Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekend in Black & White - 11/28/14: "The Door"

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

"The Door"
One of the doors at the main entrance
of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,
Oakland branch.
The building was completed in 1898.
If anyone is interested, Topaz software is on sale. Usually $429 for the entire package of 14 plugins, plus Impression, now $249 until Dec 1st, discount code blackfriday2014.  They are not stand-alone programs, but must be used with other programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, or other software (listed on the web site.) I was thinking of purchasing 3 programs, which would have cost $210, so I figured it was worth it to get 15 for $40 more.  I've played around a little with the plugins that make a photo look like art, but haven't had time to explore them all.

See my photostream on Flickr:
Below my name, click on albums to find a particular type of photo (Black and White, Fences, Abstracts, Landscape, Still Life, Autumn Scenes, Bridges, Animals, Art Created from My Photos, etc.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Digital Art & Geometric Friday - 11/26 & 11/28/14: "Grime on Grime"

Natures Footstep memes 

The Digital Art meme now includes what was formerly the Abstract Photo meme.

Geometric Friday hosted by LorikArt 

Click on the links above to view posts by other artists/photographers or to participate yourself.

Update on 12/2/14 - PHOTO HEART CONNECTION: At the end of each month we are to choose one image that has a connection for each of us.  I am choosing this image for the month of November.

As I become older (I will turn 70 next year) I love taking photos of old, even decaying, things and trying to make them into something beautiful. Perhaps I feel some connection with these rotting buildings or automobiles. They are growing old and deteriorating, just like I am. Some of them will be able to be saved, but many will crumble into complete ruin. I have no children to carry on my legacy, but perhaps, someday, someone may run across one of my photos and feel some connection to me, even when I am long gone.


"Grime on Grime"
Because I liked the colors so much in the original photo, I overlapped shapes and colors,
saturated the colors and added some texture. You can still see hints of the concrete block

foundation and the corrugated metal siding, and even a stencil that says,
"SAFETY GUARD STEEL CO" near the upper left.
I'm not sure if that was the name of the company that occupied the building or if it
was the manufacturer of the huge door.
Besides being one of my favorite creations of 2014, at least so far, it has received more 
views and favorites than any of my more than 800 photos on Flickr.

Original photo:
"Grime Scene"
This photo was taken in Millvale, PA,
a section of Pittsburgh.
I love taking photos of old, run-down,
rusted things. I thought this was
interesting because there is grime and
rust which contrasts with the pastel pink,
green and blue on the door and corrugated
metal sides. The place appeared to be abandoned.

To give an idea of proportion, a large
dump truck would fit through the door,
with room to spare.

See hundreds of my photos and art images on my Flickr pages.


(Please note that my rant has nothing to do with the Digital Art, Geometric Friday, or Photo heart Connection memes.)

I joined Flickr about 6 months ago. One of my favorite things to do is scroll through other artists/photographers' photostreams to see what they are creating and to be inspired by the work of other artists.

I have found thousand of stunningly beautiful and/or creative photographs and art work from around the world.

But, one trend I dislike is fantasy/avatar art. 

Almost every female figure is scantily clad (if at all), has huge eyes, flawless complexion and hair, and lips so puffy they look like pillows. The figures look rather plastic, as if they began as Barbie or Ken dolls and have been distorted into something worse.

However, the “puffiest” part of the female anatomy is their boobs, which are either about to pop out of their clothing or have already escaped. These avatar women don’t have large breasts, not size Ds or DDs. Most are enormous, perhaps Ms or ZZs. If these women were real, they would have to wear back braces and I guess they’d have to put on some clothes to hide the braces. Even with braces, they would constantly be breaking their noses when falling forward. Some fantasy figures have wings, but surely they could never achieve lift off. And if their breasts don’t knock them over, their torturous 7-inch stilettos might.

In addition to huge breasts, some of them have enormous hips or butts. I can’t imagine them being able to walk without an uncomfortable waddle in addition to pitching forward, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to squeeze through a turnstile or negotiate a narrow hallway without knocking something over. Perhaps, double-wide hips are supposed to counteract top-heaviness. 

What surprises me, is that much of this stuff is created by women. Haven’t they heard of the feminist movement? Many of the women of my generation had to work hard to be taken seriously, to not be thought of as mere sex objects, to have men look at our eyes instead of our chests, and to be accepted as equals in the workplace. In forty years, we still haven't achieved equal pay.

