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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My intention has always been to create art that was realistic and once I attained a certain skill level I would just tweak reality, just enough to make the viewer a little off kilter.
It probably stems from years of depression which, although is part of the creative process, also makes the person feel off center. The paintings that approach surreal are a bit more dark but nothing too obvious.
Moonflower is a painting of the morning glories, moon flowers, which only bloom at night. I wanted to share a bit of the darkness and mystery of evening but I wanted the flowers to have a bit of a magical feeling to them.
The willow tree is a tree from my youth. It makes it into most of my paintings and is a bit of a symbol of time spent in New Jersey. The dark green lawn in the summer beneath the shadows of tall dark willow trees.
The same trees were struck by lightning and ended up becoming outdoor furniture where many of my very old poems were written on copied on.
Blackbirds are a consistent subject in both my paintings and writing. They are mysterious as the night sky and symbolic of impending doom.
Halloween has always been a subject as every year I see a different feeling to capture. I love the dark evening and the idea of goblins in the trees, I have always been a big fan of horror movies and my uncle used to buy my brother and I horror comic books and the feeling and thrill of being scared has continued through my writing and painting.
Child of ten is a diary of sorts, my dad died when I was ten. This is a painting of the effects of losing a parent at the age of ten. There are many symbols including the egg which represents the soul. Again the blackbirds are in the field and the child watches the future unfold.
The death of my father was a catalyst for much of my earlier writing and has only recently shown up in paintings.
This painting is from a dream when I was very young. My grandfather came out of a willow tree as the lightning hit the tree. The red flannel shirt is from the dream and I remembered the shattered bits of wood-I am planning on another attempt at this painting as the face wasn’t quite correct.
Many older painting ideas are now resurfacing as I begin to gain more confidence. I plan on creating a more concise series on the surreal side.
It’s been more than ten years when I first met R.L. Clayton, he is a science fiction writer and I met him through a friend. He wanted a cover image of a futuristic ship that didn’t exist. Challenge accepted!
Sea Species was born. We both invested time and patience to envision an image that didn’t yet exist. That is the job of a designer when you are creating something that is not your own, you need to listen and get out of our own ideas and allow the client’s vision to become real.
Little did I know at the time, but I was about to create a library of books that all stemmed from one project.
A lasting business relationship quickly turned into a friendship even though I have never met him in person.
In these days that the bottom line trumps loyalty and integrity, it is a very rewarding experience working with a client on a basis of trust and the old fashioned idea of a handshake.
Next came the Envoy and soon after that the Genesis. I created his website for the evolution river series and posters for book readings. We also started a social media presence and a monthly email.
The next book was about the woman pilots of World War II. It was a departure from science fiction to a story with a historical backdrop. Another book and another cover was created and as the list of books grew so did the website.
R.L. Clayton books website began with R.L. Clayton descending in dystopia back before dystopia was a thing. I listened to the creepy ideas that spawned the next cover in the collection.
The Dead series began with a book about terrorists, on the cover was to be a coffin with a life meter on the face; Dead and Dead for Real was born.
The writer’s vivid ideas began creating a definite brand and a look and feel that grew as we continued to produce new books.
In this time I learned the art of creating an e-book and suddenly besides the printing issues we learned and tackled the problems associated with creating an e-book.
R.L. Clayton books grew as more books were added to the library. The next frightening book in the series was Dead Reckoning, a child with a bubble wand blowing dangerous chemical agents into the air. The whole idea and darkness of the Dead Series truly inspired my love of the macabre.
Dead again followed Dead Reckoning and the next chapter in the series leads back to the Envoy in the Evolution River Series. It is very exciting to see a writer create a body of work and I feel like I am on a journey that continues to inspire me and reach for more creativity.
As I continue to grow my skills and knowledge of book marketing we are seeing how the public reacts as each book is produced and Clayton attends book readings. We have recently gotten some great reviews on the Dead series and am anxious for the next book to be finished.
During the process of creating all the books, Clayton had mentioned a book he was thinking of with his 9-year-old granddaughter, a children’s book. The first cover we tried was with real photographs and than we decided pastel was the way to go. Inside of the book are 12 separate illustrations of the yard in pastel and the characters besides the cat were all created in Adobe Illustrator.
