Friday, August 18, 2017

Sunshine at the Sunflower Farm

A friend and I were eager to visit the sunflowers at the Pope Conservancy Farm, located just a short distance from Madison. Upon entering the parking area, I was already impressed; the large swath of grassed land was trimmed and had white lines painted to show denote parking spaces. A traffic attendant directed people to available parking spots. Signs indicated where we were to proceed. A few sprinkles on the windshield, we grabbed our rain jackets – just in case. As we walked up the slight incline to the sunflower field, I noticed a weak patch of blue amidst the very overcast skies. Perhaps things will change, I thought....
Neatly clipped paths led us along the outer perimeter of the sunflower fields. Every so often, some short sections of the field were cleared so visitors could walk into the field just a bit and take photos. Some took photos of their family; others selfies, and still others focused on the sunflowers. The nearly 500,000 plants were just waiting to be photographed, their heads proudly facing the sun. As we were putzing around taking photos (it's nice to be along with a fellow artist; both are eager to explore and take photos, rather than being bored after a minute or two), I noticed that the sky became increasingly more blue.  

Soon, the clouds had dissipated, and the sun was free to cast its glow on the yellow petals. The nine acres of sunflowers made such a beautiful sight. What a great place for sneaking in a photo of myself!

Bees were busy flitting from sunflower to sunflower, whose heads were heavily laden with pollen and ripe with nectar. Zooming in gave opportunities for capturing other views.

The clipped paths led visitors along fields of corn, soybeans, and prairie. 

A few monarchs were spotted fluttering about, landing on various wildflowers.

What a great place to spend the morning with a friend!

When talking with some volunteers at the site, I learned that the Conservancy is a popular place for school trips. Students (grade 4 is a popular year, as this grade focuses on Wisconsin history) have many opportunities to learn about how Native Americans and early settlers used the land and the types of crops they raised. Some thematic gardens had informative signs and some artifacts were also present. I learned that the seeds from the dried plants are harvested in late November or early December. 
The Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy help the farmer (see farm in the distance) through the sale of sunflower seeds to the public. Interestingly, nearly a third of the crop will have already been eaten by birds prior to harvest – nearly 4,000 pounds of snitching! 

There still are a few more days left to Sunflower Days (Aug 12-20). If you're in the area, come and visit! Great for the whole family!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Reflected Pavilion, Olbrich

via Instagram
My newest artwork: Reflected Pavilion, Olbrich
Oil Pastel. Madison, WI

Instead of painting the pavilion itself, I focused on the imagery within the adjoining pool. If you haven't visited the Olbrich Gardens with its Thai pavilion (the only one in North America), you're missing out on a scenic, free botanical garden.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Marly napping with his toys #teddybeardog #melissaenderle #pet #dog

Marly napping with his toys #teddybeardog #melissaenderle #pet #dog

Sleeping with the Chicken

All that fetching and chasing after balls with weasels has tuckered out this furry pal. While I was drawing in my bedroom, I caught Marly napping with three of his "choix du jour" toys: Poulet the chicken (Marly was using it as a pillow), Squirrel, and Weasel (a furry tail-like creature attached to a motorized ball). 

Gotta be quick! Just moments after I snapped the first picture, Marly awoke and slumber party was over.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Statuary of the Wisconsin State Capitol

For those willing to walk up the winding stairway to the base of the domed area of the capitol building, some additional artistic creations await. As you circumnavigate the observation deck, you will notice four groups of statuary made from Bethel White Vermont granite.  Completed between 1911 and 1915, they were carved by American master sculptor, Karl Bitter. The sculptures are arranged in pyramidal groups of three, with the central figure standing on a raised base and about 12 feet high. On each side of are seated figures, each about 5 feet high. Each group are meant to symbolize characteristics of Wisconsin and its citizens.
Overlooking East Washington Avenue is the group representing Knowledge. The seated figures, representing the inherited knowledge base, conduct research in scrolls/books. The central figure, reminding me of Michelangelo's male sculptures, is depicted as one who contemplates the significance of the world. He builds upon his own studies with past historians who have recorded their observations and experiences. Religious faith and knowledge is also emphasized here, along with worldly insight.     