I don’t understand the point of creating such exaggerated features. Are they trying to turn on men? (I showed some to my husband and he said they were a turn-off, not a turn-on.) Do the artists want to be the women they create? Are their own lives so dismal that they have to create a fantasy world?

And then there are the male characters these artists create, which are equally objectionable. Most of their faces look like women with stubble. They are soft and way too perfect, almost pretty. They are supposed to be strong, virile men, but most look rather feminine. Those with bare chests (about 99.99% are bare-chested) often look like they have boobs rather than muscles. But, there are some who look downright evil. 

Except for exaggerated body parts, many of these figures are done with very bad proportions. For example legs that are way too short for the torso and too far apart, arms that have elbows at chest level rather than waist level. The crotches on paints are way too low. Now, I know everyone is built differently, but some just look downright distorted.

On many, men's heads are way too small for their pumped-up-on-digital-steroid bodies. I wonder if that is a conscious or unconscious way of showing what the artists think of men. It reminds me of how women used to be portrayed as air heads.

I don’t say all such art is like what I have described.  Some are tasteful without exaggerated features.

I know they are supposed to be “fantasy” so we have to suspend belief when looking at them, but I still dislike them. I even find them somewhat creepy. I do, admit, though, that some make me laugh at how ridiculous they are, so maybe there is a redeeming social value in that.

Maybe avatar art bothers me because I don’t understand the appeal. I don’t like rap music, but I can understand why it would appeal to certain people. When I see a film, I prefer not to be scared out of my wits, but I understand there is a certain thrill in horror films that appeals to some. 

I’m not turned off by the nudity. I’m fine with artistic nudes in art, photography, and film. I'm not turned off by the sexual content. I'm turned off by the exaggeration that seems to imply any women without enormous breasts and puffy lips or a man without good looks and huge muscles cannot be sexually or romantically appealing.

I'm sure many of the artists spend a lot of time creating their art, and some are very skilled, but the appeal of the exaggerated fantasy/avatar figures is beyond me. And don't get me started on avatar zombies or vampires.

What do you think?
Here are some links to see for yourself. (I'm not sure if you can view these if you are not a Flickr member.} I was going to link to some particularly exaggerated images, but I didn't want to pick on specific artists, so these links are to groups that post this type of image.  All are not objectionable to me, but there are enough that are, that I've come to dislike the entire genre.

As I said, some are quite skillfully done and are probably excellent examples of the genre, but the genre, well, you can decide for yourself.

There are many more. This is just a sampling. And there are many that are only open to members, so you can imagine the nudity and sexual content that must be on those.

I'm not sure how people create these, but in comments many refer to programs that they use, that seem to provide various elements such as face shapes, facial features, other body parts, clothing jewelry, tattoos, etc. Once they have the basic figures, I assume each can be customized.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good Fences - 11/20/14: "Pittsburgh's Unique Neighborhood"

Good Fences Thursday asks us to post a photo of a fence or gate each week.

I posted this on 11/6/14, but didn't add my url to the Good Fences site because I knew I would not have time to look at other posts and leave comments that week.  (A few people stopped by anyway.)

So I am reposting it when I have more time.

And, even though this post contains lots of other information, there are several photos of gates in the mix.

Pittsburgh's Unique Neighborhood:
On the North Side of Pittsburgh, there is a neighborhood known as the Mexican War Streets. The area dates from 1848 (around the time of the Mexican-American War) and consisted, then, mostly of Victorian era row houses owned by wealthy families. Many streets were named after battles or generals of the war: Buena Vista, Monterey, Palo Alto, Resaca, Sherman, Taylor.

However, by the 1970s, many owners had moved to the suburbs, leaving vacant or abandoned homes that were in various stages of disrepair and off the roles of property taxes.

The city of Pittsburgh offered the homes for sale for $100.  The catch was, that one had to renovate the homes to current safety standards.  Owners needed to acquire mortgages to provide the money to do that and because most were uninhabitable, they would have to live elsewhere while renovations were taking place.

But, a lot of people took on the challenge and the area was revived. In many cases, new owners gutted the insides and replaced them with innovative interiors. Many people got creative with the outsides of their houses, too.
A unique gate at one of the Poetry Houses
currently owned by "The Mattress Factory" art center.
See descriptions of this house and some of the other

neighborhood homes and pictures below.
A man named Randy Gilson has created what everyone calls "Randyland." Randy has used yard-sale and flea market items, plants, donated paint & building materials to create his unique home. There are Coke signs and metal butterflies, old street signs, a neighborhood map,  & gargoyles on the house and large plastic or metal insects on a utility pole.

