Monday, October 20, 2014

Sculpting And Painting With Paper

I've been experimenting with paper arts and crafts for a long while, but lately I've felt like testing its limits, and making paper into more than just paper. I love the general medium because I can work with items from my recycling container, a couple discarded art magazines from the state library and an out of date encyclopedia. Not only are supplies cheap, but I'm reducing the amount of items (though small) that go into the landfill every year. I know, I'm taking items of of my recycle container, but lets be frank, not all of the items you put in "Big Blue" end up being recycled into pretty new materials. Its always better to reuse first, am i right?

I love creating fictional scenes, natural landscapes or objects out of these discarded materials. Its almost surreal transforming an old encyclopedia article about electronic engineering into a magical grassy landscape. Its these idiosyncrasies that keep flooding me with more and more ideas for projects. Currently I'm working on a free standing tree on a hill made entirely of rolled magazines and paper I made in a blender. I have ideas for combining broken electronics and paper, such as copper wiring and old cameras to make dioramas, with paper sculpting bring the pieces to life. Combining paper arts and discarded items into larger pieces, or integrating paper and sculpting into paintings has opened a whole new world of possibilities.

"Cattails" by Lisa Miller, 2014 - discarded books, magazines & acrylic paints, glue
"Siamese With Yarn" by Lisa Miller, 2014 - discarded book pages, acrylics

"Spaceship" -  by Lisa Miller, 2014 - discarded book pages, acrylics, glitter, glue

To follow more of my art, please follow my Tumblr page: Nature VS Robots

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Places To Take Your Own Family Portraits In Salem, Oregon

The Best Places To Take Your Own Family Portraits In Salem Oregon

or How to Avoid Bokeh Roulette

Saturday afternoon I was asked what the best places to take your own family photos in Salem were. I thought about where I would go if I were going on a photo shoot for a family portrait in early Fall and mentioned places with gorgeous trees and warm scenery. I suggested a few places; a couple that are a 15 minute drive outside of town but are gorgeous this time of year and my two go-to parks for central Salem photographic beauty, Deepwood and Bush Park. Then I went out to do some shooting myself and that's when I realized my mistake.

I drove out to Bush Park, staying on the NE corner, near Deepwood, and then crossing over into Deepwood Estate. I'm a member of Deepwood, like many other Salem photographers. It is my favorite place in Salem to take photos, hands down. The only downside is, it is everyone else's favorite spot too. When you go, a photo shoot turns into a game of "stay out of each others background." Or Bokeh Roulette, as I like to call it.

I was able to get some decent shots, but it wasn't the same as having the park to yourself, as I often do, on a weekday afternoon. However, if you are on a shoot with someone who has a 9 to 5, or even 3 to midnight M-F job, a weekday afternoon isn't an easy option. So after the stress of my favorite Salem parks, it was time to think outside the park box.

Here are the places that thinking outside of the box took me, plus some other potential family portrait ideas:

1. State St. - On one side is Willamette University's beautiful campus, on the other side is Wilson Park and the Capitol. There can be a few people here, but the good news is there are so many trees, plants, statues, brick walls, and waterways that you are sure to find a backdrop that is people free.
And if the university or government buildings look too foreboding for a family photo, aim for a fluffy sequoia tree or Mill Stream with its adorable ducks as the background. Or, wait until spring for the flowers to bloom. There is never a bad season (except maybe Winter) to take photos here because of the varied plants and trees and with two campuses to choose from you will not run out of backdrops for your photos.

2. Pringle Park - If you are at Deepwood and Bush Park and having no luck, head on over to Pringle Park for some peace and quiet (as long as a Frisbee game is not on). This little green space is near the hospital and it is conveniently situated by a trail that goes into downtown for further exploration. The park itself, is filled with lush greenery and is inset by lovely concrete bridge work from an earlier decade and Pringle Creek gently flows from downtown to the side of the park and eventually to Deepwood Estate.

