Celebrating the Photographer Ansel Adams

Today is the birthday of American photographer, Ansel Adams. I know we’ve all seen his images, heard about his commitment to conservation… and photographers certainly know about the Zone System he championed. So today, on his birthday, let’s celebrate his art, as well as the contributions he made to the art of photography.

I’ve always been intrigued by Adams’s technical abilities with photographs. When I was in college, I even “pitched” the idea of receiving college credit to attend his workshop one summer. My instructor agreed to the college credit IF I wrote a proposal and a paper after the workshop. Her agreement encouraged me to work on a plan to make it happen. My next step was parental approval so I devised a proposal to travel to California via train, and my parents agreed. Hot diggity dawg! I was going to apply to study with Ansel Adams, albeit a short amount of time, but it was time with Ansel Adams. I was sure he would teach me the secret of great photography. Unfortunately, Mr. Adams passed before I got my plan off the ground so I was never his student – in person.

After a long absence from photography, I now find myself embracing digital photography which in many ways is like re-learning photography. Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography has a lot of benefits, but, if I’m truthful, there is a part of me that misses film photography too. I have a collection of Ansel Adams books and I am still learning from him. His methods still hold teachable moment even though the medium has changed. I would like to think he would have enjoyed all the new developments in this medium we call photography.

Happy birthday! This Zone System is for you Mr. Adams.

If you want to join the party, HERE is a video interview with Ansel Adams. Enjoy!

Museum Monday: Museums Closed on Monday?

Museum Monday Header

I love to visit museums, especially when I am traveling. On some subconscious level, I kind of instinctively know that most museums are generally closed on Mondays. I don’t think I ever knew with any certainty the exact reason why they were closed. I just assumed that it was because they are open on the weekends and need a well-deserved day off.

Well, I recently discovered that, while that may be true, there are additional reasons, like cleaning, preparing and moving exhibits, etc. Why didn’t I realize that? I take for granted that museums are magic and the exhibits magically appear, cleaned, curated, labeled, and ready for my visit. Yeah, well, everyone has to grow up sometime, so give me a moment. I just discovered my version of Utopia and I share the same reality. Never fear! I still believe they are magical and I have a solution. Let’s start a “Museum Monday” each month, right here to pick up the slack. We will just be doing our part for museums everywhere.

Are there interesting exhibits at your area museum right now? Should those of us who believe in the magic of museums plan to visit?

Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent!


By unidentified photographer (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

American artist, John Singer Sargent, was born 162 years ago today (January 12, 1856). John Singer Sargent was apparently THE portrait artists back in the day. The photograph captures the artist in his studio. However, if you look closely at the painting behind him, you will get a glimpse at the portrait that probably brought him the most notoriety. Why this portrait? Well, the subject of the portrait was Virginie Gautreau. Madame Gautreau happened to be the “it girl” of Paris in the late 1800s. But the subject herself was not the reason the painting was famous.

It turns out that this particular portrait was quite controversial. The controversy surrounding the portrait was due to the fact that John Singer Sargent elected to paint Madame Gautreau in a dress with one bejeweled shoulder strap that had fallen from her alabaster shoulder. (I will give you a moment to GASP! and clutch your pearls!) This state of “undress” was too intimate, and apparently crossed the line, because it created quite a scandal. The portrait could not be exhibited which is why you see it in the studio. If you look closely, the artist even re-painted the strap in its proper place, but, as the saying goes, “the horse was already out of the barn”. Once you have collected yourself and recovered from the shock, I encourage you to read the book, Strapless by Deborah Davis.

And, speaking of books… if you are a bibliophile like me, I will be starting a “virtual” book club here on the website this year. I do hope you will join me on the last Thursday of the month to discuss books, books, and more books. But, until we officially kick off our year of reading, tell me what books you are enjoying (or have enjoyed) reading. (Scroll down and use the Comment box to share the book(s) you are enjoying.)

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo!

By Guillermo Kahlo (1871-1941) (Sotheby’s) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico on July 6, 1907. Today, Kahlo is considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. While she enjoyed some success in her lifetime, she was primarily known as the wife of another famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. However, since Kahlo’s death in 1954, her fame has grown exponentially and is a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “Fridamania”. But, I sometimes wonder, what do we really know about Fida Kahlo? Sure. Her image is on merchandise, people dress in her likeness, … but what do we know about her art? So, I put together a little “Top Ten” to get you started:

