About Me

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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Two Women Talking: No. 1

Like many others during the height of the lockdown, I spent a lot of time on Zoom in webinars, workshops, and private gatherings to stay connected, sane, and either hone up on skills or learn something new. There were a lot of intriguing and serendipitous connections being made. 

In this particular case, I cannot remember exactly when or how but I do remember where - Instagram - another alternative photographic printmaker and I connected over...one of her images? Mine? Another artist whose feed we both followed? Either way, one comment lead to another and then a mutual follow, a few back and forth messages, and then an idea blossomed...

Through a few Instagram message exchanges, I learned this woman lived where I frequent - in a small community outside of Bellingham, WA - where I fly to in order to make a short drive to one of the islands to see family. Her art style is one I resonate with and admire greatly. We discovered quite a few parallels in our lives, like: 
  • we both have adult sons of similar ages and became new grandmothers during Covid times
  • she lives a short drive from the Canadian border; I live a short drive from the Mexico border
  • we both love the mysterious, dappled light from forest environs
  • we like bees wax and handmade papers
  • natural elements are the central focus of our art work 
  • we both love the experimental aspects of chemistry and science with art
  • we aren't outcome driven, we are process and play driven
  • we care passionately about our environments and the history and peoples inhabiting them

Towards the end of 2020 (I think we ran across each other in the fall), I suddenly had this idea to see if we might collaborate on a year long art project together for 2021. The original idea I pitched has now morphed into something completely looser and much deeper - being propelled forward by regular, free-flowing conversations about everything and nothing in particular but somehow circling back to our respective art practices. A 'quick chat' turns into hours of exploding ideas and shared concerns or funny stories. I feel like I need to record our conversations because there are so many great tidbits shared, I fail to note all of them down!

These bi-monthly posts, the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month, will be about these conversations, the growing friendship, and how that influences the output of our art practices. It's incredibly energizing to have a kindred spirit to create and co-create with. What fun!

My new friend and sister in art is Ellen Dooley, an accomplished artist and teacher in many artistic mediums, largely alternative photographic processes but certainly not limited to that. 

Ellen's blog link:      Ellen Dooley
Ellen's Instagram link:   Instagram / Ellen
My Instagram links:   Instagram / mojavelight    or                             Instagram / projectmojavelight

We hope to have a separate website from our blogs where we will be posting images of the kind of work that emerges from our conversations. We plan to have a book of that work, possibly a live exhibition (or 2 or 3) at some point, and will be working collaboratively not just from our respective studios (PNW and Mojave Desert) but also together - this September, in fact, when I drive/camp my way up to the PNW for family time and just because I love traveling in the western part of the US. We've even tossed around doing destination workshops. In case you are wondering, we have met in person - just a couple of months ago when I went up for my granddaughter's 1st birthday. We shared a very chatty conversation over coffee like long time friends. 

I will leave you with a couple images reflecting the serendipity and process of our collaboration. It's pretty cool. I am looking forward to the tangible output as we grow along.

The image below has two small cyanotype pieces in it. On the left is one I did a few years ago. I didn't like how the entire cyanotype turned out so I tore off the part I did and then mounted it to a 3x3 inch wood block finished with 2 coats of a cold wax varnish. I don't feel it's complete yet as I intend to wax over a piece of tissue paper with a poem on it. The wax will make the tissue disappear with the words floating on top...but, I might leave it as is.  On the right is an ornament in an antique frame that Ellen made last December for holiday gifts. On the other side is another branch image but this side really spoke to me. The simplicity of the bare tree with birds. My image was taken in a very busy neighborhood in San Diego - you'd never know the city chaos happening under that branch. Ellen's was taken in the solitude and peace of the forest where she lives (if I remember correctly).      Do you see the similarities in what we see?

Ellen sent me some things to play with from her environs...homework if you will. There's a large piece of paper birch bark, skeleton leaves (my favorite!), an accordion book made with hand processed images (photograms), an old silver tray to play with embedding an image on (here's where beeswax comes in), slivers of gypsum (I think!), and a beautiful piece of silk with a fern leaf 'photographed' on it in cyanotype (photogram). They are so beautiful and wonderful to hold - I'm afraid of "messing them up"...but that's the point. At some point, the "mess" becomes beautiful again...

And here is a closer look at that yummy piece of silk on the tray....not a great snapshot to show detail but you'll get the point. 

I have a 'homework' box for Ellen as well. It goes in the mail this afternoon. This is how our conversations and collaboration flow at the moment - lots of inspiration, lots of new ways of experimenting with familiar materials we both love using, and more importantly, lots of fun.

If you have any questions about this collaborative art endeavor, please post in the comments below. Ellen and I will jump in on each other's posts whenever the need arises.

Grab a cup of tea and come sit with us for a chat...

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Reconstruction 2.0

re·con·struc·tion (n.)  /ˌrēkənˈstrəkSH(ə)n/    

the action or process of reconstructing or being reconstructed.

a thing that has been rebuilt after being damaged or destroyed. 

3546 days. 

9 years, 8 months, 16 days.

116 months, 16 days.

196 posts.

That is how long I've had this blog. In nearly 10 years, it has been interesting, for me, to review where my thinking was when I started this site and where I am now. I almost thought about just starting over because my writings are going to be more on my artistic processes, projects, experiences and considerations on all things in my art life.

Isn't art life? Isn't what we create a direct reflection of our internal landscapes influenced by the external ones?  

So, I decided to just continue the flow from 3546 days ago because, in my reality, it's all pertinent.

Several years ago (8 in fact), I spent some hard earned money on a defining your personal narrative workshop. It was a full weekend, small group of 5 participants, lead by a well known photographer. Long story shortened, I got exactly 17 minutes of her time only to be told "...you're all over the map. I have no idea what you're trying to say..." And, just like that, I was dismissed and the attention went back to 2 of the 5 participants who apparently had photographic work she 'liked'.  

Isn't that what I paid to be there for? To get 'expert guidance' to help me define my visual voice?

