Friday, 21 August 2015

InstaMom & The Soft Pitch.

So, I got an Instagram account on the advice of an established artist. Facebook is for chatting with friends, he said. Instagram will help you connect as an artist with the public.  I'm not feeling the magic so far, but I have faith.
It's a simple premise, really. With a photo and some short text, snap a instant-quick slice of your life and send it out for the perusal of the masses. Only my life doesn't happen in instants. It sometimes shuffles along in tardys, draggys, and the odd momentous moments. Other times it sneaks past in wha-was-thats? and whoo-back-ups! And when it's successful, I only see the sticky residue in late night omigods! (They're fun. No sleep for you, Tristis. You now know what you missed last week)

Well, I'm on Instagram. And since part of my days are often spent with my mother, I'm fairly tempted to post her and her quirkiness. Mom's of two minds with this: she completely delights in being photographed, and she absolutely detests being photographed. Yes, those two things utterly contradict each other. That's my mom.

So, what does my instagram feed get out of this? Mostly confusion and very few actual photographs. I take far more photos with my camera, than my phone, and when I do—thanks to my hammy model— they're rarely the stuff of zippy, square, insta-art. They belong in series and stories and rambling discussions about mothers and children and time.

And thus enters the ice-cream-imp series of photos:

Mom's wicked look comes from my having just told her that she is a terrible person. She and I were discussing the fact that, after I had hauled a softball out of my camera bag—

—What on earth was a softball doing in your camera bag?

There's no good answer for that. Let's move along—

—she offered it to several nearby children. No, of course they could not have the softball. I had to say no to the disappointed cherubs, duck their mother's glare at my having contradicted the "sweet little old lady's" generosity, then get my revenge with the camera.

"Why are you taking my picture?"

"It's a record."

"Of what?"

"The crimes you commit."

"Oh, you don't want that ball, do you?"

"It's not mine. I forgot it was in there. And it's important. It commemorates a championship game."

"You don't play baseball."

"It's still not up for grabs."

"You could take a picture of my ice-cream."

"I will. Hold the ball steady."

"You'll get my fingers."

"I want your fingers."

"Not my face."

"Not your whole face."

A while back, when mom was sick and thought she was dying, I was worried, too. I wanted to send a picture to my brother in Alberta. Mom said no. I asked if I could send a shot of just her hands. She agreed to this.

She didn't die. She did, however, embark on a game of being a horrible, horrible patient—mostly because she was so very angry at not dying. Other people in the family who got this flu dropped dead (we missed the funeral, because she was sick). She had to suffer through a recovery and now has to wait before getting to heaven.

And all that.

That's okay, mom. You get to stick around and amuse yourself at my expense. And I get to amuse myself with random photos of you and sometimes your hands.

I've got a real fascination with her hands. They're shaped far different than when I was young and she  was shaping my memories. They took turns around each other, bent themselves and heaved up in odd places. But they remain nimble and useful tools for her in ways I wouldn't assume possible, given the pain they must cause. She still goes at all the same wacky projects she used to and only sometimes hisses when she hurts them.

There is something very special in how my mother has aged. It's not the arthritis, or the white hair or aging skin, it's in the defiance of those things. She's refusing to be old in two directions at once. The first, I've already mentioned: she's hellbent to die and go to heaven. Being old sucks. She wants her cloud, her little reward, and to take a tally of who didn't make it because they were just evil little buggers.

The second direction is in her immeasurable youth. This mother of mine is a child. For a while (after my father died) I thought she was a teenager, given her sudden interest in the opposite sex. But of late, I've got her figured at around six, that age where play is intricate, but still carefree. Nothing has to make sense to the rest of us, but everything does in its own weird and magical way.

Oh, yeah, and she's a brat.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Royal Eye

Take note of my penchant for tacky.

This is one of my fav shots. I use it on my computer desktop. It makes me smile.

What it is: a self portrait in Macro

Yeah, it's purple. Purple is pretty much my hands-down choice for eye colour. If I could afford them (and tolerate the notion of sticking something in my eye) I'd wear purple contact lenses every day—well, every day that I wasn't wearing stark white or absolute black or little skulls…I should probably seek help.

The photo has, of course, been manipulated. I've often wondered if people think that makes it less (less photographic, less real, less honest, less worthy) or overdone. It certainly could have been more subtly approached. And I considered that, but there's nothing terribly subtle about purple eyes in the first place. There's no reason to hold back any of the boldness that the Photoshop tinkering produced.

This is fantasy and it's okay for it to be loud and thick and highly contrasted. It's okay to be over the top, outrageous and grand. It's the royal eye, after all, and We are very happy with it.

For the record, the original pic, which I also happen to like, is the end result of pretty near blinding myself the day I first bought my macro lens. When I look at it, I feel a little smart in my ocular nerve.

You know, I used to have brown eyes.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Building a Bridge To Get Over It

This was not supposed to be this blog post. I had something else written and different photos to share, but complications and questions just haunt the daylights out of me. So I'm posting a short series of early morning shots I took on the gritty, gritty banks of the Saint John River.

I used to have an early morning job. It would make me crazy to be out at such a beautiful hour, but unable to photograph what I saw, like mist on the river in the morning sun. Every so often, though, I finished early enough to race home, grab my camera and go back out to a good site (Yes, sometimes I had the camera with me, but that wasn't the safest plan in the world).

