Re-post: Rhymes with orange

19 01 2012

Originally posted January 30, 2009

For several months now I’ve been trying to catalog my images better, bit by bit (there are thousands and thousands of photos). While organizing my garden photos folder I noticed that I have a plethora of orange-hued flowers so I put together this collage of all things orange-ish to brighten your winter day.

Tangerine. Coral. Day-glow orange. Push-up popsicle orange. Sunset. Pumpkin. 70s shag carpet orange (I did window display at a department store while in college and there was multi-shaded orange shag carpet in each window. Do you know how hard it is to design around that color scheme? I covered it up every chance I got—with a decorating budget of zilch, unfortunately. I asked for $5 once for a huge set of markers and my boss freaked out).

Orange peel. Safety orange. Salmon (did you know that the “l” in salmon is silent? The correct pronunciation is “sam-uhn.” Don’t believe me? Click here).

Frou-frou-big-bowed-bridesmaid-dress-apricot (yes, I had to wear one once upon a time).

Carrot. Persimmon. Vermilion. Orange-red. Rusty can orange. Burnt orange. Tomato. Panama Brown orange (the color Dad insists his old diesel VW Rabbit was—sorry, Dad, it was orange).

After a week of designing at the computer in a cold basement, pausing only to look out at winter gray skies (save for that remarkable sunset on Wednesday), I needed a jolt of color to inspire me. What better color than orange?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

rhymeswithorange





Re-post: Photographs? Well, not technically.

18 01 2012

Originally posted 1.28.2010 and 1.28.2011

A few years ago I dabbled in scanning flowers on my Epson flatbed scanner and got some pretty good results. The technique works best if you can cover the flower arrangement with a dark piece of fabric or black cardboard. While the original images were nice “record” shots of my flowers, I wanted to do something more with them. I ran the scanned images through some artsy Photoshop filters to give them a romantic, soft-focus glowy look. So there you have it…photographs without a camera!

Not long after I toyed with the process, I saw an exhibit of photographer Robert Creamer’s images at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These large-scale works were amazing! He scanned all sorts of things—dead birds, flowers, fruit, bones, and more. You can read more about his Smithsonian exhibit here and see more of his work on his website here. Watch the video here for a demonstration of his setup.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





You are cordially invited to Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio

15 01 2012

Mark your calendar! My first exhibit in umpteen years will run from Tuesday, February 28 until Sunday, April 29, 2012. The show will be on the ramp in the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ll be hanging the show on the morning of February 27 but I’m making the official start date as February 28. The show will be dismantled on the morning of April 30, so my end date is April 29.

The show reception will be held from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, 2012 in the Horticulture Center. Appetizers and beverages will be prepared by Barbara Kelley of Kelley Hospitality (also known as the Sneeze Guard Heiress.)

Artwork will be available for purchase (both matted and framed as well as matted and ready to frame by you!).

I’ll be re-posting this announcement regularly as a reminder to mark your calendars and will include updates and additional information leading up to the big event. If you can’t join me for the reception, you have two months (that’s a lot of days!) to get over to Green Spring Gardens to see the show.

For those of you who don’t live nearby and can’t make it, I’ll be preparing an online “virtual gallery” so you can experience the show from afar, so stay tuned. Thank you to everyone for your support!





Chinese Maple leaf canopy

13 01 2012

Mark your calendars for March-April 2012 for my exhibit!
This will be my first art exhibit since college days (way back when!), so I’m very excited. The exhibit will be in the Horticulture Center in the park. The reception isn’t until Sunday, April 15, from 1-3 p.m., but the show runs all of March and April, so if you’re in the area, that’s ample time to stop by and see the show if you live nearby or plan to be in the Washington, D.C. / Northern Virginia area during that time!

Green Spring Gardens is conveniently located off of 395, at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria, VA 22312. The Horticulture Center is open weekdays from  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 12 – 4:30 p.m. Parking is free and the park closes at dusk.

All works will be for sale, with a portion of proceeds going to Green Spring Gardens. I also plan to have unframed and matted images available for sale during the reception. The show consists of 12×12 images, 12×18 images and 8×12 images, all matted and framed for the show. I’ll also have more than a dozen gallery wrap canvas transfer images (a very contemporary look with no framing needed!), ranging in size from 12×18 to 20×30.

Stay tuned to this blog for an announcement of my show website with more details and a sneak preview of some of the images that will be featured. The website will also include ordering information if you’d like to purchase an image (whether matted/framed or matted/ready to frame) but can’t come see the show in person.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





The Painting Years: A little paint, a little paneling

31 12 2011

This family quote, “a little paint, a little paneling,” originated with my dad. He probably learned it from his mother, perhaps. I just did a Google search on that quote and believe it or not, the only two entries that reference it are on this blog!

On family vacations, when we would invariably pass by a dilapidated house or barn, held up with just a few boards and rusty nails, and showing sky through the roof, my dad would point at the structure and quip, “a little paint, a little paneling,” as if that was all it would take to make the hovel presentable. I still use that quote today and since we can safely assume my dad invented the phrase, I will give you permission to use it as needed. Just remember who invented it and give credit where credit is due. Or, you could make a donation through PayPal to the King of Texas each time you use it. The King says a quarter per use (he acknowledges it is a tough economy for his subjects) would be greatly appreciated. Donations would help with the upkeep of the castle (he is retired and on a fixed income, you know).

It would certainly be appropriate with this sketchy painting done in thinned-out oil paints on an 11×16 canvas. I’m not sure what I was referencing when I painted it—it could have been an exact copy of a painting or even sketched from a photograph in a magazine. I’ve always liked loosely painted subjects and that’s the style I tend to lean toward now when I do paint.





The Painting Years: Texas Bluebonnets

31 12 2011

This tiny painting measures just 4×6″ and is an original oil painting that I did when I was about 17 years old.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





The Painting Years: Landscape with deer

30 12 2011

This was a 24×36 oil painting that I copied from a small postcard in Lila’s “morgue file.” (I don’t remember the original artist’s name.) I was immediately drawn to it because of all the blues and greens. It was a monumental undertaking because of all the details and all the color mixing. I most certainly didn’t complete this one in two Saturday sessions! I was so tired of it at the end that my father tried to bribe me with money to finish the deer in the background with more details. I had completed the one on the far right and was so exhausted that I just painted brown amorphous shapes in for the others! (Maybe one day I’ll surprise him and finish it. Hmph.) He just told me that this was yet another painting that Lila advised me against attempting. Well, except for not finishing the deer, I showed her, huh?





The Painting Years: Apple harvest

30 12 2011

Here’s one of my favorite oil paintings. I don’t recall the artist who did the original. I was probably 15 or 16 when I painted it. This is an 18×24 canvas.





The Painting Years: Taking the bait

29 12 2011

I did this 8×10 painting for my father when I was about 15 years old. I think I copied it from an original illustration in a fishing magazine. This was one of the unframed paintings in my dad’s frame shop (guess he didn’t like it enough to frame it, huh?) The canvas is cracked (cheap student paint supplies, perhaps?) but that gives it a cool old-world feel now!

