Monarch Caterpillars – Take Two (They are bigger!!)

posted in: Fine Art | 0

Earlier I shared some macro photos of monarch caterpillars…. and since I promised to show you how much bigger they would get…. here you are!

The monarch caterpillars are definitely bigger.

A lot bigger.

Anyways, enjoy these photos. I did include the same dime in one of the photos so you could get a sense of scale. Because when you take such close up pictures… it’s hard to get a big or small a monarch caterpillar is.  And they’re definitely fatter, I will add — just like in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

monarch caterpillar macro photo taken from side, dexter mi photography
When I opened up the container, one of the caterpillars was hanging onto the tin foil lid. This guy is actually the smallest of all the caterpillars. Kind of makes me wonder if something is wrong with him, because he is definitely half the size of the other guys. Or, maybe he’s just a few days behind, growthwise. Your guess may be better than mine!
monarch caterpillar peeking over milkweed leaf, macro nature photographer dexter michigan
Oh my gosh. I seriously love this little caterpillar portrait… down to the little green thing that’s stuck to the monarch caterpillar’s antenna. So cool!
monarch caterpillar crawling on leaf. macro nature photography michigan
Here’s one of the fatter monarch caterpillars, from the side. I love hose this one shows off all those little legs. Very cool.
three monarch caterpillars on a milkweed leaf. macro photography nature michigan
Here are several of the caterpillars (we had six total in this round). It’s interesting how the stripes aren’t exactly identical. I wonder if they’re completely unique like zebra stripes?
monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaf, macro photography michigan
This monarch caterpillar was very wiggly. As soon as I set him down on the leaf for his photo, he started going places.
monarch caterpillars on milkweed, nature photography in miniature
Another one of the wiggly monarch caterpillar. He was one a mission of some kind!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, mostly eaten. michigan nature photography
This monarch caterpillar had completely eaten the milkweed leaf that he was hanging out on. Seriously, the only thing left was the stem.
monarch caterpillar eating milkweed leaf. macro photograph.
I love this photo of the caterpillar on the edge of the milkweed leaf. So cool to see the eaten part kind of curve around him!
monarch caterpillar profile view, front end
Now, which end of the monarch caterpillar do you think this is?
monarch caterpillar, profile view, back end
Here’s the other end of the caterpillar. Any guesses? It’s amazing how similar they look, right?
monarch caterpillars with us dime for sense of scale, nature photography macro
As promised, here’s a photo of the caterpillars with a dime for size comparison. Haven’t they gotten bigger since I took their photos last week?
monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf, macro nature photography dexter michigan
One final side view of the monarch caterpillars on their milkweed leaf. Notice how you can see the shadow of a second one on the leaf too?
caterpillars on milkweed leaves, caterpillar poop, macro nature photography dexter michigan
And a final photo of all (or most) of the monarch caterpillars. I took this after piling them all back in their living quarters. If you look closely, you can see caterpillar poop pellets… they look like little green pellets. Kind of interesting how much waste these guys make. Especially for kids, right?

 

I know some of you like videos. so here’s a video slideshow of the photos from both photoshoots.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  I will try to keep an eye on them so that you can see photos of them once they’ve made chrysalises.  My dad, a longtime amateur entomologist, has always dreamed of getting a time lapse video of a monarch caterpillar emerging from its chrysalis. Wouldn’t that be cool?  We’ll see if I can pull something like that off.

Anyways, I’ll leave you with one final fun fact, courtesy of my son’s monarch caterpillar book.  Did you know that monarch caterpillars born late in the season will fly directly south, instead of mating?  The ones born earlier in the summer are the ones that do the mating.  Interesting. Over and out.

Macro Portrait :: Monarch Caterpillar

posted in: Fine Art | 0

My kids love nature (woohoo! Excited parenting moment, right?)… and they are always asking if we can keep bugs or insects to “watch them” for a while.  Usually, we send the little critters back out into the wild after a brief observation period, of course.  But when it comes to Monarch caterpillars, I’m willing to make an exception.

You see, we have a friend who’s been raising Monarch caterpillars for years, so I was excited when we finally found some!  Where?  In my front garden bed, surprisingly.  The first round of caterpillars took a field trip to my son’s classroom for the entire class to enjoy watching.  Those five (no, maybe six?) caterpillars were pretty big, almost ready to make their chrysalises.

I made a mental note to check the milkweed plants a couple times later in the week, just in case we missed any.  Why?  Because my preschooler was sad about not getting to see the caterpillars.  Anyways, I happened to find six teeny tiny Monarch caterpillars. These guys would’ve been hidden really well if I didn’t know exactly which plants to search.

So, enjoy these photos.  I’ll try to take some more once they’ve grown bigger so you can get an idea of how much they grow in the caterpillar stage!

