Tag Archives: painting

a new set of paint brushes…

My light painting endeavors have stepped up a notch.  I made a new set of paint brushes.  No, I didn’t pull out chunks of my hair and attach it to wooden sticks, I’m talking about light painting brushes.  Never heard of light painting?  Here’s how it works…

If you have an SLR (digital or film), place it on a tripod and set the camera on manual.  Set the aperture on F8 (works well for most simple light painting, although you might have to adjust) and the shutter on the ‘bulb’ setting.  If you can get a cable release for you camera, most of them have a lock feature that will keep the shutter open until you close it, that way you don’t need to be at the camera holding the button down the whole time.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Oh, and this process must be done in the dark or in extreme low light.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

Now that you have the details on the camera end, let me tell you about the art tools.  Your flashlights are your brushes and color gels are your paint.  You can do this without the color gels, but I like using them, well, because I love color.  This photo is of my new set.  I had a set of color gels leftover from my pre-photoshop days.  These are the same as theater light gels.  Cokin makes the photography set and a company called Roscolux makes some as well.  For the new flashlights, which I made to take down to Casa Hogar Elim for the kids to play with, I used duct tape to attach the gels and color coded them with the duct tape.

The black cards on the left have a set of colors I made from gels and photo mat boards.  They have velcro on the back so I can attach them to a flashlight easily.  And no, you don’t have to get that fancy with it.  You can just hold a gel over the light.  Simple.  I do a lot of this so I have an entire suitcase of flashlights, from pen lights all the way up to my Cyclops.

Cyclops is a very large flashlight… 15 million candlepower.  The light bulb in it is a car headlamp, if that gives you a reference point.  I have some color gels that fit over Cyclops.  This ‘brush’ comes in handy for light painting buildings or any really large spaces.  Cyclops is rechargeable and cost about $40 at Costco.  You can also get some nice 1-2 million candlepower lights at any retail store.

Some other types of lights that work well are pen lights for drawing, LED lights are good, but make sure to get the very bright ones.  I prefer the warm light color of the incandescent type bulbs versus the new LED’s.  Not as energy efficient, but if you’re picky about the warm tones…

Okay, let me show you some examples of light painting.  I did a series for an art gallery showing a while back.  The show was called ‘excessable’.  It was photos of how we have so much excess in our culture and the entire series was light painted.

These were all painted with several different types of flashlights, each exposure lasting anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes.

Here’s a photo from light painting with the kids at Casa Hogar.
You can also do light painting using black and white.  This is from a film camera, my Nikon 6006 with Illford B&W film.  You can also get the ghost images with the light painting by painting a person or object, then moving it and painting the space where it was.

This is one of those art things you have to experiment with a lot to get a feel for what your final images will look like.  It is a lot of fun though!


10 days until Christmas…

Yesterday I was pondering my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:2.  It’s so applicable to the Christmas consumerism and might just be another clue in finding the Christmas spirit.  Here is the verse in two popular translations.

NIVDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The MessageDon’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

This one short verse floods my mind with vivid images, many of them exist as photo light paintings in a collection I’ve entitled “excessable”.  I was also inspired to paint this abstract rendition of Romans 12:2 earlier this year.

The details on this canvas were painted with cookie cutters and guitar strings.  I always start painting with brushes, but end up painting with my hands and three dimensional objects.  I guess I do that because I like the feel of the paint and the energy that goes into the painting by touching it.  I also like finding objects that produce intriguing impressions, creating a visual adventure on the canvas.  You can often find the ‘hidden’ eye candy in my art pieces if you look long enough.

The cookie cutters symbolize our current culture and represents the expectation placed on us to conform to our society.  The guitar strings could represent the ‘strings attached’ to us, but truth be told, I just love painting with them.  This painting was auctioned off last month to raise money for the Sons of Lwala benefit.

I’m thinking about Romans 12:2 lately because I desperately want Christmas to be different this year.  Does anyone realize that we’ve all been sucked into this vortex of materialism, buying things because we feel we have to, not because we want to?  If it’s the thought that counts, what does this say about how we feel and what we think of people?