Note: It’s funny how I signed my name in a different way and location on every painting. I have put it one of the following positions: right side at the bottom, nestled by an object like a vase in a still life, all caps and first and last name written, all caps and just first name written, or just my first name with an initial cap. I also only dated a few of them. What consistency, huh?





The Painting Years: First florals

29 12 2011

Yesterday I organized my father’s “framing shed” workshop and found some of my old oil paintings that I painted from about ages 12-17. The two paintings below are framed and hanging in the house. Discovering the unframed paintings instigated this trip down memory lane and I thought I would share some of my first paintings with you.

My parents took me to the Lila Prater Studio in Weslaco, Texas, for an interview with Lila when I was just 12 years old. I had already been drawing since elementary school and they wanted to further encourage my interest in art. Lila had a strict rule—no students under 15 years old. Classes ran from 9:00 a.m. to noon every Saturday and she discovered that most younger students don’t have the attention span nor inclination to give up a Saturday morning to paint. My dad showed her my portfolio of drawings and I remember him saying, “she’s not like other kids.” (She’s still not!)

Lila decided to make an exception and give me a spot in her Saturday morning oil painting class. I remember there were about five or six students at the time. I was the youngest at 12, the next was a young man who was about 17 or 18, and the others were in their 40s and older. I don’t remember all their names, but I remember some details of my fellow painters. One dark-haired woman, possibly in her late 40s, always dressed up for class and never spilled one drop of paint on her white-colored clothing. She wore a simple white smock/apron and never got paint on it either. I, on the other hand, occasionally used my clothing as a wipe rag (much to my mother’s chagrin).

Another woman, probably in her 50s or 60s at the time, was a retiree named Violet Treasure, who wore her silver hair in a bun perched on top of head. Hers was such an unusual name that I thought it couldn’t possibly be her real name. I did an online search but can’t find anything about her, unfortunately, but I never forgot her name. She painted on really large canvases and almost always painted female nudes. She was a supremely talented painter. I marveled at her use of color—where I tended to see skin as one tone of beige, her brush strokes infused purple, lilac, pink, green and every other hue into the figure. I would learn just how difficult this was when I attempted to copy a painting of a young Native American girl. Initially, my subject was just one shade of brown (think coloring book style) and it was just so flat and uninspiring. Under Lila’s patient guidance, my subject’s skin began to reflect all those colors that Violet used in her paintings. I never did master skin tones but I had an instant respect for Violet’s painting skills.

The young man’s last name was Somerville (or Summerville), but I don’t recall his first name. My dad, who was in Customs at the time, worked with his father, Red Somerville, who was an immigration officer at the port near Nuevo Progreso (which was a mere eight miles from where we lived in Donna, Texas). I remember how slowly he painted and how meticulous he was. He hardly uttered a word while he was in class—he was too intent on replicating works of the masters. (He would have done incredibly well as a forger!) One painting I remember him copying was The Gleaners, an oil painting by Jean-Francois Millet. I always aimed to finish a painting in one or two weekends (impatient even at that young age, I was). He, on the other hand, spent three hours painting just the hands of the wheat gleaners! I marveled at his patience and expertise. When I moved on to a new painting instructor in a different studio, he was still working on his copy of The Gleaners!

There was a pass-through from Lila’s studio to her dining and living room, where her husband, Neil Giles Prater, was bedridden with a long-term illness. I just did a search online and learned that he died at age 83 on June 10, 1977 of pneumonia.

I actually spoke with Lila sometime in the 90s and she was about 92 years old then. She was in an assisted living home and had lost her eyesight. She remembered me and some of the images I painted. I just did a search and found that one of her two daughters passed away in 2010 and the obituary indicated she was preceded in death by her parents, Lila and Neil. Further research revealed that there was a Lila V. Prater, from Weslaco, Texas, who lived to 107 and died in 2003, and I’m pretty certain she’s one and the same Lila Prater. 107 years old—amazing, isn’t it?

Lila had a huge filing cabinet that she called “the morgue,” where we could sort through and find an image to paint. As a rookie, I invariably chose images to copy that were well out of my scope, and Lila would encourage me to pick another. Sometimes she won, sometimes I did.

My first painting was a landscape, and the very next painting was the first floral piece below, done on an 11×14 canvas. When I picked the painting I wanted to copy, she said it was too soon for me to do such a detailed work. I pleaded with her, stating it was to be a gift for Mother’s Day. She relented and I faithfully replicated the work. When I was 15, I painted the second floral, a 24×36 canvas, as a present for my mother.

By copying the work of other artists, I learned myriad painting techniques and color combinations. Lila also taught me how to use the grid method to enlarge or transfer an image to a canvas. Learn more about the grid method here. For this posting, I’ve made both images the same size, although there is a huge difference between them in reality—11×14 vs. 24×36.

I studied under Lila’s direction for about five years and rarely missed a painting session. She was a wonderful teacher and gave me a great foundation in painting. When I was about 17, I began taking lessons with another instructor, Richard (last name escapes me) in Donna, Texas. His teaching method was vastly different from Lila’s—he didn’t allow us to copy anything and we had interesting exercises like using limited palettes of black and white paint only. We did a lot of still life set-ups with fruit, bowls, vases and figurines.

Re: framing—my dad would buy really beautiful but very inexpensive frames in Mexico to showcase my paintings. I remember that we would swap them out whenever I painted something new that matched the color of a particular frame!





Design Studio: Travel posters

30 11 2011

Last year I created these travel posters as a fun project for a friend who is a flight attendant. My goal was to create a series of these for various cities that she frequents and always incorporate the airplane silhouette. Some elements are original illustrations, some were rubber stamped images that I later scanned, and other elements were purchased at http://www.vectorstock.com and incorporated into the collage, which was created in Adobe Illustrator CS5.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Artist Alexa Meade and her human canvas

4 11 2011

Washington, D.C. artist Alexa Meade paints live models (including their surroundings) and then photographs them. Her work is simply amazing!

With her permission, I am showing a few samples of her work and linking to her website here and flickr gallery here. I hope to do an in-depth interview with her soon.








I know what you can buy me for my birthday next month! :-)

12 09 2011

How uber cool is this? Thanks to my friend F.T. for sharing. Click on the link below to see the newest product from Wacom!

http://www.wacom.com/en/Products/Inkling.aspx?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=Search&utm_campaign=Inkling&gclid=CJzv4c-Pk6sCFcis7QodeHrl6Q





Whimsy in the garden

22 08 2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





A Vibrant Morning Wake by Daniel Scott, Jr.

28 07 2011

A few months ago, Daniel (who is a graphic designer in Ft. Worth) contacted me and asked for permission to use a photo I shot of a cluster of Spiderworts blooming at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in March. My college roommate, graphic designer/artist/Austinite and dear friend Sonya who creates whimsical paper clay sculptures and “Bugs with Attitude.” Check out her website here. She took me there for an afternoon of shooting (it was my first visit there).

Daniel gave me a link to his mosaic work and I was duly impressed, so I gave him permission and anxiously awaited the final result. It is nothing short of gorgeous! I’ll be interviewing Daniel for this blog in the not-too-distant future, but wanted to share his inspirational piece now.

