Sunday, June 18, 2017

Art Lessons from a Garden

Returning home from a cross country trip to visit family, Hubs and I stopped at a Visitors Center on Interstate 40 in western Arkansas. In front of the building there was a lovely garden, an oasis of beauty in the midst of concrete. While Hubs went inside to pick up a map, I grabbed my camera to join several other travelers snapping photos of the garden, one of the prettiest I've seen. Later, as I uploaded the photos to my computer, it occurred to me that this little garden had helpful lessons to offer visual artists. In addition to its visual beauty, like all good works of art it exemplified some of the elements and principles of design, bringing them to life in an arresting way.
A view of the garden from the parking lot

Warm colors predominate among the flowers in this section of the garden, but a closer look reveals the subtle influence of cooling purples and lavenders to the left

Here the spiky leaves of iris serve as strong counterpoints to the rounded forms of the shrubs and annuals

An interesting selection of colorful blooms points the way to the garden's center

In the garden's interior there is a dry creek bed made of native stone -- a visual surprise for the observer. Note how it, and the silvery leaves of the dusty miller, lead the eye toward a curve to encourage further exploration

Intense shades of red, rose pink and bright yellow catch one's attention first in this colorful vignette. The pale pink and light yellow flowers play supporting roles. The cluster of brightest colors is the focal point in classic position using the "Rule of Thirds."

Rough-hewn stone contrasts with soft ground covers and rounded shapes, while spiky and upright forms leaves offer variety, contrast and movement

A closer look yields more visual information. See the dainty purple flowers just beyond the daylily in the foreground? To the careful observer they're a reward for taking the time to study the garden closely, just as a good painting offers surprises to viewers who look beyond the obvious.
My thanks go to the state of Arkansas for providing such a nice welcome to travelers on I-40. The staff at this visitor center were most gracious and helpful, and the facilities were very nice as well. The garden out front, however, was a grace note that turned stopping in for a map a delightful experience for the soul and the senses. For creative types like myself, discovering a gem like this on a busy interstate is serendipity of the most gratifying order. It restored my road-weary psyche and lowered my blood pressure after hours of nerve wracking driving in "survival" mode. It also made me want to get home to my studio and re-introduce myself to my paints! If only there were more gardens like this one to soothe harried spirits, perhaps our world would actually become a kinder, gentler place.

Text and images ©2017 Lynn Edwards

A Thought for Sunday, June 18, 2017

"What a father says to his children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity." -- Jean Paul Richter

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another New Series is Underway!

As my readers know, I've been creating a collection of mixed media pieces that I've titled the Dust Bowl Series." These are larger works that demand studio space to complete. But I also wanted a project that was smaller and readily portable so I could work on it almost anywhere. And so my other series was born. Here's a sneak peek at one of these little gems:

 Though it appears rectangular here because of my scanner bed's dimensions, it's actually 12x12 inches, still small enough to be both portable and comfortable to work on. My goal is to create 24 more related pieces before moving on to something else. Meanwhile, the "Dust Bowl" will continue to absorb my attention. I've got some plans for doing some photography that I can hardly wait to shoot!

Text and image ©2017 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Thought for Sunday, June 11, 2017

"No man is a failure who enjoys life." -- William Feather

Monday, June 5, 2017

Do You Recognize the Artist?

If you love a mystery, here's one for you: Who created these four pen-and-ink drawings? I found them a few years ago in a church thrift store in Marietta, Georgia. They were a fantastic buy: just $10 for the lot. Each is an original on heavy watercolor paper. Two have been tinted with watercolors, two have not. They've all been signed by the artist but unfortunately I can't decipher his or her name. Nor can anyone else I've shown them to. Although I can certainly enjoy them without knowing whose work this is, I'd really, really like to know who created them.

Here's a closeup of the artist's signature:

And here are the four works that he or she created:

This one bears the notation "Quebec - Petit Champlein."

This scene is identified as "Porte St. Louis -- Quebec."

This one is marked  "Notre Dame -- Quebec." I used the signature from this one to make the large image of it at the beginning of this post.  Unfortunately the scanner couldn't capture the entire image, causing the top of the steeple to get cut off. Ooops!

This one is titled "Rue du Forte -- Quebec."