The more I take notice of my surroundings, the more I see a contrast of rich and poor.  Also of good and evil.  However, I also see that people are slowly coming over from the dark side, doing random acts of kindness and serving mankind in very creative ways.

We have the ‘tinselectomy’ thing going on at the church and they’ve asked people to blog stories of helping others or stories of something nice that was done for them.  The problem is, this can’t be done anonymously, so most choose not to share their experiences.  They don’t want to be boastful or prideful about it, but we need to find a way to get their stories out there as an inspiration for others.

In talking to people and simply paying attention in my day to day activities, I’m witnessing so many stories!  People are doing wonderful things for their friends and for people they don’t even know.  I’m going to share some of these stories without using names.  There are so many, and I’ve tried to update my journal frequently to record all of them, but I know I’ve missed some.  I’ll just share a few of them.

The most recent story happened yesterday.  My friend called me to see if I needed anything, as I had a sick child at home.  I needed some Sprite and crackers for him, but I did not want to take him out of the house.  She brought everything he needed and also something for me.  All of my neighbor’s, together, picked up my other child from school and brought him home.

This friend that brought the supplies, whom has been out of work for several months, has a job interview in a couple of days.  To understand this situation a little better, her husband has also been unemployed.  She mentioned her coat being in hock at the dry cleaners.  She needed to get it out, but didn’t really have the money to do so.  Another friend overheard this, went to the dry cleaners, picked up her coat and brought it to her.

She didn’t get the coat right away, because she and several others were out serving lunches they had made for the day laborers, the guys standing in the cold, waiting for any paying job they can get their hands on.  These men sometimes don’t eat for a couple of days at a time.  We plan to make this an ongoing ministry once the Christmas season passes.

Knowing these men are standing in the cold, another guy I know, but not very well, bought a bunch of coats to give to homeless or impoverished people.  We have experienced some incredibly cold temperatures and I’m sure those coats are going to be much appreciated.

Many of these men have families they are trying to support.  Our church sponsored a party for the kids last week giving them some toys and an opportunity to talk to Santa.  Another friend, knowing many of these families don’t have cars, not only tried to arrange transportation, but she gave rides to anyone needing it.

I could go on writing stories all day, spanning from friends collecting money to buy a shower chair for a special needs orphan to paying for a person in line behind them at a restaurant.  Although these people have chosen to remain anonymous, their hearts are in the right place.  Are they experiencing the Christmas spirit?

Do you want to participate?  There are plenty of ideas available on the internet, or just try this simple exercise.  Look closely around you, through the lens of kindness and mercy, and you will see things you’ve never seen before.  Your mind will be transformed, as will your heart.

Also, if I peaked your curiosity earlier on the ‘excessable’ collection, here are some of the images.  Not really Christmas related… or are they?


16 days until Christmas…

As we were driving home last, I thought about our house being one of the few without Christmas lights.  I had every intention of putting lights up, but we still haven’t.  I have a few strands of lights on the garage, however it would look like I had a few random strands unless I got really creative with them.  Last year I wanted to use flamingos as reindeer and a lawn chair for a sleigh.  I posted on Facebook that I was looking for flamingos.  Amy Nemeczky bought me a cool ceramic one, and we fondly named him Chris.  Thad also bought me a whole flock of plastic flamingos and two skelemingos.  Since they arrived right before Christmas, I never got a chance to carry out my plan, not that my neighbors would have thought anything out of the ordinary had I created this landscape scenerio after Christmas.  Oh, and the photo of Skelly is him on vacation with me and the boys.  That was a rabbit trail, hey?

I’m also one of the few houses in Frisco with mature trees.  When we had that crazy snow flurry about a week ago, all of the yards were covered with the untouched white snow, all but one, our house.  The enchanted forest in my front yard has a beautiful canopy of trees covering every square inch, protecting my yard from the portrayal of winter.  I did have the trees trimmed, so if we did add lights to the house, you would be able to see a lot of them.

