May 26, 2016

Lessons from the Masters: the flowers of Georgia O’Keeffe

I have always been arrested by the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.  And macro flower photography has long had soft spot in my heart.  Surely the two are related?


"A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower - lean forward to smell it - maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking - or give it to someone to please them. Still - in a way - nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small.
So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it. "  Georgia O'Keeffe, "About Myself," 1939

“Sometimes I start in a very realistic fashion, and as I go on from one painting to another of the same kind, it becomes simplified until it can be nothing but abstraction.”

To William M. Milliken (Director, Cleveland Art Museum), 1 November 1930:
"Dear Mr.Miliken: I have been hoping that you would forget that you asked me to write you of the White Flower, but I see that you do not.

It is easier for me to paint it than to write about it and I would so much rather people would look at it than read about it. I see no reason for painting anything that can be put into any other form as well.

At the time I made this painting - outside my door that opened on a wide stretch of desert these flowers bloomed all summer in the daytime.

The large White Flower with the golden heart is something I have to say about White - quite different from what White has been meaning to me. Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know that this flower is painted large to convey to you my experience of the flower and what is my experience of the flower if it is not color.      I know I can not paint a flower. I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.

Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world, life as I see it.

Yours very truly,
Georgia O'Keeffe."


“I often painted fragments of things, because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.”


When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not. ”


List of Characteristics of her flower paintings (as compiled on

  • O'Keeffe loved the forms and shapes of nature. She would walk miles in the desert sun of New Mexico, collecting rocks and sun-bleached bones.  
  • Many of the forms she paints are pared down, simplified to essential shapes and forms,  sculptural, with gently rounded corners.
  • Lines in her paintings and drawings are curvy and sinuous, like a winding river.
  • O'Keeffe created a unique fusion of realism and abstraction. Although she worked from identifiable subject matter, she abstracted it in her own way.
  • She was interested in scale and experimenting with it.  She painted flowers much larger than life so that people would take notice and experience them the same way she did. Some of her paintings show foreground objects in grand scale, making them appear monumental, while mountains in the distance are diminutive, such as in her paintings of bones against a desert sky.
  • She used photography techniques like zooming and cropping. She magnified the flowers and cropped them, zooming in on them and filling the canvas, using a technique introduced by photography. By continuing to zoom in and crop her subject she created increasingly abstract compositions.
  • O'Keeffe loved bright, bold and intense color. She would often use bright blues, yellows, greens, reds, and purples.
  • She often painted using flat color, emphasizing the shape of her subject rather than three-dimensional form.  Her paintings convey an even lighting, as though everything is painted at high noon.

Nifty biopic film here at the  Includes film & photographs of the landscapes she translated into paintings/drawings.  Includes film and photography of O’Keeffe herself, as well as recorded interviews with her and readings from her letters. 


May 22, 2016

Monarch Butterflies: 2016 edition

I don’t think I ever finished documenting last year’s butterfly adventures.  The short story version:  more baby caterpillars showed up in our yard in November.  Which was weird.  Monarchs aren’t supposed to be mating and laying eggs in the “winter”.  These caterpillars remained caterpillars way longer than the prescribed 10-14 days, and the chrysalids remained chrysalids for 30 & 33 days, respectively (also way longer than normal).  When temperatures outside dropped below freezing, we brought the chrysalids indoors. 

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Since this monarch emerged on a cold rainy day, we kept her inside overnight to dry out.  Big Dude jimmy-rigged a warming light onto the banana stock we’d chopped down in our backyard (after the wind blew over our banana tree). 

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We released her the next day during a sunny couple of hours…

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Because those winter caterpillars (9 of them all together) lived so long, they decimated our milkweed.  I’ve since bought a few plants from Lowe’s and thrown a bunch of seed here and there.  Which brings us to present day.  We’ve had caterpillars since early May.  They have turned our yard into their very own chrysalid playground (taking over chairs, pottery, plants, pipes, & window frames).  As of today, we have 7 chrysalids.  We should have butterflies emerging within the next week.

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I’m sure the dudes all think I’m totally nutso.  But they do a great job helping me hunt down the chrysalids.  And hey, it’s cheap entertainment.

May 9, 2016

April & May's Books

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - oh goodness, this book is all kinds of sweet, sad, delightful, quirky, poignant, clever, artful.  A quick, wonderful read.

Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (cheap Kindle upload) - I was all itchy-scratchy a couple days before bookclub without a book. I mean, I have a whole stack of books. But I only had 3 days before next book club, and I just wanted something not too long and not too "heavy" or "dark". And none of my stack fit those parameters. So I swung by the library after church to find something. Apparently not open on Sundays anymore. :-/ And then I read Heidi's blog with her latest book list. And then Greensleeves hopped onto my Kindle. You know I'm desperate when I buy the Kindle version instead of opting for the two day wait for the book :-}.  And it was the perfect piece of cotton candy to fill the days before I had to jump into Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

Red-Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt (for graphic novel bookclub) - Just finished my first reading/viewing of this book.  Methinks I'll probably read it at least once more to weave together all the pieces and see the stuff I missed first time through.  My first impression: Count of Monte Cristo mashed up with Virginia Woolf's stream of consciousness and Kurt Vonnegut's time coming unstuck - the modern, artsty-illustrated version.

