Tag Archives: composition

Pictures, Laundry, and Archival Prints?


We have created a system that empowers you to order artwork directly from our site to the printer and have it printed on a special paper called rag paper.  Curious, I did a little research into this popular type of paper.

Rag sorting at the Mt._Holyoke, Massachusetts Paper. American Writing Paper Co. Public Domain

Rag paper has been around for centuries. The normal everyday white papers found in schools and notebooks are made from wood pulp.   However, in the history of paper this is a relatively new way of manufacturing it.  For centuries the world used a paper called rag paper.  Rag paper is not made from wood pulp but, as the name suggests, rags.  Specifically, cotton rags. Though some other fabrics are sometimes used, it seems universal that cotton is the go to fabric for both the ancient and modern worlds.

Cut rags after removing from washing drums, paper mills at turn of the 20th century Public Domain.

Paper, made of cotton and/or linen is called paper rag.  It is not unusual for cotton fabric to be recycled for this specific purpose.  It’s weird to think that tomorrows fine art could be made using your current pair of undergarments ( there’s a thought ! )   or even your blue jeans.   Any of those materials could be recycled into rag paper.

Rag paper is stronger than pulp paper.  This makes it last longer and be more tear resistant than typical wood pulp paper.  The reason is that the fiber of the cotton rags are longer and more dense than the fibers found in wood pulp.  This gives the rag paper it’s strength and durability.

Why would somebody put artwork on a piece of rag?  Simple, in the manufacturing process, the rag paper becomes Ph. neutral or acid neutral.  That means that no acid or base chemicals are left in the materials.  The pigments and inks placed on the paper absorb into the fabric and stay without any chemical degradation caused by acids and bleaches found in non-archival papers.  This is why most of today’s national paper currencies continue to be made with cotton rag.  You can wash a dollar bill and it doesn’t disintegrate after any money laundering in the washing machine .

American Writing paper Company (Public Domain)

It is this very reason antique documents, like the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, and even the Magna Carta are still around today.  Paper rag is naturally archival when made.  It will last for centuries.


Here is a video from an Indian paper manufacturing company that makes handmade rag paper.



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Branches at the Crossroads

Branches.  Looking at this photograph of Crossroads, you see a plant’s branches.  More specifically, there is a main stem and two branches arching away from the body.  Look closer.


Notice, the young stem grew thicker than the rest of the body.  At some point in it’s young life it had a traumatic experience. Part of it started to grow in another direction.  You can see the dark bands where the stem and the branches connect.  Are those scars?


Was the plant at a crossroads?  Did it have to decide on which branch to send most of it’s energy to?  It decided to continue  anyway, becoming a little less thick as the plant redirected it’s energy to those branches.


Imagine that the plant became more stuck in it’s ways.  It’s own main stem growing a little less due to the needs of those branches.  In response it grows thorns, a protective device for sure.  But protection from what?  Change?  Redirection of it’s vital energy?  Does the plant even know?  Does it realize the branches allow the plant the ability to feel alive?  It’s the part of the plant that the sun is striking the brightest.


As we grow older, our branches also spread.  They are traumatic and leave scars on our life stem.  We, like the plant, can develop thorns to protect us from this harm.  The branches are children, jobs, financial responsibilities, or even relatives we must care for.  Anything that sucks our energy away from us.  But are our thorns there for protection, or because of our own stubbornness?   It is a desire on our part to dislike change and wish things would just stay the same.  Yet, we may come to learn that it was at that time that we were at our brightest.

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A Kitten Under a Bush?

I love unusual trivia.  For instance, did you know that the proper name for a baby rabbit is not “bunny”.  It’s proper name is kit or kitten.  This may seem strange, but consider that most Americans refer to children with the term used to describe baby goats.

People tend to get excited about baby animals and Spring is an awesome time to find them. They always make great photographic art that people love to own.

When this photograph happened, It was a comfortable day in the spring and I was walking through a winding trail around some deep green azalea bushes.  I noticed some movement as I came around a small bend and staring at me was this cute little guy.  Instantly I froze, worried that any movement on my part would send him hopping off into the bushes.

At first, I’m not sure who was more surprised, the rabbit or myself, but there he sat inquisitively .   I could tell that he was young because he did not try to run from me.  I guess he didn’t know to be afraid of people yet.

That being said, he watched me constantly as I slowly sat down in a rough nest of bark mulch.  I wanted him to be comfortable with me just sitting there so I didn’t dare make any sudden movements and every few seconds I would move very slowly, like an animated statue, inching a little closer to him.