From Daniel’s blog, Recycled Consumer Mosaics:
I create artwork entirely from candy wrappers, drink labels, gum wrappers, sugar packets, tea packaging, etc. to utilize marketing brand awareness and color recognition from the marketplace. My swatch palette takes shape as marketing strategies change their client’s image. As each mosaic is made, more layers and techniques are worked through for the best results. That’s what makes this process fresh and unique with each blank slate, ready to be transformed into a work of art.

Below is Daniel’s beautiful mosaic along with the photo that inspired him. Stay tuned for my interview with him!





Interview with William Biggers—The Evolution of an Artist

21 05 2011

A few years ago, Bill Biggers contacted me through my blog, requesting permission to use a floral photograph as inspiration for a painting. After visiting his art websites, I wrote back and told him that I would be honored for him to paint from one of my photos. We kept in touch via e-mail and two years ago we met in person in Greenville, S.C. I was visiting my friend Carmen, who had moved to nearby Greer a few years earlier. Carmen and I met him at his home, where he gave us a tour of his studio and work, followed by a leisurely lunch in downtown Greenville.

Bill is truly a Renaissance man—skilled in so many artistic disciplines. While he is a very talented illustrator, painter, and stained glass artist, I especially liked his pottery. I collect Raku and he had some lovely pieces in his home, all created during his incarnation as a professional potter in his studio, Mountain Pond Pottery, at Lake Lanier and Lake Nottley. I felt an immediate kinship with him because like me, he loves acquiring and applying new creative skills. Graphic design, painting, drawing, printmaking, marketing, writing, pottery, stained glass painting—he does them all and he does them well.

Born in Atlanta, GA, Bill now lives in Greenville, S.C., where he creates portrait paintings and drawings on commission. I found his diverse career fascinating and he graciously agreed to be interviewed and share his career and works with my readers.

When did you first discover your creative talents?
I began drawing and painting immediately after eye surgery at age three. I could see individual leaves on trees, birds, distance and most important—single, not double images. That progressed to an impromptu crayon and paint mural on the lengthy hallway to my bedroom. Needless to say, at first Mom was upset but fell into gales of laughter.

Where did you study art?
I continued drawing and painting through high school. I had no formal training until my first classes at Georgia State University, where I majored in visual arts. I studied under the remarkable and late Jim Sitton. Additionally, I took painting courses under the late Joseph Perrin, printmaking under Jim McLean (Editor’s note: McLean retired in 1994 and has since illustrated 11 books, most of them with well-known language guru and punmeister, Richard Lederer), and pottery under a man named Potter.

Did you inherit your artistic talents from your parents?
Short answer—maybe. Late in life my mother surprised us all with a seemingly sudden and remarkable interest and talent in multiple-layer painting and firing on porcelain, which shares some characteristics with stained glass painting. Her work was beautiful.

My father, Bill Sr., was head of the Meteorology Department for Eastern Airlines, and in WWII he taught American and British pilots weather and navigation. After his retirement, photography became his hobby and lasted until he lost vision. My sister, Sydney, is a highly creative interior designer and her daughter, Lea, is a gifted jewelry designer.

What other creative mediums have you worked in?
First and foremost—drawing and painting in all painting mediums—from watercolor to oil, acrylic to tempera. That’s the most consistent media—especially watercolor—which is the most ancient and long-lasting medium. I’ve enjoyed printmaking—especially old techniques of etching and woodblock printing. I’m still an enthusiastic stained glass fan, but had to close my shop due to illness. The physicality was too demanding and I couldn’t do any work for over two years. Now I occasionally work primarily in watercolor.

Tell us about the evolution of your career.
I worked in the graphic design field for 17 years, specializing in visual tools to aid in teaching, illustration, printing, promotional and marketing materials, writing and heading an award-winning design team of artists and photographers. During my GSU tenure, I completely designed the then new Educational Media facility from the ground up with the universities chief architect. The facility design included plans for HAVAC, electrical, space usage, and a complete layout for departments of Graphics/Photography, Film/Video, Distribution, Audio and supportive staff.

I left GSU to develop award-winning consumer catalogs for an importer. Concurrently and five years prior, I developed Mountain Pond Pottery, creating one-of-a-kind and limited edition raku and stoneware. I liked raku because it’s an art with such an exciting process. (The creative process of Raku as practiced today has evolved from methods developed in Japan in the sixteenth century. A Korean tile maker’s hand-pinched tea ceremony bowls so impressed the Japanese emperor that he named the tile maker, Raku, meaning pleasure. The Raku family practices pottery to this day. Westerners have built on that simple and elegant approach by making a wide variety of forms and formulating more distinctive color glazes. After forming, bisque firing then glazing, the piece is thrust into a preheated red-hot kiln at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At the time of glaze maturity, when the piece is close to transparent red, the piece is lifted out of the kiln with tongs and/or gloves, then plunged into a container of sawdust, straw, or a combustible material like oil rags. The piece is tightly covered and sealed to allow carbons released from the combustibles to penetrate the glaze and clay body which produces the characteristic black clay body and individual and surprisingly unpredictable glaze results now characteristic of Raku—each finished piece is scrubbed when cooled to remove soot, and bears the distinctive marks of tongs or gloves adding character to the form.)

After working with the importer, I was Resident Potter at the John C. Campbell Folk School, while also heading the marketing department there. I also taught and authored a history of the Brass Town Carvers, a then 60+ year old program at JCCS patterned after Winter Work in carving by Danish farmers.

After JC Campbell I traveled west to California to work at the former Pocket Ranch Institute and the Star Foundation. High in the mountains above the vineyards surrounding Geyserville, I produced marketing materials and a motivational video. I was also on the management team for the large 2,000 acre retreat and psychotherapeutic facility.

After several years I returned to the southeast and soon worked as Operations Director and Music Personnel Manager for the Greenville Symphony, in Greenville, S.C. Four years later I had to get back into art and left the Symphony. I took some time off and subsequently returned to my first love—the visual arts. I took a short drive to Tryon, N.C. and came upon a glass studio—Tryon Decorative Glass—owned by stained glass artist Michael Kitchen. We hit it off discussing art and art glass. I was amazed with his work.

Under Kitchen’s instruction, I learned the art of glass painting with multiple layers—painting with ground glass mixed with bonding agents, which remain on the painted glass surface long enough to place in kiln. This assured the ground glass would stay on the painted glass through handling and firing; the pieces were then fired in special glass kilns. I also learned window design and fabrication with Kitchen. At that time he was contracted to create windows for many United House Of Prayer cathedrals and small churches throughout the East and Midwest. These projects were more than inspiring. Kitchen now works with Glass Works Stained Glass Studio in Charlotte, N.C.

Two years later, in January 1998, I ventured out on my own to create Biggers Glass Painting & Stained Glass Design, with glass studio customers throughout the U.S. Throughout my career incarnations, I continued to create portraits, drawings, and products for communications, business, crafts and the arts—my specialty and passion remains portraits. (View Bill’s stained glass painting and design portfolio here.)

Do you draw every day? What is your favorite medium? 
Yes, if you include doodling. Usually it is just a couple of minutes of sketching per day because my stamina is greatly reduced. When I feel capable, I do full drawings and paintings in acrylics and primarily watercolor.