I didn't touch my cameras for almost 9 months. To this day, I don't freely shoot or experiment or have fun like I had for decades prior to deciding I'd pay an accomplished, professional artist help me define my artistic/narrative voice. The voice inside my head still says (although more a whisper than shouting), "Who do you think you are? YOU aren't an artist. You have no direction, no theme, NO STYLE!"  

I want my money back.

In those 8 years, I eventually did shoot again but with great reservation. My cameras still spend more time in their cases than around my neck. I braved many local shows, did 7 years of Open Studio Art Tours locally, conducted workshops, and sold a pretty decent amount of work not to mention having many of my images sold to authors needing certain desert imagery for their publications. I even have collectors who reach out to me wondering when I'll be exhibiting new work.

I wonder, too. 

I left the work force 2 years earlier than my original retirement plan. ZeeeRow regrets there. Time to dust off the art tools and see where I want to take this long held dream - dim and faded as it was - however, still there. 

Enter the pandemic. Chaos. Confusion. A LOT of time to be still, think, try not to think, distantly connect with people in the same boat, revisit some things, find myself, learn again...  It wasn't all horrible.

On the other side of all this, some really cool situations have emerged. And, here is where I will share and discuss them - all things pertaining to my creative process - and that includes my life because art IS life ...

Which IS all over the fucking map. And, I like it that way.

Starting the first and third Wednesdays of EVERY MONTH (beginning tomorrow!), I will be posting a piece about my projects, my muse(s), how my travels and family and friends and anyone I meet influences my inner and outer landscapes, thus influences my creative output....and most excitedly, a collaborative project I'm privileged to be part of with a kindred art sister I met along the pandemic trail. 

Tomorrow is the introduction... wheeeeee!

In short:

  • Listen to YOUR OWN voice (but don't stay in your head too long)
  • Play, play, play!  (i.e. Don't take yourself so seriously)
  • Not every professional artist is a good teacher
  • Keep the joy flame lit
  • Let the reconstruction begin!

Where you'll find me most often...

Backcountry camping in my beloved JTNP

Eastern Sierras in "Lucy", my camper van

...and any other place on the map I find intriguing...

Monday, October 5, 2020

3 Years, 10 Months later...

Here's the short version:

  • The rest of 2017-2018 is a blur.  
  • Left a 35 year career in public education halfway through 2019.
  • Gifted myself a custom built camper van to freely travel and be a full-time artist, open land advocate, and whatever else I wanted.
  • In February, 2020, we were planning a wedding and awaiting the arrival of a new family member - my first grandchild. 
  • Covid hit shortly after in full force.
  • Granddaughter arrived despite Covid restraints and world events, healthy and as adorable as can be, thank God and FaceTime. The new little family is thriving and safe.
  • Everything else turned to shit...
Like you, I am trying to figure out what 'new normal' looks like as every day unleashes old and new circumstances to make sense of and navigate through. Grieving and creating are simultaneous, daily rituals. My thread of sanity is that I am not in this alone but in good company - as sad and frightening and frustrating as it all can be - I remain hopeful, most of the time, as I look for ways to engage, participate, understand, move collectively towards healing... 

"Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things."  
~Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860, German philosopher)

I decided to continue this blog from when I first wrote back in 2011. It's been an interesting reread for me... A continuation of what I started almost 10 years ago here will easily merge with the new.

@projectmojavelight:  The remaining months of 2020 and on into 2021 will hover around a profound (to me) personal art project seeded 3 years ago. 120 individual art pieces sized 5"x5" each will be launched into my world (and perhaps yours) beginning Thanksgiving week, November 2020. 

Details on this interactive, personal art project and how it unfolds will be the subject in posts to come. If you are on Instagram, @projectmojavelight is where I will post visual briefs for the process as each panel is created. 

Moving forward...

For now, I would love to share with you an event that warms me to the depths of my core. A bright star to light the dark corners of our hearts. How can one not feel protective joy around new life?

Please meet my first grandchild - Adley Rose - here 2 months old, now 6 months and still full of sparkle and joy. A new generation of hope...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

On Resolutions

Happy NEW Year!

I've decided that 2017 needs to be a year of action for me. No "promises" on lists or in yet another journal for a new year - that I'll never look back at after January 3rd. No rituals of "letting go" or setting intentions with sage and candles. No, this time I just did things. Like fresh bedding on all the beds (had lots of guests over the holidays); clean windows (only to have doggy nose art reinstalled); clear out a small space in my garage and organize my platinum, palladium, cyanotype, and encaustic supplies so I can get all these images in my head down on cotton rag papers and cradled birchwood frames (or anything else that beckons to be adorned); read, snooze, take the dog for a walk, soak in a scented bath; hang out with friends; put fun things down on my 2017 calendar like more flights up to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, photography workshops (ones I'm teaching and ones I'm taking), and the necessary school things...

I've committed myself to making at least one image a day, forcing me to keep a camera at hand ALL the time. And write. I have a handful of lovely friends, poets and writers, who have encouraged and inspired me to rekindle my love for words - and share them. Words with pictures. Pictures with words.

2016 ended on a weird, unsettling note at best. On a personal level, things couldn't be more stable with much to look forward to on the horizon. I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and dive into whatever is needed, whatever Life places across my path. It's a good place to be.

SO - my plan is to write often and post 'every' Sunday here. Daily is a bit too ambitious. And if I don't give myself a deadline and some structure, nothing will get done.