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King - there are only two authors whose books I regularly prowl for throughout the year and pre-order indiscriminately.  Laurie King is one of those.  I adore her Mary Russell series.  And when I get a new book in my hands, I become completely negligent in all my daily areas of "to-do" from page one til page last.  This particular narrative creates the whole backstory of Mrs. Hudson and one of the Irregulars, and how their lives initially intersected with that of Sherlock Holmes, and how their past explosively collides with their present.  Sooooooo good.  Soooooo enjoyable.  Now I have to start prowling again...

The Marriage of Mary Russell by Laurie King - (short story, cheap Kindle upload)  I prowled, I found.  I stayed happily negligent for another afternoon.  :-)

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (bookclub selection) - oh my.  Dense.  SO DENSE.  And a bit tricky to read.  I'm aware that my mind sometimes wanders as I read, and I occasionally skim slow or boring or tedious parts of books.  Woolf's writing style allows no such dereliction of attention.  Her "stream of consciousness" form means that I am constantly trying to figure out whose head (narratively speaking) I'm in, where I am, and is the time past, present, or possibly future?  Woolf will blithely and liberally change all these elements, even mid-sentence.  There are no "breaks", no chapters, no cues that a change is coming.  Anywhoo, I'm glad I read this (it *IS* good - the writing alone - the way the words were meticulously strung together - is MASTERFUL), but I won't be hurrying read anything else by Virginia Woolf anytime soon.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (library) - this was my point-counterpoint book, my knee-jerk book, my I-just-read-something-classic-and-dense-and-difficult and now I-need-something-light-and-fluffy-and-EASY book.  So in the midst of Virginia Woolf density, I ran to the library and grabbed a bunch of fluff, including a couple Jennifer Smith books, The Jane Austen Book Club, and a couple Kate Mortons.  The Smith stories were skimmable and "meh".  I discarded the Jane Austen 30 pages in (blech), and then dug into The Secret Keeper with expectation of something better (after all, I've read and not-loved-but-LIKED her first three books).  I gave The Secret Keeper a 300 page chance before abandoning it.  Flat, boring, unbelievable characters.  Wordy, plodding, unbelievable storyline.  Her liberal and ineffective use of figures of speech after Virginia Woolf's genius use of the same was simply unpalatable.  Phtooey.  So, welcome to my merry-go-round:  I work hard to get thru a classic, then crave something simple, and then have a tremendously difficult time finding something that's both simple and GOOD.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - I'd seen the movie and a friend read & loved the book and passed it along to me.  Bill Bryson is indeed an amusing writer.  And I enjoyed the same parts in the book that I enjoyed in the movie (all the Bill & Katz parts), but I skimmed liberally over the more non-fiction-y parts.  Yes, I *get* that the whole book is non-fiction.  But, you know, some parts read more like story (Bill & Katz adventures), and some parts read more like ... non-fiction/history/ecology/documentary/blahblahblah.  I skipped those parts :-}.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (bookclub selection) - "Vanity Fair is the work of a mind, at once accomplished and subtle, which has enjoyed opportunities of observing many and varied circles of society. . . his genteel characters... have a reality about them... They are drawn from actual life, not from books and fancy; and they are presented by means of brief, decisive yet always most discriminative touches" ... so says one of my fav authors, Charlotte Bronte, whose admiration for his genius was boundless; she called Thackeray "the legitimate high priest of Truth".  George Eliot, another of my favs, and apparently another who held Thackeray in high regard, said "I am not conscious of being in any way a disciple of his, unless it constitute discipleship to think him, as I suppose the majority of people with any intellect do, on the whole, the most powerful of living novelists".   I'm only 200 pages in, but I'm very much enjoying this novel and Thackeray's very snarky, very present & personal, all-knowing, comment-on-everything, narratorial voice.  

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - Sweet, old-fashioned, charming ... and yes, totally overwrought with drama/emotion as typical of Lucy Montgomery & her delightful character Anne of Green Gables ... and happily-ever-after.  Sometimes that's just the very perfect book equation.

May 8, 2016

1 Second Everyday: April 2016 edition

April's 1 Second Everyday, including visitors, baby hummingbirds, Nerf weapons and video-gaming and frisbee (because Boys), and flowers and reading (because Me), and the Bee-Hive Max (definitely because Boys) ...

all filmed on LG G4 phone

May 2, 2016

LG-ography: Mar-Apr 2016

Phone documentation of our days … art classes, movie-going, friend visiting, pretty skies, reading, gym-ing, poker-playing, Warhol-viewing, concert-goers…

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Van Gogh puzzling, sunset beaching, lots of reading, samurai swinging, Killdeer egg finding, yummy strawberry picking and eating, rain appreciating…

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Darth Vader defining & refining, print ordering, baby hummer egg chick spying, family in town, playing tourists, Middle Dude’s hair going curl crazy (& Papa trying to mimic), coffee-ing with friend in town …

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Good times all around, and a full game of Apples to Apples with no one crying (tho whining abounding).

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