Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Few Things I've Been Up To

For the last few days I've actually been being good about doing the thing that I find the hardest: being quiet! The weather has been very nice, so I've spent a great deal of time on the back deck, eating popsicles, lying on the bench looking up through the fuchsia at the blue sky, and hanging out with the dog.

Abbey in her favorite outdoor afternoon sun spot.
Sooner or later, though, I was bound to get sucked back into doing stuff, and yesterday I decided, after two and a half months of making nary an Etsy treasury, to jump back in the game. The result was this treasury in deep fall tones. It takes a great deal of concentration for me to compile a treasury and it really was a bit of a stretch to spend so much time staring at the computer screen. Therefore, after vowing not to, I immediately sat down today, despite still having migraines from yesterday's exertions, and made another one. It's just so much fun, as well as a business strategy: it's a way of getting your name out there. The Autumn Spice treasury is my first for my new macro shop, as opposed to my mouse shop.

I hope to write a major post-concussion update one of these next few days (it's been almost eight weeks!), but it may take a while to accumulate the necessary stamina to do so.

In the meantime, check this out: Yes, I've had the Facebook page for quite a while now, but just today I figured out how to have a nice tidy username instead of a horrible long url! You are most welcome to admire it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Too Much Cute

Abbey has a groove down the center of her forehead that is just perfect for holding Mouse!

My love for my dog and my habit of taking Mouse photos intersected this afternoon on the back deck. I've attempted this pose before, but found Abbey to be much more amenable to have something sitting on her head when she is basking in the sun!

They color-coordinate so nicely!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Me and the Antique Tint Trend in Photography

I've noticed that in the realm of fine art photography, there is definitely a predominance of images that have been given antique (yellowish-orange) or sepia (which is browner) tints. They also tend to be overexposed with a softened focus and don't get me wrong, the images look very cool, and certainly separate themselves from snapshots taken by just anyone who has a halfway decent eye. It's a trend, however, that I haven't explored much myself (hopefully not to my detriment) for two primary reasons: 1) with my migraines, the visual concentration is takes to manipulate photos is generally a recipe for a nasty headache, and 2) I love color, the more saturated the better.

My favorite color: burgundy!

Color theorist Johannes Itten, writing on the topic of subjective timbre in "The Elements of Color," describes his experience of discovering that each individual has his or her own view of what color combinations are most harmonious. These vary widely, but can roughly be broken down according to physical appearance:
Light blond types with blue eyes and pink skin incline towards very pure colors, often with a great many clearly distinguished color qualities. Contrast of hue is the basic feature. Depending on the forcefulness of the individual, the colors may be more or less luminous. A very different type is represented by people with black hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, for whom black plays an important part in the harmony... Good assignments for a dark type would be Night, Light in a Dark Room, Autumn Storm, Burial, Grief, The Blues, etc. (Itten, 24-25)
I don't know if it's true for everyone, but Itten's theory of subjective harmonious color being tied to physical type is certainly true for me. At left is how I looked when my hair was still black, taken nearly ten years ago when I was in college. (With silver hair, my look is somewhat less dramatic.)  As you can see, high contrast and "black play[ing] an important part in the harmony" would come naturally! My college thesis and corresponding art show dealt with the way color and shape convey emotion. With my history of serious depression, it's no surprise that I focused on loss and suffering, but it's also intriguing that those emotional themes correspond exactly with Itten's theory of which subjects would be of interest to me based solely on my hair color!

One of the pastel and pen & ink drawings from my thesis show,
on the subject of man's frustration in the face of the unknowable divine.

After college, during the years I spent working as a floral designer, I dealt with, of course, every possible combination of colors and was perfectly adept at creating lovely soft arrangements in light spring colors. When working with soft colors, though, the more complex they were, the better I liked them. We had one delicately green rose whose coloring got lighter and more ivory nearest the center, where the petals were tipped with just a blush of pink. It was both subtle and stunning and I loved that! But despite being capable of working with a wide variety of hues, the fact remains that my favorite color is burgundy and the darker the better. I'm also partial to purples and reds so dark that they are almost black. My least favorite color? Yellow. I consider it a repulsively insincere color, an opinion my fellow florists thought was hilarious. But then again, they were almost all blonds or light brunettes!

One of my favorite floral combinations (captured, unfortunately, in light that makes it look
more orange than it really was): burgundy, copper, orange, rust, blush, bright green, and peach!

Of course, I take photographs of all kinds of things, not just ones that are burgundy, dark red, deep purple, or dramatic rust (my favorite of the yellow-based colors), and some of my recent favorites have been in the yellow or orange family. But when it comes to the possibility of manipulating the color of my photographs, I find I always prefer the purest, most saturated version to any antiqued variation.

I think the coloring of this dark purple bearded iris is scrumptious and sublime!

However, despite my love for intense color, I do check to see how images might look when viewed through a warm filter because I also would like to be in the business of selling photographs and if an antiqued appearance is what sells, it is worth my while to investigate it. After all, I get that a nice washed-out image with a warm tint is a lot more pleasant to have hanging in your living room than the kind of colors I favor. They aren't exactly restful!

