparently some 100 plus people lived around this well between 1125 and 1400.

Now all that's left are some stone ruins and birds and other small creatures.

Both these places exude a sacred, otherworldly feeling--far removed from our current way of living.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The vortex at Bell Rock

While in Sedona we kept hearing about vortexes or maybe it's vortices...?  I'm not entirely sure what they are but there are several spots around Sedona that have this vortex energy.

So what is a vortex? Well you see them in every day life as a whirlpool in the water or the bathtub where the water spins. A vortex is created from the spiral motion of air or liquid around a centre. A dust devil is also a vortex.

The vortexes in Sedona are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy facilitates prayer, meditation or healing. Vortex sites are supposed to have energy flowing on multiple dimensions. There may even be a scientific explanation involving neutrinos and atomic energy.

Anyway, Bell Rock is one of the most notable red rock formations just south of Sedona and is supposedly a site of of a major vortex. There's a walking trail around and up on the rock itself and Jan and I hiked part of it on Thursday.  Here are some images from our walk in this beautiful spot.

We didn't experience anything unusual, although I managed to get some nice photos with sun flares that give a bit of an other-worldly feeling. Here and there as we walked we found piles of stones built on the ground as, as here, on fallen trees.

It may have been the vortex energy that made me lie down on my back in the red dust to capture a photo of an aloe with a rock formation in the background... but I doubt it. More likely it's just my crazy obsession with getting the right angle.

One thing we did notice was that anything white or silver showed up as turquoise while we were on the walk. I think that may be a factor of the rich red earth and its tendency to produce the opposite colour on the spectrum as an afterimage. The opposite on the colour wheel in this case would be turquoise.

In any case, we had a wonderful morning walk in the warm sun and the cool air and it is clearly a very special and wonderful spot, vortex or no vortex.