Louisiana Trees

A selection of Louisiana trees draped in Spanish Moss for Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge this week…

And a beautiful tree-lined avenue creating a protective guard of honour leading up to the old house at the aptly-named Oak Alley Plantation… ๐Ÿ™‚

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Afraid of the Dark

‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’

I realise that my growing need for learning to create more light in my tentative paintings requires adding more moody darks to my artistic endeavours – I seem to shy away from applying truly dark colours, afraid of muddying the waters too much, and yet I can also see it it is only in the dramatic juxtaposition of strongest dark next to softest light that the true luminescence of water-colour painting appears… ๐Ÿ™‚

One Liner Wednesday

The Cult of Likes and Acolytes

If you could, would you want to be famous if it meant sacrificing your personal life and privacy? Why or why not?

It seems to me, a life-long introvert, that the type of 21st Century ‘fame’ many people crave today is the kind of superficial, short-term, social recognition that’s built around being a highly visible ‘celebrity’ rather than on achieving real success in something that truly matters. As if ‘being famous’ has become a ‘thing’ all of its own, an imaginary perfect shiny destination gained without planning for any meaningful, mapped-out life-long gut-wrenching journey counting off the hard-won milestones along the way.

But it seems to me the main ‘thing’ with this all-pervasive cult of celebrity is that it generally requires the constant and invasive adoration of others, based almost entirely on the accumulation of likes and acolytes, craving attention and admiration at all costs. And psychologically that cost is inevitably the sacrifice of any kind of meaningful personal or private life.

I suppose if fame was the result of doing something spectacular like finding the cure for the common cold – a by-product of a lifetime of hard work and dedication – then maybe I might be OK with it? But then again, probably not. I’d probably still be hiding away…

So basically my plain and simple answer to Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is a categorical ‘Nooooooooooooo…! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Plain

Muse

Museโ€ฆ
Iโ€™d love to feel artistic every day
Portray my world in sweet poetic rhyme
Write wistful words to bat the blues away
Syllabic sounds set comfortably in time
Draw inspiration from the daily grind
Paint out a life thatโ€™s filled right to the brim
With images that sparkle in the mind
In colours bright instead of greys so grim
But harsh reality strips all veneer
Of happiness inspired by fun and play
However hard I try it seems quite clear
Iโ€™m simply not created in that way
My world feels dulled with misery and gloom
As dark clouds of depression fill the roomโ€ฆ

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Sonnet

Painting Portraits

I was going to say I’ve never personally painted a portrait before, but realise that’s not quite true.

One of our projects in art class at school forty-something years ago was to sit in front of a mirror and draw ourselves in pencil. I didn’t really do all that well with that task, I looked serious and uncomfortable and my face turned out a bit wonky, especially my eyes. And once later on as an adult I tried to draw myself from a photograph, and admittedly that one turned out a little better, but it was still not a great likeness.

Recently I’ve been dipping in and out of re-runs of an hour-long TV programme on Sky Arts called ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ that seems to cover random episodes of the competition over several different years, and I’ve found it really fascinating to watch.

The basic premise of each show seems to be that nine individual artists produce a self-portrait beforehand in their own time, and then all together in real time each produce a portrait drawn from a previously unidentified life model in only four hours. There are three celebrity sitters for each show, so three of the nine artists each create a portrait of one of the three sitters.

At the end of the four hours, each sitter views the three portraits of themselves and chooses their favourite to take home with them. Most of the portraits are very different in composition and style, some are more realisitic and others more abstract, some are rather standard in their view and some are spectacular in their unusual approach to colour and technique.

To my surprise, oftentimes the sitter chooses not the most obviously realistic photographic representation of self, but instead they prefer those portraits that seem to spark an alternative vision of the sitter, or manage to capture something more than the general public view hidden within their personality.

Afterwards, and independently of the sitters’ preferences, the judges shortlist three out of the nine artists, and by the end of the programme finally whittle it down to only one artists to go forward in the competition. The judges look at both the artist’s self-portrait and also the newly-completed portrait of the celebrity life sitter before deciding on who should be the winner on the day.

There are eight heats each series, the winners of which go forward to the semi-final where it seems they all paint the same sitter at the same time. From the semi-final three artists go forward to the final, where each are given a commissioned painting to produce. The overall winner for that year then receives a paid commission to paint a well-known figure for a well-known public space.

Anyway, the point of explaining all of this is that I’ve become really intrigued over the last few weeks by watching the many different ways all the different artists approach completing their portraits – they all use different sized paper, board or canvas, all prefer different mediums, and have different ways of working, and all produce very different results.

Some I liked very much, and some I thought were pretty disappointing on the day – but it’s got me thinking, if I were to try to do a self portrait now, how would that experience be for me? Where would I start? What medium would I use? How would I choose to portray myself, and how could I go about capturing that feeling on paper?