  1. Kahlo’s dreamlike imagery is often considered surrealistic; however, Kahlo never considered herself a Surrealist. She maintained that she just painted her own reality.
  2. Estimates of Kahlo’s portfolio are somewhere between 150 to 200 paintings. Approximately 55 of these paintings are self-portraits. This is no small feat since she was in constant pain and experience periods of time in which she was bedridden.
  3. Kahlo originally started painting in earnest during her recovery from a horrific bus accident. During this recovery period, she allegedly considered becoming a medical illustrator as a way to combine her interest in art and science. While she did not become a medical illustrator, I think many of her paintings reflect the marriage of these interests.
  4. While the majority of Kahlo’s work is autobiographical in subject matter, they blended realism and fantasy. I know everyone wants to add a label and place things in one particular box. I think Kahlo’s work is the example that sometimes, that just isn’t possible. Her genre was all her own. Her style evolved, changed, and adapted over time and physical limitations. But, the commonality is that she always seemed to remain true to her own voice. What do you think? Is her work one particular genre for you?
  5. Kahlo and Rivera shared an interest in Pre-Columbian art. Look for some of the influences in her paintings. (Here is a hint. She was particularly fond of Pre-Columbian jewelry, but there are other nods to Pre-Columbian influences as well.)
  6. Her first significant sale came in 1938 when Edward G. Robinson bought four of her paintings. He reportedly paid $200(US) each. Since her work sells in the millions of dollars now, I would say the film star had quite the eye as an art collector.
  7. The following year, 1939, the Louvre Museum purchased one of Kahlo’s paintings for its collection. This acquisition made her the first Mexican artist featured in the Louvre’s collection.
  8. Style. I suppose we cannot discuss Kahlo without discussing her personal style. Our modern term would be “brand”, but for Kahlo, it was much, much, much more than fashion, style, or brand. Sure. It was all of those things, but it was also a way to emphasize her ancestry. As another branch of her art, it also allowed her to make her own statement about feminism and anti-colonialist ideals. And, her clothing style served an additional purpose by allowing her to camouflage some of her physical injuries.
  9. Kahlo’s first solo exhibition was in April 1953 at Galería Arte Contemporaneo. Kahlo, who was on doctor ordered bed rest at the time, had her four-poster bed moved to the gallery and arrived at the opening via ambulance. Wow! What a night that must have been.
  10. Kahlo’s works are considered a national cultural heritage of Mexico, which prohibits them from being exported.

If you are interested in getting a first-hand look at some of Kahlo’s paintings, the Dallas Museum of Art has an exhibition through July 16, 2017, which includes some of her work. This is the only exhibition scheduled for the United States, so start planning.


Frida Kahlo Wikipedia

Fida Kahlo Biography

Frida Kahlo: Paintings, Biography, and Quotes of Frida Kahlo

The Frida Kahlo Phenomenon at The Dali Museum, Florida

Happy Birthday Michelangelo Buonarroti!

By Daniele da Volterra - The Collection Online, The Metropolitan Museum of Art., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50572617

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 6, 1475-February 18, 1564)

Happy 542nd birthday to the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti! To celebrate, I thought it might be fun to play a little “Michelangelo Trivia”, shall we?

1)   Was Michelangelo a/an:

    1. architect
    2. painter
    3. poet
    4. sculptor
    5. all of the above.

Answer: All of the above. I think he may have been the poster-boy for the term “Renaissance Man”.

2)   It is believed that Michelangelo signed only one piece of his work. Which famous work did he sign?

    1. David
    2. Pietà
    3. “The Last Judgment” on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling
    4. “The Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Answer: The Pietà (which is housed in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy) is believed to be the only work signed by Michelangelo. In case you are curious, Michelangelo carved his name on the sash running across Mary’s chest. (Incidentally, he was in his early 20’s when he carved this beautiful sculpture.) On a personal note, this is my favorite sculpture…EVER.

3)   Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel lying down.

    1. True
    2. False

Answer: False. The artists (and his assistants) used a unique system of wooden scaffolds that attached to the walls. The scaffold system was designed by Michelangelo and enabled them to stand while painting.

4)   Where might one see the original sculpture of David when traveling to Florence, Italy?

    1. Uffizi Gallery
    2. Piazza della Signoria
    3. Galleria dell’Accademia
    4. Piazzale Michelangelo

Answer: The original sculpture is housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia. A replica of the sculpture is in the original outdoor location at Piazza della Signoria. And, as a bonus, a bronze replica is at Piazzale Michelangelo.

I hope you enjoyed this little trivia, and maybe even learned a little factoid. Most of all, I hope this piqued your curious enough to look at, and appreciate, some of Michelangelo’s work today.

Thanks for playing!




Top Five Reasons I Liked the Degas to Picasso Art Exhibit

I had the opportunity to visit the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art for the Town and Country: From Degas to Picasso exhibit. Oh MY GOODNESS! I liked this exhibit for SO many reasons. I will give you my top five:


(Yes, these are lousy images. I only had an iPhone 4 on me at the time. ‘Cause who knew I could take photos?!)


