Raven's Nest Studio

Raven's Nest Studio
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For the Birds

Who does not enjoy birdsong in the garden? In my area, there are already so many who are feeding the birds that they really do not need more food. What they really need is shelter.

After I took an old fence down, I bought some inexpensive bird houses at a craft store and rubbed a little oil paint into them for color. I then affixed them to the top of the old fence posts and let the branches of raspberries, fennel and purple smoke tree grow around them. Even though they are not really good bird houses, chickadees have nested in them for several years.

I clean them out in the fall, so they are ready for the next spring house hunters.

The houses add color to the garden in winter and expand the variety of surfaces and textures year round.

I especially love the lichen on the roof and the contrasting flower and foliage colors.

What is your favorite garden addition?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Using Foliage for Color Contrast

I asked my neighbor if I could take photos of her deck containers to illustrate a concept. We so often think of arranging colors of flowers for impact, but how much more powerful it is to use foliage masses as well. Especially when it has been chilly and the flowers are blooming shyly. Just be sure that you do not use the same proportion of each color or tone that you are arranging. The arrangement will be more interesting if you use proportions like 50%-30%-20% of each of three colors or tones.

This example has some wonderful color in the flowers, as the green yellow petunias echo the green yellow pattern in the dark burgundy petunias. The yellow green of the moss is attractive as well. The very dark flowers are the accent color while the largest amount of any color in the container is green with white being the medium amount in the container now. Watching the proportions of color and value change as the flowers grow adds interest.

In the next examples, the dark foliage presents the largest mass with the gray green foliage being the next largest mass. The pink color is the accent color now. As the flowers grow, the pink may become more prominent. These changes are fun to watch as the weather changes.

Remember that if you do not have the opportunity to enjoy such displays in your own yard, you can always enjoy the flowers in your neighborhood or at the nurseries in the area. Get ready for summer beauty and take time to smell the roses.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Emphasis on Color

I love it when synchronicity strikes and I have 2 objects with the same colors. The card and the rose cache pot not only have the same colors but the flowers on the card echo the shapes of the roses. If I had the time, I would make a painting of this. Alas, I only have the time to play with photography today. I am still hard at work on a large painting of a landscape.

I am also painting a sandwich board to publicize the open studios that BallardWorks has every second Saturday of the month, 6:00-9:00 pm on June 12. The extremes of painting, but sign painters have often been artists as well, historically.

For the next composition, I changed the look of the arrangement by going Asian. Again, I chose an object which repeated the colors of the roses.
 I simply love the shape and color of this tiny ladle. It is so practical as well. I could play for hours, rearranging this, but who has the time. We can't let perfection get in the way of good enough.

My last photo is a more traditional arrangement. Again, I selected an object that replicates a color in the roses. I had to think a little about this one, but I am pleased with the result.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dress for Rain and Walk in Beauty

Two weeks of rain nurtures lupine forests. Growing so fast that you can almost see them, the steady moisture really gives the lupine a boost. The overcast skies and/or rain allow the colors to show in full saturation. I love the rain and don't really mind the gray skies. I guess that is why I love Seattle.

This is the time to get out and walk the neighborhoods. The climate here is such that you can grow almost anything and Seattle gardeners love the challenge. There are lots of Windmill Palms now and olive trees and I have even seen a banana tree in the Magnolia neighborhood. The water nearby moderates the temperatures such that figs are becoming commonplace.

Roses are glorious as long as you plant varieties that are not prone to black spot and mildew. As the summer warms up, the herbs come into full fragrant flower. Lavender, Rosemary, Marjoram, and Bay grow like weeds. Tomatoes and Basil can be more of a challenge until the heat of July.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Indulging in Flowers

Flowers are an inexpensive luxury to add to your surroundings. If you have a garden, you can pick a stem of flower or leaf that interests you and put it where you can enjoy it more closely than in the garden. I urge you to support your local flower vendors, as they support the growers who make it possible for us to enjoy blossoms more often or out of season. If you establish a relationship with a flower shop that sells by the stem, it is easy to have a fresh flower on your desk.

If you have friends who love flowers, you can take turns buying a grocery store bunch and splitting it with each other to all have fresh flowers to enjoy more often. Think creatively about ways to have more flowers in your life. (Besides, they are an indulgence that doesn't add pounds!)

The style you prefer is very personal. The same few flowers appear very different depending on the container. Of course, you can add another element or two to the vase of flowers, but it is not necessary. These examples all used the same 3 stems of Siberian Iris from my garden. The first example is in a fancy vinegar bottle, embellished with a ribbon. The second example is an inexpensive vase from a chain store. The third was made by a ceramic artist and has a pin frog in the water well which makes arranging the flowers much easier, though I find that they do not last as long this way.

I have always grown flowers and have often painted them so I have a very eclectic collection of containers to display blossoms. Others, knowing my passion for flowers' beauty, have given me flowers in interesting containers that I add to the collection. I have a shelf that has most of the containers on it so that I can easily see them and select one that fits the mood of the flower.

Of course, over the years, I have accumulated a lot of vases, jars, bottles and pitchers. Now I must take the advice of my friend Carol. She is keeping only what she truly loves and passing on the rest to friends or charity.