Overlooking Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is the group representing "Faith" - an aspect that Bitter saw as an important in the lives of Wisconsin citizens.  These female figures bow their heads in humility and obedience, revering a higher power and respecting the civil law. Love, charity, and strength are also exuded by this trio.
This group of figures, facing the northwest direction towards Washington Avenue, signifies Prosperity and Abundance. As the second group of all-females. they are shown with symbols such as an overflowing vase of fruit and cornucopias of plenty. The standing figure extends her hand as if to give to others. This sculptural set emphasizes the rich farmland of the state, along with industrial and natural resources. Such abundance benefits the citizens and its government.

Strength is what the trio facing the West Washington Avenue embodies. The central figure holds a shield and sword, signifying his readiness to defend his country. One of the seated figures is very muscular, conveying physical strength and endurance. The other figure, although also muscular, is blind, emphasizing that the service and defence requires more than just brute strength; it also requires insightful, knowledgeable individuals.

Resource: Wisconsin State Capitol Guide and History

Milkweed and the monarch #melissaenderle #butterfly #tenneypark #madison

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Caught in the Act

Having a puppy around, you never know what surprises you might find.
No need to look into Marly's mouth; the carnage around is reminder enough that chewing is one of Marly's favorite pastimes. (Fetching is #1). 

Needless to say, I had to do a little "surgery" on a few critters.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Liberty and the Branches

Right below the rotunda, one can find four beautiful mosaics. Made by Kenyon Cox, Liberty and the branches of government are represented. Each measures about 28x20' and contains about 10,000 pieces of glass. The tiny hand-cut pieces are made from many different types of glass, including opaque, colored, shiny, and matte, with backings of aluminum and copper.  Considered some of the finest glass mosaics in the world, the varied glass types create a strong dimensional effect.

Liberty mosaic

Justice mosaic

Justice mosaic (detail)

Legislation mosaic

Government mosaic

Friday, June 23, 2017

Madison State Capitol Dome interior through Different Lenses

As part of a photowalk with a featured guest photographer, we spent most of our time in the Madison State Capitol. It was the first time for Olympus Trailblazer photographer Frank T Smith to visit the city and its magnificent landmark. Like others who come to visit, Smith was impressed by its beauty and attention to detail. For the next few hours, we  explored the interior and observation deck, seeking photographic inspiration.
Photographed with my 12-50mm lens (24-100mm equivalent)

The ornamental frame surrounding the central dome glimmered in the sunlight, setting off the swirling 34 foot mural. Painted in 1912 by Edwin Blashfield, "Resources of Wisconsin" features twelve women holding products of Wisconsin such as tobacco, wheat, and lead.

8mm fish-eye lens
As it was an event sponsored by Olympus, the company provided a camera body and lens for people to test out. I had a chance to try out a wide angle lens (7-14mm). I also got a chance to take a few shots with Frank's fisheye 8mm lens. It was fun to try the lens out, but not something I'd go right out and buy.

7-14mm lens
It was fun seeing how different lenses could render different views of the same subject. 

See more photos of the State Capitol on my Flickr page.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Block Printing of India

A video shared by my friend reminded me of why I love the textiles of India so much. Each step reveals the artistry and intricacy that is so lovingly performed.                                                                    

The textile lover that I am, the Anokhi Museum in Jaipur was a perfect place to visit when in the Pink City. Along with informative displays on the history of block printing in India, they had a few craftsmen doing demonstrations.
I especially enjoyed watching the man carving the wood block. It amazed me how such intricate, narrow lines could be formed by such simple tools. Each stroke was made with confident precision. Definitely not a beginner piece!

Holding up a finished block
Floral block detail with chisels
Three blocks that are needed to form one print. Precision is needed for both the carving and in alignment of the inked blocks.
Printing on a small handkerchief cloth

Stamping on a resist (in Gujarat, India)

In addition to printing with multiple blocks, a resist might be added, the cloth immersed in a dye bath, and the cloth washed, dried, and re-printed multiple times. So next time you see a hand-printed piece of fabric, you'll appreciate the artistry and understand why it is more expensive than that commercial knock-off.