So why haven’t I put lights up?  It just hasn’t been a top priority, or any priority for that matter.  Since starting the 25 days of Christmas blog, yesterday was the first day I had the feeling of being too busy.  My Christmas and work to do lists are long, but all of the items on them are very important.  Shopping is not on the list.  The tiny amount I had to do has been done for weeks.  At least this year busyness is an improved kind over last year.  It’s about helping others, letting our friends and family know that we appreciate them and not participating in the consumerism.

The lights may not be a priority, but carrying on a tradition my boys and I started last year was of great importance.  We did our annual ‘boo’ last night.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  If you live around here, you know that booing someone is a Halloween thing.  If you don’t live around here, Texas has a lot of things that don’t make any sense to people outside of this big star-shaped land mass.  We made our candy boo bags a week ago, finished assembling them last night and attached our mysterious Christmas gift  in a tiny envelope taped to the front.  Nope, I’m not telling you what that is yet.

We made our hot chocolate with more marshmallows than chocolate, loaded up our gear and took off in our very old Infiniti sleigh.  We spent two hours driving all over Frisco until we ran out of bags.  We’ll have to make a lot more of these next year.

I drove the sleigh, pulled up in front of the target house and turned off the lights.  Next, the boys took turns, dropping a bag by the front door, ringing the doorbell and running to the car quickly so we could drive off before being caught.  And those of you with babies, we knocked instead of using the doorbell, as to not wake them.  We aren’t as experienced as Santa, or we would have just come quietly down the chimney.

Now ‘boos’ are supposed to be anonymous, and last year we were, yet somehow people knew who it was.  Go figure.  This year these little bags have some mystery, but ultimately our friends can go online and see what we are up to, because we are always up to something.

This Christmas I am trying to plan things ahead of time and get things done early.  When my ADHD and OCD collide, that usually means that events happen spontaneously, but everything is more than prepared and ready for it.  Sometimes doing things last minute is the motivation I need, so it works for me.  It seems to stress other out to the point that they won’t make eye contact with me, in hopes that I won’t ask them to be involved.  The funny thing about it?  I apparently do this to others, as I did it yesterday in a staff meeting.  Just for the record, it didn’t work, I have to make a bunch of vinyl signs for Christmas Eve.

I suppose what I experienced yesterday is that busyness, no matter if it’s good or bad, takes away from the Christmas spirit.  Is slowing down to experience the joy of the season really possible?

Okay, it’s time to share a few more ‘Santa shoot’ photos.  See if you can recognize the light scenarios.


20 days until Christmas…

I have to say, committing to write everyday until Christmas is taking a lot of time and energy, but I’m enjoying it. This blogging idea started out as a fun way to share my funny photo finds of crazy Christmas yard decor, but turned into more than that, I wanted to document the process of what an upside-down Christmas looks like for me and my family.  These blogs are a bit more wordy than I had anticipated, but it they do tell the story, and in great detail.

The idea to write everyday was inspired by several people.  Hank Stuever, for the way he can write about something controversial, yet word it to not be offensive, while painting a picture of the truth.  The book Tinsel really has to make a person evaluate how they do Christmas.  My assesment?  If this book doesn’t give you some food for thought, then you need to find something that does.  Allison Harrell, for her amazing writing skills.  I will never type as fast as her (she has a letter jacket for typing), but I want to enhance my communication skills.  Writing is not an easy thing for me like it is for her, or easy like photography, graphic design or altered art, but I do enjoy it with a sick kind of love / hate relationship.  Another person is Jackson Robinson.  He has committed to doing a painting everyday and he blogs it.  These tiny masterpieces are painted by him every morning and look like they should be hanging in a gallery.  Unbelieveable detail!  And Robert Leahey, who took on a challenge to write a novel in one month, and successfully accomplished his mission.