monarch caterpillar curled up on milkweed leaf
This was the biggest of the six caterpillars I found …he liked to play dead when I picked up his leaf…
monarch caterpillar next to hole in milkweed leaf
Another monarch caterpillar, next to the hole he had cruched in the milkweed leaf
Monarch caterpillars on milkweed
You can see one caterpillar on the underside of this leaf, and the shadow of another one hiding on the opposite side close by. Cool!
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf
They are so tiny, but so intricate. I loved photographing these Monarch caterpillars!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
They crawled around a little bit during their portrait session, but such is life when photographing critters.
three monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.
You can see three Monarch caterpillars in this shot. The curled up one, another on top of the leaf, and a third caterpillar on the underside of the top leaf (near the top of the photo).
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf with water drops.
I liked how the water drops looked on the milkweed leaves. That’s from my spray bottle, so they had water, by the way.
Monarch caterpillars on opposite sides of a milkweed leaf
Two of the caterpillars, one on each side of the leaf again. Thanks for bearing with all these photos…. the kids were really interested and wanted me to share these!
Monarch caterpillars hiding on milkweed leaf
Yup, another Monarch caterpillar is hiding on the backside of this leaf. That makes two…
Two Monarch caterpillars on milkweed. One larger.
This photo shows how one of the Monarch caterpillars is bigger than most of the ones I found.
monarch caterpillar near edge of milkweed leaf.
I love this photo of the Monarch caterpillar.!!!!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
The big guy decided to uncurl and hang out on a milkweed leaf, so I took a few more photos of him.
macro close up of monarch caterpillar
This is the closest macro photo I could get with my fancy camera gear… at least the stuff I had easily accessible. Not bad, not bad at all. Amazing detail on these guys!
monarch caterpillar near chewed up milkweed leaf.
One more of the biggest-small Monarch caterpillar…just because.
monarch caterpillars next to a dime (american currency) for scale
Here are two of the caterpillars next to a dime for size comparison. Seriously, they’re tiny!!
monarch caterpillar with USA dime for sense of scale
Another one of the caterpillars next to the dime…I’m not sure he would even cover the letters “LIBERTY” …it might be close!
monarch caterpillar near big hole in milkweed leaf
And right when I was starting to put the caterpillars away, one of the caterpillars crawled on the edge of the milkweed leaf, right near this huge hole. I thought it was really neat!
monarch caterpillar from the side
And finally, a profile shot of the Monarch caterpillar. In this one, you can really see how the head and back end of these caterpillars look very similar. The head is to the left of the photo. Did you get mixed up?

Motorcycle Racing Painting

posted in: Fine Art | 0

It’s interesting to see how motion is captured — whether in a photograph, or through other media.  I had fun creating this painting of a racing motorcycle (based on a photograph by Steve Sewell).  Brush strokes, whether “in real life” or digital, convey motion, impart a sense of speed.  This “quick draw” painting was completed in about an hour, give or take.  I had fun playing around with different brush strokes, but really wanted an abstract feel for the background on this one.  The brush strokes lend a sense of motion, though they are a bit rough.

motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell
Motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell

The thing about art is — you can spend hours on it.  Tweaking brush strokes, overworking details, deciding you both love and hate the painting at the same time.  Art is personal, involved. It’s not just an image, it’s about the emotion.

I could come back to this same motorcycle photograph tomorrow and end up with a completely different painting.  It’s all about the feel you’re going for in an image, how rough you want it to be, how refined.

Art is fluid, everchanging.

Art is personal.

As an aside, if you want to commission a painting from one of your own snapshots, please contact me.  I’d love to find out what styles of art interest you, the look you’re going for, and what excites you about your image.

Horse + Rider Painting (from Photograph)

posted in: Fine Art | 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Finding Time For Yourself), this year I’ve been trying to incorporate art into my daily routine.  For the most part, this has been in my sketchbook, with pen and paper.  But today, I took some time to experiment with digital painting.  This painting is based on a photograph taken by Bhakti Iyata (source: Pixabay.com).  I had a lot of fun painting digitally.  It always takes time to find a groove when working with new media, and digital is no exception.  But my goal was to capture the essence of the image, the feeling, and keep things kind of spontaneous.  Oh, and experiment with the painting process and “media” available digitally (i.e. all the fancy schmancy brushes).

digital painting of a woman riding her horse, cowgirl at a rodeo.
Painting of a woman riding her horse, based on a photograph by Bhakti Iyata (Source: Pixabay.com)

I’m liking the results, especially considering the amount of time I spent on it (maybe an hour or so of experimentation).  I’m not completely in love with the airbrush streaks on the woman’s hair and the horse’s mane, but that’s okay.  Art is a process.  The more time you spend practicing, the more you can refine your skills.

As an aside, if you have a photograph that you’d like turned into a painted art piece, please get in touch (contact Betsy).  I’d love to help talk with you about how I could create a custom art piece from one of your treasured snapshots.

Now, back to the daily art thing.  I have been pretty consistent!  Yes, I’ve taken a few days off, but other days I’ve had time to finish more than one sketch.  It’s interesting how creative inspiration strikes.

My takeaway so far from this endeavor?

  • it’s good to let your goals have fluidity.  I don’t want to be stuck doing something daily “just because” or out of obligation.  The whole purpose of this was to spend some time every day doing something for myself.
  • Don’t feel pressured.  Yes, I wanted to say “I’ve completed a drawing every day” — but realistically, I know this isn’t feasible.  Some days I’ve just done quick sketches.  Other days I’ve had time to spend an hour or two drawing.  Just do what you can, when you can.
  • It’s good to take a break.  Time off gives balance, refreshes, energizes you.  Our work week has a weekend (even though many of us don’t stop working), the creation story has a day of rest, exercise schedules incorporate “off days.”  It’s no good to be in a state of constant activity.  Rest, reflection… they’re good for the soul.
  • Include others.  Some of the days I’ve had most fun drawing were when I did collaborative sketches with my son, Toby.  It was fun to work on something together, to chat as we drew, and to have more than one creative opinion expressed in the final piece.  A note to Type A individuals — if you let a child collaboratively draw with you, set aside any expectations or need for things to go a certain way. It just won’t happen.

Am I going to continue?

Yes, probably.  Though I am not officially committing to a drawing (or painting) every day, I’d like to continue engaging the creative portion of my brain daily.  It’s really interesting how much that overflows to the rest of my daily routine.

In a nutshell… find time to do what you love on a regular basis, even if you have to make major changes to your definition of that activity.  Five minutes drawing.  Reading one chapter of a book.  Taking a five minute walk.  Playing games as a family once a month.

