I was out taking some photos this evening, and ended up taking some macro shots of cornstalks. Some of the resulting photographs reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, specifically her flower abstraction paintings. The up-close cornstalk images with their wavy leaves, streaks of color, and organic depths reminded me of some of O’Keeffe’s iris paintings. If I had the time I would try painting some of the corn photos in her style.
Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category
Spring has slowly and sneakily crept up on us. It has been coy, hiding its face behind rain clouds, cold winds and bitter temperatures, but it’s just around the corner. For weeks, no, months, it has played with us. But I think it’s fair to say that spring has finally sprung (knock on wood), even if it chooses to manifest itself as constant spring showers.
Winter wears me out. In Idaho winter means gray. Color is seeped out of the world and everything becomes monochromatic. Gray, gray, gray. So when I first spot a tuffet of green grass or a yellow crocus peeping timidly out of the ground, I get really excited! I’ve been photo-documenting some of these precious signs of spring, celebrating each piece of evidence that winter is finally on the way out. I hope they give you cause for hope too.
Vincent Van Gogh is famous for his sunflower paintings, many versions of which he began painting after 1887. In fact, he painted several versions of Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers (1889). Done primarily in yellow, these paintings carry a warm, sunny connotation.
However, I’ve always felt like a depressing subtext runs under surface. In these paintings the sunflowers exist in a variety of stages from lively full bloom toward withering death. I chose to explore this morbid undercurrent in a color theory assignment for intro to design. The assignment was to take a famous painting and reproduce it with a different color scheme than the original while preserving the values of the original by tinting and shading hues. The new color scheme could be complimentary, analogous, monochromatic, achromatic, triad, tetrad, warm or cool.
I decided to use cool colors, known for their connotations of night, sadness, and depression. We say “feeling blue” for a reason. I wanted to highlight the droopy-ness of the dying sunflowers through the use of cool colors. (Don’t worry, I’m not depressed. I just wanted to explore an idea opposite to popular “sunny” opinion on this painting.) Furthermore, purple is the complimentary (opposite) color of yellow, and happens to fall within the cool tones. So I used blue-violet paint for most of my interpretation.
The challenge I faced was in interpreting the value of the original and maximizing contrast while staying true to the inspiration. Because Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers is primarily monochromatic, it actually lacks contrast. From a distance its easy for the flowers to blend into the background. I experienced this problem in my blue interpretation, especially since my colors are darker. If I could do this again I would add more white to the background color and perhaps paint the petals in a slightly darker blue-violet. Additionally, due to time constrictions I was working in acrylic. It was harder to get the thickly textured petals and flower centers with acrylic paint when Van Gogh’s originals were done in oil paint. A third struggle I experienced was with the slight shine on the vase. In the yellow version this shine is mostly white, but because yellow is such a bright color it doesn’t stand out too much. In my version the shine maintains its high value, but against the blue it was glaringly obvious. I felt it was distracting, and lacked subtlety. It also looked more like a mistake to me than a shine, so I deepened the value a bit to correct this.
I’m pleased with the final result because I feel it captures the mood I was shooting for. My classmates agreed that the cool colors really exaggerate the mourning transience of the dying flowers. In fact, they honored me a spectacular compliment: they felt my version better explored the mood than the original! Quite a compliment, though I’m sure plenty would be willing to disagree. Nevertheless, it was a fun exploration of an alternate interpretation through the use of color theory.
Over spring break I had the opportunity to visit Jump Creek Canyon and do some hiking. While there I couldn’t resist taking some pretty photos. In particular, I kept taking photos of a friend as he approached the canyon edge. It was a majestic pose, perched precariously next to the drop with the canyon side opposite. This overlook triggered a memory of a famous painting from art history, and I kept taking photos in an effort to capture the similarity. Turns out I was right, and the pictures reminded me of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich.
In looking through the multitude of photos, turns out one of the pictures mirrors Wanderer perfectly! He didn’t even know I was taking pictures, and this snapshot replicates the Wanderer’s pose down to the walking stick! What a coincidence. Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally replicated a famous piece of art?