3. Downtown Murals - There are beautiful green spaces in Salem & Keizer everywhere if you just know where to look. But what if you want color and a city feel to your photos? My second favorite place in Salem to photograph is downtown, and not just for street photography. Each alley-way has new and old art formally and informally installed as well as beautiful vines creeping up the sides of vintage brick walls. I remember using the vines in high school for practicing portrait photography. Find an alley-way you like, be aware of service vehicles, and shoot away. Each alley is unique. Pick one that best expresses your family's style.

honorable mentions.... Ankeny NWR View Point - Take Liberty all the way out South until you reach Ankeny Hill Rd (stay left for hill view, straight for wetlands) HILL VIEW: There is a view point just up the hill, with a giant Oak tree  (boo! it died) , (still) beautiful views and light. WETLANDS: There are several spots on Liberty and nearby roads with access to the wetlands area. On the left, coming from Salem, is the main wetlands lot.
I highly recommend timing your photo shoot for an hour to two hours before sunset on a day with low haze/dust and a couple clouds in the sky. You will not be disappointed.
Joryville County Park - is a beautiful nature hike, with many scenic areas to take small group photos both at the bottom of the hill and at the top. Directions: 14 miles out Liberty Road, then two miles to Jory Road, then one mile west to park entrance
Willamette Mission State Park - Is an expansive, but beautiful park out past Keizer on the Willamette River. It costs $5 for the day, but if you bring a picnic lunch and spend sometime exploring, it is well worth the cost. There are many beautiful areas to take photos. My favorites are the tree groves.

Related articles...

Salem, Oregon's Places To Photograph

Sun Rays
Bush's Pasture Park, Salem, Oregon - photo by Lisa Miller

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Film Reels: The Little Prince

Film Reels - In which I catch up on my classic movies and then talk about them.

The Little Prince -  Musical, 1974

It has been many years since my first encounter with The Little Prince. As a very young child I remember Nickelodeon playing the 1978 French/Japanese cartoon, The Adventures of The Little Prince, in the mid-80s. It was one of my first tv obsessions. The child prince alone on the moon, taking care of his rose friend and later going on adventures. I may have been a very small child while watching the show, but the memories stuck with me. I knew that someday, I'd find my little prince again, and I did...

While browsing Netflix for musicals to watch, my sister and I found The Little Prince from 1974. With a cast that includes Gene Wilder, Bob Fosse, and other familiar faces, we decided to give it a watch.Tthe first thing to keep in mind is this is a musical from the 70's and it is a bit dated. The second thing to keep in mind is that the book, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, can be very dark in nature and deeply philosophical. Its not typically the stuff that kid's cartoons or movies are made of.

After the initial shock from the memories of my 5 year old self wore off, I started to really get into the allegories for war and politics as the Little Prince moved from planet to planet, as well as the touching story of the Pilot and the Prince. The movie was magical and heart-wrenching at the same time. Some scenes were still silly and dated, but I started to forget all my qualms about campiness and focused on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's message and beautiful phrases, even when translated from French. And how often do you get to see Bob Fosse dance like a snake!

My favorite scene has to be Gene Wilder's. As much as I love the Little Prince, the Fox stole the show. That man is so talented. He took a small animal and embodied the shyness of the fox and fragility of his and the Prince's relationship to a tee.

I won't spoil the ending, for those that don't know the story, but don't expect to be dry-eyed when the movie is over. And if you are like me, expect to have an intense urge to buy a copy of the book for when you are feeling lonely, political, or just in need of some literary beauty.

“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

Friday, July 25, 2014

Drawing EatSalem: Local Food Inspired Doodles

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret, the person who runs the twitter & facebook accounts was on vacation recently. Normally when that happens, another contributor will help sister and myself did this time around.

Within the first few minutes my artistic side was inspired by the wonderfully composed images of food and beverages coming through the Eat Salem feed. In between posts, I started drawing...doodles mostly. I usually only draw for myself, so I wouldn't expect anything too...well, I had fun! Let's leave it at that!

