Sunday, May 27, 2012

Trinity River Audubon Center

Coreopsis tinctoria
Last Tuesday we packed a picnic and set off to the Trinity River Audubon Center.  Less than five years ago the center's 120 acres were an illegal dumping ground.  Now you can wander among fields and ponds, a diversity of habitats where wildflowers, insects and birds abound.

Pollen-laden bee on coreopsis

It's not a dramatic landscape, but it yields its charms to to close observation.

Daddy long legs or harvestman, not a true spider
unknown insect on unknown blossom

Monarda citriodora, bee balm
 I think we were somewhat between blooming seasons on this visit; when we had gone a couple of years ago, on a post-rain morning in September, the landscape was richer with color.  (You can see my photos from that day on Flickr.)

After walking the trails, we returned to the striking "green" building which houses kid-friendly exhibits, classrooms, meeting rooms, a nature store, great hall, and indoor and outdoor eating areas. 


Oh yes, there is a Trinity River overlook, so here's my view; I have to say it doesn't look all that appealing, but Mr. C has been longing to have a row on it.    

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Illustration Friday - Sight


For Illustration Friday, I always start with an image size of 8x10 inches at 300 ppi; this gives me a standard and eliminates one decision right at the beginning, so I can focus on what I want to put on the canvas. I gathered a selection of eye close-ups from stock.xchng and just started dragging them on to my background, arranging and resizing them until I got a composition I liked. They're all set either to Pin Light or Hard Light blend mode and they each have a mask that I used to remove everything but the eyes. I could have erased, but a mask is non-destructive, so you can change it or tweak it if need be. I also slightly adjusted the hue and saturation on some of them. The triangular "rays" were paths drawn with the pen, loaded as selections and filled with a foreground-to-transparent gradient, then blurred slightly. The circles around the title Sight were selections loaded as paths and then stroked with different brushes. At that point, I think I could have declared it finished, it did have a nice, clean graphic look. But I'm a more-is-more sort of person, so I put a couple of cloud photos on top of the white background layer and set them to Hard Light at 30% opacity. And – why not? – I added a couple more photos of shrubbery on top of that, one set to Lighter Color at 60% opacity, and the second the Color Burn at 70% opacity; they add just a little more texture and color variation.

So there it is, my May Illustration Friday. Actually, nothing very challenging about it. It's a bit like what I had in my mind's eye, but only a bit. I never know where one of these exercises will take me, and sometimes I come to like an image much better later than when I first completed it. But the point is the process: to create, to enjoy, to stretch your mind, and, just maybe, if all the stars are aligned, to come away with a piece of "art" that merits your own internal nod of approval.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Silk from scratch

A couple of Saturdays ago we stopped by the Asian Festival downtown in Main Street Garden. There I discovered Michael Cook with his fascinating silkworm exhibit.  This man raises silkworms, reels the silk from the cocoons, dyes it, weaves it.  And writes informatively about it on his website,  Be sure to read Serving the Tiny Masters: adventures in sericulture which will make you appreciate all that goes into that piece of silk you're stitching up.  And if the silkworms don't tempt you, how about chickens?  Yep, he has those as well.  Take a look at them on his blog where you'll also find interesting posts and terrific photos of caterpillars, bees, spiders, plants and more.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Our Chihuly Night

The Dallas Arboretum is the latest public garden to be graced by the dramatic blown glass sculptures of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.  And night time is the right time to view them at their most alluring, lit as specified by Chihuly himself.  Combine that with a concert under the stars, and you have all the makings of a magical evening.  The twice-weekly concerts which run from May through July and again in September and October offer a variety of music, from a popular Beatles cover band through Motown and soul to Celtic rock.  Why we had never gone to one before I really don't know, but seeing the Chihuly exhibit at night proved the needed incentive. It was Big Band for us, Mr. C being partial to that musical era.  However, the performance seemed not so much the focus as simply the reason for all the folks to come out and and picnic on the velvety lawn while soft breezes wafted in from White Rock Lake just beyond.  A few kayakers took in the concert near to shore, and a sailboat drifted back and forth.  Really, it was nearly idyllic, especially with mild weather still prevailing..

After the concert we strolled around the grounds marveling at the sculptures.  My little camera doesn't seem up to the job of after-dark photography, or perhaps I just need to use a tripod, but even though this one is blurry, I did want to show this vista which was breathtaking.

