A fine art photograph by Dexter Michigan photographer Betsy Finn has been included in a local spring art exhibit. The photograph, titled “Jerusalem of Gold,” was taken at sunrise on Easter Sunday. Finn and her traveling companions arrived at the scenic viewpoint on the Mount of Olives before dawn on the day she created this photograph. As the sun rose, Finn captured a series of images, and ultimately blended them together to create a breathtaking panoramic view of Jerusalem. The fine art print is approximately 8″ tall by 40″ long.
The spring art exhibit in which Finn’s work is featured is one of three yearly juried shows put on by the Ann Arbor Women Artists, a local non-profit group with about 330+ members. Finn was one of 35 members whose art was chosen to be included in the spring exhibit, which runs March 13 through April 29th at the Mallets Creek Library in Ann Arbor.
Below are two images from the opening reception, held the evening of Friday, March 18th at the Mallets Creek Branch of the Ann Arbor Public Library.
The spring art exhibit will be on display at the Mallets Creek Library in Ann Arbor through April 29th. We hope you will consider stopping by to view the many wonderful artworks on display. Many of the art pieces on display, including Finn’s panorama, “Jerusalem of Gold,” are for sale, so if you’re looking to add some art by local artists to your fine art collection, this might be the perfect opportunity to view a variety of pieces.
There’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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
One of the perks about our nice weather? Being able to spend time outdoors without bundling up! I love being able to get outdoors, but especially if the sun is shining and it’s not too warm or too cold. We did a combination walk/bike excursion at the park, which worked …except my son is pretty quick on his balance bike. Next time, I may consider bringing along my bike so I can do a better job of keeping up!
All the photographs in this post were taken at the Mill Creek Park in Dexter, Michigan. It’s been fun to see the improvements and changes that have taken place over the past several years. The park has also undergone a name change — it used to be Warrior Creek Park. The dam was removed to allow for a return to more natural creek conditions, and a pedestrian bridge was created to connect the park, via about 5 miles of trail, to Hudson Mills park. A stairway (with bike ramp!) now allows visitors to get from the park up to Alpine street (where the Library and Farmer’s Market are located). There are also boat launches for kayaks/canoes.
We haven’t gone the full length of the trail yet, maybe halfway — but it really has been nice to use the wide trails and boardwalks for getting outdoors. Here are some photographs of our park excursion. On this particular day, we also ventured to “downtown” Dexter as my toddler wanted to go up the ramp/pathway when we were on our way up to the library for storytime.
Fortunately I had allotted enough time for the scenic detour (usually we use the stairs right next to the libary). In the images below, you’ll also find we stopped at the playground — long enough to go down the slide, have mama give an “underdog” or two on the swing, and find a prize pine cone that later accompanied us home.
In case I haven’t made it obvious, I really love being outdoors. It was so fun to identify birds, their songs, look for fish and frogs, and read some of the new informational signs that were placed in the park when it was updated. So, anyways, make sure to check out the images a little further on (click on any image to open in gallery mode).
Portraits at Mill Creek Park in Dexter
Dexter’s Mill Creek Park is also great for portraits! I have enjoyed creating family photos, high school senior pictures, and portraits of toddlers all in various areas of this park. Here are some favorites from a few sessions to give you an idea of what we’ve done in the past. Make sure to check out one senior portrait in particular; it will show you what the park looked like prior to the construction of the pedestrian bridge!
Mill Creek Park Scenes and Snapshots
And back to our park excursion photographs… here are more images of Mill Creek Park, the boardwalk, and our fun in the sun on a wonderful spring day!
By the way, my son loves his fireman balance bike (afflink). The balance bike is adjustable in height and has allowed him to really get the hang of balancing, gliding, and steering — all while zooming. It’s amazing to see the difference when we bring out a tricycle or other “vehicle” with pedals. Those pedals have been a source of frustration, whereas the balance bike is natural and freeing. Based on what success my friends have had with their kids and balance bikes, I anticipate an eventual smooth transition to a 2 wheel bike (with pedals) down the road, skipping training wheels completely!
Articles About Mill Creek Park
Here are some articles about Mill Creek Park — detailing the different stages of contruction, and the official Dexter Parks page. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.
Do you have any favorite activities when you go to the park? It seems like we always visit the playground, and we usually have at least the balance bike with us. On one trip to Mill Creek Park, we were blessed with an unexpected friendship when we met another mama! What’s your favorite part of being outdoors? Is it the wildlife? The scenery? The people you’re with? Do you have a favorite memory at a particular park?
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.
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).
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).
I love nature. And last summer we were able to take a trip to Mackinac Island as a family. By that, I don’t mean just the three of us, but also my parents, my brother, and his wife. We had a lovely time, and Toby appreciated the break from being in a carseat for the week. While we were there, I did create some landscape photographs…well, because, I just can’t help myself in regards to that. Sometimes I see a good picture, and it just *needs* to be taken. Here are a few of the favorites from Mackinac Island. The first two are views from Arch Rock. Here’s looking out over the shoreline:
If you enjoyed Betsy’s previous programs at the library (Portraits of Italy and Israel), then you will be thrilled to hear that she will be giving two additional travelogues this winter at the Dexter District Library! In December, Betsy will share images from Switzerland, and in February, she will share images from the UK. More program details are available below; make sure to mark your calendars now so you remember to attend.
Discovering Switzerland – A Photo Travelogue December 11th, 2012 — 7pm at the Dexter District Library
Join Master Photographer Betsy Finn for a journey through the Swiss Alps to the picturesque village of Murren. Betsy will share portraits and stories of traveling by funicular in the Alps, by cable car to the Matterhorn, by train around Lake Luzern, and more.
Discovering Cambridge, Visiting England – A Photo Travelogue February 5th, 2012 — 7pm at the Dexter District Library
Join Master Photographer Betsy Finn in exploring England through photographs. Betsy will share portraits and anecdotes of her month-long stay in the college town of Cambridge, as well as images of many England’s landmarks — from ancient to modern.