My favorite medium is watercolor—the oldest painting medium. Chemically, watercolors are pigments made from ground minerals and dyed inert powder, held together generally with gum arabic made from the acacia tree. Watercolors capture luminosity and offer a range equal to and often exceeding that of other mediums. I’ve devoted a page to the history of watercolor here on my website.

On average, how long does it take to complete a work?
The time to create a work varies enormously. Paintings take longer than drawings. Other major factors include the amount of detail and style, number of subjects and size. The time is quite variable, especially since I can only paint for short durations.

Can you explain the process on a portrait commission from start to finish? Which commissions do you enjoy the most?
It can vary by medium—oils and acrylic paintings take longer—yet a watercolor can easily be as time-consuming. First comes the initial contact and commission. I ask many questions of my client to get as much verbal information as possible to determine their needs and hopes. A portrait is special to people and I like to give them that opportunity to co-create in the beginning. Ideally I like to work on a thumbnail sketch and feature detail of a live model, and take photographs of the desired position, and from all angles. From there, I take photos of the subject and retire to my studio to begin working. For out-of-town commissions, I rely entirely on photos—requesting not only the preferred sitting, but also as many photos as possible of the subject to get a more complete feeling for the portrait.

It is hard to distinguish which commissions I like most as “I’ve never met a commission I didn’t like!” I like portraits of men, women, children and pets… the rare and occasional landscape or still life… and respect for the nuances of watercolor seem to outweigh any other medium.

How would you describe your illustration/painting style?
I “play” in every style I’m aware of, but for commissions I generally lean heavily toward “new realism,” with intense detail—at least as much detail as I can muster.

What are your influences? What artists inspire you?
Truthfully, that is the most difficult question. As a child I was amazed by artists like Norman Rockwell, Leger, Wyatt—the work of 1950s realists that I saw in magazines and in museums and galleries. As I matured, the love for these artists continued, but a mountain of other artists flooded in—from Expressionists to Impressionists, late 19th century realists to cubists, Fauves—almost every style and within those styles, many artists. 

My likes increased exponentially—I am a great lover of Monet, Manet and Van Gogh. My tastes jump back to the great 15th century European painters and sculptors. Later came appreciation for watercolor’s resurgence in the 2oth century and on to artists like Dali and other surrealists, and Picasso to Braque. Additionally, Motherwell, Frankenthaler, Pollock and just about every major artist known on the Abstract Expressionist scene—their creativity exploded into my artistic consciousness. Then there are conceptual artists like Christo and Oldenburg. A few of my favorites are the minimalists.

I have to mention the giants in stained glass design and painting from the 13th century to the 20th century—the late, great national treasure, Dick Millard. He was a friend, mentor and wild man spirit who died in March of this year. He is missed by his wife, Vicki, and literally thousands of fans worldwide.

My paintings don’t seem to reflect these many appreciations and love for visual diversity. However, I do think that these various movements expanded awareness and somehow enriched my experience as an artist. Additionally, living and working in California, Arizona, and the southeast has really influenced my work. (Above: Bill created this stained glass painting, “Prayer for Nation & The World,” to honor the 9/11 victims.)

How do you keep your work fresh and how did you come to formulate your style? Does it progress naturally? What is your creative motivation?
In a word—I try, but sometimes fail. I work at seeing things as they are in the moment. As to style, it seems to have matured to some extent. Opening my eyes each morning and scanning the room, I’m motivated and inspired by everything that surrounds me—shape, form, details and color—as much as my awareness can conceive. That wasn’t always a good characteristic—I was often described as a daydreamer in my primary school days. Catching up was swift and exciting at the college level.

What are you working on at present?
I’ve spent several months sketching and thinking about a personal project—something challenging—a young lady, hand draped over the back of a wooden chair, heavily lit from one side, only slight bounce of light on deeply shadowed part of face and form.

In the last couple of months I have worked on two caricature pieces for a niece—one for a mud run benefit that eventually was transferred to their team’s T-shirts. Another project was a caricature of her friend and co-worker’s Bon Voyage party. An occasional simple piece for a family member or friend keeps the cobwebs away. My niece suggested I render the Markley Chapel at Greenville’s 200-year-old Christ Church (right). The original artwork was sold at a silent auction to benefit the church’s school. Additionally, I made a few Giclée prints from the image, as well as notecard packages.

I noticed you have wide range of artwork on the walls in your home. Whose works do you admire and collect?
First, Jim Sitton, who was one of my university professors. He was a master of giant drawings with details, scratches and usually indistinguishable tiny forms of near microscopic size covering an entire piece. I also have a photolithograph by Jim McLean, one of the printing instructors at GSU. I was fortunate to visit China in late 1994 and acquired two contemporary Chinese paintings, one of the “Venice Of China” (an intaglio print), and a colorful primitive interior with several people. Both are outstanding and unfortunately, I do not know the artists. The three week+ trip expanded awareness and amazement of my favorite subject—other people. Photo © Bill Biggers

There are other works—photography by friends, a large print from another. My favorite pieces, which I would love to possess, are Dick Millard’s glass paintings and panels.

Tell me about your work with the Greenville Symphony.
After three interviews over three months, I was awarded the position of both Music Personnel Director and Operations Director. I managed the Symphony’s budget, attended all rehearsals and performances, contracted musicians and coordinated blind auditions. I supervised the Symphony’s music librarian and was responsible to the Music Director-conductor, David Pollitt. I suppose I enjoyed the rehearsals the most—seeing a piece be interpreted, then evolve into a performance. I also contracted numerous guest artist performers until the last few months there. In late 1994 Maestro Pollitt was offered a cultural conducting exchange with the conductor of the Shanghai Symphony. Three people were going and a benefactor paid to have me included. In all, I worked no more than three partial days followed by at least 10 days of travel. We first explored Shanghai, then Beijing, then went north to the emperor’s tombs and the Great Wall. Initially, we landed in Hong Kong, but didn’t explore until our last two days in China. A strong memory was the enormous bird market, spanning alley after alley, with species of birds I’ve never seen before nor since. I also enjoyed the Jade Market in Hong Kong. Outside the tents were old Chinese men with cloths covering the ground and many ancient jade pieces. The harbor in Shanghai was incredibly scenic and beautiful. The Chinese food was remarkable, with little similarity to Chinese food in the U.S.

How does the word passion relate to an artist?
First, I think any work, field or endeavor should done with some passion and not always with the major goal of producing income. If you are good at something, you can be a success in many ways. The key is to find that thing—or things—that jets your juices and stirs your passion enough to make each day an adventure.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
That’s easy—a writer and a psychologist.