Did somebody say dramatically shadowed maroon? Yes, please!

Lately, though, perhaps because of the color implications of the approaching fall, I've finally had some happy results with tinting photographs in a way that I feel makes the images greater than what they were before the manipulation, the true test of the worthiness of any image doctoring! Here are the best.

This hydrangea was actually blue, though it had started to form some
antique tints on its own. The only thing I hate more than the color yellow
is a blue mop-head hydrangea, so I think this is a big improvement!

A rare instance when I think something purple
(a red onion) acquires more depth when tinted yellow!

I think that this white dahlia becomes more than just a
garden flower when manipulation grants it an unreal tinge.

Only subtly different from the original, narrowing the range of color in this
photo makes it look less like a tree in my front yard and more like a work of art.

This ugly yellow dahlia is enormously improved, in my opinion, by using
tint to shift the focus to the beautiful way that the light illuminates the petals.

The colors in this image are very similar to what they were before being converted
to sepia, but it unifies the image nicely to have the pine cone, the surface on which it rests,
and the shadow all the same color without losing any of the detail and contrast.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Listings

A few days ago, right around five in the morning, the part of my brain that writes the descriptions for my Etsy store listings lurched to life after several months of silence. The brain is a rather mysterious thing, so while I was suddenly able to write clever little product descriptions, at the same time I was having a great deal of difficulty doing other tasks with language such as speaking coherently. However, since it HAS been so many months and I have quite a backlog of items that I'd like to list, I've been making the most of it. I've put up enough new items that I thought a blog post might be the best way to showcase them.

The last one is a listing that I have reactivated ahead of the approaching change in seasons (I had a number of summer ones I missed getting up because of the migraines and concussion, which is a pity, since Etsy is very seasonally inclined), but all the others were written over the last few days. It would be simpler, of course, not to do the clever writing and just post the images and ordering information, but I hope that the descriptions add to the charm of the photos and give my entire store a certain vibe that hopefully makes people feel good about buying! If the listing brain continues to work, there may be more to come, but here's a fresh taste of Mouse after a long hiatus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That Which Must Be Endured

For those who are not familiar with how migraines work (it turned out this group included my parents), a little synopsis plus a quick lesson in brain anatomy may be helpful in understanding why bumping my head in a household accident has had such a profound impact on my headaches.

Migraines are considered a neurovascular disorder. While the chemical mechanisms that cause migraines are still poorly understood, a migraine can roughly be summarized as a headache caused by brain chemistry changes in response to triggers that lead to dilation, constriction, and inflammation of the blood vessels lining the brain. Whatever the cause, what is most relevant to my current situation is that the migraine takes place in the menigines, or layers of membrane that cover the brain.

While my brain itself received a superficial injury at most from my collision with the handrail, there was, undoubtably, some damage to the dura matter. In other words, I received a considerable hit to an already constantly inflamed area. Even in the cases of mild head injuries, such as mine, nerve fibers may be damaged and sometimes deteriorate and cerebral circulation can be slowed or abnormal for months or years afterward. Migraines and other headaches can occur in patients who were previously headache-free, and there is plenty of documentation of exacerbation of existing migraines following mild head injuries. The question remains as to how long-term the increased severity of my symptoms may be and to that there is no clear answer. I expect to be better than I am now (and I have improved, if only marginally, as the initial swelling and bruising that likely occurred has gone down), but there is no question that it is worrisome to cause nerve and circulation damage to a brain that is already suffering from a neurovascular disorder as well as a more generalized nervous hyper-excitability. With my brain existing in a perpetual state of sensory overload from innocuous input, I will not be surprised if it remains sensitive to the effects of genuine damage for a long time to come.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Before and After

When I saw my neurologist a couple of weeks ago, I was rather surprised that she had essentially zero interest in hearing what had gone on in the five months since I'd seen her last (though it could be summed up by the words, "no change"); all she was concerned about was the two weeks that had transpired since I'd hit my head. Nearly five weeks post-concussion, though, I better understand her focus. She's right: everything has changed.

The last two years of my life now comprises three eras: my life before the chronic migraines started (we shall refer to is was the B.M. era), the twenty-one months of daily migraines prior to the head injury (D.M.), and then these five weeks after the concussion (P.C.).

I'd found that things that I could accomplish in hours B.M. took days in the D.M. era, things that took days B.M. took weeks D.M., and things that took weeks B.M. took months D.M. If I thought everything took longer with migraines, it doesn't even compare to how much exponentially longer things take now. I've spent a week, for example, trying to write this post, but generally have to lie down after writing a few sentences and am too exhausted to write at all on most days. My previous entry, although mostly photos, nevertheless took several days to put together.

It's the fatigue that has surprised me the most. I've experienced the worst light sensitivity and the worst nausea in my nine years as a migraineur during these last few weeks, but those things, fortunately, have gradually abated. I've found, though, that getting worn out makes me extraordinarily vulnerable to seeing these symptoms reoccur. The stress and stimuli involved in seeing my neurologist, for example, left me too nauseated to even drink water and so light sensitive that the little bit of light filtering through my eyelids as I lay in a room with the lights off, doors closed, and the blinds shut was intolerable. It was more than a week before I even began to recover and I was nearly sent back to square one when I started having trouble sleeping because I was overheating in the night.

But beyond coping with stressors, the day-to-day exhaustion is considerable. During the D.M. phase, I might spend 18 hours in bed on a really bad day, but 12-14 was the more common range.  P.C., on a GOOD day I'm only in bed for 18 hours. On a bad day (and there have been a lot of them), I may spend 21 to 22 hours in bed. I generally haven't been sleeping more than twelve hours, but I haven't wanted to be up during the other twelve hours when I'm awake. Trying to produce anything (like writing) has been nearly impossible, and I've gone as far as temporarily shuttering my Etsy store. I could have left it up and just ignored it, but the idea that someone might BUY something was exhausting. Watching a bit of TV on the internet has been a stretch most days (I've confined myself by and large to nature documentaries) and I haven't had the slightest interest in attempting something as long as a movie. I'm not always up for reading, but if I finally have reached my limit for lying in the dark while my mind wanders (I've done a considerable amount of "writing" in my head over these last few weeks), it's generally preferable to the light, movement, and sound to be found on the screen or, for that matter, in the real world. We've finally had a bit of nicer weather in this part of the country, but I'm better off when the sun isn't shining. There are just too many leaves out there, too much light and shadow. I've only left the house once for a reason other than a medical appointment and it was a mistake. I thought riding along on a twilight errand might be a welcome change of pace, but it was far too much light and movement.

Another P.C. change is that the one acute migraine drug that I'd found helpful D.M. no longer works. Time will tell, but my neurologist is not optimistic. The blow to the head may have caused a long term change to how my migraines work. Right now, my greatest relief comes from an anti-inflammatory from the ibuprofen family (which, fortunately, has not interacted negatively with my lithium as often as I feared it would, though it just so happens that today is one of the days when it has caused my lithium level to spike, which means I can't take more until my lithium level comes back down) and Vitamin B12 injections. My naturopath taught my parents how to give me them at home, so I've been able to have one twice a week.  The most effective treatment, though, is lying in bed in the dark doing nothing. Having worn myself out completely in my effort to get all this down into writing, that is what is on my agenda for the rest of the day.

It's a strange life, and made stranger still because it resembles, in many ways, the months of migraines that preceded it. But this is undoubtably a new era, and a harder one. I hope that it won't be too many more months before it starts to get easier.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Artist as a Locavore

Once upon a time, back when I was able to travel, I took Mouse with me wherever I went and so he got to be photographed in places like Arizona and California as well as in and around my home. Now, though, when leaving the house at all is a stretch on most days, I must, more than ever, find unexpected beauty to photograph in what is close at hand.

I've particularly enjoyed taking pictures of flowers this spring and summer and the map of my neighborhood above (I live at the green star) shows where I found some of my recent favorites.

I find plenty to photograph at my own home. For example, a pot of red and yellow tulips that bloomed on my deck this spring proved fertile ground for collecting colorful images without having to take more than a dozen steps out of my back door.

I photographed this peony at the house (second from right on the map) where I frequently go to look after my neighbors' elderly cat. The Ancient Kitty's semi-retired owners often leave town for three-day weekends and I've taken to carrying my camera with me when I walk to and from his house twice a day.

For example, I spotted a tangle of poppies across the street from the Ancient Kitty's house (first from right on the map) one day, which yielded a spectacular crop of images, including the one above.

It was while walking home from the Ancient Kitty's house that I saw a particularly magnificent bed of bearded irises (bottom center on the map) was once again in bloom and ready to be photographed.

I had been on the lookout for the irises, but these beautiful pink flowers growing out through an evergreen shrub were a pleasant surprise I encountered (below and to the left of my house) while on my way to the Ancient Kitty's one day.

Sometimes I take the other route to the Ancient Kitty's house (a little variety is always nice) and that's how I came to photograph these lovely purple daisies (top right on the map).

What the map doesn't show is that the development where I live, which could be roughly described as a squashed figure eight, is not located on level ground. The right-hand loop of the figure eight slopes gently down toward the Ancient Kitty's house, but the left-hand curve drops off quite steeply, from right about where I found this sea of fallen flowers (top left on the map) on the sidewalk outside my childhood baby-sitter's house.

On most days I am utterly unequal to the exertion of hiking in and out of the lower portion of the neighborhood, but if I'm feeling particularly strong, I will occasionally take a tour of these lower reaches. I photographed this rhododendron flower (lower far left on the map) on one such outing.

And earlier on that ill-fated day one month ago when I hit my head, I had made an extremely successful trip to the bottom of the neighborhood, capturing this foxglove (upper far left on the map)...

...this deep orange marigold (bottom left on the map)....

...and this outstanding hypericum shrub flower right next to where the bearded irises had bloomed the month before.

What I hope to show here (in addition to some pretty pictures) is that remarkable things can be found very close to home. I live in a perfectly average suburban neighborhood and have a policy of only taking photographs of things that can be reached from the sidewalk. While it would be fun to travel to a wider variety of locales, I've found that my ability to see beauty in ordinary surroundings allows me to reap rich rewards even on such a restricted scale.