Sunday, September 30, 2012

Photographer...and poet

Speaking of talented people, I should have long ago introduced John Saxon, long-time friend and photographer extraordinaire.  Back in the day when we first met, John was focusing on dress shirts and designer shoes, giving those commercial shots the same meticulous attention that he now devotes to his own creative pieces.  Here, three of his virtuoso still lifes.

Rope & Bottle Oil & Dice Nikon

And a collection of randomly chosen shots that show both his discerning eye and his superior skill.

Saucer MagnoliaSprinklersPincushion
Pelicans Luna MothYou can see more of his varied work on Flickr.

And the poet part?  In one of my February blog posts, after rhapsodising about Photoshop, I asked if anyone had ever penned an ode to it.  John took up the challenge with this clever little verse.
I think that I shall never crop
with any app but Photoshop.
In shining layers thirteen deep
deciding what or not to keep,
with filter bold and brush in hand
I make my photo seem as planned;
though only God can make a tree,
in Photoshop it's up to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Illustration Friday - Burst

Burst My mind was bursting with ideas for this one. I finally settled on trying to illustrate something bursting from a book, a vividly written one, certainly.  The book itself with its burst page proved relatively simple.  I photographed a book, then stabbed a sheet of paper to create the burst effect and photographed that and overlaid it digitally on the book page, all with a bit of masking and blend modes.  I found the photos of the lorakeet and the leopard as well as the ferns on Stock.XCHNG .  The background came from Lost and Taken. There's also one of my photos of a crepe myrtle in bloom on top of that, at a very low opacity, just to add a bit more texture and color. It was interesting and I got it done with only minutes to spare.  Enough said. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enthusiastics in the garden

"Enthusiastics" is what I have dubbed those eager and able plants which a more fastidious gardener would probably call "invasives."  Ages ago when I decided to make a proper perennial garden, I poured over gardening books and catalogs, noting every seductive specimen which seemed as if it might thrive here if lavished with care.  I hunted for them in local nurseries, I ordered from the catalogs, I planted packets and packets of seeds.  And for a brief moment in time I had...a North Carolina garden in Dallas. It was lovely, and it was high maintenance.  Time passed and trees grew, veiling more and more sun, while I grew a bit weary of all that work. So now what blossoms around my house are the survivors that decided they liked it here just fine, with ample water and fertilizer but without being coddled.

Ruellia brittoniana
The hardiest of the bunch has to be Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, which blooms from spring until frost. In searching online for its botanical name I read an interesting comment by a Houston environmentalist: "It's not establishing a monoculture, just holding its own, part of a complicated new balance. Butterflies love it. So is it really invasive? Does it deserve to be branded with the scarlet letter I?"  It grows in the sun, it grows in the shade, it manages with little water, all the while thrusting up bright purple flowers with happy abandon.  It does send out roots everywhere, but I simply yank them up where they're not wanted.  And it shoots out seeds like tiny bullets when signaled by a good drenching with the hose. 

Phlox paniculata
Physostegia virginiana
 In contrast to the ruellia which was a from a friend's yard, two other stalwarts were carefully chosen in  that first foray into perennial gardening.  The vivid pink tall garden phlox, Phlox paniculata, mingles prettily with the ruellia all summer long. I bought it so long ago that I don't remember its specific name. It does spread by roots but not so rampantly.  Right now it's winding down its blooming season just as obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, is unfurling its frothy, delicate-looking petals along foot-tall stems.  The common name comes from their tendency to remain positioned however you bend them. They also spread moderately by roots.

Clematic terniflora
Sweet autumn clematis, Clematis terniflora,  has just burst exuberantly into bloom in the past couple of weeks or so.  Originally I planted it alongside our fence in the back, but here it is crowning some shrubs by the front porch, its seeds conveyed in our homemade mulch, I assume.  How can I mind its unmannerly presence when it wafts its delicate fragrance out near the front door?

Mirabilis jalapa

An even more intoxicating scent is emitted by the four o'clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, so called because it opens its blossoms late in the day.  It seems to be classified as an annual, but does come back from its roots here, as well as self-seed prolifically, abundantly.  I am constantly pulling up errant seedlings all during the growing season.  But, oh, to enhale that luscious odor at twilight is certainly worth a bit of effort.  I wish I could post a sample of that scent here instead of merely a photo of its simple flower.  Mine are a hot pink but they come in a variety of colors as well as multicolored. I took some seeds from a plant growing more or less wild alongside a former railroad track in the middle of the city.

There are some others, but as this post is getting lengthy, I think I'll write about them another day.  All of these plants make themselves at home in both some sun and even in quite a bit of shade where they might not bloom prolifically but at least do provide carefree foliage.  I let them sort themselves out as to who gets to be dominant in their various gardens areas, and they carry on with panache.  The other morning a woman walking her dog complimented me on the display out front, and when I replied that everything there was easy to grow, she said, "that's your secret."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Behind the scenes

When we bought our house in the 1970s the term "urban pioneer" was au courant, and we were definitely oh-so-energetic.  Like us, most of the other young couples lured both by the potential of these large, derelict houses and by their inversely small prices were doing much of the renovation work themselves.  Times, of course, have changed, and today it's rare to see homeowners here in Munger Place wielding their own tools.  Except for us.  Mr. C and I, being loathe to deal with workmen, still engage in hard and dirty manual labor.  So here we are reroofing the large back room which was added to the house sometime during its twenty-five-year stint as a nursery school.  (It was an upholstery workshop when we bought it.)

A good start on day one.
Many, if not most, of the things required for home repair and maintenance aren't that difficult once you acquire some rudimentary skills.  (It also is quite helpful if one of you is an engineer.)  And a good selection of tools is essential.  After that, it's just work, much of it repetitious and either messy or dirty or both.  Fortunately, once you have moved beyond the steep home renovation stage to the home maintenance plateau, the amount of labor subsides.  And the necessity for it can be conveniently overlooked or willfully ignored.  But not when the first rain since June brings water cascading from the ceiling into every bucket and pan that can be enlisted into service.  So, supplies were purchased, tools were gathered and out we went to put it right.

Coming along nicely on day four.
The second half awaits.

It's not so bad once you get started, once you accept that you're going to be hot and dirty and tired, but you are going to get the job done. We were lucky to have some out-of-the ordinary-for-August coolish days at the beginning, and we only worked for a few hours in the mornings.  And, then, ah, what could be nicer than getting all cleaned up and doing what you please, in air-conditioned comfort, for the rest of the day!  So here's the end, roof replaced, deck refurbished, and we're none the worse for wear, I'd say.

Now we've moved on to repairing and refreshing the room that's under that roof. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Designing woman

There are several hundred submissions to Illustration Friday each week, so, of course, I never look at them all.  Still, I'm surprised that I never came across any of Nickey Linzey's work, as I discovered she has a been a regular contributor.  On IF's newly revamped website, the "thumbnails" are now quite large, making it easy to see which ones you find appealing.  Now tell me, don't you find Nicky's take on "Tall" appealing?

Once I had clicked over to her blog, I was totally entranced by what I would call her designing fluency.  Trying to decide which couple to show you here called for great restraint on my part because each one is a delight, an arresting interpretation of the topic. You must go see for yourself.  And you'll enjoy not only her wonderful illustrations but also her charming views of rural England where she lives.