His response was somewhere between “What am I looking at?” and “Oh, look some green munchy grass!”  I could imagine his little brain try to size me up and he always managed to place himself in a place where he could easily take off into the bushes if I indeed was a threat.

So, calmly, I started taking pictures. I thought that he would become a nice addition to my greeting card collection. I can’t tell you how glad I was that I spent the money on a remote trigger for my camera when it’s on a tripod.  I would setup my shot on the little guy, slowly sit back down and shoot remotely. It saved me from making too much motion and possibly scaring him away.

At one point, he had turned his back to me.  He still kept a watchful glance, but clearly, I was no longer his number one concern.  The picture Oh, I See You is a direct result of spending a wonderful hour in the early morning with a kitten under a bush.

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A Day With A Blue Jay

After taking the picture of a blue jay feather on the ground, You walk around some bushes and down a slope to discover this cute creature.  At the time, you may believe that this bird was just a blue jay.  He looks like he was fighting with other blue jays.  Knowing that blue jays are rather territorial this doesn’t strike you as surprising. It’s that time of spring when mating and small hatchlings are beginning to fly about, and you have seen several small baby robins twittering about.

Be excited!  Who doesn’t love to take picture of cute animals and this little guy is simply perched on this low branch right next to you. He’ll spend most of his time checking you out and trying to decide if you’re a threat or just another creature walking by.  This is perfect!  You know the pictures are going to come out great.  You’ve already thought of a space in your office where he can show off your wall.

You notice his body feathers have a ruffled look to them.  His whole body highlighted by the bright sun,, which has revealed itself from behind the clouds and is shining in full force.  You stand still for a short time to watch your new feathery friend scurrying up and down the branches, looking at you, looking at the ground, and then back at you again.  He seems so agitated, but you think he would become an excellent work of art.  You slowly lift your camera and start taking his picture. Soon, he grows tired of you just looking at him with a large camera attached to your face and decides  to head off for more profitable trees.

It was then when a nice lady you met earlier that day, whom one could only describe as being one of those fine examples of a southern Texas belles with her broad brim spring hat and a quiet Texas accent , finds you to give some advice.   She and a friend of hers were wandering the gardens after visiting with you earlier and they discovered a mother blue jay with a tiny chick in a nest nearby.

Imagine your surprise when you discover that the frazzled male blue jay isn’t the victim of a recent fight.  He isn’t disheveled and ragged looking hopping from branch to branch ceaselessly because of his wounds.  Instead, he’s trying to find food constantly.  He’s a new father!

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Have You Ever Considered a Blue Jay Feather?

Have you ever considered a blue jay feather?   It is simply lying on the path when you stumble upon it.  It strikes you that this would make a good photograph. What do you do?   Most people pull out their point and shoot cameras or iPhones and snap an Instagram type shot and hope for the best.


Luckily, you’re not most people.  Your looking for impact.  Better yet, you want to see the scowl on your mother in-laws face because it’s good enough to hang on your wall type impact; and YOU took it.


The challenge in taking this photograph is three-fold:


  • You want to focus.  You want the feather in complete focus while allowing the background to also have a texture.   Texture is important. It adds a character to the picture and lets the viewer identify with it.  In this kind of shot texture is good.  On most DSLR type there is a P setting or a A-Dep.  Use them. Experiment. Most of all, focus on the feather.
  • It was important to maintain the contrast between the various blues of the feather and the blacks and browns of the ground.  You really want the picture to highlight the differences not only in color but also in texture. The lines that you see in the feather just simple straight black lines.  Yet, when you see them in the feather as a whole they are very striking and they give a delightful contrast to the texture of broken nuts and wood underneath it.  Contrast can help bring this out. Remember, texture is good. Contrast is good.
  • The lighting is tricky.  This feather is lying under a large canopy of trees.  It is a partly sunny day and that means that at anytime the sun will breakthrough introducing a slashing bright light across the mid-section of the feather. If you aim the camera into this specific area, the camera will try to compensate for the bright light and It would suddenly darken the shot for the picture and everything is black. If you choose the darker areas, then the shot would be vastly over exposed and the color gets washed out.  You have to try to get your timing just right.  Sure, you can always fix the picture in Photoshop or Lightroom later, but the idea is to try to do as little post-production as possible.


These are but three of the many steps you do when taking this shot of a blue jay feather.  But that’s just part of the story,  Little did you know when it happened, but you would soon be introduced to the previous owner of the feather.  There was a reason he had so recently shed it, That story and a picture on the next post.

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