21 February 2012

The Colorful Frescoes of Rila Monastary

One beautiful and very hot day in June, we visited Rila Monastery, in the mountains 117km south of Sofia, Bulgaria.  And I had my camera with me.

ceiling detail with the baptism of Christ,  Rila Monestary
Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century  by the hermit St Ivan of Rila, who lived in a tiny cave in the hills above this site. The monastery was built by his students, and over centuries grew to become the largest and most important center for religious and cultural activities in the country.  During the Ottoman Empire rule of Bulgaria 1396-1878, the monastery took on the role of bulwark of the Bulgarian cultural identity in the face of foreign occupation, and a destination for pilgrimages from all over the Balkan region.

The interior courtyard of Rila Monastery and the Cathedral Рождество Богородично
We hired a driver for the day because I heard heard the bus trips don't allow much time to visit before you must to return to Sofia.  When we arrived in Rila our driver offered to come back in one hour to pick us up and take us to another place.   I showed him my camera and shook my head. Just leave me here. Come back tomorrow maybe.  Erling laughed, and offered to call the driver sometime before dark. My Ornamentalist Enabler.

painted doorway in the monastery

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bulgarian culture and identity enjoyed a renaissance during the National Revival.  During this period Rila Monastery was destroyed by a fire, and rebuilt as we see it today, using a design typical of the Revival style of architecture and decoration.

Surrounding the church at the center of the courtyard, is the pleasant, four-story high residence of the monastery, decorated with simple painted designs in black and white and red, in geometric and floral motifs.
  These areas reminded me of the old mission churches in California.

Erling studying a panel on the Sin of False Confession
The domed porch surrounding the church is painted with intensely colorful frescoes, which have been recently cleaned and restored and really glow. I could almost hear and feel the color.   Especially that blue.  Every surface is covered with scenes of stories from the bible painted in pure, vivid hues.

Christ depicted in one of the domes of the porch
Completed in 1846,  the frescoes are the work of the famous Bulgarian muralist Zahari Zograf and his brother, the icon artist Dimitar Zograf, as well as many master artists from the schools of  Bansko, Samokov and Razlog.

In the spaces between domes are illustrations of stories from the Bible
Orthodox art observes a rigid standard of stylistic representation of sacred figures.  In between these iconic scenes however, are moments of decorative brilliance representative of the Bulgarian revival of folk art.

Archangels: detail of a fresco in the Rila porch
The palette is pigment-based and uses some lovely combinations of gold and green, blue and red, rose and brown.  In some places one of the red pigments has turned black, possibly due to exposure, or from a chemical reaction to the fumes from gas lamps that had been in use in the past.

ornamental elements support the architecture
I spent well over two hours studying the porch frescoes before taking a break and enjoying some Bulgarian donuts and a stroll around the rest  of the grounds, visiting the museum and touring the enormous monastery kitchens.  The inside of the cathedral was under restoration but still breathtaking, with an iconostasis [by Athanasios Taladuro of Thessalonica] a spectacular, intricately carved and gilt wall of icons.

Archangel Michael  / Архангел Михаил
Erling and I returned to the porch where I got out my 105mm lens and had another long look the frescoes and discussed their meaning.  Later we reconnected with our friendly driver,  who took us up the mountain to the 1/2 mile trail that leads through the most beautiful woods to the small cave where St Ivan spent his ascetic life.

A priest at Rila Monastery

The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila is UNESCO World Heritage site which receives nearly nine hundred thousand visitors each year. It is still an active  monastery and a pilgrimage site.  
There are volunteers inside the church who will give you a green cloak to wear over your head and shoulders if you are not modestly attired. I always travel with my own scarf  in case I need to cover my head in  the church, mosque, or temple I am visiting.

One of the priests was keeping a dignified watch over the area to make sure the younger tourists  behaved.  I showed him my camera monitor after taking this picture and asked his permission to use this photo.

More from Bulgaria:   Opus Lisatum
Erling Wold:  "Certitude and Joy"   mp3
performed by the Sofia Philharmonic, June 2, 2011

In this post I wish to express my profound gratitude to my teacher and mentor, Dr. Otto Mower, with whom I traveled to Bulgaria in 1980 on my first visit to Europe, as part of a study tour of art history.    That I became  a decorative artist was in large part due to his influence and encouragement.  Dr. Mower passed away on February 7, 2012.  


all images in this post by Lynne Rutter, Bulgaria June 2011 
click on images to view larger

17 February 2012

Top 5 Policies to Make Your Blog Better

I read somewhere  on a list of top 10 blog tips, that people like numbers and lists.  Post titles such as  "12 tips for faster sewing" or "The top 7 Color Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" will attract more attention and appeal to people needing guidance on your subject. Hence the title of this post.

