Blue Cube

I was waiting for a friend, reading the paper, listening to the radio, the usual. Then I decided to get out of the car and look around. I found a blue cube that had tumbled down the bank of the storm drain. I spent the next 20 minutes taking its picture. Later on, at home, I spent a good two hours deciding what to crop, what to use . . . it was very relaxing. There is something to be said for having a little playtime.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Daily prompt | Leave a comment

Found paintings

Once upon a time there was a tall white pine overlooking my path down to the shore of Grand Traverse Bay. It came down in a big storm last year, but the stump remains.  It is a big stump, half my height, a couple of feet across.

The sap that bled from the cut pooled at the edge, whitened, cracked, sealed to itself whatever fell there, or dared to cross it.

I am fanciful. I saw patterns that might be ancient rivers, islands, lakes, or the surface of Mars. At the edge was the world I sketch when I doodle. There are always grasses, a stump or two, and water. Here there are birds, too, wading birds, and branches, and flowers. All sorts of things. It must be a marsh. A little cropping, a judicious application of the rudimentary editing software, and we have Dawn in the Marsh.

A person who should be writing but is sick of writing and wants nothing more than to forget the writing for the moment keeps playing with the software. Now it is Evening in the Marsh.

Over there, on the other side of the stump, there is another painting. This one is of 19th century hunters. They are probably Civil War veterans. They’ve spotted me. I suppose that means I must go back to the writing.

The Hunters

Soooo . . . play a little. Then write, paint, sculpt, photograph, compose . . . create.

Posted in Daily prompt | 2 Comments

Photography lessons:First trimester

Sometimes the best prompt of all comes from a friend. Carsten wondered what had happened to this poor little blog, begun so bravely a year ago. He posted a comment on the Storyteller’s fire post of, ulp, February 24, 2011.

Then Scott Thomas, the genial proprietor of Views Infinitum, proposed an assignment.  Follow the Rule of Thirds to make better photos.  Well, what with one thing and another, I did not get around to the assignment until the deadline had passed, but I thought, what the heck.  I can still do the work and maybe even learn something.

I do try to pay attention to composition when I’m taking a picture, but sometimes I’m lucky to get something before it disappears.  The cat, for example, or a kid climbing a hill with his sled.

This is a pretty cluttered photo, but at least I got those green, green eyes.

Then I tried cropping it a couple of different ways, keeping in mind the idea, if not the precise reality, of thirds.

Better—still no cigar. But then I’m pretty much starting out with cornsilk anyway, eh?

I loved watching the kids sledding on the hill behind the Elk Rapids Library. There was hardly any snow that day, but they were having a wonderful time. I wish I had managed a photo that really captured their adventure from their perspective, but . . . So here’s the original image of our sledder.

Way too much ominous tree trunk, right? Again I tried a couple of cropping experiments.

If I’d had a good quality image to begin with I think I might like the close crop best, but as it is, I’m sort of fond of the one that shows the context, and maybe gives a hint of what a big hill that must have seemed to a little guy who’d been sledding down it for awhile.

I had a little better luck with some other images, but those will have to wait for the Second Trimester.

Maybe I’ll dig my way out of my Cave of Hibernation. We shall see.

Posted in Photography homework | Tagged | 4 Comments

Storyteller’s fire

As it’s getting cold again, I am spending a lot of time feeding the woodstove and then sitting and watching it.  That’s the trouble with a nice fire.  If a person needs to get some work done, a person might be better off cranking up the propane furnace, which is no fun to watch at all.  

Or maybe I am simply terminally distractible.  Here I am in the middle of the heavy lifting on a nonfiction project and along comes something so delicious that all I want to do is write a scene that’s swirling in my mind.  It’s all Ken Scott’s fault.  His giant sparklers (An exploration of fire on ice at night) lit up my little synapses, and I can’t stop thinking about them.  

Today’s prompt:  Go see what Ken’s been up to.  I’ll bet it gives you ideas.  It’s just so beautiful, and so intentional.  He doesn’t get a little idea and tie it up in a bow in an hour or so.  He gets a big idea and spends a lot of time figuring out how to make it work and then finding the right time and place for maximum effect and then . . . well, let’s just say he applies a lot of discipline to his inspirations.

Soooo . . . OK, plan a little.  Then write, paint, sculpt, photograph, compose . . . create.

Posted in Daily prompt | 2 Comments

Adam’s Tournament of Elements

Adam Arents is spending a year in a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and he’s doing something that scares me.  Naturally his blog gives me all kinds of ideas.  Go take a look at, for example, Tournament of Elements.  Now the reason I bring this up . . . I am a great admirer of ingenuity in any field of endeavor.  It always strikes me that I can somehow apply that particular clever solution to a problem I’m working on.  Wow, I think to myself, I can use that kind of block and tackle to hoist the Cowboy into his bath.  What, you were expecting something about character development or plot?  Well, that happens too.

