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Landscape Painting in Ramler Park

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Ramler Park is a flowering jewel in the midst of the busy Boston city environment. She greets her visitors with vine covered arbors, a lovely fountain that attracts many birds, rose gardens and wildflowers and quiet little corners, perfect for rest and reflection. On a warm summer day regular visitors include songbirds, honeybees and colorful butterflies and lots of human neighbors.  Ramler is a monument to the power of neighbors working together to create a glorious respite from what had been just a forlorn, ugly parking lot.  
After learning about the park through a group that meets there to draw in warmer weather, I searched online to discover more about its history.  When I finally arrived there to investigate one hot July day I knew I knew I would be back to do some oil painting.
It was in a digital story class at Cambridge Community Television that I realized Ramler Park would be perfect for my class project.
The story really began the day I went there to paint.
I packed up my paints and brushes, box easel and canvas, grabbed a bus from Central Square and off  I went to paint for the afternoon.

From finding just the right spot to work in, to the sudden thunderstorm and cloudburst that sent me scrambling for cover, Ramler Park offered me its simple sacred atmosphere created by loving and determined city dwellers who just wanted a small patch of beauty and peace. Later, after the storm was over, admiring onlookers stole peeks at my painting progress and were asking me about painting in general. From watching sunlight dancing on the raindrops of a sunshower to the scattered rosepetals on the surface of a fountain Ramler Park beckons you from anywhere to surrender your heavy burdens for a few moments before moving on in your busy life.

The Digital Story Process

       To create a digital story I first had to write a script to plan what I needed and how I would reconstruct my experience in Ramler Park. After writing the script I used it make a voice-over.  This would be my guide for placement of the images that I would later gather in my photo shoot. I made a shot list of all the pictures I was going to need to take and others I would need to find royalty-free and free of cost- online. Music was necessary and I checked a free online music site with creative commons licensed pieces that can be used for non-commercial work.
       I wrote down everything I could remember from my visit to Ramler, I needed a good starting point to pull the viewer into the story immediately and used the map image of it showing it's location .

       I had taken a bus to get there so I included a picture of an MBTA bus at the bus stop where I had waited in Central Square on that hot July day. The park is located on Peterborough S.t so I took pictures of the street sign, the entrance to Ramler, the unique iron fence with bird shaped cutouts around it and dozens of shots of the gardens, trees, fountain and it's vine covered arbor. I also set up my easel there and took some shots of that and my painting tools and the painting I had made of the gardens.

       To recreate the image of myself at the easel in the act of painting, I set up the easel in my yard with the painting of the Ramler gardens on it and a brush in my hand as if I were working on the painting. My friend Paul took a few shots for me. I photoshopped myself with the right Ramler background that matched the image on the easel and there I was painting at Ramler!  Lucky for me the lighting that day in my yard happened to be a reasonable match for the lighting conditions in the photo of Ramler that I was using as the background.

I needed to recreate the thunderstorm that happened the day I was at the park. For this I took some pictures of ominous-looking clouds and in Final Cut I used a Ken Burns effect  and a 'rolling thunderclap' sound clip that I found online to get the effect of a fast moving thundercloud about to break into a drenching rainstorm.

As the rain had let up and I came out from under the tree I mention in the voiceover, the clouds had parted and the rain was still coming down in the most beautiful sun shower with the light glittering through the drops. I had to recreate that as well and found a reasonable image online. It would have taken being in just the right place at the right time to get a rain shower that looked just like that.

One of my favorite pictures from the shoot is the honey bee in the flowers. I was a few feet away from it and I was a little worried the bees were going to attack me if I got too close. That one picture of the bee that is so clear I could see the shape of its eye is just the best!  Another one I love is the fountain with the reflection of the roses on the surface of the water.  There is something about that one that feels so timeless to me...and that says a lot about the experience of being in Ramler Park. You can actually forget you are in the middle of the city in a place that used to be a parking lot. It's a place that goes right into your heart and your soul and makes you appreciate the exquisite beauty of nature in the midst of a concrete and brick jungle.

Finally, in post production, I divided the story into 3 distinct parts. The pieces of music I selected were chosen to help give each part its own feel and help to support the story as it moved from one 'chapter' to the next.

The story about Ramler Park is important as a lesson in neighborhood participation and co-operation between neighbors who came together and worked to beautify their environment and make city living more healthy physically and mentally.

I feel proud of those folks' work and also proud to salute their efforts and to contribute to them by creating 'Painting in Ramler Park'

Beth Redmond Walsh

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