To see more of Randyland go to Google Maps & click HERE. It is the yellow house on the right. (See info at bottom of how to navigate Google maps.)
Move forward, then turn the photo so you can see the yard to the right of the house, turn back & go forward  to see the front of the house, then at the corner turn right so you can see the side and back of the house, and the house behind it, too.  It's like an outdoor fun house.

Or take a virtual tour HERE (it works like Google Maps.)  On this one, you can go into the back and side yards to see the amazing assortment of "stuff" Randy has used to decorate his premises.
Randyland's gate into the
back patio area

Jazz House
Several blocks away on one narrow street, there are several houses close to each other that people call Poetry Houses.

One has brightly colored images of a saxophone, rainbows, and splashes of color on the front. I call it the Jazz House.

Burma House, side
Another has a painting on its right side called "Burma - Shouts for Freedom" which is somewhat reminiscent of Picasso's "Guernica" with Burmese writing surrounding it ---and images of Pittsburgh scenes on the front of the house.

Burma House, front
Several doors down, a house has wooden sculptures by local artist Thaddeus Mosley attached to the front. (I don't have a photo but you can see them on  Google maps.)
Several houses down the street, a clapboard house stained brown, has white Chinese writing all over it. (At least I think it is Chinese.) Next door is a house with colorful images of Pittsburgh's buildings and bridges, neighborhoods, and weather.
Poetry House

These last two are part of The Mattress Factory's artist residential buildings. (The info I have is old, so perhaps all of these houses are now part of The Mattress Factory.)

Just a few doors away is "The Mattress Factory" itself,  a six-story building that used to be a mattress warehouse and is now an art center specializing in installation art.

The Mattress Factory
When "The Mattress Factory" opened in 1977, it had a small auditorium, exhibition space, classrooms, and spaces for artists to live and work. The owner, Barbara Luderowski, lived there and built a community of artists and intellectuals.

In a huge kitchen and dining room on the first floor, artists, writers, and musicians from the neighborhood gathered nightly for meals. Each paid a nominal fee for meals and was required to cook or clean-up occasionally.  I thought it sounded like such a wonderful idea ---to join other creative people each night or several nights a week to share conversation and ideas.

When that began, I think most of the artistic people in the neighborhood were young and single. As they grew older, acquired spouses and families, fewer met there and the meals ended.

Its first installation exhibit was in 1982. Now it has an artist residency program, educational programs, as well. It has acquired other properties to house artists in residence and other exhibition, and create parking space.

Read more about: The Mattress Factory

You can follow the street to view the places on this street on Google Maps by clicking HERE:

How to navigate Google Maps: place your cursor ahead of you just a little way down the street and click.  When you stop, you can do a 360º turn to view the houses. Place your cursor near the right or left of the image.  You'll see a whitish rectangle, just press your cursor pull it toward the opposite side of the screen to turn. (You can also turn it up to see the tops of tall buildings or down to see the street or sidewalk.) In the lower right of your screen, you can use the + or - to zoom in or out. All of the houses I mentioned are on the right side of the streets, but you can do a 180º turn and go back to view them on the left.)

I love Google Maps.  I visit the streets where I am going to travel so I can pick out landmarks and cross streets (GPS isn't always right.)  I took my husband on a tour of the town where I lived in Brazil 45 years ago via Google Maps.  Some places are well mapped and photographed and others are not.  I could hardly believe the little town  where I lived in Brazil is accessible, yet a large city like Montevideo, Uruguay is not.  You can probably find your own home, too ---or go to New York City, Rio de Janeiro, or Paris. It's the next best thing to being there.

(Excuse the odd formatting.  No matter what I tried, the pictures and text kept jumping all over the page.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Digital Art & Geometric Friday - 11/19 & 11/21/14: "Circles 2"

Natures Footstep memes 

The Digital Art meme now includes what was formerly the Abstract Photo meme.

Geometric Friday hosted by LorikArt 

Click on the links above to view posts by other artists/photographers or to participate yourself.

Do you know the difference between "pixilated" and "pixelated" ???
See below the image for the answer.

I created today's image in Photoshop without using any of my photos.  

I started by making one design using circles & patterns inside of a large circle.