The book is finally available on ebook and in print on Amazon. During this process we have learned about publishers, I’ve created a video for the evolution river series, two websites, several reviews and two websites. We both have learned from a relationship that has lasted more than ten years and I am excited about the new projects and the new books we’ll come to create, in fact other children’s books are on the list as well. We’ll see.
All of this knowledge and experience came from a trusting and mutually rewarding relationship and I consider myself lucky to be able to work with a great write like Clayton.
Please check out his books at www.rlclaytonbooks.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2018 started off with my decision to quit selling insurance and start doing creative projects full time. It has been a very productive year and the elements of this year will shape the future look and feel of all of my work.
My oils have been a collection of snapshots of the road as I put 50,000 miles on my new vehicle. The images are of the hawk surveying a field and mallards along the side of the road. There are actually 4 or 5 more images that I haven’t even started but are on the list of paintings to create. The images include a tractor, cattle and other country road images.
I finally finished the series of swallows. There are 3 in the series and this final image is the celebration. It is the smallest of the group and yet the most birds, the name of the painting is the celebration because the drought is finally over, it looked as if the swallows were swarming in celebration .
The colors a bit more vivid than in the past as I bridge the gap between realism and impressionism. Future paintings will be more about light and darkness than the image itself. I am also trying to get back to water and the reason why I started painting it in the first place. Back to the basics of clarity and the richness of colors.
I showed for the first time in Opa in Rowlett as of September. I sold one painting and there are 6 paintings still showing until the end of the month. All the new paintings will be included on the website as I move some of the older ones to archive.
I created these pastels again from snapshots on the road. Each one was created within one sitting both from memory and preliminary sketches.
My style has become a bit lighter and more comfortable with details in some places and relief in others. I also blur the image a whole lot less than I used to.
I am excited about finishing up some of the older snapshots and the immediacy of the pastel promises quick rewards. Some of the pastels will probably become larger more defined oils.
January began with a feeling of freedom and exploration. Multiple trips to local nature places brought photography of all different aspects of nature.
Many of these photos have become the initial inspiration for the artist window, which is a collection of objects from nature.
I am more aware of light than I ever have been. On a flat day of gray light with little character, I have learned to isolated objects and find beauty from the bland afternoon sun.
I am also getting more interested in the still life which also lends itself to the artist window series. I have become a collector of leaves, pine cones and even a magnolia seed pod I found.
I am more interested in patterns and colors and the way they react with light. I have also grown more excited about abstract images and am continuing to see abstract patterns in nature.
This is the first installment of 5 more posts that will include travels, writing, contests and more months of photography.
Nature hides its secrets, the artist must be patient, waiting for the riddle to show itself. Usually it is quite subtle and the quiet spectacle of light is gone almost as soon as it’s noticed.
Light is what the photographer seeks to describe, to find it in a way that it might not have been noticed or seen before.
This is a series of treasures no one would notice, but I find them quite beautiful. Nature has always inspired me.
Subtle for a moment and just as quickly gone
the true colors of leaves
and we see the extraordinary in the mundane
beauty in the ordinary.
Rich autumn colors come inside
bringing warmth to a silver
I cling to color
as the landscape turns gold
last remnant of flame
It’s sad to see its wings
how many miles
last winter it hung
others of its kind
and it belonged
waiting to make the trip
only to lay on the concrete
spent The final shaft of light
the final stained glass
a remnant of spring
Purple Passion vine illustration using Adobe Illustrator
I have been illustrating in Adobe Illustrator for many years and after a many parts and end equipment I thought it was time to expand my subject matter. How I actually started working in the high-tech industry doing technical drawings and the occasional illustration was by showing an image of a green tree frog to a potential employer. It was the first attempt at illustrating using a PC-the program was Arts and Letters Jurassic Arts and the tools were basic at best.
I have since worked in Micrografix Designer, Corel Draw even freehand and finally the standard adobe products-Illustrator and Photoshop. After writing about the life of a goldfish I decided to illustrate the image instead of using a photograph and what follows is how I approach illustrating in Illustrator.
