First Day of Autumn

Okay, Summer is officially over.  The days are getting longer and the trees will soon begin changing colors.  If you have the chance, take one last sunset walk on the beach.  If not, here’s a photo of a beach sunset.

Beach Sunset

San Antonio’s River Walk Mosaics

I was able to spend a couple days in San Antonio, Texas.  Most of my time was spent at work, but one evening my company took us on a tour of the city’s River Walk.  One interesting aspect of the tour was a series of mosaics by local artist Oscar Alvarado.

Most of the murals are under the many bridges that cross the San Antonio River.  I wasn’t able to photograph all of the murals, but here are some of my favorites.

The first is a portrait of José Antonio Navarro, a Texas Patriot.  Navarro was one of the original signers the Texas Declaration of Independence, was instrumental in drafting the first state Constitution of Texas, and served three terms in the Texas Senate.

SA Riverwalk Mural 4

The next is a mosaic map of the San Antonio River, with the five historic frontier missions pictured along the river.  The five missions- Mission Concepción, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada and the Alamo- are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

SA Riverwalk Mural 6

This mural is a street map of San Antonio.  I’m not sure what the structure in the upper left represents.  It is interesting, though, and I like the stone bench in front of the mosaic.

SA Riverwalk Mural 3

This beautiful piece shows famous landmarks of San Antonio, including the Alamo and the Tower of Americas.  I’m not sure what the dog has to do with San Antonio, but, hey, I like dogs.

SA Riverwalk Mural 9

This beauty is a strange one to me.  I get the clouds, but I’m not sure where the hills come from.  San Antonio is one of the flattest places I’ve ever seen.  You can see for miles, but there are no hills in sight.

SA Riverwalk Mural 5

This mural is a bit different from the others in that it integrates part of the bridge structure into the art.  The center of the swirl is a cover of some kind.  My guess is the mosaic represents a hurricane or storm and the cover may be part of the flood prevention system.  A hurricane in 1921 did flood San Antonio, killing 50 people.  San Antonio’s River Walk is a direct result of this hurricane and flood.  A bypass channel was designed and built to alleviate flooding.  This man-made section of the San Antonio River became the River Walk.

SA Riverwalk Mural 10

I’ll be honest.  I have no idea what this represents.  I do, however, find it quite beautiful.

SA Riverwalk Mural 7

Oscar Alvarado’s mosaics are just one reason why the River Walk is the top attraction in San Antonio, making it even more popular than the Alamo.  The mixture of old and new architecture is quite fascinating as well.  And it’s a beautiful place to spend time.  If you’re in San Antonio, don’t miss it.

Stone Sculptures

These wonderful sculptures were part of the collection at the now defunct Chinqua Penn Plantation near Reidsville, North Carolina.  Built in the 1920s by tobacco magnate Thomas Jefferson Penn and his wife Betsy, it was once one of the best preserved early twentieth homes in North Carolina.  Eventually, the financial failures of the last owner led to the foreclosure of the property and the sale, at auction, to all of the wonderful art that had been collected by the Penns.

We were able to visit the home a few years before it was sold, while it was still a tourist attraction.  The Penns had collected many works of art from around the world.  These  particular sculptures were outside the gift shop and winery.  I love the expressions on the faces.

Asheville Urban Trail

The Asheville Urban Trail is a 1.7 mile self-guided walking tour that celebrates the art, architecture and history of Asheville.  There are 30 stops on the tour that loops through the historic downtown area.  The entire tour takes about two hours, and there’s a lot more to see along the tour besides the designated stops.

There are five sections of the tour, each marked with its own unique symbol carved into pink granite and embedded in the side walks.  This is the beautiful angel symbol that marks the Thomas Wolfe section.

Asheville Sidewalk Angel

The first section of the tour celebrates the city’s pre-depression boom.  A few of the highlights are the Grove Arcade, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and the huge Flat Iron sculpture.

Another section of the trail celebrates Asheville’s most famous son, Thomas Wolfe.  Among the stops in this section are the “Dixieland,” a bronze replica of Wolfe’s size thirteen shoes, a wonderful abstract sculpture on the side of the Asheville Community Theater, and a beautiful art deco sculpture honoring the history of transportation.  The central wheel on this sculpture can be rotated.

There are also many places and items of interest that are not official stops on the trail.  The Buncombe County Courthouse is a beautiful art deco structure and you’ll pass The Old Kentucky Home, Thomas Wolfe’s mother’s boarding house where the author spent much of his youth.  Also, keep your eyes out for the street art, which is everywhere in the city.

Asheville is a wonderful little city.  The art and architecture are just one aspect of the city.  The food scene is remarkable for a relatively small town.  It’s one of our favorite places and I’m looking forward to our next visit.

 

Painter Essentials 6, by Corel

I recently upgraded from Paint Shop Pro X9 Ultimate to the new Paint Shop Pro 2019 Ultimate.  The Ultimate version of the software comes with a “bonus collection” of software applications that work hand in hand with PSP.  One of them is Painter Essentials 6, a hobbyist, or “lite’ version of the professional design software Painter X.

Painter Essentials 6 allows you to take a create painting-like images.  It’s designed to be used by users with a drawing tablet.  Since I’m using a traditional laptop with a touchpad and keyboard, I’m a bit limited, but it still allowed me to use templates to convert a couple of my photos into “paintings.”

The software allows you to load an image, select templates such as “Impressionist,” “Oil,” “Modern,” “Pastel” and several others.  Once you select your template, you click “Start” and sit back as the software creates your painting.  It’s pretty interesting to watch.  Here’s a before and after view of a photo I converted to an “impressionist” painting.

