Category Archives: Articles on travel

Travel articles including trips where art is a large focus. Food, travel and general interests including food reviews.

Life is putting the plants out for spring.

My lemon tree with flowers

Its spring in a few days and I’m excited about putting out my plants. Every year it is a ritual and there are so many reasons for it and many directly relate to the trials of a creative and not-so creative life.

One particular plant is a seventeen year old lemon tree and that’s just an estimate-it’s probably a little older. It started as a seed, as my exwife told me “you can’t grow lemons in Texas”. 

My lemon tree with droplets in the spring

It’s never produced a lemon and only a handful of flowers in more than a decade. I’m hopeful every year but lack of fruit is the difference between growing from seed and growing a store-bought plant, which is a grafted stock from an existing plant, but that’s science and botany and another story to tell.

Last summer was probably it’s most spectacular year, full and desperate to fruit. This winter it showed my neglect with a lack of leaves and dried up broken stems. It sinks in the pot, lays over looking for bits of light but there is a spark in it, a life force that is ready for the summer.

Remnants of the Ocotillo

I dragged it outside and watered it, even feed it. I can’t fix the winter or make up for shortcomings in care but I can make this next summer the most spectacular and I will. 

I’ve always found hope in watching a dormant plant be born again in spring. Bits of green adorn ash colored limbs as if it were rising from the dead. During a very dark time in my life, the garden was a place for me to watch spring make everything new, every spring of new growth was like hope.

East Texas Redbuds

In our lives, there is always winter, a time where we crawl deep inside ourselves and find strength mingled with weakness, we throw off our broken dying limbs that don’t serve us anymore and we search for that green, that youth that hides in each of us.

This year, I’ve become a bit more realistic, there are less plants that I held over-the sambuc Jasmine which is such an easy plant as it long as it doesn’t get too cold and it rewards you with a wonderful fragrance that soothes and relaxes me in the spring.

Carrion Flower

Some plants brighten up the first day they feel the warmth but others are stubborn, they hold on to their dark and pensive state, the Occatillo, a favorite plant of mine because of its dramatic spiny disposition, it is gray, hard and thorny. I’m not sure if it’s alive or dead but you learn patience and realizing nature is on its own schedule, not yours.

It’s a great responsibility to take plants through the winter and I will be honest, I loose more than I keep. Winter is my introspective time, I don’t get the excitement and feeling of hope like I do in spring, maybe it’s the lack of light but I don’t take the responsibility of taking care of plants lightly.

The Garden in Summer

Plants take you out of yourself, much like pets and children, it’s not about you or what you feel like doing. My manic state tends to over buy plants and my opposite state tends to give up but in the end I have plants with strong roots that can take the winter and still recover in the spring.

Much like humanity, not all of us will be the same after winter, some of us will be stronger, some of us will change our path, some of us will want to give up but as long as winter lays itself down for spring, there is hope. 

Sometimes hope is as simple as putting your plants out in the spring.

Ten Things I’ve lEarned about Social Media: AN OLD INTRO TO AN UPDATE

1. Not all sharing is equal: regardless of your intention.
What you share will not suit everyone’s need or interest. Making an impact starts with honest interaction followed by useful data for mutual benefit.
If you share without real interaction and sincere interest in viewers you become the blur of words and pix the reader learns to avoid.

2. You can’t fake social. 
Social media requires one important factor; you must really be social. People need to know you are interested in their stuff as well as your own. Drive-by social media will get you quickly ignored. Find people with like interests or things that inspire you and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and sharing.

3. Give them something to do. 
Okay, you’ve got their attention, now what? Get them to respond, to engage or go somewhere. This is where pinterest, Facebook and tumblr, to name just a few, allow you to find something than repost it sharing it with others, they find your website, your information or something they need to know and the reason you started sharing in the first place.

4. Engagement is not an option-it’s a necessary goal. 
Now you have started a relationship, you need to engage your readers, be available, answer questions or expand on information you’ve shared. Engagement shows that you are not just sharing information you stand behind the ideas, you can support them with knowledge and useful expertise.

 5. Make goals and learn how to reach them. 
You need to share with a purpose. Have a clear vision of what you want your audience to do and a formula for what a successful campaign would equal whether in new connections, reposts and retweets or amount of response and engagement.