Self-portrait, Lower Belvedere Palace, Vienna
I have been a bit slow with my blog lately.   In addition to just being very busy with other work, I have to admit a large reason why I have not been posting more often,  is that I am feeling inhibited, after finding a staggering number of my images being used without credit or permission, in many cases being passed off as the work of another.  I found one blog using 15 of my images and claiming the work as their own (it has since been taken down you can be assured). I recently saw some of my work on a blog where the titles of the image files were something like "blogger/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Screen-shot-2010-11-07.png"    The poster rather obviously did a screen grab of the image via an image search, and left the date of the offense right there in the image title for all to see.

It's depressing for a visual artist such as myself, that there are now so many bloggers and Pinterest pinners and Facebook sharers (and splogs!)  out there with really bad manners.  Seems like every time I talk to a photographer they are complaining about blogs and Pinterest and the users of the world wide web's lack of respect for copyright and original content. 

So in a concerted effort not to rant (too much), here is a post on simple policies on sharing content you can enact for your blog, to make it better, more relevant, and ultimately more interesting.

1. Use original content.
What is the purpose of your blog?  Assuming you want people to read  what you are publishing, think about why.   The blogosphere is too full of compiler blogs that just re-post other articles or images or entire blog posts from elsewhere without any comment or editing.  They are boring.  They make their authors look boring. Obvious gimmicks trying to drum up traffic using other people's images or writing is boring.  Please, don't be boring.  Have something to say, put your own mark on what you are doing, reveal a new insight,  say what you think!    Original content will make your blog a valued resource and garner its own, unique  following. Use your blog to express something of yourself.  Otherwise, really, what's the point? 

2. When you post your own images,  mark them.
 Whenever possible if you can add your name or blog address to your image prior to posting it, then it will be clear, wherever else it ends up, where it came from. This can take a little time to do nicely but it's worth it.  I don't think it needs to be stamped across the front obscuring the images, but just noticeable enough.  If you are concerned about not being given proper credit, insist on it, by marking your images.

3. State your sharing policy
A Creative Commons License makes it easy for you to state your policy on sharing and use of your work.  If you are publishing under a Creative Commons License, as I generally am, (see my side bar) your readers will have access to a detailed policy on sharing your work.  
If you want to retain full copyright,  and not have anything pinned or shared or copied, there is a license for that, too, or you can simply say so.  At the wonderful blog  Art and Alfalfa, the copyright notice is posted directly under the header.  I respect Gina's copyright and if I want to share her beautiful and original work with you I can ask her myself, or I can simply repeatedly link to her lovely site so you can go there and see it.

I admit I was pretty flattered to see so much of my work from both my portfolio and my blog being shared at Pinterest.  Note that all of my images are marked and that Pinterest does link back to me.  so we're cool.

4.  Please, give credit where it's due!
I  understand the enthusiastic sharing of beautiful images, but it's just bad manners not to respect a posted policy and in many cases it's also illegal.
Cite sources for images you are posting, and wherever possible the name of the designer, photographer, artist, etc. in the caption or elsewhere in the post.  Do not just swipe images, or do screen captures, to illustrate your blog.   Make some effort to give credit. Your readers might really want to know where those leopard print loafers came from, or who did that beautiful painting.   The original creator of that image was nice enough to share it;  don't be rude by not acknowledging their contribution.
Citing "via Pinterest" is not really giving credit, it's a cop-out that translates to "co-opted from someone else's research."  If you did get an image from Pinterest (or Google or Bing or Wikipedia, etc) you should at least link back to it, or better yet, go to that image and click on it and it will take you to its original site. You won't have to drill down far to find its original source.  Make the small effort to give credit and you appear knowledgeable, trustworthy, and connected.

Before posting this image on Pinterest, I researched its origin using src-img
If you cannot figure out where an image came from, try searching for it using the outstanding reverse image lookup tool called Source Image:   src-img
This is a marvelous free bookmarklet:  put it in your browser toolbar, and when you click on it, it will ask you which image you are looking for-click on the question marks (see above) and it will deliver a Google search of the image or ones similar to it to assist you in finding the original source of it. I have been able to track down the origin of an image in 10 seconds or less. Surely you can spare 10 seconds to find the author or source of an image. Don't you want to know where that wonderful image came from? The above image I traced back to Bruxelles Antiques,  a wonderful site full of gorgeous, original images,  well worth a visit. 

5.  There is no # 5. I just though 5 in the title sounded better than 4. The only no 5 that matters is Chanel No 5.