And what will I write about? Well....a couple of years ago I took a workshop on 'finding your visual voice'. What that workshop did for me was to shut me up and put away my camera for 9 months. I also tried my hand in becoming part of a certain group of fine artists only to feel 'not good enough' again. I've been aligning myself with the wrong tribe... In a nutshell, I was told that my work was "all over the map". I had no sense of a body of work. I felt dismissed. I finally let myself off the hook. Indeed, I am "all over the map". I love to travel. I like going places. I like people and things and nature and, well, lots of stuff. I take pictures of what feels good to me - the light, the moment. If you were to see my favorite images all splayed out, there would be a 'voice'. It says pay attention to those things we rush by and go unnoticed - the way the steam curls up from my coffee/tea cup; the way the light streams into my favorite room in my home in the late afternoon; the way my students huddle together on a project; the clouds that define the desert expanse; abstract patterns in rust; the raindrops nestled on desert lupine leaves; the vibrant green and orange lichen that cling to boulder faces; friends laughing at the table next to me in a cafe in a faraway town...   Life. That's what I shoot. I feel it. I see it. I shoot it. The extra fun is how I will present as I'm totally hooked on "alternative" printing processes - beautiful handmade papers, wood, chemistry, pleasant surprises when the development process is done.

What will I write about? Something related to my skittering all over the map I suppose... >insert wink<

So yeah, 2017 is about action. And family and friendships. And gratitude.

And not taking to heart the limited and limiting opinions of others.

I'll leave you with my first image for 2017. It's a snapshot from my morning hike today, nothing spectacular by photographic standards. I am very fortunate to live within hiking distance of Joshua Tree National Park. I don't have to wait in the hour long line to get into the main part of the park. In 20ish minutes, I can hike to the boundary from my driveway - or, drive 5 minutes to Black Rock Canyon Campground area (with NO traffic!) and do one of 7 main hikes in that area. Today, I did the short loop, roughly 3 miles. It took me 3 hours because I lingered, a lot, at different points along the way to take in the views, listen to the cactus wrens and songbirds, breathe in wet earth, sage and cedars.  My heaven on Earth...

Breathing Space. JTNP / Looking west from High View Trail @ Black Rock Canyon Campground

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hwy 62 Open Studio Tours Oct. 15 - 16

The catalogs are out!! Not much longer!  I think we are going to be in for some fabulous desert fall weather during art tours. My friend and plein air painter, Krista Wargo, and I are looking forward to this year's art tours as we both took a creative hiatus last year. It's always a good time.

I've fallen in love with analog, aka 'alternative', print-making methods and have barely scratched the surface of all that entails. I have not been able to get my darkroom/studio built this summer as I had planned (darned heat!). However, I will have some platinum/palladium prints to show and explain the process - marrying the digital world with the analog world....digital because those are the cameras I use to make the images and negatives on digital film / analog because that is how I print them using chemistry, sunlight, and unique fine art papers and other substrates (as in not the typical ink jet print on glossy/semi-glossy paper sent out to a commercial printing house - nothing wrong with it - I'm just smitten with the whole chemical process of days gone by...)

In addition to those, I may have more cyanotypes (way fun to make!), polaroid emulsion lifts from outdated polaroid film, and my better known archival ink transfers to cradled birch box frames and handmade papers. I've also made some lovely rustic frames to compliment the one-of-a-kind organic prints. There will be no commercially produced images and all (with the exception of 2 classic images of mine) have 10 or less prints made from the negatives. What I love most is I can print/transfer/lift the same captured image on different papers or other substrates and none look the same. Oh, and I have a small batch of 2017 calendars and a few mouse pads with my iconic images (ok, TWO commercially printed items). Fun stuff!

Come see us! 
October 15 and 16 / First Weekend
STUDIO #22 ~ 9am - 5pm both days.

Desert Lupine Dreams of Rain ~ From the "When the desert dreams" series

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again...

I've been busy. My life is evolving at light speed. Dreams are being realized...

Chapter 3 of my Life is now in full swing. The kids are fully out into their own grand adventures. I love spending time with them in their newly 'adulted' lives. One 30 year career is nearing to a close and another begins. Chapter 2 had a satisfying end. Chapter 3 promises a journey of many predictable and unforeseen surprises along the twists and turns, peeks and dips. Kind of like Chapters 1 and 2 but more grown-up...if there is such a thing.

The remainder of this blog will be dedicated to all things artful - specifically my passion for the alternatively processed, aka 'old school', print making methods. I am marrying the digital world with nostalgic methods of presentation developed in the 1800s.  

More on all of that later.  For now, here are 2 earlier prints I made using platinum and palladium on cotton rag paper. Nothing but precious metals and organic cotton fibers to make these images (and a few other chemicals in the exposure and development process, but those wash away in the end). 

They feel luscious to the hands and eyes. Most satisfying........

Platinum-Palladium print on Arches Platine cotton rag watercolor paper.
Image captured in Lucca, Toscana, Italy with an iPhone.
Printed in Bennabio. 2015

Palladium print on Arches Platine cotton rag watercolor paper. Captured in
Joshua Tree National Park using an iPhone. Printed in San Diego. 2016

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Season of Reflection - Happy Solstice

I am a winter baby. This is my favorite event of the year - the Winter Solstice - a time to be still with yourself and your gratitudes and ground yourself for the next round. May this season of going within find you present, at peace, and enveloped in the warmth of all Life's Blessings...

(artist unknown)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Under the Tuscan Sun

Greetings dear readers....I've finally gotten around to thinking about writing again after a whirlwind many months of changes and adventures. I felt a little stumped on what to write about and post, but the blockage is slowly clearing after giving myself permission to just "be" instead of "do, do, do".... Italy, northern Italy in the Tuscan hills to be exact, was exactly what I needed. Born a European and a traveler, I needed to feel that earth beneath my feet again and experience the rich traditions of art and food and architecture and the people of my past.... What's really cool is that I am still in touch with nearly all I met along the way - including some generous and kind Italians who opened their home to me and shared a bit of their life.  The world doesn't feel so huge and cruel and empty (as much of the internet will tell you) when one travels and discovers that, while we may speak different languages and wear different skin, our hearts seem to collectively yearn for the same things...

Here is a brief glimpse of my adventures:

A view from the back of the 17th century villa I shared with kindred spirits for 10 days while learning platinum-palladium printing techniques, eating-eating-drinking-eating Tuscan food, making new friends, and nurturing my creative muse. Did I mention eating?

And this was our nightly sunset view, walking back up from the village center, looking across the valley towards the very mountain that the marble slab came from to create 'David'....

