Monday, July 28, 2014

Art Journal52 and Moo-Mania: "Words of Wisdom"

Art Journal52's prompt for Week 30 (beginning 7/27/14) is "Positive Words"

Moo-Mania's prompt for the two weeks ending on 7/29/14 is "Anything Goes"
(this is my first post for this meme)

I read several of Mark Twain's books as a pre-teen and teen ---those featuring Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, a Connecticut Yankee,The Prince and the Pauper.

But I became a Twain fan (or Twainiac) once I started to read his social commentary. Most of what he wrote is as relevant today as it was when Twain wrote it.

Many think that Twain was born in Missouri (1835) and never left. But after age 17, he lived and worked in Cincinnati, New York City, Washington, Philadelphia, Nevada, California, The Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Buffalo, Elmira, and Hartford. He traveled up and down the Mississippi River, around the world, and spent many years living in Europe.

In 1867, before he became famous, a newspaper paid him to travel on a six-month cruise to Europe and the Holy Land and send letters back to the paper.  At that time, Europe was supposed to be the center of high culture while many Europeans considered America to be a savage land inhabited by frontiersmen and uneducated bumpkins.

Americans loved Twain's reports of his travels.  Upon his return to America, he compiled his letters and some additional observations into a book. Innocents Abroad became a hit with the public and set him on his way to being the most famous and recognizable man in America by the end of his life in 1910.

Innocents Abroad is filled with Twain's unique observations and much humor ---poking fun at the Europeans and their culture ---but there are also gems of wisdom in it, including the quotation I added to the Artist Trading Card pictured here.

The quotation became especially meaningful to me after living and working in the hinterland of Brazil for several years.  It was then that I realized that any culture in any part of the world is no better or worse than any other, only different.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Black and White Weekend - 7/25/14: "Symmetry"

asks us to post a black and white photo. No spot colors. No sepia. Black and white, only.

The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, may be the only Gothic-style skyscraper in the world, rising to 42 stories of classrooms and administrative offices.

The first floor, with its high vaulted arches and columns resembles a cathedral. When construction began in the 1920's, Pittsburgh was still basically a mill town. Even though I've lived in this area most of my life, it still amazes me that one can find something this beautiful in Pittsburgh.

As I looked through the photos I have taken there, I found dozens I could have posted.  But there are more weekends to come, so you'll probably be seeing additional images from the Cathedral of Learning.

(Note: My photo is NOT a double photo creating a mirror image. This entire photo is what came out of my camera with some cropping to center it and a little contrast adjustment.)

I rather like the idea that an educational building is called the "Cathedral of Learning" because I am devoted to learning.

I was a teacher of English (as a foreign language) in Brazil and an art teacher in public schools in the U.S. for more than 30 years. In addition, I have taught art and writing courses at community colleges, conducted creativity workshops for Western PA Mensa, and have done presentations on Mark Twain and his writing.

I have always been an avid reader and enjoy watching documentaries. I rarely listen to music because I'd rather be learning from an audio book or listening to NPR. (For me, the idea of being able to "read" an audio book while doing something else is downright glorious.)

I have reached the age when I can take free classes (for seniors) at my local community college, although I'm not pursuing another degree. I enroll in one class per semester in a subject that I think will interest me ---and nearly everything does.  I completed an Adobe Illustrator course and others in speech, art history, literature, and digital photography (that wasn't very good, so I plan to take it again with a different instructor.) I plan on taking classes in poetry writing, criminal justice, history, philosophy, graphic design, biology, geography, and more.

If I worship at any cathedral, it is a Cathedral of Learning.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Fences - 7/24/14: "Bearizona"

Good Fences Thursday challenges us to post an image of a fence or gate each week.

Today I'm taking you to Williams, Arizona (near Flagstaff.) The famous Route 66 runs through the town and Bearizona is just outside of it.

Bearizona has two parts. One is a drive-through zoo where one has to keep the windows closed and drive slowly so as not to run into bears, buffalo, wild goats, rams, deer or wolves.

 The other part is a walk-through zoo surrounded by a substantial fence with a carved bear guarding the entrance. In that area we saw porcupines, raccoons, more bears, some small wild cats (maybe lynx), foxes and enjoyed a demonstration of birds of prey. There were a few peacocks running about loose. And they had a cage of money-grubbing Ravens. If you slipped the end of a dollar into the cage, one of them would take it and place it into a donation box.

 I have mixed feelings about zoos. I am an animal lover who enjoys seeing live animals that I would never see in the wild, yet I hate to see them locked up. I know that keeping some endangered species in captivity is the only way to preserve them, but I don't think we're short of bears or rams, yet.  These animals seemed to be well cared for and they live in settings as natural as they can be without being in the wild.

Bearizona, near Williams, AZ

Close-up of bear sculpture.
Raven, trained to grab money
and place it in a plexiglas donation box.
Young bears are kept in a
special section inside the
large fenced area.  I think this
fellow is climbing a fake tree.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Abstract Photo - 7/23/14: "Screened In" 2 versions

NF Photography prompt: Abstract Photo


After an evening event at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh,
I noticed a new, large, screened structure behind the museum.  With lights on
inside the structure, which appeared to be a storage area for large equipment,
I liked the designs created by the dark lines, screens, and lights, so I snapped
a few photos.  I wondered why some of the structure (black pieces) were
closer together and why there was a diagonal piece and a very thin one with a
curved corner. But that made the design more interesting than if the black
lines had been the same width, all vertical and horizontal and evenly spaced. 

I decided this image made a great abstract without any
enhancement at all. But, of course, I decided to have a bit of fun with it.

á la Mondrian
Because of the geometric design created by black lines in the original photo,
I decided to make this image resemble a Mondrian painting using primary
colors, black and white.  After making the image more vertical and horizontal
with Photoshop's distort tool (to undistorted it) I created 4 new layers above
the original photo, one for each color and white. On the red, blue, and
yellow layers, I changed the mode from normal to color. I selected
the sections I wanted red and filled them with red and did the
same for blue and yellow.  I left the fourth layer in normal mode
and filled in the sections I wanted to be white, then made the layer
transparent enough to see some of the texture of the screen. Using color
mode doesn't allow very light or very dark areas to accept color, so for the
very lightest spots, I used 3 more normal mode layers for the primary
colors, colored each and then made them transparent so a hint of
color would be visible on those very light areas.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Black and White Weekend - 7/18/14: Conrail Bridge

asks us to post a black and white photo. No spot colors. No sepia. Black and white, only.

Railroad bridge across the Allegheny River
Pittsburgh, PA