Whatever it is that energizes and inspires you, make it something you can realistically do.

Finding Time For Yourself

posted in: Fine Art | 1

With all the directions we’re being pulled in, it can be tough to carve out time for yourself!  Like me, I’m sure you wear many hats — perhaps including things like business owner, household manager, kid wrangler, laundry sergeant, extracurricular activity planner, ….the list goes on.

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Drawings and sketches in 2016, created by Betsy Finn. (Disclaimer: These are photographed with my phone… so I can share them daily!!!)

Posted by Betsy Finn on Sunday, January 3, 2016

Let’s face it. Our schedules are busy.  Life is busy.  And nothing we can do will make it seem any less busy.

Well, that’s not quite true.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve done one thing daily that has helped me feel like I’m treating myself.  I’ve opened my sketchbook and spent time drawing.  

For me, there is nothing more relaxing than the act of creating something.  

Whether it is a photograph, a drawing, a sculpture, …heck, even artisan bread… the process of creation is what leaves me feeling inspired, relaxed, and joyful.

Some days I haven’t been inspired, but once I forced myself to get started, that feeling was replaced by contentment.  It’s fun for me.

I have to admit I have a few ulterior motives behind the lofty goal I have unofficially set for myself. 

My not-official-goal?   Drawing every day — ideally finishing a new drawing each day.  

You see, I am a perfectionist by nature, and there’s a tipping point for me when I’m creating.  At some point, I usually reach a spot where I’m “afraid” to go on — a gnawing concern that if I do any more, I might “wreck” it.  Of course I know better than that little voice inside my head, but still, it is tempting to just stop and call it quits.  

And that’s the point where I have been forcing myself to continue on.  For better or worse, I’ve been forging ahead and finishing drawings that, several years ago, I would have left in sketch form.  

I have to say, it’s really exciting. Liberating. Not perfect, but hey, life isn’t perfect.  I don’t need my drawings to be either.

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By drawing daily, I’m doing something for myself — I’m helping myself to get past that mental roadblock.

And it’s amazing how once one roadblock comes down, others start to fall too.

You see, that whole thing about not having enough time for yourself?

It’s a myth.

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You can have time — you just have to make time.

Whether it’s an hour or five minutes, you owe it to yourself to do something for yourself regularly. Do you love to read?  Try to read a chapter every day — or even just a paragraph!  Or maybe you like to do something that can’t realistically be done on a daily basis.  Make time weekly.  By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to take better care of others, to better fulfill your obligations.

Maybe you owe it to yourself to set a consistent bedtime, or to go for a walk every morning.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or anything creative.  But find something you can do consistently and regularly.  Something that you enjoy.

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Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming ways you can take care of yourself:

  1. Start a thankfulness journal and write 5 things you are thankful
  2. Draw in a sketchbook
  3. Work your way through a book by reading a paragraph or chapter
  4. Go for a walk every morning, or after dinner
  5. Spend 10 minutes playing wholeheartedly with your kids
  6. Turn off your phone and just relax/meditate/think for five minutes
  7. Listen to your favorite music for 10 minutes
  8. Take a break from sitting at your desk — stand up and stretch!
  9. Subscribe to a daily podcast and listen to it
  10. Complete a scrapbook page
  11. Do a daily crossword puzzle
  12. Try to finish a brainteaser or sudoku puzzle
  13. Play cards (solitaire, etc) by yourself
  14. Take a shower or bubble bath
  15. Take a break after putting the kids to bed — the dishes can wait a few minutes
  16. Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  17. Take a power nap
  18. Just take a breather… a single deep breath in, followed by a deep exhalation
  19. Make a cup of coffee or tea for yourself (and sit while you enjoy it)
  20. Think about all the things in your life you appreciate

See, the things you can do to take care of yourself are so variable.  It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, either.

Just make time for yourself.

Seriously.

You deserve it.

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If you have any tips about making time for yourself, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!  What are some ways you make sure to take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, or otherwise?  What helps you keep a positive outlook on life?

 

Mürren, Switzerland – Neighborhoods Around the World

posted in: Fine Art | 2

Switzerland's Murren - Part of a virtual visit to neighborhoods around the world - BPhotoArt.comThere’s something about traveling, about seeing things beyond your backyard.  As technology continues to advance, the world continues to grow smaller and smaller.  My kids have the world at their fingertips, literally.  Through the web, you can learn about and experience things like never before.  Pictures, videos, live feeds… technology serves up the world on a platter.

I have fond memories of visiting Mürren, a village in Switzerland, when younger.  So that’s what I’m going to share with you today.  These images are not only a virtual visit across the Atlantic, but travel back in time.  When I visited Mürren, it was a car-free village, as were most of the mountainside towns and villages.  It took us 24 hours of travel to arrive in Mürren from the Zurich, the capital of Switzerland. You can’t drive to Mürren, but have to travel by funicular up the mountainside (or hike it on foot).  There are also cable cars that get you up and down the mountain.

The funicular is a mountainside train that travels up and down the mountainside.  There are actually two cars — they counterbalance each other, so one always travels up the track as the other travels down an adjacent track.  It’s fun for kids to watch for the other car and wave at the other passengers as they cross paths mid-way up the mountainside.

We would travel to Lauterbrunnen by train, then up in the funicular to Grutschalp.  From there we would take a smaller train past Winteregg to Mürren, the end of the line.  My grandparents always enjoyed staying at the Hotel Eiger, which overlooked the station.