I then copied that design, placed in on a new layer and made it smaller. I rotated it so it would look different than the one below. I did that two more times ---except I mistakenly left the top layer turned in the same direction as the one under it.
But that's OK.  It makes little difference.

Then I changed the alternating layers to have more or less saturated colors so it was easy to distinguish between them. 

I added a background texture with tiny circles and used the colors from the rest of the design on color overlays over the background. 

"Circles 2"

Pixelated, with an e?
If you are a computer user, you probably know that a pixel is a tiny area on a display screen. It is derived from "pix" which is an abbreviation for picture element. When an image is enlarged to the point that one can see individual pixels, we say the image is pixelated.

Pixilated, with an i
That needs a longer explanation. I learn something new almost every day.  One day last week, I learned 2 new things.

I had never seen "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" until last week when it ran on GetTV.  It's a Capra feel-good film in the same vein as "You Can't Take it With You," "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and "It's a Wonderful Life," but I loved this film more than those others. It stars Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur ---and if you haven't seen it, it's well-worth watching.

Gary Cooper plays Longfellow Deeds who lives on a farm in Vermont and inherits $20 million from an uncle during The Great Depression.  Eventually he is accused of being too insane to handle the money. At his hearing, two older women from his hometown testify that Longfellow is "pixilated."  My ears perked up because I had never heard that term to mean anything but "pixelated" with an e and certainly never heard it before the computer age.  (I had to do a little research to find the correct spelling of the original pixilated.)

I thought perhaps pixelated with an e came from pixilated with an i, but in my research, I found only one dubious claim that it was.

Pixilated's origins are from the 19th century. It is a form of "pixie-led" meaning led astray by pixies, which came to mean confused or crazy.

In my research, I also learned that the word "doodle" was used for the first time in the same movie to mean scribble absentmindedly.  Originally doodle came from a 17th century German verb meaning to make a fool of or to cheat.  Apparently either the writers or Capra coined the new use of the word, in the sense we know it today, for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town."

See hundreds of my photos and art images on my Flickr pages.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Geometric Friday - 11/14/14: "Pittsburgh Morning in Perspective"

Geometric Friday hosted by LorikArt. Click on one of the links to see what others have created or add your own.

Recently, I've been playing with creating arrangements of panels I create in Photoshop, then applying one of my artistic images to each panel, or using one image and applying different parts of it to individual panels, as I did here.

How I did it:

First, I created my 2 panels in Photoshop. They started out as rectangles, both the same size, but because the one on the left is "bent back" more than the other, it seems to be smaller.  I used a very wide photo with a panoramic view.  I chose about 2/3 of it and placed half of it on each panel before using the perspective and scale tools to distort them into a 3-D appearance.  I darkened the left section to increase the 3-D effect and added a bit of shading under the panels. Then, I used just the far right part of the right section to enlarge for the background. I desaturated the background and added a golden-yellow overlay.  (I did this to mimic the yellow reflections in the river, but also because the city's traditional colors are black and gold.)

"Pittsburgh Morning in Perspective"
I live far enough from Pittsburgh, that I don't go there often. But in August, a woman from Louisiana was visiting the area and asked our local photography meetup group for suggestions on where to go to take photos while her friend was at work. Since I'm retired and she was only 5 miles away, I offered to drive her around the city ---which is difficult to navigate, even for the natives.

I looked online to see what time the sun was supposed to rise. We left early enough to arrive at the Mt. Washington area to take photos of the sunrise over the city and its three rivers.

Besides showing her the sights, it gave me an opportunity to take hundreds of photos myself.

Weekend in Black and White - 11/14/14: "The Junkman's Window"

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

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Several years ago, an old friend from college got in touch. I will call him E.

He was a few years older than most students, having served in the military before attending college. He was a collector, even then. He worked summers in a bottling plant and confiscated bottling mistakes, such as when Orange Crush ended up in a Coke bottle.

He and his roommate (who I will call J) ---also an older student ---rented a tiny house off campus. I had dated both of them at one time or other ---never a big romance with either. E was a fellow art student. J was an English major and a great wit. (I've always chosen men with senses of humor over good looks or money. A wise choice, I think.)

I graduated from college in 1967 & saw J in 1969 at the only homecoming I attended. At that time, he was a reporter for the newspaper in my college town. In 2001, at the request of my employer to call the newspaper in that town, I asked if J still worked there. He did & had been an editor for years.  He granted my request to send a reporter and photographer to cover my employer's gold-leaf application to the local courthouse cupola.  J & I spent a few minutes catching up, too.

