Friday, August 05, 2011

The lonely, brooding vigil of the solitary heron at Stricker's Pond in Middleton

Great Blue Heron
Lately, when we've been walking at Stricker's Pond in Middleton my attention has usually been captivated by the Sandhill Cranes that have reappeared. I love their ungainly majesty, and their wild calls, the way they stretch out in flight. And the domesticity of these pair-bonded creatures is fascinating to watch. Great Blue Herons also spend a lot of time at the pond. They're more solitary than the cranes, and there's something poignant about their lonely vigils, even if -- as I suspect -- they're just waiting for their next meal to swim into sight.

View Large On Black

Drawing from a photograph doesn't usually work for me, but this was an exception.

Drawing from a Photograph
West 16th Street, New York City

I like it more than the photo I started with.

Photographs and drawings are as different as apples and oranges, and it's usually best to keep them separate. Photographs express form through tonality and drawings express form through line. Nevertheless, I've occasionally experimented with trying to turn photographs of mine into drawings -- sometimes totally freehand, sometimes with mechanical aids -- and the results have usually been dreadful, stilted drawings and awkward renderings. Since a drawing isn't a photograph, it's all too easy to get led astray by the original. This is one of the few I was pleased with.

It's from a photo I took during a memorable family trip to New York for the Bicentennial, during which all three of us saw Queen Elizabeth up close in person, among other things.

As I recall, I traced the main outlines from an 8x10 BW print (I'm terrible with geometric relationships), used transfer paper to transfer to a drawing pad, and then filled in the rest freehand with pencil.

Scanner Note: The scan (view large on black) was made on my iPhone 4 with JotNot Pro, a scanner app that's the best 99-cent investment I ever made. It uses the camera's phone to make faxes, PDFs or jpegs, which you can email or fax to yourself or others. With halfway decent lighting, it makes PDFs of documents every bit as good as a scanner, and in less time. If you shoot a document against a contrasting surface, it will automatically compensate for camera angle distortion and square off the corners -- and if its guess is wrong, you can do it manually with a couple finger swipes. Works with photos and art too. Some of my apps are fun toys, but this is a really useful tool.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Effigy Tree's 20th Anniversary

The Effigy Tree's 20th Anniversary This sculpture by Harry Whitehorse is one of the most beloved works of public art in Madison. It overlooks Lake Monona in Hudson Park on the city's east side, facing a peaceful grove of trees and a surviving effigy mound at what had been the one of the Ho Chunk people's most sacred groups of mounds.

The Effigy Tree's 20th AnniversaryWhitehorse originally carved the Effigy Tree in 1991 from the stump of a hackberry tree in the park that had been shattered by lightning. The Effigy Tree soon became a point of pride in the community. But by 1997 it had suffered weather damage, mainly from the successive cycles of freezing and thawing that come with our Wisconsin winters, and it had to be restored. Ten years later, it needed to be restored again and it became clear that something more permanent was needed. Neighbors and a wide variety of community organizations pitched in to fund casting the sculpture in bronze. The bronze sculpture was returned to Hudson Park in a dedication ceremony in May, 2009.