This is my new criteria. Do I truly love this, or has my taste changed or my decor changed such that I can send it on to a new caretaker with no regrets?

Those pieces I truly love, I vow to store where they are easily retrieved for use and rotated for appreciation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Less More?

When I look at this soapstone sculpture of a Halibut, I remember seeing 6 foot long Halibuts filleted with ceremony in Petersburg, Alaska. That leads my mind on to other memories, including the art exhibits where the carver of this fish, Bill Locher, sold his work in 1980 in Juneau, Alaska. That reminds me of his son who was in my daughter's class in school, and his wife who was an artist as well and on and on. I see not only the sculpture, but all my own experiences relating to Halibut and art acquisition. So I am bringing my own circumstances to the encounter with the image of the fish and these color my perceptions.

Stone on stone, this presentation adds gravitas to the fish. I enjoy the similarities of the patterns in the stone emphasized by the variance in color and tone between the platform and the object.The color of the carving is changed as well by the cool white reflected onto the fish by the marble. When the fish is directly on the very warm colored wood surface, these warm colors are reflected very strongly onto the fish. Thence the fish appears more brown above and more green below. This mimics the appearance of a live Halibut as they take on the color of their surrounds and seem to disappear. I also enjoy the contrast of rectilinear to curved.

Scale is important as well as color. With this shorter platform under the fish, I think it looks longer and more like a swimming fish. Of course, Halibut are huge flatfish and spend more time flat on the bottom. This sculpture can be displayed in that position and for years it lived on my desktop where I looked down on it. But on this little shelf, it is closer to my eye level.

I especially enjoy the repetition of the tail shape in the legs of the platform. I also have a bias towards having the darker color below feeling stable.

This platform is longer and very curvaceous. Now all the elements in the arrangement, the shelf, the platform and the fish are very curved. This is an example of repetition that is almost unrelieved by variety. Also all the elements have a lot of warmth in the colors. Only the little bits of green in the fish counter the overall warmth. Perhaps This is way too much of a good thing. Maybe the platform is getting more attention than the fish? So the art experience is being suppressed by the presentation? Is this like putting a very elaborate frame on a simple watercolor? What do you think?

There is no right answer, as we are all different. It helps to know your own preferences in beauty. Explore and enjoy the varieties of choice we have. Decide where you want your attention going.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not by Bread Alone

If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy sweet hyacinths, for they would feed my hungry soul.
- Koran

The life force and fragrance of a living flower has the power to wash our souls free of the grime inflicted by daily living. What better object to use for meditation than something of mutable beauty? Phalaenopsis orchids often bloom for months and make fine companions. They only require watering once a week and filtered sun to thrive. (Don't let them sit in water or leave water in the crown of the plant or they will rot.)

Like every beautiful object, a flower gains refreshed beauty by being moved or re-staged around the house. Advertise to yourself that you are worthy of beautiful surroundings by taking a moment to rearrange or move your flower. For example, consider the following options. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Plagued by Perfection?

I have observed a distinct tendency in myself to seek the perfect. Perhaps this is inborn in all of us as a way to help us find the best food to eat, the best mate or the best place to live. Sadly, eternally chasing perfection can get in the way of enjoying life and realizing that good enough can be perfect.
An example is the small dish I found to use under my pepper mill on the table. I dislike the way the specks of black litter the table when the pepper mill is set down after grinding some pepper on my food.

I looked at rummage sales, bazaars, consignment stores and thrift stores and found a wonderful little hand made, hand painted dish from Italy. It has lots of evidence of how it was formed and is far from perfect, having some defects of manufacture on the rim and some chips in the glaze on the rim. It cost all of 99 cents. Most important, did any defects render it inappropriate for catching pepper specks? No, the dish was sound and just the right size.

Therefore, good enough is perfect for my use. As this is something that I use nearly every day, I have a lot of opportunity to enjoy the beauty and utility of the mill and the dish.

A simple thing, but one more detail that leads to a beautiful life. What beauty have you noticed today? What small action could you take to enhance the beauty in your life?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Art of Presentation - Two rocks and a Feather

It is always nice to have a dedicated space to arrange something to use as a centering focus for meditation. When you have a shelf or little table or even just a corner of a desk to use as your design area, the challenge is to keep refreshing the arrangements so they do not become invisible.

The act of selecting and arranging objects is often done intuitively but can also be done as an exercise in design. I used objects selected by a good friend with a creative eye. They are objects she collected on her travels. With very different colors and textures, they engage me.

Like anything that catches my interest long enough to ponder, these pieces become metaphors. The blue green stone nestled in the white stone reminds me of a robin's egg which relates to the feather. The egg-stone is a metaphor for life beginning. The ragged worn-out feather is a metaphor for life's journey. The white stone is almost like a bone, and can be a socket for the blue green eye stone. Thus implying the passing on of life.

What is noticeable here, is that the material has so much more presence when displayed on a pedestal of some sort. The dark pedestal anchors the light, frothy rock and feather. I find it more satisfying to have dark at the bottom of the arrangement to give it more stability. My only complaint now is that the proportions of the shelf are such that it still feels a a tiny bit empty.

What do you think?

(Thanks to Barb for the connected objects.)