If you DO like to draw, or just like to drool over delicious food porn, the Eat Salem twitter/facebook feed (or the collective feeds of Salem's restaurants), is the place to go! :D

More food inspired drawings...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Photography in Minto-Brown Island City Park, Salem, OR

Like many other people who grew up in Salem, Oregon, I've spent countless hours at Minto-Brown Island city park. As a kid I road my bike there, I had my senior pictures taken among the long gone fields of sunflowers, and as an adult the park has turned into the perfect place  for me to relax, exercise, and work on my photography.

At 899 acres, Minto-Brown Island Park is about 50 acres larger than Central Park in New York, and soon to be bigger with the expansion and the bridge work. Most of the land was comprised of two working farms up until the 1970s and parts of the park have since been a working city farm and tree groves owned by paper companies. Today, the park is protected by federal grants that protect and restore flood plains and wetlands. With so much history, and many hidden artifacts telling each story, there is so much to discover at this beautiful, expansive park.

The park is so complex, so beautiful and ever-changing that one day, as my boyfriend and I were taking photos of the park, I realized we can't be the only ones. There were others, just like us, roaming the park with cameras in hand, taking photos of green things, birds, and pretty sunsets. That night I searched Flickr, an online photo sharing site, and found I was right. There WERE others taking gorgeous shots of the very same park. So I started a group and invited everyone I could find to join. and what resulted is this. It is an ever-changing collection of how nature and art photographers see the park. My favorite part about the group is how the images change with the seasons. You can see with the archived photos, how the park changes through the year, and it is beautiful.

New members always welcome! 
(Signup with Flickr is easy, specially if you have a Yahoo account of any kind.)
Minto Brown Daisies Minto Brown Bridge Old Suburban at Minto Brown

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Seeing Music: Light Photography & Guitar Playing

Seeing music....just an experiment I did last night after a bit of frustrated video making. So, can you see Danny Boy? That's what I was playing on my Diddley Bow in this gif I made.

To learn how to make your own Diddley Bow, visit DIY Spirit, part of DIY Studio. It is a lot of fun, and really makes you feel like the instrument is truly 'yours', because YOU made it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Film Reels: Mädchen In Uniform

Film Reels - In which I catch up on my classic movies and then talk about them.

Mädchen In Uniform -(remake 1958)

There are two well known versions of this movie from Germany, but only one available on Netflix right now. I'd love to see the original sometime.The original was set after WWI in a Prussian boarding school for girls. So is the remake, but because it was made in 1958, some of the styles don't quite match the era.

The movie was very emotional and lovely. Historically, it is touted as being the first pro-lesbian movie and is important for having an all girl's cast. Personally, I was more affected by the main character, Manuela's, reaction and inability to adjust to the harsh Prussian school environment. She was known for being a sensitive and shy girl and the traumas of being in such a harsh place worked against her ability to mourn and deal with her grief over the death of her mother. This led her to become obsessed with the affections of the only kind teacher, and slightly forbidden attraction the two shared.

Setting the sexual attraction aside, it is very common for shy mild mannered people to become enamored with a specific teacher that shows them kindness. Especially in high-school, which can be a very rough place for shy people. I've seen it with myself and with others. I remember how devastated when my favorite teacher, the one I looked up to and felt was a positive role model, got cancer and died. I noticed a huge drop in my grades after that time. I also had a few friends who had their own personal favorite teacher that they felt they were almost friends with in high-school. It might be like finding a protector and confidant in a hellish scary place when you are not fitting in. For me it was a boost of confidence that someone thought my work was good and noticed my intelligence.

What I took from the movie, essentially, is that acceptance and love is more important than strict rules and guidelines in developing good adults. Rules have their place, but you need  love and compassion too. I recommend watching this movie, or the original 1931 version if you can find it.