My first and most basic process is just getting the shape and basic colors and tones down. This is the fastest part of the illustration. I will usually follow the lines of color and shadow and create layers of light that cover up layers of shadow.
Image 1-basic form
After I feel the overall form is correct I will layer the colors again almost like the rings of a tree-you overlap each color with the form that overlaps it. You will notice every change and try to process it as if there were multiple layers of shapes that make the final form. I try to use as little gradients as they can tend to be contrived-if I do use them they need to be very subtle.
The second figure shows a minimal change from the first. Basic overlaying of colors that allow the background to show through and adds depth to the illustration. Detail is not as important at this point as there will be overlying of details and softening of edges after this stage.
Image 2-overlays of colors-layering for effect
The third step is where all the details begin taking shape. Again hard edges are overlapped
with lighter softer edges. At this stage I need to realize the overall texture and the best
way to create a subtle dimensional feel to the image.
Image 3-overlaying two
By the third step the most intricate color and details become the major focus. I start cleaning up the basic shape and making sure all the proportions are right. The lines and detail is severe at this point because with the next step I will use the brush to merge the shapes to form a subtle more photographic image.
The final step is actually using brush strokes to overlap the hard edges of the previous step. Light and shadow overlay the original details and blocks of colors with varying degrees of opacity allows for more subtle effects.
Final step before creating background
After finalizing the details and colors of the fish I create a background. I don’t want much detail in the background so brush work and simple heavily feathered images create a backdrop that strives to not fight with the image of the goldfish.
Finished product using Adobe Illustrator
This was a previous post from blogger and I though with the new illustrations for R.L. Claytons’ first children’s book Penelope the Pooting Spider-I thought it was appropriate to share the article on techniques for illustrating with Adobe Illustrator.
We started with the cover and the interior was a watermarked version of the cover with characters highlighted on each page.
I added illustrated versions of the animals from illustrator but the cat and the field was created by hand with pastels and then photographed and adjusted for color and texture.
Birds are not only a passion of mine they represent nature and often are the most accessible species in the suburban backyard. I remember going to my grandmothers’ in Orange New Jersey-out of the a concrete landscape of the city there were birds, not many but enough to offer some nature amidst concrete.
Over the years of writing and painting, certain birds have become symbolic in my work. The two most prominent are blackbirds and owls but recently the swallow has sparked my interest.
There is a song by Sparklehorse called the pain birds and on the album Good Morning Spider is a swallow. The first in the series is actually called the painbirds and it was during a time of great upheaval in my life.
The painting sat on the wall unfinished for more than a year, just the bridge and the water. I knew it was going to be swallows but I just couldn’t decide how and where the birds would appear. Next came the purple passion vine, a very religiously significant plant that I collect, all of these elements finally gelled and the Painbirds was born.
The second in the series came about with a lot less symbolism. I focused more on the relationship of two birds on a wire and the landscape that expanded behind them. Again, it sat unfinished for a long time as the image came together.
The problem is that the initial idea is filled with excitement and direction but after some time the overall details fade. This is why I can’t paint when I feel like painting, it seems you either see the details and textures and the way they need to be rendered or you don’t.
Birds on a Wire was the second in the series and it was just as large as the first one. Notice the change in colors, the richness and warmth replaces the cools and somewhat melancholy of the pain birds, it was a bit more comfortable time in my life and I believe I was much happier. The sunset does have a bit of symbolism of change and the possibilities of tomorrow and becoming comfortable with things ending.
The last in the series is the Celebration. I watched as the recent drought ended and Lake Ray Hubbard was full again, the swallows swarmed the bridge as if they were celebrating the end of the drought. It is the smallest painting of the three with the most birds.
It also marks a time where I am getting back to water at its simplest aspect. I wanted to get back to the way I used to paint water. I have recently departed from the clarity and depth and explored bright colors and reflections. I am going back to the basics and why I started painting water in the first place.
I have several paintings in the works, one is of grackles, another of egrets, I am getting back to studying nature with more depth and understanding. I am also working on some abstract images that are a bit less about nature and more about the human condition.
Stay tuned and please let me know which of the series you prefer and why.
Artbygordon: Original oils on canvas, Original pastels on paper celebrating the beauty and mystery of nature. Water and night skies are my specialties.