Under the Weather


heavy clouds
churn with thunder
cattails stand still

rain slicked streets
reflect the clouds
leaving town



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Image: Madison Square by George Luks, c1920, Wikipedia

Words: haiku, c.b.w. 2016. In response to Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompt #344: under the weather.


The Color of Summer


To capture just the sliver of a moment bathed in light. So fleeting, yet constant, it’s a moment we all know but have experienced in different ways. Truth is so carefully hidden in blurred vision and brilliant flashes of color. The red of a poppy jumps and finds the fingertip. A yellow tinge blazes with the heat of a hazy summer. An August afternoon clings to memory, even as winter rages with snow and ice. Dry grass crunches underfoot, while the wind whistles through the weeds. Muggy air hangs heavy and leaves a sheen on the cheeks. Realism is more than details and finite objects – It is a feeling,  a sense, or a vision that leads to the truth.


Claude Monet, Poppies (Near Argenteuil), 1873
Image Courtesy of wikipaintings 

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When a student asks me the point of Impressionsim, they get a lecture that sounds much like this free write. Impressionist works take you to a place, a time, or a moment that is real, but the image leaves room for you to fill in the blanks with your own experience. How beautiful is that?

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c.b.w. 2014


Pondering Pissarro


With the same fervor as Monet and Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro has captured my imagination with his unique style and perspective.  He is well known for making significant contributions to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as he influenced the likes of Renoir, Cézanne, and Van Gogh. While his accomplishments are monumental, I find myself drawn to his work because of his emphasis on finding beauty in unexpected places.  His focus on simple subjects, rather than ornate is refreshing and asks the viewer to look beyond the obvious.

Self-Portrait (1903), Camille Pissarro

In the National Gallery of London, I was mesmerized by a Pissarro painting, (The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage, 1877), not only due to its sheer beauty, but the epiphany it brought.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to Impressionist painters, but I never fully understood why they effected me so deeply.  Monet and Van Gogh always conjure an emotional bubble that often translates into inexplicable tears, while Renoir and Degas soothe the edges of my soul with their graceful images.

While sitting on a bench at the National Gallery and soaking in Pissarro’s brush strokes, I started to ask myself why Impressionism speaks to me with so much force. At first, I mused how Impressionist paintings seem to depict what the world looks like through the rain – my favorite kind of weather.  Whether it be a field of flowers through a water-streamed window or the streets of Paris caught in a downpour, the scene is blurred and refracted.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was just a small part of the puzzle.  I strolled through the Impressionist wing of the museum, absorbing the likes of Monet, Renoir, and Seurat, until the answer slowly started to materialize.

These “blurry” paintings allow for imagination.  Mood and atmosphere are created by the artist, but the individual viewer gets to decide the story and the minute details.  Prior to Impressionism, the goal was to create as much realism as possible. The artist strived to portray everything with immaculate detail and gave the viewer little to do but look.  While amazing accomplishments, (and really quite beautiful) there is no room to wonder.  My creative spirit needs to play with the images I see and fill in the blanks.

Pissarro is often viewed as a father figure to Impressionism, so it seems fitting that one of  his paintings should lead to a new understanding of my admiration for the genre.  Below, I’ve put together a small slideshow that includes some of my favorite Pissarro paintings, including the painting that triggered my epiphany.

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Impressionists gave tradition a total make-over.  Free will became part of each painting with as much emphasis as color and subject matter.  The combination is intoxicating and explains why I lose myself so easily in the blurred edges of reality.

What kind of art speaks to you and why?

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All images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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c.b. 2012

The Van Gogh Alive Experience


Imagine walking into a darkened room where the delicate notes of Handel and Schubert play in the background.  Enormous screens adorn every wall from floor to ceiling as well as large pillars scattered throughout a wide, open space.  On the floor several platforms rise up, all covered in white canvas screens.  There is no light, but for a few small bulbs shining from projectors on the ceiling. The darkness is eerie and disorienting, but anticipation builds for a moment of magic.  The music rises and then it happens . . . . brilliant colors and the brushstrokes of a master artist wrap the room in a vibrant embrace.  To see a Van Gogh painting in person is a moving experience, but to see his paintings move across multiple screens and swirl around me is something else entirely.

A traveling exhibit known as Van Gogh Alive, tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through the chronicle of his paintings.  His time in Paris, those wild sunflowers, the infamous fight with Gaughin, the only painting he ever sold,  the pain of mental illness, his love of life and nature  . . . it’s all there in Vincent’s own hand.