Words are my friend.  I feel better after journaling pages of handwritten words, I love doing typography art and my opinionated side loves to share my views with words.  Even with all of those positive word attributes, words are also my enemy.  I struggle to find them, I have a difficult time articulating them and my brain thinks in pictures, not words.

Turning Christmas upside-down has been a wonderful experience so far, but it came with some unexpected returns, deep feelings and a better understanding of my life and the way I live it.  An experience of which I hope to put into words.  Besides taking the money I would have spent on gifts for people and giving it to great causes, I still want to give something meaningful to my family and friends for Christmas.  Something that is an expression of how I feel about them and something that inspires their creativity.  I came up with the perfect thing, but I’m still in the creation process.  It’s my little Christmas secret.  I guess you’ll have to keep coming back and reading to find out what it is, or wait until you get one.

I guess I must really love words because I’m a book junkie.  I have five bookcases in my house filled with books, an no, I didn’t pay full price for any of them.  Over the years I have made several trips to Gladewater and there’s a small mom and pop type bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit.  Most of the time I was there on Sunday and the bookstore was closed.  Friday, it was open.  I like buying books that have had previous owners, not only to save money, but for the chance of finding a book with a personal note in it, handwritten sentiments to someone I don’t even know.  It’s like getting two stories in one, the story in the book and the found mysterious story.  I love creating the rest of their story and incorporating it into my own.

As I was shopping in there for gifts for some of my close friends, I realized the books didn’t have any prices on them.  I brought a stack to the front and asked where I could find the prices.  The man at the counter said, “I’ll look them up, tell you the prices, then you can argue with me.”  I immediately took a liking to him.  I shopped a little longer, taking in the pleasing scent of old books, then finally made my way to the counter to argue with Pete.  Pete and I talked for a long time about books, photography, art, Bible translations and people.  I was telling him I could never work there because I would want to take everything home.  He said I was too interesting to work there.  That made me smile, as I like the word interesting more than quirky or weird.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pete was looking up a few books for me.  I asked, “What did we ever do before Wikipedia and Google?”  He replied, “We argued.”  Now I’m really liking this guy.  Pete, being of a slightly older generation than myself, and from what I could tell, progressively embracing the electronics age, I had to ask.  “So, are you on Facebook?”  Unfortunately he is not there… yet.  He’s about to purchase a new digital camera and wanted some tips so I gave him my email address.  He said, “I’m going to contact you and ask you camera questions.  I guess you could just ignore my emails if you don’t want me bugging you.”  I replied, “Nah, you’re too interesting to ignore.”

I gathered my new-old books, and headed for the car.  Pete told me about an abandoned church right up the road, so of course, I had to stop there before heading home to Frisco.  Words… books… what does any of this have to do with deep feelings and understanding life?  I’ll tell you.

Shopping, or as I prefer to call it, treasure hunting for meaningful books made me think a lot more about the relationships in my life.  Not just my friends and family, but in a deeper sense, people that are close to me, people that are acquaintances and people that I don’t even know.  I’m not one of those crying, emotional types, as a matter of fact, I missed that line when God was passing out those genes.  My face leaks about once a year, just to clean out the cobwebs in my tear ducts.  I don’t express emotion through tears, I do it through art.  Words are an art form, one I am learning, just like learning to have more meaningful relationships in my life.  I have a deeper appreciation of the people I know, an admiration of their uniqueness and an understanding of what an important role that plays in all of our lives.

I don’t know if it was the death of my cousin or searching for meaningful gifts, or maybe it’s just the loneliness of the holiday season, but I have experienced some life change.  It’s a feeling I have never felt before and one that I cannot put into words.  I have a desire to live differently.  This isn’t a passing thing, I have acted on it and am reordering my life around it.

The icons of Christmas that started this writing adventure are not the plastic Santa statues or the many strands of mismatched colored lights.  The icons of Christmas are people, from the impoverished guy on the street corner with his ‘need help’ sign to my closest family and friends.  The most important Christmas icon of all is Jesus, and I don’t mean the plastic one.  The eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus that was born on December 25th.