Describe yourself in three words.
Curious, listener, friend

My Favorite…
Words: Peace & tranquility
Colors: Yellow & blue
Foods: Fish & pizza
Music: Mozart, Lennon, Tyler
Authors: Michener & Dickens, plus a few contemporary authors
Actors: Anthony Hopkins & Javier Bardem
Movies: To Kill A Mockingbird & Schindler’s List

No interview would be complete without the requisite “you’re stranded on a deserted island” question—what five things must you have with you?
Books, music, My Spiritual Path writings, nail clippers, and several pairs of reading and distance glasses (two pair of bifocals)

(Editor’s note: Interesting—he didn’t even mention art supplies! My answer was always something like: cheese, chocolate (never mind how they’re going to be kept fresh), a horde of fine black sharpie markers, a stack of sketchpads, and a guitar for entertainment (I could finally teach myself to play—something I’ve wanted to do for years). Then the obvious question is—why do we not say, “a boat,” so we won’t be stranded any longer!?)

I will never forget: Any slight inkling, step or expansion of awareness, and those whom I’ve loved

I wish I could: No wishes—I like to be surprised.

What is one thing you most want people to remember about you?
I guess, “He lived for a time.”

To see more of Bill’s portrait work, visit www.PortraitsByBiggers.com.

To see more of his glass painting, visit www.BiggersGlassPainting.com.

Both websites were designed by Windy Airey of Windy’s Design Studio.

Bill can be reached at Bill@PortraitsByBiggers.com or WilliamBiggers@gmail.com.





Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 05 2011

Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 8,717 visits to date!

Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. There are many sites that show how to make them. This one has step by step instructions with photos.

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger they are, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis (http://www.littleandlewis.com/) suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach by going to www.marthastewart.com . Do a search for “concrete leaf casting” to find the segment where Little & Lewis discuss leaf casting and list supplies.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only.

Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore Craft Store. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. It is necessary to paint the leaf black (or a dark brown) in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color.

If you try this style, you’ll need to seal your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. The metallic pigments are stunning! Don’t expect them to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. If you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

Here’s another posting I found that lists supplies, steps, and shows leaves painted with acrylic or latex paint.

http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/2527

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of cement/quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

UPDATE: Thanks to Kim, a fellow garden blogger, for this link to Craig Cramer’s blog, “Ellis Hollow.” Check out his advicehere.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Crochet wire necklaces

20 04 2011

My family and friends (and perhaps some of you, my treasured readers) have noticed that when I learn a new skill, I go a wee bit crazy implementing it, expanding upon it and trying to perfect it. In a previous posting here, I showcased the first necklaces my sister Debbie and I made last month after taking a class in San Antonio. I have since made four more wire creations. Never content with just the basics, I’ve begun embellishing them with charms, such as in the four strand “Sea Goddess” (#1) and the triple strand “Falling Leaves” (#2). “Bluer than Blue” (#3) is a two strand version. The last triple strand version in this group (“Tropical Punch”) is a gift for my friend Gina’s mother. I think my next one will be garden-themed with floral embellishments and garden tool charms.

Taking orders soon! (Seriously. How else can I pay for these hobbies?)  😉

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





“We are not amused.”

14 04 2011

Nine-year-old BeBe is Brian and Shirley’s other cat in Austin, Texas. She keeps six-month-old siblings Lulu and Kato at arm’s paw’s length. Lest she feel left out during my impromptu feline photo sessions, I shot nine photos of her nesting on the microwave, one of her favorite spots. In all nine shots, she has the same expression—not one variance. My random intrusions did not amuse her, obviously.

SIDEBAR: To the left of BeBe is a botanical painting by Brian’s mother, Helen Loflin. She was quite an accomplished illustrator and painter and her artwork hangs in every room of Brian and Shirley’s home. She passed away three years ago at age 97-1/2 (she was adamant about always including the half part, Brian says).

KUDOS...to my fellow blogging/photographer friend, Teresita, for noticing that the illustration on the towel BeBe is sitting on looks a lot like Helen’s botanical painting. Good catch! Read Teresita’s blog at http://thepetalpusher.wordpress.com/.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






Craft project #956: Crocheted wire & bead necklaces

6 04 2011

Last Friday my sister Debbie and I took a jewelry-making class utilizing wire, beads and simple crochet chain stitching. I had seen these types of necklaces before but couldn’t figure out exactly how they were made. They are not quite as complicated to make as I had assumed they would be. I made five this past weekend and can now make them in two hours or less (that is, when someone isn’t talking and interrupting my bead and stitch counting)! Debbie made the top two necklaces (as well as the bracelet) and I made the bottom three. Her daughter (and my lovely niece) Lauren graciously modeled them for us (of course, the first four items were made especially for her, so she had an incentive to do so). Thanks to our great instructor, Leticia, for her expertise and to Diana, who hosted our little creative get-together. Yes, thanks. I really needed another hobby. Seriously. Etsy, here we come!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





More Austin graffiti

6 04 2011

Graffiti on the “permission wall” and an artist in action (the blue building with the mad bulldog is a nearby bar)

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






In the words of Seinfeld’s George Costanza: “Yes. Significant shrinkage!”

9 03 2011

In early January I suggested to my friend Karen that we take a try-it class at a local clay studio. She agreed and two days later we found ourselves straddling potter’s wheels and giving it a whirl (literally) for just $35 each (including clay, two hours of instruction, firing and glazing). I had attempted the wheel way back in college. I was surprisingly bad at it and very disappointed because I tend to pick up most creative skills very quickly. Throwing pots on a wheel did not come easily to me back then.

Fast forward to January 2011: Jessica, our instructor, showed us how to center ourselves over the wheel and use proper techniques. It made all the difference.

I was quite proud of my first attempt. I surreptitiously added a “foot” to my bowl and silently declared that it could easily be included in any Pottery Barn catalog once it was fired and glazed. Karen’s bowl was lovely too even if she didn’t add a foot. Ah, grasshopper, have patience—you’ll get there.

When we said goodbye to our perfectly-formed creations, they were the size of cereal bowls. Jessica would later fire and glaze them in the studio’s signature blue color. She told us that we could pick them up in about a month.

Six weeks later, I go to pick up our projects. I searched high and low on the shelves for my Pottery Barn-worthy cereal bowl with its lovely perfect foot. Since I didn’t immediately spot my creation, I turned over the pots to see if our names were scribbled into them, courtesy of Jessica. They were. I found my cereal bowl. It had shrunk considerably. I’m fairly certain that Jessica, who was a wonderful instructor, most likely mentioned that the pots would shrink, but I was way too enthralled with clay play to process that very fact. In my head I was dreaming of throwing a plethora of pots, fulfilling orders for organic, artistic inventory for Pottery Barn, even hiring studio assistants to defray the overwhelming workload—making money hand over…wheel!

I suppose I could still use it as a cereal bowl but I’d have to go back three times to get a breakfast’s worth of goods. I included the soup spoon for scale. Yes, it may be tiny, but isn’t it the loveliest shade of blue?

Behold—my first true creation on the potter’s wheel—a $35 hearing aid caddy!

Operators are standing by to take your order. Please add $40.00 for labor, shipping and handling. Please allow two months for delivery. Not available in stores. Call in the next five minutes and we’ll throw in the soup spoon, ab-so-lute-ly free!