 6. Ask the experts-learn from others’ experiences. 
You’ve been growing a following on various platforms. Now it’s time to add to the momentum, see why others who are leaders in social media have larger engaged following-it’s time to take your sharing to the next level-learn from the professionals that have the following and solid content to prove it.

 7. There are no shortcuts; it takes time, work and content. 
In a society wanting everything now, there is no shortcut to creating a lasting impression; it takes many hours of patience and perseverance.

 8. Don’t disappear- stay focused and engaged so your audience will. You’ve done all the work, you’ve taken the time and effort now you must keep yourself and your audience engaged. Don’t disappear and at the same time don’t keep tweeting the same old thing, give them something new, something interesting and keep them engaged.

 9. Social media is a two-way street, retweet and mean it.
A relationship requires give and take. If you only show and tell your own story no one is going to share theirs or yours with anyone, you need to work with your audience and offer them the same respect and appreciation for their thoughts, stories and products.

 10. Don’t cry wolf. Don’t offer false information, thoughts and ideas that are pointless, exaggerated information-make a good first impression and make sure your audience knows your not only going to be there but that they can count on your perspective and trusted information.

Here is just a small list of the experts that have impressed me with their knowledge of social media and wealth of content. These are specific to the creative side of social media. a great site for artists-Graham Matthews is the owner and does a wonderful job of connecting and offering artists valuable information. He’s also a gifted artist

Jennifer Mattern from All Indie Writers It’s a great place for lots of information on writers, publishing, blogs, etc. a wonderful artist I found on twitter who has so much information to share and a great following.

Let me know if this post was helpful. It’s still a work in progress but social media and marketing in general is a knowledge that grows and adapts in a rapidly changing landscape.

A love of Birds: A collection of Photographs

I have counted 65 bird species in my backyard, many of them just visitors, I am in the process of collecting photographs of each species. If you build it they will come.

People would say my very small yard is a bit of a jungle, especially my son, but it’s the reason so many birds have found food, shelter and even nesting space in and around my yard.

I have families of wrens, chickadees, cardinals, a pair of downy woodpeckers, a whole large family of very large bluejays that put up with my presence and a family of squirrels.

Besides the birds, there are also more than 35 species of butterflies. I am in a very small way creating an oasis for wildlife which I photograph, paint and write about-it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.

My goal now is to photograph each species of birds, butterflies and in the near future the plants I grow to attract them. I do not use any pesticide, herbicides or any other sides to keep them safe and allow a safe haven for a small piece of wildlife to thrive….and they are thriving.

Pastel Sketching: Awakening an old Love


I’ve always considered pastel a continuation of oil painting, just another medium with the same basic process. I used to smooth the texture and use my finger a lot to create a softness. I have discovered quite suddenly a new vision for my pastels.

Another pastel with a basic idea of the texture and light but the end of a previous series.

It started the last time I picked up pastels, I had more interest in texture and the vibration of color than simply rendering a scene correctly. My mindset was very much like oils and the overall image was what I was seeking.

The water in the distance, I believe worked but everything after seemed to be less than what I was seeking. The new view of what pastels should be was just beginning to form. This was several years ago.

Unfortunately for the last image, it seemed by the time I was finished, I lost the reason I started in the first place, this is how series of work begin and end.

Recently, I had the desire to create pastels but with no image in mind. When there is no image, I miss what is special about the finished product so I tend to stumble in the dark.

It can be a frustrating time not knowing exactly what the finished product should be. When I was traveling, selling insurance, I got into a habit of quick sketches, simple renderings created in one day.

This was a series of fast pastel works that each took no more than an evening. They were all from memory and most from my travels in East Texas.

A New Way of Seeing and Rendering Pastels

Yesterday, I wanted to paint, unfortunately the studio is quite cold and I found myself staring at half finished paintings with no direction. I dug out some poster boards that had been cut a few months ago and decided to start sketching.

What should I start with? The question again seemed complicated but I believe I was overthinking it. I decided to create images I had been talking about creating for the longest time, my son and my grandchild, my son’s dog Ranger and an old friend’s daughter who is by now probably in her teens.

The wonderful thing that happened is I realized details and proportion better than I ever have. Creativity and the skills of seeing are subconscious tools that grow and ferment in the brain and then suddenly you can create what in the past seemed impossible.

Very quickly I used only 4 or 5 pastel colors but I interpreted each color, shadow and line with specific cools and warms, I will later go and perfect some of the colors but I could see how all the parts fit in perfectly and it was almost effortless creating them on the board.

