Category Archives: gardens

2019: A New Year

A new year, an unblemished calendar but what to do? How can I make 2019 a special, productive year? 

The question definitely has to do with my readers but at the same time, I can’t deliver meaningful content unless I know what my readers and subscribers are wanting or even expecting.

I have decided to break my posts into specific columns so you will have an idea of what to expect and there will be a constant theme going through my content although varied as it might be.

I used to create the blog on Blogger and than share it with multiple network channels but I am trying to localize all the content through the website.

Here are a list of the upcoming posts and what I envision for the year.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

The Artist’s Window: It’s how the artist sees the world, how we find light and what makes the ordinary extraordinary from an artist’s view. 

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

Depression for the Layman: How to live with depression and tips and tools to live a good life despite the illness. I will be putting all the pieces into a book with other self-help books in the works.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

From A Kayak: I’m trying to bring this back; it might be a view from a tree, a view from a platform-it’s just going to be different places in nature.

The Grackles 2017 Artbygordon

ArtbyGordon: New Series, new subject matter and my reactions and thoughts on art and being creative. Artbygordon and life creatively will merge into this catchall for living a creative lifestyle and breaking the boundaries of the expected.

Remnants of the Garden Artbygordon

Gardening: From the beginning to end of the garden and different aspects of life woven through a life filled with nature and gardening. On a practical note: all the winners and losers, maintaining order in a chaotic garden and other thoughts on life and creativity.

Road to Hagerman Artbygordon

Travel and Writing: This will be the travel side of my blogging. I will highlight at least one place through each month-it could be reviews on food, venues, concerts-anything travel with a little bit of nature added in for color.

The Reluctant Military Dad: This is a new piece of the puzzle-it’s about being a single dad and letting go. It’s about my son in the military and the aspects of a dad watching his son become something great. 

General parenting insights and topics about raising kids in today’s world-being a step dad to my oldest son and all I’ve learned on this journey of parenting.

The next thought, what my readers are wanting and what to add to the blog-I would love to hear what people would like to read about.

I am excited about 2019 and feel my brand and its scope is growing.  Please be a part of the Artbygordon newsletter to get up to date news on series, appearances and latest writing and photography.

2018 a Productive Year Part 3

Original photography by artbygordon and text by artbygordon-image from Lake Ray Hubbard

It’s been a productive year but it’s also been very stressful. Chasing after your passion can be very intimidating, it is not the norm and it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical life.

Many times you are out on the limb but actually you are doing what you always said you would: daring to embrace the extraordinary life. The freedoms I have experienced this year have allowed me to find great bits of nature all around the DFW area.

Puddle outside in April: Original photography by Artbygordon

2018 I feel like I have truly found my niche. Nature has always been my inspiration but I am find more options for not only the light interaction but abstract patterns. April brought the rain and I was out finding images to capture.

Original photograph from Parkhill Prairie in Blue Ridge by Artbygordon

I have truly become a solo hiker and have spent much time finding excuses to go back to the places where I used to run insurance appointments. It is a liberating feeling to be able to photograph and explore alone and having much time to reflect on what exactly a photo by Artbygordon looks like.

I am increasing my interest in finding light in the bleakest days. There is no time or place where the richness of light speaks to me than when it is unexpected.

I finally made it to the Frank Buck Zoo. I’ve also had many trips to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Parkhill Prairie, Sulphur River and the Caddo Grasslands in northeast Texas.

Every place I visit I find new nature subjects and learn more about their habits. I watched cliff swallows dig for mud on the sulphur river and watched them build their nests while I searched for fossil Belemites.

Sulphur River from the river bottoms, original photography by artbygordon

This whole year has been a learning and growing experience for me, staying up to date with video, graphics and even 3D imaging, I continue to grow my craft while exploring avenues in Photography.

I Illustrated my first children’s book with R.L. Clayton. I have also worked with a local leader to get her marketing materials for her new church she is gathering: It has truly been a blessing as I continue to grow my small but loyal group of clients.

Ennis Bluebonnet Festival original photography by artbygordon

I got back to the Bluebonnet trails in Ennis and the bluebonnets were quite amazing. It’s amazing how many people go down to see the spectacle, the hardest task was not to let the people steal the show. It was a wonderful afternoon.

April and May were busy as I continued to work freelance while traveling to places to gather photography. The brand is growing and I am developing the look and feel of the site.

The one thing that has never changed and will never change is my interest and passion for nature. It is my solace and keeps me grounded. I am planning on traveling much more in 2019.