Not a spider the expanse of a cat

5 03 2011

PREFACE: I’m 100% certain that my fellow bloggers get a plethora of spam in their comments on WordPress. I’m also certain that many of them make no sense, such as the one I received below. It was in paragraph form, but as I read it (What can I say? It was a slow day), I discovered a sort of whimsical, non-sensical “poem” emerging. The poem I extracted is “as is,” originating from one spam paragraph. It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem (Can you believe this? Michael can recite Jabberwocky without missing a line!) I call this one: “Not a spider the expanse of a cat” (FYI—I did a search online with a few of the lines from this “poem” and have discovered this spammer frequents many sites and intersperses this same text (along with some expletives I chose to eliminate) with links to some pretty unsavory sites—not that I visited them, mind you.)

Not a spider the expanse of a cat (or A Spammer’s Jabberwocky)

For all to see! Gone.
And I slip up on the damsel, miss the bus,
the fossil monkey around!

Clara Hyummel kicked in annoyance
nor guiltless stool.
My sinfulness, Alya, overlooked!
Underestimated. Escaped!
Escaped and sealed the portal!

Has not regretted his forebear’s amulet,
just utilized us astray blow.
Valid devoted, Clara, what do we do now?
Moaned aunt Aglaia, his governor in his hands.

Spacious kitchens, sink traces of unbridled paddy
conflict sorceress a pair on the loose.
Pitch-black spots enthusiastic on the walls,
to Clara in the zeal of prod on the lightning,
unshapely piles of dishes and utensils,
swept from their seats,
reared in a far corner of the nautical plate.

On the ceiling crazy tossing some living thing physical:
it does not wing, not a spider the expanse of a cat,
and his glancing by the way, and his loss Clara had created,
and then some often sighting shot fireballs.
What to do now? Clara buhnulas in a spiritless rocking-chair
with his leather-covered elk legs on the fare and began to meet up.
Do nothing, Alya. He was quite already in Meline.
And there he finds himself Archmage.





Isabel & Holly

3 03 2011

I had a fantastic mini-vacation with my friend Gina this past weekend. We flew to Dallas early Sunday morning, then drove to Bossier City, Louisiana to surprise her mother for her 69th birthday. It was a whirlwind, spontaneous three days and I shot lots of photos of people, places and things. This photo below was from a quick session on Monday evening. I photographed her cousin Greg and his family at their home—below is his wife Holly and daughter Isabel. It was an impromptu shoot with just my D300, Nikkor 18-70 lens, a Nikon Speedlight attached to a RayFlash ringlight and a bare office wall serving as a background—but with lovely models like these two, I couldn’t help but get a few good images. In many of the photos Isabel is a deadringer for a young Reese Witherspoon! More photos from their session to come…

In upcoming posts, I’ll have some photos and stories gathered on our road trip. Our three-day adventure concluded with an awe-inspiring tour in Shreveport of CRM Studios, a video and audio production company where Greg is the Director of Broadcast Production, as well as Moonbot Studios, the home of Bill Joyce, whose latest project is the short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (which, as a self-admitted biblioholic, I cannot wait to see—the short will be available as an iPad download next month!). Joyce is an author, illustrator and leader in the digital animation industry and was named by Newsweek Magazine as one of the 100 people to watch. Projects based on his works have been translated into feature films and television shows, including Robots and Meet the Robinsons, and the Emmy-winning series Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks. Wish we could have met Joyce during our tour, but we did get a brief glimpse of the studio where all the animation magic happens! (Thanks so much for the special tour, Greg!)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Baker’s Dozen Link Love

3 11 2010

1. Joe McNally: Common Mistakes by Photographers
One of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, created a list of common mistakes people make when starting out in photography. Go check out this great post here:
http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2010/11/02/mistakes-2/

2. Larry Becker’s Cheap Shots
Through Scott Kelby’s blog (love him, too!), I learned about Larry Becker and his new DIY blog, Larry’s Cheap Shots. This blog resulted from his regular segment on the photography web-based tv show, DTownTV. He offers great DIY projects and inexpensive solutions to your photographic needs. Visit his regular blog, also a great site, here: http://lbecker.com/blog/

3. Dan Williams, Bird Photographer
I met Dan Williams, bird photographer extraordinaire, when he was exhibiting during a Craftsmen’s Classic Art & Craft Show at the Dulles Expo in Chantilly, Virginia last year. I had the chance to talk with him at length about his photography career, including his choice of equipment—the full frame 24.9mp Sony A900. After seeing his work, I have concluded that there is no one better at this genre—so I’m leaving avian photography to him! His work is clean, graphic and filled with color. He describes his approach to composition in his blog post, Keeping It Simple Can Produce the Best Results, here. Another insightful post, Breaking the Laws of Nature Photography, can be found here. Check out his website here and his blog here.

4. Bob Krist’s Compact Location Lighting Kit
After seeing freelance photographer Bob Krist on the Nikon Creative Lighting System video, I decided I had to put together a compact lighting kit like his. My only change was a cheaper travel case—although now that I see his Stormcase has wheels, I’ve got that on my wishlist again. I already had many of the items; I just needed to add some of the accessories—such as the smaller collapsible light stands and shorter umbrellas. (The video is well worth the price—lighting guru Joe McNally and Bob Krist show the amazing results you can accomplish using Nikon Speedlight flashes on location. Check out the DVD here). Krist works on assignment with magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Islands. His website is beautiful—check it out here. I traveled with my newly-assembled kit for the first time when I photographed musician Richard Reed in Providence, RI, earlier this fall. I was on assignment for Cochlear Americas and posted the results of our two photo sessions here. Richard wrote an article for the November/December 2010 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which went to print last month. I’ll be posting a recap on that issue shortly.

5. Erik Gauger’s Notes from the Road
I discovered travel writer and photographer Erik Gauger’s blog a few years ago and have had the pleasure of corresponding with him via e-mail regularly. I will be interviewing him and profiling his career in a future post on this blog, so stay tuned. His website is not only beautiful, it will make you want to hit the road in search of adventure! His blog has garnered accolades: “Unexpected frontier of the travel blogosphere…” —Boston Globe; “Sumptuous Site” —Time Magazine; and “The best-looking blog we’ve seen” —Forbes Magazine. Erik’s blog is definitely a must-see, must-read virtual trip. Find out why at http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/

6. Kolby Kirk’s Travel Journal
I met webmaster/graphic designer/photographer/traveler Kolby Kirk through my blog. Check out his newest blog—The Journal. He has several other websites that can help you plan your own travel adventures. Click here to peruse that list.

7. It’s (K)not Wood
I have a thing for anything faux bois (fake wood), from vases to dishes to table runners, so I love Emilyn Eto and Jonathan Lo’s It’s (K)not Wood, the blog “dedicated to all things faux bois.” Oh, and did I mention I also love anything emblazoned with leaves, trees, twigs, birds, bird eggs, bird nests, or bird feathers, too?

8. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
If you’re an “old school” graphic designer, you’ll appreciate the trip down memory lane in Lou Brooks’ The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Click on any item from “the ghosts of graphic arts past” to relive its use.

9. The Pantone Hotel
On my list of places to rest my weary head, I just added The Pantone Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Pantone is, click here.