I only looked for the basic form and than only the shadows. It is a wonderful feeling to truly see and decipher that which in the past the conscious might have assumed and took over.

I liked the idea and the discipline of working up tones and putting colors and textures to work with each other. The image slowly appears and it is much like how colors are separated in the CMYK printing process-you lay down a group of colors, overlay another layer of colors and watch as the image becomes itself.

I don’t think I have enjoyed sketching so much as I have in the last two days and I was lucky enough to see old images as new again. To truly see and allow the subconscious to rule the hands is quite a feeling of control and discipline that I needed on this cold rainy March afternoon.

Lessons on the Road: Parenting Meets Travel Blogging

Lower Falls in Yosemite

Lessons are better taught through real life experiences. I’ve always preached to my son to not panic in the midst of crisis, a lesson learned from scuba diving. Once you panic you lose all logic and one minor crisis can become a dangerous situation.

After a full day exploring Yosemite, watching mule deer a bit closer than we would have liked and exploring the rocks around the lower falls, our only disappointment was not being able to walk the six hour round trip hike to the upper falls.

It was time to get on the road for Inyo National Forest, to a cabin in the high sierras. We had no service and tried navigating with a map but the mountain roads were confusing. More time had passed and now I was getting more uncomfortable as the light was getting dim and the snow deep.

As we continued getting more lost, signs became less common and our stress level grew higher. We were both beginning to snap at each with the increasing fatigue. We were tired and frustrated.

Suddenly to bring the tension to a pinnacle; 2 deer in the headlights. They came out of nowhere, I veered to the left and they veered to the right. A rare moment when man and nature cooperates but I realized it was time to stop and regroup.

We decided to find the nearest town and after getting phone service and finding the charger for his dead phone we would eat and organize our thoughts. I was doing as I had always preached, instead of reacting and continuing to get more tense, we slowed down and methodically made good decisions that would make a bad situation better.

We ate really good pizza in a small restraunt, had coffee for the long night ahead and got a grasp on the situation. Because of the closed passes we would have to drive six hours to get to where we needed to go, around a mountain range and through a state forest.

I made the best decision I could have made-find the nearest hotel, relax, eat and get a good night sleep. So I paid for a cabin six hours away and a hotel in Groveland but it was so worth it. We ended up experiencing a wonderful night sleep in a circa 1800 gold rush hotel and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast. We lived to drive another day.

Several things we learned on our trip through Yosemite: don’t take passes for granted-they close during the winter months. Be flexible and have a secondary plan, If your going to nearly hit deer make sure they are cooperative deer that don’t panic and the biggest rule of all don’t panic.

Valentines from a Starbucks

Valentines evening at a starbucks, a sky darkening with no plans for the evening, just another day for a single person.

Still, I love Valentines day, even if I’m not part of it. One day that you say something a little special, be a little more kind to that special someone, even if corporations can make a profit from it, I’m okay with it.

Artbygordon Oil on Canvas

The truth, I’d be happy to buy the right woman a gift but I would hope she wouldn’t need or expect one on a specific day. I believe we need to act this way year round and because we don’t, we have to have a day to remind us.

In my opinion, kindness and showing someone how much you appreciate them shouldn’t be limited and if it is, one night of celebrating isn’t going to make a relationship any more special.

Artbygordon photography

So I sit here, hoping this post does not sound too melancholy, I am comfortable with being alone, it is by choice as I wait for the right person to start a new relationship.

I believe timing is everything and I am enlarging my scope of social interaction and getting more comfortable with every outing. I believe my soul’s complement is sitting at another coffee shop thinking the same as I am tonight.

Evening park Artbygordon Pastel on Paper

The sky outside is deepening blue contrasting with the yellow lights of local shops and cars passing by. The workforce is hustling home for evening festivities and I am still-sipping a cup of coffee and taking it all in.

It’ a strange feeling when time is not marching behind us keeping us on a schedule. Time is more fluid, it’s a little uncomfortable as it moves without borders of weekend or end of workday-my workday never ends and the week is seamless with weekends.

Roses Artbygordon

It’s easy to become disconnected from the world and that’s why I am continuing to enlarge my social circle. It can be a bit intimidating as you watch time fly by-it is the constant of the ocean tide-adding and subtracting with each surge.

I am slowly growing in my scope of what the future looks like and it has made me feel more present in the moment.

