Monday, June 29, 2015

Beltane 2015 and how it ended up looking like something out of Hieronymus Bosch

bonfire set to go for Beltane 2015!
(Beltane wouldn't be complete without a bonfire and this one has two bonfires)

This is to celebrate and dance away the dark spirits that have been around since Halloween! 

To learn more about Beltane, which is an olde Celtic celebration, go here to a Wikipedia article about it.

This is a continuation of this post about Beltane 2014, and about this post where I promised to post about 3 events in succession. The three events include flag day (where taking pictures of the parade resulted in an art piece called "Followers as Zombies" view-able here), Beltane (this post, which resulted in an art piece that resembled something out of Hieronymous Bosch) and a Renaissance faire (yet to be published).

I sometimes use photos from events for my art. In my particular case, I probably will use more of the flag day photos and Renaissance faire photos than the ones from Beltane, though I am liking this year's crop of Beltane photos more than last year's and you never know what will spark the inspiration.

Before the bonfire gets lit with a torch thrown from a medieval-style catapult, I take a walk through the woods and find that there is a rather large campsite. Most of the camps are tents, but I found this cool caravan, complete with a couple of sculptures nailed to either side of the door:

  caravan camping complete with cozy bed inside
and two ceramic sculptures adorning the outside on either side of the door --

The whole caravan sits on a trailer bed and has modern wheels for a modern highway even though it looks like something from the 1600s - 1800s. This is much nicer to look at than a modern trailer made out of metal and plastic parts! It is very much a mini home and can fit a double bed, the rocker and shelf unit (though I have yet to find out where the small round table can fit ... and on closer inspection, I realize it is a spool, with two round circles on either end, and just fashioned to be a make-shift table for the present).

I noticed two caravans for Beltane this year (last year there was only one caravan, so the new trend seems to be taking hold)!

Then as I go back to the gathering, I notice it is getting dark. So I take a picture of one of the two statues that adorn the gate before the night descends:

sculpture guarding the gate
before dark

In the other post that I wrote, I told how this event takes place at an artist's studio, and his sculptures are everywhere! They are included in everything, even the place where wood is stacked, on carts, where there is a tree growing, where there is an entrance, anything is deserving of a piece of sculpture. For Beltane, the torches are placed in front of the sculptures.

So ... when night arrives the torches illuminate all the sculpture faces (like this one):

 the torches are lit!
the faces all glow in the dark!

Then the bonfire gets lit with fireballs thrown from a hand-built old style catapult up on a hill:

the bonfires are lit by fireballs catapulting into the wood piles

the celebration is on!
the drumming starts!
the dancing starts!

everyone moves a little closer to the fire!

I liked how this guy's profile was framed by the fire:

profiled by fire!

I love the effects of some of the pictures once it is dark! So much better than last year's photo shoot! These guys look like aliens (grays) with their tight suits and hoods. I like how these three figures move, and how they leave trails (because of the low light and long shutter speed):

three figures 
who look like aliens!
and dancing!

Then the fire dancers get started:

the fire dancers start!

and keep going!

and going and going and ...

and going!

There was a little more light made by the bonfires for this next photo, and I like how I'm getting shadowing with all of the figures. Faces begin to take on other-worldly appearances:

fire dancer with on-lookers

And then a guy with horns starts fire dancing too. I love how his glasses are reflecting the fire from his hands and the satisfied smile he seems to wear:

man with horns fire dancing!

another one

... And then he starts to eat fire (!):

fire eater with two fireballs

fire eater in full glory!

The following are my favorites of the night:

This is probably my ultimate favorite of the night! I like the composition and how the figures are moving. This one will have to be relegated to a painting. I don't know how to improve upon the photo itself at this time:


This one looks like ghosts. The squiggle is somewhat distracting, and I contemplate whether to take it out digitally. It has that Duchamp look to it (reminding me of Nude Descending a Staircase), but there is also something about it that only photography can do

ghosts with light squiggles

I take a portion of the photo and play around with it:

ghosts moving, doing their thing

So odd! Whoa! Weird things start happening in the dark, I guess!

It looks like some of the figures are in a bath tub! There was no bath tub, I can assure you! There's also a brown fish coming out of the side of it (front center). And then there's this cubist thing happening in the left corner! The figures ears are pronounced, and you can tell where their hairlines are, but other than that there is a mystery surrounding this perspective and the one preceding it.

I know that these photos were taken near the drumming circle, but other than that I can't remember what was there.

The one thing I left out of the above one was a full perspective of the tree. Perhaps that is what is most interesting about the photo. The tree and figures appear as one:

"Ghosts Holding up the Tree of Life"

This one looks like a Bacchanalian freak show:

"Bacchanalian Freak Show"
(take one)

The most interesting figures (to me) are off to the right. So I focus on them for this next rendition: 

"Bacchanalian Freak Show"
(take two)

It can't get much better than this!

... Or can it?

I go into the photo and try to emphasize the facial features and some of the hands.

Wow! Now it is looking like something out of Hieronymus Bosch (!):

"Bacchanalian Freak Show with Hieronymus Bosch treatment"

Next up is a Renaissance faire.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

flag day parade photos and art, 2015

Flag Day Parade
© 2015

I had a very active weekend in terms of taking photos, which incidentally, I use for my artwork.

I use them in all kinds of ways, for figure references for paintings, for digital art, for composition ideas, or I use them just the way they are with a little fussing. 