Of course, you can do a lot more than just let the software create the image for you.  You can use a tablet and stylus to paint your own images.  Painter Essentials 6 allows you to simulate various “surfaces” such as canvas, woodcut, and rough paper.  It also allows you to control the brush strokes.  It will be fun to play with, and I can see the possibility of saving so-so photographs by turning them into virtual paintings.

It’s an interesting tool.  I look forward to learning to use it.

Dukes of Braganza Palace, Guimaraes

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza has seen a lot throughout its history.  Originally built in the 15th century as the residence of Afonso, the first Duke of Braganza, it remained in the family until the end of the century, when it was closed.

Several years later the palace was passed to the House of Aziz, when it was given as dowry to Isabel of Braganza when she wed the Infante Edward, the sixth son of King Manuel I.  For many years it remained unused.

Over the next few centuries, the abandoned palace fell into ruins, as stone from the structure was taken to build or repair roads and structures in the area.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the palace was deemed beyond repair.

During the 1930s, plans were created for the restoration of the palace.  The reconstructed palace was based on an analysis of various medieval palaces across Europe.  The restoration was completed and the Palace of the Dukes of the Braganzas was opened to the public in 1959.

The restored palace was probably much more ornate than the original structure.  The palace served for many years as the Presidential Palace during Antonio Salazar’s Estado Novo regime.

The palace is a beautiful place and well worth a tour.  We spend a couple hours exploring the building and its many beautiful possessions.  In addition to the historical rooms and belongings, there are a couple really nice modern art displays, including a Paolo Neves sculpture and an exhibit of art by local artist José de Guimarães.

Here are a few of the photos from our tour.

River Arts District, Asheville, NC

One of my favorite aspects of the River Arts District is the outdoor art.  Whether you call it graffiti, murals, or street art, just walking through the warehouses of the River Arts District is fun.  Here are a few of my favorites.

This wall on the back side of Summit Coffee has been turned into a beautiful work of art.

RAD Wall Portrait

This work by Asheville artist Dustin Spagnola has a different kind of beauty.  Spagnola has works of art displayed around the world, including in NYC, Japan and Nepal.

Dustin Spagnola Mural

This portrait of the late singer Charles Bradley is another of my favorites.

Charles Bradley

Even storage sheds have been turned into works of art.

RAD Art Shed

Asheville’s River Arts District is a treasure trove for art lovers.  It’s not just the building exteriors.  Over 200 local artists have studio space in the warehouses and buildings of the River Arts District.  It’s a great place to wander through the studios and, if you’re so inclined, to take home a work of art.

Photography and the Art of Seeing

One of my favorite photography books is Photography and the Art of Seeing, by Freeman Patterson.  Patterson presents simple exercises designed to develop a sense of awareness by photographing familiar things and by thinking outside the box.  The book teaches the photographer to observe our surroundings.

On one of my recent morning walks with the dog, I carried my camera and slowed down our walk while trying to be aware of what I had passed countless times over the years.  These are the best of the photographs I returned with.

We live on a couple acres with a really nice section of woods, but Freeman’s point is you can find interesting and beautiful things anywhere.  The exercise of carry my camera and photographing familiar objects is one I like to do from time to time.  It helps keep me observant of everyday things.

On a side note, we’ve been dealing with Hurricane Florence today.  We were located on the northern edge of the storm, so the worst seems to have passed us by.  We’ve had a lot of rain and wind, with a lot of yard debris from the woods, but no damage and no danger to us.  We’ve been lucky.  There are a lot of people that are seeing much worse, so please keep them in your thoughts over the next few days.  Here’s a screenshot of the storm, with our location marked on the map.

Hurricane Screen Shot

Jackson Building, Asheville, NC

When I was young, I wanted to be an architect.  Now, half a century later, I’m still fascinated by great architecture.

Built by developer Lynwood B. Jackson and architect Ronald Greene, the Neo-Gothic Jackson Building is a fascinating structure.  Jackson had purchased a small 27-by-60 foot lot on Pack Square previously owned Tobias Wolfe, father of Asheville’s favorite son, author Thomas Wolfe.  The lot was considered too small for a skyscraper, but Jackson didn’t let that stop him.  He instructed architect Greene to build the tallest building possible and to “go nuts at the top.”  Greene succeeded on both points.

The thirteen story structure holds the record as the world’s tallest building on the smallest lot.  What initially attracted me to the building was its ornate top.  The tower at the top, with its spires, seems more suited to a cathedral than a skyscraper, but it works.  Then there are the four grotesques that jut out from the buildings top corners.  It’s a fascinating building.

Interestingly, the eight-story building next to the Jackson Building, also built by Lynwood Jackson,  was too small for an elevator.  Because of this, the Westall Building shares an elevator with its taller neighbor.

There are so many interesting aspects to the little city of Asheville that it keeps me coming back.  It’s one of my favorite places to visit.

Jackson Building

 

Dollhouses, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the world’s oldest continually-operated museum for the exhibition of American folk art.   The museum has been collecting and exhibiting folk art since it opened in 1957 and now holds over 7,000 pieces of folk art.

On our last visit to Williamsburg, we were lucky to be able to view their dollhouse collection.  The dollhouses ranged from a dollhouse constructed from a wooden crate and filled with handmade furniture to an elaborate, and huge, dollhouse White House.  The dollhouses were made to be played with.  There’s a little farm, complete with animals and fences, and a wonderful cardboard castle.

While the White House was quite impressive, I was much more taken with the more “play friendly” pieces.  They were designed to be played with, not as a display piece.  If I were a child, I’d want something I could actually touch rather than just look at.

The museum is full of wonderful works of art.  We’ve been there several times and there’s always things we haven’t seen before.  If you visit Williamsburg, I highly recommend a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.  You won’t regret it.