We would spend our days exploring the countryside around Mürren… the Blumenthal valley was always a popular excursion — we would stop for lunch at the Suppen Alp, a restaurant in the middle of the valley. We also enjoyed visiting the top of the Schilthorn by cable car, where the revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, is located.  You might be familiar with it, as it was featured in the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Show me your neighbourhood around the worldThis post is part of the Neighborhoods Around the World tour, hosted by The Piri-Piri Lexicon. Make sure to check out other neighborhoods around the world!

Nature Art: An Exercise in Process Art

posted in: Fine Art | 4

To say that my son loves Dinosaur Train (#afflink) is an understatement. He is nuts about the show. Probably in part because it’s one of the few times he gets screen time (we allow him to watch sports games now and then too). Anyways, on one of the recent episodes of Dinosaur Train, the dinosaur kids discover the fun of making nature art. It’s a process art, transient arrangement of objects found in nature, created with the intent of it being changed by the elements.

Nature Art - Process Art - Betsy's Photography

The process art movement began in the 1960s.  Process art, as defined by the Tate (a really neat art museum in the UK):

Art in which the process of its making is not hidden but remains a prominent aspect of the completed work, so that a part or even the whole of its subject is the making of the work.

I love this concept, that the process of creating is as important, if not more important, than the final product.  Process art is transient, ever-changing, influenced by its environment.  When the dinosaur kids make nature art, they’re experimenting with process art.  So, back to the storyline.

The Dinosaur Train episode starts off with their mom cleaning out the nest and making a case for getting rid of a bunch of “toys” the kids don’t use anymore (leaves, stones, etc). The kids, of course, don’t want to part with their beloved things. Over the course of the episode, the kids learn about nature art from some friends, and ultimately repurpose all their old “toys” into a nature art installment that can be seen from their nest.

“Mrs. Pteranodon cleans out the clutter from the family nest and the kids are amazed at the pile of stuff – leaves, flower petals, pieces of wood, and shells. Tiny stops Mom from throwing out all the stuff, determined that she and Buddy, Tiny, and Don will find a use for it all.” – Synopsis from Dinosaur Train, Episode 27, Season 6 #afflink

After the show wrapped up, I asked Toby if he’d like to make nature art sometime. I heard a resounding “yes!” in reply. So, the next day we went outside to find some things for making nature art. Because it’s supposed to be changed by the elements, and even blow away, we had to use something found in nature (rather than our old toys, which get donated — more eco-friendly).

We gathered some seed pods from the kale plant in our garden, some clover blossoms, a dried up chive blossom, buds from a thistle plant, a dill flower, and a few rocks. I originally planned on having Toby make nature art in a container at our counter, but as we explored the items harvested from our yard, I realized that seeds were going to end up everywhere.

We took a few moments to save some kale seeds and chive seeds for next year’s garden, and then I directed Toby out onto our deck with his bin. He had a blast playing with the items in it, arranging them, running around, you name it. Someone was in a silly mood and tried to destroy his nature art before I could photograph it, but I managed to sneak a couple pictures of it anyways.

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We sealed up the container, brought it back inside for later — only to find that that wasn’t such a great idea. When Toby opened it up to show Daddy his nature art, my poor husband got an allergy-inducing whiff of the pollen etc. So after that, we put the nature art items outside on Toby’s picnic table, so he could watch them get rained on and blow away.

I love the concept of nature art, and appreciate the fact that we can document these transient creations through photographs. The ever-changing aspect of nature art was helpful for my toddler in his comprehension of how things always change, and how we have to learn to accept change as it happens to us (or the things we make).

Click on any image below to view in gallery mode.

Nothing is perfect. Things unfold with a mind of their own. It’s our job to find contentment as we journey through life.

Nature Art + Process Art Resources

Some other resources and ideas for nature and process art (links will open in a new window):

Plein Air Paintings – Paint Dexter 2014

posted in: Fine Art | 6

This past week was pretty busy!  I enjoyed participating in the second annual Paint Dexter Plein Air festival (see my paintings from last year).  This time I didn’t paint solo though — I had a entourage with me (both boys, and grandma).  My newborn slept, my toddler painted for a bit with grandma, then both enjoyed the outdoors while I kept working.  Due to the weather, we didn’t go out to paint the first two days (while I wouldn’t have minded painting in the rain, I didn’t want to bring the kiddos along to get soaked).

So, I had two days to complete my two plein air paintings for the festival.  Plus a third painting that was part of the “Quick Draw” event — but, honestly, they all felt like quick draws to me!  I enjoyed painting so spontaneously, not really worrying about minute details, and rather going for an artistic representation.  Although, I will say, these pieces were a little more realistic than the abstract style I’d briefly entertained using.

Day One – Painting a Caterpillar En Plein Air

We went to one of the Dexter metroparks and while I was deciding what scenery to paint, I found a curious little caterpillar.  He had crawled onto my painting supply bag.  I gently helped him onto a branch, and proceeded to paint him as the subject for the first day.  I really had fun with this piece.  The green background did start out as abstract circles, but then I melded the colors together.  I felt like a kid for a bit while I was flicking drops of paint onto the paper — so freeing to make a mess outdoors (no cleanup!).  And finally, the fuzzy white hairs of the caterpillar — sticking out every which way — were enjoyable to create too.  Can you tell I had fun on this day?

"Caterpillar" - 9"x12" watercolor - $350
“Caterpillar” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

Day Two – Plein Air Painting at Night

The evening after painting the caterpillar, I saw a most fantastic view out my son’s bedroom window.  The moon was gorgeous, surrounded by ever changing clouds.  I decided it would be fun to paint a night scene — and so I did!  It was fun to use so much black in a painting (as an aside, my son would agree – his favorite color to paint with is currently black).  The dark colors were a bit challenging too, as watercolors aren’t usually so low-key in nature.  I ended up adding in our grass in the foreground, taking a low vantage point rather than including the lake and the trees on the horizon, which were all but silhouettes against the city glow of Ann Arbor in the distance.  I enjoyed seeing my painted clouds shape themselves and change as I added layers of paint, ever shifting just as the real clouds do.