They allowed non-flash photography of the artwork – because “art is meant to be shared”. W-H-A-T?! Now there’s a concept. I have been to many museums that do not allow photography and, invariably, there is someone snapping photos anyway. It has always felt like those of us who play by the rules are the ones being punished. But at this exhibition, they actually embraced the change in technology and encouraged sharing the art on Instagram and Twitter with the #bgfa hashtag. Seriously, if there are folks who are going to take photos anyway, might as well use it to promote the art, exhibit, and/or gallery. Genius!


The Bellagio Gallery is an intimate venue that even provides a sitting area with books related to the art exhibited. This provided an opportunity to sit and enjoy the artwork a little longer, maybe peruse a few related books to read a little more about some of the works… The intimate size of the venue also allows you to get close to the artwork and appreciate details. However, it is also large enough to step away from the works for a new vantage point – you know, the way art was meant to be appreciated. More genius!


The subject matter, or curation, of the “theme” of the exhibit was both interesting and unique. The exhibit focuses on the resulting divide of the rural and city life sparked by the Industrial Revolution. Each artist’s vantage point adds a new dimension to the subject.


You are also able to see the beginning influence of the new medium of photography make an appearance in how some artists began “framing” their subject matter. (The Gallery provides an audio tour of the exhibit that is included with your ticket. I highly recommend saying YES when they ask if you would like the audio.)


The Renoir… “Children on the Seashore“… I have no words. It has to be seen. And, it has to be seen in person. Up close…Far away… From the side… From the other side. …you get the idea.

Kudos to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Year in Review

I have spent some time this month reviewing 2016 and preparing for 2017. So, I thought I would share a quick overview of 2016 accomplishments:


I “assisted” my talented sister-in-law with a photo shoot for a magazine. Actually, one of her images became the cover of the magazine. I put assisted in quotes because I really just showed up for the party and watched her do her magic. I am so grateful for the opportunity. Did I say she is talented? Yes. Well, you can see some of her work here: http://www.cindyangerer.com/


I donated a framed version of this image to the Taste of Salado fundraiser for the Public Arts League of Salado.

New Season Fog, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015

I am happy to announce that I did not have to do the “walk of shame” with the work under my arm at the end of the event. Thank you to the generous supporter who bid on my work, as well as supporting the Arts in Central Texas.


I had the opportunity to visit friends in Las Cruces, New Mexico and my gracious hostess, Peggy, introduced me to some of the wonderful galleries in Las Cruces. It was such a fun visit with wonderful hosts. I love New Mexico.


I think I already posted about participating in the 15-Minute A Day Creative Challenge in April. But, since this is a recap, here is a peek at the first thing I created, in 15 minutes (or more) per day. This old car did take several 15 minute blocks of time. And, while it isn’t what I consider finished or gallery-worthy, it represents my commitment to a daily creative endeavor.

Watercolor, Copyright © 2016 SuZan Alexander


I am shamed to report that there were not a lot of artistic endeavors worth sharing in May – unless painting the Master Bedroom counts. I did, however, continue with my daily/weekly/monthly goal for post-processing images.


In June, I hosted my first give-away. I worked on a Watercolor Batik that I offered to my Newsletter “Tribe”. The beauty of watercolor batik is that each final work is unique. You may use the same paint, same paint colors, the same process, but each one takes on their own unique look.

Watercolor Batik, Copyright
© 2016 SuZan Alexander


I made a trip to Palo Duro Canyon and the Cadillac Ranch in July and I can’t wait to return.

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2016 SuZan Alexander


August was SERIOUS. I met with a CPA, as well as the Comptroller to set-up bookkeeping for the Studio so I could start offering my image for sale online.


This isn’t art related, but, in September, I cut my hair so I could fulfill my wish of contributing my hair to make wigs for cancer patients and celebrate my own survivor status.


The Texas Professional Photographers Association (TPPA) held an event in San Marcos that I was happy to get a chance to attend. What a great event and even better group of photographers. I can not wait to attend next year.


I participated in Flood the Streets with Art and left five images around Salado for shoppers to find.


I am happy to report that I FINALLY completed organizing and post-processing images with a few days of 2016 to spare. Now, I can start 2017 “fresh”.

If you made it this far, thanks! Just so I do not write another long post like this one, I plan to be more consistent with my blog and social media posts in 2017. I even have a plan that I am very excited about and I look forward to sharing it with you.  Tomorrow is the second month of the 2017 party, so… Let’s get going!

Random Acts of Art

Today I placed five photographs around the Village of Salado as part of the 2016 Flood the Streets with Art. I am not sure that five images actually qualifies as a “flood”, so perhaps I should say that I “sprinkled” the streets with art. I like the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” and a “Random Acts of Art” was certainly in my wheelhouse.

If you found one of the images, welcome to Shades of Sienna Studio. If you are taking the time to visit; thank you for your time and participation. Please let me know (in the comments) which image you found, or where you found the art, I would love to know they all when to “good homes”. If you are shy, that’s okay. I still appreciate you stopping by.

I wish you all peace, joy, abundance, good health, and a day without shoving or stress.