Then a bit after 10 p.m., we cycled the five miles home on the Santa Fe Trail.  Oh yes, we rode our bicycles at Mr. C's insistence, and it was rather exhilarating to be whizzing through the cool night with the trail almost all to ourselves.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dressing Up

When looking at garments, I'm drawn more to those in the "pretty" rather than the sophisticated category.  Not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive, but pretty does have a certain girlish ring.  So when your time of being a girl is long over, how do you do pretty that's age-appropriate?  I sometimes see patterns that I know I would have picked in my younger days but have the good sense to refrain from now.  However, I did give in to Simplicity 1800, a dress from their Amazing Fit collection.  I made it, I wore it, I like it...and I'm still not sure about it.

Simplicity 1800 patternWell, just look at the pattern envelope, at the twenty-something modeling the dress.  Then there's the empire waist and the floaty skirt that say youth, at least they do to me. On the other hand, I thought it would be a flattering dress: fitted in the right places (the bodice) and more forgiving below.  And it was a dress I wanted, to wear to a dinner Mr. C and I were going to attend.  So I searched through my stash and came up with a fine linen-y weave in one of my favorite colors.  You can click over to Pattern Review for all the minutiae of my making it.  It was a bit touch-and-go to get it finished in time. (I slipped the last stitch into my hem about 4 p.m.on the date of the dinner.)  Deadline sewing is something I have vowed not to do anymore, but on rare occasions I still fling myself into making something specifically for an occasion.  At first it always seems like there's ample time, and then suddenly I'm racing the clock, wondering whether to continue or just wear something else instead. This time I beat the clock, only sacrificing the lack of a hook and eye at the top of the zipper for the evening. 

When I worked, I wore dresses quite a lot because I liked their one-piece convenience, no need to pull together this and that to make an outfit; I liked sewing them as well.  From what I notice both on Pattern Review and on sewing blogs, younger women are taking to dresses again, often in bright colors and cheerful prints.  In fact, now that I have this pattern adjusted exactly to my liking, it seems a shame not to reuse it, so I might just whip it up in some summery cotton for more casual wear, in lieu of my go-to outfits of cropped linen pants and knit tops.  As to the age-appropriate issue, I think I'll let my inner girl have her way in this instance.

More on the topic of age appropriateness in dress...  For a fascinating look back at "What older American women wore, 1900 to now," check out American Age Fashion, the blog of Lynn Mally,  "historian, seamster, textile lover."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Illustration Friday - Jump

Coming down to the wire on this one.  I decided to try to do something à la Maggie Taylor who creates wonderfully surreal, dreamlike images. The problem with that is that she will spend months on a work, whereas I had two days to put this together.  You can read an interesting article about her working methods here.

I first went looking at stock.xchng for a photo of something jumping and chose the horse, mainly because it looked easy to extract from its background (and I like horses as well).  It wasn't a very large or sharp image, however, and I added the eye and a little of the head detailing from another horse photo which I found there and also colored the bridle.  The background is one of my photos, duplicated to get the width I needed.  And, oh, I see an area where I missed changing it so it doesn't look like the same image twice. Then I kept duplicating and cloning the grass to achieve the depth I wanted. After I combined it all as a Smart Object, I used Paint Daubs, Film Grain and Smudge Stick filters on it.  The girl is from an old photo from The Graphics Fairy; I colored her clothing with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.  The little flowers are some periwinkles cut out from another of my photos, with some grass from Photoshop brushes.  The last thing was trying to find something interesting for the horse to jump over, and nothing I tried satisfied me.  Finally I thought of goldfish bowls, and I luckily found a photo, again on stock.xchng.  Getting all the shadows right, or at least believable, was somewhat problematic, but they're okay, I think. The final step was to distress the image for which I used some grunge brushes by ShadyMedusa-stock which I found at Design Resource Box.  I really had intended to make this commentary more informative for those who might be interested, but with time running out, merely getting it finished and linked on Illustration Friday was uppermost in my mind.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Art and interconnectivity

Okay, I imagine that post title sounds a little abstruse, but I'll explain it.  The art is that of Katherine Allen-Coleman.  Isn't this Paper Dolls series with buttons and stitching and collaged pattern pieces perfect for us sewers!  You can see lots more of her work on her Dress Paintings blog.  And here's where the inter-connectivity comes in.  She came to my attention when she commented on my blog post about the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival; as well as exhibiting at the festival, she and her husband were in one of the photos I took there.  And she mentioned my post and blog on her Facebook page...which explained the mystery of why I received so many views via Facebook.  Back to Katherine's blog, not only is it a treat to see and read about her artwork, it's also interesting to get to "know" someone who travels and exhibits at shows like the one I just attended.  I always enjoy chatting a bit with some of the artists; this in-depth look is so much better.