"Moon at Night" - 9"x12" watercolor - $350
“Moon at Night” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

Day Three – Quick Draw Painting

The final day of painting was the actual Quick Draw event.  I had three hours to complete this final piece — not too stressful, as the other two pieces were completed in that timeframe.  Such is the life of an artist who happens to be a mother.  Especially to little ones — time is precious, and all too fleeting!  After going downtown Dexter to register, I returned home to set up shop.  Grandma played with my toddler in our yard so he could be near mommy (someone likes to watch me paint).  I sat out on our deck, accompanied by a sleeping baby, painting the lovely view of our trees.

I have to admit, working under a three hour time constraint turned out to be a little stressful.  Some of my experimentation while painting did NOT turn out as planned, and I had to backtrack a couple times.  I think it turned out for the better, in the end, of course.  But I definitely could have worked longer on this piece, as I was originally envisioning much more detail in the final painting.

"Trees" - 9"x12" watercolor - $500
“Trees” – 9″x12″ watercolor – $350

So, there you have it.  My three plein air paintings from this year’s Paint Dexter event.  I enjoyed participating.  It will be interesting to see the other paintings that were created this week — all are on display in Monument Park until Saturday afternoon — for sale by silent auction (or “buy it now” price).

Thoughts on Painting and Creativity

I wish I painted more often.  Every time I paint, I tell myself that.  But then life happens.

This time, I am going to try and make sure I get my hands on a paintbrush again soon.  Painting is so soothing, relaxing, inspiring.  Especially when I allow myself the freedom to experiment and play, rather than trying to adhere to “what should be.”

Because, let’s face it, part of art is breaking the rules.

Of course, you have to learn and master the rules before you break them.  Or so they say.

 

Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival

posted in: Fine Art | 4

There is nothing like getting outdoors into nature for reviving your creative spirit.  And to that end, I wanted to share my paintings of Dexter landmarks from last year’s Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival.  This year’s festival is coming up, and I’m planning to participate again.  With kids in tow, of course, since I enjoy a challenge.  I think Toby will have fun painting — that’s what he did last year; and maybe Zack will nap, since that’s what newborns do so much of the time.

Anyways, here is the first painting from my first Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival.  It’s of downtown Dexter’s clock on Main Street.  I enjoyed painting this piece with watercolor paints “en plein air” (that’s French for in open air).  I have to admit, I was a little flattered when passersby stopped to converse with me and sneak a peek at my work of art in progress.  I spent several hours on this piece over the course of two days.

"Dexter's Clock" - watercolor on 9"x12" cold-pressed paper
“Dexter’s Clock” – watercolor on 9″x12″ cold-pressed paper. ($350)

My next painting, also a watercolor, was of Gordon Hall, a historic building in Dexter.  I’ve done numerous portraits here over the years, so picking this site for one of my paintings was a no-brainer.  My older son, Toby, accompanied me on one of the two days I worked on this painting, along with Grandma.  While I painted, we had a picnic meal; Toby also did some painting of his own too.

"Gordon Hall" - watercolor on 12"x9" cold-pressed paper. ($350)
“Gordon Hall” – watercolor on 12″x9″ cold-pressed paper. ($350)

I’m looking forward to this year’s Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival, and plan on continuing the mother-son painting tradition begun last year.  There’s also a sidewalk chalk event for kids this year, which we may attend too.  Here’s a

Here are some pictures — the ones of me are courtesy of my mom, taken on the ever handy cell phone.

For more information about the Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival, visit the Village of Dexter website, or check it out the Paint Dexter Facebook page.

Independence Day – Fireworks

posted in: Fine Art | 2

Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate Independence Day, I’m sharing a photo from my archives — it’s of an Independence Day fireworks display that was done in conjunction with an orchestral concert (post-ballgame). Sadly, I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that the fireworks were lovely, and the music was too.

It’s always interesting to pull out old photographs like this and look at them. I find myself smiling at how digital art techniques have improved over the years, how something that was new and cutting edge 15 years ago is now quite dated and elementary. Regardless, here’s a throwback from years ago:

Independence Day - Cotton Candy + Fireworks - BPhotoArt.com

And then, I figured a poem was in order to celebrate Independence Day… so here you are!

Independence Day

A day steeped in history,
the celebration of our nation
and our freedom to pursue
life as we deem fit.

A day whose meaning is
overshadowed by fireworks,
forgotten except as a vacation.

Do we remember our roots?
Is our past forgotten?
Our independence came at a price.
Let us never forget that fact.

Patriotic Crafts + Such

If you’re looking for some patriotic crafts to do with your children to celebrate today, check out this Patriotic Artwork Activity for Kids, or Patriotic Painting (Outdoor Fun).

You may also like this post on dealing with sensitive kids and fireworks — one of my tips is featured there.

Knitting – A Lost Art

posted in: Fine Art | 33

One of my (many) hobbies is knitting. I enjoy the repetition, the act of creating something delicate and utilitarian from practically nothing, and the fact that a work in progress can be easily toted along to keep my hands busy while in waiting rooms or the like. Plus, there are no batteries involved, nothing needs recharging, and there is no need to search for a wifi signal.

It’s interesting to recall the comments I’ve heard in regards to this hobby. I’ve been complimented by older women for my ability to create something so delicate as it’s “not common” anymore… and I’ve heard moms explain to their toddlers: “she’s knitting, like Nana does.” It’s also interesting to note how while my fingers are engaged in knitting, I’m free to observe and listen whatever unfolds around me.