Nature Photography: A Collection of Lepidotera

One reason for growing a wildlife garden: If you build it, they’ll come. And they are beautiful to watch in the garden.

The Queen on Chaste Tree
Gulf Fritillary on Flame Acanthus
Monarch on Maximillian Sunflower
Three Gulf Fritillary Mating and Competing
Pipevine Swallowtail on Zinnia
Giant Swallowtail on Zinnia
Cloudless Sulphur on Zinnia
Sulphur Caterpillar on Candlestick Plant
Monarch Caterpillar on Mexican Milkweed

All photographs are from my garden. It is amazing how you build a landscape and they come and use it. I have the whole life cycle in the garden. Next post I will show the birds that come to the garden when you don’t spray insecticides.

Light and Warmth: Life cycle of a sunflower

Fire of the sun captured in a flower

A sweet fragrant bloom that captures the energy and warmth of the summer. I’ve been planting sunflowers since I was in my early teens, they used to tower over my yard looking like a forest with giant yellow heads bowing down.

In the first photograph, I felt like I captured the light, all the heat and warmth of the summer sun in a single bloom. I love the way they grow anywhere, they even disperse a chemical from their seeds that don’t stop other competitors from growing.

An early bloom that looks like possibilities. 

Rich yellow blooms in the early spring. The first warmth in the garden as the dark soil gives up its seeds and the sunflowers rise to the height of the fence.

Sunflowers are a welcome treat throughout the season, the giant heads that feed the birds in the fall and the sweet candy blooms that feed butterflies and bees in the spring.

Sunflower bush on the edge of a field somewhere in east Texas.

They are a buzz of activity, intricate cities of bees, moths, wasps and butterflies. As a child, they were my solace, a place where everything made sense. Nature has always been my peace, the garden my escape, Sunflowers like hope.

The last bit of summer sun reflected in a bloom.

It’s the intricacies of color, the complex smell of the nectar, the strong and persistent stems that reach into the sky; A giant yellow bloom stares down at the ground in the long heat of a summer day and the day is painted gold.

I have painted sunflowers much like the passion vine as they represent something wonderful, a nod to childhood and all things nature.

Even in the darkest times, sunflowers rise over the fence insisting, everything is okay and summer will go on.

They are dramatic subjects in paintings and I have painted several works where they steal the show. There is something almost otherworldly about their giant overwhelming forms and the seed heads are an abundant source of food for wildlife in the winter when the summer cycle ends.

Summer Ends

The colors grow warmer but the light becomes more flat as summer gives up its youth. There are more used up blooms than new ones but the ones that stay are more vibrant with thick sturdy stems.

In the distance cicadas serenade the last bit of afternoon light. The landscape is parched, the grass golden as the wind begins to change. 

The Artist’s Window-The last bit of summer at the window sill

The purpose is spent in the final hours of summer, throwing  seeds in preparation of spring and the yellow grasses give into the heat. It’s Autumn, one more flash of rich colors before the season is dark and silent.

Sleep, the needed ingredient, that deep breath that gives up all of one’s hope and reminds us of the purpose of work. From the heat of summer we have learned lessons, they mingle in the black soil and they will speak when we can no longer have a voice.

The final moments of a Sunflower

It’s tilted head gives in. The last bits of yellow discarded, devoured by birds and scavenged by squirrels and field mice-it is the end of a season. With little sadness, nor time to reflect, the seeds wait in the darkness of the soil. 

It is time to sleep, hope sleeps in darkness and purpose is on a winter horizon. Every season has a purpose and to everything a reason under the sun.

2018: A Productive Year in art and Photography, Part 2 of 6

East Texas in early March, just as the redbuds are blooming Artbygordon 2018

In the beginning of 2018, with a little bit more freedom, I began to explore more places to find nature. Some of the places I visited are the Cedar Ridge Preserve. I began to seek out any place I could find even a hint of nature and mapped out several wonderful hikes very close to Dallas. For  more information on the Cedar Ridge Preserve.

Plum blossoms isolated Artbygordon

February and March found the artist seeking colors and light and instead I began to discover patterns in nature. I aimed to isolate light and shape even when the light was flat.

Screech owl from the Backland Prairie Raptor center first Saturday Artbygordon 2018

I made my regular visit to the Backland Prairie Raptor Center and learned more about the Backland Prairie and its importance to Texas and the DFW area. They open to the public first Saturday of the month and I always try to visit.