In college, E stored his "treasures" on a shelf that stretched around the perimeter of the living room, above the windows, in the house he and J shared. One weekend, J held a party while E went home for the weekend. When we ran out of beverages, we raided E's bottling mistakes. When he returned, I swear we could hear his reaction back at the campus.

In the intervening years, I ran into E once, at a huge flea market sometime in the 70's.  I hadn't seen him since.  But after he sent me a letter in 2011, I drove to his home to visit.  He owns an old farmhouse outside of our college town. It is filled from floor to ceiling with junk ----er, rather, his "treasures" ---which he sells on eBay. So, when I took photos of his home, I referred to him as  "The Junkman" in my titles.

I mentioned the incident when everyone drank his treasures. I wanted to belatedly apologize for our thoughtless actions. He had no recollection of the incident.

E called last December (2013) to tell me J had died.

"The Junkman's Window"
February 2012
The view of a run-down out-building from
the second story of E's old farmhouse.

I bet it's filled with junk, too.
See my photostream on Flickr:
Below my name, click on albums to find a particular type of photo (Black and White, Fences, Abstracts, Landscape, Still Life, Autumn Scenes, Bridges, Animals, Art Created from My Photos, etc.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Digital Art - 11/12/14: "Branching Out"

Natures Footstep memes 

The Digital Art meme now includes what was formerly the Abstract Photo meme.

Click on the links above to view the posts by other artists/photographers or to participate yourself.

Although there is a suggested theme, often I schedule my images to post automatically ---sometimes weeks ahead of time ---so if I use the suggested theme, it is purely coincidental.

Original photo: taken at a local park
"Branching Out"

a representational (or objective) abstract created from my photo

See hundreds of my photo and art images on my Flickr pages.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Digital Art - 11/5/14: "Mosaic Trees"

Natures Footstep memes I participate in: 
Abstract Photo and Digital Art on alternate Wednesdays.

Click on the links above to view the posts by other artists/photographers or to participate yourself.

Note that I schedule my posts weeks ahead of time when I have time to create several at once. So if I use the suggested theme, it is purely by chance.
"Mosaic Trees"
Original photo:
"Signs of Autumn"
How I did it
I snapped a photo of a mosaic floor (in red, orange & yellow hexagonal tiles) in a restaurant. (At that time, I had no idea how I would use it.)

I made that image much smaller and kept repeating it to cover a photo-sized canvas. (I wanted small tiles, not the large ones as in the original photo.) I saturated the colors. 

I used my photo of fall trees that had almost all yellow leaves. I removed the sky and placed it on a separate layer above the mosaic and under the layer with tree branches and leaves. I duplicated the trees, overlapped, scaled, and flipped them to make them look like more trees. Then I created a composite layer with the sky and trees directly above the mosaic layer.  At this point, I had only 2 visible layers, mosaic, and trees/sky. I selected the yellow leaves & deleted them, allowing the mosaic to show through the blank spaces. 

By making the tree/sky layer somewhat transparent, the mosaic is slightly visible under the sky. Look closely to see the geometric design from the mosaic floor. I copied the branches and placed them on a layer on top of everything else (or they would have been transparent, too.) 

I also created a version using several shades of green instead of autumn colors. It can be viewed here:

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
See my photostream on Flickr:
Below my name, click on albums to find a particular type of photo (Black and White, Fences, Abstracts, Landscapes, Still Life, Autumn Scenes, Bridges, Animals, Art Created from My Photos, etc.) Or view my entire photo stream which includes everything I've posted, with the most recent first.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Geometric Friday - 10/31/14: "Spanning Space"

Geometric Friday hosted by LorikArt. Click on one of the links to see what others have created or add your own.

I'm a few days late in posting this for two reasons. First, I just discovered this meme. And secondly, I developed back pain. Sitting at my computer is awful, but so is just about everything else ---sitting, standing, lying down, walking.  I haven't tried standing on my head yet, but if that would relieve the pain, I'd try it. I've been toughing it out over the weekend and will see my doctor on Monday if it persists.

So, here is my first entry to Geometric Friday.

Recently, I've been playing with creating arrangements of panels I create in Photoshop, then applying one of my artistic images to each panel (as in this one), or using one image and applying different parts of it to individual panels.

"Spanning Space"

See hundreds of my photos and art images on my Flickr pages.