Self-Portrait, 1889, Vincent Van Gogh (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

As his paintings scroll across the screens, quotes in his writing rotate on two different walls. Despite his inner turmoil, Van Gogh’s soul was one of love, wonder, and hope.  One quote in particular stood out to me as it truly sums up the character of Van Gogh:

I would rather die of passion than of boredom.

Put me on that list as well.

The immense scale of the exhibit gives viewers a chance to walk through Van Gogh’s work and appreciate every speck of paint and every erratic stroke.  Everything from sketches, finished paintings, and even handwritten letters and journal entries fill the screens.  While they may not be the real thing, the projections have an equally strong emotional impact.  I’ll be the first to admit, I was deeply effected when swallowed whole by Starry Night.  My favorite painting surrounded me on all sides, lit up, and full of Van Gogh’s passion.  I was standing right in the middle of that star speckled navy blue sky and for a moment, I had to fight the tears.

Van Gogh lives on in a way he never could have imagined and I like to think he’d approve.  While an unorthodox art exhibit, Van Gogh Alive is a truly remarkable experience.

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Here’s a peek at the exhibit via the Arizona Science Center:

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For more information on Van Gogh Alive, click here for the official website.

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c.b. 2012

Wandering in London, Part 3


I’ve been busy  . . .

June 15, 2011

Today I was feeling all historical again, so I went to Fleet Street where the history of London peeks from every corner.  Fleet Street was once London’s center for journalism, banking, and a number of pubs, but today its a busy street filled with lawyers, bankers, and tourists.  The highlights for me were the memorial of Temple Bar, Number 1 Fleet Street (Dickens used this bank as the model for Tellsons’s in A Tale of Two Cities), Prince Henry’s room (from the 17th century and its still there!), Hoare’s Bank, and Mitre Tavern.  In addition, it was really interesting to see how Londoners hold onto the past even thought the present keeps pushing towards the future.  Old signs and storefronts remain in place even when something new takes over.  For example, there might be a deli or a salon inhabiting a building but the sign for a newspaper from bygone days remains firmly in place.

Off the main road there was just as much to explore.  On one of those sidetreets, Fetter Lane, I got one of my favorite pictures so far:

During my first trip to London, the tour guide (back when I went with tours instead of on my own) took the group to a church that still bore the damage from the German blitz during WWII. My pictures from that trip did not turn out well and I’ve always wanted another chance.  During my next two trips I searched for this church, but never found it.  This time, however, a little bit of wandering and an extra dose of luck brought me back to St. Clement Danes.  Not only do I have some great pictures to add to my lessons on WWII for my students, but I gained even more respect for a city that wears its wounds with pride and reverence.

Before I left for London I read a blog that outlined the five best places to write in London and she had mentioned the Royal Festival Hall.  I was close enough to that very spot, so I headed towards The Strand and then crossed the Thames at Waterloo Bridge. According to the blog, the fourth floor was a good spot and she was right!  Large windows offered a great view of the river and despite the number of people occupying the other tables it was remarkably quiet.  I started a new short story and simply enjoyed the ambience of creativity.  Just to shake things up I went exploring and found another great spot on the 5th floor, the Balcony Terrace.  Not only do you get a great view of London, but you can also hear the goings on down on the embankment.  More detailed posts on the South Bank are forthcoming.  There are a number of reasons why I keep walking along that side of the river, so stay tuned!

June 16, 2011

With rain threatening and me on my last pair of dry shoes, I opted to stay indoors and do another museum day.  The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square seemed like the perfect way to spend the day . . . and it was!  I visited just about every exhibition hall, but I naturally hovered over my favorite artists.  I sat and admired Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks and then learned all about Britain’s most famous painters including J.M.W. Turner.  From there I bumped into Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Peter Paul Rubens.  My heart, however, belongs to the Impressionists, so the bulk of the day was given to Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, and Pissarro.  Each of their works inspired a number of ideas for characters I hope will populate a story or two in the future.  In particular, Pissarro spoke the loudest with his painting The Boulevard Montmarte at Night.

After the museum, I wandered through the side streets around Trafalgar and eventually ended up at huge bookstore, Waterstones.  I don’t know why, but I always manage to find a bookstore wherever I go.  And no matter how much I try to resist, I always have to go inside!  This is probably the third or fourth Waterstones I’ve been through already, but in this particular store I noticed their catch phrase.  As a burgeoning writer, I found it to be a fantastic source of inspiration . . .  “Feel Every Word.”

Click for much more . . .

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