10. On my nightstand: A Homemade Life
A few weeks ago, I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog, Orangette. I found myself sniffling in the airport during some of the passages she writes about her dying father, an exuberant gastronomic. Food and memories are intertwined in this short, sweet read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…so good, it even made me want to cook—one thing I just don’t do much of, I must confess. Learn more about the book and Wizenberg in this Amazon.com review here. In honor of your father, Molly, I promise to utilize (soon, I promise, soon) my shiny new white KitchenAid mixer—a well-received birthday present last month from my friends Gina, Karen and Rob. I have always thought that if only I had one of these, then I would be a real cook. Guess now I don’t have any excuses to stay out of the kitchen, do I?

11. Matt Bites Blog
I just love food photographer Matt Armendariz’ blog, http://mattbites.com/. His blog tagline reads, “a man obsessed with food, drink & everything in between.” A former graphic designer and art director in the food industry, he is one of the charter members of Martha’s Circle, a selection of lifestyle blogs selected by the editors of Martha Stewart Living. Check out his food & drink, travel and photography portfolios while you’re there. Just reading his recent recipe for Chicken & Potato Patties makes me hungry—oooh, and they include cilantro, one of my favorite herbs!

12. Mark Berkery’s Macro Photography
This site was featured on the “Freshly Pressed” page in WordPress last week—Mark Berkery’s Being Mark blog. His macro photography is jaw-dropping and if you click here, you’ll learn how he gets these amazing shots (it’s not just equipment—he knows technique, too), as well discover that there’s an inexpensive piece of equipment to add to your arsenal to capture images like his—a Raynox Macroscopic Lens. I’ve never heard of this company until now, but was thrilled to find their inexpensive products at Adorama. I first ordered the DCR-250 ($50 + shipping), which allows really high magnification and includes a snap-on universal mount suitable for lens that range from 52mm to 67mm size (I’ll try it first on my Nikkor 105mm micro, but it can be used on any of my lens, macro or not. They can be used on other cameras, too—not just Nikons). After reading the various entries on this Pentax forum here, I decided I also wanted the option of pulling back from my subject, so I also ordered the DCR-150 ($42.95 + shipping). I’ll do some experimenting shortly and will report my findings.

13. And finally, this one is just plain fun!
I learned about HEMA’s site here a few years ago (via graphic designer Chuck Green’s Design Briefs, if I’m not mistaken) and I still think it’s still one of the coolest retail sites online. HEMA is a Dutch department store chain. Unless you’re from the Netherlands, you probably won’t be able to read any of the product names, but wait a few seconds to see the reason this site is so much fun anyway. Do turn up the sound or you’ll miss some of the action. My flight attendant friend Gina has a penchant for visiting grocery stores in her international travels, so I’m sure when she sees this link, she’ll be making plans to patronize HEMA the next time she’s in Amsterdam!





Alicia Royer, pastellist

8 09 2010

I met Alicia Royer a few years ago when I photographer her with her family (husband Mike, and kids Annie and Joshua) for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Mike, who wears a cochlear implant, is a member of HLAA. We’ve been friends ever since. I invited the family to my studio sometime later for portraits and at the time, Alicia was seven months pregnant with their daughter, Ashley Jocelyn. You can see the results of that photo session in my blog posts: Meet the Royers, And baby girl five… and Annie & Joshua. Two months later, Mike asked me if I could photograph the birth of their daughter and I jumped at the chance (and the challenge!). You can see the photos from the birth in my blog posts: Welcome to the world, Ashley Jocelyn! and Introducing Ashley Jocelyn. Ashley celebrated her second birthday this past month.

Now that Alicia has a dedicated art space in their new home, this busy mother of three has been churning out drawings and improving her skills with every effort. A few months ago, she asked if she could use a photo I shot of my friend Camilla (Cam) as a reference for a drawing. Recently, she e-mailed me the results and I thought she did a great job and wanted to share it on my blog. While I have been drawing and painting since I was a child, I haven’t done much with the pastel medium, but I do know that it isn’t an easy medium to work in—yet Alicia excels in it with her color palette choices and her layering skills. And most often she chooses portraits as her subject—not an easy task, in my opinion.

Check out her pencil drawings on www.aliciajroyer.blogspot.com and pastel drawings on www.aliciajroyer22.blogspot.com.

And she’s getting creative in the kitchen, too, with her new blogs, It Begins in the Kitchen and Alicia’s Favorites.





FAVE: Tim Flach Photography Ltd.

26 07 2010

I stumbled upon London photographer Tim Flach’s work a few months ago and requested permission to show this particular photo below (I want a dog with dreadlocks!) and link back to his site. Joanna Niklas, who works with Tim, told me about his newest project, DOGS-GODS, which explores and celebrates man’s remarkable friendship with the dog. The book will be a visual representation of the oldest human-animal friendship and a journey around the canine kingdom. The link below takes you directly to his website (and what a great opening!). Click on “Portfolio,” which begins with stunning images of dogs. The website itself is as fluid and luminous as his photographs.

While you’re on his site, be sure to click on the “Info” link at the top, then “Film,” and download director Chris Purcell’s Animal Planet documentary, Through the Lens of Tim Flach, Photographer.

(Note to Kathy and Kevin M.: Bet you wish I had gotten a shot like #43 of you guys with Kramer and Oatmeal before they went to their new home. Sigh…missed my chance! To learn more than you ever truly wanted to know about iguanas (and Kramer and Oatmeal, in particular), check out this posting by their babysitter, The King of Texas, here.

http://timflach.com/





Just another Saturday night at Borders…

25 07 2010

At Borders, armed with a 40% off coupon and deciding what to use it on—love those 40% off-ers! I whittled down the stack of “chosen ones” and purchased this book, Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants, by Sarah Simblet. Fantastic book, gorgeous botanical drawings and lots of tips. Stay tuned for my first attempt at a botanical drawing (goodness knows, I most certainly have enough floral photo references in my only library, don’t I?). I’m even wearing my botanical sandals in this shot! Photo taken with Michael’s iPhone

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Sewing with Jasper

18 07 2010

(Sounds like a reality show, doesn’t it?—like Project Runway, but with felines). I’ve been in a sewing mood since the 4th of July weekend at the lake and to date I have made three tablecloths, 33 table napkins and six table runners. Do I need more table linens? Of course not! Every time I start sewing, Jasper insists on joining me and nestling into whatever fabric is available. Hope you like cats because that’s all I’ve photographed this week. It’s been too hot to do anything outdoors! This evening, my friend Karen joined me at the sewing table. She was making the second of two pillow shams for her bedroom (and we were so brave—flying without a pattern—whoo hoo! Wild women!). In the second photo, Jasper is serving as her topstitching quality control inspector. While Karen sewed the sham, I pulled out the Sculpey clay supplies and made some large leaf-shaped buttons for the pillow closures. Now I just have to bake them in my clay-dedicated toaster oven, paint, and seal. If they turn out halfway decent, I’ll photograph them and show you the finished effect.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





And the entries just keep a’comin’…

13 06 2010

Below are three entrants (and the only entrants thus far, bless them) of my Polaroid Notecards Essay Contest. Thanks to Alex, Bo and CheyAnne for submitting their wonderful essays. Read more about the contest (you, too, could win!) here. Contest rules and regulations can be found here. And remember, just like the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes—if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