In March I visited the Boise Art Museum (BAM) as part of an essay response for my modern art course. I had the option to respond to one of two shows: the Lightpaintings of Stephen Knapp (briefly blogged about here), or the collection of works in the show Critical Messages: Contemporary Northwest Artists on the Environment. I chose the latter. Among the many incredible pieces I responded to, the biospheres of Vaughn Bell’s Village Green especially struck me. I wanted to share a clip from my composition that illustrates how I felt:
“The next installation to attract my eye was Village Green, by Vaughn Bell, Jim Andersen, and Dean Wentworth. Village Green consists of two acrylic biospheres, though I was under the impression that more have been installed in other contexts. These clear acrylic structures, shaped like greenhouses, hang from the ceiling and contain mini landscapes. The base of each biosphere houses a portal through which visitors may place their head, immersing themselves in the lush environment. Viewing the biospheres from the outside, I was struck by a sense of separateness. The acrylic walls isolated the biospheres, objectifying them. I was exterior, and the biospheres seemed small, sanitized, and almost artificial. But as I rose into the biosphere, I was struck by the immediacy and intimacy of the environment. The air was warm, humid, and scented richly of earth. Some of the plants tickled my face and brushed my hair as I looked around. I even spotted a few tiny insects crawling nearby. The outside influences faded away, muffled in the insulated, private space. I felt comfortable, safe, and welcomed in the natural atmosphere. In contrast, stepping out of the biosphere, the museum entryway was cold stone and echoing walls, desensitized and urban. According to Bell, “Many people long for the smells of nature and softness of greenery while living amidst concrete and diesel fumes. The… Personal Home Biosphere [is] the answer for anyone who feels the ill effects of urban living.” Village Green was particularly appealing to me because I was allowed to interact with it. Instead of the hands-off approach of the other pieces, I was able to experience an active sensory feast and internalize her message of discovering a “newfound intimacy with the land.” “
I happen to love houseplants and tending to their soft green growth, so I loved the biospheres. They seemed to comforting. I wish I had one (a “personal home biosphere”) in my dorm, or in my house. In fact, I was so fascinated with the installation that I investigated the artist further, noting some of her other intriguing projects. Turns out the biospheres have been designed to be mobile, taken with the viewer almost like an astronaut’s helmet.
Portability and mobility of nature are themes Bell has explored repeatedly. Her website includes pictures of shopping cart gardens, shrub-fronted smocks, gardens on wheels with leashes, and shrub-tipped walking sticks. Although somewhat unconventional and sometimes absurd, the idea of never having to leave the comfort nature while in an urban environment is an admirable one.
The essay paragraph was taken from a composition written by me, and thus is my property. Please do not copy or plagiarise the writing.
Last week, while on a field trip for a natural history course I spotted this clump of moss and just had to take a picture of it. Unfortunately the settings weren’t quite right on my camera, so the color got a bit distorted. But you can get the idea. I just had to take a picture of this moss because it’s so colorful! In this one clump, smaller than the size of my fist, you can see dark green, bright green, olive-green, yellow, orange, rust, and even hints of pink! It was a pleasant surprise of natural color diversity.
Seeing all the different hues in the moss reminded me of another natural source of unexpected colors: lichens. I always enjoy looking at really old rocks and seeing how many different colors of lichens I can find. I remember on my field trip I saw quite a number, but didn’t think to take any pictures. But I do have some pictures I took from my trip to Yellowstone. Just look at all the colors on these rocks! I can spy white, deep gray, orange, salmon, chartreuse, pale sage, purplish-white, and a brownish-peach. These rocks rival an artist’s palette in their variety of colors! I find it amusing that something so colorful, so decorated, goes overlooked and unnoticed so much of the time.
Since my last post was about Ansel Adams, I wanted to share some photos I stumbled across today. I took these about two years ago on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Talk about a place of beauty. Everything seems so pristine, it’s truly overwhelming. I experimented with the grayscale feature on my camera as I took some photos. I wanted to capture that Ansel Adams-ish feeling, and I think I somewhat succeeded.
Please note that on two of these photos I slightly manipulated the contrast to better imitate the vintage style of Ansel Adams.