Once again the winter months arrive and bring with them the opportunity to see a greater selection of animals. In Florida, in the dry season the weather is nicer and the mosquitos are no longer swarming making life miserable. It’s a great chance to capture birds and other fauna. This beautiful bird is a female cardinal.
The female uses a brown plumage with red highlights and not the bright red plumage the male does and therefore is not as easily identified. At first glance this might seem rather unfair to the female of the species. I mean everyone knows and loves the little bright red males. Myth and lore surround them as bringer of good luck and there is even sports teams named after them. But in reality, it’s actually the female that may have the luckiest plumage.
Cardinals tend to live in the underbrush and low trees due to the fact that they eat off the ground and the occasional backyard feeder. They also use those bushes for nesting and incubating their eggs. So, which plumage would you rather have if you’re sitting in a low-lying nest reachable by snakes, and Fluffy the killer house cat? I think I’d prefer to blend in with the drab browns.
As for our particular model, it’s true that cardinals do not migrate which means that our lovely little lady Cardinal probably lives near this spot with a male nearby. This bird was obviously curious to see if I had any saffron or sunflower seeds with me. She paused on the wooden rail and eyed me for any chance of a free meal. Unfortunately, for her, I don’t bait wildlife to get a shot, so no easy pickings for her.
Our newest work, Water Reeds, presents the thought that lines are an important factor in the emotional imprint of art. At first glance you might hesitant with the meaning of that statement.
I’ll admit, the statement is fraught with logical pitfalls and dangerous oversimplifications of reason. Everybody views a work of art differently and therefore the emotions can vary. The lines are the answer to looking at a work and discovering a hidden meaning to its feeling.
In both art schools and simple school art classes, students learn the artistic value of lines. They create direction and focus a viewer’s attention either towards or away from an area in a painting, sculpture, or picture according to the whims of the artist.
But, the usefulness of lines to an artist is not limited to just the direction you wish to point the viewer. They create an emotional feeling behind them. You can create aggressive lines that are forceful and dramatic. They beat down the doors of the soul with their thick widths and daring nature. The clusters of thick reeds in their green and brown lines dominate a presence that pulls the eye towards them.
Another function of a line in the hands of an artist is that of certain emotional passive aggressiveness. The rendering of these emotions is often accomplished with the thinning of a line. A thin black streak against a colored background is not always forceful. It does not assault the eye but it is not possible to ignore its existence.
The smaller reeds in the center of the picture show this feeling by directing your eye with a hidden yet forceful way. Yet the real technique is the way the water ripples actually form subtle lines going against the grain of the lines in the reeds.
Indeed, Our thin lines in the picture direct your eye towards our last line-induced emotion. I refer to passivity. If a thick line is aggressive and a thin line going in another direction is passively aggressive, how then can a line be passive? The answer is by their being no line.
In the center of the picture you see the gentle reflections of clouds in the water. True enough, if you were to grab a magnifying glass you would see a line. However, art is about illusion. The place where the blue of the water stops and the white of the cloud begins marks a line of some sort. Yet, from a distance, there is the gentle illusion of no discernible line. One color just stops and the other begins.
One last thought about art around the useful techniques and fashions of lines. Nature has provided us with this tranquil scene of reeds. You feel the light breeze and the warm summer sky. The picture in itself is very relaxing. However, to be relaxing, you as the viewer just need to read between the lines.
I became interested in military aviation in the fall of 1976 when I watched my father work on a large plastic model kit of the Chance Vought F4U Corsair. This WWII fighter plane excited me; everything from the strange cigar looking long fuselage to the gull wings gave the impression that this was a different kind of fighter.
Born in WWII, the Corsair fought in the Pacific theater against the Japanese Empire. This aircraft was a star performer in the hands of many a pilot. Thanks to Hollywood and actor Robert Conrad, no one was more famous for flying Corsairs than Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. He was a Medal of Honor winner and commander of the VMF-214 squadron known as the “Black Sheep Squadron”.
When I eyed this beautiful still operational museum piece at an airport after a nearby airshow, I remembered the old legend of the Black Sheep Squadron and promptly went about capturing the idea. Baa Baa Baa was born. The conditions for the picture were not to my advantage, however.
In artistic photography light is your paint, reality your canvas, and the camera your paintbrush. All three parts must combine and work together for a work of art to coalesce. The aircraft hangers in the background coupled with another fighter just out of the frame proved to be a challenge thanks to the glaring afternoon sun. The only thing to try was constant repositioning and checking the angles for the shot that obtained the most dramatic effect.
Later during processing, I decided to try my hand at creating a more historical looking piece. The traditional black and white imagery proved to be too bland and the way the brilliant sunlight plays on the undercarriage shadows and shiny metal wings became muted. So I started experimenting with the pale browns and yellows of yesteryear type film. The result is a unique blending of techniques and filters allowing the picture to retain its historical feel and yet have the punch and crispness of modern-day photography.
When I was in taking Egyptology in graduate school at the University of Texas at Dallas back in the ‘90’s, I learned of an Egyptologist by the name of Zahi Hawass. This man was, at that time, the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs in Egypt. This made him the undisputed king of Egyptology. No one could get an archaeological permit without his approval.
But that is not what made him different. No, He was more interested in bringing back Egyptian artifacts that sat in foreign museums back to his homeland. These artifacts were always precious statues, frescoes, jewelry and other various art forms of the Egyptian culture. He was, and still is, a catalyst for what came next.
There is now an understandable trend among international governments to reacquire lost art artifacts of their respective culture. After all, it makes good politics. It swells the nationalistic pride coffers of individual nations with physical proof of the greatness of a person’s culture’s or national history.
So it should come as no surprise that there is a new movement among the Chinese art collectors in the world to reacquire artifacts that once belonged in China. These artifacts were sometimes looted from palaces and homes in times of war and revolution. Indeed, the Chinese cultural revolution of the ’50’s seems to be over.
Normally, when a government or an individual collector of precious art finds such a work of art, they usually go through a long drawn out formal process of buying the piece back or negotiating a reasonable trade with the museum so that everyone gets something out of the deal. Even if it’s nothing more than good public relations.
But, and it’s no secret, the Chinese government does not do things the way western nations would like them to be done. When normal repatriation of the lost artwork fails, they start bidding wars at the auction houses to get the pieces back. There are some very rich people in the world, but very few can outbid a corporation bankrolled by the Chinese government for the sole purpose of acquiring these lost works.
However, there is strong speculation that several rich collectors of Chinese art found an even more lucrative way of getting their art fix. They steal it. According to The New York Times , at least 65 works of art disappeared in 5 thefts in the past 5 years.
“Chinese laws, on everything from theft to intellectual property, are very different from those in the West, and therefore stolen or forged artworks find a market far more easily there than abroad,” Noah Charney, an art crime expert said after the Norway thefts.”
It will be interesting to see how this entire affair works out in the end. The jobs are obviously done by professional thieves and the chances of capturing these guys is very slim. This is why there is only speculation and no real factual information as to what became of the pilfered art.
In fact, this crime wave reads like something right out of Hollywood. If they make a film on it, think blending the movie Mission Impossible and the modern version of the Thomas Crown Affair without the sappy love story. If any would be directors out there like this idea, I happen to know a certain photographic artist with some Chinese inspired artwork that can hook you up. Just saying….