Yes, I was seriously considering buying this in the quiet little village that has withstood the ravages of time... Can you hear the church bells chiming? Every day, every hour, 'like clock-work'.  I miss those sounds....

Back in Firenze (Florence), Ponte Vecchio along the Arno River is a lovely mix of old and new. This was my view from our dinner table one sultry summer evening...

The quintessential find along the streets of Firenze...

The studio window we worked under in a musty, ancient cellar of the villa. It opened to a stunning view of the valley and village below us which we had no idea existed until the last night we were there to celebrate and show our creations from the week. That's how immersed in the making we were....

Breaking bread. Every morning, a handful of adults gathered around this table, waiting for the warm bread made every day just for us.  It was a gift of love waiting to be savored....

I have an afternoon date with a fellow artist friend today - to share my Italian adventure with. It's on her bucket list so I am offering encouragement to go for it. Life is fleeting and meant to be experienced outside of our dreams.

Thank you for staying with me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The other side of transition

Never underestimate the work that goes on in life's transitional phases. When my last 'baby' left home in the fall for college, I thought I would just easily flow through that dreaded 'empty-nest' syndrome typical for so many parents, single parents in particular. I found myself simultaneously feeling stagnant and catapulted through either not quite knowing what to do with my 'free' time or having a staggering amount of opportunities and decisions to make.

In just a few short months, I planned and booked a trip to Italy with the sole purpose of expanding my artistic trade and developing a stronger portfolio, cleared out physical stuff, quelled out fair weather friends and acquaintances, and left my workplace of 18 years. None of which was a foreseeable blip on the horizon until I was standing smack dab in the middle of it. My life is nothing that I knew of it - kids grown up and gone, day to day habits have made a 180 degree to the west turn, the faces of friends.

I am standing in the middle of my dream.

I cannot tell you how revived I feel after the sudden appearance of these opportunities that were, until early this spring, faint whispers of ideas tucked deep in my gray matter and only visible in the quiet of sleep. Is it possible to dream our realities? It appears so... Change was asked for and I received, tenfold.

Next week, I leave on an artistic sojourn to Italy - Tuscan region to be exact. Firenze. Benabbio, Bagni di Lucca. Residing in a 17th century, Baroque villa with other photographer/artists - what better place but the birthplace of the Renaissance to nurture my artistic muse?

I look forward to a new and much needed twist to this blog site. Come back often for travel snippets and updates from new adventures...

A presto!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Capturing the love

Day 3 of the 3-pieces-of-art-a-day-for-5-days I have been challenged with.

This time I decided to post portraits I've done. Is that considered "art"? My photographer friends would say yes. There is always a debate about photography being "art". It's not done with paints or brushes or canvas or drawn by hand so many in the art world would argue it is not art. The word photography is made up of 2 ancient Greek words meaning "light" (photo) and "drawing" (graph). Drawing with light. The camera is our tool - our brush if you will. And the surface we place our images on - fine papers, wood, glass, fabric, metal, ceramics, and yes, canvas. Can that not be "art"?

It all started about 6 years ago when colleagues of mine asked me to take their family photo with another family they were close with. They were moving back east and wanted a memento. Since then, I've been privileged to photograph many families and artists. Each time, I learn something new - a different perspective, better ways to engage with my subjects, finding the right light, capturing a look, a feeling, a moment...

I think I enjoy making portraits for people because I have so few of my own with me in them. I'm always on the other side of the lens. When I was married, my children's dad would never take a photo of me with the kids unless I made a fuss of it. My memories of me with my children as babies on up are left in the photocells of my brain instead of a photo album or nicely framed print....

I get it when people aren't comfortable picking up the camera to take that memorable shot. We get distracted, busy, self-conscious. And then there are those who are comfortable capturing the moments but rarely get in those memories themselves. I'm here to help tell a story. The best part is seeing my client's faces when they realize they look pretty good in a photo or didn't really see a particular behavior in their child as they were trying to get them to behave while I was snapping away.

Either way, it's just fun.

I had a difficult time finding just 3 for this challenge post. If I were to review all my files again, I'm sure I'd pick 3 different ones. But, here they are - genuine, spontaneous moments of people who have graced my life...

#1. Photo bomb! I love this one. Largely because I know how tough it was for us to create a serene moment with just dad and mom and soon-to-be-born baby. This says it all about the joys and challenges of growing families, and it all spells Love.

#2. The boys in this family are a bit older and taller now. The natural way they all posed tells volumes about their relationship with each other. It warms my heart with hope every time I meet a family so deeply connected and in love with each other...

#3. My most recent portrait shot just last December. One big family divided into 4 smaller family units. My first photo shoot of this size. The challenge was a flat gray-overcast day with occasional peeps of sunlight - just enough to wreak havoc on my settings; black shirts and jeans;  and one person with shockingly turquoise blue hair. It was fun. I like the classic, timeless black and white treatment we agreed on for this shot. The color version was neat, too, but if you want to highlight the faces, classic black and white pulls out all the distractions of busy scenes and brings it all together.

Okay, so there are only supposed to be 3 art shots a day. I have to sneak this one in. These spunky little girls were a hoot to capture. Always animated. Always moving. We had a most beautiful fall day at the preserve. Sisters. The little one emulated everything the older one did. I hope they always stay this close.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weather makes us giddy.

So, I've been challenged by a fellow artist to post 3 works a day for 5 days.

This is Day 2.

Going back in the archives, I am sharing (again) some unique desert weather shots. I know I've mentioned this many, many times - but, we desert dwellers get really giddy whenever there is any kind of precipitation - especially drizzle/rain accompanied by fog. Fog is a super unusual occurrence in our desert. This year, we've had literally days and days of it. Once for 3 days in a row - the pea soup kind. Of course, I was teaching on those days - not conducive for chasing great fog shots. But I did manage to go out and play for an hour after school, before dark. There is something eerily special about standing out in the desert, enveloped in the thick quiet of fog. The best part? The smells! Oh my. Sage, desert lavender, cedar, pinion pine, creosote - all mixed with granite (yes, rocks have smells) and wet earth.


This shot was taken in January, 2 years ago. Not photoshopped or altered at all. This is what my camera captured. Yes. It was that thick. If you look closely at a print of this, you can very, very faintly see more vegetation in the background. There are hills back there and a dip between them with views to the valley below. Only 20 feet or so from the car, my daughter said I completely disappeared. I dreamt this shot many years prior. When I woke up to fog that morning, I knew I had to find that dream...

And this shot was taken just a few months ago. We had 3 days of thick fog in a row. This was day 2. I remembered to bring my camera with me to work that day and dashed out as soon as all the students left. Black Rock Campground, part of Joshua Tree National Park, is just minutes up the road from my school. I spent an hour mingling about, breathing in deeply. The fog would recede; patches of blue sky emerging. Then, without warning, I'd suddenly find myself totally surrounded by fog thick enough to barely see the bushes ahead of me. I lost my car - couldn't tell which direction I needed to go to get back to it. So, I simply stood in one spot, light waning for the day, praying the fog would lift just enough for me to get back to the car before blackness took me. I was too excited to get out and play in it with my camera to remember a headlamp. I will next time....

And, finally, my 3rd art shot for Day 2, another foggy day sometime between the first 2 shots above - late winter, maybe last year. The fog had receded to the distant hills. We pretty much had just a brief morning of it that day. There is a quiet melancholiness about this. I remember my ears ringing to the point of discomfort, so utterly still it was. When I printed it on a cold pressed, fiber-based matt paper, it had a more blue cast than this - which I actually like. It's hanging in my son's apartment near the beach now - a reminder of home.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Look closely

Looks like there is no slowing down in 2015. Thought I'd pop in and let you all know what's been up in my absence.

Besides the throes of a working girl, getting over a lively holiday season, and spending spontaneous fun-time with my adult kids, I'm preparing for my works to hang in the local county courthouse offices; planning a trip to Tuscany; prepping for a photography class I get to teach in Joshua Tree National Park; and playing with polaroid film and sun sensitive papers. I've finally finished up a slew of portrait shoots over the holidays so now I have time to hunker down and hone a body of work that has been dancing around in my head for months.

I've been such a hermitess lately - work > home > dog walk > work > groceries > home > dog walk  > work > family > work... Ever have those times when you just hole up for long periods of time and people start to forget about you?  I like to think of it as reflective, decompressing, creative incubating time, but need to remind myself, force myself, back out into the public realms to reconnect with people I do enjoy and care about. Then again, I am a solid introvert so that time is quite necessary.... Many people don't understand it. They assume you are being a snob, a bitch, moody...pick a demeaning adjective, it gets flung. You may have felt it yourself from time to time - the need to explain yourself because few 'get you' or are capable of seeing the depth beneath the quiet, sometimes aloof exterior.

Oh well. Toby loves me, no matter what I'm doing or not doing... even without treats ;-)

For my spring show, I am thinking of hanging a body of work depicting one of my favorite desert subjects: patina and rust. There are enough snapshots and thoughtful captures of joshua trees, boulders, and sunsets. I don't care to shoot them, preferring to enjoy the scene with my own eyes as the light dances on the mojave sand or a well-captured scene from someone else. I've always liked taking pieces of a whole - those more interesting parts overlooked because we are so distracted with the whole scene or just too 'busy' to look.

These look great in printed on fiber based matt paper. Very rich and organic. I always see something different each time I observe. I'm looking forward to seeing them hang on the courthouse office walls this spring.

What does your imagination tell you? Look closely.....

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long and Hello...

Merry Christmas (I'm on traditional time...) and Happy New Year!

Feeling nostalgic on this last eve of 2014. It's been an eventful yet good year for me, all in all. The nest is empty for the most part. I've had to adjust to not having to be "on" for someone else besides me on the home front. I had imagined all this free time filled with experiences I've been saving up to do once my family fledged the nest. Funny, but it seems I've never been busier with little free time, even on weekends, to do all the hiking, photographing, creating art, traveling, socializing I thought I was going to do. Looking back, I think I purposefully filled those spaces left open with mindless stuff to not feel the potential emptiness.... Empty, yes. Lonely, no. I am relishing the solitude.

My reserves needed refueling.

I had thought about doing an article on the best bits of 2014 or something like that. But, nah. I know what those are and that is enough. My energies these last few hours of 2014 will be purging, cleaning, clearing out clutter while sending out healing light and strength to those who need it most right now. So, while many are out celebrating, I've chosen to stay cozily in on this freezing cold night. We had a beautiful dusting of snow last night, leaving the roads slick and the desert hills softened. I feel an open hopefulness on my own horizon. Many opportunities have fallen onto my path - trinkets from my dreams to remind me to keep moving forward to what I imagined most to experience in what's left of this Life. I like the idea of quietly greeting the new year from a grounded place of gratitude. I need to make it my daily beginning and end again. No resolutions to feel pressured to complete. No promises to break. Just moving through the day with appreciation for what is.

It's a foolproof way to feel moderately happy and content every day - pretty much.

I have several friends who are battling some life altering challenges right now. They seem so young for this. One with young children yet to raise. One with many dreams yet realized. Instead of journaling my own Life's dreams and goals for these next 12 months as I might tend to do, I've decided to spend this evening in quiet contemplation and prayer - not for me but for my friends and acquaintances who will continue to face their own uphill struggles in 2015.

Here's to a 2015 of gratitude always; appreciating what is; better health; much Joy; peace of Heart; and leaving the door open for those surprises that make Life sweet.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

When the desert isn't dry

Oh my. Such interesting weather we've had this past week. 4 straight days of drizzle, soft rains, and dense fog. Today, day 5, sees a dawn of blue skies only to become shrouded in clouds again. My pellet stove is cleaned out and ready. Camera cards reformatted. Batteries charged. Toby is harnessed up and anxious to head out and see what this weather has unearthed on his favorite trails for him to nose around in. I love the feel of wet earth beneath my boots and damp, sage-scented air on my skin.

Precipitation in the desert makes us desert dwellers all giddy. I wish I could attach the smells with this post. Wet earth mixed with sage, cedars, and pinion pine with a touch of creosote. Even the granite boulders have their own odor. You can't help but take deep, gulping breaths when you step outside. The cloudy skies redefine the horizons, giving great depth and contrast to the valleys and surrounding hills and mountains.

Last Wednesday was the first of the dense fog days. Of course, I was holed up in class all day. My students and I frequently stopped and marveled at the changing view outside of our door. The mountain behind our school would disappear into the fog as it crept up to the perimeter block wall - intermittently disappearing and reappearing all day. There was a hushed stillness outside as if someone cloaked us with a soft, thick blanket. As soon as school let out, I headed for the national park campground just up the road from school. With only an hour of daylight left, there was no time to head into the interior of the main part of the park. I had the wherewithal to grab my camera bag on the way out the door that morning....hoping the fog would hang out for more than a few hours. I wasn't disappointed. It hung out for a few days!

Here are just a few smartphone snaps for now. Oh the wonder of wetness in a dry land....

I wandered away from the car up the path a bit. One minute the skies were clearing. The next, without warning, I was enveloped in a deep fog again. It was easy to get turned around and lose a sense of where I started from.  Take a deep breath. Can you smell the sagebrush and junipers? Mmm..

As seen on the way home. A Christmas tree emerged from the fog in someone's yard. Caught me by surprise the first go around. So I doubled back to check it out again.... Not film grain. Just lots and lots of fine water droplets...

©DianaShayDiehl   Shot with an iPhone4
I appreciate when nature makes us stop in our race to get through the day and pay attention to the finer details of our lives.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Things you find on a wander...

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking some San Diegan photographer acquaintances out for a photo shoot in 29 Palms - Wonder Valley to be specific. It's always fun to show guests my desert world. Makes me pay closer attention to my own surrounds and appreciate what's here - the expanse, the history, the quirkiness.

These shots are from playing with a new art lens I recently purchased. A Petzval, retro-designed from an original model that first came out in the mid 1800's from Austria. It's basically more of a fine art portrait lens, which I haven't had a chance to try out on people yet. Just the same, it was fun to use on the landscape and decay as you don't really know what you'll get until you take the images into 'the darkroom'.  It is a fully manual, prime lens - interacting with a digital camera much like analog (film for you newbies to photography jargon...) It has a very narrow focal point, making the background fall away in interesting fuzzy, subtle and not so subtle swirls.

If you are interested in the history of the homesteads of 29 Palms and Wonder Valley, check out this link - researched and authored by local resident/educator/artist, Kim Stringfellow. There's some great stuff on the website as well as an audio tour of the area. And, there's a book sale of Kim's works currently happening via a link on her website.

Check it out:  Jackrabbit Homestead

See what you think of the new lens....

Remnants of a life lived...

Ceiling of homestead cabin

Wonder Valley Homestead

Monday, November 24, 2014

A no particular title post...

Time flies. When you are having fun. When you are busy. When you are standing still. Doesn't matter - it just flies....

I thought I'd have all this time once my last kiddo left the nest for college last August. No such thing. I'm busier than I've ever been even though I had cleared my plate of the many committees and obligations that consumed me; only to fill that time with something else for someone else. I think my problem is there's just too many interesting things to be part of. And I can't say no. 

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."  ~Carl Jung

Today is another blustery, cold day. My favorite kind because it means I get to hunker down inside and dream and think and sort and sift through stuff in a mindless kind of way. Toby gets extra treats. And I can drink as much tea as I want because I don't have to wait for the bell to ring signaling a much needed break. Simple pleasures.

Here is an image from my summer trip with my daughter. We sojourned across Native American lands into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Much needed breathing space. New vistas. Expanses to stretch the legs, heart, and mind...

And here is one more from a wander at Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park a few weeks back. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inevitable transitions

Yes, I am alive! Thank you for the nudges. What have I been up to these past few months?

  • Graduated the last little chicken from high school
  • Welcomed home a daughter-sailor from an 8 month deployment
  • Taught a 2 week image printing class at the local college for our gifted and talented students
  • Helped newly graduated son settle on a college for the fall and attended an orientation in another state
  • Quelled through and prepped photos from over 130 artists for our catalog for the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (happening in Oct/Nov)
  • Hung out with the 2 older kiddos in their habitat of San Diego (Thank you for moving there!)
  • Took on a consultant role with the California Desert Protection Act's 20th Anniversary (back to my conservationist roots!)
  • Planned a week long trip through the mountains of Colorado with 2 of my 3 kiddos for early August (Can. Not. Wait to go.)
  • Cleaned out closets (Step 1 of becoming an empty nester)
  • Hung out with friends
  • Was awarded the opportunity for one of my photographs to show in TIMES SQUARE!!! on an animated HUGE screen - July 24 at 8pm should you live in NYC
  • Thought about tackling the garage
  • Joined an online art workshop (Wheeee! Time to get messy!)
  • Picked out paint samples for the bedrooms (Step 2 of becoming an empty nester - redo the house.)
  • Thought about picking up one of my cameras and actually shooting with it 
  • Quelled through countless brochures and online sites to plan a walking trip abroad (Step 3 of becoming an empty nester)  First stop, my ancestral roots of Ireland.....

Interesting things happen when you see the end of one chapter of life coming firmly to a close. A little anxiety at first but then....Oh boy! All the possibilities pop up to do things raising a family solo didn't allow. Thankfully, all 3 of my kids are living in places I am excited to visit and explore (besides the fact that they live there.....).  They are all on solid paths which eases my mind tremendously. I'm proud of all 3.

"Aren't you dreading being alone?" many friends ask. 

"Absolutely. Not." says I.  Because I am never really alone. And there is always something going on. Always. I welcome the quiet days....

"How sad that all your kids are will be gone now." a friend comments.

"Why?" says I. "Isn't this how it's supposed to be? Raise them to live their own lives on their own terms? Besides, they aren't 'kids' anymore. They are adults. I dearly miss the cute little kids they were, yes. And I enjoy hanging out with the adults they've become - most of the time.  There's no sadness in that. Inevitable transitions. Celebrate them."

"Oh." says the friend.  I'm not sure she got it....

So - new stuff on the horizon. Lots of it!!!  My daughter and I will be creating a duo photo blog in the near future. I'm really excited about that. She has quite an eye for imagery and her international travels have afforded her insights into humanity. Can't wait for you all to share this journey with us. Stay tuned for the link!

Easing-the-transition stuff:
  • Photo / hiking trip through parts of the Colorado mountains 
  • 2nd year of Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (with 4 other artists!)
  • Local photo / road trips to some new-to-me quirky places (looking forward to doing a trip log to share with you)
  • Playing with mounds and mounds of polaroid prints (just waiting for the paper to arrive to put them on!)
  • Monthly dinner gathering with friends in my comfy kitchen - prepping and sharing new dishes together
  • Visiting friends in Portland, Oregon (a place I've contemplated relocating to)
  • Getting those bedrooms actually painted
  • Doing more than just thinking about clearing out the garage
  • Stepping foot onto Irish soil.....

It's been a fairly mild summer, so far, in the desert. Many cloudy days - little rain from it - but relief from the blazing sun nonetheless. Here's a shot from a recent walk with my best hiking buddy, Toby.

The road may be long, but it is never lonely.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Just a short post for now. The desert is far from bland and boring. Spent a few hours recently wandering among a rather vibrant spring from a mild winter. (More images in another post.)  I see potential for some new transfers. Perhaps patterns for sun printed scarves. Maybe a collage of quintessential bits of my mojave. I'm excited about the upcoming Hwy. 62 Open Studio Tours this fall. November 1 - 2 to be exact.

Querencia. Finding strength from the open spaces.

A quiet walk provides a lot of inspiration.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Delicate wonders

Yesterday, these blooms weren't there. Today, the little shocks of color captured Toby's and my attention on our late morning walk. The wildflowers make us desert dwellers giddy with excitement. Hoards of visitors from all over the world plan their vacations with hopes of finding these tiny beauties in abundance. Some years we are disappointed. This isn't a "banner year" but the fields, trails, rocks, crannies, and roadsides are offering some lovely spots of color - some soft, some shockingly bright. There are some species rarely seen. These 3 (blurry from winds and the limits of an older smartphone camera) are common and expected signs of spring, and they were simply displaying their delicate splendor off the side of our road. Flowers. Tiny, perfect miracles of life.

Later on, I will go deeper into the park and surrounds in search of more....with a better lens to capture the intricate details...the higher elevations are starting to show. I do believe I need to do some color transfers of this year's display.

An encouraging reminder of what's to come after a long, dark spell....

Beavertail Cactus blooms

(blurry) Canterbury Bluebells. My favorite. 

Apricot mallow. Desert tortoise delicacies. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Seeking Shelter (aka Querencia 2)

I am having trouble picking up my camera lately. The spark of creativity is buried underneath a pallor of human unkindnesses. Can't watch the news or read the internet or walk through the staffroom without feeling personally assaulted in some way. The world outside is coming alive with wonderful spring light and peeps of color. The air is warm and alive with happy chirps and the whir of wings as life gets busy making more life.

But I stare at it from inside. Unable to move. Tears spill over without warning. There's a sharpness to my speech. Breathing is shallow as it burns in my chest. I feel like a thousand elephants sit on top of me. The only solace is my walking buddy, Toby, who insists on his daily walk - which we do. Most of the time. And I always feel, a little, better. I turn off the tv. I limit the internet to communicating with friends and family on "good things",  researching fun lessons, or playing a mindless game (or 2) of (dare I say it), CandyCrush. But I can't avoid the other day to day stuff. Either way I turn, someone is ready to pour a pot of boiling oil on me or someone else or anyone in their way. There is so much unhappiness and spite around. It's blocking the view.

Self rescue. After a brisk 2.5 mile walk with the Tobster, I started quelling through files of images for my "Querencia" project. While this image isn't especially artistic in an 'oh wow' kind of way, it certainly touches on where I can retreat and draw my strength from. A simple, armless, cushy chair flanked by books on one side and a Chinese red side table with objects that impart great love and mutual respect on the other.

The walrus tusk was my late husband's. He found it in Alaska, back in the early 1980s, on some beach in the Aleutian Islands - I think. He was a bush pilot, bringing scientists to remote places for study. The tusk was just laying on the beach near the walruses the scientists were observing - as the story goes. For several decades, it sat in a dusty shadow box, not sure where to place it. Then, a dear artist friend saw it one day, less than 2 years ago, when he delivered some metal sculptures I bought from him. He graciously offered to make me a stand to showcase the simple beauty of this sentimental relic from my past in exchange for some of my framed photographs. Deal!  Resting on the base of the tusk display is a painted rock. A gift from a former principal who knew I was struggling within a toxic marriage. "A paperweight, a soul to watch over you, or a tool to get him to listen to you," she impishly told me. Three souls. One display. Reminders of kinder times.

None of these people are alive anymore. All passed far too young and fairly sudden. My husband was in his 30s. My sculpture friend, maybe 60. My principal friend, 45. I think of them often and miss them dearly. All had a great sense of humor, were wonderful and fun company, and knew what unconditional love was. They all had many, many friends. People loved being around them - each in their own personal way. You could be assured of much fun and merriment in company of any one of them. When I sit in that chair, with a book to take my mind off of things I cannot change, they are there with me. Nudging me forward. Reminding me of all the love I have received and of all the love I have to give - in spite of those unhappy souls who cannot see their own worth.

Querencia. Being grounded. That place where one retreats to gather strength and feel safe and be reminded that it really is okay.