Pond near Parkhill Prairie in Blue Ridge Texas Artbygordon 2018

Talking with the naturalists I learned about another favorite place of mine, the Parkhill Prairie in Blue Ridge, Texas. It is like going back to a place in history where the wind cries across the pristine planes. I watched hawks sore and songbirds in the native environment-it was a wonderful trip and a need grounding for me. It is a wonderful remnant of the backland prairie.

Passionvine isolated Artbygordon 2018

 I finally got to the East Texas Alligator Farm and Park. It was an enjoyable visit and something I have been planning for many years on so many drives out East. I plan on finding those out of the way places and writing and photographing about them.

Wildlife Gardens in Texas Part 4: white veined Dutchman’s pipevine /Aristolochia fimbriota Vine

This is the amazing butterfly that will visit your garden when you plant Dutchman’s Pipe or Aristolochia vine. Even without the welcome visitor it is an easy and very interesting vine to grow.

This is the Caterpillar that will devour every bit of the plants you have but they grow back quickly. They look a bit like slugs but if you study them closer they are quite beautiful in their own right.

Let’s get back to the plant which has its’ own unique qualities. The reason they call them Dutchman’s Pipe vines is because the flowers are very strange and exotic and look much like a dutchmans pipe.

This is the White-Veined Dutchman Pipevine-it is a ground cover that will come back every year in Texas and reseeds itself quite easily. The smell of the leaves are very strong.

There are several different types of vines but be wary of the Aristolochia Gigantea-it is a beautiful flower and dramatic bloom but it supposedly will kill the caterpillars, if you grow them just make sure you keep them away from butterflies seeking to lay their eggs.

The next plant is the sunflower which is not only a host plant but easy to grow from seed and a dramatic addition to any landscape.

 









Texas Gardening Part 3: The Spectacle of the Candlestick Plant: Senna ALata

Senna Alata: The candlestick plant has a strange and dramatic flower and is a host plant for several sulphur butterflies. You will need to give this plant some room because it grows out of its boundaries but the display is stunning. No questioning why they call it a candlestick plant as the blooms look like tall yellow candlesticks.

Another aspect of this plant is that it’s so easy to grow, very little watering and I’ve never fertilized any of my plants. After the  flowers are exhausted, the seeds are very abundant. You will see many seedlings the next season or two.

This is the visitor you can expect, the caterpillar of the cloudless sulphur. Every year I get a few of them and I’ve had this plant in my garden every year for probably the last ten years.

Another senna that looks much like the candlestick plant is the Popcorn Senna (Cassia didymobotrya). This plant also attracts the sulphur butterflies and looks like a paler version of the candlestick plant but it also smells like its name suggests.

Makes great photographs.

Candlestick plants love the heat and I don’t think I have ever watered them. In the evening they close up their large mimosa like leaves and the whole plant looks like its praying. I will always have them in my garden and am in the process of selling their seeds as well.

The whole reason I started wildlife gardening was to attract wildlife to my garden and being able to photograph the cloudless sulphurs, clouded sulfurs and several cabbage whites that come for the nasturtium, my work has been rewarded and I love to be able to photograph the plants and butterflies as well.

Painting: Deliberate until something develops

undertheseasm

There are so many different feelings when you paint, sometimes it’s pushing paint around, sometimes it’s deliberate, even mechanical and sometimes it’s instinctual, tonight’s  sitting was a little bit of all of them.

I started with an under painting and it was one of the more deliberate paintings I’ve started, unfortunately I didn’t have the full picture, just an idea of clouds moving forward over the viewers head. The actual image is from real life, I have photographs for reference but I’m not completely sure where the clouds end and what the landscape looks like.

I painted the background with perspective lines, every form, every color and every space will be designed with the idea of perspective and I want the viewer to feel overwhelmed by the clouds overhead.

As I tend to do, I switched gears after finishing a monochromatic under painting I turned to the painting of a scene from beneath Shark River Inlet in Belmar New Jersey. This painting was inspired thirty plus years ago and it still stood clear.

I painted with a clear feeling of purpose but as suddenly as it began it ends and I wasn’t sure if I was done with the painting or should start all over. The problem is the idea and image is strong but the recollection is so hard to bring back to mind. I will continue to study it until I know it’s either done or time to start over.

Another thing about painting, sometimes you feel like you’ve created your best work and sometimes the same painting looks like a mistake. I got back to the grackles above the city, an image that I started at the end of the last series, again I had that feeling of instinct kick in and for thirty minutes or so I painted like I figured out the problem.