First I took pictures at a flag day parade. Then Beltane (which was celebrated late this year). Then a Renaissance Faire. I will put up three posts in succession so you can see them all, but I am being very choosy about what I feature for flag day and for the Renaissance faire. The reason? I am already using them as references for some art pieces and I want them to be a surprise. So for those two events, I am picking pieces carefully.   

Did I have a blast at all of these events? You betcha!

So anyway, sometimes I like to play around with a photo first to see if it has a good composition. This is how I do it, by just using the shapes (also adding a little texture so it isn't so boring):

Flag Day Parade
© 2015

This gives me an idea if I like how the elements are arranged. It simplifies everything too, taking out extraneous details I might not like in my painting. 

I like this composition! The lone figure is framed by all of the other figures, making her the focal point. In the photo, she is facing away from me. In a painting, I might have her facing towards me. Or I might have her protesting something. Or I might put another kind of figure altogether (like an animal).

I definitely won't use the photo as is.

Here is another that caught my eye (as a photograph). I like a lot I like in it, and by spending time with it, and exploring each part of it, I start thinking of possibilities... 

 Flag Day Parade II
© 2015

At first, for this one, I experimented with making it look like an old postcard, bringing out some contrast! They do look more dignified, like they'd have the manners of people in 1940s small town America:

Flag Day Parade II
(experiment to make it look like a bygone era)
© 2015

Anyway, I like this composition too. The flag on the building and the leading man seem to be the focal points, and the wall of followers support the theme. What I don't like is missing the individual faces and expressions of the crowd. There's a lot of emotion that gets lost. We see the crowd behind trying to march in unison, all wearing the same colors, but that's about it. Who are these people? Why do they walk so far behind their leader? They are at too much of a distance.

So I took the left corner of the photo and did this (adding a painterly style filter):

Flag Day Parade II
(detail with painterly style)
© 2015

Now all of a sudden, we have a different leader, even though she is in the same photo! Obviously there is a leader behind the leader!

Interesting, but I felt the work still needed something. How could I give it meaning or a statement?

So I began to think about defining the piece in terms of leader and followers.

Do people think about who and what they are following? Or do they do it unconsciously? Is it good to follow anyone? When people look at a group of people following someone, what are some attitudes about followers? Do people on the sidelines think more about the leader before they think about the followers? Are leaders necessarily more important? How often do we follow someone when we really don't want to? Do we sometimes find it shameful and abhorrent? Do followers sometimes act like zombies, as if they've given into someone or an agenda?

I can see two people in this photo who are definitely acting robotic.

In this photo, the leader is clearly defined: she is the only one dressed up, and she has a livery collar like royals from the 1400s wore. The people behind her are in casual wear, though it is obvious they were "told" what to wear: white shirt with black skirt or pants to mimic their leader. At any rate, they don't look so dignified and upright as the leader. They are trying to keep steps with her, and echo the colors she wears, but in general, they look decidedly more rag-tag.

So I tried to put her even more in the spotlight by making her flesh coloring different than her followers. For the followers, I give them cooler coloring which makes them retreat into the background even more. I gave them slightly different facial expressions than the original too, so they'd look slightly ghoulish. I also made the black clothing out of a silk satin type of material. I went further with this (epilogue below this first attempt):

Followers as Zombies, "take one"
(detail of Flag Day Parade II)
© 2015

Notice that I changed the title as it no longer has to do with flag day!

Epilogue (written on June 27, 2015) ...
So after I thought I had finished this piece, I kept thinking about it. I felt I needed to put her in a royal velvet color (like dark red), turn her livery color into gold and dress it up with gems. I also put a crown on her head. This makes her a bone fide royal!

Some of the zombie coloring seemed too bright (popsicle colors) and the background reds were distracting too.

Notice I also changed the sign to say "ENTER CITY" instead of "CITY CENTER".

So this is the end result:

Followers as Zombies
© 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Throwback Thursday with Jim Manngard

photo of me by Faith Brzostowski
artwork by Jim Manngard
© 2015

Jim Manngard made the art work of me from a photo from when I was sixteen. He made it for my birthday in May. He is a personal assistant and part of the sound team for the band, Blackmores Night. He takes many photos of the band. Here is just one from their facebook page. 

For the uninitiated, Blackmores Night is made up of Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame, a band that used to play huge stadiums, sometimes in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. Ritchie made a leap into playing Renaissance music in an innovative way with his wife, Candice Night. They also perform with band members.

And therein lies the connection: I sing and perform new interpretations of Renaissance music too. I produced a CD of Renaissance songs (called Wingd With Hopes, New Interpretations of Renaissance Songs) with Scott Petito (James Taylor, The Band, Aigne Minogue, Pete Seeger, Jay Unger and Molly Mason for Ken Burns PBS series). 

Jim Manngard has been working for Ritchie and Candice since the Deep Purple days and he is always taking photos and making artwork for the band (he also gets the photo perspectives from the stage area since he is running around trying to make sure the sound is working just as it should).

Here is one such photo he took of the band facing him backstage with their enthusiastic audience behind them:

So I feel blessed that I am sometimes picked to be his muse. And the thing about being a muse is that as he understands me more and more, he makes artwork of me in the lexicon for which I am noted. These include:

color: off-white
spirit animal: unicorn
spirit bird: dove
spirit flower: dandelion
affiliation with time period: Renaissance
my most common art image: butterfly

Here are some more images he has made of me (with more to come).

This is a closer version of the photo he used: