Thursday, March 31, 2011

Share Your View, Part 2

Three's a Crowd
Three's a Crowd by ArtsyBelle

Do you ever have those "duh" moments, where when you realize that you did something really, well, kind of silly? And you told somebody about it one way, but realized you were seeing the situation incorrectly and you were just wrong? I'll confess, I had that yesterday around the whole Flickr photo thing. There wasn't a problem with sharing, the menus were just changed and the problem was completely with me. Silly me.

Three onions
Three onions by Karin van D.

So, here is Share Your View: Group of Three part 2 - where it actually is your view from the Flickr pool. You still have through April 5 to explore groups of three and share them through the linky here or in the Flickr pool. I'll do one more wrap up post with images from the Flickr pool next Wednesday.

I'm loving your groups of three, keep them coming. Have a great weekend exploring!

seedpods by drolwa

Share Your View: Group of Three

The best laid plans sometimes go awry! When I went into Flickr today to pull some of your "group of three" images from the Exploring with a Camera pool to post here, all of the sharing had been turned off. At first I thought it was just a couple of people but it must be a Flickr-wide issue because everyone has sharing turned off.

Instead, I'm improvising to share with you this group of three pots spotted on the streets of Ravenna. I'm never at a loss of photos to share! It's actually quite fun, my family gets into Exploring with a Camera along with me and after I've posted a new topic they are most helpful in pointing out possible images on the theme as we travel. My husband spotted this group!

This post is about you though, and your view. Since Flickr is acting up, please be sure to link in your Group of Three images below so that we can all enjoy them. I love the different finds and compositions you all have shared so far!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Circling Around

No matter how much we travel in Italy, I always find myself delightfully surprised. Each town has its own claim to fame, but often it's the little things that are more interesting. Our latest visit to Ravenna was no exception. The town is known for the amazing Byzantine mosaics of its churches, but it was the number of bicycles on it's streets that captured my attention. They were everywhere, all shapes and sizes and colors - compositions just waiting to be captured.

I especially had an eye out for groups of three, as always happens with my Exploring with a Camera theme. I loved this little family of three bicycles. It's looks like a family, doesn't it? Look how they are all grouped, overlapping, in each other's space. Maybe I see it that way because my family is a family of three, and our images are always a reflection of our selves. Upon review today I also discovered the row of circles - wheels, chainrings, hubs - that forms a chain along the bottom of the image. How cool.

Ravenna as a bicycle city was a delightful find, a surprise that you likely won't find mentioned in any guidebooks. That circles me around again to where I started - there is always something interesting to be found in the towns of Italy. For me, it's always in the streets, not the churches.

News Flash - Postcard Swap, Birds for Japan and Superheros

I interrupt today's regularly scheduled blog post to bring you some interesting news. What do postcards, birds and superheros have in common? They are all on my blog today - read on to find out why!

Introducing the Liberate your Art Postcard Swap

Today I'm announcing the "Liberate your Art" Postcard Swap I'll be hosting this summer! Many of us have an artistic practice - whether it be photography, mixed media, painting, beading, papercrafting, ceramics, you name it - but we don't always share our craft with the rest of the world in a physical form. So I'm going to encourage you to "Liberate your Art" from the online world through a postcard swap! Is there anything better than getting artistic, creative snail mail in your post box? I don't think so!

Here's how it will work:
1. Have five postcard prints made of your original artwork. These could be photographs you've taken, prints of your painted or mixed media work, or images of 3D artwork. You can use five different images or five of the same image. The only requirement is that they be postcard-size prints of your original work (no layered or 3D artwork as part of this swap).
2. Mail the postcards to me in the US along with your address and return postage in July. (Signup and mailing details will be provided later, along with how non-US participants can provide return postage.)
3. You will receive five postcards back in the mail from other artists from around the world.

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Though the swap won't take place until July after I return to the US, I'm telling you this now so that you can get started on your postcard prints. You may want to create them yourself at home, or you may want to order them from an online source. I've had great luck with and have a 20% off discount code for new customers if you order by 30 March - that's tomorrow (use this code: BK67DT). There are many other options for printing postcards, let me know what services you recommend and if you come across any discounts I'll share them in future updates.

More details and sign up will be available in the near future. Until then, start planning your postcards and get ready to Liberate your Art this summer!

Help Japan 1000 Birds Project

UK-based Japanese ceramics artist Makiko Hastings has a wonderful project going on to help Japan. She is creating and selling one thousand of these delightful little ceramic birds to raise money. All are unique, numbered and handmade by Maki. You can find out how to participate and help her help Japan on her blog, shin shin.

I have a special connection to Maki, since I had the opportunity to meet her when we visited England last summer. We met for breakfast and both were a bit nervous to meet someone from the online world. It seemed a bit weird at first, but we knew we had a love of art in common and quickly fell into conversation. I enjoyed talking with Maki and hearing the story of how she came to England from Japan and her dreams of being a ceramic artist. Since then, I've enjoyed following her adventures and her beautiful artwork on her blog.

Maki and me at the "posh" Betty's Tea Room in York
I hope you'll support Maki's efforts to help Japan. We have three of these special little birds winging their way to us in Italy - I can see a group of three photo in my mind's eye already!

Are you a Superhero?

If you are ready to put on your cape and change the world with your creative ideas, my friend Jenny Shih is here to help you. She's a business coach for creative entrepreneurs, and I can't begin to express to you how enthusiastic she is about this job! Even though I haven't ever been "officially" coached by her, she's given me more helpful ideas than I can count, just in casual conversation. She's got it all - great ideas, great strategies and great heart

If you have a creative idea and are looking for some help to make your business a reality, or to help your existing business grow, she's the woman to help you become the superhero you were meant to be. Take a look at her fun video below and then stop by her site,, to see how she can help you with your plans to change the world.

Put on Your Cape, It's Time to Save the World from Jenny Shih on Vimeo.

(Today's image is from a back alley in Dubrovnik, Croatia.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Personal Equation

art + creativity + photography = bliss

I've been coming back to this equation over and over again in my journal lately. It was only a matter of time until it showed up here. It's a personal equation, something that speaks to me at a core level. I've been exploring what it means...

art = all of that which has been created before, by others. Art includes the formal definition of art, such as the paintings of the great masters, but it is also so much more. Art is the design of a building, the cut of a dress. It is the interpretation of musical notes written on a page. It is the combination of spices and ingredients. It is all that we experience, that comes from outside of ourselves.

creativity = a process, a practice. Creativity is not a "thing." It is the swirl of ideas, the stringing together of old and new. Creativity is where observation, knowledge and action meet. It is the process by which we learn to make sense of the world around us. It is innate, in each of us. It is what allows us to string together words into a sentence and actions into a life.

photography = an artistic medium, a personal form of expression. My photography is the combination of all of the art I've seen and experienced in my world run through my own personal creativity filter. It is the way I can share my vision. Photography allows me to share the stories I see, in the details of life around me. Like this bicycle, in Ravenna. Photography is my art, given back to the world.

Input, process, output.
Art, creativity, photography.

Combine these three ingredients and I get bliss. What do I mean by bliss? I mean happiness that goes beyond the moment, to the core of my being. It is the connection to the heart and soul of who I am, who I always have been, who I always will be. It is something deeper than a pretty picture, a fleeting emotion. 

art + creativity + photography = bliss

It takes all three to make the math work. Without one of them, the equation would be unbalanced. It might equal "content" or "satisfaction," but certainly not bliss.

I imagine that we all have our own personal equation. Part of our life's journey may be to define it, as we live it. Do you know yours? If not, I'm guessing that creativity is in your equation somewhere too. Start there, and see what begins to fill in the blanks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's a Mystery

A dilapidated scooter, found in the back alleys of Ortygia. I wonder what happened? Why has this scooter been left here, to slowly decay? The tires are flat, the body is rusting and the seat is coming apart. There is a story here, what is it?

My mind jumps from the simple - the scooter stopped working and the owner couldn't afford to fix it - to the complex: The person who owned this scooter and lived in this building disappeared under mysterious circumstances and no one to this day wants to move it. The mystery could spawn a novel.

What story do you tell for this scooter?

I'm off this weekend to find the stories in the mosaics of Ravenna and the small country-within-a-country of San Marino. I'm sure there will be some groups of three waiting for me as well. Have a great weekend, I'll be back here on Monday.

Exploring with a Camera: Group of Three

Welcome to Exploring with a Camera Thursday! Today we are going to be exploring Groups of Three in photographic composition. At the end of the post there is a link up, for you to share your images using groups of three. If you want a chance for your image to be featured here on the blog next week, you can also place your photo in the Exploring with a Camera Flickr group. A big hello to Ashley Sisk's Scavenger Hunt Sunday participants - I'm always happy to have you joining me here!

A general principle of design, in decorating or any visual art, is to use odd numbers. A composition with odd numbers is pleasing to the eye. Why? In the Visual Composition article on Wikipedia, it states the "rule of odds" works "by framing the object of interest in an artwork with an even number of surrounding objects, it becomes more comforting to the eye, thus creates a feeling of ease and pleasure."

A group of three, versus a larger odd number, is fun to work with in photography. It is small enough that compositions are simple and uncluttered, yet also large enough to provide a lot of variation in how the group can be presented. I have found there are many ways that groups of three work compositionally. Let's take a look...

Basic Geometry

Going back the basics, three objects can be arranged to form one of two things: A line or a triangle. There are no other options. This is great from a compositional standpoint - we can use lines and triangles!  I did some experimenting last weekend with my origami cranes. No matter how I arranged them, they are either in a line or a triangle, but the creative possibilities are endless.

Taking three objects on a simple background and arranging them into different compositions as I did is a great exercise. You can really play around with the photographic possibilities found in groups of three.

Most of the time I'm photographing in the "real world" though, which means I'm capturing what is already there and choosing my composition solely by framing. In all cases, you will see it comes back to the basic geometry: lines and triangles. For my eye specifically, I use mostly lines.

Pointing out Differences

A group of three can be a great way to compare differences. In the lead-in image of this post, a pretty little scene discovered in Cascais, Portugal, the orange buckets are flanked by the two candle holders. Even though the candle holders are different colors, the similarity of shape and size of the candle holders serves to highlight the difference of the stack of buckets. This image also has a group of three within a group of three with the stack of buckets, but you don't notice the stack (which are similar) as much as you notice the buckets (which are different).

This image of mailboxes on a wall in Sicracusa, Sicily highlights differences in the group of three. They are all post boxes, yet the interest is that they are all different. Being slightly out of line on that fantastically textured wall adds interest too. (I also noticed the colors are the Italian Tricolore - go back and take a look at the images in that post again with an eye to groups of three.)

These lockers are framed as a group of three, but the repetition of the pink lockers serves to highlight the differences in the locks. Notice all of the lines - the locker outlines, the row of handles, and the contrasting diagonal line formed by the ever-smaller locks.

Using Similarities

Even while a group of three may be useful to highlight differences, using similarities in a group can get you to pleasing composition.  For these paperweights of Murano glass from Venice, the group of three forms a line to bring your eye to the focal point. Since the paperweights are all similar in color and shape, they don't distract the eye.

I love this image of flower pots on the steps in Varenna, Italy. The pots are similar in color and shape, and form a line that contrasts nicely with the lines of the stairs. The contrast in color along with the intersection of lines draws the eye to look closer at the pots, where you begin to notice the subtle differences in their shape and size. 

This image from Mt. Etna in Sicily uses the similarity of the tree silhouettes to catch your eye. Since there is no "obvious" tree of the three, you begin to see the subtle detail of the landscape illuminated behind as you look closer. I love images that hold layers of detail in them like these trees and the flower pots above. Groups of three seem to be a good way to initially pull a viewer in, where they remain to explore the multiple layers.

Groups of three are also great for highlighting architectural details and spaces. In this image of the Roman Bath in Bath, England, a composition of three openings serves to highlight the structural design of the baths. You notice the details that repeat multiple times - pillars, torches, archways. The reflection only serves to emphasize the group of three and the details further.

Clustered vs. Spread

In preparing for this topic, I've noticed that my images with groups of three usually have the objects in the group spaced evenly. These prehistoric pots from the Orsa archeological museum in Siracusa are a good example. Even though they are presented front-to-back rather than side-to-side as many of the images above, there is still an impression of even spacing and they are spread to fill the image.

This example of architectural details in a stone wall is from Bologna. By their design, the blocks are evenly spaced. By presenting them as a group of three in a diminishing line spread across the frame, the repetition of the blocks and carvings is shown while highlighting the detail of the single carving in focus.

Even though I don't seem to use them often, groups of three work fantastic in clusters. I have a classic interior design image in my head: Three vases of varying sizes clustered together on a mantlepiece. In a cluster, a group of three becomes a unique object of its own. The group is the object. In the image below, the subject is "art for sale" and the group of three paintings illuminated form that subject.

As you review the images in your archive, take new images or just go about your daily life these next couple of weeks, notice groups of three. Are they found clustered or evenly spaced? Do you see the groups in lines or triangles most often? Are they used to highlight similarities or differences? How else can you see to use groups of three in your compositions?

I can't wait to see what you find, I always learn something new when we explore together. Link your images in below or share them in the Flickr pool. The link tool will remain open through April 5. Have fun exploring!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leaving the Square

Tree in mist with texture
Tree in mist with texture by barbara.jackson55

Ah, our time studying square format is wrapping up. I love that I have a new crop in my arsenal of composition tools after this exploration. I know I will be using square format more, how about you? 

Thank you to all of you who participated both in the link up and the Flickr group! The images were fantastic, and I'm sharing a few today. I found I was drawn to simple images, with one main subject and little background detail. I find these harmonious and peaceful.

See you tomorrow, for a new Exploring with a Camera post. We'll be looking at Groups of Three.

Muscat Ocean
Muscat Ocean by Jamie - Lyrical Journey

spiral motif
spiral motif by gina g10

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back Alley Bliss

Oh, scooters. How I love thee. Wandering the back alleys of an old city, finding a vintage scooter amongst the texture and filtered light has become heaven to me. Do I see scooters because I love to photograph them, or do I love to photograph scooters because I see them? That is the question. Much simpler than Hamlet's "to be or not to be" and, to be honest, I really don't require an answer. I'm happy to both see them and photograph them, regardless of the priority order.

This lovely find was in Ortygia, the old quarter of the town of Siracusa in Sicily. We got lost in the back alleys trying to find the duomo, and it was scooter heaven for me this day. I'll have several to share over time.

I've learned that is my favorite thing to do when traveling... wander. Just wander the back streets and alleys, away from the shopping zones. I don't need long, just an hour or two. I can guarantee I'll find interesting things to photograph when we just wander.

How about you? Where are you guaranteed to find creative inspiration?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning from the Lulls

Friday night I came home from work exhausted. I don't know why, it hadn't been a terribly stressful work week and I had a holiday on Thursday. Saturday morning I woke up looking forward to a morning on my own. My husband and son were heading off early to watch a bike ride and I had the house to myself. A rare treat. I sat at the computer to get into some of my creative work and what happened? Nothing. There was absolutely nothing there. No motivation, no inspiration, no creativity.

This had never happened to me before, around my creative work. This was new. This was scary. My mind quickly went from tired and unmotivated to panicked. So I took a deep breath. Centered myself. And then did something I never do: I turned off the computer.

Here's what I did instead:

Took a bath.

Read a book in a sunbeam on the couch.

Colored a zentangle, so nicely provided to me by my blog friend Karen, only a day before. (Visit her here to download some zentangle book marks, if you have the urge to color.)

Baked popovers.

Read some more out on the balcony, finished the book. 

Ate pizza.

By the end of the day on Saturday, my creative inspiration was back. I turned on the computer, and my work was easy again. Sunday I continued my unplanned hiatus from creative projects and just let myself be. A few more things I did...

Started a new book.

Spent some time journaling.

Baked a cake with my son.

Started to color another zentangle from Karen.

Made origami cranes.

Photographed origami cranes. Multiple times.

Went for a walk with my son.

Ate gelato.

I finished the weekend refreshed. It's Monday morning, and I'm ready to start my week. The small, unscheduled break from my creative goals turned out great. It refocused me, showed me a tiny bit of where I need to make changes to keep my inspiration flowing. I learned from this little creative lull. I know it's not a big deal - it's not as if I was completely blocked. It was just enough for me to get a glimpse of what could happen. To show me that I need to be careful, to listen to these moments, so I don't get to real burnout.

Has this ever happened to you? How do did you respond, what do you do when a creative lull hits?

(The first photo is from Burano, and fills me with a sense of peace and calm. I can imagine sitting quietly in that chair, gathering my creative strength. It is a companion to another one I've shared previously here.)

With Love, From Italy

The Mortal Muses have joined in to support the 1000 Cranes for Japan project on Flickr. This is a simple way to show some love and support for those in Japan. You can participate too, visit here to learn more. Fellow Muse Mosey is also doing a fundraiser on her blog, you can visit her here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Super Moon

Tonight's full moon will be a "super moon" - the moon will be closer to the earth than it's been in 18 years, making it appear larger and brighter. I captured this photo last night from our apartment balcony, the first time I've ever tried to capture a good moon image.

I followed the instructions in this wonderful Muse University post about capturing the moon, written by my friend Barbara. In addition to her tips, I also found that turning the Image Stabilization off, using manual focus and a shutter remote helped. You can use the self timer on your camera if you don't have a remote. This image was captured at the maximum focal length (zoom) I own, 300mm, and was still not as clear as I would have liked. I had to crop quite a bit to get this composition. It's the first time I have ever wished for higher zoom. :)

If you've never tried it, tonight is a great night to "shoot the moon." Or, if photography is not your thing, take a moment to enjoy gazing at the super moon this evening.

