Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Musings (On Being Kind)

My friends who write, photograph, paint, or dance have no doubt considered the art and value of constructive criticism when it comes to evaluating their creative output.  CC can move an artist to the next level of honest and precise expression.  But what, exactly, is creative criticism?  Especially on a medium such as Face book or web sites.  So much gets lost in translation on electronic formats.  Misunderstandings are commonplace. 

My first rule on electronic formats is: be kind.  There is such negativity and cruelty already in the world.  We don't need to perpetuate it.  Why bother?  Can you say what you need to say and be kind at the same time?  My belief is you can.  And you should.  And if you have to ask why you should, then perhaps you ought to be holding your tongue.

Creative types are often times very emotional and sensitive people.  We tend to wear our hearts on our sleeve.  We put our work out into the world and release it from the deepest places in ourselves.  If the criticism that comes back to us is personal, it feels like an egregious attack. 

My question to the person who is the critic is:  does it move the conversation of artist expression forward?  Is it focused on the execution, the artistic intent, the successful or unsuccessful translation of the idea into an expression?

I am a member of a few photography sites on Face book.  The intent is to share our work and to receive constructive feedback so that we might improve our technique or ideas.  The upside is you are able to receive varied viewpoints from all kinds of artists.  The downside is you are able to receive varied viewpoints from all kinds of artists.  Double edged sword, ain't it?

If the person providing the feedback is not skillful, or kind (two different things) then there is no purpose to the exercise. When I have very negative feedback on a piece of work, I often do not comment unless I am meticulous about my intent and my skill.  Constructive criticsm requires skill and a thorough grasp of the technical language as it relates to the medium.

As an artist, I welcome CC.  I crave it, actually.  If I am not open to it then I shouldn't be sharing my work in a public forum.  Unless I get some satisfaction out of having my vision eviserated.  I am of the opinion that any artist worth her salt uses CC as a useful tool.  Negative and personal comments serve no purpose and defeat the goal of coming together as fellow artists to advance our vision.  As an artist, I know, I feel the difference between skillful and unskillful critique.

Read this and please provide feedback.  And remember, be kind.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Musings

I find creative people to be extremely fascinating.  In the last two months I've spent considerable time with two very well known photographers and it was instructive to watch them work and to hear their stories.  I have not seen their work spaces, however, and would very much like to.

This is my work space, untidy as always.  I wish it would stay neat and organized because frankly the clutter drives me up a wall.   But it always devolves thusly.  I must be getting some benefit, but what?

I share a room in the house with my husband who has his set up as well.  Decades of files, miles of music cds on the wall and camera equipment, cords, batteries, various and sundry items stuffed into drawers.

Let me embarrass myself further by saying that every day the desk is like this I resolve to clear it and organize it and put things away.  Sigh.

Someone posted a link to photos of modular offices that could be installed in one's backyard.  Oh, was I ever salivating at those photos.  The cost puts it out of my reach, but I can dream, can't I?

To have my own private creative space...a dome of silence where no man enters except for moi.  Quiet space for my mind to wander, to rest, to turn ideas over and over.

In the meantime, I am quite content to share a room with my husband. I know how lucky we are to have space at all.  In my old apartment I fashioned a workspace in a corner of my bedroom.  I used my bed to spread out prints for viewing and sorting.

It forced me to make the bed every damn day.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Ah, well, Happy Friday!  It has been a busy week full of good friends and gorgeous vistas.  We were in Yosemite National Park with friends Bob Adler and Ted Grant.  It was primarily a photographic expedition (or so we like to say) and Bob was the right guy to have along -- he knows Yosemite very well and has his favorite spots to shoot photos at the perfect time of day.  It will take me weeks to process everything and select the best.  For now, here are a couple of unedited shots (click to embiggen):
Three Musketeers, Ted, Steve, Bob
Half Dome nearing sunset
It was such a pleasure to spend time with these fellows. Wonderful artists and delightful human beings. It has been a few years since I've been to the park, and it was Ted's first visit (he is Canadian). The majesty of the place never fails to enthrall.

125 years ago this year, an act of Congress made this park official.  Sometimes, yes, Congress has done good and right things.

Summer is not the time to visit, unless you like very large crowds of people.  I've been in spring, winter and fall.  In winter, when the snow falls and covers the cliffs and the valley and all is hushed, one can feel completely alone.  I like that feeling.

This trip we were treated to the Dogwood trees in bloom.  Hundreds of them.  White, pink and even yellow blooms.  One of our goals was to make pictures of these lovely trees at the height of their beauty, and I hope that between the four of us we managed something.

I've been completely out of the loop when it comes to reading the news or knowing what anybody is up to.  No Facebook, no internet.  Rome may  have burned, I don't know.

Watering the garden early this morning while drinking my coffee, I thought perhaps I could stay in this bubble of here and now right in front of me.  Ted heads back to Canada tomorrow, and Bob has moved on to Lake Tahoe for more picture making.  The husband and I are glad to be home.  Our faithful house and dog sitter has ensured that all is as we left it.

It's been a good week.  I hope it was for you as well.

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  -- Ansel Adams

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

La Luz de mi Vida

Two great things this Tuesday: it rained all night, took a little break and is now raining again. The other: my grandson is here and he is so much fun I can hardly stand it.

During the break, we set up a cozy bed for him on the porch.  It snuggled in it for all of two minutes before running in circles making airplane sounds.  Over and over and over again.

Then, all in a hurry, the sky darkened and there was a perceptible humidity increase in the air.  I grabbed the hammock, his mom grabbed the cushions, and in we came.  

Now there's a fire burning nice and hot, and mi nieto is sleeping on his cushion in the guest bedroom.  How I wish I could take him to Cuba with me.  He would be my entree into Cuban society.  I would teach him simple phrases in Cubano (all I am capable of) and get him a Panama hat to wear jauntily on his blond little head.  Maybe someday...maybe the next trip.

My daughter and mi luz drive home tonight.  Sigh.  Never long enough.  That's an abuela for you.
Eso es una abuela para usted.  

This luscious rain is not even remotely enough to ease our drought woes, but it is nice to have and means I can skip watering the vegetables and flowers for a few more days.  Sweet.

Friday, April 3, 2015

TGIF (On What is Important)

Happy Friday, all!

My husband and I were honored to be a part of a very special ceremony this morning.  Friends of ours had their adoption ceremony today.  Our friends, Jack and his husband, JT, have been on a 16 month journey to create their family with three dear brothers who desperately needed a forever family.  Today was the final stamp of approval by the Judge (as if it was ever in doubt).  The courtroom was packed with at least 25 friends and family.

The most touching part of the ceremony was when the Judge asked each boy, individually, if they wanted to be adopted today.  Each child responded, "YES!" and was asked to sign a document.  Even the littlest guy was able to scrawl a flourishing signature of sorts.  I was tearing up, mindful of the eyeliner I applied a couple of hours before.  Oh well.

So, while blow hards and bigots across our country are denying rights to my brothers and sisters in Dorothy, here is this wonderfully loving and stable couple who have rescued three children from a life of unspeakable hardship and have fulfilled their own dream to have a family of their own. 

Love, babies.  That's what it's all about.  Love, that's what Jesus preached.  Love, it's what the world needs now.  Love, sweet love.

Have a glorious weekend!

You Can Go Home Again

 I took a vacation in the first week of May.  I went back to my high school and college stomping grounds, still populated by many friends of...