While “engrossed” in my knitting, I notice a lot of people hypnotized by smartphone screens. There are always moms messaging and skimming Facebook or Pinterest posts while their kid is swimming in the class next to my child. And I wonder — what happened to being content with where you are, when you are? Sometimes I do set down my knitting, pause what I’m doing, to make sure I’m not accidentally taking myself away from where I’m at — but in general, even though I look busy, my mind is actually engaged with what’s going on around me.

Here’s my latest project – a lace wrap I test-knit for the Wearable Art Emporium (Linda has some lovely patterns — if you are into knitting, I suggest you check her stuff out). Skim a little further down this post for more images of the wrap, my poem, “A Lost Art,” and my Pinterest board for all things related to crochet + knitting.

knit lace wrap - leaves garden

A Lost Art

My needles click calmly as I knit
click, click, click, click…
a calming metallic repetition
that reminds my son of
a train engine on the tracks.

On resting rows, my needles fly
faster than fast — purling incessantly.
Then I return to the right side,
begin again the intricate pattern.
The clicking needles slow
to a pace that is calmer and more deliberate.

Don’t drop a stitch, don’t skip a row.
Aside from following my pattern,
my mind is free to wander —
to be otherwise engaged
while my fingers keep busy
passing yarn over needles, again and again.

The repetition is calming, even peaceful.
My stress melts away in the calming
process of creating something
from a simple skein of yarn.

My project takes shape slowly,
even I am unsure how it will turn out
until it is finished.

In this age of technology, my mind delights
in something so simple, so tactile and physical.
I am joined to generations past through
my knitting as I keep a forgotten skill alive.
This lost art is intriguing, ever challenging.
Each new project both challenges and calms me.

My low-tech creative outlet may seem
antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary,
but it brings me relaxation, inspiration —
provides an escape from this high-stress,
fast-paced world in which we live.

knit lace wrap - leaves garden

Knitting and Crochet Resources

Here are a few resources for you if you’re interested in learning to knit or crochet. Or if you just want to be inspired for your next project. Links below will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Crochet + Knitting on Pinterest.

What About You?

Do you have any favorite patterns or projects to share? Do you prefer to knit or crochet? Or, have you always wanted to learn? I’ve shared photos of a really complicated pattern here, but many projects are quite easy and good for beginners — such as scarves, dishcloths, and even granny squares. What are your favorite projects for beginners?

Contentment in the Journey – Poem

posted in: Fine Art | 19

This past week I’ve been thinking about the unpredictable nature of life. How things can take a turn at any moment, how we need to count our blessings, and look for them — even though sometimes it can be like finding a needle in the haystack.

Contentment in the Journey

Morning comes
The day breaks
Another day dawns.
Life goes on,
whether we want it to
…or not.
Being in control
is a joke, impossible.
Life’s circumstances
are unpredictable
ever-changing
always surprising.
We make the choice to
fix our eyes on the goal
before us…
…or get sucked into
the quicksand of
life’s troubles
surrounding us.
Life will never be free
from difficulty.
But we can choose
to find contentment
in the journey.

Pink Hued Sunrise

The image above is from a morning this spring (yes, we still had snow). We were blessed with a vivid pink sunrise over the lake. As the evening receded and the sun’s rising approached, deep purple and vivid pink hues were muted into orange and yellow tones. The moment was gone quickly, even as we enjoyed the lovely colors.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

Sometimes morning’s coming seems to take forever; other times morning comes far too quickly. And with the night usually comes silence. Silence can be overpowering, overwhelming, and even frightening. It is in the silence that we are forced to deal with our own fears, thoughts, and worries. The hustle bustle of our days allows us to shut out these things, to put off dealing with them until later.

And the morning comes, whether we want it to or not.

Are we ever content with being in the moment? Willing to accept the reality of our present circumstances, whether they be joyful, grief-stricken, or even filled with apathy? I’ve known some strong people in my life. It has always struck me, how, even during their times of trial, they are looking outward towards the needs of others rather than inward towards their circumstances.

Resources on Contentment + Sunrises

Here are some resources on contentment and sunrises. That sounds like such a random assortment, my apologies — but I found some neat activities related to contentment and sunrises. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Contentment Resources for Adults

For Parents: Teaching Contentment

For Kids: Learning About Contentment + Sunrises

How Do You Find Contentment?

What about you? How do you deal with adversity, loss, or hardship? Do you think it’s possible to find contentment in the face of adversity? Sometimes it feels impossible to find peace in the middle of life’s trials. What do you do to help cope?

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. – unknown

Metallic Intersections

posted in: Fine Art | 7

Sometimes words escape me. Poetry seems to better convey the nuances of art, but still falls short. As adults, we look at the world through defined terms, we compartmentalize and limit our understanding of the world around us. Children on the other hand, are free from preconception, and don’t have to think inside the box. They create order and define the world around them in terms of what they know, the vocabulary they have on hand.

My son recently had his first vision test, and got to identify shapes: square, circle, apple/heart(?), house. His version: Knox, letter “o”, heart, house. Once he understood the nurse wanted him to say square, he refined his answer to fit the mold. But honestly, I enjoyed the creativity in his first answer. Knox is the name of the church we attend — and a church is a building. Hence, a square.

And what of these photographs I’m about to share? Trying to think like a toddler, I imagined these lines to be intersections, roads for cars to travel, a way to get where you’re going. And finally I was able to gather some words to creatively describe these metallic intersections:

Like little roads,
metallic highways
intersect haphazardly.
Circling, crisscrossing,
the lines travel ever onward.