I guess it’s appropriate to be sitting here alone, watching the moment unfold at a starbucks, waiting for no one special who could be that special one. With more confidence than I have ever felt, I wait for that possibility of the future, someone that makes an unexpected stop at a coffee shop on valentines day.

Artist Window: Back to the Canvas, Night Sky

Silence of Stars: Artbygordon 2015 Original Oil on Canvas

In the last thirty minutes, I’ve done more work on painting than I have in several months. It is just an amazing feeling to be in that place and now I know why I’ve been so agitated the last few days.

I started with a very recent inspiration of the trees reaching into a night sky. Yesterday, I pushed paint around, even the underpainting was flat and not much character or interest.

The Bus Stop 2013 Artbygordon

Today I found the spark and just immediately the clear image of the painting became crystal clear. This was actually 100% from memory but so quickly, I knew every bit and star that needed to be placed.

Suddenly a flat underpainting becomes a sky full of depth and twinkling stars. There is a house in the image which will have the one lit window for a little mystery. The sky in the distance is still a bit tinged with red from the sunset.

The Suburbs Artbygordon 2010

Next, I picked up the image of the fisherman standing on the edge of light. Again the clarity of the image and exactly what light and dark needed to be was so clear and concise to me.

After about twenty minutes on that painting I got back to a barely discernible image of “At the Fair” a painting that has been sketched and clearly in my mind for several months.

Moonflower: Artbygordon 2014

There are going to be lots of people in this particular painting and the tents and energy of the state fair-it is generic because there is an unfortunate scene in the foreground-planning on making it subtle but you’ll see when it is finished.

I finally got back to Petit Jean waterfall and I knew where to put the sheen on the water and how to make the waterfall not a thick heavy blob but a group of spaces and shadows denoting the movement. Still not completely done but getting so much closer.

It is incredible when the creative mind allows just a glimpse of creativity and how rich and perfect the view is. The artist needs to work quickly to capture all of the information that is so often cryptic.

The super moon: This will be inspiration for a future painting as well.

I just saw two more images that are going to be fast tracked-my son’s dog Ranger- I saw him in a dark background and just a small element of his beautiful markings are lit. I am very excited about this one because the image is so clear. The whole body of the dog will be in movement and blurred except the eyes and the markings.

I also have a photo of my son and grandson which I plan on painting, the reason, besides the obvious, it is a very graphic basic image and I”m excited to capture the moment. I am excited to see where this series is going and I am so excited to be in the process of thinking and seeing creatively.

Ranger-the painting will be from more recent bu this is Ranger.

Random acts of creativity: Where Inspiration meets kinetic

Spider web February 1, 2019-I celebrate the intricacies of nature and artists creating beautiful things Artbygordon copyright 2019

Creativity: Picture the most euphoric state you can imagine; the birth of a child, flying down a ski slope or a rollercoaster or the view of an awe-inspiring sunset and realize how transient that state is. This is what creativity is for me.

It is when everything aligns naturally and suddenly the strange riddle you’ve been deciphering becomes completely discernible. The riddle is inspiration-I equate it to craving something to eat but not quite able to decide what you are craving.

Honey Bee January 19, 2019-I love how light isolates and creates a moment in nature- Artbygordon copyright 2019

Photography: I have experienced this state of clarity in each medium I work with. My photography used to be, a love of landscapes which weren’t always available to shoot depending on the quality of light and time of day.

I would find an abstract pattern in nature but the image never quite meshed. In a landscape, you can plan for shapes and composition allowing lines to create depth and dimension for the viewer but how do you explain objects and make them have interest to the viewer.

Redbud February 1, 2018-I celebrate the intricacies of nature and artists creating beautiful things Artbygordon copyright 2019

So many attempts failed because I was missing the crucial aspect of the image-it wasn’t the shape, it wasn’t the color, instead it was how it interacted with light.

you just know you’ve captured something beautiful and the excitement is that transient state of seeing what’s invisible and showing it to the viewer.

Artbygordon 2019
Duck January 2019- This is from a series of images that shows loneliness and solitude-Artbygordon copyright 2019

As I continue to see nature beyond the larger scope of a landscape, the isolated image becomes more clear. I find myself noticing, even in the flattest, blandest afternoon light how something evokes an emotion or at least interest from a chaos of details.

After I shoot a landscape or an object, sometimes you just know you’ve captured something and the excitement is that transient state of seeing what’s invisible and capturing it for the viewer.