None of the paintings are finished but I feel like I’m shaking off the stagnation and getting in the process. The most exciting thing about painting instinctual is that images appear that you didn’t necessarily know you were creating they just come out of the details you’ve worked in feverishly.

I’m excited about this series and feel it will be a huge step toward my future painting style and feel.

Stay tuned, more paintings coming very soon.

gracklessm









Rejuvenating a Garden: life lessons among the weeds

Garden_flowers

So many things in gardening mimic life, it’s realizing them that offers us wisdom.

After ridiculous heat and a garden that got away from me, after all the beautiful blooms  I anticipated have failed, I forget why I started gardening in the first place.

 

In Texas heat and humidity you stand and look at a mess you started in the spring that is now out of your control and succumbing to summer heat. Welcome to one’s life, finding that joy is what this  post is all about. Here are my wisdoms from the weeds.

 

  1. Mulch often:Mulch is the gardens’ skin, it keeps moisture in and combats heat and weeds, it is armor for the growing garden.

We all need a thick skin, it will keep the bad out and keep the
good in, a parent needs to start mulching their children at a very
young age-a thick skin is important.

  1. Water when needed but not too often:You would think watering a garden is a no-brainer but the best way to kill a garden, especially in Texas thick clay soils is overwatering.

Don’t overwater your children or yourself for that matter, don’t
take yourself too seriously and don’t rush in to make sure your
kids have everything they need. A little bit of patience and
perseverance grows character and it’s a beautiful flower.

  1. There is more to a garden than just flowers: So many reasons to garden, don’t just aspire for one particular thing. Notice the wildlife, the interesting weeds, enjoy the fruits and vegetables and most of all, learn everything you can. This is kind of self explanatory for your life, learn, enjoy, explore, don’t just focus on one objective-be adventurous.
  1. Don’t use Chemicals: No, I’m not preaching, but you do kill much of what would actually help your garden and the garden can do a lot on its own if you don’t cripple it with chemicals. Ok, that sounded preachy.

This is twofold-don’t surround yourself with toxic people and
don’t try so hard to solve a problem you end up causing more
problems, think first, realize consequences before
you create more for yourself.

  1. Transplanting can often revive a dying plant: I have seen plants magically come back to life after simply being transplanted. Suddenly a dormant plant sends up new life and even flowers.

Transplant yourself, change is great for the soul. Often a change is
the best thing you can do to start living again, challenge yourself,
awaken your inner seed.

  1. Deadheading often brings about new growth and flowers: You rejuvenate a plant when you remove its spent blooms, it works to create flowers instead of reseeding.

Don’t hold on to old ways or  things, sometimes we need to throw
off our pasts, our old language and doubts before we can grow
again.

  1. The beauty of a garden happens over time: There is the initial bloom you buy from a store, the reason you were attracted in the first place to the specific plant. After the initial blooms fade there is so much more that happens, the roots go deeper, the flowers get more complex and it gets healthier and more vibrant with time.

    Be more interested in the long term than the transient. Don’t panic as things in your life change and be patient as you discover the big picture.

  1. Don’t chose the wrong plant: If you plant a cactus in a rainforest, the results are not going to be good. Can you do it? Yes, but it will take more time, more materials and more attention.

    Know who you are, be who you are. Don’t force yourself into someones’ perceived garden, realize how much more work and attention you will need for the same result.

  1. Have fun:If you look at the garden as a task, that is exactly what it will be. Have fun, enjoy yourself, get dirty and did I mention; Learn a lot.

    Sometimes we are so intense about living, about goals, about expectations we forget we are here to enjoy, to have fun. Today I dug in the garden and it felt amazing. Stop, and enjoy your life, winter will be here sooner than you think.

  1. Find old friends among the weeds: This is one of the primary reasons I started writing this post. While digging out the seeds and mulching the garden I found old friends. I rediscovered how much I enjoy digging in the soil. I stopped and enjoyed a moment gardening; it was like spring again.

I also found plants that had reseeded, last years flowers that reappeared, I love perennials. I would have never even realized them if I didn’t stop and dig in the soil and rejuvenate the garden. I remembered why I started gardening in the first place. Despite the heat, despite the sweat and toil and scars on barehands, I never use gloves.  I realize nature is the force that rejuvenates me and gardening makes me remember that.

So get out there, enjoy nature, start a garden or just stop and enjoy someone else’s, Learn, read, find out what you loved as a child and rejuvenate your own garden, the results will amaze you!