In Search of the Tricolore

Tricolore in Italian means three colors. It's the nickname of the Italian flag with its green, white and red, similar to our nickname of "stars and stripes" for the US flag. Yesterday, the three colors were found everywhere for the celebration of 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. It was a special "one time" holiday, and schools, banks and businesses were closed. We hadn't known about this in advance, so it was a bonus day off for us. We enjoyed a lazy morning at home and then went into Milan to see what was going on.

I don't know if this is the same in all European cultures, but on public holidays Italians seem to gather in the piazzas and pedestrian zones. They get out and about. The museums and restaurants are always open and full, even if the shops are not. Surprisingly the shops were open this day, which made it even busier.

There were probably a lot of special events such as concerts going on, but we just enjoyed walking around. Our excursion became a quest to spot the Tricolore, since the colors of the Italian flag were creatively displayed in many unusual places. The colors could be found on public buildings (above) and the light posts became flagpoles in Piazza del Duomo.

Sometimes it was as simple as a flag added to a display, as in this elegant mens clothing store (note the price of those pants - 1590 Euro!)...

... or neatly stacked shirts.

They ranged from a complete window set up, like my favorite store Campo Marzio...

... to a subtle little addition in an otherwise full display.

Who knew there was so much to be found in green, white and red? You could outfit your whole desk or wardrobe! I loved these little clocks.

You can't forget jewelry. Swarovski had a special edition crystal to commemorate the anniversary.

The street vendors were not to be left out. It was a rainy day so you never knew when you might need an umbrella.

The vendors who usually sold scarves or other trinket merchandise were in on the holiday too.

Flags could be found everywhere. On heads...

... and in hands.

The pride in country, through display of the flag, was visible everywhere. We ended our day in Milan by finding a special tram, painted in the tricolore and covered in lights.

We were nearly home when we saw an amazing light show, at the Villa Reale (Royal Villa). Just up the road from us, this "villa" was once the summer home of the king of Italy. They occasionally change the color of the lights, but we've never seen the tricolore before. It was a great end to our color-spotting day.

Happy Anniversary Italy! We were happy to be here to see your celebration, and the colors of your country so proudly displayed.

PS - I didn't forget! Today was the drawing for the giveaway of the Florentine papers. The winner is Deb of the blog Learning As I Go. Congrats to Deb, and thank you all so much for entering.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Share Your View: Square Format

buoy by HiddenRealm on Flickr

I'm so excited to highlight a couple of other photographer's work today! These wonderful images were shared in the Exploring with a Camera Flickr group. I love the simplicity of the composition in both of these square format images. There is a wonderful sense of  peace and tranquility in HiddenRealm's image above, and almadr's image below is fun and colorful. It makes me want to pull out my colored pencils and play!

69_365 by almadr on Flickr

Today we're focusing on your view! You can link in your square format images below, or just peruse the wonderful images that have been shared so far. There are lots of interesting takes on square format! If you'd like to be featured here, put your images in the Flickr pool. I'll have one more feature post on square format next week before we move on to the next Exploring with a Camera topic. Until then - don't forget the words of Huey Lewis and the News: "It's hip to be square!"

PS - Today is the last day to enter the giveaway for the pretty Florentine papers, so come by this post and comment. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What do you do with Defeat?

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. 
 - Marilyn vos Savant

I was struck by this quote as I read it in The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women this morning. Think about what constitutes defeat: Rejection, criticism, negative comments - these are all external factors. These are not of us, they are what comes at us from other sources. 

Giving up, however, is all internal. It is a choice, a decision we make. Our choice is what makes the "defeat"  permanent.

This is something important to remember. As artists, we are all going to suffer defeat. We have a choice in how we respond. If we give up, we cannot point to anyone other than ourselves as the reason, no matter how much we might want to blame the defeat.

The images in today's posts are from a Sunday excursion into Milan, using my phone camera for the current Mortal Muses theme. Visit me at Mortal Muses today to see another subway shot that captures something uniquely Italian.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Conversation between Summer and Winter

Summer leaned in to Winter and whispered, "Watch out, I'm catching up to you."

Winter answered, "I know, but right now, I'm still front and center. You are yet a memory of seasons past and a wish for the future."

We discovered the Four Seasons, all together, during Venice Carnevale. I liked the side conversation captured between Summer and Winter the best. 

There is a lot going on here on my blog right now:
- Don't miss the giveaway I have going on, hop on over to enter.
- Did you notice the square format of today's photo? As always, my current Exploring with a Camera theme influences my work. Come visit and see all of the square format images so many wonderful photographers are sharing.
- If you missed it, I did an interview for Diana Mulder's blog on Sunday. Stop by to say hi and see her beautiful paintings as well!