I feel, a little, better already.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Americana Culture

Happy 'almost' St. Paddy's Day! I am going to slightly veer from my quest to present my photographic findings of what Querencia is to do a bit of plugging for a friend of mine. Bear with me. I hope what I share is enlightening to you - and if not, pass it on to someone who would appreciate these bits of Americana.... I'm all for independent projects - people who have a passion to preserve and educate as they also entertain us.

Candacy Taylor. Creator of Taylor Made Culture. An amazing, energetic, inspiring and gifted woman with a passion for preserving our Americana roots. From the waitresses of coffee shops and diners to Bingo Halls to inner workings of beauty shops to female bull fighters. Candacy unearths and brings to light the fine details of what many of us have taken for granted in our daily lives.

If you are a baby boomer, you'll remember those vinyl padded turn stools on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning after church - sharing a meal with family or friends served by a woman who not only brought you your meal but addressed you personally because you were a regular. To many, these women were 'just waitresses'. To these women, this was their career - something they took heart in and did their job with love. It wasn't just a job for them. It was their life. And still is for those handful of diners and coffee shops that still exist in certain communities - usually smaller, rural ones - today. My town has one. C & S Coffee Shop. The same women have worked it for years. I find it comforting to step inside and allow time to stand still for awhile. The coffee is consistent and always good - served with a smile and a joke and story or two....

Here are some links regarding Candacy's works. I hope you'll explore them. Learn something. Reminisce a little. Support her cause. Pass it on.....

KCET Artbound Article: Candacy Taylor and Counter Culture

Indiegogo Project: Counter Culture   (The funding campaign ends in early April!)

Artbound Video: Beauty Shop Culture with Candacy Taylor

Taylor Made Culture: Candacy's webpage with all of her projects and the history of how all this started

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Happy New Year! Happy Valentine's Day! Yes, a little more than fashionably late but I was just not feeling compelled to write the usual things as the calendar changed over to a new set of digits. No resolutions. No over-the-shoulder reflections. No sappy promises for plans of a fabulous whatever. I'm trying a new approach. Just do it. Dream it. Live it. Stop talking. Just do..... 2014 saw me turn 55 and will see me become an empty nester as my last 'baby' steps out into the world and makes his way. There is a lot of restructuring energy going on these days with not a lot of time to sit and wonder about it all. Time is fleeting and feels even more so these days.  I'm trying to develop the fine art of slowing down and savoring the richness of the moments presented to me every day as I also take advantage of a multitude of opportunities crossing my path.

Dream it. Live it. Just do it.

Nothing is wrong. Everything is right. I've just resurfaced from a particular busy spell in life....  The fall brought my first big public participation in our local Open Studio Art Tours and it's been a happy madhouse ever since. The 6 Chicks Popup Gallery was a great success. Our 2 months went on to 3. While I'm happy to have my weekends back, I miss it. Met some wonderful people. Had the thrill of seeing some of my works go off to live in NYC, Michigan, Las Vegas, Boston, and local abodes. Loved meeting the folks who visit my magical corner of the desert.  Intriguing conversations. Friendly, warm souls.

<----- A lovely couple who purchased one of my favorite little rag matte paper framed prints - joshua trees silhouetted against one our iconic sunsets... now gracing the wall of their NYC home...

After 6 Chicks closed its doors, (We decided it was time for a creative hiatus...) came several weekends of workshops for me. What to make now? Where to go with it?  It's a process trying to figure all that out and, sometimes, a bit of unraveling needs to be done to get there. And sometimes, a lot. I was told that I'm "all over the map" with my photography and that was after only seeing a few snippets. New to the world of portfolios, I didn't really know what to show, so I showed a little bit of everything. At least the things that have sold or gotten some notice. Yes, all over the map would define that collection. Portraits. Street photography. Moody desert photos. Accidental captures that turned out 'pretty good'.

But what's my story? I had the pleasure of attending a "unearthing" workshop recently that turned me 180 degrees to figure that out. Visual Narratives -  taught by Susan Burnstine (One of the most intriguing fine art photographers I have had the pleasure to meet and be inspired by), and sponsored by Medium San Diego (a wonderful independent organization whose 'mission is to foster awareness and understanding of innovative photography'). I left there with words like "harsh", "fragile",  "regret", and "survival" to mull over as 'my words'. But those weren't it. None of them tasted right. Not alone anyway.

And that is where "Querencia" comes in. Querencia is a beautiful word that struck me to the core even before I knew what it meant. In Spanish, “querencia” describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. It comes from the verb “quere”, which means to desire, to want. This could mean that favorite sweater worn almost religiously when you need to feel comforted; that coffee cup reached for every morning because of the way it feels in your hands; that time of year when you step outside and go "Aaahhhh...." and wish every day could feel like this;  the group of friends you have dinner with every month at your favorite cafe. Querencia is where we gather our strength.

Our bodies know querencia. If we pay attention, we can find it even when we are miles away from our physical structure known as 'home'. And sometimes, that structure - the house, apartment, condo - doesn't feel like home at all. It's just a place to land at the end of long days filled with busyness....

Querencia. All creatures crave it. The doves that desperately make their haphazard nests in precarious places over and over again. The cactus wren that tucks its nest deep into a cholla to return to spring after spring. The swallows who travel great distances back to where they were born to propogate their species - as do the migrating whales, sea turtles, salmon, and geese. I follow a fellow photographer/artist whose "Querencia" is her traveling camper van and her dog, Max. Those wheels take her all over the United States while she documents life as she experiences it. On the road all the time,  just her and her dog, yet she has "Querencia".  (You can read about her adventures here: Alison Travels ) I've seen where 'home' was literally a lean-to shabbily structured out of found materials. Certainly not "appropriate" by upper and middle class standards but "Querencia" to the inhabitants.

Querencia does not have a specific look. Home. It's where all Beings feel safe. It exudes strength, familiarity, comfort, a sense of belonging.

And so begins my body of work as I reach deeper inside. It might look like it is "all over the map" but then, so is "Querencia".

Where is yours?