Today’s prompt: Steal Adam’s idea.  Argue passionately for a creative choice—yours or somebody else’s.  Persuade your chosen audience that limpid is the right word, or that this particular shade of red works, or that a fill flash makes all the difference, or that a piece if birch needs to be carved away because it isn’t a bear, or that this song needs to be in a minor key.  You don’t have to use words. You can argue in any kinds of symbols you like.

Or . . . follow the rabbit trail I went down to find a suitable graphic for you.  You will get lost in Spiral Periodic Tables and a book by James Elkins called How to Use Your Eyes.  I hope you’ve set aside your whole afternoon.

Write, paint, photograph, quilt, sculpt, compose . . . Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | Leave a comment

Monkey puzzles

A printed and bound dictionary has its charms. On my way to looking up the plural of mosquito (it turns out you can give them toes or not, it’s optional) I found moneygrubber to monkey puzzle family. Now there’s the starter for a short story if ever I saw one, but it’s not the sort of thing you’d stumble across while looking things up online. Dictionaries are the repositories for antiques, too. Where else will you find a record changer these days?

I come from a long line of sentimental people. This is why my dad couldn’t part with that sliderule . . . until I asked to have it. I don’t even know how to use it, but he did, and his father before him, and for some reason I like having it around. It turns out my son knows how to use it, too. I figure it’s one thing he’ll keep out of all the stuff around here.

Today’s prompt: If you were marooned without electricity what would you do to make your art? (I know, I know—after you figured out how to make your food.) Imagine, improvise, experiment. Don’t be scared. We’re all in this together, one big monkey puzzle family.

Write. Paint, compose, draw, dance, sing . . . Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | 4 Comments

Little inspirations

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I had a fine time over at the Jordan River Art Center watching everyone else work.  The installation of For the Love of Letters proceeded while I wandered around with the camera making a virtual notebook of things I liked. 

Today’s prompt:  Go forth and gather little inspirations of your own.  Take snapshots or sketch or talk into a recorder about them.  Make notes in a cunning Moleskin or on the back of a receipt from the Eastport Market.  When you get home, try to remember what it was that fascinated you about each one.  That last part gets harder with time.  Fortunately, imagination grows richer with time.  Rely upon it.

Write, paint, photograph, compose, weave, dance . . . Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | Leave a comment

Inchies indeed

I am reliably informed that Inchies—miniature works of art that will fit handily within a one-inch square—are all the rage.  There’s even going to be an Inchie Valentinie workshop during the JRAC opening on Sunday.  I am always behind the curve of fashion, but in this case I resolved to huff and puff and catch up.  I would make a set of Inchies from faces cropped from compelling old photos full of Civil War veterans and other miscreants and fill the back of each one with a tiny story in crabbed writing. 

I was going along great guns when I realized it isn’t possible to make a digital Inchie.  Pixels are elastic.  The size of that photo above will vary with the size of your monitor.  Rats.  OK, how about if you set your monitor so that the photo is a one-inch square?  Oh never mind just use your imagination. 

Today’s prompt:  Figure out how to shoehorn what you have to say into a one-inch square or its functional equivalent.  I suppose you might be having the sort of day when you’ll have to add some filler to make up the whole inch, but it usually works the other way, doesn’t it.  Depending on your medium, you may have to define “inch.”  Then you have to figure out how to make it stay.  Sounds like spaniel management.  I digress. 

This is all a lot of effort for an intentionally small result, but problem solving is good exercise for the imagination.  Lessee, 1 inch = 2.54 cm . . .

Write, paint, construct, compose, weave, photograph . . . Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | 11 Comments


As a sculptor, I’m a pretty fair wordsmith—but it’s fun, and it will all melt away soon anyway.

Today’s prompt:  Experiment by stepping outside your usual ways of interpreting the world.  You can do this secretly if you like.  Put graffiti on the inside of your kitchen cabinet doors.  Sew a poem into your pocket.  Draw a wordshape in ice cream.  Giggling during this experiment is not only allowed but encouraged.

Write, paint, photograph, quilt, sculpt, compose . . .  Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | Leave a comment


Last night I went to an informal concert by Jo Williamson, currently in residence at ISLAND Hill House, a creative retreat.  The audience was full of artists of all kinds, and there was a lot of conversation during the afterglow about how lovely it would be to spend some time Away From It All, just working in peace.  Then I came home and read Jim Harrison’s novella/memoir Tracking, where he makes a case for getting out and about in the world so you have something to write about besides what’s in your own head.  (He also describes growing up in a loving family in rural northern Michigan, a sort of artist’s retreat in its own way.)

Today’s prompt:  Make a list (OK, that’s me; maybe you want to make some sketches or photos or quilt blocks or . . . ) of the times in your life that felt the most productive.  Make another of the times that felt most peaceful, and still another of the periods of Learning From Experience.  Show yourself how your life right now fits into all that, in words, in music, in images.  Be sure to include the parts that are outside your own head.  Now you can do whatever you want.  Not my call. 

Write, paint, photograph, compose, dance, quilt, sculpt . . . Create.

Posted in Daily prompt | 2 Comments