Every year in the spring and autumn, I go to the Discovery Gardens in Dallas to buy my fair share of plants. This year, I bought mostly milkweed as I am starting a garden next year with milkweed and passionvines.
I enjoy wildlife gardening and much of what my art derives from nature and enjoying plants. I have always loved science and planting for wildlife while photographing and writing about them allows my art and science to merge.
Isolating Light – 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.
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.
Every visit to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, Texas is a chance to learn more about raptors and the Blackland Prairie. What always strikes me is the fact that young children already know about terms like diurnal and nocturnal and are interested in learning more about the birds.
Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge – A sunset on Mount Scott as I rushed to capture the last bit of light.
The Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is an amazing prairie with sweeping buttes, free range longhorns and bison and many small brilliant blue lakes.
I can’t say enough about the feeling of being away from everything. There are prairie dogs in open fields and meadowlarks in bright yellow flocks rising and falling in rich brown fields of native grasses.
I would also recommend the blue hole for a rugged hike surrounded by waterfalls and deep gorges. There is a holy city and a great network of trails that go all through the park.
Parkhill Prairie – I got lost in the long flowing stalks of bluestem grasses, the great blue sky looming above where hawks dance in slow spirals. I sat on the cold, moist ground and listened to what it might have been like when bison and Indians roamed the backland prairie.
The clouds drifted with a calm indifference, the wind breathed and than exhaled followed by a ritual silence. Meadowlarks flew in patterns from fences and crows called out breaking the stillness, it is like going back in time.
I guess the fact that the winter chill that settled in my spine and slapped my exposed skin with pins and needles would be a good incentive not to go to the prairie. I assume that’s why both times I’ve gone there has been no one there but I consider it my oasis of silence.
I am comfortable sitting on the cold ground. My breath is still, my senses charged with the sounds as I try not to miss anything. I can hear cattle in the background and even a truck in the far distance but for the most part all is consumed with the rush of the wind through the grasses.
All that moves is the grasses, swaying back and forth as if haunted and the clouds marching passively across the plane, I am in awe of the silence and calm.
I have been dwarfed by mountains, the ocean but never by a huge open field. I have images of our history and it’s inhabitants that made a life out here and imagine the distant cows that cry out now were probably the sounds of wagon trains and troops of coyotes, maybe even the bison.
The coyotes are still here, I see their tracks and scat but the bison are long gone. There hawks of all kinds, the red tail, the kestrels and the prairie falcon, their mood is pensive with a mission. They rise and fall in the golden field as it should be.
I learned about this place from a trail guide at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and I have been back twice. Yet another great place I learned about from the Blackland Prairie Raptor center, great people and wonderful birds with lots of knowledge, if you haven’t gotten a chance to go on the first Saturday of the month, I would highly suggest going.
Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is doing all of these important aspects of wildlife preservation. I visited their first Saturday of the month, it’s the only time they’re open to the public and they show the birds that pass through their center.
They keep the birds as wild as they can be, even the imprinted birds that haven’t learned to live in the wild are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is quite an impressive operation and much of what I have learned about the Blackland Prairie is from talking with the naturalists there.
They take the time to show you each bird they have and explain their unique situations. I was impressed with how much the children knew about the birds and the difference between nocturnal and diurnal.
Every time I go to the center I learn something I didn’t know. Here is a list of some more things I’ve learned from my visit today.
1. A flock of Kites is a kettle. The mississippi kite is expanding its range southward. With age comes the more grey plumage and it feeds on mostly insects.
2. I’ve never heard a barn owl hiss up close. They also shriek and it can be quite piercing to the ear.
3. The tuffs of feathers on the head of the owls break up their round shape and make them harder to see in the wild.
4. A barn owls ears are so intense they can hear a heartbeat and they can actually attack a mouse under the snow without even seeing them.
5. Owls have tubular eyes that are more fixed than other animals and therefore they need to swivel their heads to see.
After the bird show we took a hike on the trails and we learned about blue stem grasses, native grass and invasive non-native species. I learned about another place I had never heard of before today and I very much enjoyed my visit, the park is the Parkhill Prairie near Blue Ridge and it was an amazing visit where I saw hawks and vultures flying in their environment.
The Extraordinary Life – What does the extraordinary life look like and how much does it cost? An easy question with too many answers and each answer is very subjective.
This is the beginning of a series on living larger and experiencing more. I plan on highlighting individuals that typify a lifestyle that defies convention. The first thing I need to do is define what that life looks like, for myself if no one else.
The first word that comes to mind, for me, is freedom. Again, what is freedom and how do we go about truly feeling its reward. I think it’s appropriate that I would start something like this on the eve of Independence Day.
I want the freedom of going places, of seeing new things and experiencing foods and cultures. I want to write, paint and photograph about the experiences and bring them to my readers with a personal perspective that they can relate to.
My first objective to this quest is seeking clarity and focus, to not only define it but to take steps that would make it possible. We are in a world that is loud, always something pressing, always useless distractions hiding our purpose.
I am in the process of learning from others who have embarked on the same journey. Experiences that others can share will allow many of the mistakes and pitfalls to possibly be avoided and it will give me the knowledge to take the next step.
Next, I believe discipline is necessary, which is strange coming from a creative mind but creativity without some sort of discipline or organization is madness. I plan on learning to be more organized, more deliberate and perhaps the creativity will follow.
I recently read 101 ways to monetize your blog and ways to increase income. I will create a long term list of goals much like a business plan.
So now you have the plan, now what? I think one of the first things is to remove the fear and doubt. Again, listening to others, learning more about the journey will instill the confidence to ignore the programmed expectations we are taught from birth. Stay tuned for the next post on Doubt!
Artbygordon: Original oils on canvas, Original pastels on paper celebrating the beauty and mystery of nature. Water and night skies are my specialties.