CONTESTANT #1
First up is Alex Solla, of Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography, in Trumansburg, NY. (Be sure to check out his website below—he and his wife, Nancy, create beautiful pottery in truly yummy colors!) To preface his essay, Alex wrote: “Alright Cindy, you win. I held out because I figured you would be inundated with stories and after the umpteenth,the last thing you would want is to hear yet another gardening story. Having held a few contests over at my pottery blog, I know that a lot of times, folks just don’t anty up. No clue as to why. So here’s your story:

Ten years ago this August, I bought the house we live in. A month later I met my wife Nancy. One of our first goals was to clean up the yard and prepare a veggie garden. For the most part this yard was as flat as a pancake. The only distinguishing features were tall white pines lining the driveway, a huge blue spruce next to a very old outhouse and between both…was this enormous pile of blackberry brambles and grapevine. Fifty feet on all sides—it was HUGE! We tried at first to mow it. Broke a very expensive old riding mower. Ripped the transmission completely out of the machine. Then we tried the age old jungle solution: the machete. After a few near misses with my shins, we called that experiment done. That night, as my wife and I sat soaked in sweat, trying to imagine the dirt under all that overgrowth, our neighbor arrived. Most folks have neighbors who go to work at a normal hour and mow the yard on the weekend. Not mine. He’s an excavator, so he is up before 5 a.m. revving engines of his dozers and backhoes and such. Well, he took one look at our project and zipped back over to his house. The next thing we know, he is driving a monster backhoe through our yard. He spent the next hour as the sun set, ripping out roots of grapevines that were huge stumps! He took all of this green and by the time he went home, we could see DIRT! With all the plant material staring us in the face, we took some of the other move-in detritus and made the most beautiful burn pile. A week later, we had cleared, fenced, rich soil.

Because of all that sweat and toil, the first plants to grow into this garden held a special place in my heart. I had never photographed flowers or plants before, but as soon as we had color that spring, I was out in the garden shooting every flower I could catch. This started my love affair with plant photography. Your blog has been a huge inspiration. Your color saturation is just amazing. If you ever have time, would you consider writing a tutorial about how you capture such fantastic images?

Alex Solla
Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography
Trumansburg, NY

Website: www.coldspringsstudio.com

Blog: http://oohmyheck.blogspot.com 

HEAD JUDGE’S NOTE: Alex wins extra points (and possibly extra notecards!) by shamelessly flattering the head judge at the end of his essay! And to answer your question about writing a garden photography tutorial—it’s in the works, so please stay tuned.

_________________________________________________

CONTESTANT #2
Next up is Bo Mackison, of Seeded Earth Studio, LLC, in Madison, Wisconsin. Bo is a frequent contributor to WisconsinNative.com, writing and photographing for both the Wandering Wisconsin and Travel Green. Her photography has been featured in regional and national architectural magazines, national travel guides and in a book on Functional Architecture published in 2009.

I have only a fairly small garden, maybe four or five dozen perennials. And each spring and summer, these eagerly awaited for blooms are half eaten by the rabbits in my yard who are attracted by my gourmet floral dinners. They are particularly fond of my coral bells, sweet williams, and balloon flowers. I have taken to spraying the garden with a foul smelling concoction—organic and putrid. It reminds me of a spoiled milk, rotten egg combination, plus a few other horrible odors thrown in for good measure. It successfully keeps the rabbits away, so I can still enjoy looking at my flowers, but it totally prevents me from photographing my flowers.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I could shoot and run. Grab my camera, hold my breath, run up, and take a quick snapshot. Unfortunately, that is not my photographic style. I like to get close when photographing my flowers. Really close. I like to study the angles and natural lighting, brush off specks of dirt and remove wandering insects. More often than not, I find myself lying on the earth, looking straight up the stem of a flowering plant, trying to capture an unusual perspective. I can do none of this when the plants are saturated in “Stinky-Rabbit-Keep-Away.”

I have solved my problem with a compromise. I spray my garden so I can at least enjoy the beauty of the flowers. And then I travel a few miles down the road to a wonderful garden planted by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Horticulture. In a garden less than 2.5 acres, there are literally thousands of plants, many of them experimental, so there are many opportunities for me to look for that special blossom.

I truly have a feast of flowers to photograph, and without any assault to my nose. The garden’s tall fences do a great job of protecting the flowers and plants from hungry critters. And I can take my photographs at my leisure, sometimes spending several hours in the garden, often flat on my back, three or four days a week.

Yes, my idea of heaven on earth! Literally.

Bo Mackison
Seeded Earth Studio LLC
Madison, WI  

Blog:  http://seededearth.com

Website: http://historicplacesphotography.com

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CONTESTANT #3

And last, but not least, is CheyAnne Sexton, a talented watercolor artist and photographer from New Mexico.

Let’s see, where to start. Quite a few years ago, while I was raising our babies in a little mobile home park in the mountains west of Durango, Colorado, I started to garden. I loved this space we had been living in just because of the water available to use in the garden. The area was a canyon that ran north and south, so in the summer when it was blazing hot in the Colorado sun, my yard was in cool, wonderful shade. I loved this yard, but it was sadly very bare. Too many people had lived and moved away without caring about the earth around them.

An older woman in the neighborhood asked me to come and help in her yard and my husband agreed to watch the little ones. Her yard was overtaken with these beautiful little yellow flowers. I found out later that they were buttercups. I fell in love immediately. They had deep green leaves and bright, bright yellow cups about the size of my thumb. They spread by runners and grew short in the sunshine but longer and more leggy in the shade. Well, this woman wanted me to pull them all and throw them away. I couldn’t bare the thought of throwing these beauties out so I asked if it was alright to keep them myself. She assured me I really didn’t want to, but please help myself and please try to get them all. I had learned the hard way that it’s a lot easier to pull “weeds” if the ground is wet, so I soaked and pulled, and pulled and pulled them all. Her yard look so bare, I felt guilty, but I was so happy because I had soda cardboard flats full of these wonderful little creatures to take back to my own bare yard. Another lesson I learned quickly—It’s a lot easier to pull than plant! But plant I did, for quite a few days and still I had more left. I started giving them away to other neighbors and finally I left the couple of remaining flats lying by the strawberry bed, determined to not care if just these 40 or so remaining plants died, because I had already saved sooooo many. Even these grew from the little bit of guilty watering I did when I watered the strawberries.

These little buttercups grew everywhere I planted them and even beyond there to places out of reach. It was wonderful to watch. In fact, a few years later I dug up invading ones and sold them to a local nursery in town. Fun, fun, fun! Buttercups are still one of my favorite flowers to see. I don’t have any here in northern New Mexico and I’m not sure I will. They do like lots of water, and since we haul all our water for plantings, that amount is just not feasible right now. In fact, I have seen a similar variety growing by the acequias here. I have yet to investigate—I’m a little afraid that I would fall in love all over again with their sweet little yellow faces. I have been known to get out my trusty little foldable garden shovel for just such inspirations!

Blog: http://newmexicomtngirl.com/

Paintings and photography for sale:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmexicomtngirl/
http://www.redbubble.com/people/nmexicomtngirl
http://www.etsy.com/shop/cheyannesexton