What is it? I’ll let you know at the end of the post (along with some related kid activity resources). But for now, take a peek at this series of images.

fine art abstraction curved lines

fine art abstraction - curved lines

So, what is this macro photograph of? It’s something you’ve probably used on many occasions. Found in most homes. In the kitchen, to be precise.

Any last guesses?

fine art abstraction - curved lines

It’s a common kitchen whisk.

(Kid-Friendly) Resources On Using Kitchen Utensils

My son loves to help in the kitchen! When working on a puzzle the other day, he corrected my mother: “That’s not a chef, that’s a cook!” Whether he’s pretending to help or actually contributing, I hope to continue cultivating our son’s love of the culinary arts as he grows. As promised, here are some resources on using whisks and other kitchen utensils in creative non-traditional ways… and some more typical ways as well. The links will open in a new window for your convenience.

fine art abstraction - curved lines

Want to see other Fine Art Abstractions?

Fern – Macro Fine Art Photography

posted in: Fine Art | 52

Every now and again I like to challenge myself to create fine art photography pieces from the everyday, the ordinary. We have a fern in our kitchen that could use a little TLC now and then. In the hustle and bustle of everyday happenings, it doesn’t always get watered ;). Despite the lack of consistent nurture and care, it still survives (for now, at least).

Sometimes the detail is in the little things.

If you have any plants in your home, have you ever looked up close at them? Take this fern, for example. The patterns and repetition, the symmetry and color. Nature is full of art waiting to be discovered, things waiting to be photographed. It just takes the right eye to appreciate what’s already there …and to create a fine art interpretation to be enjoyed by others.

Fern - Plant Macro Fine Art Photography

I love looking at things like this fern from different angles. It always amazes me how a slight change in perspective can make a subject change so drastically. The gentle leaves become spiky points, the shadows deepen and darken, turning murky black. light and shadow are constantly at play with one another. Leading lines draw me into yet another fine art image, waiting to be captured on “film.”

Fern - Plant Macro Fine Art Photography

And then the fern becomes familiar, symmetric, again. With the soft light, the sharpness is gone.

Fern - Plant Macro Fine Art Photography

What is Fine Art Photography?

“But Betsy,” you ask, “what is fine art photography?” Well, that will vary depending on who you ask. Maybe fine art photography means landscape photographs or plant photographs to one person, but to another, that doesn’t qualify. Fine Art is really a tricky thing to define, because it is subjective by nature. Here’s how Wikipedia (I know, not the ultimate authority by any means) defines fine art photography:

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. (Wikipedia: Fine Art Photography)

Basically, fine art photography is everything that is NOT commercial, photojournalistic, or documentary in nature. Fine art photography is not intended to be an objective representation, but a subjective representation, of reality.

Macro Fine Art Photography Tips

Look for the detail in the ordinary, the normal. Look for repetition, for design elements that are intriguing. Look for patterns in light and dark. It’s all about abstracting something known, something ordinary, into the extraordinary.

So far as cameras go, most point and shoots these days have macro photography or fine art photography settings of some sort. While your results may vary, I challenge you to give macro fine art photography a try next time you pick up your camera. Consider it an exercise in creativity. You’ll find yourself looking for fine art photography moments in the ordinary, the mundane.

Yes, it’s challenging, both from a technical standpoint and from a creative standpoint. But by simply experimenting with the creativity aspect, I bet you’ll be able to find more wonder in your everyday life. More fine art than you expect. It’s there, in your home, outside your front door, waiting to be appreciated and enjoyed.

The Making of “Uphill Battle”

posted in: Fine Art | 19

Over the next few months, I thought I would feature the stories behind some of my award-winning photographs. This one, titled “Uphill Battle,” was accepted into 2007 PPA International Print Exhibition.

Uphill Battle - Award-Winning Fine Art Photograph

The Making of “Uphill Battle”

This photograph looks like a well planned still life, but sometimes with a good eye, you can find nature photographs that have been arranged for you. Uphill Battle was one such fine art photograph. While in Arizona, visiting my grandparents, I was having a lovely time being outdoors in the warmth, searching for suitable subjects to photograph. After all, during the winter months, who doesn’t want to escape from the snow here in Michigan (once in a while)? Now, granted, my reasons for being in Arizona were more somber – my grandfather’s body was ridden with cancer, and he was in hospice. Shortly after our return, my grandfather passed away (his memorium). This image serves as a reminder of that for me. In fact, my grandfather was one of the people who inspired me to pursue photography, first as a hobby, then as a profession. I’ve shared a candid photo of him below.

Major McKinley AshAnyways, as dusk neared, this grasshopper was resting on one of the plants near my grandparents’ home. The background of this photograph, which I love the texture of, by the way, is simply the block fence in their backyard. Nothing spectacular, but with a creative eye and some on-the-fly planning, it serves as a vital element of the image.

Determination

“Uphill Battle” was given its name because, well, let’s face it. Sometimes life is tough. For people, for a grasshopper — it doesn’t matter. In this photograph, he is hanging onto a plant, resting before he resumes his efforts to survive. Life is a battle, and often it seems uphill. Often the challenges seem insurmountable. I’ve been at points in my life where I feel like there is too much on my plate to handle. Fortunately, grace gives me the strength to carry on. Life’s obstacles are a given, we can’t escape the rough spots. But, we can count on them to test us, to challenge us, to make us grow.

Throughout history, mankind has had a tenacity to hold on, to perservere.  Offhand, I can think of two similar proverbs that address this.  

  • “Fall down seven, get up eight,” – Japanese Proverb
  • “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” – Proverbs 24:16

No matter what, keep trying.  Never give up. Life isn’t a piece of cake. It is, more often than not, an uphill battle. And I’m so grateful to have wonderful people in my life to support me through the tough times. My husband. My parents and in-laws. My family. My friends. And last, but not least, my faith. Everyone has their way of dealing with life’s uphill battles — and everyone who is determined to not give up will find themselves a stronger person for it.