NEXT Post Creativity in Painting: Pushing Paint

The Artist’s WIndow: Isolating Light

Honeybee on winter jasmine: Original Photography by Artbygordon 2019

Light separated glistening white blooms of winter jasmine this morning. The image was beautiful as a whole but it was difficult to simplify and accentuate details that could explain what originally inspired me.

Finding light amidst darkness and chaos is a privilege I never take lightly.

Artbygordon 2019

This is a problem the artist often has with separating the ordinary from the extraordinary. We are bombarded with details and often a beautiful image of nature can be quite overwhelming to the viewer.

It is the artist’s job to separate light and shape from the background where the viewer is often left with a chaotic mass of line, form and color. The essence of beauty is often just simplification of the whole.

I have always been a landscape artist but often a flat afternoon light does not offer anything dramatic, this is why I have learned to not only see light but to isolate it and allow it to be the main focus in my photography and art.

As a painter, in the past, I was more impressed with the whole or the peripherals to evoke mood. Now I tend to see shapes and how light accentuates them creating drama.

Light becomes its own object in an artwork and much like you don’t paint water, you must paint that which interacts with the clarity of water, light is not easily defined, it is more it’s reaction with objects that is important.

Because of a growing passion for photography, I have learned more about seeing objects and painting objects. Much like writing teaches us how to think and explain our experience such is photography to the artist, it teaches us how to see and describe the intangible.

Yesterday I made a trip to Daingerfield Lake; it was a wonderful trip with my brother and nephew. Lately I miss the electric hour and either capture the sunset or afternoon light but we had two things, time and shared interest.

I haven’t enjoyed photographing quite like it, it’s amazing to share seeing with others, I love the solitude and introspection but having family to share that passion was an incredible experience for me.

The light as the sun dipped into the horizon created a spectacle on the landscape. The blues were cold and rich, the green reflections were charged with depth and intense green color.

Almost 400 photographs later, I was able to capture Lake Daingerfield in a way I’ve never seen it before. Usually we kayak and fish but this time it was solely a photography trip and a memorable one at that.

To complete the perfect trip, my son called from Oklahoma, although I wished he were with us, it was the next best thing. We will definitely get back for more photography and kayaking, it is truly a beautiful lake to visit.

Daingerfield State Park is 150 miles east of Dallas. Texas. It is a small intimate lake for kayaking and offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities including pickerel which is what we go for.

It is quiet and perfect for the get away from the city without feeling too far remote. For more information go to

Rediscovering the Artist Eye: Diversions are Part of the Process

This image is from a night of camping with my son at Lake Murray-we both played on the cold, hard rocks and watched the moon rise-it has become his favorite painting. Artbygordon 2013

I just started a new painting about the night sky, just did a simple underpainting of trees in the front yard with a moon and star-filled sky.

The more I get back to painting, the more I find myself seeking a graphic element, simple and more abstract. In the past it was more about mood and peripherals and now it is about the shapes and how they interplay.

Photography of light and simple shapes-probably an evolution that is effecting my paintings. I enjoy the contrast of light and shadows and the simplicity of objects. Original Photography by Artbygordon 2018

I’ve been admiring too much abstract images I guess. I’ve also been seeking how light interplays with objects in my photography, which seems to be a principle in the new/old series.

I am getting back to several images of water-they all were somewhat complete but I was never completely pleased with them. It is amazing to me how much an image literally plays itself out while you paint.

There is the first obstacle of pushing paint around, overcomplicating what you see and over-explaining a simple principle of light and shadow.

The droplets on the rose are perfect example of how it is not overcomplicated creating reflection and light-it is a very subtle, simple rendering that delivers the best image.

When the subconscious overrides the conscious and truly sees and renders simple the image as it is-this is when the hand and the brain tend to work independent of consciousness, the lines, forms and subtle detail seem to create themselves.

The Terns Artbygordon 2013: An older painting and the beginning of seeing things in shapes and abstracts

To show the progression of recent paintings, I need to go back to previous series. This is where the shape is becoming a bit more important than the feeling and depth of the water.

I feel like I am getting back to full circle, the paintings in the new series will have more detail in the water, more sharper contrasts of light and I will get back to the reason I loved the night sky and water.

The next post will be about the night sky with the newer images. I am excited about the new series and see my vision truly taking shape.