Posted on February 5, 2009
This is the beautiful flower of a common beachside bush (Thespesia populnea) called the haiti-haiti tree here on St. Croix, also known as seaside mahoe, portia tree, and often mistakenly called beach hibiscus. *
Despite the common name sometimes used, the beach hibiscus is actually a different plant (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Still, the flower does look hibiscus-like. I was attracted by the filmy, creamy translucence of the off-white petals when the flower is fully opened.
While the short-lived flowers are beautiful, the tree itself is scrubby with multiple woody stems. Invasive and salt-tolerant, it can quickly dominate a shoreline. The fruits or seedpods are a favorite of the local bright red love bugs, one of which is featured in my gravatar. More on those guys later!
*Thanks to Carol Cramer-Burke at the St. Croix Environmental Association for pointing me in the right direction on the facts here.
Posted on February 3, 2009
This rusty barstool has been down at the beach the last few months. It was joined a few days ago by a white plastic garbage bag.
The salt has eaten away at the chair’s metal frame, almost the same way termites eat away at deadwood, returning it to the soil. This scene of decay told of good times past, evidence of someone passing through this way.
There was a hint of a rainbow in the eastern sky. I wonder now, was that white bag the pot of gold?
Posted on January 30, 2009
Despite the best clean-up efforts of groups like the St. Croix Environmental Association, the shorelines here on St. Croix are sometimes littered with debris – mostly plastic. Some is left behind by careless beachgoers, but far more is deposited from the ocean itself.
That beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, an apparently limitless resource, is in fact full of garbage that drifts ashore. I think that sad fact was on my mind as I began this image.
This rocky shore had interest, but needed a spark to bring it to life. After some work, the rusty metal parts in another photo became the green shield tucked under the most interesting of the rocks.
As the image developed, it became darker and almost macabre — not something I had intended in the beginning. In fact, looking at it now, the feelings evoked are almost a surprise. Strange.
Posted on January 26, 2009
Maintaining an art blog requires some work. So why do it?
Two somewhat unexpected benefits I’ve already learned:
• Developing a post forces me to think about my work and articulate those thoughts.
• Posting a new image encourages me to make sure it is the best it can be.
And two that I’ve read about:
• A blog is a way to expand the audience for new work, and helps create a web presence.
• A blog can create opportunities to receive advice, praise and criticism from other artists, and just enjoy the interaction with others who have similar interests.
We’ll see about those…
So just what is that little creature?
Posted on January 18, 2009
One of the visually stunning aspects of living on St. Croix is the nearly constant view of the ocean and the shoreline. The colors and textures of the transition from land to water inspired this image.
This was sold at a benefit show for Haiti Community Support, a local non-profit dedicated to helping a small Haitian community. It has also led to the beginning of a “shoreline” series.
It would be easy, working with the color fields of ocean and beach, to venture off into purely decorative abstraction. I like to think “Buck Island View” is enhanced by the natural elements in it that help ground the image and evoke some of the wonder that the sea is due.
I enjoy producing images that are a pleasure to look at. But it is also important to me for a piece to have some meaning beyond pure decoration. Balancing these elements is one of the things that makes the artistic endeavor endlessly challenging and exciting.
Posted on January 13, 2009
There was this pile of bright yellow-orange egg fruit on a red table at St. Croix’s St. George Village Botanical Garden last summer. The jumble of shapes lit with an intense swath of sunlight across the front was irresistible. So I took it home with me.
Occasionally I will go to work immediately on a photograph to produce a final image. However, just as common is the months-long gestation that this one required. Several times I worked on it, was dissatisfied and put it away — only to bring it out later, delete a layer or two (a little like scraping the paint off?) and move forward. That start and stop process sometimes produces an image that is over-worked. But in other cases, it is the only way.
The painting-a-day discipline of carrying a painting forward to completion each day is different from the luxury of allowing an idea to gestate, going back days later, and reconsidering the strokes of the brush (or in my case, the stylus). Not better or worse, but different. So does that different process lead to different results?
Posted on January 10, 2009
There has been an interesting debate recently on Sue Favinger Smith’s “Ancient Artist” blog about the importance of developing a signature style. Martin Stankewitz has weighed in with his own contrasting opinion in his Squidoo Lens on the subject.
This has been an issue for me. I often venture off in different directions. While I could force myself to stay within a certain “box” for commercial purposes, I know that box could also become a prison (as Martin suggests).
On the other hand, an identifiable “style” is a likely outcome of the daily discipline of working on one’s art. In time, a style should develop and become apparent on its own. It will not need to be forced. Having a recognizable style may be a mark of maturity and accomplishment as an artist — assuming the artist allows that style to gradually evolve over time.
Style as a mark of maturity and accomplishment may also be one reason the galleries and marketing gurus encourage anyone who wants to advance commercially in the art world to find a style and stick with it. A “signature style” provides the appearance (although not necessarily the reality) of maturity and accomplishment. As a result, some may feel pressured to lock into a style for commercial purposes, perhaps before a genuine personal style has emerged on its own.
In the end, this is one more facet of the age-old tension between art for art’s sake, and monetary and public success. I know few people who have no need for the money or the sense of approval and respect for our work that an occasional sale can provide. Each must resolve the tension between commercial success and artistic freedom in their own way. I will be interested to see how I resolve it for myself.