Everywhere I look it’s a construction site. Works in progress. Building, re-building, replacing…. Improving. Concrete and wood are my terra firma these days as I fix up my current home for selling and watch the progress of renovating the new home. In both places I bask in the stark beauty of newly painted walls, the smell of fresh-cut pine trim, and the echo of empty space. Seeing the concrete that will soon be hidden away under carpets and flooring is comforting. There’s something grounding about being in the middle of the bare bones of a place, when it’s devoid of all the furnishings and stuff of daily living.
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Sometimes, when I look out over my pond, the sky above is so full of clouds it seems heavier and more solid than the water below. The scene was gloomy the other day, but lovely enough before I dropped the image into Photoshop and brightened the horizon line. I flipped the whole thing upside down. And the rock from Finger Lakes Stone became a frozen, angry sky. Most likely Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting my fabricated landscapes these days. Must search out some color. Soon.
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Long ago my mother used to scold me, “Don’t play with your food.” But I’d keep making hills and valleys in my mashed potatoes anyway. So I guess building fake landscapes is part of my history. And this time of the year, when there’s so much going on, escaping into play-mode is one way I cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
At Grisamore Farms in Locke, NY, there were bins of every kind of squash. Smooth, marled, rough and knobbly. A pebbly squash lay against a mottled one, reminding me of a fertile field under a cloudy sky.
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There was rock all over the place at Finger Lakes Stone. Boulders. Slabs of sliced rock. Piles of stones of all sizes. Maybe it’s a gift—I don’t know— to be able to go to a rock quarry and imagine mountains from stacked pieces of rock, to see things as much bigger and grander than they are. Then, the challenge is to convince others that the mountains in your mind are real. In Photoshop, I maneuvered my images of rocks to make a fabricated landscape with a rocky frame. I added hazy white scattering between layers of rocks to make the sky and horizon more believable.
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My kids used to accuse me of not knowing how to play, not being silly enough. And it’s true. Silliness never came naturally to me. But now, photo-shopping allows me to stretch the truth and lie. To make things up. To play. Even when I’m depressed.
The bellies were plump and sagging on all the animals at the farm where I was doing a class photo-shoot. Back home, by the time I dropped my images into Photoshop, I couldn’t remember exactly whose belly I’d shot, a sheep’s or a goat’s or a horse’s. No matter. For my fabricated landscape of the week, I was turning whoever’s hairy belly it was into a heavenly body. I placed it over the upended, very somber trunk of a tree that, in my mind, resembled a flowing river. This is about as silly as I get.
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In the middle of a bright sunny day fatigue was overtaking me. All I wanted to do was nap. There was no way I could muster up the energy to do yard work so, instead, I promised myself ice cream if I could finish up one more fabricated landscape in Photoshop. I got lost in the project, as I knew I would, forgetting the ice cream and the fatigue, as well as whatever was depressing and stressing me. I worked away until the day grew dark and it was time for dinner. And in the end, I felt inspired, proud, and productive.
In Photoshop, the beautiful slope of a horse’s back became a moonlit hill. The belly of another horse fit neatly into the curve of the back to make a night sky. Then, using the dodge tool, I etched out a moon into the smooth dark horse-belly sky.