The drawings were done on 16x11 inch heavy watercolor paper. There are small paint smudges on the backs of two of them, and one still bears what looks like a round price label with ".25" on it. The other three appear to have had similar labels at one time but they have been removed. I can't imagine original works this lovely and this large being offered at a quarter apiece at some yard sale, but that may be what happened. I suspect the ridiculously low price convinced people they were reproductions and buyers passed them over. They probably ended up being donated to the church thrift store at the end of the yard sale, along with any other items that failed to sell.

But there are additional questions surrounding these pieces. Two of the drawings remain untinted, though clearly they're part of a set or a series. Did the artist lose interest halfway through the project and failed to see it through? Perhaps the pieces lost their appeal to him or her for some reason. Maybe the artist became dissatisfied with them or hit a creative block and tossed them into a "to be donated" pile. Or maybe he or she passed away before they could be completed. Many questions, but no answers....!

If you recognize the work or signature or know anything about these pieces, please contact me. I'll be so appreciative if you can help solve the mystery. I'm hoping someone out there knows something and is willing to share what they know. Any information, however insignificant you might think it to be, is gratefully welcomed!

Text and images ©2017 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Thought for Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Things do change. The only question is that since things are deteriorating so quickly, will society and man's habits change quickly enough?" -- Isaac Asimov

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Hearfelt Thank You to America's Veterans

When I count my blessings, at the top of my list is the freedom we enjoy as Americans. Think about it: we get in our cars and drive across town or across the country without having to obtain some government agency's permission. We're free to listen to or read or watch anything we want to, however bizarre, outrageous or provocative it may be. We the people elect our politicians, and we are free to cast our votes without coercion. We can live wherever we want, aspire to any profession we short, we can pretty much do whatever we want as long as it's legal.

Artists and other creatives in America enjoy extraordinary freedom of expression. If I want to create art with a scathing political message, I can do so without fear of being hauled out of my house in the middle of the night and executed because my message runs contrary to that of some despot who has been thrust into power by a military junta rather than elected by the people. If I want to create art with a religious theme or gay art or socially offensive art I can do all of those things without being censured. My art may not be appreciated, nor embraced by the public, nor receive anything but scorn and derision from critics, but in America I won't be imprisoned or tortured for having made it.

Freedoms like these are, unfortunately, not universal. In too many countries, to express a negative view or opinion about the current regime is enough to get a person killed. Just ask Cuban-Americans who fled to the U.S. to escape Fidel Castro. At Castro's orders, his henchmen rounded up and summarily executed thousands of "dissidents" -- ordinary citizens, many artists included -- who dared to criticize Castro and his policies. Ask South America's's museum curators and administrators who were forced to display only art that supported the policies of a despotic regime. If they refused, they were  replaced and punished. Ask Salmin Rushdie what it's like to be hunted down by religious zealots with a stone age mentality trying to assassinate him -- all because he wrote a book they didn't like.

Atrocities and injustices like these are all too common in countries that continue to deny their people freedom. Enjoying the freedom we know here in the U.S., it's hard for us to truly comprehend what it must be like to live under such conditions. We may think we know, or try to imagine it, but the harshness of having to live under oppression of that magnitude is simply beyond our comprehension.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I am grateful beyond words to the men and women of America's military who've sacrificed their lives so that we can continue to live in unparalleled freedom. Without their service and dedication, we'd be dreaming of freedom but certainly not living in freedom. History is rife with tragic examples of how very difficult freedom is to secure, and how easily it can be lost. It's good to remind ourselves that we are not immune to the latter. We must not subscribe to the notion that this amazing freedom we've been granted by the Constitution is "too big to fail."

Our service members are acutely aware of this, exposed as they are to other cultures and countries around the world. Most of us civilians, however, aren't privy to the same degree of exposure our service members have to cultures that deny human beings their freedom. Going about our lives here at home, few of us know what it's truly like to live under brutal oppression.

But our military service members do know, serving as they do in areas where people often suffer oppression. It's why America's defenders -- all of whom volunteer to serve -- willingly give their lives, when necessary, to keep that fate from happening to us. They're what stands between us and the unthinkable. So as I enter my studio to begin today's work, I am profoundly grateful to these selfless heroes. And I am reminded that as a citizen enjoying freedom's benefits, I, too, have a responsibility to help extend it to everyone and to oppose freedom's suppression wherever that suppression is encountered. This quote by Earl Riney sums it up best: "Freedom without obligation is anarchy; freedom with obligation is democracy."

©2017 Lynn Edwards