Sundog Rainbow Sunrise

posted in: Fine Art | 11

My son loves rainbows, so when we saw this sundog rainbow the other day, it kept his attention for quite some time. His room faces East, so most mornings he is able to enjoy the sunrise… Because, as most toddlers are, he is often up before the day dawns.

Nature's sundog Rainbow Sunrise Landscape Photography

Sundog – Rainbow – Sunrise?

Is this really an uncommon occurance? If you aren’t familiar with sundogs, I’ll share some weather links at the end of this post. But, to summarize, they are an iridescent shine, or rainbow, seen to the left and right of the sun, formed from clouds which are heavy with ice crystals. In short, it’s typically a winter rainbow, if you want to oversimplify things.

Why do we find rainbows so interesting, after all? Well, there’s the story of Noah’s Ark, with the rainbow being a promise. There’s the science behind the natural phenomenon of a rainbow (sunrise though?). And the sun rising signals a new day, a fresh start, the return of warmth (usually).

And here is a close up view of the sundog (rainbow sunrise). Not really all that spectacular, so far as a full-blown sundog rainbow goes, but rainbows without rain, during winter, aren’t all that common so I’m giving myself a little leeway to be excited along with my toddler. There’s something about immersing yourself in their world that makes things suddenly seem infinitely more interesting.

Sundog Rainbow Sunrise Landscape Photography

Winter Sunrises

Aren’t winter sunrises inspiring, even without a sundog rainbow? Since my toddler started waking before the late winter dawn, I’ve grown more fond of seeing the sun’s rays slowly rise over the earth fill the day with warmth and brightness. Well, at least the perception of warmth, huh.

Here is a view of the sunrise through the trees on this cold morning. I love how frost coats the branches on mornings like this. At the same time, I’m glad my morning commute only involves a couple flights of stairs, and doesn’t require venturing outside. I think it was single digits, temperature-wise.

Nature Sunrise Landscape Photography

Finally, the sunrise on the snow. Almost looks like an artic nature scene rather than something in our backyard. Nature photography really reminds me to see the beauty in everyday things, the ordinary miracles that get passed over during the rush to get everything done.

Sunrise on Snow Nature Photography

Sundog Rainbow Phenomenon

So, is it really a sundog rainbow, or even a rainbow? Here are some weather links to explain the sundog (rainbow) phenomenon, which doesn’t always look like a rainbow, but sometimes just like a bright sun spot, or second sun.

Have you had the opportunity to experience a sundog “rainbow”? I’ve seen a number of them, usually during the winter when it is very cold, and usually during the morning. I hear that if the moon shines brightly enough during the right weather conditions, there is even a rare chance to see a moondog. Pretty neat.

Backyard Wildlife | Nature Photography

posted in: Fine Art | 5

Even in the cold weather… it’s still good to get outdoors.  We’ve been enjoying the bountiful wildlife-watching opportunities (and corresponding opportunities for nature photography).  There is a herd of deer that likes to frequent our neighborhood.  I believe one count yielded a total of 12 deer, but quite frankly they move around so much we could be off by a couple.  Interestingly, some of the deer will run out across the lake (seeing that it’s frozen) rather than walking the “long way” around.  Where one goes, the others follow.  This particular evening, we had deer galavanting all over the lake, our backyard, you name it.  This nature photography shot is a combination landscape and wildlife scene… love the beginnings of a pink sunset.
bphotoart-IMG_4811

And then came the turkeys.  Or maybe they preceded the deer.  Too much backyard wildlife to keep my story straight, I guess.  Nature is really quite interesting to observe.  These are two of the (usually) 6 turkeys that walk from the stand of trees in the photograph, through our backyard, and that of our neighbors, before heading back into “nature.”  Sometimes we’ll see them twice in one day.  And if you’re not familiar with turkeys, do know that they have quite long legs.  The snow in the photograph below comes almost midway up their gangly legs (taken through a particularly dense window screen; my apologies… one of the downfalls of nature photography taken from indoors).

bphotoart-IMG_4748


I sometimes wonder how much of this wildlife activity I would notice, in my own backyard nature sanctuary, if I didn’t have a toddler around the house.  We enjoy pointing the wildlife out to each other and then spending a good 5-10 minutes watching their antics as they promenade through our backyard and the neighborhood.  The love of nature photography is apparently something I’ve passed onto our son; as he enjoys pretending to “flash” pictures with his cool kidnoculars (affiliate link disclosure), which are neat toddler-sized binoculars (see image to right) he got for Christmas.

Wildlife + Nature Photography Tip:

Patience is key.  While my toddler may enjoy “scaring” the animals from time to time, you need to be quiet and still if you want to effectively watch nature unfold — even if you’re indoors.  Animals have really good hearing, and they are especially sensitive to movement.  So, if it’s evening and you have the lights on in your house, don’t be surprised if you scare them off by dashing to the window to see your backyard wildlife.  A safer bet would be to turn off the lights…or move very slowly.  Pretend you’re stalking the wildlife (well, you are…but in this case, it’s to observe or photograph the animals).

On Pomegranates and Waiting…

posted in: Fine Art | 2

Toby and I recently spent an afternoon dissecting a pomegranate given to us as part of a fruit basket. It’d been so long since I have had one, I had to look online for how to cut a pomegranate. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I ever have. My toddler was thrilled to watch the process, and excited to chomp down on the tiny pomegranate seeds as I put little handfuls on his plate; he reluctantly agreed we should save some for Daddy.

bphotoart-IMG_4786 Read More

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