I’ve actually had my portrait painted before, in oils a good fifty years ago – by my mum, who used to be an art teacher before she got married. I still have it here in the house, a head and shoulders portrait showing a serious-looking seven-year old in a scratchy yellow dress. I remember sitting for the painting, perched on a high stool in the kitchen, trying hard not to fidget too much and failing miserably…

I recently, tentatively, took up painting again (only in August this year) so am still on a very steep learning-curve and am still struggling with it all, but I’m wondering if I might try a proper self-portrait now just to see how I get on?

Start with a drawing or two at different angles, then maybe experiment with a colour study or two in different styles – I mean, if I’m painting myself and mess it up, at least there’s nobody else to offend or upset. And I’ll always be around to try again, no matter how many times I fail – a constant and familiar muse, I suppose?

But the thing is, watching these multiple artists as they decide how to make their mark on portraiture has really inspired me to give it a go myself. It’s really helping me to understand in a way I haven’t really seen before that painting is not at all like representational photography, it really is a completely different kind of artistic creative story-telling that can be as fantastical and magical as you choose it to be…

What can I say… Watch this space, and sooner or later I might just surprise us all! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Spectacular

Virtual Digital Assistant? No thanks!

I realise I’m the one who’s totally out of step with the world when it comes to the supposed progressive benefits of modern technology, but I’m seriously NOT a fan of having an in-built virtual digital assistant active on my chosen communication device.

My Samsung Smartphone comes with a really irritating app called Bixby, which is apparently the Samsung version of Alexa or Siri, and it drives me up the wall with its aggressively interfering interface. I keep thinking I’ve turned it off as far as possible, but it seems like every time there’s a new software update, up it pops again, the immortal app that just won’t die, to annoy me even more. It’s as if the bots at Samsung see that my Bixby isn’t working properly, and helpfully ‘fix’ it for me with an update. Anyway this morning I’ve tried yet another supposedly fail-safe method to stop Bixby from bugging me… We’ll see how long this one lasts!

I know lots of people use their smartphone as a mini personal computer and pretty much live their entire lives through it – phone, camera, email, social media, internet, alarm clock, reminders, banking, shopping, doorbell camera, switching home heating on and off… the list seems endless. That’s their choice, so fair enough. In some ways it sounds good to me to have it all in one place, and yet… Personally I’m somewhat distrustful of so much ‘helpful’ in-your-face technology – for me, I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the cost when it comes to privacy. Just because it’s a smart phone it doesn’t make me a dumb user – ultimately I want to be the one who remains in control of what it does, in all areas of activity.

The thing is, I understand I may be in the minority here but right now I just don’t want to be able to voice activate any kind of anything on my phone. And I certainly don’t want my phone listening in the background to every potential conversation I might have – or even conversations I don’t have? I’m not one for conspiracy theories but seriously, some things are asking for an assumption of ulterior motives. Sometimes I’m sitting quietly on the sofa watching TV with my phone asleep on the coffee table in front of me, when the screen will suddenly wake up with either a voice or a typed message along the bottom of the home screen telling me ‘I didn’t quite catch that…’ Excuse me? Who asked you to put in your tuppence-worth? WTF?

I think I’d find that attention-seeking over-enthusiastic interruption annoying enough if I actively kept the voice-activation thing turned on for my own use, if I actually wanted to commune with an all-singing, all-dancing, everything-with-bells-on virtual assistant, but for it to keep on coming up like that when I’ve been constantly doing my damnedest to keep it permanently disabled irritates the hell out of me. The fact that when I type into any search engine ‘How to turn off Bixby on my Samsung phone’ I immediately get a whole library of potential answers and complaints and failed options and solutions tells me it is clearly not an over-popular app with anyone except Samsung…

One thing’s for sure, if this issue doesn’t resolve itself soon I can guarantee my next phone will NOT be a Samsung. By all means put on a proprietary virtual assistant if you must, but for God’s sake give me a SIMPLE option to switch the damned thing off in its entirety if I choose to do so. It’s not even that I want to use in its place another brand of digital harpy hassling me with helpful suggestions I didn’t even ask for – I want complete silence on that front. Zip, zero, zilch. My phone should answer to me. I do not answer to my phone, and certainly not my phone company or any other potential data-mining corporation out there blithely accessing all aspects of my private life by the back door. Or is it actually the front door?

Because one of the many searching questions I found online asked if Bixby is effectively spying on you, and stealing your personal data? And the answer was – if you have given permissions to the app for it to be always active so the device can effectively ‘learn’ from you in order to be more helpfully tailored towards your everyday needs then, no, it cannot be considered theft of personal data. Sadly, though, as it is nigh on impossible to switch Bixby off, it seems the assumption may be that by using the device at all you are OK with this apparent sneaky stealth-tactics loop-hole…

I understand the day may come when a virtual digital assistant on my smartphone is something I may value, but for now I simply want the option to turn it off completely, while still retaining several of the other great benefits of owning a smartphone. Surely in this technologically-savvy modern world that level of user control should not be difficult to achieve, should it?

Grrr… OK, rant over… ๐Ÿ™‚

Monday Peeve