Words to sum this up?  If you are planning on turning Christmas upside-down, you better put on your seatbelt.  It will turn your life upside-down.


22 days until Christmas…

God is awesome!  He arranged some ‘bonus’ family time.  I usually don’t have my boys on Thursdays, but he knew we needed some crazy, fun, out of the ordinary time together.  We ditched homework, house work and everything else we didn’t really want to do.

We went to the hospital to see a friend’s new baby, then to the store to buy candy for our Christmas boo bags.  (Christmas boo bags will be explained in a future post)  We also bought some hot chocolate and lots of marshmallows, now prepared to start our new family tradition… Santa shooting.  Again (from yesterday’s post), this is not with a gun, it’s with a camera.  We picked up a couple of the boys friends and took off in the car to look for quirky Christmas yard art and photograph it.  Oh, and we had our hot chocolate, each cup with enough marshmallows for six cups.

People in west Frisco don’t seem to enjoy the hazy plastic people yard art, unless it’s in the form of a nativity scene.  The west ‘Friskies’, as Hank Stuever calls them, are on the conservative side with yard decor, that is, everything with the exception of lights.  There were basically three types of lights.  First, the ‘hired’ lights.  These people spared no expense in purchasing lights and they were clearly hung by professional elves.

Second, the ‘I have lights on my house because it’s a Christmas expectation’.  These lights are sometimes required by the HOA, but probably more often a husband putting up the three strands of lights in an awkward manner to check it off his honey-do list.

Third, the ‘bountiful jumble’.  These houses have as many strands of lights as they can possibly place on the outside electrical system without blowing a fuse.  These random sets of non-matching lights have strands added every year.  Half of the yard is traditional lights, the new strands are the bright LED’s.  Basically, they have replicated the WalMart sample light display into their yard.  After these people put their lights up, they most likely look up and down the street to be sure they have clearly won the “I have the most lights” contest.

Although I was disappointed not to see yards filled with Christmas weirdness, I can always find a photo opportunity.  This one was light painting.  Instead of trying to explain this, I’ll just post the photos.

The kids got to play, we learned some new photography skills, but most importantly, we all had some great family and friend fun time.  Living differently, a tinselectomy of sorts.  More tomorrow…


light painting with the kids

I love it when I can share art with kids!  I am in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico at Casa Hogar Elim orphanage.  Last time I was here, we did photography light painting with the kids.  This time, I brought lots of flashlights for the kids to use, and with a supply of color gels to color the flashlights.

Not familiar with light painting?  Simple, and yet most cool process.  If you have an SLR, place it on a tripod and set the shutter on ‘bulb’.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

The kids down here love to light paint.  When we break out the camera and flashlights, they know exactly what we’re doing.  They get so excited and like to see the photos right after we take them.  With that being said, I have to hold on tight to the camera because the stampede of children will come after every photo.  The excitement on their faces is awesome and it’s wonderful to watch them come up with creative ideas for the next shot.

Enough words.
Photos below.  J



Other images from Excessable

junk food worship plastic need more stuff what more can we want? you can call… I’m not eating that magic pills


Excessable Gallery Show

Gallery view 1 Gallery view 2 dress These are pics from my art show in 2006.  The show was called ‘excessable’.  It about the excess in our society and the accessibility to a lot of stuff we don’t need.  (iPhones are NOT included here!)  Some of the details:

-All of the photographs are light painted.  If you’re not familiar with this process, a camera shutter is opened in total darkness and the images are painted with flashlights that have color gels on them.

-The rug is made from 1296 gift cards.

-The wedding dress is a divorce dress.  It has clocks on the front and a disturbing version of wedding vows on the back and all down the train.

I will post that later.I will post the individual images that are not on here.


clean

cleanThis is a light painted photograph that was part of my series called ‘excessable’. 


smokin’

smokin’This is a light painted photograph that was part of my series called ‘excessable’.  


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