This was a Saturday morning in late spring. I wanted the train bridge disappearing into fog, so I scrambled down the embankment for some low level shots.

This is not a particularly popular site for the insanely-addictive-to-camera-buff bridge pics, so I guess I get to claim some unique angles to pay for my bruised ankles (see what I did there?).

The most important thing turned out to be the sun, not the fog. The light was amazing.

There's a lot more shots in the series that I really like. There's two panoramas, too. I'm pretty sure the wide panorama shots would be puny in this format, so I'm sticking with the stubby ones.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The trouble with love

Some photos I took last night in my backyard.

They're all of the same indiscreet union, a romance doomed to fail, to be limiting to both, temporary in what shallow support can be given, and yet beautiful in the moment.

Evening Nightshade is the vine that has wrapped herself around a grass stalk. She's a relative of Deadly Nightshade and carries some less potent, but still quite exciting possibilities in her sex (her berries).

She can knock you off your feet. She can paralyze you. She's got attitude to spare.

So, you might think to yourself, what's this dangerous beauty doing entangling herself with common grass? But if you did you'd be selling our straight-talking dependable champion of the earth quite short. Grass is strong—not in that bully sense of beating up on other plants, but in its tenacity. Grasses are the first thing to take root in seaside soil. They establish colonies and then whole societies with interconnected roots that are the basis of fertile soil as they rot and renew, thicken and spread. Grasses are the builders of continents full of lush plant life.

I could go on. But suffice to say, the grass is cool no matter how "common" you think it is.

At any rate, while not prone to romance stories, I thought this one was quite lovely. I'm not sure when, but I do know that a fellow is coming to remove the garden box that has "gone to weed," or as I like to call it: been allowed to be its real self.

The Nighshade will face its third uprooting. I doubt it can come back from this one. I think I might sneak out before the fellow arrives and move parts of it over behind my big pine tree. There will be less sun, but also less mayhem.

I 've been meaning to get pictures of this strange couple for several days. When I finally got out there with a camera it was evening. The sun was starting to set and I was a little bit worried about the angles I had to work with. Truth be told, there were about twenty five shots and these were the only ones I felt worked with both the bokeh'd background and the light. There were shots I thought were really good for the subject, but my deck was a too-busy bit of background.

Frankly, I think it's rather neat that the light kept changing through the shoot, too. It made variation where (let's be frank here) there isn't much in subject matter. Cute little vine, so-far sturdy stalk of grass. That's pretty much it.

I hope they're enjoyable (yeah, I know, grass. Still, though).

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Iron Belle

The name sounds like a great character for a pirate tale. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to use it sometime soon.

In the meantime, the photo that inspired the name was mounted on a short, steeple-shaped stand outside the Wolfville fire department.

Oh the decisions one faces after a photo is taken(!) There's cropping, and exposure tinkering, and sharpening, and burning/dodging, and any number of things that can take an otherwise interesting photo and turn it into art barf.

Resist, Tristis. Resist.

Sunday, 12 July 2015


Garden photography. 

The garden as entangled

It's all with a macro lens, even the far away shots, because I'm too (lazy?) to change lenses. Focus with macros is always about choices. But there are ways and ways. I choose ways, myself. Others might do the opposite. Regardless it's work and insect bites or vice versa. 
This is bud.
She's a tough one, so don't make fun of her name.

Gangland Flowers
I thought these fellas looked like they could pretty much take out anybody.

Monday, 6 July 2015

More on the Storm Fairy

Part of my rewrite for The Storm Fairy includes new illustration. In the end, it's possible that none of my illustrations will make it into the book, even if it is accepted, but I feel the need to include them. After all, most a little over half were done as part of my Illustration class.
For the most part, I'm happy with them. What I see in completed pictures is pretty much what I saw in my head. It also gives me a chance to make the village more diverse. It's pretty important to me that it be so, but I didn't want to do this carelessly. I wanted to do the research that allows me to depict people as more than just variations in skin tone, or stereotypes—although the point of the fairytale is to have types, especially traditional types of people. I wanted all the people to fit together, regardless of their ethnicity. Villagers are tidy, they all wear hats to keep their hair under cover. The women wear aprons and the children, who start with a freer feel and pastel colours wear increasingly uniform clothes in darker/richer colours as they age toward adulthood. Except for Erin, who's a little weird.

Note: I'm trying to organize my two kinds of work, writing and visual art. So, I'm going to link back and forth between the two blogs that focus on one or the other. I discuss The Storm Fairy on Domus Comm, so if you're at all curious, click here.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Storm Fairy

I've written a children's story that's been simmering in the back of my mind for a couple of years. It was inspired (kindled and seeded) by my good friend Nasnan Blacksheep.

I always felt that if I could only get the illustrations done, I could send it off to a publisher.
Want to know a secret?
They don't want writer/illustrators. They want written-only submissions.

Still, I've got a plan. It's a sucky plan, but I'm sticking to it!
Besides, I like my illustrations a lot. It's been great learning how, and a lot of fun playing with my characters.

I produced a picture book as part of my Illustration course (I just got my diploma in Graphic Design). But it had two issues:
1) I felt it was far too short in telling the story. I had to leave a lot out.
2) It was still too long for a picture book.

The solution: Make it a chapter book, instead. Those are longer, they can have a little denser text, and they're aimed at a slightly older group of kids, which is a better fit for my little tale of woeful weather.